Explore the Archives by Decade
In 1954, the Television Laboratory was born out of the University of Wisconsin’s mission to reach every corner of the state. During the 1950s, WHA introduced educational shows like The Friendly Giant, Let’s Draw and Let’s Ask Ranger Mac.
WPT began broadcasting Wisconsin sports for the first time, as well as inviting rising political leaders like John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon to its studios. At the same time, PBS was giving familiar characters like Big Bird, Kermit the Frog, and Mr. Roger their debut.
As WPT broadcast Once Upon a Midnight Cheery in the Lab of Shakhashiri for the first time in 1970, iconic shows like Austin City Limits, The Electric Company, Nova and Masterpiece Theater were expanding the reach and renown of PBS.
The 1980s brought some of WPT’s most popular shows like Sewing With Nancy and Storylords to a national audience. It was also the beginning of some of PBS’s most recognizable shows like Bob Ross’ The Joy of Painting, Levar Burton’s Reading Rainbow, and Carl Sagan’s Cosmos.
Some of the most iconic kids programming came out of PBS and WPT during the 1990s. You could Get Real, ride on The Magic School Bus, hang out with Arthur, learn from Bill Nye the Science Guy, or go on an adventure with Wishbone.