‘Zoom’ TV show was made in Boston by and for kids


By Sharon Oliver, Contributing Writer

The popular 1970s children’s television show “Zoom” was created almost entirely by kids at WBGH’s studios in Boston.Photo/courtesy of WGBH archives
The popular 1970s children’s television show “Zoom” was created almost entirely by kids at WBGH’s studios in Boston.
Photo/courtesy of WGBH archives

BOSTON – Arguably, childhood intellectual growth plays an important role in the effects of adulthood. The powers-that-be behind kiddie programs like “Sesame Street” and “The Electric Company” understood that. So did the creators of “Zoom,” which was not only a part of the experimentation in educational television but was also designed to help model interpersonal relationships. The diverse cast of kids shined a light on their unique personalities, backgrounds and abilities.


Children as showrunners

Filmed at television station WGBH’s studios in Boston, the series originally ran from 1972 to 1978 and was created almost entirely by children. Original Zoomer Nancy Walker told National Public Radio, “It was seven kids having fun and just being children,” adding that it “allowed us to be inquisitive.” As an adult, Walker continued with some acting and got into television production.

Known for their catchy songs, older Massachusetts residents may remember one where at the end of each episode, Zoomers belted out the zip code, “0-2-1-3-4.” During the second and third seasons, cast members introduced new cast members with a song (“How do ya do do-dee-do, how do ya do-dee-do-dee-do, how’s your sister, how’s your brother, how are you?”).


Fond memories

Those who grew up watching “Zoom” often share their fond memories on the Zoom PBS Kids TV Show Fans Facebook page.

Donna Swanson Murphy wrote: “I loved the Mad Tea Party skit. Those kids were pretty good! I dug Nina and Joe the most.”

Jim Hunt wrote: “I have a few great memories of the show, but one of the coolest things I recall is a kid who built this amazing treehouse that he had electricity in, he cooked something and played “Summer Breeze” by Seals & Croft on his radio at the end. There were some inventive kids back then.”

Another person commented on YouTube: “Such wholesome, entertaining, educational programming. I miss Zoom.”

Some viewers may recall segments like “Tracy Asks,” where young viewers were challenged by the host with questions like “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” or “What is the world’s longest word?” Also, the recurring mock-soap opera during Season Four entitled “As the World Zooms.”


The remake

“Zoom” returned on PBS Kids, airing from 1999 to 2005. In the aftermath of 9/11, the series presented a special episode entitled “America’s Kids Respond.” In it, children from around the nation shared their feelings along with efforts in helping their communities in addressing the issues brought by the attacks.

Several kids volunteered with relief efforts by raising money, collecting, and donating food and clothing. Among the kids featured was a 12-year-old from Manhattan named Jemma, who baked cookies and delivered them to rescue workers. A group of students from Brooklyn who witnessed the attacks, created artwork to give to their local firefighters and from Weston, a 12-year-old Muslim girl named Lana talked about the Koran and how it teaches not to kill.

There are former Zoomers who went on to careers which kept them behind or in front of the camera. Pablo Velez Jr., a “Zoom” cast member in 1997, starred in “The Three Stooges” (2012) and “Annabelle Hooper and the Ghosts of Nantucket” (2016).

Former Zoomer Joseph Shrand said the experience was “exhilarating” and “the best thing ever.” Now he is a psychiatrist and author. “Zoom” creator and producer Christopher Sarson told NPR that after observing how his children behaved with peers they did not know, being eager to make friends but afraid of being laughed at, he set out to make a program that would deal “with personalities. And the interaction of people rather than with any particular storyline.”

“Zoom” was one of the most successful children’s programs of its day. Zoomers received over a million fan letters by its third season with some young viewers offering suggestions for themes, tongue twisters and riddles.