Buster Returns

by Jon Mandle on December 18, 2006

My friend Dennis Gaffney, a freelance writer, has a story in today’s NY Times about the return of “Postcards from Buster.” (He tells me that he has another piece on the same subject forthcoming in The Nation.) The PBS children’s show, you may remember, lost its funding after the animated title character, who interacts with real children, visited a girl from Vermont to learn about maple syrup. The child casually mentioned that she has two mothers – the implication, not stated explicitly, was that they are gay – and Buster replied with the unforgettable line: “Wow – that’s a lot of moms.”

In one of her first official acts, just before being sworn in as Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings wrote to the head of PBS threatening to cut its funding because “Many parents would not want their young children exposed to the life-styles portrayed in this episode.” The “exposure”, of course, was simply portraying the existence of gay parents. The real sin was clearly the casual manner of presentation – like it was no big deal. PBS refused to distribute the episode and didn’t renew the show. Here’s a 2005 Washington Post piece about the cancellation, and here’s a Boston Globe story quoting the mom involved.

But now Buster is back with a new (albeit small) commitment from PBS and a variety of non-traditional funding sources. This season he’s visiting a family living on an Army base, and he is returning to visit some kids that he met in Louisiana during the first season who survived Katrina. Even when dealing with these tough issues, I’m sure the episodes will be presented with the same fun and matter-of-fact attitude that makes the show so enjoyable.



bi 12.18.06 at 12:29 pm

Two mothers = gay? Why not a biological mother and a stepmother? Or did I miss something?


Jon Mandle 12.18.06 at 12:34 pm

They’re presented as living together. But if I remember correctly, the girl does call one her stepmother.


ajay 12.18.06 at 1:43 pm

Mormon widows?


ajay 12.18.06 at 1:44 pm

Sorry, that was a suggestion about how the situation might arise, not a particularly recondite bit of comment spam or a sales pitch for extremely niche naughty pictures.


kid bitzer 12.18.06 at 3:46 pm

I saw that episode–I had already read about the controversy, had thought it was spiked, and so was very surprised to be watching it one day with my kids.

It was *beautifully* done in a completely understated, no big deal way. The family was just as normal as normal can be.

no wonder the right-wing wackos hated it.


raj 12.18.06 at 9:19 pm

PBS is a whore, which is one reason that I have never donated to them.


nick s 12.18.06 at 11:19 pm

Let’s not forget the fate of Melanie Martinez. I’m only surprised that PBS didn’t dictate that Buster go to Baghdad and meet all the happy smiling Iraqi kids.

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