One of the happier events to come out of the pandemic lockdown period was discovering a full run of Our World on YouTube. The short-lived ABC show was a favorite of my teenage self, and its weekly wide-angle coverage of particular historical moments had a tremendous impact on my own academic development. It racked up both critical acclaim and industry awards but the real reason for its existence was to serve as a Thursday night sacrificial goat to throw up against The Cosby Show.
In a better world, ABC would’ve just ceded the time slot to NBC and played up the prestige and public service angle of a show that was cheap to produce, beloved by educators, and had a viable aftermarket as a curriculum supplement for high school history classes. In this world, they replaced it with Sledge Hammer, The Charmings, and Probe.
At least one kind soul had bothered to tape the entire series, then upload grainy VHS rips of the episodes onto YouTube. I’d long since given up hope of ever watching the show again, and was thrilled when an offhand search turned up the full playlist. The show held up pretty well, despite some takes which have since fallen to better scholarship and the flashes of Reagan Era triumphalist exceptionalism within the show’s otherwise liberal-leaning slant.
“That’s all well and good, you decrepit old gasbag,” I hear you asking, “but what does it have to do with the spooky season?”
I’ve already mentioned how these episodes were transferred from old VHS tapes. While the quality is adequate enough for a documentary program built around commentary, interviews, and archival footage, the video suffers from the usual issues you’d expect from thirty-five year old videotapes — tracking issues, visual noise, sloppy button-mash editing to remove commercials during the recording process, and the like.
For the most part, it adds to the nostalgic charm, but…
During the end credits of each episode, hosts Linda Ellerbee and Ray Gandolf would rattle off various factoids about the historical period covered in that week’s show. During one particular episode, the credit scroll and narration evaporated into thirty seconds of white noise and visual distortion.
When the image finally quiet down, this greeted me…
…for a brief but soul-flensing instant before the screen faded to black.
And now that you have seen it, the curse has been transferred to you. Sweet dreams!