Thursday, February 17, 2005

Buster and the Lesbians


Commentary: 'Buster' and the lesbians

TV critic asks: What's the big deal?

By Frazier Moore
Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- If the tape from WGBH had come in a plain brown wrapper, I wouldn't have been surprised. The fuss over this episode of "Postcards From Buster" -- you know, with the lesbian mothers -- had me nervous it might be a junior version of "The L Word."

You must have heard. Last month U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings upbraided PBS for spending tax dollars to make the episode, titled "Sugartime!" Then PBS, while denying it was caving to her pressure, displayed all the signs of caving with the announcement that it wouldn't distribute "Sugartime!" to its 349 stations.

But thanks to series producer WGBH (which is providing the episode to any PBS stations that want to air it) I had scored a copy. I popped it in my VCR, pulled down the shades and took a peek.

Go figure! This episode is pretty typical of "Postcards from Buster," a gentle, informative series about a camcorder-toting cartoon bunny who explores different cultures and communities, then reports back to his friends at home (as well as to his 4-to-8-year-old audience) through live-action video "postcards" showing the people he meets. (Check local listings for airtime.)

For "Sugartime!" (which refers not to sex, gay or straight, but to maple sugaring), Buster went to Vermont. There he visited a group of cute kids who ride bikes, jump in the hay, make chocolate chip cookies, cozy up to a bonfire, and show him how syrup begins as sap from maple trees.

As usual, this episode, filmed last March, centers on youngsters. But glimpsed as well are the parents, two couples who seem altogether unremarkable. Except they're all women.

This detail scarcely escapes Buster's notice. When one little girl refers to her mother and stepmother, Buster remarks, "That's a lot of moms!"

Nothing more on the subject is said or done, however. And no one breathes the L Word.

But by daring to include two of the nation's 168,000 gay-parented households (joining Pentecostal Christians, Muslims, Mormons and Hmong among those represented on the series) "Buster" was busted.


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