Actor LeVar Burton told NPR recently that he is on a mission to pour new energy into Reading Rainbow — his long-running, pro-reading TV show for kids. Using Kickstarter money, LeVar hopes to deliver his video field trips — connecting the written word to the real world — to a wider world of young people, through his company RRKidz.

Reading Rainbow was on television from 1983-2009. Now LeVar is hoping that people who were both educated and entertained by the show will pony up funding for a new generation of viewers and interacters.

There is a grand tradition in America of people trying to breathe new life into canceled TV shows. Jericho, Chuck and other series were brought back from the abyss by devoted fans.

Trying to salvage a show, however, can be a dicey undertaking.

Eric Deggans, NPR's TV critic, says that most shows "that were saved by fan reaction had very serious problems, and the networks which canceled them had good reasons for getting rid of them. I can't recall an example of a TV show saved by fans going on to be successful in the same form."

Eric says, "That's the interesting thing about Reading Rainbow. The show isn't proposed to come back in its original form or its original home. Burton wants to do it as an online series, where presumably the bar for success would be lower."

So we will see — literally — if Reading Rainbow will rise again.

Meanwhile, we want to suggest four other off-the-air TV shows — educational and entertaining — that seem ripe for some kind of revival:

1) Gullah Gullah Island

2) Wishbone

3) Blue's Clues

4) Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?


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