Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Colonial Idol

Colonial Idol

Spring 2013 Television
Ages: 8 - 16 yrs.
Rating: TV G

Colonial Idol is part of Colonial Williamsburg's award-winning Electronic Field Trip series. The series immerses students in authentic historical content, and is designed to support educational standards for grades 4 to 8 in social studies, language arts, arts education, library/technology literacy, and science. For those who can't find the Electronic Field Trip program broadcast in their area, it's also available on their website via live video stream.

Colonial Idol takes an amusing twist on television's popular reality singing competition of a similar name. In front of a live audience, contestants perform eighteenth-century music, executing a variety of musical forms that reveal American history and culture. Viewers are prompted to vote online and a winner is announced at the end of the program.

Nicely produced short field footage show more about each contestant in their own environment before he or she takes the stage. The five contestants display impressive talent, from a Cherokee performer doing the Horse Dance to a harpsichord player who stays in character as a young eighteenth-century gentlewoman, explaining her lifestyle and why her father's position in society affords her the ability to take instrument lessons.

Each performer receives feedback, but rather than snarky B-list celebrity judges it's intelligent criticism from historians and music professors. In between performances, short skits poke gentle humor at reality TV auditions, imagining Thomas Jefferson and others in the role of auditionees. Lengthy interviews with the judges reveal more historical information about the importance of music in 18th century society and in those sequences, questions are received from students participating in a live webcast of the program. Some of those satellite links are of spotty technical quality but never so badly that they can't be seen or understood.

Gina Catanzarite   ©2013 Parents' Choice
Gina Catanzarite is an award-winning television producer, writer, teacher, mom and media consultant in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She began her career in 1987 and counts 9 Emmy awards, 26 Emmy nominations, a Matrix award, two Pennsylvania Broadcaster's Association Awards, 8 Telly Awards, and a screenwriting grant from the Theatre Association of Pennsylvania, among her professional honors.

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