“Television is basically teaching, whether it intends to or not.”

Jim Henson

Can you imagine a typical Saturday morning from the 1980s? Your memory might offer you a flashback of sitting cross-legged in front of the television, a bowl of cereal perched precariously on your lap. As you listen to the snap, crackle, and pop of your breakfast, your eyes would be locked onto NBC’s well-loved public service announcements, “One to Grow On”.

These PSAs, as essential to your morning routine as your bowl of cereal, offered advice in easy-to-digest servings, sweetened with a sprinkle of relatable narratives. The range of their teachings spread out like a colorfully adorned breakfast buffet, with dishes from financial literacy to the detriments of nicotine dependence.

But, don’t get fooled into thinking that these were just life lessons hidden inside 30-second nuggets. No. There was a silver lining to this cloud of wisdom. “One to Grow On” acted as a greenhouse, a nurturing environment for the saplings of talent ready to sprout. It offered an opportunity, a springboard for many young actors and actresses, who seized it and dove into the pool of fame.

Let’s take the example of Jaleel White, a classic ’90s icon, a memento that brings a nostalgic smile on our faces. Remember him? He was the unforgettable Steve Urkel with the trademark glasses and charmingly awkward antics, the metamorphic Stefan Urkael who stole our hearts. His talent was like a magic bean that found its fertile ground on “One to Grow On” and sprouted into the beanstalk reaching the sky of sitcom history. Without that golden opportunity, would we have ever had the chance to laugh at Urkel’s mishaps? The mere thought of that absence sends shivers colder than an abandoned bowl of cereal.

Remember the striking scene in that anti-smoking episode? A feisty young girl confronts the so-called ‘smoking bathroom girls’ in a display of bold resistance. Her words ring out like a lone bell in a silent cathedral, “Anyway, I have better things to do than stand in the bathroom with smoke in my eyes. See ya around!” The echo of her stance against smoking was powerful enough to blow the smoke right out of that bathroom, searing a vivid memory in our minds.

“One to Grow On” was like the Swiss army knife of ’80s TV—a little tool for everything. It taught us about money, deterred us from nicotine, and gave us Urkel, all while ensuring our Saturday cereal never tasted too sweet without a side of sass and life lessons—talk about a breakfast of champions!

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Brand & Community at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2024 Stephen Boudreau.