More Than the News: Programming from WCVB

More Than the News: Programming from WCVB

In 2020 Northeast Historic Film was awarded a Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives grant sponsored by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  The goal of this project was to digitize, describe, and make available programs from the WCVB collection.

Boston Broadcasters, Inc. launched WCVB channel 5 in 1972 after winning a court battle that went to the US Supreme Court. They succeeded in their stated goal of originating more programming than any other station in America. In fact, their 62 hours per week was more than twice that of the second-place station’s 28 hours according to a 1981 New York Times article. They also produced programming that was innovative, influential and popular. They dominated the local market with top-rated newscasts, public affairs and the best sports coverage. They produced children’s programming, sitcoms, and the groundbreaking live- audience legal affairs programs. WCVB became a leader in locally produced programming and a model for other stations.

These master videotapes and reels of 16mm film consist of over 3,000 programs produced by WCVB between 1972 and 1997. They range from the first legal affairs program (Miller’s Court), to a sitcom (Park Street Under- which was taken by ABC and renamed Cheers), to groundbreaking children’s programming like Jabberwocky, and youth and minority produced programming like Aqui and Night Shift.

Through this project an inventory of the collection was created and records for more than 4, 000 items and 2,400 videos were added to our website.  Below are some of the highlighted programs from this unique collection


64 Full episodes and film elements for 2 additional programs


Latinx public affairs program created by Jorge Quiroga in 1974 that continued into the 1990s.  The series was produced by a Latinx production team in Spanish with English Subtitles and focused on issues of concern to the Latinx community of Boston.

22 Episodes digitized

Candlepin Bowling

Candlepin Bowling was a highly popular sports program, which started on WHDH and continued when WCVB took over the station in 1972.  Don Gillis hosted the program, continuing after he had retired, until it ended in 1996. 

More than 2,300 episodes (some duplicates)


Award-winning magazine style program, which started in 1982 and is still on air today.  Topics range from national issues around culture, race and identity, sexuality, media, entertainment, and news events to the daily life of the people and towns in New England.  

61 Episodes


A public affairs program with panels discussing issues of the day that affect people of color living in and around Boston hosted by Karen Holmes Ward. Cityline still airs on WCVB, but the episodes in this archival collection are from the late 1980s through the 1990s.  

About 300 Episodes

Good Day!

A morning magazine/talk show that was the inspiration for “Good Morning America!” which ran on WCVB from 1973 until 1991.  After the show was cancelled Eileen Prose went on to a weekend program with a similar format “Sunday.”  There are around 300 episode in the WCVB Collection mostly from the 1980s and 1990s. 

7 Episodes of House Call

House Call

Emmy Award winning medical Program hosted by Dr. Timothy Johnson that answered viewers medical questions and incuded interviews with doctors and nurses on various medical issues.  Dr. Johnson also hosted several medical specials created by WCVB to pass health information on to the public on subjects like heart disease, cancer, and stress management.

124 Episodes


A children’s program that ran from 1972-1974 and remained in syndication until the 1990s. Each episode tackles a specific topic with a mix of in-studio skits with puppets and actors, animated vignettes, and remotely shot visits to the local community. The program won several major broadcasting awards including a citation from Action for Children’s Television.

A Likely Story

A Children’s program aimed at children age four through nine that emphasized reading and storytelling with host Alison Martin. It blended music, drama, storytelling, and animation from Weston Woods to explore a new theme each week. 

Miller’s Court

A weekly court program where real lawyers and actors recreate court cases, followed by a discussion with the audience and experts about the issues presented in the case. Hosted by Harvard Law Professor Arthur Miller. 

141 Episodes

The Nature World of Captain Bob

An art instruction program hosted by “Captain” Bob Cottle that offered sketching techniques for wildlife subjects while also teaching children about animals and nature.

23 Episodes

New Heaven New Earth

A half hour discussion program created and hosted by Hubert Jessup, that merged conversations on religious and social issues.  Most episodes feature a conversation with teenagers about their moral and religious views on controversial social topics topics like abortion, premarital sex, suicide, and stereotypes.  Jessup also use the program as a platform to interview religious personalities like The Dalai Lama, Rabbi Harold Kushner, and Reverend Jerry Falwell.

Night Shift

Nightly program focused on college-aged kids issues and highlighting student film.  The program ran from 1972 into the 1990s.  The programs in this collection are from the 1990s.

23 of the original 25 episodes were discovered in this archival collection

Park Street Under

A rare example of a locally produced sitcom about a small basement bar in Boston (arguably the inspiration for NBC’s Cheers), which ran for one season from September 1979 to May 1980. The series incorporated local news and topical issues into each episode, even altering the opening theme song each week to include references to the news of the day.

12 episodes from ca. 1980; 12 episodes from ca. 1991; film and audio elements

This Was America

A twelve part special documentary series based on several collections of glass plate negatives and narrated by William Shatner.  The series first aired in the late 1970s and then was repacked with the same script and images but new narration recorded again by Shatner in the early 1990s.  


Starting with “A Frightening Feeling You Are Going to Die” in 1974 WCVB made hundreds of specials.  Dramas, documentaries, public helth informaiton, arts, humanities – these specials cover a variety of topics and genres.