Square One Television (1987–1992)


Square One Television (TV Series 1987–1992)
Square One TV (original title)

In this sketch comedy series for preteens, principles of mathematics are presented through parody and music videos. Also featured is a mock video game called "Mathman," the bumbling cartoon detective Dirk Niblick, and a farcical serial called "Mathnet." In "Mathnet" (a parody of "Dragnet") Los Angeles detectives George Frankly and Kate Monday (and later Pat Tuesday) solve various capers with the help of mathematics.
IMDb   8.2 /10
TheMovieDb    2.0 /10
Creator Charles S. Dubin
Creator Dan F. Smith
Creator Ellen L. Fogle
Release Date1987-01-26
GenreComedy, Family, Music
Content RatingTV-Y7 (TV-Y7)
Awards5 wins & 15 nominations.
CompanyCarnegie Corporation of New York, Children's Television Workshop (CTW), Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB)
Officer George Frankly 32 episodes, 1987-1992
Various 29 episodes, 1987-1992
Various 27 episodes, 1987-1992
Beverly Mickins
Beverly Mickins
Various 26 episodes, 1987-1992
Arthur Howard
Arthur Howard
Various 26 episodes, 1987-1992
Cris Franco
Cris Franco
Various 25 episodes, 1987-1992
Various 24 episodes, 1987-1992
Various 18 episodes, 1987-1992
Sgt. Kate Monday 18 episodes, 1987-1990
Jim Thurman
Jim Thurman
Glitch / ... 15 episodes, 1987-1992
Sgt. Pat Tuesday 14 episodes, 1991-1992

Square One Television

Square One Television (sometimes referred to as Square One or Square One TV) is an American children's television program produced by the Children's Television Workshop (now known as Sesame Workshop) to teach mathematics and abstract mathematical concepts to young viewers.

Created and broadcast by PBS in the United States from January 26, 1987 to November 6, 1992, the show was intended to address the math crisis among American schoolchildren. After the last episode aired, the show went into reruns until October 7, 1994. The show was revived for the 1995–1996 PBS season as a teacher instruction program, Square One TV Math Talk.

Square One was also shown on the cable television channel Noggin in syndication beginning on February 2, 1999, but was removed from its lineup along with some other shows on March 31, 2002.



Square One comprised short sketches that introduced and applied concepts in mathematics such as counting, combinatorics, simple fractions, estimation, probability, and geometry. The sketches featured regular characters and were mainly parodies of pop culture icons, popular television commercials or popular television shows. Sketches were presented in various formats, including music videos featuring a particular subject in mathematics and taught the subject through song (e.g., Roman numerals, obtuse and acute angles, percentages, negative numbers, etc.) or comedic sketches (e.g., General Mathpital, a parody of General Hospital; Nobody's Inn, a parody of Fawlty Towers; Late Afternoon with David Numberman, a parody of Late Night with David Letterman; etc.). "Patterns", a polka about patterns that can be detected in daily life, was performed by "Weird Al" Yankovic. Since Yankovic did not write this song, it is unavailable on any of his records, though bootleg versions have circulated. The Judds appeared on Square One Television many times, as they performed various songs.

Mathcourt was a regular segment that parodied television shows of the day set in courtrooms, presided by Judge Sandra Day O'Crater (played by Cynthia Darlow), who showed zero tolerance for unacceptable behavior from the audiences (and the announcer, with the judge sometimes not knowing who it was), frequently telling the gallery she'd have them do time or punish them in another extreme way if they didn't shut up and stop the interruptions (she even threatened to have them all hanged on one occasion). In all cases, a district attorney was suing a defendant for a math crime the defendant did not commit. The judge was sometimes quick to issue a verdict, but in the end always ruled the defendant innocent after the defendant was able to prove it, leaving the attorney very embarrassed.

Mathman was a regular segment as a parody of Pac-Man. The skit helped viewers learn to recognize common mistakes while solving math problems, such as forgetting to carry a digit, or making errors with negative numbers. A blue tornado character named "Mr. Glitch", a parody of the Ghosts, was Mathman's enemy and would eat him if he got the wrong answers.

Pauline's Perilous Pyramid was another sketch that spoofed arcade games. The heroine Pauline would jump around a pyramid similar to the one used in the game Q*bert. Each square had either a positive or negative number on it. Her objective was to get to the very top of the pyramid, keeping the total of the squares she landed on between 25 and -25.

Backstage with Blackstone featured math-related magic tricks and performances by Harry Blackstone, Jr.. Each segment involved two cast members at a time (Either Larry Cedar and Cynthia Darlow, Cris Franco and Luisa Leschin or Arthur Howard and Beverly Mickins; Reg E. Cathey portrayed Blackstone's assistant). After performing a trick, Blackstone explained how the trick worked.

Other animated segments included The Further Adventures of Zook & Alison; and Fax Headful, a parody of Max Headroom.

Game shows

Several segments featured child contestants competing to win prizes.

  • But Who's Adding?/But Who's Multiplying?: the show's first original game, hosted by Larry Cedar. Two players captured spaces on a gameboard by adding or multiplying two digits at a time, trying to be the first to complete a row/column/diagonal.
  • But Who's Counting?: hosted by Monty Carlo (played by Arthur Howard), with Reg E. Cathey as announcer. Two pairs of players (mainly Cynthia Darlow and Cris Franco vs. Larry Cedar and Luisa Leschin, except for one episode in which real kids were the contestants; season 1)/two players (seasons 3-4) (played by the cast members) tried to make the smallest/largest five-digit number possible (seasons 1 and 3), smallest/largest pair of fractions in season 4, placing one digit at a time as it was spun on a carnival wheel. Also in season 1, Beverly Mickins played assistant Amber Jeannette. In later seasons, two solo players competed (again portrayed by the cast).
  • Piece of the Pie (Introduced in season 2, lasted until season 4): a survey-based game similar to Family Feud, using pie charts and teaching percentages. The game was hosted by Cris Franco, and later by Beverly Mickins. The set was designed like a hole-in-the-wall pie shop for Season 2, and in Seasons 3 and 4, it was designed like a diner.
  • Close Call: a game about estimation, using "how many beans are in this big jar"-type of questions, and bearing a similarity to The Price Is Right. Arthur Howard was the original host, replaced at the beginning of Season 4 by Luisa Leschin (who was co-host for the previous season). Leschin's co-host was Reg E. Cathey. The game was originally played as a direct-knockout tournament; it was later changed to a game played for points.
  • Triple Play: players spun wheels to choose two digits, then had to add/multiply them in order to match numbers on the gameboard, trying to complete a triangle. The game was hosted by Cynthia Darlow, and only lasted one season (Season 2).
  • Square One Squares: a tic-tac-toe game similar to Hollywood Squares and To Tell the Truth. The game was later replaced by Square One Challenge, which was played for points. Both were hosted by Larry Cedar.

All game shows featured Reg E. Cathey as announcer, except for But Who's Adding/But Who's Multiplying?, which had Cynthia Darlow announcing.

Season 5 did not feature any game show segments.


Mathman Titlecard.
GenreEducational animated comedy
Created byJeff Thurman
Written byJeff Thurman
Presented byJim Thurman (as the unseen Introduction Announcer)
StarringJeff Thurman
Jim Thurman
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
Running time1–2 minutes
Production companyChildren's Television Workshop
DistributorChildren's Television Workshop
Original networkPBS
Original releaseJanuary 26, 1987 –
November 6, 1991

Mathman is a video game segment on Square One TV.

Segment format

A parody of Pac-Man, Mathman was a fictional arcade game starring a character of the same name. Mathman's objective was to run around a Pac-Man-like maze board (the traditional dots were replaced with + and - signs) and eventually encounter a number or polygon. He would then have until the count of three to determine if that number/polygon was consistent with a given category (see examples below), and if so, eat it. If he made a mistake, his enemy Mr. Glitch (a parody of the multi-colored Ghost enemies of Pac-Man) would eat him, ending the game.

During the later seasons, the format of the game was changed so that Mathman would have to decide if a certain statement (read aloud by the game's announcer) was true or false, and then eat the letter T or F. He would then have until the count of seven to make his decision. These were usually general-knowledge statements about math (e.g., "True or False? Mathematics and arithmetic are the same thing") rather than questions that required actual problem-solving skills.

If Mathman was able to eat all the correct numbers/polygons or answer his questions correctly, he was awarded a free game. However, Mathman accomplished this feat only a handful of times (i.e., "Multiples of 3," "Factors of 24," "Symmetrical Polygons," "Rectangles" and "Fractions Greater than 1"). On at least one such occasion, a giant Mr. Glitch ate Mathman as soon as the free game began.

Occasionally, Mathman did not play the game himself, making Mr. Glitch the contestant. If he answered incorrectly, he would be eaten by Mathman (or on one occasion, Mathman's dog Mathdog). On one occasion, Mr. Glitch got away with an incorrect answer, but on the second incorrect answer, he was eaten by a giant Mathman.

Common categories

  • Polygons (e.g., Symmetrical Polygons, Pentagons, etc.)
  • Multiples or factors of a certain number
  • Inequalities (involving either numbers or formulae)
  • Even numbers or Odd numbers
  • True or False questions



Mathman was a green, Pac-Man-like character with a big mouth, a winged football helmet patterned after that of the University of Michigan Wolverines, and a single foot on which he walked around the game maze. When he moved around the maze, he would repeat the phrase "Mathman, Mathman, Mathman," similar to Pac-Man's familiar "wakka-wakka-wakka".


Mathdog was Mathman's pet dog and wore a football helmet like that of Mathman. When he went around the maze, he would say "Mathdog, Mathdog, Mathdog."

Mr. Glitch

Mathman's nemesis was Mr. Glitch, a cranky tornado who was always described with a different negative adjective. He was a parody of the multi-colored Ghost enemies of Pac-Man and would appear whenever Mathman had to make a decision. If Mathman ate an incorrect number or polygon, answered a question incorrectly, or used up too much time, Mr. Glitch would "power up" (with lightning bolts and thunder crashing), chase after Mathman, and then eat him. He won this right the majority of the times the game was played, only being defeated a handful of times.

Occasionally, Mathman did not play the game himself, making Mr. Glitch the contestant. If he answered incorrectly, he would be eaten by Mathman (or on one occasion, Mathman's dog, Mathdog). On one occasion, Mr. Glitch got away with an incorrect answer, but on the second incorrect answer, he was eaten by a giant Mathman.

The Announcer

At the beginning of each sketch, an off-screen voice told either Mathman or Mr. Glitch what his mission would be. Then, a warning was issued to the playing character stating "He will eat you if you are wrong." He also congratulated Mathman and awarded him a free game if he finished the game perfectly.

Dirk Niblick of the Math Brigade

Dirk Niblick of the Math Brigade is a cartoon segment on the PBS television show Square One TV.

The title character, Lt. Dirk Niblick, is tasked in each segment with helping friends through practical dilemmas through the use of mathematics. Episodes frequently center on outsmarting scam artists who use deceptive language to attempt to trick the protagonists out of money or property. Most episodes also feature Dirk having one or more telephone conversations with his mother. Supporting characters on the show include Dirk's two young friends, the brother-and-sister pair Fluff and Fold Noodleman, and Dirk's neighbor, Mr. Beasley. The Dirk Niblick segments are similar in appearance to the 1965 cartoon Roger Ramjet; Fred Crippen animated for both, and Gary Owens voiced both title characters.


  • Gary Owens — Dirk Niblick
  • Bob Arbogast — Mr. Wallace C. Beasley, additional voices
  • Joan Gerber — Fluff Noodleman, additional voices
  • Gene Moss — Fold Noodleman, additional voices
  • Jim Thurman — additional voices


Each episode featured a closing segment titled Mathnet, starring Joe Howard as George Frankly and Beverly Leech as Kate Monday. A parody of Dragnet, the storyline of each skit featured the detectives attempting to solve a crime by using math. Each Mathnet story line spanned five episodes, or one complete broadcast week (Monday through Friday). Originally set in Los Angeles, the skit was later expanded to New York City as a secondary setting.

Leech left the show after the third season; she was replaced by Toni DiBuono, playing Pat Tuesday.

International Broadcast

  • United States PBS
  • PBS
  • United Arab Emirates Dubai 33
  • Dubai 33
  • Kuwait KTV2
  • KTV2
  • Saudi Arabia Saudi 2
  • Saudi 2
  • Hong Kong TVB Pearl
  • TVB Pearl
  • Jordan Channel 2
  • Channel 2
  • Zimbabwe ZBC TV
  • ZBC TV
  • Canada CBC
  • CBC