Do you know what ambidextrous means or what antlers are made of? For the answers, tune in "Encyclopedia," a slick new series on Home Box Office from the Children's Television Workshop.
Volume A debuts tonight at 7:30; other letters will follow in weekly succession.
For the first program, Joshua White directs performance artist and actor Ethyl Eichelberger, Jim Fyfe (from HBO's "Tanner '88" series), Faith Prince, Carol Schindler, David Sterry and Betty, a rock group from Washington, in fast-paced comedy sketches, combination live-action and animated segments and musical numbers--all geared at imparting real information.
The words are presented in no particular order--alchemy follows alligator, which follows archeology--and the time spent on each segment varies. An animated, hip amoeba consults a doctor, describes the functions of his pseudopod and says that "cells are very, very small units of life, man"; a fashion show of the 1500s features a suit of armor; a goofy archeologist makes terrible mummy jokes, and Betty sings about atoms.
A sampler from Volume B, airing Sept. 26, includes segments on the brain--in a Frankenstein laboratory; blood--featuring a man who wants his replaced by ginger ale, and ballet--on a construction site, where instead of a lunch break, the hard hats take dancing lessons.
Corny and clever, "Encyclopedia" is an entertaining dispenser of fast-food facts: Mostly digestible and fun to consume.