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New Television; Common Mistakes

Part of New Television Workshop.

Approximate date: 1986

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New Television
Common Mistakes
Series Description

"New Television" began as a local pilot production of WNET (New York) in 1986. In 1987, WGBH signed on as co-producer, and the shows were aired in Boston and New York. In 1988 and 1989, KCET (Los Angeles) and WETA (D.C.) became producers in association. In 1991, PBS picked up "New Television," and it was broadcast nationally. The following year, the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio, replaced WNET, WETA, and KCET as co-producer with WGBH. In 1993, WGBH ceased to be a co-producer for the series, and the "home base" moved to Connecticut Public Television (CPTV) in Hartford, CT.

"New Television" commissioned, produced, and acquired programming. In its early years, "New Television" broadcast works commissioned by The Contemporary Art Television (CAT) Fund. Increasingly, experimental films as well as video works were broadcast as a part of this series. Many of the later episodes of "New Television" contain works that play with and deconstruct the documentary genre. Series release date: 1986

Program Description

"Common Mistakes," by Jeanne C. Finley, is approximately 16 minutes long. It is a politicized look at the notion of mistakes, combining definitions of words such as fallacy, accident, and blunder with a documentary-style presentation of historical events. These events include the assimilation work of the Carlisle Indian School, under the supervision of Henry Pratt; the practice of prefrontal lobotomies in the 1940's; the Three Mile Island nuclear accident; and a public statement made by Ronald Reagan in 1985, when he claimed that the practice of segregation in South Africa had been effectively ended. Interspersed with details and images of these events are scenes from a children's safety film, showing young boys and girls innocently executing potentially fatal mistakes, such as falling onto a pair of scissors or jumping off the roof of a building. Actors in silhouette dramatize remarks from individuals involved in the historical events depicted, mimicking the anonymous confessions of talk show guests. The work ends with a lengthy confessional narrative by Donald Matthew Smith, who tells of the embarrassment of mistaking a large block of brie for a cheesecake at a formal dinner party. Beatrice M. Finley provides narration. The song "Everybody Makes Mistakes," by Lucy J. Dalton, plays as the credits appear.

Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type


Politics and culture
Film and Television
Finley, Jeanne C. ()
McGowan, Mickey ()
Smith, Donald Matthew ()
Durant, Mark ()
Sultan, Larry ()
Chicago: “New Television; Common Mistakes,” GBH Archives, accessed April 20, 2024,
MLA: “New Television; Common Mistakes.” GBH Archives. Web. April 20, 2024. <>.
APA: New Television; Common Mistakes. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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