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Frames of Reference; Lulu Smith: The Chicken that Ate Columbus

Part of New Television Workshop.


New Version NTW Dub of Original - 8/98 - Slop Reel

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Frames of Reference
Lulu Smith: The Chicken that Ate Columbus
Series Description

“Frames of Reference” was a series that began circa 1978. Half-hour shows were produced to showcase commissioned and already created works. It was around this time that the focus of the Workshop shifted, to concentrate more heavily on creating works for broadcast. During its time, “Frames of Reference” was the focus of the Workshop’s national arts programming effort. In an attempt to raise funds and foster collaboration, Workshop personnel approached and visited several public television stations nationwide. The major collaborative relationship was with WGBH’s “sister station,” WGBY (Springfield, Mass.). Among the featured artists were Meredith Monk, Remy Charlip, Trisha Brown, and Peter Campus. In 1981, “Frames of Reference” was packaged and offered to PBS, during what is known as “flex time” and was broadcast by WGBH, WNET (New York), and WGBY (Springfield, Mass.). “Frames of Reference” ended as a series ca. 1983, because of a lack of funding. Series release date: 1978

Program Description

The work is an interactive comedy and drama concerning the development from infancy to young adulthood of a woman named Lulu Smith. Through the use of QUBE cable, viewers were able to vote on the events that would befall Lulu, thus contributing to the advancement of the story. For example, the viewers vote to make Lulu's father a clown and to give Lulu a special talent. In the edited version of the work, the story of Lulu develops parallel to the story of the writers, producers, and television executives who are trying to make a story out of the disparate elements of her life. The second part of the story features an adult Lulu, traumatized both by the unconventionality of her youth and by the portions of her existence the writers and producers chose to skip over. We find Lulu living with Sally, a selfish vixen who takes advantage of her, and entering into a romantic liaison with Ed, Sally's boyfriend. Sally leaves town for good and Lulu and Ed end up together. Just as Ed is declaring his love for Lulu, the executives cancel the show. The Lulu character enters the empty television studio in a daze and picks up the abandoned script, thus realizing that her existence has been fabricated.

Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type


Audience participation television programs
Television--Production and direction
Film and Television
Disque, Diane ()
Huffman, Jim ()
Hamilton, Phil ()
Burns, Bob ()
Steelman, Alissa ()
Dresner, Richard ()
Landfield, Timothy ()
Crawford, John ()
Dorff, Linda ()
Vener, Karen ()
Steelman, Ron ()
Marvin, Bob ()
Ennamoranto, Tony ()
Bartlett, Dick ()
Miller, Charles ()
Petty, Deborah ()
Conley, Pam ()
Martin, Irene ()
Arthur, Jan ()
Massen, Martin ()
Eilber, Julie ()
Helman, Andy ()
Chicago: “Frames of Reference; Lulu Smith: The Chicken that Ate Columbus,” 10/06/1981, GBH Archives, accessed April 20, 2024,
MLA: “Frames of Reference; Lulu Smith: The Chicken that Ate Columbus.” 10/06/1981. GBH Archives. Web. April 20, 2024. <>.
APA: Frames of Reference; Lulu Smith: The Chicken that Ate Columbus. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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