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Revision as of 15:23, 5 August 2022

Sugartime! сontroversy
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Amazing how just 14 years before Mr. Ratburn was revealed to be in a same-sex relationship, PBS would refuse to air an episode featuring a lesbian couple.
Part of Season: 1
Episode Number: 33
Air Date: March 22, 2005
Writer: (To Be Announced)
Director: (To Be Announced)
Previous episode: Buster Gets on Board
Next episode: Buster's Sweet Song

"Sugartime!" is the thirty-third episode in the first season of Postcards from Buster.


Buster heads to Vermont during Sugartime season and samples maple syrup and learns about milking cows. He also shops for a bonfire.


In January 2005, Margaret Spellings, United States Secretary of Education, revealed that the show had explored same-sex marriage. Episode #33, "Sugartime!", which features Buster visiting Hinesburg, Vermont, to learn about the production of maple sugar, includes Buster meeting several children who have lesbian parents. Vermont was one of the first states to legalize civil unions for same-sex couples. In the episode, the word lesbian or homosexual is never said, and the episode — like all Postcards episodes — has no sexual content.

Buster meets the children and comments, "Boy, that's a lot of moms!"; one girl mentions her "mom and stepmom," adding that she loves her stepmother very much, and no other comments are made about the couple. PBS vice president of media relations Lea Sloan said at the time, "The fact that there is a family structure that is objectionable to the Department of Education is not at all the focus of the show, nor is it addressed in the show."

Spellings demanded that PBS return all federal funding that had been used in the production of the episode, claiming that "many parents would not want their young children exposed to the lifestyles portrayed in this episode." PBS decided not to air this episode, but some member stations across the country chose to air the episode, including WNET in New York, KCET in Los Angeles, and KERA in Dallas–Fort Worth, which are flagship stations; and the show's co-producer, WGBH in Boston (which distributed the episode directly to public television stations after PBS's decision). It was, however, included in both the VHS and DVD version of the collection "Buster's Outdoor Journeys" which was distributed by Paramount Home Entertainment.

Some of these stations opted to air this episode in prime-time, with some following the episode with a local discussion on the controversy. Shortly after the controversy, PBS's CEO announced she would step down when her contract expired in 2006. Cusi Cram, a writer for Arthur, later wrote a play titled Dusty and the Big Bad World, based on this controversy.