Like Mr. Rogers and Bob Ross before him, LeVar Burton is getting the documentary treatment. The Hollywood Reporter revealed that Butterfly in the Sky from studio XTR will cover Reading Rainbow and its 23 years on PBS. Reading Rainbow, in which Burton encouraged literacy and helped get kids excited about reading, was the most-watched PBS program in the classroom and received wide acclaim, winning over 250 awards including 26 Emmys and a Peabody Award.
The doc is currently in production and XTR said that they hoped it would “honor the show’s legacy and teach younger generations about this milestone in television history in our current era of distance learning.” The film will be a combination of archive footage and new interviews with Burton and others. Bradford Thomason and Brett Whitcomb (GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling) are set to direct, and they spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the influence that Reading Rainbow had on him in his youth.
“Reading Rainbow was my window into the big city and into diverse cultures,” Whitcomb said. “With segments like those in ‘Hill of Fire,’ ‘Liang and the Magic Paintbrush,’ and countless other episodes, Reading Rainbow was arguably the first time I encountered ‘documentary-style’ television as a young person, planting a seed that would inspire me for the rest of my life and lead me to where I am in my career to this day.”
“As a Mexican-American growing up in Houston, I was always surrounded by diversity,” Thomason added. “More than any show on television, Reading Rainbow reflected the cultures that surrounded me. When the book fair came to my school, I went straight for the Reading Rainbow titles. I didn’t know it at the time, but the show’s mission statement was manifesting itself in me. I devour books to this day and I know Reading Rainbow had a hand in that.”
Burton was recently a guest host on Jeopardy! and was met with a warm reception from fans of the show. While the team behind Jeopardy! decided to pass on him as a permanent host — the drama only got worse from there — but Butterfly In the Sky will hopefully be the testament to the work that Burton has done that he deserves.