Hollywood producer Tom Lynch is the man behind many popular children's television series. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan spoke with him about his shows for young viewers, and his plans for a future series aimed at children in both the United States and China.
When Tom Lynch was in college, he had trouble finding direction, but the Los Angeles native noticed that Hollywood producers make a lot of money.
"And so I figured, I'll go be a TV producer, a film producer," said Tom Lynch. "I was a gardener at the time. I was working at someone's house, and they knew somebody that was working on a TV show."
That connection would lead him to Don Kirshner, the rock music impresario who produced shows for television. Lynch worked for Kirshner for seven years.
In 1982, Lynch changed direction after the birth of his first child, and created a pilot program for television. It was a children's variety show called KIDS Incorporated, and he sold it in syndication.
"And I flew around the country and went to the New York station and Chicago and L.A. here, basically with my little tape under my arm, begging them to pick it up," he said. "And they picked it up, and it ran for two years in syndication."
It later ran for seven years on the Disney Channel.
Then came more shows on Nickelodeon, Fox Kids and other networks. The Secret World of Alex Mack concerned a teenager who acquires magical powers during an accident in the lab or her scientist-father. The Journey of Allen Strange looked at an alien who came to earth in the form of a teenaged boy. A current show, Scout's Safari, follows a 14-year-old girl who moves from Manhattan to an African safari lodge, and the hit show Romeo! features young hip hop star Li'l Romeo and his real-life dad, music promoter Master P.
Tom Lynch is a fan of Asian films, and that interest led to his latest project. He will begin filming a 13-part kids' series this year in Hong Kong for dual release next year in China and Western markets. The show concerns an Asian American boy who moves to China after his parents divorce, and his mother returns to her homeland.
"And he finds out that he's intertwined with this ancient Kung Fu myth, and he's got to save the world," noted Tom Lynch. "It's one of my favorite characters, the kid that's got to save the world."
Each scene will be filmed twice, with a bilingual cast.
"And the reason for that is that I wanted to stay very true to the Chinese television networks, and at the same time, make sure that the comedy plays for the rest of the world," he explained. "So it will be kind of an adventure for me. We'll actually set up a scene, shoot it in Mandarin. Then we'll set the scene up again and shoot it in English."
The series, which is being produced with the Shanghai Media Group, presents some challenges. Chinese government censors must approve the scripts, but Lynch suspects that, on a children's show, they will be no harder to deal with than US network executives.
And he has worked in Asia already, producing a Chinese version of Nickelodeon's Kids' Choice awards for Central China Television.
He admits, however, that producing a series in two languages, for very different markets, presents some challenges.
"I don't know of any case where this has been done, and my friends, who all have shows in Burbank or at the Sony lot or whatever, they're like, why are you doing this? I say, I don't know," he admitted. "It hasn't been done. I'm going to go try it. "
Tom Lynch says kid's culture, with its music and media stars, is becoming global today, and that children in Eastern Europe, India or China like many of the same things as kids in New York or Los Angeles.