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Consumer Survival Kit

Nan Knighton (credited as Nan Mason) — Staff Writer | Produced by the Maryland Center for Public Broadcasting

About the Series

"Consumer Survival Kit" was a half-hour program produced and aired by the Maryland Center for Public Broadcasting (now known as Maryland Public Television), from 1973 through 1979. It began as a local program and was picked up by nearly every public television station nationwide. The show's mission was "to provide practical, money-saving information in a clear, understandable way," offering solutions and advice on a variety of topics.

Nan was a staff writer for the show for about two years, and this was her first job as a professional writer. She wrote episodes on such topics as medical care, real estate, employment, weddings and shopping for infants and toddlers. The standard format for an episode was to begin with a brief true-false quiz about the topic, then offer up several serious or humorous skits and lectures in what Nan called "a variety show format." She described the work in her interview with The Voice:


"I would read through a huge stack of research and then I'd write a script. There were constant script meetings, revisions and I loved the tape nights. I always wrote funny songs, and those were the first songs I ever had produced because this was a nationally televised show. I think I had three or four of my songs on that show."

She describes one episode in particular in the first Center Stage Interview:


"I think the first song I ever had done was for a show on weight control. I did everything from going down to Johns Hopkins Hospital and interviewing their weight control clinics so that there were documentary segments on the show to a skit that was a take-off on a French movie with a guy jogging through a little village and I wrote a song called "Come Jog With Me." It was like a French, (singing) "Come jog with me, lose a little fat, cherie." And it was so much fun, going out on the film shoot and I was in seventh heaven. So, pretty much from then on in, every show I wrote I put a song in. I always had at least one comic sketch in it too because the other thing I loved to do most was funny stuff. They were great. They let me have fun with it."

Material from the show was collected, edited and updated by Richard George in The New Consumer Survival Kit (Little, Brown and Company, 1978), billed as a companion to the series. The volume includes content from several of Nan's episodes. While some of the advice in the book is still relevant, naturally much of it is now dated, and there are many more up-to-date and comprehensive sources for this same type of information and advice today. It is, to our knowledge, the only format in which some of the material Nan wrote for this series is now available.

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