Wonderama

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Wonderama
Genre Game show
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 22
Production
Running time 3 hours
Distributor Metromedia
Broadcast
Original run January 1, 1955 – December 25, 1977

Wonderama is a long-running children's television program that appeared on the Metromedia-owned stations from 1955 to 1986, with WNEW-TV in New York City as its originating station.

Wonderama also ran in five other markets in which Metromedia owned television stations: WTTG in Washington D.C., KMBC-TV in Kansas City, KTTV in Los Angeles, WXIX-TV in Cincinnati, and WTCN-TV in Minneapolis – Saint Paul. The show ran three hours, and later two hours, on Sunday mornings.

In the 1960s, Wonderama aired in a one-hour weekday version in addition to the three-hour Sunday show. The one-hour program lasted until 1970.

In 1977, the show scaled back to two hours before WNEW canceled it in December of that year. The last produced show was taped December 21 before airing on December 25. Host Bob McAllister was upset when an advertisement for the 1972 Charles Bronson movie The Mechanic aired during the show.[where?] McAllister bought an ad in The New York Times that told viewers to stop watching Wonderama.[citation needed] In a 1990s interview with the Southern California interview show Remember When,[where?] McAllister said that might have led to the cancellation of Wonderama. However, in an interview on WNEW's local talk show Midday with Bill Boggs on the day of Wonderama's cancellation, McAllister claimed to have no idea why the show ended. After its cancellation, Wonderama continued in two-hour Sunday morning reruns from January 1978 to June 1980. McAllister reportedly was unhappy with the edits, which usually eliminated celebrity performances in order to avoid having to pay royalties.

Hosts[edit]

The Bob McAllister years[edit]

Following the frequent turnover of hosts throughout the 1950s, Wonderama experienced its greatest viewership by way of one-time Baltimore kids' show host Bob McAllister, who replaced Sonny Fox as host in 1967 and remained host until 1977. Each show's taping included (but was not necessarily limited to) education, music, audience participation, games, interviews, and cartoon shorts.

The program aired for three hours including several breaks to allow for cartoon insertions. On most of Metromedia's stations, these would be Warner Bros. cartoons from the 1940s and 1950s. On KMBC in Kansas City, an ABC affiliate, the show only ran two hours without the cartoon inserts (since this station did not own broadcast rights to cartoon shorts).

The program's closing theme song, sung by McAllister, was called “Kids Are People Too”, which was later adapted as the show's title when ABC picked it up as a Sunday morning kids show. The song was also featured on an album of music from Wonderama by McAllister called Oh, Gee, it's Great to be a Kid.

Features[edit]

Popular features of Wonderama during the McAllister years included the following:

  • "Snake Cans": the classic game in which Bob would pick kids from the audience one-by-one to open one of ten cans, nine of which were filled with spring-loaded snakes, and the tenth one containing an artificial flower bouquet which earned them the grand prize (usually a Ross Apollo bicycle) along with other prizes for answering trivia questions.[1]
  • Wonderama A Go-Go (later called "Disco City"): A dance contest similar in style to American Bandstand, in which the best dancer won a prize. After it was renamed "Disco City", the contest featured contestants each doing their own dance to the same record; the record was introduced at the beginning of the segment by "The Disco Kid", a boy dressed in a costume reminiscent of The Lone Ranger. Originally the Disco Kid's theme was a loop of the chorus from The Raspberries' "Overnight Sensation", but was later replaced with the song "Ride On, Disco Kid".
  • "Does Anybody Here Have an Aardvark?": a segment in which Bob would ask members of the audience to produce unusual objects, which may have been inspired by Monty Hall roaming the studio audience during the closing credits on Let's Make a Deal.
  • "Exercise, Exercise!": Most often jumping jacks, involving all the kids in the audience. The segment had its own theme song.
  • "Good News" Selected audience members were picked to read "good" news items from around the country before McAllister sang a song:
"Have you heard any good news today, today?
I wanna hear what you have to say,
wait 'till I get to the count of three,
and tell me all the good news you have for me, one-two-three!

After singing, Bob would canvas the audience for their own good news.

  • "Guess Your Best": A game show segment in which three contestants made predictions on the outcome of audience polls and relay races. McAllister hosted the game using the pseudonym "Bert Beautiful".
  • "Whose is Whose is Whose": Contestants were introduced to four children and four adults, and had to guess which adult was which child's father. As a help, the children and parents were sometimes asked to do things like jump up in the air (ostensibly because a child and his parent might jump in a similar style). McAllister adopted a silly pseudonym for this segment, calling himself either "Chuck Chuckles" or "Chuck Roast".
  • "Head Of The House": Selected kids took part in a series of quirky competitions, including gerbil races, balloon breaking contests, and so forth. The child who won the most events or scored the most points was crowned the "Head of the House".

Parting Gifts[edit]

Each week, audience members received a package of parting gifts as detailed on the show, containing varying items including the following:

  • A Lactona toothbrush
  • An issue of Dynamite Magazine or Golden Magazine
  • A supply of Good Humor ice cream
  • A box of Hostess Twinkies
  • A 6-pack of RC Cola
  • A Goo Goo Cluster candy bar
  • A tube of Hold! cough lozenges
  • A package of Fruit Stripe Gum
  • A gift certificate for Burger King or McDonald's
  • Nandy Candy - a chocolate bar containing fruit (McAllister would stretch out the pronunciation, i.e., "Naaaandy Caaaaandy")
  • A pack of Lender's Bagelettes. Each child also got a necklace made from a real, shellacked Lenders Bagelette, which had either their name or their last initial painted on it.
  • A 45 rpm record of one of the music artists who had performed on the Wonderama episode that week.

Guests[edit]

Originating from New York, top stars from all genres of entertainment (music, movies, television, etc.) made appearances on Wonderama, including the following:

1980 revival[edit]

Beginning in 1980, a documentary/magazine show for children (and hosted by teens) ran on Sunday mornings on WNEW-TV. While this show retained the Wonderama title, the show bore no resemblance to the original show. This hour-long incarnation ran until 1983; reruns edited to 30 minutes aired from 1984 to 1986 on WNEW-TV/WNYW on Saturday mornings. Hosts included Pam Potillo and J.D. Roth. Guests included Rick Schroeder and the Sugarhill Gang.

External links[edit]

References[edit]