Watch Mr. Wizard
|Watch Mr. Wizard|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||547|
|Location(s)||Chicago, Illinois, United States|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Original release||March 3, 1951 – 1965|
Watch Mr. Wizard is an American television program (1951–1965) for children that demonstrated the science behind ordinary things. The show's creator and on-air host was Don Herbert. Marcel LaFollette says of the program, "It enjoyed consistent praise, awards, and high ratings throughout its history. At its peak, Watch Mr. Wizard drew audiences in the millions, but its impact was far wider. By 1956, it had prompted the establishment of more than five thousand Mr. Wizard science clubs, with an estimated membership greater than one hundred thousand."
1951-1965: Original series
Watch Mr. Wizard first aired on NBC on March 3, 1951 with Don Herbert as the title character. In the weekly half hour live television show Herbert played a science hobbyist, and every Saturday morning a neighbor boy or girl would come to visit. The children were played by child actors; one of them (Rita McLaughlin) enjoyed a long subsequent acting career. Mr. Wizard always had some kind of laboratory experiment going that taught something about science. The experiments, many of which seemed impossible at first glance, were usually simple enough to be re-created by viewers.
The show was very successful; by 1954 it was broadcast live by 14 stations, and by kinescope (a film made from the television monitor of the original live broadcast) by an additional 77. Mr. Wizard Science Clubs were started throughout North America, numbering 5,000 by 1955 and 50,000 by 1965. The show moved from Chicago to New York on September 5, 1955, and had produced 547 live broadcasts by the time the show was canceled in 1965, with the last telecast on June 27.  The show was cited by the National Science Foundation and American Chemical Society for increasing interest in science, and won a 1953 Peabody Award.
1971: Canadian-produced revival
It was revived by NBC from September 11, 1971 through September 2, 1972 as Mr. Wizard, based on 26 shows produced in color in Ottawa, Canada at the CJOH-TV studios. The series was legally considered Canadian content, despite the American origins of the series and its host. CBC Television carried these episodes within Canada.
1983-1990: Mr. Wizard's World
|Mr. Wizard's World|
|Composer(s)||Paul Zaza (1983-1985)
New York Sound (1985-1990)
|Country of origin||Canada
|No. of seasons||6|
|No. of episodes||78|
|Location(s)||Calgary, Alberta, Canada|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Original network||Nickelodeon (1983-1990)|
|Original release||October 3, 1983 – 1990|
|Preceded by||Watch Mr. Wizard|
Mr. Wizard's World, a faster-paced version of the show developed by Don Herbert, was shown three times a week on Nickelodeon, the then rising kids cable channel. Once again, the revival was produced in Canada (this time in Calgary). It produced 78 episodes from 1983 onwards, and continued to run thereafter as reruns. During its airing on Nickelodeon, it was the channel's #3 rated show in 1983 (behind Livewire and You Can't Do That on Television). It was also famous for its Ask Mr. Wizard segment where Mr. Wizard answered questions sent in by viewers of all ages. Episodes of it were reaired in 2005-2006 on the digital cable channel The Science Channel. It still frequently airs on The Science Channel. Herbert once said: "My time on this Earth is getting shorter and shorter each day, but no matter how old I get, and even when I am dead, Mr. Wizard's World will never die". It was cancelled in 1990, though reruns continued on Nick at Nite until 1995 and often in early morning time slots right after Nick at Nite finished, through at least March 2000. In 1994, Herbert developed another new series of 15-minute spots called Teacher to Teacher with Mr. Wizard. They highlighted individual elementary science teachers and their projects. The series was sponsored by the National Science Foundation and was shown on Nickelodeon. Selected episodes of Mr. Wizard's World are available on DVD from Mr. Wizard Studios Inc. in 10-Single Volumes featuring 4-Episodes on each disk, Gift Box-Sets is also available. Five seasons of the show, 75 episodes, of the 78 total were released on Amazon instant streaming.
LaFollette applauds the unrivaled popularity and longevity of the original Mr. Wizard,:173 but suggests that its sequels and other educational programs were often initiated in response to social criticism, then cancelled once such pressure diminished.:177
In popular culture
- Radio comedians Bob and Ray parodied the program with a series of sketches featuring the character "Mr. Science".
- Mr. Wizard is mentioned in the "Weird Al" Yankovic song "Cable TV" as one of the many television programs the song's protagonist watches.
- A Mr. Wizard VHS tape can be seen in the Homestar Runner cartoon "Puppet Time."
- On the "Model Behavior" episode of NCIS, Special Agent Gibbs says "like Mr. Wizard" when Abby Sciuto talks about Bill Nye the Science Guy.
- In the award winning play Angels in America by Tony Kushner, one of the characters, Roy Cohn, calls his doctor Mr. Wizard.
- In one sketch in the 13th episode of the 36th season of Saturday Night Live, Mr. Wizard's World is parodied with Bill Hader in the title role.
- In the 1989 Disney sci-fi comedy, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Russ Thompson, Sr. (Matt Frewer) calls Wayne Szalinski (Rick Moranis) Mr. Wizard.
- In the TV series Beakman's World, two puppet penguins are named "Don" and "Herb" after Don Herbert.
- In three episodes of The Big Bang Theory, the characters meet a retired TV scientist based on Mr. Wizard named Professor Proton (played by Bob Newhart).
- Mr. Wizard is mentioned in the lyrics to the Smash Mouth song "Walkin' on the Sun: "Mr. Wizard can't perform no godlike hocus pocus".
- Mr. Wizard is mentioned in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension: "Emilio Lizardo. Wasn't he on TV once?" "You're thinking of Mr. Wizard".
- LaFollette, Marcel C. (September 2002). "A Survey of Science Content in U.S. Television Broadcasting, 1940s through 1950s: The Exploratory Years". Science Communication. 24 (1): 34–71. doi:10.1177/107554700202400103.Subscription required.
- "Watch Mr. Wizard". Mr. Wizard Studios, Inc. 2004. Retrieved 2012-05-24.
- Sternberg, Joel (2004). "Watch Mr. Wizard". In Newcomb, Horace. Museum of Broadcast Communications - Encyclopedia of Television (Second Edition): Volume 1. CRC Press. pp. 2487–2488. ISBN 9781579584115.
- "N.B.C. Will Cancel 'Mr. Wizard' Show; Children's Science Program Has 14 Years Air", New York Times, by Val Adams, April 17, 1965, p41
- "George Foster Peabody Award Winners" (PDF). University of Georgia.
- "Watch Mr. Wizard Main Page". Mr. Wizard Studios.
- "Mr. Wizard's World, 5 Seasons". Amazon.com. 2014. Retrieved 2014-12-27.
- LaFollette, Marcel Chotkowski (2013). Science on American television : a history. Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press. p. 177. ISBN 978-0-226-92199-0.
- "Watch Mr. Wizard: Still Crazy (for Science) After All These Years". Interview With Don Herbert. Education Digest. Ann Arbor: October 1994. Vol 60. Iss. 2: pp. 68–71.
- Weingarten, Mark (June 27, 2004). "When Science Was Simple: Watching Mr. Wizard". New York Times. Interview of Don Herbert by Mark Weingarten.
- "Mr. Wizard Studios Homepage". Homepage of a business founded by Don Herbert that sells DVDs containing episodes of Herbert's several television programs. The website also provides some information regarding the programs and of Herbert's life.
- Watch Mr. Wizard (1951) at the Internet Movie Database
- Watch Mr. Wizard (1951) at TV.com
- Mr. Wizard's World (1983–1991) at the Internet Movie Database