Watch Mr. Wizard

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Watch Mr. Wizard
Watch mr. wizard.png
GenreScience education
StarringDon Herbert
Country of originUnited States
No. of episodes547
Production
Production locationsChicago, Illinois (1951–55)
New York City (1955–65)
Running time30 minutes
Release
Original networkNBC
Original releaseMarch 3, 1951 (1951-03-03) –
June 27, 1965 (1965-06-27)
External links
Website

Watch Mr. Wizard was an American television program for children that demonstrates the science behind ordinary things. The show's creator and on-air host was Don Herbert.[1] Author 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."[2]

It was briefly revived in 1971, and a third version of the show ran during the 1980s on the Nickelodeon children's cable television network as Mr. Wizard's World.

1951–1965: Original series[edit]

Herbert in 1961

Watch Mr. Wizard first aired on NBC on March 3, 1951, with Don Herbert as the title character.[3] 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.[4] Mr. Wizard Science Clubs were started throughout North America, numbering 5000 by 1955 and 50,000 by 1965.[4] 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.[5] The show was cited by the National Science Foundation and American Chemical Society for increasing interest in science[citation needed] and won a 1953 Peabody Award.[6]

Thirty-two episodes of Watch Mr. Wizard were selected by Herbert and released on eight DVDs.[7]

1971: Canadian-produced revival[edit]

The series was revived by NBC from September 11, 1971 through September 2, 1972 as Mr. Wizard, and aired 26 episodes produced in color in Ottawa, Ontario, 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.

1983–1989: Mr. Wizard's World[edit]

Mr. Wizard's World
Mr wizards world opening title shot.jpg
GenreScience education
StarringDon Herbert
Composers
  • Paul Zaza (1983–85)
  • New York Sound (1985–89)
Country of origin
  • Canada
  • United States
No. of seasons5
No. of episodes78
Production
ProducerFern Field
Production locations
Running time30 minutes
Release
Original networkNickelodeon (1983–90)
Original releaseOctober 3, 1983 (1983-10-03) –
July 21, 1989 (1989-07-21)
Chronology
Preceded byWatch Mr. Wizard
External links
Website

Mr. Wizard's World, a faster-paced version of the show, 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 Herbert 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.

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 July 21, 1989, though reruns continued on Nick at Nite until 1995 and often in early morning time slots right after Nick at Nite finished (usually as part of Cable in the Classroom) until August 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 ten single volumes featuring four episodes on each disk. Gift box-sets are also available. Five seasons of the show, 75 episodes of the 78 total were released on Amazon instant streaming.[8] These episodes are also available through Vudu and can be streamed for free with ads or rented at a fee.[9] ViacomCBS, the parent company of Nickelodeon, has also added the series to its Pluto TV service.[10]

In popular culture[edit]

  • Radio comedians Bob and Ray parodied the program with a series of sketches featuring the character "Mr. Science".
  • 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 TV series Beakman's World, two puppet penguins are named "Don" and "Herb" after Don Herbert.
  • In four episodes of The Big Bang Theory, the characters meet a retired TV scientist based on Mr. Wizard named Professor Proton (played by Bob Newhart).
  • In the novel The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal, the main character, Dr. Elma York, makes several appearances on Watch Mr. Wizard. In the story, York knew Don Herbert when they were both in the military.
  • In the show NCIS the episode "Model Behavior" (Season 3; Episode 11) Gibbs and Abby discuss Bill Nye the Science Guy, and Gibbs asks if it is "like Mr. Wizard".

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hyatt, Wesley (1997). The Encyclopedia of Daytime Television. Watson-Guptill Publications. pp. 456–457. ISBN 978-0823083152. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
  2. ^ 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. S2CID 144331760.Subscription required.
  3. ^ "Watch Mr. Wizard". Mr. Wizard Studios, Inc. 2004. Retrieved 2012-05-24.
  4. ^ a b Sternberg, Joel (2004). "Watch Mr. Wizard". In Newcomb, Horace (ed.). Museum of Broadcast Communications - Encyclopedia of Television (Second Edition): Volume 1. CRC Press. pp. 2487–2488. ISBN 9781579584115.
  5. ^ "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
  6. ^ "George Foster Peabody Award Winners" (PDF). University of Georgia. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-26.
  7. ^ "Watch Mr. Wizard Main Page". Mr. Wizard Studios.
  8. ^ "Mr. Wizard's World, 5 Seasons". Amazon. 2014. Retrieved 2014-12-27.
  9. ^ https://www.vudu.com/content/movies/collection/content/Family-Kids/25135?minVisible=21
  10. ^ https://reelgood.com/show/mr-wizards-world-1983

Further reading[edit]

  • "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.

External links[edit]