April 17, 2003

Mr. Wizard

A simple email to a friend got me thinking about "Mr. Wizard's World" -- that educational science program on Nickelodeon in the 80's. What I wondered was why it wasn't "Dr. Wizard." Surely a science show should be hosted by a PhD, right? While driving home I came up with two theories:

1) The host didn't have a PhD and didn't want to assume a fake title.

2) The producers wanted to make the show more accessible. Rather than having a stuffy scientist on the show, the host would be more like the nice old man down the street who is spending his golden years tinkering with gadgets. I imagined that this angle might have been a reaction to earlier science television for kids hosted by uptight bespeckled men in lab coats.

Based on my internet research so far, the first is true while the second was all in my imagination. Don Herbert didn't have a PhD (though UofM Dearborn did bestow upon him an honorary doctor of science degree in 1994), but came to children's television via radio.

As far as being a reaction to earlier science programs for kids, Mr. Wizard was one of the first. Back in the days before videotape he was doing a live show (also distributed on kinescope), and it appears that his neighborly demeanor was just that -- his own personality.

I guess this is all stemming from my resurging interest in contemporary American history. Every time I see a photo in a grocery store of that city in the 1950's it makes me want to go out and photograph random scenes of life in Chicago in the noughts then bury them in a ziploc bag for sometime to find at the turn of the next century.

Still, the format might have been a reaction to those high school science films.

Posted at April 17, 2003 10:56 PM, Categories: Beardcore
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