I get a lot of e-mails from people asking me about television shows, made-for-TV movies or miniseries they remember from years or decades past. I try to answer each question as best I can. Every now and then I like to dig through my inbox and pull out a few choice e-mails to answer here at Television Obscurities for everyone to read. Keep reading for today’s questions and answers.
Just curious, have you ever heard of Wonderama, with Sunny Fox or the game show, Shenanigans?
There’s no easy way to summarize Wonderama. The children’s variety show premiered on Sunday, September 25th, 1955 over WABD in New York City. Each episode was made up of a several different segments that included games, songs and the occasional cartoon. It originally ran from 12-6PM for an incredible six hours, although it was soon cut back to four hours. The first host was Sandy Becker. The second was Herb Shelton.
Sonny Fox took over as host in December 1959 and stayed with the show until August 1967 when he was left to host his own show. Replacing him was Bob McCallister, who would stick with the series until the final new episode was broadcast on Sunday, December 31st, 1977. By then, it was only running for an hour.
According to an October 28th, 1962 article in The New York Times, episodes were taped on Thursdays over the course of five and a half hours with an audience of 75 to 95 children between the ages of 7 and 13 . By then, WABD had become WNEW-TV, owned by Metromedia. In September 1969, an hour-long weekday version of Wonderama premiered in addition to the Sunday morning edition, which was now three hours long . The daily version ended in 1970.
Sometime in the late 1960s the series began airing on other stations owned by Metromedia, including WTTG in Washington, D.C. and KTTV in Los Angeles . By 1972, the waiting list to attend a taping was reportedly three years long. For McAllister, parents were the worst part of the job, telling their children to lie about their age so they can get on the show, immediately asking if their child won something, or worst yet, calling McAllister a babysitter .
In early December 1977, Metromedia informed McAllister that the show was being cancelled. The final episode was taped on Thursday, December 15th. In the audience was a 21-year-old who spent eight years waiting to get a ticket. According to Metromedia, ratings for Wonderama had fallen from a 50 share to a 36 share in the past two years . At the end of the taping, McAllister told the audience to “choose what you watch on television carefully and be sure and read books” before singing the show’s closing theme (“Kids are People, Too”) one last time . Repeats were shown through September 1987.
As for game show Shenanigans, it has to be one of the stranger children’s shows to air on one of the networks. During each episode two contestants (one boy and one girl) would compete on a life-size board game. Stubby Kaye served as host and Milton Bradley as sponsor. It premiered on Saturday, September 26th, 1964 on ABC and ended in December 1965 during its second season. An actual board game based on the series was released.
2 “‘Wonderama’ on Channel 5 To Become Daily Feature.” New York Times. 7 Aug. 1969: 29.
3 MacMinn, Aleene. “Bob McAllister proves that kids are people, too.” Los Angeles Times. 28 May 1972: R4.
5 “‘Wonderama’ Going Off Air After 25 Years.” New York Times. 18 Dec. 1977: 81.