Wonderama Children's Television Program

Wonderama was 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 being its originating station.

Wonderama also was run in five other markets in which Metromedia owned television stations, including 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 long, and later two hours on Sunday mornings.

    Al Hodge (as Captain Video 1955 - 1956)
    Jon Gnagy (mid late 1950s)
    Sandy Becker (1955–56)
    Pat Meikle (co-hosting from 1955 to 1956)
    Herb Sheldon (1956–1958)
    Bill Britten (best known as New York's Bozo the Clown, co-host in 1958)
    Doris Faye (co-host in 1958)
    Sonny Fox (1959–1967)
    Bob McAllister (1967–1977)
    A documentary hosted by teens (1980–1985)

The Bob McAllister years
Despite 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. Popular features of Wonderama during the McAllister years included:
    "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.

    Wonderama A Go-Go (later called "Disco City"): An American Bandstand-type dance contest in which the best dancer won a prize. By the time it was renamed "Disco City" the contest would feature contestants each doing their own dance to the same record, which was usually brought in 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" before being replaced with a song called "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.

    "Exercise, Exercise!": Most often jumping jacks, involving all the kids in the audience. The segment had its own theme ("Exercise, exercise, come on everybody, do your exercise...").

    "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 canvass the audience for their own good news.

    "Guess Your Best": A game show-like segment where three kids as contestants made predictions on the outcome of audience polls and race relay competitions. (McAllister himself hosted the game with the phony nickname "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 that they may ostensibly do in a similar fashion. (Again, 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".

Each week, audience members received a package of parting gifts as detailed on the show, containing varying items including:
    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 tube of Hold! cough lozenges
    A package of Fruit Stripe Gum
    A gift certificate for Burger King or McDonald's
    A pack of Lender's Bagelettes.
    (Each child also got a necklace made from a Lenders Bagelette which had either their name or their last initial painted on it.)
    A 45 record of one of the music artists who performed on the Wonderama episode each week.

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

The program's closing theme song, sung by McAllister, was called Kids Are People Too ("wacka-doo, wacka-doo, wacka-doo") 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.

In 1977, the show was scaled back to two hours before being canceled in December of that year. The last produced show was taped December 21, 1977 and aired on December 25, 1977. McAllister was upset when an advertisement for the 1972 Charles Bronson movie The Mechanic aired during the show. He bought an ad in the New York Times telling viewers to stop watching. In a 1990s interview with the Southern California interview show, "Remember When", McAllister said that might have led to the cancellation. However, in an interview on WNEW-TV's local talk show Midday with Bill Boggs on the day of the show'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 until June 1980. McAllister reportedly was unhappy with the edits, which usually eliminated celebrity performances in order to avoid having to pay royalty fees.

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.

Originating from New York, top stars from all genres of entertainment (music, movies, television, etc.) made appearances on Wonderama, including:
    The Sylvers
    Jerry Lewis
    Jodie Foster
    Paul Lynde
    Roger Daltrey
    Muhammad Ali
    Joe Frazier
        (In a publicity build-up to their rematch bout, Ali & Frazier both appeared on the show together in January 1974 and competed against one another in a game of marbles.)
    José Feliciano
    The Jackson 5
    The cast of Monty Python
    The Amazing Randi
    Wolfman Jack
    Lena Zavaroni
    ..and numerous others.

1980 revival
Beginning in 1980, a documentary/magazine show for children (and hosted by teens) ran on Sunday mornings on WNEW-TV. While this show maintained the Wonderama title, the show itself was nothing like the kids festival that it once was. This hour-long incarnation ran until 1983; reruns edited to 30 minutes aired from 1984 to 1986 on WNEW-TV/WNYW on Saturday mornings.