Most of us are familiar with the “Mr. Wizard’s World” series that aired on Nickelodeon back in the 80s. It was among my favorite shows as a kid, and brings back a lot of memories when I rewatch episodes today. What many people don’t realize though is that this was not Don Herbert’s (aka Mr. Wizard’s) first such series. From 1951 to 1965, he had a very similar (but slower paced) show called (yep, you guessed it) “Watch Mr. Wizard”. I stumbled onto this a few years ago while looking for episodes of the more recent series. He also had a short lived canadian series in 1971-1972, but unfortunately I have been unable to find any episodes of that series anywhere. In the 90s, there was a series called “Teacher to Teacher with Mr. Wizard” where Mr. Wizard discussed some projects and techniques used by certain elementary school teachers. This aired commercial-free on cable very early on weekday mornings (about 4 or 5 am, IIRC), and was part of “Cable in the Classroom”, educational shows which were intended to be recorded by teachers and then used in their classes.
Today however, we’re talking about the ’51-’65 series. This series aired decades before I was born, but through the magic of the internet, we can all watch & enjoy it now. This show was nominally the same as the more well-known series, but had a distinctly different format. While Mr. Wizard’s World was presented in a faster moving, magazine format, with half a dozen different kids & the same number of unrelated experiments in each episode (although the VHS releases of the show would combine like-themed segments into a single episode, such is not how the episodes were originally broadcast), Watch Mr. Wizard instead just had one kid or group of kids, and would spend the entire episode on a single experiment or group of experiments. Also, these episodes were filmed live, the net result is that they can be slow moving at times. On the flipside, you get more detail about the experiments, and you get to see bloopers as they happen.
You can currently find a number of episodes of Watch Mr. Wizard on archive.org, including the one in this post.
This episode is actually somewhat topical in today’s world, it talks about different methods to produce elictricity (such as solar cells). With all the fuss these days about fuel costs and alternative energy, there may be something we can learn from this old show. In this episode, Mr. Wizard constructs a Rube Goldberg type device to shut off his record player, incorperating 6 types of electricity generators (although nearly all are actually powered by some other device, which is plugged in to the wall, so it’s even more self-defeating than most Rube Goldberg devices, but what do we care? :p )
“Watch Mr. Wizard – Electricity” @ The Internet Archive