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If you happen to be of a certain age, you are familiar with former Sunday morning staple “Wonderama,” an unprecedented weekly interactive game show extravaganza where kids and tweens gathered en masse, often with their parents, for just plain fun and entertainment. No childhood at the time was complete without “Wonderama.”
Now, almost 40 years later, this slice of television history is back in a new one-hour syndicated version of “Wonderama” produced by Chuck Armstrong (“Community Auditions – Star of the Day”) and anchored by the Tribune Broadcast Station Network.
Hosted by David Osmond of the beloved Osmond clan, “Wonderama” debuts with a kickoff special exclusive to New York’s PIX11 on Christmas Day, Dec. 25th. This new version will feature a new look; an emphasis on art, music, dance, television, film, sports, cooking and politics; celebrity guests like Tony Dovolani from “Dancing With the Stars,” boxing champion Evander Holyfield and country music star Michael Ray; and a clearance list in primetime fringe blocks in 13 initial U.S. markets effective on Jan. 7, 2017 (with multiple brand extensions on key digital platforms).
“Today’s families are hungry for entertainment they can enjoy together, making now the perfect time for Wonderama’s return,” said Chuck Armstrong. “Wonderama provides a one-of-a-kind co-viewing experience that every member of the family can connect and relate to. Our goal is to inspire our audience with content that speaks “to” them in order to convey the message: “Hey, I can do that too!”
Stations, at present, will air “Wonderama” in a two-hour weekend window, either Saturday from 7-9 p.m. ET or Sunday from 6-8 p.m. ET.
The Origins of “Wonderama”
Debuting on WNEW-TV in New York (now WNYW) on Jan. 1, 1955, and ultimately airing in five other Metromedia owned stations in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Minneapolis, Kansas City and Cincinnati, “Wonderama” was slapstick fun and pure entertainment. Coupled with some of the coolest prizes you could ever imagine winning at the time, “Wonderama” featured memorable songs (anyone over age 50 still probably knows the lyrics to “The Aardvark Song”); groovy dance contests; magic demonstrations; celebrity guests like The Jackson 5, Roger Daltrey, David Cassidy, Jodie Foster and Ann B. Davis from “The Brady Bunch;” art instruction; spelling bees; exercise segments (“Exercise! Exercise! C’Mon, everybody, do your exercise!”); learning games; and so much more.
All together now…
Does anybody here have an aardvark?
Does anybody here have an aardvark?
Everyone here has a right and left ear.
But nobody here has an aardvark…
“Wonderama” was an irreplaceable part of so many childhoods, running through 1977 and remembered for two hosts, in particular: Sonny Fox from 1959 to 1967 and Bob McAllister from 1967 to 1977. Both men brought a certain type of relatable energy to the stage unprecedented at the time for a children’s themed program. And for a child on a Sunday with one more free day ahead before the new school week began, “Wonderama” was an escape into a world where there were no boundaries; where rules and regulations by their parents took a breather. Where else, after all, could you tune in to see famed boxer Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier competing in a game of marbles?
Prior to its anticipated return, I had the opportunity to speak with Chuck Armstrong about the iconic “Wonderama.”
How exactly did the idea come up to revive “Wonderama”?
In 2006, when “American Idol was at it’s peak, I was able to secure the rights to “Community Auditions – Star of the Day,” a New England television tradition, and the longest running TV talent competition in America. Launching with host Geoffrey Holder (the “UnCola” guy), it has been an amazing experience: garnering us our first seven Emmy’s; allowing us to spin-off and create a New York program called “New York Star of the Day”, and most importantly, it led me to discover “Wonderama.”
While I was out selling “Community Auditions,” I was in New Jersey talking to a friend named Rich Russo, who suggested I bring back a program like “Wonderama.” ‘It was only the best show in the world,’ he told me when I asked him about the program. I was intrigued.
From there, it literally took three years to pick up the rights to “Wonderama,” he added. Our goal was to make a network type TV show that could speak to the “whole family”. And, to create a television platform vehicle that ignited those same feelings in viewers that made the original such a success in terms that worked for today.
When you decided to revive “Wonderama,” was the plan always to do it for broadcast or did you also consider cable?
There really isn’t any competition for something like “Wonderama” at present. Nickelodeon and Disney…they have a formula that works, but it is a different beast. My belief from the beginning has been that broadcast is still the place where you have the highest reach and the greatest opportunity for success.”
Who exactly are you trying to target?
From an advertiser standpoint you normally say it is 18 to 49 or 25 to 54. But, we target families. Anyone can watch, and appreciate, “Wonderama” at any age.
Our goal is to make good TV that is compelling, and that is able to speak in a voice that whether you are 12, or 14, or 54 years old, that “Wonderama” is relatable to you.
How will this format of “Wonderama” compare to the original? Is it the same?
This program will look current but feel familiar. The energy level of the original was amazing, you were never bored, it’s all about recreating that feeling. From how to be a good citizen, to interactive fun and games, we look to inspire our audience through pure entertainment.
I really think this new “Wonderama” will be successful, not just because of tradition, but because David Osmond really connects, concluded Chuck Armstrong. The most successful shows are the ones that the whole family can watch together. There is something here that every member of the family can appreciate and relate to. This is pure plain fun!
For more information on “Wonderama,” visit: www.wonderamatv.com
Fans can access show clips and bonus content on: