Age Levels targeted:
8 and up
Beakman’s World is based on a comic strip called “You can with Beakman and Jax” created by Cartoonist Jok Church in 1991 for his local paper in Marin California and quickly became syndicated in hundreds of newspapers. The TV show first aired in the 1992 fall season on The Learning Channel and, like its comic strip predecessor, quickly became a hit. Just a year after its premiere, it moved to CBS Saturday morning kid’s television lineup. The program garnered 3 Daytime Emmys during its relatively short stint on television (it ended in 1998) and was nominated for several more Daytime Emmy awards.
Overview of the show:
Eccentric scientist Beakman (played by Paul Zaloom) works in a lab in which he’s constantly performing wild and wacky experiments and exploring scientific concepts. Each show explores one or several scientific concepts through experiments and explanations. Often Beakman will teach his concept by creating ‘the Beakman challenge’ wherein he’ll bet Lester to perform a seemingly difficult feat which he is inevitably unable to do. Beakman will then show him how it can be done using science. The concepts explored come either from Beakman himself or in answer to a viewer letter (read by his female assistant) addressed to him.
The Main Characters
The main character of the show is, of course, Beakman himself, an offbeat scientist with a wild hairdo and sense of humor who fearlessly tackles a range of scientific explorations of his own, as well as those his audience at home writes in to ask him about. Besides being himself, Beakman also doubles as other characters at times in order to get his points across, some of whom can be seen in the montage below.
Aiding Beakman in his experiments is his trusty sidekick Lester, a man in a rat suit. Lester serves as the foil for Beakman’s sense of humor and is all too often the victim of his scientific pranks. Commonly Beakman will challenge Lester to do something seemingly which Lester fails at only to be shown how he could have done it using science. Much comic relief is also provided by personal jokes made by Beakman, and Lester himself, regarding Lester’s personal habits, looks and intelligence.
The other main character of the show is the role of Beakman’s female assistant, taken on in different seasons by different actresses. They served as a counterbalance to Lester, aiding Beakman with the more serious aspects of the experiments he performed and providing other technical tasks such as reading aloud the letters from the viewers at home.
Two other characters that are minor, yet appear in every show, are a pair of penguin puppets, Don and Herb (named after television’s famed Mister Wizard Don Herbert) who appear at the beginning and/or end of the show (sometimes in the middle as well watching the show on their TV at the south pole. They’re Beakman’s ‘biggest fans’ and their purpose of their segments are solely comic.
Types of skills the show teaches:
Beakman’s world is first and foremost a Science show. However mundane or wacky the experiments he performs and the facts he presents are they are all borne out by scientific experiment. The goal of the show is to show kids how to see the scientific workings of the world in virtually everything in their environment and to stimulate their curiosity and wonder about why the world around them operates and functions as it does..
Site review: This is a show that kids can really connect to and get enthusiastic about regardless of the level of scientific interest with which they initially approach it. Kids who are more scientifically minded will get swept in immediately by the varied and often unorthodox and unusual experiments performed on the show.
Kids who are less scientific minded will be so drawn in by the high concentration of humor packed into the show keeping it constantly funny even when serious scientific principles are being discussed that they tend to want to watch more. And of course as with any program you watch, you tend to pick up facts, even incidentally, while concentrating on the humor. I’ve often had my kids wanting to try out experiments they’d seen on Beakman, telling us about them or discussing it amongst themselves.
My kids perspective: My kids are constantly asking me to try and find them more episodes of this show. Unfortunately, the supply appears to be limited. I’ve put everything that I’ve managed to find in the Kiducation Corner but even so I’ve had trouble finding anything from seasons 2, 3, and 5. If anyone knows where I could get ahold of them you’ll have a thankful father here. It doesn’t matter when you see this, let me know as my kids will still probably want to watch Beakman when they’re in their 30s!
Just this past week my kids tried a “recipe” Beakman had mentioned in one of the episodes in which he created apple Jello using unflavored gelatin and apple juice. Now I don’t know what exactly went wrong but it came out tasting more like apple flavored rubber than jello. The point is that even though this was just an incidental mention in the Beakman episode in question, the moment they heard we had unflavored gelatin they rushed to try out this recipe simply because they’d ‘heard Beakman mention it’ and they wanted to see if it would taste good. Regardless of whether the failure was theirs or Beakman’s, the very fact that having gelatin in the house caused them to say ‘let’s experiment with it’ already shows a positive influence at work.