Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Getting Schooled: Romper Room (1953)

I don't think there's anyone in my generation who hasn't seen Romper Room, a daily series for pre-schoolers that was on the air for an astonishing 41 seasons (1953-94).

Romper Room started as one of television's 1st franchises, in that instead of being syndicated, producer Bert Claster would allow each station in the network to have its own hostess (Claster's wife & daughter served as hostesses in one Eastern city, one right after the other). This lasted until 1981, when Claster decided to outright syndicate the series under the title Romper Room & Friends, which would remain the show's title & format until it was finally ended in 1994.

It wasn't without controversy, though. In 1968, Peggy Charren's watchdog group, Action for Children's Television, targeted the series for using its hostess to sell toys within the framework of the show. Ironically, Hasbro bought the series the following year, and would later use the Romper Room name as a brand of pre-school toys as a division of its Playskool brand, which was part of Hasbro's acquisition of board game giant Milton Bradley.

When the series shifted from franchising to syndication in 1981, the producers settled on one national hostess, Molly McCluskey, whose 13 year run was, I think, the longest of any of the show's hostesses, regional or national. The show was taped in New York and broadcast on WOR. If memory serves, one of the franchises was in Albany, as I seem to recall seeing Romper Room in the pre-cable era. Unfortunately, there's no record on Wikipedia's Romper Room page, which proves that they still have some work to do.

WOR had to shift the show around during its run, largely to avoid, out of respect, conflicts with the still-on-the-air Sesame Street. I think around the time this episode aired in the 80's, Romper Room & Friends had settled in at 8 am (ET) in New York.

So, let's join Miss Molly for Romper Room & Friends:

Rating: A.


magicdog said...

I remember RR on WWOR!

I had wished so hard that the teacher would peer into the magic mirror and c all my name! She never did!

And Doo Bee!

I think it was a great idea to have had local hosts doing local version of RR - it made it more personal for the viewers.

It wasn't long before I had graduated to new fare, but it was fun while it lasted.

hobbyfan said...

I hear you about not getting called. Same thing here.

I'm pretty sure we had Romper Room in the Albany market, but they gave up on it when the network morning news programs began expanding.......