|U Can With Beakman and Jax comic strip by Jok Church.
|The first Beakman book.
|The lab assistants: Alanna Ubach, Eliza Schneider and Senta Moses.
|Mark Ritts as Lester the rat.
The second, begrudgingly, was Lester (Mark Ritts), a slovenly man in a
giant rat suit. His dimwitted nature often made him the perfect target to segue
into a demonstration; most often the “Beakman Challenge”, where Beakman would
try to get him to perform a deceptively simple feat using science. There were
two running jokes about Lester: he was either an actor whose lousy agent got
him a bad gig, or being in a rat suit was a lifestyle choice. In the pilot
episode, Lester was portrayed by a puppet.
|Beakman behind the Boguscope as an image materializes on it.
Incidentally, there was technically a third assistant. The unseen
cameraman known only as “Ray” would often hand Beakman various items from
off-camera. This was played by prop-master Ron Jancula’s hands. Additionally, Ray
was said to be operating the camera as well as various other systems around the
set, and would also send in a “viewing screen” known as the Boguscope. It would
display simple computer-generated animations to help illustrate what was being
explained to the audience.
|Words just tend to appear out of thin air.
Beakman’s World debuted on The
Learning Channel on September 18, 1992. The show relied heavily on comedy
and manic pacing to keep the attention of its intended audience, as well as
keeping the cast and experiments in tight shots most of the time to form a kind
of intimacy with the viewer. Unlike Bill Nye the Science Guy,
a similar program running at the same time, Beakman’s World would tackle
multiple topics in an episode that weren’t necessarily related. The series’
theme was composed by Mark Mothersbaugh, with
additional music by Denis M.
Hannigan, Rusty Andrews
and Josh Mancell. The show was
written by Church with Richard
Albrecht, Casey Keller, Stephanie Phillips, Philip J. Walsh,
Guenther served as science consultant. The puppets and animations were
provided by Puppet Studio, founded
by Sherman and Greg Williams.
Each episode usually began and ended with two puppet penguins Don (Bert Berdis, operated by Steve Sherman) and Herb (Alan Barzman, operated by Ritts), named after the legendary Mr. Wizard (aka Don Herbert), tuning in to the show in the South Pole. The TV would explode, leading to Beakman in his lab where would lay down a fast fact before the title sequence. For the closing, the penguins would deliver an intentionally bad joke related to the episode before turning the TV off and cutting to the credits. The penguin duo would also sometimes appear during segments or between commercial breaks.
Beakman, Zaloom play multiple characters. His two recurring ones were slovenly
fry cook Art Burn and Professor I.M. Boring. Burn’s segments took place in the
kitchen area of the set and saw Lester ordering the materials needed for the
experiment from a menu, which were then rudely handed to him by the female
assistant dressed as a waitress. Boring appeared in black and white segments
reminiscent of boring old educational film reels to deliver a definition related to a topic being explained.
Other times, Zaloom would appear as a famous scientist or historical figure
(treated as a separate individual, but a recurring gag had Lester aware that it
was just Beakman). Ritts also occasionally appeared outside of his rat suit as
other minor characters, such as a sportscaster.
Although the series wrapped in 1997, the comic strip that inspired it continued until July 17, 2016; ending three days after its 25th anniversary and three months following the death of Church from a heart attack. Zaloom maintains the rights to use the Beakman character to perform at live events for children and continues to do so around the world in a show called Beakman Live! There was also a traveling exhibit called Beakman’s World On Tour started in 1998 that visited science halls across America. In 2016, Zaloom appeared as Beakman on an episode of the viral video debunking web series Captain Disillusion, which was filmed and acted in a style similar to an episode of Beakman’s World.
number of educational toys were released with the Beakman branding,
including a Spud
Watch where you built a digital watch powered by a potato; a “Build
with Beakman” book series that came complete with materials to build
various science-related objects; a trivia
game by Andrews and McMeel; a boardgame
by Pressman Toy Corp; a photon
doodler that let you draw glow-in-the-dark pictures, video
science activity sets that provided an episode of the show with the
materials needed to do the experiments, and a magnet
experiment set all by ExploraToy. Church also wrote the book Beakman’s
World: A Visit to the Hit TV Show to give a little insight into the
|The Best of Beakman's World cover.
1997, Columbia released a VHS collection called The
Best of Beakman’s World, which was later re-released onto
DVD in 2004 by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and again
in 2016 by Mill Creek Entertainment.
The complete series was made available to stream on Netflix until 2014. In 2016 it became part
of MeTV’s Sunday morning line-up preceding Bill
Nye for the next few years, and was later made available to stream on Tubi.