Monday, November 18, 2013

Winky Dink : 1950s Idea of Interactive TV

Winky Dink TV Show

A reader writes: "Winky Dink and You was a favorite of kids everywhere, a show that was first broadcast in the Fifties but I've met other people who remember it being on in the early Sixties. With the recent return of the character, suddenly everyone wants to know - who (or what) was Winky-Dink?"

Winky-Dink and You originally ran at 10:00am Saturday mornings from October 10, 1953 until April 27, 1957 on the CBS network. Joining host Jack Barry was Dayton Allen (from 'Howdy-Doody', later the voice of Fearless Fly) as Mr. Bungle, the assistant that never gets anything right.

The voice of Winky-Dink was Mae Questel, who also voiced "Betty Boop" after Helen Kane. A veteran of many films, radio and television shows, she is probably best known as "Miss Blue Bell" in those 70's paper towel commercials and as the old grandmother in 'National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation'. Mae Questel passed away in 1998.

Broadcast in glorious black and white, the program featured the adventures of a star-headed cartoon lad named Winky-Dink and his dog Woofer - interspersed with the in-studio antics of a host and an audience of kids.

Winky Dink kitThe gimmick here was that the boys and girls at home were asked to help Winky-Dink out of a jam by drawing whatever Winky needed (rope, ladder, bridge, etc.) on the TV screen. This was done with the aid of a Winky-Dink Kit which was sold by mail for fifty cents. "We sold millions of those kits" the show's host Jack Barry commented, "It was well thought out."

Kids placed clear piece of plastic that came in the kit over the television screen and connect the dots to create a bridge for Winky Dink to cross to safety, then trace letters at the bottom of the screen to read the secret messages broadcast at the end of the show. Which kinda sorta (but not really) made Winky-Dink the world's first interactive video game.

(Including the flop 1970s revival)