Synopsis of Saturday Morning Show
Five junior geniuses—each dressed in cap and gown, and with IQ’s ranging from 135 to over 200—formed the answer panel of Quiz Kids, one of television’s earliest game shows. The radio version of Quiz Kids had been astounding listeners since 1940, and in 1949, NBC brought the show to television.
Each week, five children under the age of 16 (many were well under the limit) answered questions sent in by home viewers. Judges determined how many points each question was worth, and if the kids couldn’t answer it (which rarely happened), the person who sent it in got a prize. At the end of the week, the three kids who answered the most questions were invited to return for the next broadcast, earning a $100 savings bond for every week they appeared.
The kids were adorable and natural talents in front of the camera, but this was no Kids Say the Darndest Things. This was a genuine quiz show, with questions that would spin the heads of most Jeopardy contestants. The pint-sized prodigies took stumpers on advanced math, physics, music, literature and more, with each kid focusing on an area or two of expertise. College professors, who occasionally stopped by to challenge the kids, were routinely stomped.
Also making the jump from radio was the show’s host, Joe Kelly, a former vaudeville performer whose everyman persona made the home viewers feel a little less dumb. It also helped that the kids were never cocky about their gifts, working together to solve questions and always behaving like good little geniuses. Among the more popular panelists were Janet Ahern, Frankie VanderPloeg, Harvey Dytch, Naomi Cooks, future Nobel Prize winner James D. Watson (of the Watson-Crick DNA model) and Joel Kupperman, who first joined the radio panel as a 5-year-old math whiz in 1942.
Quiz Kids started its run on NBC’s prime time schedule, then shuffled back and forth from prime time to Sunday afternoons (and from NBC to CBS) for the next seven years. Several panelists came and went, but the most popular kids were invited back after a few weeks off the air, keeping a few familiar faces in the lineup for the show’s entire run.
The radio version finally left the air in 1953, and the TV Quiz Kids soon followed suit. The show staged a comeback in 1956, with former Information Please host Clifton Fadiman taking over for Joe Kelly. The revival was brief, lasting less than a year, and the Quiz Kids finally hung up their caps and gowns.
A syndicated Quiz Kids appeared in 1978, followed by a cable version in 1981, but neither was as durable as the original. The same fate awaited The Quiz Kids Challenge, which debuted in 1990. By this time, the original kids had all become quiz adults, and TV viewers weren’t as ready to embrace their genius successors. With no more Quiz Kids, preteen braniacs had to content themselves with high grades, good test scores and the prospect of becoming millionaires by age 25.
Release History3/1/49 - 9/27/56 NBC/CBS
TV Sub Categorieslive-action
TV StudioLouis Cowan Productions
Television CastHost Joe Kelly
Host Clifton Fadiman
Announcer Jack Callaghan
Announcer Ed Cooper
Announcer Gus Chan
Announcer Don Hancock
Quiz Kid Janet Ahern
Quiz Kid Pat Conlon
Quiz Kid Naomi Cooks
Quiz Kid Harvey Dytch
Quiz Kid Vincent Granatelli
Quiz Kid Joel Kupperman
Quiz Kid Brenda Liebling
Quiz Kid Jack Lucal
Quiz Kid Melvin Miles
Quiz Kid Robert Strom
Quiz Kid Frankie VanderPloeg
Quiz Kid Sallie Ann Wihelm