Somewhere in Antarctica, near the South Pole, two penguins named Don and Herb are perched by their television set, remote control in hand — er, wing. After a bit of Statler-and-Waldorf-esque banter, usually involving any of a number of bad puns about snow, the South Pole, fish, tuxedos, and other penguin-type jokes, the TV is powered on, and there, in an explosion, is a mad scientist in a green lab coat with a huge shock of black hair pointing straight up. Fingers waggling and sound effects flying, this crazed-looking man says, "I'm Beakman, and you've just broken into... Beakman's World!"
If you were a child of a certain age between 1993 and 1997, it's likely that you remember this scenario, as it was how every episode of the Emmy-winning kids' science series Beakman's World began. Partially a product of the Children's Television Act of 1990, the program solicited questions from viewers and answered them in a fast-paced, colorful format that saw no shortage of sound effects. No subject matter seemed off limits, either. One episode, for instance, saw Beakman don a HazMat suit and crawl inside a gigantic model nostril "in the name of science." In another episode, Beakman's mom, "Beakmom," played by Jean Stapleton — better known as Edith Bunker — demonstrates binaural hearing (that is, determining the source of a sound by using two ears) using a specially modified pair of headphones.
Beakman, who often referred to himself as "your own personal scientist," was joined in every episode by Lester, a disgruntled man in a rat suit (Mark Ritts), along with a younger female assistant — Josie (Alanna Ubach) in the first season, Liza (Eliza Schneider) in the second and third seasons, and Phoebe (Senta Moses) in the final two seasons. (Fast Fact: Did you know Lester was originally a rat puppet in the pilot episode? The puppeteer who was supposed to operate the original Lester puppet got sick, and, instead, Mark Ritts was recruited to play a man in a rat suit.)
The three reigned over a cluttered laboratory set (clearly a throwback to Pee-Wee's Playhouse) filled with 34 globes, 14 lava lamps, 14 fire extinguishers, two beauty salon hair driers, and a veritable wonderland of other random objects. "Ray the Cameraman" was also prominently featured in most episodes (well, his hand was, anyway), and a stable of recurring characters, including Soaperman, Balance Man, and greasy spoon short-order cook Art Burn (all clearly Beakman), as well as a number of "famous dead guys" such as Marie Curie, Alexander Graham Bell, and Charles Goodyear, all made regular appearances.