January 7-March 31, 1956


NBC Saturday Morning


Don “Mr. Mischief” Pardo


Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions

“It’s the Space Pilots against the Bronco Busters as everyone gets a chance to Choose Up Sides!”


Three decades before Marc Summers & Double Dare made green slime stylish, Gene presided over this 30-minute stuntfest where kids competed in races and made messes for a chance to win prizes.


Two teams, the Space Pilots (led by Captain Roger) and the Bronco Busters (led by Captain Tom), compete on stage. At the beginning of each stunt, one member of each team draws a postcard sent in by a home viewer who had selected which team they wanted to be on.


The two opposing team members then competed in some kind of race, such as headbutting an inflatable Bobo around a pillar and back to their captain, or removing sheets from a clothesline while standing inside a laundry basket. The winner receives 100 points for their team, while the loser meets Mr. Mischief.


Mr. Mischief (a giant wall-mounted puppet voiced by Don Pardo, doing a bizarre-sounding falsetto) gives the loser a simple-yet-difficult task. Mister Mischief’s stunts included using fingerpaint, but not your fingers, to complete a game of Tic-Tac-Toe, or trying to whistle with a mouthful of crackers. If s/he completes the task before a whistle sounds or Mr. Mischief pops the balloon in his mouth, it’s worth 50 points for their team.


Once per show, a siren goes off and Mr. Mischief giggles maniacally, signaling that it’s time for the Super Duper Doo stunt. Mr. Mischief announces a random date, and the onstage contestant whose birthday comes closest to the date got a chance to play.


That contestant has 15 chances to accomplish a specific task (blowing a sheet of paper into a trash can or throwing playing cards onto a large sticky ball). After four weeks, the contestant with the highest score wins a grand prize.


After four team stunts and four Mr. Mischief stunts, the team with the high score was declared the winner. The four kids who had played stunts for the winning team and the children whose postcards they had drawn won Grand Prizes; the losers and their postcards won the Sportsmanship Prize.

Gene, with far more energy than I've ever shown on a Saturday morning, infused this show with his touches, whether demonstrating a stunt himself, riding onstage on a prop wagon, doing a bizarre high-kicking trot for every visit to Mr. Mischief, or playing tic-tac-toe on the face of a boy who became dusty during a stunt. Like Marc Summers three decades later, he's hosting it just right. Relating to the kids instead of being condescending, and showing enough energy to be enthusiastic but not enough that he looks like he's faking it. I'm choosing the side that says Gene helped make this a really fun half-hour.


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