The Great Saturday Morning Experience

Show Spotlight: Dr. Shrinker

Here’s another live-action show to spotlight, once again, in the mid 1970s, the heyday for live-action Saturday morning programming. Joe Ruby and Ken Spears put together  a package show called “The Krofft Supershow” which was  hosted by a made up band called Kaptain Kool and the Kongs. Instead of cartoons, the program consisted of all live-action shows, one of which was “Dr. Shrinker”.

Starting on Sept.11 1976, “The Krofft Supershow” first airs with the original broadcast of “Dr. Shrinker” as well as “Electra Woman and Dyna Girl”, and “Wonderbug”.  “Dr. Shrinker” is a very stereotypical mad scientist, whom you may have guessed from his name, is obsessed with the science of making things smaller.  He lives and works on a strange island we presume is out in the middle of nowhere with a tropical jungle like topography.

A small airplane crashes on the island and the three survivors, B. J. Masterson, her brother Gordie, and their friend Brad Fulton, give Dr. Shrinker the chance he’s been waiting for: to prove his shrinking ray works on human beings! With the help of his assistant Hugo, Dr. Shrinker manages to shrink the three young people down to around 6 inches tall. His plan was then to show them off to prospective buyers to make loads of money off his discovery. The trouble is of course, the “shrinkies” as the mad scientist loves to refer to them, escape and the entire series is basically Dr. Shrinker and Hugo coming up with ways to catch them and them coming up with ways of escaping, and it just sort of goes on like that pretty much for most of the 16 episodes made. Some of the more interesting episodes include Dr. Shrinker creating a robot version of Brad to fool the others, a Wildboy found on the island played by Clint Howard, and Dr. Shrinker inventing berries that grant the shrinkies the power of invisibility.

Jay Robinson as Dr. Shrinker / Billy Barty as Hugo

The characters aren’t the tightest bunch you’ll see on television. BJ and her brother are always snapping at each other. Poor Gordie seems to be the most put on of the group as he is more or less the comic relief being the clumsy one, while BJ seems to boss both him and Brad around. Brad seems to be fairly level headed in comparison to the squabbling siblings. Meanwhile Dr. Shrinker and Hugo have a precarious relationship with Dr. Shrinker constantly acting the rude boss to his assistant. Hugo believes he in many ways is smarter than Dr. Shrinker and on occasion will convince the audience of this as well. Over all you can expect a lot of bickering with these characters.

Susan Lawrence as B J Masterson / Jeff McKay as Gordie Masterson / Ted Eccles as Brad Fulton

Like a lot of Krofft shows, this one had a very catchy theme song that will get you repeating “Dr. Shrinker” over and over again until you annoy someone enough to make you stop. Written and supposedly performed by the Osmonds (it doesn’t sound exactly like them to me) the lyrics are as follows:

Dr. Shrinker, Dr. Shrinker, he’s a madman with an evil mind.
Dr. Shrinker, Dr. Shrinker, he’s as crazy as you’ll ever find.
Crashed upon the doctor’s isle
Shrinkies are shrunken by laser ray
Will they always be so small?
Will they be lucky and get away?
Dr. Shrinker, Dr. Shrinker, he’s a madman with an evil mind.
Dr. Shrinker, Dr. Shrinker, he’s as crazy as you’ll ever find.
Dr. Shrinker!

The sixteen episode titles are as follows:

The Sands Document – part 1 
The Sands Document – part 2
Pardon Me, King Kong, But Is That You?
The Other Brad
Secret Idol
Gordie’s Bird 
Dr. Shrinker Shrinks
The Wild Boy
The Shake-up
The Splotcharia Epidemic
Don’t Hold Your Breath 
Slowly I Turn
Shrinkie Sale 
Brain Storm 
The Little Prince 
Treasure of the Deep

“The Robe” / “Willow” / “Bad Ronald” / “Happy Days” / “Tales of the Gold Monkey”

The role of Dr. Shrinker was performed by Jay Robinson, who played Caligula in both the 1953 movie “The Robe”, and the 1954 movie “Demetrius and the Gladiators”.   He was on shows such as “The Wild Wild West”, “Star Trek”, “Bewitched”, “The Virginian”, “Hawaii Five-O”, “Mannix”, and “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” before Dr. Shrinker. He went on to appear on the Fall NBC preview special called “The Bay City Rollers Meet the Saturday Superstars” as Dracula, and then he could be seen on Saturday mornings again on “The Bay City Rollers Show” as Dr. Deathray and Igor Strange. Later he appeared on “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century”, “Barney Miller”, CHiPs”, “Tales of the Gold Monkey”, “Murder She Wrote”, and “The Nanny”.

Hugo was played by Billy Barty, who has a massive resume with so many appearances on Saturday morning programming he will get his own blog showcase.

Brad Fulton was played by Ted (Teddy) Eccles. After Shrinker he was only on an episode of “Quincy”, but was a busy child actor beforehand appearing in such shows as “Mr. Ed”, “General Hospital”, “The Munsters”, “The Lucy Show”, “The Beverly Hillbillies”, “My Three Sons”, “Daniel Boone”, “The Rookies”, “The Waltons”, and a special favorite of mine, the made for TV movie “Bad Ronald”. Brad wasn’t Ted’s first Saturday morning role as he was the voice for Tooly in the Three Musketeers animated segments for “The Banana Splits Adventure Hour” and was also the voice of Dorno on “The Herculoids”.

B.J. Masterson  was played by Susan Lawrence who was also in “Happy Days”, “Welcome Back Kotter”, Emergency!”, “Mork and Mindy”, and the 1980 movies “Leo and Loree” and “Bloodrage”.

Gordon “Gordie” Masterson was played by Jeff MacKay, who was actually in “All the President’s Men” as a reporter right before appearing on Dr. Shrinker. Afterwards he was on such shows as “Black Sheep Squadron”, “Battlestar Galactica”, “The Greatest American Hero”, was a regular on “Tales of the Gold Monkey” (wonder how that reunion with Dr. Shrinker went), Magnum, P.I.”, “Diagnosis Murder”, and “JAG”. He also did a voice for “The Transformers”.

Despite the earworm of a theme song the show was not renewed for a second season so we never got to see if Brad, B.J., and Gordie ever got permanently restored to their natural size. Even without a second season they still managed to be stuck in our memories enough to inspire the name of a death metal band from Milwaukee.

Dr. Shrinker SWAG

Of course only having one season for a Saturday morning show did not mean lack of merchandise as you could find a Dr. Shrinker magnifying glass in various colors as well as a Dr. Shrinker Shrinking Machine which comes complete with instructions on how to reduce and enlarge the shrinkies! Both of these could presumably be found in your grocery or discount store’s cheap plastic toy aisle.  I don’t know if they rated a lunch box of their own but you could certainly find them on the bottom of the Krofft Super Show lunchbox and of course there were the prerequisite view master discs and jigsaw puzzles. You could even dress as Dr. Shrinker himself with one of the snazzy plastic and vinyl Halloween costumes!

There is one episode, “Slowly I Turn” which can be found on The World of Sid & Marty Krofft box set which is a 3 disc collection of many of their shows. You can also find the complete collection of Dr. Shrinker on various sites that seem to offer what appear to be not so official versions if you take my meaning. Several of the episodes were also on YouTube at the time of this writing.

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