Monday, February 2, 2009

Hey, Hey, Hey...

by Amy K. Bredemeyer's Fat Albert! Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids ran for a whopping thirteen years, from 1972 to 1984 on CBS, and an additional year in first-run syndication. During this time, they only cranked out about 100 episodes, based on Bill Cosby's childhood memories. Cosby had roles at the beginning and end of each episode, and he also voiced the main character and a few of the others.

I first watched
Fat Albert in the 7th grade, as it came on after Channel One in homeroom. At home, my brother and I were also big fans of the show, and caught it on the local school board channel, which in St. Lucie County was Channel 13. It doesn't seem to be all that well-known, especially in comparison to some of the other things I've showcased. This might be because you just flipped over it when you watched it (whether that was on the original Saturday mornings or some other time in later years), seeing how it was about a bunch of young boys living in poverty who hang out at a junkyard in North Philly. They played up the "ghettoness" of the show, too... even the instruments they played in their band were pieced together from garbage. The show was nominated for just one Emmy, which is something I don't really understand. It was educational (yet didn't run on PBS) and targeted an audience that was often overlooked by Saturday morning programming... minorities.

Fat Albert was the conscience of the group, was the big guy, and wore an orange sweater.
Mushmouth was the one you had a hard time understanding. He actually uses the Pig Latin-ish language Ubbi Dubbi when he speaks, it's not gibberish. Cosby also voices him.
Dumb Donald is the one with the pink ski mask on his face. As his name suggests, he is the dimwit of the group.

Bill is based on Cosby, and Cosby voices him. He spends a lot of time keeping his little brother (Russell) out of trouble. He's the one in the jeans and white shirt.

Russell is the tiny guy in winter wear. He always tells it like it is.

Weird Harold wears the blazer and mismatched socks. He's Fat Albert's best friend.

Rudy is the one in the pink vest and orange hat. He seems to be a little better off financially than the rest of the group.
Bucky is the one with the overbite.

The episodes covered a lot of different topics, and the gang usually learned a lesson, which they often sing about in the end. Some of the stuff covered includes crushes, gun violence, racism, skipping school, con artists, child abuse, drugs, medical problems, alcohol, abduction, and white supremacy cults. They also made Christmas, Halloween, and Easter specials. The hooky episode is a little ridiculous, because the gang realizes they don't miss much and they have a lot of fun, but two bums tell them that since they didn't finish school they can't read, so the guys go back and start thinking school is cool. In another episode, Dumb Donald finds out his parents are having another baby, he freaks out, he gets used to the idea, and the baby is born all in the same episode. There are a couple divorce episodes, which do a decent job at looking at different aspects of the split. There's a funny episode about a kid who looks good, but doesn't know about personal hygiene, so the gang has to talk to him about not smelling, haha. They also have an integration episode, where the kids are bussed to a different school. There are a few gang-related episodes, and death is a big effect. And, in true 80s fashion, there's an episode about a kid who makes it to high school without learning how to read. (This and other shows with similar episodes intrigue me, since the "football star" aspect clearly wasn't an issue in first grade, so how did they pass back then?)

The did a movie in 2004, starring Kenan Thompson. I have yet to see it, but I've been meaning to for quite some time. The plot seems to be about the group helping out a teenager (Kyla Pratt) who is grieving over her grandfather. And, of course, Bill Cosby makes an appearance to give advice.

I can't find any of my favorites on YouTube, but I did find a very short episode from the later years, where the guys tour a prison and learn about how much it sucks to get arrested for a felony.

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