“Hey Hey Hey, It’s Fat Albert!”
That’s right, it’s Fat Albert. Bill Cosby invented the portly young Albert for his stand-up and album releases in the 1960’s. The character, like many of Cosby’s stories, is based on elements of his own youth. My parents were huge Cosby fans, so I had heard all about these Cosby Kids long before they hit television in 1972. Fat Albert And The Cosby Kids was an almost instant hit on the Saturday Morning cartoon menu. Unlike most of those early morning toons, this one mixed in some live action elements with Cosby himself. He acts as a host for the stories. The show was also known for its attempt to teach some kind of moral lesson with each episode. Standard lessons like it’s not cool to call someone names, or drugs are bad business, were often the week’s taglines. Cosby would accentuate the lesson himself, and usually the show ended with a song played by the Kids with their junkyard instruments that again played on the moral of the week. Cosby used a staff of educational psychologists for the show and made no apologies for the often heavy-handed lessons. Off and on the series ran for about 12 years, finally ending original programming in 1984.
Fat Albert and his friends, which included such favorites as Weird Harold and Bill himself, lived in the ghetto around a junkyard in
In Fat Albert’s Halloween special the boys are eager to spend the fright night scaring “old dudes”, who they see as mean. They end up falling for a few frights themselves, only to find that old folks can actually be cool. It’s only 22 minutes long, so you can’t really expect a more complicated plot than that. This episode does not feature any input from Bill or a song to wrap it all up.
There are 2 “bonus” episodes included. I decided to place them here rather than as special features because they sort of tie to the Halloween theme. Also at just 22 minutes each, the single cartoon would hardly merit a full DVD release.
The Prankster: Otis is the new kid who thinks everything is a joke. He plays one too many practical jokes on Fat Albert, making him quit his friends and the club. Of course, Otis finds out that jokes aren’t so funny if they’re on him or if someone gets hurt. Cue the junkyard band. This is an early 1972 episode and shows a very young Cosby, which is rather stark when compared to the older version in the next feature.
The Jinx: The boys go off to the woods with their superstitious cousin. The boy thinks he’s a jinx until he has to save the day when the boys are lost in the woods during a fierce thunderstorm. There he learns that he makes his own luck. There’s also a B story with some chipmunks learning the same lesson. This is an odd Fat Albert episode, one I don’t remember ever seeing before.
Each episode of Fat Albert is presented in its original broadcast full frame format. These cartoons are showing their age and little to no restoration is evident. The prints are dirty and lack clarity. The colors are actually pretty good, particularly Albert’s trademark red shirt, but the animation lines appear to be blurry. Where they always that way? I don’t know I was watching from the viewpoint of a kid with an over the air antenna in those days. I hope it was better. This is a very bad print.
The Dolby Digital Mono track delivers exactly what you are looking for and nothing more. The dialog is clear, and that’s all you’re going to get out of this minimalist presentation.
Only the “extra” episodes.
When I was a kid, we didn’t mind the constant moralizing on the show. The truth is, we just ignored it. The Cosby Kids were cool characters who got into some cool trouble. That’s all we cared about. I hope Cosby won’t be disappointed, but I doubt anyone avoided these growing pains because they saw it on Fat Albert. I don’t know anyone who did. Cosby knew that. It was a scam that left the parents able to feel good about sleeping in while we watched cartoons all morning on Saturday filling ourselves up with sugar disguised as breakfast cereal. Now thems were the days. This is a harmless enough release if you can get it for just a few bucks. The whole thing only runs about an hour… for all three episodes. Today’s lesson? “It’s just not cool going around scarin’ people like that.”