On this day in comedy on September 9, 1972 Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids premiered on CBS.
The Saturday morning cartoon favorite was created, produced and starred the voice of Bill Cosby. It was based on Cosby’s childhood memories. There were lessons to be learned in each episode and Cosby appeared in live action form and the top and bottom of each show to drive to pint home on the lessons. If that didn’t do it Fat Albert and his chums singing about the lesson in a junkyard with slapped together instruments as an additional recap should’ve done it.
The characters first appeared in Cosby’s standup act in the routine, “Buck, Buck” on his 1967 album, Revenge. The stories were so popular Cosby got together with animators, Ken Mundie and Amby Paliwoda for what he thought would be a onetime shot animated special for NBC, “Hey, Hey, hey, It’s Fat Albert” in 1969. Jazz great, Herbie Hancock wrote and performed the score. The special was a hit. However, the network felt it was too educational and declined the offer to place it in their Saturday morning line-up of shows. NBC was not attempting to smarten up kids on the weekends. Cosby and crew took their approach to CBS and they gave it a passing grade.
Apparently CBS was not only enamored by helping to develop young minds, but also by the colorful and vibrant characters. Fat Albert was the moral compass of the gang and was pretty athletic for an overweight kid. Mushmouth was an early example of a kid speaking Ebonics. Dumb Donald worn a stocking knit cap over his head, leaving only the eyes exposed and he wore it no matter what type of weather it was. Old Weird Harold had beady eyes. Rudy was sharp of dress, but dull of perception. It was usually his cockiness that got the gang into trouble. The rest were Bill, Cosby’s younger version and his brother Russell, who Bill was always trying to save from trouble and of course Bucky, who had an overbite.
Fat Albert & the Cosby Kids lasted 12 years on CBS. After its initial run it spent another season in first-run syndication and produced three holiday specials for Halloween, Christmas and Easter. In 1989 the series was rerun on NBC on Saturday mornings and on USA Network. It ranked #12 out of a list of the 50 greatest cartoon characters of all time and earned Cosby a Doctorate of Education. There was even talk about bring it back for future generations. This talk came from Cosby himself on Facebook in 2013, but then a year or so later circumstances from the past stepped into the Cosby universe and no other word was mentioned about this revival.
By Darryl “D’Militant” Littleton
Check out this clip: