Okay, yeah, I get it. Obesity is a nation-wide problem and not something to be laughed at. (Hey, this is coming from a guy who has lost, and kept off, somewhere between 80-100 pounds in the past few years and is still working on losing more. I know it’s a problem.) That, of course, is why Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids would never make network Saturday morning airwaves today, unless it was done in some ironic fashion. Because there is a certain segment of the population which has no sense of humor, and they would not be able to look beyond the title character and his depiction, and there would be immediate protests no matter what the actual contents of the show. Throw in the rest of the Cosby Gang, their personalities and depictions, and that would just make matters worse. They’d probably also condemn it on a basis of racial stereotyping.
Which is a shame, because it entirely misses the exact point of the show.
It seems to me ironic, considering what I wrote above, that the show reportedly almost didn’t make the Saturday morning airwaves in 1975 for a completely different reason. In its original incarnation, it was considered too educational. Which also probably accounts for the fact that through most of its run it was usually slotted in one of the latest of CBS’s Saturday Morning timeslots.
Anyway, the point is that the show wasn’t making fun of Albert for being fat, nor of Mushmouth for the way he talked, nor of Weird Harold for being clumsy, nor, for that matter of Rudy for dressing like a pimp and thinking himself generally slick. No, that was simply who these guys were. Sure, at times, especially early on, some of the humor derived from these characterizations, and many of them had nicknames that described them, but then, that’s why they’re called “characters”.
Nor, for that matter, was the show based on its diversity or inclusiveness, making the point that “everyone, no matter how they look or seem, is a person who deserves respect”. Certainly that was part of the underlying theme, but it was never the point of the show, the way it would likely have to be today.
No, instead it was simply a show about kids being kids, playing together, hanging out together, getting into scrapes together, and learning from their adventures together.
And it was those lessons, the ones they learned from what they did or from what happened to them that was really the focus of the show. It was even right there in the theme song as sung by Albert himself: “You’ll have some fun now, with me and all the gang, learning from each other while we do our thing.”
Anyway, enough about all of that. Actually, it’s probably more than enough.
Unfortunately, due to copyright considerations, I can’t embed a full episode of the show as I usually like to do here, though they are available on YouTube for $1.99 each. Instead, just to give you a taste of it, here’s the first part of the first episode entitled “Lying”:
And just as a bonus here’s “Buck Buck”, the track from Bill Cosby‘s album Revenge, which introduced the character of Fat Albert. (Though this particular iteration is apparently taken from his Greatest Hits CD.) And yes, I’ll just go ahead and say if you’re one of those uptight super PC types I described at the top of the post, you might as well skip it. And that’s just fine, The rest of us will just have a really good laugh without you.
- Who Was the Inspiration for Fat Albert? (americanprofile.com)
- The Origin of Fat Albert: How Bill Cosby Did Obesity Right (Theatlantic.feedsportal.com)
- On Hey Hey Hey (afrankangle.wordpress.com)