SATURDAY MORNING TV
We weren't much of a TV household (something you find rather frequently among book people - correlation, perhaps?) We lived in the sort of late-60s split-level ranch you find all over the midwest, and our TV - small, basic, none too reliable - was housed in the partially-finished basement. Now, as a resident of basement-less California, I'd kill for some concrete-walled, window-welled, subterranean square footage to store stuff in, but at the time my brother and sister and I thought it a less than ideal place to hang out. The floor was linoleum, the furniture was hand-me-down. There was a faint odor of moulder.
I was and am a fidgety person. Sitting still wasn't easy for me, unless I was reading, so there weren't very many shows I'd make the effort for. (Star Trek was one; Land of the Lost, too; and later I was a huge Love Boat fan.) There was really only one Saturday morning show I watched with any regularity and that was Fat Albert.
Why did I love that show so much? Looking back on it, I suppose there were any number of reasons. My heart belongs to the underdog, and that bunch of North Philly kids was all underdogs, every one of them as hapless and, by turns, as unlucky as the next. Among them they seemed to have the full spectrum of social awkwardness covered, and since I thought I was permanently and innately mis-fit, I loved them all the more - for their terrible hats and indifferent style and inattentive parenting.
And of course I knew that Bill Cosby himself was half the voices on the show. I didn't mind. If Cosby animated half the real people in my life, I would have found it an improvement. He was grandfatherly before his time, benevolent to the core. He never slipped - his textured inner life, if he had one, was never revealed by loose-lipped mistresses or disgruntled ex-employees or wounded children.
Then there was that crazy music. There's nothing like 70's sitcom jingles, in my mind; it took me a few decades but I can say that I sort of miss that oog-y synthesizer and bouncing beat.
There have been various remake efforts and spinoffs and such. I don't care and I'll never watch them; I doubt the innocent, earnest, bittersweet milieu of that show could be duplicated outside of its time.
Here - a treat for those who remember, a novelty for those who don't - are the opening lines from every episode:
"This is Bill Cosby comin' at you with music and fun,
and if you're not careful you may learn something before it's done.
So let's get ready, OK? Hey, hey, hey!"
PS. A quick little shout-out to a good friend of the Criminal Minds, Jamie Freveletti, who was awarded Best First Novel at by the International Thriller Writers at Thrillerfest last week! (that's Jamie on the left)