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Hey, Hey, Hey! Buy This DVD Today!
on March 27, 2005
Those of us who grew up in the seventies will always have fond memories of watching the Fat Albert cartoons on CBS-TV; this budget-priced DVD collection features the first dozen episodes as aired in the fall of 1972. Bill Cosby hosted each show and also provided a few of the characters' voices, but his greatest contribution to the series may have been his insistence on high-quality writing in collaboration with professional educators. Fewer episodes were produced as a result, but the attention to quality made the shows surprisingly durable over seven years of reruns on Saturday morning TV.
Cosby had tremendous respect for young children, and his segments in the series demonstrate his gift for being able to talk to children without talking down to them. Like a good teacher, Cosby addressed his young viewers not as immature troublemakers, but as the young adults they would one day become. His presence was more than just a gimmick to keep animation costs down; he actually gave instant credibility to the lessons that were being taught in every episode.
This DVD package includes an audio CD of the songs from each episode, but the sound quality is poor; what you're hearing is the original tinny-sounding TV soundtrack with extra bass added. Sadly, the only way you can hear these songs in stereo is to hunt down a copy of the ultra-rare 1973 soundtrack LP. Hopefully, someone will dig up the original studio tapes for a CD boxed set soon, and I hope it includes the soulful instrumental themes as well.
In its day, the series was widely praised by parents and educators for its positive portrayal of black teenagers as role models for young viewers. Three decades later, these shows are still considered the standard by which all other animated series are judged. In fact, I can't think of a cartoon series on the air today that combines education and entertainment as skillfully as the Fat Albert series. Watching these cartoons again for the first time in 25 years brought back many pleasant memories from my childhood. I recommend it highly to parents looking for an educational show that can teach without the preach.