Sunday, April 24, 2011

Saturday School: Captain Kangaroo (1955)

Long before Sesame Street became a destination for pre-schoolers, Captain Kangaroo was entertaining kids and parents alike with skits, cartoons, and occasional celebrity guests.

Bob Keeshan, who at one time essayed the role of Clarabell the Clown on Howdy Doody, became a television legend as the Captain, whose Treasure House was opened six days a week from 1955-68, and again in the 80's, with the Saturday show airing ahead of the CBS lineup in some cities. In my home district, the series was blacked out on Saturdays in the 80's, and I have no memory of any Saturday episode at all. During this period, Keeshan created a companion series, Mr. Mayor, which lasted one season (1964-5) before the Captain reopened the Treasure House on Saturdays for three more years.

Most fans will remember some of the supporting cast, such as Mr. Moose, Dancing Bear, Mr. Green Jeans (Hugh Brannum), or even the Town Clown (Keeshan doing a pantomime skit, similar to Jackie Gleason's Poor Soul), or the cartoons, like Terrytoons' Tom Terrific. Emmy winner Bill Cosby joined the show in the late 70's as the host of the PicturePages segment, this while his own Fat Albert & the Cosby Kids was on the air.

Eyeontv uploaded this clip from the 50's, which also includes some material from the 80's.

Back in the 60's & early 70's, WTEN of Albany, at the time the CBS affiliate, set up the perfect lead-in by airing a 5 minute newscast for kids, The Good Ship News, as a bridge between cartoons and the Captain on weekdays. Those were great times. Too bad they didn't try it on Saturdays, too.

Rating: A.

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