A FAT ALBERT CHRISTMAS
Original Air Date: December 18, 1977
Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids must deliver a tyrant, as well as a baby, to redemption!
Fat Albert’s first appearance dates all the way back to 1967, when Bill Cosby performed the character, as well as many others caricatures from his North Philadelphia upbringing, on his stand-up comedy album, Revenge. An animated prime-time special partially based on the routine, entitled Hey, Hey, Hey, It’s Fat Albert, was produced for NBC in 1969.
From the beginning, the show featured live-action introductions from Cosby himself, and he also voiced three characters from the gang during the animated segments: Bill, Mushmouth, and of course, Fat Albert.
The show was a hit, but NBC was wary of translating such a moralistic show into a full-blown series. The first episode of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids finally aired on CBS in 1972 and remained in production for the next twelve years (even though only five seasons were produced during that time).
Awww, it seems that Fat Albert is no longer shown on television these days. How do I know? Because every time I do an impersonation of one of the characters in front of anybody so much as five years younger than me, I get treated like I made a watermelon joke in minstrel makeup.
Irrefutable proof Bill Cosby was involved
Strange, since the show was produced by Filmation (creators of He-Man) and aired consistently and all over the place during my youth, from USA’s Cartoon Express to marathons on public access.
“Bill” the character that most represented Cosby
And that sucks, because I, like the rest of the population, do a pitch-perfect Mushmouth impression, and pulling that out in public nowadays is received with all the warmth of Michael Richards on Def Comedy Jam.
“Oh-ba K-be Fa-ba Alber-ba-bababa”
Supposedly, the implication is that caricatures of inner-city black kids playing in a junkyard is no longer PC…which I personally can’t fathom, because as a little kid in the suburbs, I know I would’ve traded my left nut for a clubhouse amidst piles and piles of glorious trash.
Never once referred to as “The Crib”
There was just something so warm and inviting about a gang of characters who did everything together. And I know that the low-fi musical sequences were little more than an excuse to recycle animation on the cheap. But my little brain sure as shit didn’t seem to mind.
Unfortunately, Bill Cosby himself doesn’t appear in A Fat Albert Christmas Special, but his voice is present, and it went on to win an Emmy for Outstanding Children’s Special in 1978, anyway.
This entry will be 100% fat joke-FREE
The special opens with the ultra-wholesome Junkyard Gang setting up a nativity scene for the enjoyment of their parents.
But just when everything is nearing finalization, in comes Tyrone, the cantankerous entrepreneur who wants to bulldoze the club house.
Bravery would not make it to the ghetto until 1987
The boys tremble and cower for a bit, especially when there’s another knock at the clubhouse door.
God looks down on his rotund creation
D’Awww, it’s lil’ Marshall! His parents are a little down on their luck, and by that I mean broke, homeless, jobless, insurance-less, and his mother is about to give birth.
Fat Albert offers the family sanctuary as he goes off to try and convince Tyrone not to tear down Fat HQ, especially now that it’s acting as a de-facto Free Clinic.
Let’s hope Marshall’s Mom gets happier
Tyrone is, predictably, the same asshole he’s always been. However, we’re informed that, actually, he wasn’t always that way. Before his wife died he was apparently tolerable and well-liked around the neighborhood.
Fat Albert agrees to work as a storefront Santa to try and appease Tyrone, but it isn’t doing the trick.
The guys show up and call him a sell-out – clearly not diplomatic men of compromise.
Remember the pregnant lady back at your shack?!
And Tyrone kicks Fat Albert to the curb after his friends start jacking the Holiday freebies.
The following scene I do love very much, though. A sage-like hobo named Mudfoot (also voiced by Cosby) emerges to tell Tyrone what kind of a shithead he’s being, and exactly how much his dead wife, Martha, would’ve hated the man he’s become.
Just when you think it’s going to veer into hackneyed Christmas Carol territory, it backs off right in time. Tyrone realizes a change may be in order…but that’s of little importance now, because over at the Fat manger there’s a baby about to be born!
Rudy and Bill rush off to grab some ghetto doctor
And the now the rest of the gang have to go find Marshall, since he ran away after overhearing his father vent his fears and frustrations over just how in the hell he’s going to feed two kids with no money and no job.
After an admittedly dated chase sequence, they’ve failed to retrieve Marshall. Luckily, he’s been made somewhat obsolete, as the doctor has arrived at the clubhouse on time. The birth was not only a success, it couldn’t have been less bloody.
That floor’s gotta be a mess of hay and clumped afterbirth
Tyrone comes a’knockin’ once again…
But instead of bringing an eviction notice, the guy has decided to “give back” – he went and wrangled Marshall!
Possibly more frightening when he’s happy
The notorious curmudgeon atones for his past misdeeds by offering Marshall’s father a job at his store, and I have to point out that the last line is all his and is ridiculously touching. FIN!
Na, Na, Na, Gonna have a good time!
Let’s not forget that the gang is basically putting on a passion play at the beginning, plus the clubhouse makes a nice little metaphor for Jesus’ manger. But don’t worry, interweb atheists, you’re not beaten over the head with any religious themes.
It’s common knowledge that Santa doesn’t visit poor kids. Luckily, Fat Albert is 10x the Santa Santa is… even though he probably won’t live past the age of thirty.
In spite of being of over three decades old, A Fat Albert Christmas is one of the more modern Christmas specials I’ve ever seen – Marshall’s family especially. They’re less a stand-in for the Cratchits than a contemporary family struck down by a harsh society and failed economy. None of the regular characters behave abnormally as they go above and beyond to extend a helping hand… Come to think of it, Fat Albert and the Junkyard Gang tend to behave like every day is Christmas, anyway! Stove pipe hats-off to Tyrone as well, since he quickly transforms from a two dimensional, Ebenezer-esque character into someone the audience can empathize with. I don’t care what anybody says, the music is still fantastic, and this is one old special that’s stood the test of time.
PRODUCT INFORMATION (Support the Site!)
Unfortunately, several Fat Albert disc have been discontinued. The stand-alone A Fat Albert Christmas can still be obtained out in the wilds of retail, both new and used, AND the special can also be found in the New Christmas Classics 2-disc set, which also contains holiday specials from Gumby, Casper and George of the Jungle. I don’t know what’s going on with the Fat Albert series on DVD, but they seem to be getting scarce. If you’re like me, you’ll want to snatch them up quickly to ensure that they don’t disappear forever.