Release Date(s)(1972-1985) June 25, 2013
Studio(s)Filmation/CBS (Shout! Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: C+
- Extras Grade: A
Back in the 80s, waking up at 6 AM for cartoons was a great use of my time. That’s when all the syndicated anime like Robotech would be shown and, after that, classics like Courageous Cat, the 60’s Spider-Man… and of course, Bill Cosby’s Fat Albert.
As I’m a boy from Philly, Bill Cosby was for me one of those hometown heroes that spanned generations. My parents had his comedy records from the ‘60s, so by the time I was watching Saturday morning unsupervised, I already had every line of every sketch memorized. Naturally, when Fat Albert came waddling into my life in rerun form, I immediately latched onto the show as the TV version of my audio favorites. Now, Shout! Factory has collected all 110 episodes from the show’s off-and-on 12-year run in one handy box, with a good amount of bonus material that’s sure to appeal to those of us who grew up with the Cosby Kids.
For Saturday morning fare from the ‘70s, these episodes are in surprisingly good shape, especially given how frequently they were run. Shout’s presentation should certainly please anyone that’s been suffering through syndication masters for the last few decades. Cosby’s live-action intros – which present a freakishly young-looking Cos (for those more used to Cliff Huxtable) – suffer a little bit more than the animated bits, with some scratches and other damage that was probably there the first day they aired. The sound is also ‘70s thin, tinny mono, just as the day it was born, and no amount of sweetening is going to help that, but fidelity does improve over the course of the series. Overall the show looks good, with decent non-bleeding color, and (best of all) it’s not too processed, so it still shows its origins on film. I’m doubting this show is ever going to see a Blu-ray release, so this is probably the best it’s going to look on disc.
Now… anyone who grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s remembers the PSAs at the end of every cartoon, which tried to lend a bit of fake social value (“Now you know, and knowing is half the battle!”), but Fat Albert was different. The show was designed from the ground up by Bill Cosby to have a theme and teach a life lesson in each episode. Cos would frequently interrupt the on-screen action to talk about why a character didn’t cave to peer pressure and did something smart instead of cool, and sneak in all kind of little factoids that I’m seriously doubting any North Philly street kids would ever have retained from school. And that’s a lot of what is covered in Hey, Hey, Hey… It’s the Story of Fat Albert, an hour-long featurette covering the entire history of the show. It’s also covered in a number of episode commentary tracks from Cosby and his coworkers that are available here. The set also includes something you don’t see much of anymore these days: DVD-ROM features, including scripts and storyboards. Taken in all, it’s a nice package.
If you love Fat Albert, you’re going to love this DVD collection. Lovingly prepared with Cosby’s involvement, this 15-disc set is exactly the kind of high-class nostalgia piece that Shout! specializes in. While I’m not sure that the show will translate well for today’s younger generation, I’m betting that many of you now-grown children out there will say “Hey Hey Hey!” and “buck-buck” this DVD box through your shopping carts with a Coke and a smile. Recommended.
- Jeff Kleist