Day 2 - Fat Albert and He-Man

A simple question: were we all high in the late 70s/early 80s? And I don't mean buzzed or feeling good, I'm talking about full-on, blown-out, walls-are-melting high. Honestly, I cannot fathom how we, as children, turned out somewhat normal after watching some of the programming Hollywood put out during that time period.

I don't know, maybe I wasn't in the right frame of mind tonight. Kristin is away on a business trip, and I spend nearly 9 hours decorating the outside of our house. I figured I'd sit back, relax, have a beer, and experience some of the Christmas specials of my childhood.

First up was The Fat Albert Christmas Special. Although it's airing predated me by a few years, I definitely grew up watching other adventures of Fat Albert and his Junkyard Gang. Bill Cosby weaved his way into nearly every aspect of people's lives in the 1980s. Oh, you like primetime television? Cosby Show. Like to eat? Pudding Pops. Like to draw? PicturePages.

Although the Christmas special was only about 22 minutes long, holy shit did they cram a lot of story in there. Here's what I can remember. The kids are practicing (or staging for their own benefit, since it doesn't seem like there were any plans for an audience) a nativity play when the junkyard's owner comes by and threatens to bulldoze their clubhouse. A kid shows up next saying that his family's going through tough times: father didn't get a job, mother is about to give birth, no place to live. All right, 2 plots. I thought I could handle that.

But no. Some kids go to get help from a hospital. Other kids stay with the mother. Meanwhile, Fat Albert goes to prevent Mr. Tyrone from bulldozing their clubhouse. While speaking with him, a ragged charity Santa comes around asking for donations to the "Desititute Lighthouse Keepers Mission House." Of course, "Tightwad" Tyrone says no. Hell, I would have said no, too. Considering this is Philadelphia in the 1970s, and as far as I remember there were no lighthouses around, I agree with Mr. Tyrone. I'm calling bullshit on that charity. In fact, I think I've seen that same Santa in New York City asking for money for the Lighthouse Keepers. It's here that we get our moral lesson for the show straight from the raggedy Santa's mouth: "You don't get nothin' in this world unless you give something first."

Hmph, I understand the sentiment, but that just doesn't sit right with me. The more often used phrase, and I'm paraphrasing, is, "It's better to give than to receive." Be more concerned about doing good than getting something in return. But Mr. Tyrone takes the wording literally and offers Fat Albert a job playing Santa in front of his store (yes, store owner and junkyard owner, kinda like Fred Sanford) offering free goods to drive in paying customers. In return, he won't demolish the clubhouse..

Got all this so far? Because get ready for more spiraling. At the hospital, the father cannot get anywhere with the hospital staff because he has no insurance. The Junkyard Gang finds Fat Albert, calls him a sellout for helping Mr. Tyrone, then proceeds to try and take the free goods. Mr. Tyrone calls the kids hoodlums and fires Fat Albert, but then another random bystander comes along and tells Mr. Tyrone to stop being so angry because, get this...Tyrone's recently deceased wife wouldn't like the way he's been treating people. Random bystander then helps some of the kids find a doctor while the other ones head back to the clubhouse, where the father is currently venting to his wife about his inability to feed his family. His son, who has just befriended a puppy, overhears and decides to run away.

Whew, all right. So, the Gang tries to find the kid, the doctor shows up, delivers the kid, the Gang returns kid-less, and then Mr. Tyrone shows up. Deus Ex Machina, he offers the father a job, gives the family a place to stay, and renegs on his decision to tear the clubhouse down. Then the Gang offers their presents to the new baby.

So basically, morbidly obese teen and his impoverished friends have a real-life nativity scene in a junkyard, and an old man learns not to be a dick.

Oh, and just in case you didn't know where the jokes were in this special, there was a laught track to tell you. A laugh track. In a cartoon.

All right, so one childhood cartoon memory took a beating. Some He-Man will help clear that up, right? I loved the He-Man toys when I was a kid. Surely some childlike wonder and goofy smile had to come out of He-Man & She-Ra: A Christmas Special.


There were more threads in this Christmas special than very finely made sheets.

In "One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Gabriel García Márquez, there's a handy family tree in the beginning of the book to help you decipher the linage of the Buendía family. I wish I had something like that for this special. Mattel was throwing out character names faster than I could remember them.

Since I couldn't understand half of the story, here's what I gleaned. Prince Adam (He-Man's wimpy "secret" identity--in quotes because he tries to be wimpy by hiding his muscles under pink shirts and purple tights) sends up a primitive spy satellite to watch over Skeletor. Orko screws things up and transports himself to Earth, where he meets two kids who tell him about Christmas. And I mean everything. The story conveniently cuts away during the religious aspects and returns as the kids get into who Santa is. Somehow, Orko and the kids are brought to Eternia, and the bad guys want the kids so they can rule the universe or something. Honestly, I lost interest this God-awful special somewhere around here. Everyone learns about Christmas, and then the kids go home.

Back in the late 1960s, Bill Cosby and his producers wanted to bring Fat Albert to Saturday morning television, but one network in particular thought it was too educational, for there were always lessons for kids at the end of each show. So the Filmation company brought it to another network.

Fast forward a few years, Filmation makes He-Man, a show based on a toy line used to sell more toys. Oh, but we still get a lesson of morality at the end of this show:

Prince Adam: Not everyone celebrates Christmas, but the spirit of the Christmas season is within us all. It's a season of love and joy and caring.
Orko: And presents!

Basically, buy more toys!

I would like to express my deepest apologies to my parents for tolerating this crap when I was a kid. Here's hoping the next 23 movies aren't anywhere near as painful.

This entry was posted on Sunday, December 2, 2012. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.

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