Thursday, October 30, 2014

Running Commentary - The Fat Albert Halloween Special

To celebrate Halloween, I thought it would be best to answer a question that I assume has been eating away at all of you. How do a morbidly obese young man and his fellow underprivileged, if slightly eccentric, African-American peers celebrate Halloween? Well, you better got on your knees and thank the Good Lord above because we have our answer in the form of the Fat Albert Halloween Special!

Ignoring my better instincts, let's push play!

So some sick bastard carved 'Hey Hey Hey' into a pumpkin and then everything starts spinning in some attempt to make me sick. We're only ten seconds in and this is trying to kill me!

Then we see Fat Albert and... I don't know what his entourage is called. I want to call them the Cosby Kids, but then I imagine Theo crying himself to sleep over being left out of the fun... or over his stalled career... either or. Then we get a credit of 'Bill Cosby as the Voice of Bill Cosby.' Dammit! I wanted Redd Fox as the voice of Bill Cosby!

So I guess they're getting costumes. I just notice that they keep passing credits that are made to look like graffiti on run down buildings. Are they supposed to be in the ghetto or does all of New York look like crap? Wait, I think this was the 70's... yeah, New York looked like shit back then. But it was a great time to be in the Warriors... or maybe the Baseball Furies.

So they're looking for costumes in some rummage store when they get yelled at by the cranky clerk as he's trying to help some old lady that everyone, except Fat Albert, thinks is spooky. You see, Fat Albert is your average, sensitive 300 pound teenager. By the way, I only know the names of three of his friends... Mush Mouth, Weird Harold and Rudy. Everyone else I'm assuming don't deserve names until they make me care about them... and I'm not in a caring mood.

So since they're all poor, they dressed up in homemade costumes because... well... they're poor. Granted, if those costumes were anything like the ones from when I was a kid (cheap, brittle plastic masks with rubber bands and plastic smocks with a picture of the character you're dressed up as on the front) then they're probably better off.  I guess back then, being poor was a lot more fun. At least they make it seem that way. They all insult each other with wholesome, kid friendly zingers. This was in a simpler time before f-bombs and 'yo mama' jokes. Ahhh... Bill Cosby's America. He's like the stand-up equivalent of Norman Rockwell.

So Fat Albert and friends meet someone at a cemetery. You know the kind of cemetery... the one close enough to the city to be easily assessable to those without cars but far enough from the city to seem like the middle of nowhere. There are lots of those. Bill the Butcher's buried in one of those.

They all get scared by a friend of theirs dressed as a witch, leading to lots of slapstick running into each other. Upon finding out it was a prank, Fat Albert is mad, saying "It's not cool to be jumping out and scaring people!" I agree, especially when you are 13 and at risk of a severe coronary! So the guys want to go around scaring people and Fat Albert is being a wet blanket, especially when they reveal their main event will be scaring the creepy old woman from the shop. You know, it being Halloween and all, you'd think someone as overweight as Fat Albert wouldn't for a second pass up the opportunity for free candy, but whatever.

So they go to the movies, partially to see a horror show and also to scare an usher. Holy crap, the pacing of this show is so slow! I mean, was the script like 5 pages and the animators went "Shit! We have to fill a half hour! Let's have them walk really slow and then stand around, then walk really slow some more... without any dialogue!" Anyways, they're watching the movie and they're all scared and... I shit you not, Fat Albert literally through his straw sucks up the cup that his soda was in and eats it! Wow. So, the prank gets them kicked out of the movie. Seriously, is this the plot? Am I going to come away from this thinking that I could have described this entire episode as a 5 second anecdote? Stupid kids try to scare people and it backfires... the end. No wait, I'm guessing there's a lesson to be learned about judging people, like with the old lady. Yet, part of me thinks the creepy old lady should actually be an axe-welding maniac. We could stand to lose a few of them. Really, all you need is Weird Harold and Mush Mouth. I want a show with just the two of them. They could solve mysteries. I would watch. Admit it... you would watch too.

So they try to scare some old guy, but instead they freak out because they see a headless torso. In reality the old guy was trying to put on a night shirt and struggling to fit it over his head. Bill Cosby was the voice of the old guy. In fact, his voice has popped up throughout. Bill Cosby did a lot of voice work for this. Yet, I don't think he did Fat Albert. That's weird. It's like how Howie Mandel created the 'Bobby' character, but for the Bobby's World cartoon, only voiced the title character's dad. Weird. Can you believe that show had 7 seasons?!

So they try to do some trick or treating by way of the old guy, but he instead tells them some long story about trick or treating back in his day... and proceeds to take all of their candy! This is the best thing I've seen in this special. He's just rambling on, taking handfuls of candy from their bags and stuffing his pockets. Really, he's doing Albert a service.

Okay, so the main two that want to scare everyone are Devery and Rudy. Devery keeps getting harassed by his little sister, who keeps popping up. She keeps reminding him that he's supposed to be grounded and should come home before he gets in big trouble, but Devery is hell bent on scaring the old woman. Albert challenges Devery to scare the old woman by himself to prove he's such a big shot. Devery in turn challenges that he'll go home if his sister trick or treats at the old woman's house, which she, and the littlest Cosby Kid Russell, promptly do. This is the plot, folks... enjoy.

So the gang watches in terror as they ring the doorbell... and then go inside. This is confusing. Was trick or treating a more intimate affair back then? Did grown-ups invite the kids in for tea or something? Did kidnapping just not exist back then? Did some guy in the 80's go "Hey, this is just a wild thought, but what if we just take a kid and run? Has anyone ever done that before?" And then America's Most Wanted was born. (Sadly, that part's actually true.)

So they've been inside the old woman's house for 15 minutes and everyone's freaking out. Rather than go to the door as a group and find out what's going on, Fat Albert gets the idea to throw people up to the 2nd story window like acrobats to look inside. Sadly, he's the brains of the operation... and he is rewarded handsomely with cheeseburgers.

Of course, that plan fails, so everyone, except Devery, rushes the door and crash inside to find the old lady at her piano entertaining the two kids. She gives everyone candy and soda, saying how nice it is to have visitors. Devery is all bummed that he missed out, then his angry dad, who looks like a big muscular scary man, takes Devery away to be beaten severely, which was perfectly fine to do to your kids back then. Meanwhile, Fat Albert and his friends laugh as they walk off into the night.

So that's it. This experience has actually enlightened me. My eyes have been opened to the plight of inner city black children. Whether it be extreme obesity, severe speech impediments or wearing a hat with cut-out eyeholes over your face and head, the poverty stricken youth... these Cosby Kids... have many obstacles and hurdles to overcome. But fear not for them, my friends... for Hey! Hey! Hey! I think they're gonna have a good time.

Until the 1980's when crack is invented. Then it's gonna be like an episode of The Wire up in there.

Happy Halloween!

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