"This is Bill Cosby coming at you with music and fun, and if you're not careful, you may learn something before it's done."Bill Cosby
created this Filmation
series, based on his boyhood in Philadelphia
(and, more directly, on his Stand-Up Comedy
routines of the 1960s). Cosby also appeared on camera as a Narrator
and performed some of the character voices, including Fat Albert himself. The show ran Saturday mornings
from 1972 to 1984, followed by one additional season in first-run syndication
. In addition to a good income and setting up a ready audience for The Cosby Show
to rule the airwaves in the 1980s, Cosby also used this series to earn a Doctorate in Education, and become Dr. Cosby.
In every episode, Fat Albert and his inner-city gang became involved in some comic misadventure, either learning a moral lesson
or demonstrating a lesson for someone else. As on The Archie Show
, every Fat Albert
episode included at least one song. In later seasons, Fat Albert and his friends followed the exploits of their favorite TV superhero, the Brown Hornet
, who had adventures with morals that typically paralleled the main story. The first-run syndicated episodes had "Legal Eagle," a Funny Animal
parable told by Mudfoot to serve the same story purpose.
At Christmas 2004, 20th Century Fox
released a live-action Fat Albert
feature film starring Kenan Thompson note
in which the cast of the Fat Albert
cartoon step out of the TV to make a little girl's life better. It wasn't well received by critics and the box office.
In January 2013, Cosby announced on his Facebook page that a new version of Fat Albert
is being developed.
- Acrofatic: Fat Albert is surprisingly agile for a person of his size, being able to run extremely quickly and jump very high.
- An Aesop
- Animated Series
- Author Avatar: Bill. Curiously, he was one of the most minor characters — you'd have never guessed he was based on Cosby himself if not for the name.
- As well as the appearance, inflection, and voice actor.
- Board Game: The show had one, with cardboard tokens of the characters stuck in giant plastic sneaker feet.
- Butt Monkey: Rudy
- Catch Phrase: "Hey, hey, hey!"
- Christmas Special: Which somehow managed to combine the Yet Another Christmas Carol and Away In A Manger plots.
- Darker and Edgier: The first-run syndicated episodes were able to get into darker material than the networks would never allow, such as "Busted" with its hard edged prison tour, and another with a murder. One episode included the gang encountering a racist Neo-Nazi group. In earlier episodes, the antagonists often realized the error of their ways and reconciled with Fat Albert and the gang. However, this was not always the case in later episodes where they often had to pay dearly for their actions.
- Deadpan Snarker: All characters to an extent, but Weird Harold in particular.
- Depending on the Writer: Mudfoot Brown is either a homeless person or the proprietor of the junkyard that the gang hangs out in. Whether or not this means he actually owns the junkyard or is just employed as a caretaker is another story. He seems to have his own little shack in the junkyard but it's anyone's guess whether or not it's his only abode.
- Deus ex Machina: Played for Laughs in The Brown Hornet Show Within a Show. Every episode would begin with last week's Cliff Hanger, with the heroes caught in a Death Trap... which the Hornet would instantly escape by simply snapping his fingers.
- Edutainment Show
- Everybody Do the Endless Loop
- Eye-Obscuring Hat: Dumb Donald subverts this trope. His knitted hat falls below his eyes, but he has made two eyeholes in the fabric to see through.
- Fat Comic Relief: Guess who?
- Good Parents: All the parents, especially Fat Albert's, are fine upstanding examples whom the kids can always turn to when needed.
- Intergenerational Friendship: Mudfoot Brown, an elderly homeless man who often imparted sage advice to the gang.
- Jacob Marley Warning/Jerkass Has a Point: The aforementioned prison episode has a pair of unnamed inmates speaking to Fat Albert and company during their "scared straight" visit. They are very direct and not at all friendly; they tell the kids how horrifying prison is and how torturous their experience has been. One even explains that he's serving a twenty year sentence and he'll never be same again once he gets out since all he has ever known is prison life.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Rudy, the emphasis of many episodes.
- Limited Animation
- Limited Wardrobe
- Live-Action Adaptation
- Living Crashpad: Fat Albert himself serves as one.
- Long Runners: A 12-season run on Saturday morning network TV and syndication, albeit not always with new episodes each season, a great run for an educational series.
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: In the Brown Hornet segments.
- No Swastikas: Notably averted in one of the 1980s New Fat Albert episodes. The gang encounters a White Supremacist group called the Double Cross (their insignia being two X's). However, the rest of the episode includes explicit verbal and visual references to Adolf Hitler, The Nazis, Swastikas, and The Holocaust.
- Once per Episode: Russell will tell someone (usually Rudy) that they have "no class."
- Present Day Past: Kind of. Since the characters are supposed to represent figures from Bill Cosby's childhood (including his own youthful self), the show ought to be set in the late 1940s or early '50s. It sure looks, sounds and feels like The Seventies, though.
- Scare 'Em Straight: One 1980s syndication episode dealt with a terrifying "Scared Straight"-style tour of a prison.
- Share Phrase: Members of the group, especially Russell, will frequently say "No Class" in response to other members doing dumb things.
- Show Within a Show: The Brown Hornet (an In Name Only parody of The Green Hornet) and Legal Eagle.
- Stock Footage
- Stout Strength: The title character
- Talking to Himself: Bill Cosby plays several characters, including but not limited to: Fat Albert, himself, an animated younger version of himself, Mudfoot, and the Brown Hornet. At one point, the animated Bill Cosby is on screen at the same time as live-action Bill Cosby in a very literal example of the trope.
- Team Pet: The gang originally had a pet duck as seen in the opening, but the duck was dropped for some reason.
- Thematic Theme Tune: "Naa naa naa, gonna have a good tiiiime!" (Ear Worm worthy!)
- Token White: Margene, a friend and classmate of Fat Albert. In the 1980s version, there are many more such characters.
- Trash Can Band
- The Unintelligible: Mushmouth is understandable, but just barely. Specifically, he speaks Ubbi Dubbi.
- Very Special Episode: Practically every episode, particularly because it did not fit the typical convention of most Saturday morning cartoons of the 1970s.
- Wham Episode: In one episode, Fat Albert befriends a Latino kid whose older brother is involved in a gang. The kid is later killed when he sees someone pull a gun on his brother and he pushes the brother out of the way, taking the bullet himself. The Scare 'Em Straight episode also qualifies. The 1984 series had the gang confront a White supremacist group.
- Who Is This Guy Again?: The title credits show the name Cosby at least 6 times.