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Western Animation / Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids

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"Nah, nah, nah! Gonna have a good time!"
"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. So let's get ready, okay? Hey, hey, hey!"

Bill Cosby created this Filmation series, based on his boyhood in Philadelphia (and, more directly, on his Stand-Up Comedy routines of the 1960s, like I Started Out as a Child). Cosby also appeared on camera as a live-action Narrator and performed some of the characters' voices, including Fat Albert himself. The show aired on Saturday mornings on CBS from 1972 to 1984, followed by one additional season in first-run syndication. There were also prime-time specials for Halloween, Christmas (both 1977), and Easter (1982). 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 the later seasons, Fat Albert and his friends followed the exploits of their favorite TV superhero, the Brown Hornet, who had his own adventures with morals that typically paralleled those of the main stories. 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, 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 2013, the series was licensed to DreamWorks Classics.

In January 2013, Cosby announced on his Facebook page that a new version of Fat Albert is being developed. As of yet, it has not surfaced, and with the subsequent controversy regarding Cosby's sexual conduct, it probably never will.

A character page is in the works.

"I'm gonna sing a song for you / and Bill's gonna show you a trope or two...":

  • Abusive Parents: One episode is focused around a classmate of Fat Albert's being abused by her mother. In the end, Fat Albert convinces her to tell their teacher what's happening.
  • Acrofatic: Fat Albert is surprisingly agile for a person of his size, being able to run extremely quickly and jump very high.
  • Advertised Extra: Cluck the Duck was suppose to be a main character in the series but was dropped after the 1st season and only appeared in 3 episodes. Yet he was in the theme song for season 1.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song:
    • In the French version, French singer Carlos replaces the live action Bill Cosby segments as well as the theme song.
    • In Portugal, the theme song in their dub of the series (which was made in 2012) uses different instruments.
  • An Aesop: Every episode has a moral to teach, which becomes clear when the topic is introduced at the beginning.
  • And You Thought It Was Real: In "Smoke Gets in Your Hair", Albert connects a hose before using a bucket as he thinks the cabin's on fire, but it turns out everyone's just smoking inside.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Tyrone was a Jerkass Woobie ever since the death of his wife, Martha, including yelling at poor children and ruining fun for Albert and his friends. In the 1977 Christmas special, Mudfoot shoots him a question that actually gets through to Tyrone, eventually making him change his attitude toward the end of the episode.
    Mudfoot: "Now what do you think Martha would say if she could see you now?"
  • 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.
  • Big Ball of Violence: Happens whenever the gang starts fighting amongst themselves: a big cloud of dust with the occasional head, arm and leg projecting from it.
  • Big, Thin, Short Trio: Fat Albert, Weird Harold, and any of Bucky, Bill, or Russell.
  • Blowing Smoke Rings: Wombley breathes smoke rings in "Smoke Gets in Your Hair" into Albert's face.
  • Board Game: The show had one, with cardboard tokens of the characters stuck in giant plastic sneaker feet.
  • Butt-Monkey: Rudy. Russell was often the one to put him in his place.
    Russell: "Rudy, you're just like school in the summertime: no class."
  • Catchphrase: "Hey, hey, hey!" Live-action Bill Cosby was usually wearing a t-shirt with this catchphrase on it over a picture of Fat Albert's head.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: The Gang's pet duck, Cluck. He's seen in the intro and appears in the early episodes, but he didn't have much screen time and was eventually dropped from the cast altogether.
  • Cool Big Bro: Framey gives the gang gifts like pizza and a motorbike funded by his rich big brother Muggles in "Mister Big Time". Unfortunately, it later turns out that his big bro is a peddler.
  • Darker and Edgier: The first-run syndicated episodes were able to get into darker material than the networks would ever 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. Another has the younger brother of a gang member caught in the crossfire of a gang shooting, and winds up taking the bullet ... and sacrificing his life. 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.
  • Death of a Child: "Gang Wars" — aired during the syndicated season — was the only episode in the series' run where a child dies. The victim takes the bullet for his older brother, who was involved in a gang war.
  • 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 Cliffhanger, with the heroes caught in a Death Trap... which the Hornet would instantly escape by simply snapping his fingers.
  • Downer Ending: The infamous episode, "Gang Wars", ends with one, as the gang’s new friend, Fernando, is shot and killed saving his older brother, leaving everyone to mourn for his death.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • The first episode, "Lying", shows Fat Albert making some foolhardy mistakes (like accidentally dumping sand on the gang) and just as taken in by Edward's fibbing as the rest, while Bill is shown to not just be the focal character, but the necessary voice of doubt. Within a few episodes, Fat Albert would become much more perceptive and wiser than the other kids, picking up on little things that they didn't notice and mistrusting scams, while evolving into the main character and moral center of the group; Bill, on the other hand, would fade into the background and often vacillate between gullible and reasonable, with his main character trait being "Russell's brother".
    • The first episode also shows Bill Cosby directly interacting with the characters at various points, even tossing an object to Fat Albert at one point.
    • Rather than being performed at the end of the debut episode, the song conveying the story's moral ("Don't Go Telling a Lie") was performed near the beginning.
  • Edutainment Show: In the form of behavioral and social education rather than book-learnin'.
  • Everybody Do the Endless Loop: Walking, running, playing their musical instruments....
  • The Exit Is That Way: In "The Stranger", Fat Albert and the gang are backing away from Donald's cousin Betty but back themselves into the janitor's closet instead of their classroom: not even noticing till they shut the door and all of the brooms and mops fall on them.
  • 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.
  • Fun T-Shirt: Bill Cosby sometimes wears a shirt with Fat Albert's "HEY HEY HEY" on it.
  • Gambling Ruins Lives: The episodes "Double or Nothing" and "Heads or Tails" involve the boys (minus Fat Albert) losing their money in gambling scams.
  • Gilligan Cut: In the episode "Pain, Pain Go Away", Albert becomes worried about the health of his friend Darrell, who insists there's nothing to worry about. He consults the school nurse and she suggests that Darrell come in to see her, leading to this exchange:
    Fat Albert: (to the nurse's suggestion) OK, I'm pretty sure he'll do it. In fact, I'm real sure he'll do it!
    (scene cuts to Darrell)
    Darrell: I won't do it!
  • Girls Have Cooties: The gang all act like this when forced to hang out with Donald's cousin Betty (who has the double whammy of being a girl and a southerner) in "The Stranger". She gradually wins them all over, except for He-Man Woman Hater Rudy.
  • Good Feels Good: The gang obviously is for doing the right thing, with it usually bonding them even if they lose something material like the gifts in "Mister Big Time".
  • Good News, Bad News: In "The Mainstream":
    Miss Wucher: The bad news is I have laryngitis. The good news is I'm going to teach anyway.
  • Good Parents: All the parents, especially Fat Albert's, are fine upstanding examples whom the kids can always turn to when needed.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: Rudy. In "The Stranger", the gang resents having to hang out with Donald's cousin Betty, but she gradually earns the friendship of everybody except Rudy, who still distrusts her at the end of the episode. Bill even comments that he might never change his mind.
  • Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Subverted with Dennis. He is retarded (that's the word they use in the show), but it's more used for equality purposes. The episode "The Mainstream" showcases that he does need help sometimes, but he can do almost anything otherwise and in fact, some he can do better. He has to stay for a while in school to finish a painting for a class contest, but it wins unanimously.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Mudfoot Brown, an elderly homeless man who often imparted sage advice to the gang.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: The 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; Some are downright creepy. 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 the 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.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Devery, from the Halloween episode. His plans for a fun Halloween involves harassing adults for the hell of it (Mrs. Bakewell, Searchlight Jones, and Mudfoot). Not only does his dad punish him in the end, it's heavily implied that the Junkyard gang wants nothing more to do with him.
  • Laugh Track: There is a laugh track after some jokes, but it's used sparingly.
  • Limited Animation: It's Filmation, what do you expect? Moreover, lot of animations are taken from The Archie Show and The Brady Kids (though the latter premiered the same year as Fat Albert, so it's tough to tell what was taken from where).
  • Limited Wardrobe: Everyone wears the same clothes in just about every episode.
  • Lint Value: The gang decides they want to start a band. They go to a music store, pick out a pile of instruments, hear how much it will all cost, then ask the counterman what they can get for the amount they have. He shows them a single drum mallet.
  • 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.
  • Minor with Fake I.D.: Deconstructed in the episode "What's the ID?" Rudy and his new friend hector use fake ID to get around the city's juvenile curfew law and to enter a nightclub. Unfortunately, they hit on two women, resulting in the women's boyfriends angrily chasing after Rudy and Hector. The ruffians are arrested by the police, who berate the two boys for using fake ID.
  • The Moving Experience: This trope forms part of the plot for the episode "Moving." After the gang loses a game because Fat Albert was sick, his friends vote to kick him out of the gang, but have a change of heart when they learn he's moving. Everyone makes amends, then learn that he's moving to another place at the end of the block.
  • 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.
  • Office Sports: In "The Stranger", Fat Albert, Weird Harold and Rudy are playing a game in the classroom that involves Fat Albert and Weird Harold throwing blackboard erasers at Rudy's face while Rudy attempts to block them with a textbook.
  • Once per Episode: Russell will tell someone (usually Rudy) that they have "no class."
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: With many episodes, when Fat Albert is not inclined to eat at dinner due to a problem in the story bothering him, his parents know that something seriously is up with him.
  • The Pig-Pen: One of the kids' classmates, Suede Simpson, is a very charismatic individual... too bad he never bathes and no one wants to be around him as a result. It finally takes Russell to tell him that he stinks. While initially angry, Suede Simpson takes the hint, as well as a shower.
  • 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 '70s, though. One episode from the final season involved a computer hacker.
  • Prison Rape: Some of the prisoners give implied rape threats to the gang in "Busted".
  • Produce Pelting: In "The Stranger", Rudy throws a tomato at Fat Albert, only for Albert to dodge and the tomato hit the principal instead.
  • Scare 'Em Straight: One 1980s syndication episode dealt with a terrifying "Scared Straight"-style tour of a prison.note 
  • Security Cling: In "Busted", Fat Albert jumps on Dumb Donald when a prisoner threatens him. It obviously doesn't work due to his weight.
  • Self-Offense: In "Lying", the gang leap into a muddy river to practice alligator wrestling only to wind up wrestling each other because no one can see anything in the muddy water.
  • 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.
    • "Captain Cougar", a cartoon with an Animal-Themed Superbeing, featured prominently in one episode. Often, these segments would deliver An Aesop similar to that of the parent episode.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Wombley smoking brings the attention of the gang and girls in "Smoke Gets in Your Hair". Of course, it turns into Smoking Is Not Cool, as consequences for health and the general public appear.
  • Snowball Lie: Pretty much the entire plot of "Lying" where a pal of the gang's recently returned from Florida starts telling tales about his exploits down there that rapidly spin out of control.
    Bill Cosby: Watch out, kids. This snow job's about to become an avalanche.
  • So Proud of You: Dumb Donald's teacher pulls him aside at one point after class to warn him that he's in danger of getting Held Back in School if he doesn't get a good grade on his upcoming math test, and advises him to ask Fat Albert to help tutor him. While Dumb Donald does begin studying with Fat Albert's help, he laments that he isn't getting any of it. Another kid overhears this and sells him a cheat sheet for the test. Later when Donald is still contemplating on whether or not he should use it, his father comes in and tells Donald how proud he and his mother are over how Donald has been taking his studies more seriously and putting in more of an effort at school. That seems to be enough for Dumb Donald to make his decision as he hands the cheat sheet over to his father and asks for him to throw it away. He ends up passing the test anyway.
  • Special Aesop Victim: One episode dealt with a young boy who wanted to stop his older brother who was part of a gang. Unfortunately he ends up getting killed by a stray bullet during a gang war. The brother swore vengeance until Fat Albert confronts him about how more violence would not solve anything.
  • Stock Footage: A tradition for Filmation. The songs at the end of certain episodes either reuse footage from the episode or other songs, with characters sometimes blatantly changing instruments between shots. Worth of note is the stock talking head close-ups that often had characters drawn really close to the "camera!"
  • Stout Strength: The title character.
  • Summer Campy: In "Fish Out of Water", the gang leaves the neighborhood for the first time to attend Camp Greenlane, where they are joined by a troop of scouts. At first, the two groups don't get along, distrusting each other due to the fact that the other group is "different". They attempt to get at each other with a series of escalating pranks, but when a homesick Russell runs away, he gets lost and everyone bands together to search for him. Probably due to the Limited Animation the series was (in)famous for, the camp only has one counsellor.
  • Team Pet: The gang originally had a pet duck as seen in the opening, but the duck was dropped for some reason. He only appeared in 3 episodes in the series.
  • Thematic Theme Tune: "Naa naa naa, gonna have a good tiiiime!"
  • Token White: Margene, a friend and classmate of Fat Albert. In the 1980s version, there are many more such characters.
  • Trash-Can Band: It may or may not include Rudynote . In close-ups during songs, he's seen playing an actual instrument (an electric guitar, which even has a monogrammed "R"), but in long shots with the rest of the group, he is shown playing a crude makeshift banjo.
  • 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.
  • Voice of Reason: Fat Albert himself, in most cases.
  • A Weighty Aesop: A variation occurs in one episode where Fat Albert and another friend of his, Slim Noodleton, eat nothing but junk food for a while. After a trip to the dentist reveals cavities, Albert decides to try a more balanced diet, while Slim remains hooked on sweets. Interestingly, the episode doesn't make a "losing weight" argument—after all, the main character is still Fat Albert—instead showing Albert gaining more energy and overall improved health thanks to his food choices, while Slim remains easily winded and prone to stomach problems because of his habits. So the moral becomes "Eat better to feel better" instead of "eat better to lose weight."
  • 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. And the whole thing is dealt with the severity it deserves. The brother swears revenge on the other gang, until Fat Albert delivers one of the most scathing The Reason You Suck speeches in television history, asking where the cycle of killing will end. There is some Narm involved near the end of the episode when a memorial plaque is revealed which doesn't have the kid's name or picture, just a picture of his hat. The Scare 'Em Straight episode also qualifies, especially its use of uncensored swear words. Prior to that, a 1981 episode had the gang confront a White supremacist group and Lane Scheimer's (son of Lou Scheimer) convincing voice performance as ringleader George is quite chilling, given the other Filmation voice roles for which he is known (Sport Billy).
  • World Shapes: In the Brown Hornet segment of "The Mainstream", the planet Boota is shaped like a boot.