Rick Mitz, author of The Great TV Sitcom Book, once joked that Amos ‘n’ Andy constituted the “two dirty words” of American broadcasting (and he even thought the “’n’” suspect). I myself refer to the program as “the third rail” of old-time radio, insomuch as the medium’s first true phenomenon has been clouded with controversy ever since its premiere over Chicago’s WMAQ on March 19, 1928 (the show went national over NBC’s Red network in August of 1929) and stayed with the show long after it left the airwaves on November 25, 1960. Created by Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, two vaudeville performers who had a talent for black dialect, the long-running serial/sitcom began as Sam ‘n’ Henry over rival Windy City station WGN in 1926; the two men left the following year after a dispute with the station…and since they were unable to use the “Sam ‘n’ Henry” name (it was still owned by WGN) they changed the name of the characters to their better known alliterative association.
|Freeman Gosden & Charles Correll|
|Charlie & Gos with their cartoon counterparts|
|Bob Mosher & Joe Connelly|
2006 post at Michael Sporn Animation notes that the company who produced Calvin was TV Cartoons/Creston Studios (who also did the non-Jay Ward version of Crusader Rabbit), and the roster of talent that cranked out the installments included Chuck McKimson, Norm Gottfredson, Lee Mishkin, Phil Roman, John Sparey, Ben Washam, Tom McDonald, Volus Jones, Dave Weidman, Jim Davis, and Bob Bemiller—“They were more WB & Disney people unlike the Hanna Barbera shows which initially seemed to use more of their MGM cohorts.”
Television Obscurities notes that CBS Cartoon Theater even predated The Flintstones by four years—though like Bugs, the show featured shorts previously unspooled in theatres.) It is accurate to say that the success of that “modern Stone Age family” ushered in a slew of prime-time cartoon efforts in the 1961-62 season, with Calvin joined by the premiers of The Bullwinkle Show (okay, technically a continuation of Rocky and His Friends), The Alvin Show, and Top Cat. Calvin only lasted two months in its 8:30pm Tuesday slot (stiff competition from Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis) before it returned in January of the following year to a Saturday time slot (7:30pm) to fulfill its obligation to sponsor Lever Brothers. It then made Saturday a permanent home—mornings, that is—for another year before fading from the small screen landscape.
|Calvin and The Colonel working for the sponsor.|
Alpha’s first volume of the series, while Volume 2 includes “Sycamore Lodge,” “Wheeling and Dealing,” “Sister Sue’s Sweetheart,” and “Nephew Newton’s Fortune.” (“Wheeling” is one of my favorite Calvin outings—The Colonel is under orders from the women in his life to ship Nephew Newton’s car to him out on the West Coast…but he and Calvin have a mishap that results in Newton's ride being filled with cement. It’s an unusual episode in that The Colonel emerges victorious in this one—at the end of the show, he breaks the fourth wall as he enjoys breakfast in bed: “I know I didn’t earn all this love and affection, but…I’m a married man, so I’m gonna take what little I can get.”)
Volume 3 is the Alpha Calvin and the Colonel collection is the one you should get—it features four color episodes in “The Colonel’s Old Flame,” “Sister Sue and the Police Captain” (this one was an episode I watched on YouTube—in color!—but it has apparently been yanked), “Calvin’s Glamour Girl,” and “Colonel Out-Foxes Himself.” This last one is very funny (it’s the one on which I heard Conried and Cantor), as The Colonel attempts “The Pocketbook Swindle” after it’s been pulled on him…with unsuccessful results. Animation history king Jerry Beck calls the show “illustrated radio” …which is certainly fair, though I’ve heard the same term applied to much of the Hanna-Barbera product as well, and Calvin and the Colonel can certainly hold its own with Huck, Yogi, and the rest of my childhood heroes.
|I told Grover I'd only buy these dolls if one of them said "Holy mackerel, Calvin!"|
this image of a C&C coloring book)—you can find the board game/comic books on eBay, if you’re curious. I’d settle for a DVD release of the complete series only because I believe it’s much better than its reputation and it doesn’t deserve its current obscurity.