Sunday, August 07, 2016

Nostalgia Theater: Weekday Mornings With Bozo!

I'm in my old hometown of Chicago right now, and that has me reminiscing about watching The Bozo Show weekday mornings on WGN-TV during my childhood. Created way back in 1946, Bozo the Clown (the obvious inspiration for The Simpsons' Krusty the Clown) was later licensed to local stations across the country to create their own variety shows for kids. But of all of these, it's the Chicago version that's considered the gold standard, and is the most successful and longest-landing productions of its kind in TV history. Because in Chicago that's just how we roll. Go big or go home.

The show (which began its life in 1960 as Bozo's Circus before being re-christened in 1980) was a fixture for a lot of kids during that era. Featuring skits, cartoons, and games, you watched while eating breakfast and getting ready to go to school. While Bozo was played by actor Bob Bell from the '60s, it's the second Bozo, played by Joey D'Auria beginning in 1984, who I'm most familiar with. His sidekicks included Cooky the Clown (Roy Brown), Wizzo (Marshall Brodien), and musician Professor Andy (Andy Mitran).

Each hourlong show would culminate in the much-heralded "Grand Prize Game," with a boy and girl randomly selected by the "Bozoputer" to take turns dropping ping pong balls into six buckets. With each bucket, you won another prize, with bucket 6 being the Grand Prize (money, a bike, a trip, etc.). Interesting feature about the Grand Prize Game was that they'd also pick a postcard from a viewer at home who'd win the same prizes as the current player. Naturally this was great if they went the distance, but I have to imagine it sucked to be the person sitting at home if the kid playing the game managed to miss the very first bucket.

Anyway, by the mid-'90s, The Bozo Show soon found itself a little bit out of step when compared the increasing number of other entertainment options for kids. In 1994 it was demoted to once a week and was re-titled The Bozo Super Sunday Show as WGN got rid of its weekday kids' programming. The show stumbled through most of the '90s before finally closing up shop in 2001. And while it's been off the air for more than fifteen years at this point, if you're like me you still have a lot of pleasant memories of tuning in every weekday to see what antics Bozo and company would get into. Here's a commercial from 1989 hyping the show:

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