“Calvin and the Colonel” – a kid’s cartoon with a shady past

I’m going to introduce you to a 1961 TV cartoon called Calvin and the Colonel.  The show only lasted one season – maybe it aired for about two months before it was pulled for low ratings.

Yeah.  Not exactly groundbreaking television here.  The animation is definitely 1960’s-era “limited animation,” sort of along the lines of Rocky and Bullwinkle, although not as funny or as satirical.

Was there anything about this show that actually had some staying power?  Well, two of the writers for Calvin and the Colonel were also involved with shows like Leave It to Beaver and The Munsters, so there’s that.  I guess.

But here’s the thing.  Take a listen to the voice talent on this show.  The majority of the voices on this show are provided by Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll.

And you’re thinking … okay, who are they?

Gosden and Correll were the voices of one of the most popular shows of old-time radio.  Their show lasted for nearly 30 years, and was such a popular program, some movie theaters would actually interrupt their films and broadcast their radio show when it aired.

Of course, that radio show is nearly impossible to find today.  Although several episodes have survived to this day, the destination for old-time radio drama – SiriusXM’s “Radio Classics,” Channel 148 – won’t play the episodes.  Ever.

See, what you’re watching as Calvin and the Colonel is a repurposed episode of a radio drama …

… known as Amos ‘n Andy.


See, Gosden and Carroll were two WHITE men who did their radio show in black dialect.  It was audio minstrelsy.  And to hear it today is to wince.

Oh, they even did their characters in blackface – here’s an example of the Amos ‘n Andy movie Check and Double Check, which is arguably one of the worst motion pictures ever made.

Yeah.  I need some serious antacid.

Calvin and the Colonel was an attempt to recycle old Amos ‘n Andy plotlines and make them more kid-friendly, so to speak.  And they added a laugh track.  A laugh track?  In a cartoon?  Was there an animated studio audience here?

But the show was just terrible.  In fact, the only reason the show lasted as long as it did was because one of the original sponsors of Amos ‘n Andy, Lever Brothers, received “make-good” advertising on Calvin and the Colonel.  But yeah, after that one season, this show disappeared faster than a New York City cab.

Trust me, I’m not sensing a major clamor for a Calvin and the Colonel DVD boxed set any time soon.  It, like Amos ‘n Andy, are relics of a time when this kind of humor was considered high culture.

It just doesn’t work.

And sometimes relics like these need to stay in the archives.