The Series (4/5)
Until my wife and I started dating I had never even heard of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. Which is an odd thing because I am sort of a pop-culture sponge, and the era in which it had it's last few seasons was the era when I was just starting to obsess over Saturday Morning Cartoons. In fact my first exposure to the comedic works of Bill Cosby would be through his titular sitcom, and his work as a spokesperson for Jell-O products. The only association I would make of him with animation would come through a Nick Jr. series he created when my sister was a child called Little Bill, and that show was much more tame (uninteresting) than Fat Albert.
Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids was inspired by Bill Cosby's childhood in North Philadelphia, and the general premise of the show was borne out of his late 60's standup routine involving Fat Albert and his gang. The concept was then taken over to CBS, and animated by Filmation (who did other such classic shows as Ghostbusters) and given an educational context mandated by Cosby. This is common for shows now, but was unique for children's fare in those times. The educational content of the show is more of the life lesson variety, how to treat your friends, junk food, as the series progressed the topics did become more serious, but the show never became any less fun.
The animation style of Fat Albert certainly has a unique look to it, that certainly makes it a fun watch regardless of the shows age. The animation does have a certain in-house Filmation look at times, but that is to be expected, but it is nicely hand drawn bright where it needs to be, and full of interesting visual elements throughout.
When watching Fat Albert I did not have to size it up against any potential feelings of nostalgia as this was my first viewing, and found the show to hold up very well regardless of the fact that it's oldest episode is now over 40 years old. The real test to me was watching it with my kids (ages 3 and 11) who both sat through multiple runs of episodes without complaint, and actually asked to watch the show in instances when I was not planning a viewing. In my recent review of the Beetlejuice animated series I felt that series would not hold water with newer viewers, and would mostly be for fans of the movie, who viewed the animated series on it's original run. Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids having now watched a vast majority of these episodes seems to have held up to the test of time. It is a funny, well animated, and poignant show, that teaches lessons that are altogether timeless.
I did not expect much in the way of restoration for the Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids: Complete Series Box Set and I was right. Shout! Factory has issued the full run of episodes on 15 DVD's in their original 1:33:1 aspect ratio, and the episodes for their age look quite good. The colors are stable, detail is solid for the most. I didn't see much to complain about a little b it of print damage here and there, and a little bit of compression artifacting, but that's about it.
The audio for the series is presented in Dolby Digital Mono in English, and is of similar good quality. The dialogue, music, and effects all come through nice and clear. I did not detect any audio anomalies like pops, cracks, or hissing on the track.
For a 15 Disc Complete Series Box Set there is not much included in this release. The only real extra is a 39 minute documentary looking back on the series with Bill Cosby and various others associated with the show. There is also a booklet with some very slight liner notes, and an episode guide (just titles).
A unique and fun piece of pop culture history Shout! Factory has brought the complete Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids to DVD in a package of epic proportions. The A/V is quite good solid, and the documentary included is interesting, but there could have been more in the extras department. Regardless this release certainly comes RECOMMENDED.