19 February 2000 | Marta
Absolutely the all-time best children's show ever
If you were a child in the 50's, 60's, 70's and even early 80's, you probably watched Captain Kangaroo. Howdy Doody was king of the very early days of TV, and Bob Keeshan was a part of that since he portrayed Clarabell till 1953. But when he left Howdy and came up with a show of his own, he managed to surpass Howdy. For the kids of the mid to late 50's and the 60's, "Captain Kangaroo" reached epic proportions in our lives. We were new to the medium of TV and what it could do, and it seems impossible to use words to describe how wonderful the Captain and the show were. I watched it every morning; when the first strains of his trademark theme song came on, you saw the door to his world and all the small windows on that door that he opened at random to give you a peek beyond into the Captain's place. Then, the door itself was opened and the camera took us inside. It was a thrill that never got old for me. The Captain read stories to us; Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel; Stone Soup; Curious George; and on and on. Mr. GreenJeans came by with a different animal every show, and those animals were a source of wonder and laughter to me. They didn't stick to a script, but had their own mind and did their own thing. Instead of cutting to something else, we saw the animal either misbehave, or sit on Mr. GreenJeans head, or jump over the Captain, or be chased around the set by Mr. GreenJeans while the Captain laughed. It was a natural and easy going place. Mr. Moose and Bunny Rabbit were there in those early days, but as the show progressed through the 60's and into the 70's, they grew up a little and became a satirical reflection of the time. Mr. Moose constantly tricked the Captain, who fell for his jokes every time and usually had a batch of ping pong balls fall on him. Bunny Rabbit never said a word but managed to get his point across with perfect accuracy. Grandfather Clock was always there to complement the ensemble, and later Dennis appeared, a neighborhood boy who was a handfull. Magic Drawing Board was a source of consternation and mystery to me when I was very young; how could a drawing emerge when no one was standing there drawing it? After I grew up a little I knew how it was done, but that didn't negate the effect. The BananaMan was strange and wierd and wonderful, and each time he showed up the Captain's place became surreal; we were introduced to someone who was not as he (or she) appeared. The juggler who frantically balanced plates on poles was another semi-regular. The Captain and his troup would put on silent skits; my first introduction to pantomime and how effective a tableau without words can be. As a whole, the Captain's place was where I wanted to live, and each day the Captain gave me and millions of other kids just what we wanted.
Of course, this show could not last forever, but it certainly seemed like it did. Almost 30 years of the original Captain and his place were broadcast. In later years Cosmo Allegretti, the man behind the puppets and Magic Drawing Board, came out of the darkness to protray Dennis and various other characters, and Hugh "Lumpy" Brannum would play every instrument known to man for us as Mr. GreenJeans. He would evolve into a complete character on his own, aiding Mr. Moose and the others in their tricks on the Captain and sometimes figuring in his own stories. Bill Cosby joined the show for a few minutes each day in the late 70's. Special acts and sometimes actual stars showed up; Magic Drawing Board would paint us a picture to a Barbara Streisand song. Special episodes were filmed, the most interesting of these was "The Missing Paint Mystery", about a small island in the Caribbean that has to paint it's houses once a year or risk bad luck, and how the Captain and his crew helped find the paint that had disappeared and saved the day (I would love to have a copy of this if anyone out there has it). The show has been resurrected in the late 90's with a new, younger captain, but no one can ever take the place of Bob Keeshan, and frankly it seems silly to try.
These characters formed a complete family, and we were a part of that because the Captain made it so. I miss the Captain and his show; I wish all the old shows were being rebroadcast on cable somewhere, because I would watch it still. He and his characters occupy a special place in my heart and I would love to thank him for making my childhood a magical place.