A kids' show that remembered there were grownups watching too
This is one of the all-time great kids' TV shows that ever was. At noon every day the WGN screen went blank for a few moments as they switched the broadcast to the live studio; you heard the murmur of the audience and then full-screen came on Ned Locke (Ringmaster Ned) blowing his whistle and announcing "Bozo's Circus is ON THE AIR!" Bob Trendler's band burst into the show's theme song, and then came the brief introductions of the clowns, whatever circus-type special guest was appearing, Bob Trendler and his Big-Top Band (they must have had at least a dozen musicians playing live), "and a cast of thou-sands!" as the camera panned over the audience. I was lucky enough to attend a broadcast of Bozo's Circus when I was in kindergarten; I'm 58 years old now and the opening of the show is burned indelibly in my mind from literally decades of watching it.
Bozo's Circus had a brilliant cast that took liberties with the comedy sketches in ways the grownups appreciated while the kids probably didn't catch on. Example: Wizzo the Wizard is going to do a trick and he dramatically produces "The Purse of Arobia!" which was basically a woman's handbag. Referring to the handbag, Bozo turned half away from the scene, put his hand up to his mouth to make a side comment, nodded and said "Now I KNOW what I always SUSPECTED..." and every grownup in the studio - the moms and dads, the other clowns, the members of the band, all of them just lost it. Bozo was not averse to saying 'Man oh Manischewitz' (a line from a wine commercial) or 'Take these scissors someplace and fall on them'. The kids loved the show and the grownups did too, because it remembered to entertain them as well.
Another great skit had Bozo, Cookie and Wizzo playing the roles of the three bears in Goldilocks. When they return to their bedroom, Wizzo, playing the Mama bear, says 'Oh! Oh! Someone's been sleeping in MY bed!' Daddy Bear Bozo says half under his breath 'Well don't look at ME...' Another great moment for the grownups, who roared with laughter.
If you were sick and got to stay home from school, being able to watch Bozo was a heck of a side bonus. On holidays or summer vacation unless there was something special going on, you WERE going to be watching Bozo.
The original Bozo at WGN, Bob Bell, was the better of the two. But the show ran so many years that when the second Bozo, Joey D'Aurio had been on the show for 14 or 15 years he was still referred to as 'the new Bozo'. Joey had an impossible task to fill Bob Bell's shoes but he did one thing that I thought was brilliant on the very final episode of the show (which by then was called The Bozo Show I think). The famous Grand Prize game was being played for the last time and there were some extra special prizes in bucket number six. Joey (the 'new Bozo') basically cheated big time to make sure both of the contestants won all the prizes. At one point he turned and looked into the camera and said "What are they gonna do? Fire me?" Being it was his last day on the show and he was losing his job anyhow, I thought it was a great line.
On the very last show, 40 years after it had begun, Billy Corgan and some of the members of Smashing Pumpkins performed a Bob Dylan song called 'Forever Young'. (Not the Rod Stewart song.) Corgan had grown up near Chicago watching Bozo as a kid and wanted to do something special on the last show. While he and his bandmates played the song, we were treated to silent video clips from many past shows - little glimpses of skits, kids playing games, Bozo at a couple of personal appearances, the audience filing out to the 'Grand March', all the kinds of moments that were 'Bozo' over a period of FORTY YEARS, and it was really sad for me. It felt like I was seeing the funeral of the greatest kids' show there ever was. I've seen clips of numerous other Bozo shows and they could not hold a candle to WGN's Bozo's Circus.
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