Super Circus (TV Series 1949– ) Poster

(1949– )

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A Sunday Afternoon 'Must See' Show On the ABC TV Network, B&W Console!, Right Up There With "ZOO PARADE."Those were the Days!
John T. Ryan28 October 2007
In addition to providing a sort of 'vulgar' entertainment for the common man, the Medicine Shows, Wild West Shows and Circuses, provided contact with the Big Cities "back East" for so many "frontier" towns in the Middle West and Western United States. The arrival of such an entertainment in town was a highly anticipated event, possibly being numbered among the truly great moments in any year of the 19th and early 20th Centuries.

So it comes as no surprise to any Buffs of the Big Top or any genuine Historians that the World of Sawdust, the Exotic and All Superlatives is so deeply ingrained in our own History and Collective Psyche of the Modern Western Civilizations of Europe and the Americas. The use of canvass tents and virtual cities on wagons are as much of a subject of popular fiction as they were of their own World. At one time, in the period of time between the World Wars, traveling circuses, carnivals and the like, probably numbered in the hundreds in a Depression shackled, 'New Deal' America alone.

In the 1940's, with the End of World-wide hostilities and the Defeat of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Imperial Japan and their little buddy Satellite Nations, the rise of television came to the forefront in matters of modern culture. In addition to introducing a vast portion of the public to Athletic/Entertainment/Morality Plays that we call Professional Wrestling, TV programming sought identification with and exploitation of the long existing world of Circus.

This development was felt by the live Circus World (the "legitimate" Circus, if you will) in two directly opposite ways. Like anything else, the exposure on "the Tube" enhanced recognition, familiarity and fame of any act in any branch of the showbiz industry. That is the upside of things.

As for the downside, It is the same thing! Yes it is. We simply mean that by virtue of its mass communication powers, over-exposure proves to be the real problem. The best and worst aspects of TV are the two sides of the same coin!

So, TV was here and the Execs, even then being the unimaginative bean-counters that they were, and are, wanted their own Circus. So it then We saw the rise of such shows as the CBS TV's "SEALTEST BIG TOP"(1950-57) on Saturday Morning's and Sunday Afternoon's "SUPER CIRCUS"(1949-56), shown over ABC TV Network.

There was a special affinity that we had in our household for "SUPER CIRCUS", and young as I was then, this connection was perfectly clear. (having been Born 11/02/1946 in Chicago Lying In Maternity Hospital, located on the Campus of The University of Chicago). The irrefutable evidence was perfectly clear. Unlike so many other TV Shows (most in fact)originated in New York (Radio City) or Los Angeles (Television City), good old Claude Kirchner (Ringmaster)and Company were Broadcast Live, from Chicago, "that toddlin' town!"

The Cast was composed of the aforementioned Human Bean Pole, Mr. Kirchner and a large, Circus-type Brass Band. The gang from "Clown Alley" were very prominent in the intros to the visiting Real Circus Acts, as well as in providing the Laughs in the usual Comic Relief Sketches. They were "Cliffy, Nicky and Scampy"; also and otherwise known as Radio & Film Actor Cliff Soubier, all-around Funnyman Nicky Francis and in this corner, not 1 but 2 separate, but equal & distinct younguns portraying 'Scampy'. One Bardy Patton originated the Role, but the tendency toward rapid youthful growth left him out and was replaced by one even 'scampier'Sandy Dobritsch.

It was Miss Mary Hartline replete with her: A). Long Blonde Hair, B). Long Feminine Legs C). Majorette Costume & Baton or D). All of the Above ; who provided the necessary pulchritude (aka "Sex Appeal) as Claude's Helper. (the Answer is D)., of course, All of the Above!) During its hour, there were the usual bits of business with Claude, Miss Hartline and the Clowns and 2 or 3 Top World Class Circus Acts from Big Top Big Shows, such as "The Greatest Show on Earth, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey's Combined Shows!" (This limited Television exposure was certainly good for business, kinda like havin' free advertisements!) We can speak from some personal family experience of this "SUPER CIRCUS", for my older Sister, Joanne Ryan (1942-90) got to attend a live Sunday Show done at the Civic Opera House Theatre, 20 S. Wacker Drive, right here in Chicago. This was either 1950 or 1951, which would make her 8 or 9 years old. She went in her Brownie Scout Uniform with her Troop from St. Cecelia's Catholic Church.

She remembered that Ringmaster Claude Kirchner had a nasty off-camera disposition and did a lot of hollering at the mostly Kid Filled Audience to "keep it down!" She further related that the commercials done live for Mars Candy (now M&M-Mars of Chicago) featured a give-away of their Snickers, Milky Way, Three Musketeers and Forever Yours Candy Bars. The Camera always caught a couple of rows of smiling kiddies, happily munching on these chocolate bars.

But guess what! Only the kids in the first couple of rows were given these "samples". Can you imagine the cheapness of those 'Suits' at Mars! And they had the audacity to say "THE BEST CANDY ON EARTH COMES FROM MARS!" Maybe the "Best", but definitely not the Kindest!"

It seems that when the Producers start to change the format of a Series, it is usually the end.This we learned very early on, as the final season of "SUPER CIRCUS" saw a move (to LA or NYC) and a new cast with veteran funnyman Jerry Colonna as MC/Ringmaster.

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