If you were a child sometime between 1960 and 1990 then chances are good that you watched at least a couple episodes of children’s programming starring Bozo the Clown. Depending on where you lived in the country, the look, sound, and line-up of your show might have been any combination. You see, Bozo the Clown was one of a very few shows (including Romper Room) that operated as a franchise rather than in syndication.
Marketing genius Larry Harmon bought the rights to the clown he once portrayed and allowed local media markets to hire their own Bozos. My personal favorite was Chicago area clown Bob Bell, whose show created the kid favorite Grand Prize Game. Harmon’s most loved clown though, was Frank Avruch in the original Boston market.
Now, after many years of speculation on when it would happen, Larry Harmon has offered up 30 episodes (each 23 minutes long) remastered from his original film. Each episode features Avruch as Bozo, The World’s Most Famous Clown, entertaining a studio audience full of elementary school children who seem glued to his every move. Recorded between 1959 and 1970 it is not exactly the Bozo of my early eighties youth, but those of you who watched in earlier years will not be disappointed.
In each episode you get a much expected Bozo game where a child pulled from the audience gets the chance to win a prize, a Bozo cartoon featuring his trusty sidekick Butch, and - if you’re lucky - an appearance by Mr. Lion or Kookie the Boxing Kangaroo. Both Lion and Kookie were portrayed by the amazing Caroll Spinney, who you might remember for his later work as Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street.
I have to say honestly that two things are working against me with this four-disc DVD set. First, being 27, I find that the charm and wonder I experienced as a child watching Bozo is much diminished. I can still sit down and watch an episode of The Smurfs or Fraggle Rock and find them entertaining, but Bozo just does not have that same appeal. I will be calling my mother in just a bit to thank her for watching those hundreds and hundreds of episodes with me.