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Remembering Captain Kangaroo

By Ken Foote, Director of Programming for CBS 11
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Before we had wall to wall early morning news coverage, there was Captain Kangaroo on CBS.

Captain Kangaroo remains today as one of the longest running children’s program in history, premiering on October 1955 until its cancellation in December 1984. Created by Bob Keeshan, the show was based on the warm relationship between grandparents and children. The set was originally the “Treasure House” where the Captain told stories and meet guests. Later the Treasure House became “The Captain’s Place”.

Cast members included Hugh Brannum as Mr. Green Jeans and Cosmo Allegretti as Mr. Bunny Rabbit, Mr.Moose, Miss Frog, Mr. Whispers, Dancing Bear, and Grandfather Clock. The late Dr. Joyce Brothers appeared on the show for three seasons as herself. Actor/comedian Bill Cosby appeared as himself as the host of the Picture Pages segment.

Captain Kangaroo had more guest stars than many filmed scripted prime time shows. Guest stars included Shari Lewis, Mister Rogers, Joan Rivers, Phyllis Diller, Ruth Buzzi, Minnie Pearl, Phil Donahue, Andy Griffith, and many many more. The show’s guest list is as good as anything we see today on late night talk shows!

The original theme song to the show was “Puffin” Billy”, used from 1955 to 1974. Written by Edward G. White, the tune’s original title referred to a British steam locomotive. In 1974, a new song was used called “Good Morning Captain.”

While the show could not compete with NBC’s Today Show in the Nielsen ratings, it won three Emmy awards for Outstanding Children’s entertainment from 1978 to 1984. By the fall of 1981, CBS knew its future in the morning was news programming and as a result Captain Kangaroo was moved to an earlier slot and cut down to 30 minutes. It was then moved to weekends and as time went on, clearances on CBS affiliates began to dwindle. Upset by the constant changes, Keeshan stepped down from the show in 1984 when his contract with CBS expired.  In 1986, PBS picked up reruns of the show.  Keeshan also had a regular feature on the CBS Radio Network devoted to families and children and appeared under his real name.

While I was the Director Of Programming for KDFW FOX4 and KDFI27, we had the syndication rights to The All New Captain Kangaroo, produced by Saban Entertainment and starring John McDonough. Keeshan was invited to appear as a special guest called “The Admiral” but declined. This show only ran one season and then was cancelled.

Bob Keeshan passed away on January 23, 2004.

This was a big time kids show!!  See you next time

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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