“There was a character that hung out in a clock called Froggy, the Magic Gremlin, and they used to say to him, ‘Plunk your Magic Twanger, Froggy!’ There was something about the character that bothered me, and I can recall having some weird dreams because of this. Or did I just dream the whole thing?” (Tom Johnson quoted in TVParty.com)
Let us now consider Andy’s Gang, a horrific children’s television show from the 1950s. For those who live outside the United States, and didn’t grow up during the Cold War, this series may be absolutely unknown, and if this is the case, you can be thankful. For Andy’s Gang is the most twisted, most willfully odd and perverse television show imaginable, no matter what age group it’s aimed at. As one viewer put it, “the show reminds me of something David Lynch would come up with,” but actually, that’s selling the show short. This one is truly off the charts, existing in a hermetically sealed land all its own, a phantom zone of non-performance and non-participation which is staggering in its dimensions and implications.
That’s quite a claim, but if I had to compare Andy’s Gang to anything else that comes under the heading of a moving image construct, I’d be almost instantly reaching for the horror films Castle of the Living Dead (1964), The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism (1967), or Dr. Tarr’s Torture Dungeon (1973, a.k.a. The Mansion of Madness). For here is a television show, ostensibly aimed at children, in which the host never met – not even once – any of the members of his supposed audience, or was even in the same room with them, or even the same year – and which is comprised of such serial repetition of actual footage, as well as ceaselessly repeating its own internal structure, that it almost defies description. Indeed, as I’ll show later, there are virtually web support groups for aging baby boomers who seem to have been traumatized by the show as children, more than 53 years after the final episode of the series aired.
Saturday morning television in the United States in the 1950s belonged exclusively to children; this was a holdover from the tradition of Saturday morning shows in movie theaters in the 1920s through the early 1950s, when boys and girls would rush down to the local theater to see a double bill of two genre films, usually a western and/or a science-fiction or horror film, plus some cartoons, a chapter of a serial or “cliffhanger,” some trailers, travelogues, shorts, and other assorted screen fare.
When television took hold in the mid 1950s, it spelled the death of these morning screenings – serials, for example, ceased production entirely in 1956 as a direct result of competition from television – and television did its best to slavishly copy the model the movie theaters had followed so successfully.
So, on Saturday morning network television, you could forget about anything aimed at an adult audience; instead, one got a nonstop diet of such series as Kukla, Fran And Ollie, Howdy Doody, Flash Gordon, Lassie, Annie Oakley, Ding Dong School, The Paul Winchell Show, The Roy Rogers Show, Captain Z-RO, The Rootie Kazootie Club, Winky Dink And You, Super Circus, The Cisco Kid, Sky King, Captain Midnight, Rocky Jones, Space Ranger, The Pinky Lee Show, Sheena, Queen Of The Jungle and many more.
Each of these shows had their own peculiarities; Howdy Doody was a live puppet show, with a real live “Peanut Gallery” where kids would scream and holler as the show progressed – in short, genuine audience interaction; Flash Gordon, starring Steve Holland, was filmed in West Berlin in converted beer halls on a miniscule budget; Winky Dink and You encouraged kids to actually draw on the picture tubes of their television sets with crayons to trace this week’s mystery clue – one was supposed to place a special “magic screen,” actually thin plastic film, over the screen before marking it up, but many kids, enthralled by the suspense, simply forgot this part of the process – and so on.
But Andy’s Gang was a breed apart. As Wikipedia accurately reports,
“Andy’s Gang was a children’s television program that ran on NBC from August 20, 1955, to December 31, 1960. It was hosted by actor Andy Devine, and was the successor to the radio and television programs Smilin’ Ed McConnell and his Buster Brown Gang, later shortened to Smilin’ Ed’s Gang. Devine took over the television program when Ed McConnell died suddenly from a heart attack in 1954. He inherited a number of the characters on the earlier show and the sponsor, Buster Brown shoes.”
Under Smilin’ Ed McConnell’s tenure, first as a radio show starting in 1944, and then a television series, each episode would begin with a young boy portraying Buster Brown, the fictional Dutch boy who was a well-known trademark for children’s shoes in the 1950s, accompanied by his rather spectacularly ugly dog Tige screaming – from the inside of a shoe – “Hey kids! It’s the Buster Brown Show! – followed by McConnell leading his juvenile audience in the rousing adolescent anthem “I got shoes, you got shoes, everybody’s got to have shoes, but there’s only one kind of shoe for me, good old Buster Brown shoes!” while his fans screamed with delight.
When the show started on radio, McConnell would actually perform from a barely propped stage before a studio audience, and when the show switched to television, he continued this practice. But as his health faltered, McConnell decreed that henceforth, he would perform on a stage in an empty auditorium, and reaction shots of the children could be spliced in later, culled from earlier episodes. For some reason, the series producers went along with this idea.
This in itself is unusual as far it goes, but it gets even stranger when one considers that after McConnell’s death, when Andy Devine took over, series producer/director Frank Ferrin saw no need to film new reaction shots of the audience, and simply continued to recycle footage from episodes shot in 1952 and 1953 – actually comprising less than three minutes running time – for the entire length of the series, up until the final 1960 airdate.
Thus, Andy’s Gang never really existed – it was simply Andy Devine, on an almost empty stage, interacting with no one at all – or rather, the same group of phantom children over and over again, week after week, year after year, who had never seen him, or had any contact with him at all. Nor did Devine do any personal appearances in conjunction with the show; indeed, he filmed all his segments for each year’s worth of the series in a matter of weeks, and then moved on to other assignments. And remember, this is a mainstream network television series, not some fly-by-night syndicated operation. It’s the real deal.
The gravel-voiced Devine, of course, was a reliable and well-known character actor who appeared in more than 400 feature films and numerous television shows, in addition to voiceover work, and he couldn’t afford to spend too much time on Andy’s Gang, even if the series did bear his name, and ostensibly, his imprimatur. But in fact, even within each episode, footage of Devine reacting, laughing, or gesturing to the “audience” was also repeated, so that his actual “new footage” time for each episode was roughly ten minutes or less. And with long takes, the whole series could be shot rapidly and cheaply.
As TVParty.com notes,
“The backdrop was a clubhouse, with kids in the studio audience […] the folksy broadcast was hosted by old-timer Smilin’ Ed McConnell; music and stories from Smilin’ Ed’s Storybook were regular features. The show also featured Gunga, the East India Boy, a serial set in India. Led by The Maharajah, Gunga Ram and his pal Rama [would] set out on great adventures around the village of Bakore in filmed segments.
The most popular segment was the visit from Froggy the Gremlin, who would appear when Smilin’ Ed yelled his famous catch-phrase, ‘Plunk your Magic Twanger, Froggy!’ […] The Smilin’ Ed Show was moved to Saturday mornings in 1951, where it ran on CBS and ABC (as Smilin’ Ed’s Gang) until 1954 when the Ed McConnell died suddenly of a heart attack. Andy Devine was brought on as McConnell’s replacement in 1955 […] In addition to Froggy and Gunga, the show featured two other holdovers from the Smilin’ Ed days – Midnight the Cat and Squeaky the Mouse.”
But this précis doesn’t begin to do justice to threadbare cheapness and insularity of the show, shot at the legendarily down-market Nassour Studios, located at 846 W. Third Street in Los Angeles. After the opening theme song – which was rephrased after Buster Brown dropped out as the show’s sponsor to the somewhat suspect “I’ve got a gang, you’ve got a gang, everybody’s gotta have a gang, but there’s only one real gang for me, good old Andy’s gang!” – delivered from a bare stage set comprised of only a few basic props – from left to right, a grand piano, a small bookstand to hold the “story book,” an oversize easy chair, and a grandfather clock – Andy Devine would introduce the series’ main characters; Squeaky The Mouse (actually a hamster), Midnight The Cat, and “that mystical, magical Froggy The Gremlin.” And that was pretty much it.
But what made this introductory sequence all the more peculiar was that once again – literally – the exact same footage was used week after week, year after year, complete with the same obligatory “audience” cutaways.
After this brief segment, Andy would grab a huge bound volume off the night table on the set, conspicuously labeled Andy’s Stories, and offer a generic introduction such as “yes sir, this is an exciting story. It seems that …” and we would be off to the filmed Gunga and Rama segments, and again, these intros were recycled week after week. To his credit, Andy would jump in and offer brief voiceovers to move the story along, but still, these sequences were formulaic and tedious in the extreme, seeming very much like Sabu the Jungle Boy knockoffs (which, of course, is precisely what they were), and home viewing audiences more or less endured them until each week’s segment mercifully came to an end.
Now we’re roughly at the 18-minute mark in a half hour show, and nothing has really happened. The phantom children continue their stock footage clamor, Andy closes the story book with a satisfied smile – again, this wrap-up footage was recycled for each “new” show – and in the particular episode I viewed, moves on to introduce a singing chicken, Midnight the Cat being contorted into “playing” a toy piano through the use of all-too-obvious wires, while Squeaky accompanies on harmonica, a live rabbit is forced to play the violin, and another mouse takes a stab at hammering away at a tiny set of drums. The sight is so bizarre as to defy description.
The “audience” oohs and aahs on the soundtrack, but of course, there’s really no one there; even more eerily, these audience “audio” reactions (laughter, giggles, expressions of awe) are also lifted from the Smilin’ Ed McConnell shows, circa 1952-54, so these “reactions” are just as synthetic as the sense of false camaraderie engendered by Andy Devine’s admittedly enthusiastic performance. Yet, as with the 1950s teleseries Ramar of The Jungle, which used miles of stock footage to convey the false impression that the series was shot on location in Africa, the effect is never convincing.
When this segment of animal torture grinds to an end, Andy walks over to the grandfather clock, and commands Froggy The Gremlin to appear with the magic incantation “plunk your magic twanger, Froggy!,” and the gremlin obligingly appears in a puff of smoke mouthing his catch phrase “Hiya, kids, hiya, hiya!!”, only to then torment whatever guest “star” the show might have that week, often comedy veteran Billy Gilbert, playing a variety of characters, such as “Mr. Jim Nasium.” Froggy’s shtick is simple; as the guest stars attempt to present a straight lecture on a given topic, Froggy constantly interrupts, invariably leading them off track.
As Robbins Mitchell wrote in TVParty.com, Andy would then have to,
“correct his outlandish behavior […] to which [Froggy] invariably replied in all insincerity, ‘I’ll be good, I will, I will, I will,’ then [lie] in wait to toss his next verbal hand grenade into the mix […] as events turned more and more ridiculous with the guest ‘expert,’ and tension and irritation mounted, the [stock footage] audience of kids would also grow more and more agitated, howling with delight, until finally Froggy would begin suddenly vibrating furiously left to right and suddenly disappear with a loud bang and a huge puff of smoke, return to whatever nether realm he inhabited, only to return the following week to stir up yet more mayhem. Undoubtedly the most outrageous side character ever to appear on any kids’ TV show, Froggy the Gremlin pushed the envelope in a way not seen again until Soupy Sales a few years later.”
Or, as Arthur Schatz observed in a comment on a YouTube video clip from the show, “Froggy is my hero. He taught an entire generation that adult authority figures are basically morons who deserve no respect whatsoever!”
Or, as a female viewer, now in her 60s, remembered of Froggy’s continual stream of abuse on the TVParty.com website,
“I’ve been telling my husband and kids for years about this horror called Froggy. My husband, who has a superb memory of everything TV, couldn’t recall the show when he was a kid so he thought I was making it up or was having some sort of weird 50’s hallucination. My kids just thought it was too bizarre to be real! [Yet] it was as weird as we all imagined. The Froggy voice has been the subject of my kiddie nightmares. It was an absolutely frightening and disconcerting show for children to watch […] was it an early attempt at brainwashing? Was it a cult? All I know is that it was so weird and frightening to me that I must have blocked it out. Glad to hear I wasn’t alone. And for that matter, what is a Magic Twanger anyway? Sounds obscene to me!”
Finally, with Froggy having humiliated his weekly victim, the show would come to an end. Suddenly standing behind his huge armchair – again, this footage was used again and again for five straight years without variation – Andy would offer a closing benediction to his non-existent audience. “Yes, sir” he would intone portentously, “we’re pals. And pals stick together. And now gang, don’t forget church or Sunday school. And remember, Andy’s Gang will get together right here this same time next week. We’ll have another exciting story, and lots of other fun, too! So long, fellas and gals!” To which the non-existent off-screen children would reply “so long, Andy!” – the only new piece of audio recorded from an audience for the entire Andy Devine iteration of the series.
As the credits rolled over the stock footage of the same children, and the same end titles every week, incidentally crediting an Indian stock music house for the fragments of music used in both the story segments and the show itself – an early example of outsourcing to save a few more bucks – the week’s “new” episode of the series would stagger to the finish line.
I don’t know if I’ve managed to convey even a fraction of the utterly warped phantom zone Andy’s Gang inhabits, with its live animals manipulated by wires, cheap plastic puppets and smoke bomb effects, canned music, canned audience reactions, canned audience footage, endlessly recycled into infinity, but if not, perhaps the sight of Midnight the Cat being forced to mime playing the organ to the tune of “Yes, Jesus Loves Me,” while Squeaky the mouse / hamster is manipulated into beating out a dirge like rhythm on a bass drum and Andy Devine drones tunelessly along in the background – you can see the clip here – will convince you that perhaps this is a show that deserves a bit more examination as a unique and deeply disturbing cultural exemplar of the 1950s.
If you want more, there are a lots of clips on the web, including one from 1960 when the show made a brief and abortive switch to color. Interestingly, and as far as I am concerned quite fittingly, there’s no audience at all here, because the black and white stock footage of the youthful audience could no longer be spliced in at will. The production company was apparently loathe to film new audience reaction footage in color, and so while the laughs and murmurs of children of nearly a decade earlier still reverberate on the soundtrack, they are now completely absent from the screen as a visual construct.
Shortly after the switch to color, the series ended. And what happened to the series after it ended – all five seasons’ worth of episodes. Well, according to Wikipedia, “the entire inventory, over a ton of filmed programs and presumably the broadcast rights, are the property of Hubbard Broadcasting, St. Paul/Minneapolis, Minnesota.” So what will happen now? It seems that the negative still exist. But is it worth reviving? It is worth viewing? Is it worth being stuck in an empty studio with a host who is talking to no one at all, no one except perhaps the viewer, and the camera crew recording his actions? I don’t know the answer. All I know is this – Andy’s Gang scares me to death.
Wheeler Winston Dixon is the James Ryan Professor of Film Studies, Coordinator of the Film Studies Program, Professor of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and Editor in Chief, with Gwendolyn Audrey Foster, of the Quarterly Review of Film and Video. His newest books are Streaming: Movies, Media and Instant Access (2013); Death of the Moguls: The End of Classical Hollywood (2012); 21st Century Hollywood: Movies in the Era of Transformation (2011, co-authored with Gwendolyn Audrey Foster); A History of Horror (2010), and Film Noir and the Cinema of Paranoia (2009).
Andy’s Gang, complete episode in three segments:
29 thoughts on “Andy’s Gang, or Saturday Morning of the Living Dead”
Thankfully, Andy’s Gang was off the air by the time I was born. What a strange show. I find the scenes of animal cruelty especially disturbing, This reminds me of a show that was on sandwiched between Our Gang episodes and other children’s programming in the 60s and early 70s. It looked as if it was shot in the 30s. I can’t recall the title, but it involved dogs and other animals being forced to dance with attached wires and manipulation. I remember when I was very young I was watching it one day and my Grandmother got angry and told me to shut it off immediately because it was sick and it was “animal torture.” She scared me to death by explaining what that term meant.
But Andy’s Gang itself seems torturous and downright weird in all regards. It is interesting to me to see what passed for entertainment on TV in the fifties and compare it with what is on TV today, such as people being tortured on Naked and Afraid, or a bizarre new show on the ABC Family channel called Spell-Mageddon, in which contestants in a spelling bee are forced to try to spell while water is being shot in their faces. It’s a combination of spelling bee, and all types of cruelty including a form of waterboarding. Nothing like family tv to take really sick, cruel and pathological behavior and make it seem utterly benign and normal. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose?
Yes, the thing that continually stuns me about the show is that all of the other Saturday morning kid’s show were fiction, and presented themselves as fiction, and the audience – except perhaps for the very young viewers – recognized this. But Andy’s Gang was fiction masquerading as reality. None of it was real; the whole series was a fictive construct. But it didn’t start out that way; it took the death of the original host, and a canny television producer/director possessed of a peculiar vision to make this particular Twilight Zone of fantasy/reality. The fact that it lasted five full years as a network program is almost beyond belief.
This piece is very useful; it certainly takes me back. I recall children’s TV as unremittingly tawdry and condescending, reminding children that they are stupid–therefore working in lockstep with the educational system. I enjoyed these shows but was often somewhat unnerved by them. The case of Andy Devine is evocative–a mainstay of John Ford became an unalloyed buffoon. I recall him as this mad fat queen, chasing behind Guy Madison on Wild Bill Hickok (“Hey Wild Bill, wait for me”!), Madison garbed in a hustler outfit that would have been an embarrassment on 8th Avenue of the 1950s. And they sold Sugar Pops, getting generations ready for the Age of Diabetes.
This was a really great, and rather intense, article. I love reading your content when you are examining film and television that really teeters on the absurd. From a personal philosophical standpoint, I have a thing for nihilism. While I suppose it is impossible to really explore a nihilistic viewpoint to the fullest in any form of art, it is interesting to see pieces like Andy’s Gang which you have so poignantly discussed here when considered from this viewpoint that everything we do, everything we say, everything we create as art or simply for business and money, is meaningless. It is from this perspective that I look at Andy’s Gang. It’s creators are apparently Sophists of a high caliber. They pay little to produce this television show, yet I’m sure made plenty while it ran for those 5 seasons.
And money making is really a harsh reality when it comes to film. In my heart I desire art to be made for arts sake, but few do this. Or rather, few do it who are able to be heard. A few artists slip through the cracks every once in a while. Gaspar Noe is a favorite director of mine, and while he has won several major awards for his films like “Irreversible” and “Enter the Void,” he seems to be able to maintain some artistic credibility. But now with something like Andy’s Gang, I feel that the only “art” left is this strange, almost surreal, and definitely absurd piece that goes beyond what we see from individuals like David Lynch (whom you mentioned early on in your article) and into the “art of business.” That is really what fascinates me about this show and makes it interesting to read about.
The sideshow hijinks are all out there, but honestly vomit inducing at best. They are senseless and cater to, frankly, stupid people. It is bizarre to reflect on now in this context, but to imagine someone sitting down and watching this, and maybe enjoying it on it’s own merits (IE: they actually enjoy the little skits, not because they are absurd or even offensive, but because they like the characterization), is hard to cope with.
Returning to my earlier reflection on nihilism in cinema, there is no doubt in my mind that Andy’s Gang is ultimately meaningless. I suppose it is paradoxical to say as it is apparent that it has acquired some “meaning” by our discussion of it, but I suppose it is my intention to say that it lacks some fundamental, maybe spiritual, or perhaps “original” sense of meaning. I don’t think the creators in the 50s were thinking to themselves, “This will be a show discussed on the internet for it’s absurd and nihilistic tendencies.” If there intention was to amuse children and make money, then I suppose they have succeeded. But, they leave nothing and, as I learned from your article, little imprint on the minds of those who once watched as children, unless that imprint is, again, of something so strange, absurd, and unnecessarily offensive. Andy’s Show amuses me much from the little I watched via the Youtube clips and your discussion on it here because there is an expectation I have (probably unrealistic) that “older” television shows would provide something more conservative friendly and artistically idealistic (after all, by the 50s television wasn’t around all that long), and this show certainly does not seem to fit into that little conceptual box I have created in my mind.
Very interesting and in-depth article about a piece of American entertainment history many under the age of sixty have never even heard of. Looking back with a modern perspective, children’s television during the Cold War was a creepy precursor to the programming of later decades, which while still mass produced has done a much better job of lying about its role as a low quality babysitter.
Studies in the early 2000s started to uncover a direct correlation between skyrocketing crime rates and children coming of age in front of television sets rather than under their parents’ guidance. Correlation does not equal causation of course, but when you watch clips of something like Andy’s Gang you can imagine being a child alone with the television, feeling a sense of despair and emptiness you can’t quite quantify. In the early days of the television entertainment boom, no one thought to explore the effect that seeing bizarre imaginations played out on a screen could have on developing brains. This carelessness produced a show that sent a strong subconscious signal that children weren’t even worth the effort of a few minutes of new footage.
I seem to have struck a nerve here, and I thank everyone for their comments, esp. Daisy and Chris Romans, and their comments – first from Chris, that “there is no doubt in my mind that Andy’s Gang is ultimately meaningless,” and from Daisy – “when you watch clips of something like Andy’s Gang you can imagine being a child alone with the television, feeling a sense of despair and emptiness you can’t quite quantify.” This is exactly the impression I had as a child, before I could articulate that was wrong with the show, but I always had this sense of unease, as if this rather threatening, overweight man was trying to bully me into submission, as he does with his threatening introduction to the show, approaching the camera with fist raised for emphasis, screaming “Hey kids, it’s Andy’s Gang!” — as if to say that if you’re not with us, you’re against us. The whole thing is a death chamber of forced consensus, and as I said in the last sentence of my article, more than anything else, Andy’s Gang — in all its implications – ultimately leaves a lasting feeling of despair and dishonesty — none of it was real, as if to suggest that any communication with another person is inherently suspect, and all supposed discourse is suspect.
I am uncomfortable with the idea that none of the show was “real” and none of it meant anything. Though I get your point, Wheeler, about the show being a “fictive construct,” plenty of it was actually “real.” The animal cruelty was real; the racism of the jungle pictures is real; the subconscious signals of the show that told young children that they were stupid and should just obey, as noted by Chris Sharrett, were real. The messages to children that they were not even worth shooting new footage, as pointed out by Daisy, were real. Clearly the reactions of the traumatized viewers are very real. It is still, 60 years on, really very creepy and disturbing and it represents an industry that thrives on abusing and manipulating child viewers and selling them sugary cereals. Campy? Surreal? Sure, maybe a little, but I think the repeated animal torture moves it into the snuff category, at least for this viewer. Still, it is important to look at these programs, especially if some see the fifties as a glorious time of better TV and better values. Andy’s Gang is much like today’s reality TV in so many ways, it is just as twisted and sick; a mirror of capitalism eating its own.
Gwendolyn, these are all excellent points, and absolutely deserve to be made. I agree with you on every one. The animal cruelty was real; the exploitation of the animals was equally real; the racism of the jungle pictures, shot in India to exploit the much cheaper labor conditions is also real; the message to blindly obey a “charismatic leader” is also real, and as Daisy points out, the message to children that it wasn’t even worth the time and effort to shoot new footage is also very real. Indeed, the show went out of its way to spend as little time and money as absolutely possible — almost as it were a contest – to deliver the lowest possible quality product.
I never said, however, that it was campy. And I certainly don’t think that. Andy’s Gang is pure 50s horror, a reflection of the McCarthy era for forced consensus and blind obedience, unadulterated and exceptionally raw. Your points, and those of Daisy and Chris Romans and Chris Sharrett, are all excellent observations.
I am interested in the subversive potential of Froggy.
Was Froggy an anarchist? A trouble-making subversive in the politically repressive fifties? Or was he a bully? Maybe both? It’s hard to tell when you are looking at fifties TV programming for kids.
Take a look at Froggy’s bio and a clip reel of Froggy’s punk juvenile delinquent behavior:
Froggy’s bad behavior clip reel:
Although I came of age in the 50’s, this was one TV show I missed, thankfully. I was convinced Dixon was exaggerating until I watched the clip he linked to. It turns out, Dixon was understating the awfulness of the show if the clip is at all representative.
Hello, I am the ghost of Squeaky, speaking from beyond the grave. My pal Midnight the Cat is here, too, and we’d both like to weigh on this whole discussion. I don’t care what anyone says — we didn’t want to do ANY of that stuff! They attached wires to us, put us in back braces, propped up up with splints taped to our little hands and feet — it was torture! Anyone who thinks this was cute needs serious help.
Besides, I’m just one of the Squeakies — the show went through quite a few! And Midnight the Cat needed every one of his nine lives to get through the five years! They didn’t even let him use his own voice — they hired this woman named June Foray to do his “meows.” So if anyone tells you it was all in fun, and everyone was having a good time, don’t believe it!
Froggy was just a dumb plastic doll, so who cares about him — but think about us, and the other animals they brought in, too — horrible. Those hot lights, that fat man leering at us — I still get nightmares when I think about it. Where was the ASPCA when we needed them? Eek! Squeak!!
You guys are pretty tough on old Andy and the Gang. As a pre teen and teenager who watched many of the reruns in NY, in the early 60s, or originals in late 50s, we all waited for the great Froggy to trip up the guests and delighted in recounting the episodes to each other. Midnight the Cat/Squeaky and the Band, not so much, but the so-called “animal cruelty” is somewhat overplayed. Kids, especially, can tell when animals are in distress and it did not appear that way to us at all. Nearly all of us were pet owners ourselves. In regard to the cheapness of the sets and spliced in audience: it made the show even funnier to older kids that hung around to watch.
I agree with you, Lee. This show entertained me in my single-digit years. I could tell the audience was always the same clip. I wanted Buster Brown shoes and socks and enjoyed wearing them. Looking back on some of the clips, I find them belly-laugh hilarious. Being able to google Froggie after 60 years as a memory, and having him appear was amazing to me.
Despite the fact that I grew up in the 50′s, this was one TV show I missed, gratefully. I was persuaded Dixon was embellishing until I viewed the cut he joined to. It turns out, Dixon was understating the dreadfulness of the show if the cut is whatsoever agen
I dunno. I loved the show and made sure I could see it when it appeared. I used to enjoy the sequence that took place in India, concerning Rama, or whatever his name was. I was not a big fan of Froggy, but I always liked Midnight & Squeaky. This article seems to imply a negativity, but I never thought anything but good vibes about Andy’s Gang!
I loved Froggy. This whole article and comments are in of itself funny. Chris Romans is a classic-and he could serve as a foil for Froggy should the character ever be reinvented- a pompous pseudo-intellectual who takes life way too serious. Funny stuff not scary stuff. when I watched it at 10 yrs of age, I could care less aoub tthe canned aspects of the show, i just liked it. C’mon with this animal torutre stuff-didn’t look like the animals were struggling in pain to me. They were probably tolerating it for treats.
Frankly, I’m surprised that anyone could watch it at all. The lighting was so bad and the production was so cheap that I could not make out what was going on. It was just a dark blur with a lot of screaming an laughing. I gave up after a couple of tries. Just as well, I suppose.
I watched Andy’s Gang every Saturday morning during its entire run. My sisters and I LOVED the show! You may think the re-worked footage was odd and/or bizarre, but as a child, I DIDN’T EVEN NOTICE IT! I was five years old! Children also don’t mind repetition – they find predictability comforting, so the repeated stock characters, scenes and phrases were looked forward to like old friends. It was a TREAT when Midnight the Cat played “Flight of the Bumblebee” (for the 100th time). The “Tales of India” segment were exotic glimpses into a strange and foreign world – just like Ramar and Sheena – two other shows we all loved. Andy’s Gang was a fun kid’s show. If we wanted intellectual stimulation, we watched Ray Forrest’s “Children’s Theater” (which we all also loved). You are looking at Andy’s Gang from a sophisticated, adult 21st century perspective. Get real! This was 50’s TV!
To this day the froggy scares me. And loking back at the old footage it is horror. The only thing that fascinated me was the sequence of Rama the Indian jungle boy. It was my first exposure to anything Indian. Later in my life I became absorbed in Indian culture and philosophy and lived in India for 3 years. Can you tell me more about Frank Ferrin’s connection to India? Why did he have this segment? Were the actors Indian? It was so unusual for the 1950’s.
Did he film all the segments in India? Even that film seemed edgy. The clip on the web was also about animal torture. I agree. The whole show is very disturbing.
But why India?
This show was a tremendous influence on my life.
his whole article and comments are in of itself funny. Chris Romans is a classic-and he could serve as a foil for Froggy should the character ever be reinvented- a pompous pseudo-intellectual who takes life way too serious. Funny stuff not scary stuff.
As a kid in the 50s I loved this show. What the hell is wrong with you people? You’re applying 2017 PC rules to a 50s kids show. Froggy was and still is my favorite character of all time. As a ~6-year-old, I never even noticed any animal cruelty or any of the other condescending points made here. In its time this was a show beloved by kids. I am stunned by the comments here.
As a 5 year old (in ’55),I watched Andy’s Gang regularly. Like others who commented here,the show was viewed with much amusement,even though I wondered,even then,about the same kids in the “audience” week after week.I liked the Rama of the the jungle bits,Froggy and Midnight especially.Viewed by today’s standards,the show is pretty awful,but back then(and I don’t think those who didn’t live through that era realize this) is compared to what? Farmer Gray, Krazy Kat and other silent cartoons that were standard Saturday morning fare.And if you got up at 7,I believe,you had to endure an hour of “Modern Farmer” before the kid shows came on (This was in NJ, metro NYC). So at least Andy’s Gang was different fare and entertaining to me.
No wonder the only thing thing I can really remember of this is, “Plunk your magic twanger, Froggy.” I vaguely remember doing other things and just listening to this because I was 9 when we got our first B&W TV in 1955. I might have been freaked out. I just don’t remember. But watching it now is very disturbing.
Modern Farmer was great. Since wecwerent allowed TV much during the week, we were up a 6 and watching. In NY It was followed by The Big Picture which was a Pentagon propaganda show and then a short Crusader Rabbit cartoon, Jay Ward’s precursor to Rocky & Bullwinkle ~ full of bad adult puns and breaking the fourth wall, as when Crusader or Rags would argue w the narrator. Andy’s gang was something we saw thru even as kids, knowing the audience cutaway was always the same & Froggy was an anarchic hero. The analogy to Soupy Sales is a good one. I recall enjoying Gunga and Rama and wanting just once to say to my teachers “such is so, sahib”
BEANS! BEANS! They are good for your heart. The more you eat the more you fart. The more you fart the better you feel. SOOO eat more beans at every meal.
Andy Devine- poem repeated each week on Andy’s Gang 1952
I STILL HAVE NIGHTMARES ABOUT THIS SHOW! Although many comments thought the show was just “funny“, I remember with horror one scene where a lamb – not real, probably, but it doesn’t change the effect! – was SET ON FIRE by “Froggy” – and Andy Devine just whined impotently without doing anything while Froggie laughed demonically and the lamb continued to burn!!! Anyone who thinks the show was “just good fun” never saw this scene. It still haunts me. Thank you for taking this show seriously enough to write about it. I have been mentioning this to people for decades and it was helpful to see I was not alone
I do not remember this show at all
I always wondered why the films of workers in Indian always had them singing, “Ah deepah dee day-ah na, na, na, na, na, na. “ Anybody else remember that?