Saturday, October 3, 2009
A Treasure House Anniversary
On this day, October 3, in 1955, the very same day that Walt Disney's The Mickey Mouse Club premiered, another innovative show that created a revolution in children's television made its debut. Captain Kangaroo ran for almost three decades, most of that time on CBS. As the Captain, Bob Keeshan was one of the first TV performers to harness the certain sort of intimacy that's possible between a TV persona and his audience. Bob actively and deliberately worked at creating the illusion he was speaking casually and soothingly, not to a vast viewing audience but to each individual child who was watching. The photo seen above captures some of this, showing Captain leaning against the dutch door of the most inviting and charming version of his Treasure House (so unlike the stylized sets of the 1950s and 1970s), an informal pose he often struck while chatting directly with his audience. (By the way—after you click on the photo to enlarge it—see if you can spot a very interesting [and very hard to notice, given the way the photo is cropped] detail in Captain's costume: he's wearing CBS eye cufflinks.) Most of all, Captain Kangaroo epitomized that rare and undervalued quality, on TV or elsewhere: gentleness. For as Bob Keeshan once stated: "It is my contention...that most people in this world do not encounter violence every day. I think we [on television] prepare people for violence, and I think just as importantly we prepare people for the definition of being gentle." Reason enough to celebrate today's anniversary of the gentle fun and lighthearted fantasy of Captain Kangaroo.