Sunday, February 22, 2009

Amos 'n Andy: Anatomy of a Controversy

After midnight tonight you can hear a radio episode of Amos & Andy called "Ruby's Diamond" on CHML-AM 900 from Hamilton, Ontario. But if any station in the U.S. broadcast this show, the outcry against it would be overwhelming. Why is Amos 'n Andy unofficially banned in the U.S.? is running a TV documentary from 1983 called Amos 'n' Andy: Anatomy of a Controversy. Hosted by the late funnyman George Kirby, this program takes a look at and even runs a lengthy clip from the TV show.

The NAACP successfully pressured CBS in 1953 to cancel the popular program after two years and finally to remove the popular program from syndicated repeats in the mid-1960s. After seeing this documentary, hearing the original actors talk about their roles, and doing some research (including watching episodes on youtube), I concluded that the time has come to let this show come home. From what I saw, many of the images were very positive showing African Americans as hard working professionals with good family values. The negative images or articulation were no more demeaning than Jimmy Walker in GOOD TIMES or many hip-hop videos. The artistry of these fine actors deserves to be seen.

Trivia: the theme from the show came from BIRTH OF A NATION.

Note: if this show comes back to TV, people who have "borrowed" from it are going to be embarrassed. For example, there's a scene in MULTIPLICITY where Eugene Levy surfaces a driveway and Michael Keaton says you did a good job but you got the address wrong by two--you were supposed to do the house next door! How did I make this connection? Don Imus used to run a bumper of the ANDY radio clip that inspired this scene.

I'm going to turn this part of the post to hulu poster pembroke1952
Pioneers? Absolutely. I am African American and grew up watching the Amos n' Andy show in the late 1950's. I'm 57 years old and I think they were funny then and I think they're funny now. The Godsen and Corell black-face routine I didn't care for, but the actual African American cast playing the roles of Kingfish, Amos, Andy, Sapphire, her 'Momma', Lightnin' & Algonquin Calhoun (the attorney) should be ranked among the most talented great comediens of all time. Imagine breaking into the television medium at that time, especially being the first all Black cast television show in the 50's. As for their acting, they should be seen for just that - their ACTING. See it for what it is - pure raw talent. I see no difference in their comedic genius than the Wayans Show, the Three Stooges, Sanford & Son, or Good Times - silly, goofy, funny and sometimes dramatic. It's unfortunate it was during a time when racial tension was high but we should see these guys for what they were, talented comediens. I was fortunate to buy a DVD collection of the tv series on-line and have all 86 tv shows on DVD - and I have a good laugh everytime I watch them! I'm not ashamed - I VERY proud of them!
In conclusion, judge for yourself. Here is the pilot episode of the show, courtesy of youtube. You can also rent the DVDs from Netflix.

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