The Fat Albert Christmas Special (1977) debuted between seasons four and five in the TV series, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids (1972-1985).
In Fat Albert 99% of the interactions between characters are how much they annoy one another. This is no different in the Christmas Special. The special opens on the guys putting on a Christmas pageant. Then there are two knocks on the door. First it’s Old Mister Tyrone. He owns the junkyard the boys hang out in. Tyrone tells the boys to leave so he can bulldoze their clubhouse to the ground. Tyrone leaves. The second knock is a small boy named Marshall. Marshall’s family is living out of their car and their car just broke down. Marshall’s father is unemployed and his mother is expecting another baby in the next few hours. Just like at the birth of Christ, the family is so desperate they saw a clubhouse in a junkyard and decided this was an appropriate place to ask for help. The gang decides to help the family.
The hospital nearby won’t accept the family because they don’t have health insurance. So the baby will have to be born in the junkyard. Hey, if Jesus can be born next to farm animals, a junkyard isn’t all that bad.
Meanwhile, Fat Albert works as a Santa for Mister Tyrone so he doesn’t bulldoze the clubhouse, but the gang shows up and screws up the deal. Tyrone berates the boys and the homeless character, Mudfoot, overhears. Mudfoot calls Tyrone a horrible person. Fat Albert defends Tyrone and tells Mudfoot he’s only pissed off because his wife passed away. The confrontation leaves Tyrone reconsidering his attitude.
Marshall gets back to the clubhouse first and overhears his parents bemoaning the fact they have no income and a growing family. Marshall decides to run away. Fat Albert gets him to stay by saying they would be much poorer if Marshall ran away (Although, that’s pretty hard to believe since right now his mother is giving birth in a condemned junkyard clubhouse).
Everyone meets back at the clubhouse and finds the Mom has given birth. She is surprisingly comfortable despite receiving no pain medication and giving birth in a less than sterile junkyard environment. Mister Tyrone shows up and says he will help the family find a place to stay and a job for the father. Tyrone wonders aloud what his wife thinks now that he’s not threatening to destroy a children’s clubhouse.
This special had a pretty strong social message and a very obvious Jesus allegory. For the late 70’s, I was surprised at how this message was poignant even 30 years later. Great specials stand the test of time and teach us all about the true meaning of Christmas and The Fat Albert Christmas Special accomplishes both these goals.
“You are like school at vacation time. No Class!”
Most Holiday Moment:
Mister Tyrone helps a family in honor of his dead wife
Most “Some things never change” moment:
“No Insurance? You’ll have to go to the city hospital. They handle CHARITY CASES.”