1 9 5 1 – 1 9 5 3 (USA)
78 x 30 minute episodes
Amos ‘n’ Andy had been one of American radio’s biggest hits, but its creators and stars (Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll) were whites who portrayed blacks, which worked perfectly well on radio, but was simply not going to cut it on television.
And so the casting call went out . . . and one of the finest ensemble comedy casts of any colour was assembled.
Alvin Childress played Amos Jones, level-headed cab driver for the Fresh Air Taxi Cab Company and modest ballast of the cast, and Spenser William Jr played Andy Brown (“the big dummy”), oafish suitor of countless girlfriends and gullible foil of scams.
The centrepiece of the show, however, was George ‘Kingfish’ Stevens, played to great comic effect by Tim Moore.
As head of the Mystic Knights of the Sea, a bankrupt lodge, he perpetually conned Andy into joining schemes and attempted to evade the wrath of his domineering wife, Sapphire (Ernestine Wade).
Other regular characters included Sapphire’s Mama (Amanda Randolph), Andy’s girlfriend Madame Queen (Lillian Randolph) and Lightnin’ (Horace Stewart), the slow-moving Lodge janitor.
The series lasted for two years and featured the first all-black TV cast. It was also the first television comedy series to be broadcast with a canned-laughter soundtrack.
Protests, however, from civil rights groups – and accusations that the show presented caricatured portrayals that offended many blacks – led to the series’ cancellation and, in 1966, to its withdrawal from syndication.
When Blatz Beer withdrew their sponsorship and Kenya banned the show, CBS responded to the protests by withdrawing it from foreign and domestic sale.
Andy Hogg Brown
Spenser William Jr
George ‘Kingfish’ Stevens
Mama (Ramona Smith)
Algonquin J Calhoun