Popeye Club

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The Popeye Club
Premiere 1957
Finale September 12, 1969
Creator
Network local origination (WSB-TV, Atlanta GA)
Style 60-minute children's variety
Company Cox Enterprises
Seasons 13
Episodes 5 per day plus weekends
Origin USA

The Popeye Club was a local children's program aired on WSB/channel 2 in Atlanta, Georgia. Running from 1957 to 1969 weekday afternoons, it was hosted by Don Kennedy, who appeared as policeman "Officer Don." A live studio audience of children from the Atlanta area comprised the "peanut gallery."

It began under the title The Clubhouse Gang, where Little Rascals shorts were screened. It became The Big Adventure Clubhouse in 1959 (airing at 5 PM) and finally The Popeye Club in 1962 (airing at 4:30 PM). Officer Don showcased cartoons on the show--mainly the Al Brodax made-for-TV Popeye series as well as The Mighty Hercules, the King Features Trilogy (Krazy Kat, Beetle Bailey and Snuffy Smith) and The Funny Company. The cartoons were usually ushered in by Officer Don--with help from kids once in awhile--by counting down from 5 to 0, all except The Funny Company which had Officer Don karaokeing an old stage fanfare.

Officer Don's puppet foil was Orvil The Green Dragon (puppeteered by Terry Kelley), who was prone to playing practical jokes. The chemistry of Orvil and Officer Don was a perfect match, and kids loved it. Games were played for prizes as well, the most popular being "Ooey Gooey." This game, a variation of Russian Roulette, had five bags on a spinning Lazy Susan. Four bags had goodies, the fifth had a mess of broken eggs, chocolate syrup and ketchup. The child participating was blindfolded and said when to stop spinning the bags. The child puts his/her hand in the bag and wins the bag if it's the goodies. If it's the "Ooey Gooey" bag, then more's the pity. Once in awhile the floor director, "Uncle Douglas" would get Officer Don to play and trick him into getting the "Ooey Gooey" bag. On the days Officer Don was unable to appear, ventriloquist Buddy Farnon would fill in.

There was a Sunday edition of The Popeye Club, only this version was a 90-minute all-cartoon show consisting of the theatrical Popeye shorts (Fleischer, Famous Studios), The Mighty Hercules, The Funny Company, and The Funny Mans (a repackaging of old silent comedies with wraparounds starring Cliff Norton). A spinoff, Green Dragon Theater, started Saturday mornings in 1969 and starred Orvil.

After WSB canceled The Popeye Club in 1969, Officer Don and Orvil took their act to WATL/channel 36, on a significantly lower budget. (WSB sub-host Buddy Farnon would go on to WTCG to host his own show, Buddy Farnon's Magic Funnies.) Their first show lasted a good year, and then they revived it in 1979 (WATL's second life) where they ran Jungle Jim serials and later showing episodes of The Beatles cartoons and Cool McCool.

Don Kennedy is still around, hosting radio's Big Band Jump syndicated show and even doing voices for cartoons like Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Terry Kelley, the hand and voice of Orvil, died in 2003.

Competing stations in Atlanta had their own kids shows in an attempt to duplicate the success of WSB's Popeye Club. WAGA/channel 5 had Mr. Pix (station newsman Dave Michaels) which aired Saturday mornings at varying times each season with an audience of children, two puppet rodents (Mouse and Scribbles), and cartoons (Batfink, Warner Bros. cartoons from the syndicated Porky Pig and Friends package). This edition caused WAGA to air CBS's cartoon shows in the afternoons on a tape delay. A weekday half-hour edition with no live audience aired at 9 AM up until 1969. WQXI/channel 11 (now WXIA) had Tubby & Lester, a pair of Laurel and Hardy imitations. This aired weekday mornings with no live audience. It featured silent film comedy shorts packaged for TV as Komedy Kapers and Mischief Makers, as well as the Harveytoons from Paramount's Famous cartoon studios, Mr. Magoo, Dick Tracy and Roger Ramjet.

Cast

Actor Character Duration
Main Cast
Don Kennedy (II) Officer Don 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
Terry Kelley Orvil 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
Buddy Farnon Substitute host 9 10 11 12