The Abbott and Costello Show

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
The Abbott and Costello Show TV Poster Image
Slapstick comedy geniuses won't appeal to everyone.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Educational Value

It's neither educational nor meant to be taken seriously. But if you're interested in studying comedy, it's a great place to start.

Positive Messages

Occasional sexist comments about women and other generalizations that were considered acceptable at the time.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Costello gets into more mishaps than Abbott, but Abbott often instigates them. Supporting cast members sometimes play caricatures of stereotypical figures.

Violence & Scariness

Gags incorporate lots of physical slapstick, ranging from grabbing, shoving, and punching to throwing ice cream into people's faces. These events are designed to be more humorous than violent.

Sexy Stuff

Contains some mild flirting, references to necking, and the occasional kiss. But these moments are more awkward than sexy.

Language

Words like "jerk" and "dope" are common.

Consumerism

Drinks like Coca-Cola are featured.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters sometimes smoke cigars.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Abbott and Costello Show is a classic comedy series full of running jokes, slapstick humor, and mild insults, all offered within a humorous and lighthearted context. There's lots of physical comedy, too, including obviously fake slapping and punching, and lots of throwing of food and other items. Characters sometimes smoke cigars, flirt, and occasionally kiss awkwardly. Not every kid will find the humor in this classic, and some might want to copy the more physical aspects of the routines.

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What's the story?

THE ABBOTT AND COSTELLO SHOW (1952-1954) is a comedy series featuring Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, two comedians portraying unemployed actors sharing a Hollywood rooming house. But life is never dull, especially when Abbott puts the rather dim Costello up to a variety of schemes. Things also get crazy when they try to avoid their bad-tempered landlord (Sidney Fields), and when Costello tries to flirt with their attractive neighbor (Hillary Brooke). Folks like blockhead Mike the Cop (Gordon Jones), Stinky (Joe Besser), and Mr. Bacciagulupe (Joe Kirk) also join the fray.

Is it any good?

The Abbott & Costello Show, which is praised by critics as being one of the greatest TV shows of all time, features the duo engaging in burlesque-style sketches that incorporate a series of running gags without much plot. There's lots of physical comedy, too. The result are routines like the baseball-themed sketch, "Whose on First?," and other famous exchanges that remain popular today.

Thanks to the pair's mastery of the running joke, physical slapstick, and comedic timing, The Abbott & Costello Show continues to serve as inspiration for modern-day comedians, like Jerry Seinfeld. Younger kids may like some of the physical stunts, but not understand or appreciate the genius behind the banter. Others may just find their antics silly or boring. It may be harder to appreciate the show according to today's standards, but it's a true study of comedy as an art form.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about comedy. What makes something funny? What are some of the comedic devices performers use to get people to laugh? What is physical comedy? Slapstick?

  • Are there comedic styles or devices that were considered funny decades ago that simply don't work today? Should stereotypes ever be used to generate laughs, even if audiences find them humorous?

  • What are some of the most popular comedy TV shows airing today? How do they compare with popular comedy series from 50 or 60 years ago?

TV details

For kids who love comedy

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