The Mr. Magoo Show

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
The Mr. Magoo Show TV Poster Image
Vintage cartoon is rife with ethnic stereotypes.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Intended to entertain, not educate.

Positive Messages

Viewers are asked to laugh at ethnic stereotypes and misfortunes that almost befall a disabled individual (Magoo).

Positive Role Models & Representations

Mr. Magoo is at least well-meaning, and it is somewhat subversive that his Asian stereotype of a houseboy is usually more in the know about what's going on around him than Magoo. But the houseboy and a Mexican stereotyped character provide skewed impressions of ethnicity to young kids. Various female characters pout and preen while they are referred to as "a dish" and "a saucy baggage."

Violence & Scariness

Near-constant cartoonish mishaps: A baby climbs a high trellis and almost falls; Mr. Magoo crashes into wires labeled "high voltage."

Sexy Stuff

Occasional insults ("Roadhog!" "You old fool!") and jokes based on ethnic stereotypes. There are also body jokes, such as when a group of female opera singers is called "bruisers" and "linebackers."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Magoo occasionally mistakes bottles of liquor for other liquids, putting cooking sherry in a baby's bottle instead of milk for instance.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Mr. Magoo Show is a vintage cartoon built around the foibles of a very nearsighted man. The jokes are silly and mostly visual, and will most likely be appreciated by very young children. Some of the gags are violent (though no one is hurt), and many are based on ethnic stereotypes. Magoo's Asian stereotype of a "houseboy," all bucked teeth and slanted eyes, appears in many episodes; his stereotyped voice has been overdubbed and he no longer says things like "Solly Cholly!" In another episode, a shady Mexican entrepreneur sells Magoo "gas" that turns out to be "liquid Mexican jumping beans." Magoo himself is always making mistakes due to not being able to see, but always turns out fine in the end.

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What's the story?

Mr. Magoo (Jim Backus, a.k.a. Thurston Howell on Gilligan's Island) isn't blind, exactly, just so nearsighted that his Coke-bottle glasses don't stop him from making hilarious mistakes on THE MR. MAGOO SHOW. He's liable to mistake a bear in the zoo for an accident victim who needs medical attention, or to drive his car right off the road, onto the roof of a house, and into the basket of a hot-air balloon. But with the help of his faithful servant Charlie, his nephew Waldo, and a cast of silly characters, things always turn out right for Mr. Magoo.

Is it any good?

Whatever charm The Mr. Magoo Show still holds is due to the wonderful voice work of Jim Backus. He's just as funny muttering to himself in cartoon form as he was on Gilligan's Island. The animated hijinks he gets himself into are also funny, in a way that will be appreciated by very young children: Mr. Magoo mistakes a salad for a bag of money and tries to deposit it in the bank, which is actually a horse-betting track! Ha! Since children just love to watch adults making mistakes, this is high-octane stuff.

However, parents won't find the Magoo universe as easy to take as kids might. One of the show's main characters is a Chinese "houseboy" with buck teeth and a pigtail. His original voice, a stereotyped "Chinese" accent has been dubbed over; the new voice is charmless, but more PC; still, his image is shockingly racist. In another episode, a Mexican man in a giant sombrero and moustache yells "Enchilada! Taco!" as epithets. Ay ay ay, maybe this stuff flew in the 1960s, but it's awful to watch now.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether The Mr. Magoo Show is funny. Did you laugh while watching it? Did it make you uncomfortable? Are any of the jokes mean?

  • The cartoon character Mr. Magoo was first created in the 1950s. Would we create a character like Mr. Magoo today? Why or why not? What about Mr. Magoo is not "politically correct"?

  • How does The Mr. Magoo Show depict people of color? Does the show use stereotypes? Is this harmful or funny? Do you know people of color who look, dress, or act like the characters on The Mr. Magoo Show?

TV details

  • Premiere date: November 7, 1960
  • Cast: Jim Backus
  • Network: Hulu
  • Genre: Kids' Animation
  • TV rating: TV-Y7
  • Available on: Streaming
  • Last updated: September 30, 2020

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