WGN is bringing back Bozo, at least for a little while.
After being alerted to the existence of a rare 1971 recording of "Bozo's Circus," WGN decided to broadcast it as a special called "Bozo's Circus: The Lost Tape." WGN's Dean Richards will host the special, which is set to premiere at 7 p.m. Dec. 9 on WGN-TV Chicago and streamed live for viewers outside the Chicago area on wgntv.com.
The Bozo show aired for 40 years on WGN, from 1960 until 2001. Only a few episodes from the show's first two decades have been archived, the network said. No Bozo shows from 1969 to 1974 were thought to have survived exist until recently when one was discovered at the Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia in Athens.
While searching for old programs on the Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection website, Rick Klein from fuzzymemories.tv found a listing for a 1971 WGN "Bozo's Circus" tape submission, according to a network press release. The tape had been submitted as an entry for the Peabody Awards and had been preserved in the awards archives ever since. Klein contacted WGN, who then contacted Ruta Abolins, director of the Media Archives.
According to the press release, the episode is notable for the following reasons:
- The recording is a compilation of two episodes starring the show's late great cast: Bob Bell as Bozo, Roy Brown as Cooky, Ned Locke as Ringmaster Ned, and Bob Trendler and his 13-piece Big Top Band.
- It's the earliest footage known to exist of Cooky, who first appeared on the show in 1968.
- It took place a year after Bob Bell's red Bozo costume was replaced with a blue costume and a few months after Ray Rayner as Oliver O. Oliver left the show.
- It was produced and written by Norm Nowicki, after producer and writer Don Sandburg's 1969 exit and before original "Bozo's Circus" director, Allen Hall, returned as producer in 1973.
- A guest poodle act referred to in the show's opening was not included on the 1971 tape.
- A guest xylophone act and Bozo cartoon that were included on the tape will be replaced in "The Lost Tape" special broadcast with a few holiday-themed and rarely seen "Bozo's Circus" home video clips from 1976 to 1978. Viewers interested in seeing the xylophone act and Bozo cartoon will be able to when the segments are posted on wgntv.com after the final rebroadcast.
WGN-TV will rebroadcast "Bozo's Circus: The Lost Tape" at 11 a.m. Christmas Day (with live streaming on wgntv.com), while WGN 9.2 Antenna TV Chicago will rebroadcast it at 7 p.m. Dec. 15 and noon Dec. 23.