When "The All New Captain Kangaroo" debuts this autumn, nostalgic parents may rush to catch a glimpse of their lost childhood. The baby-boomer generation grew up watching the original Captain and his laid-back Treasure House friends.
The trick, however, could be holding the interest of knee-high viewers who have never heard of the Captain and are being raised on a steady diet of flashier, faster-paced TV.
The producers of the new show are well aware of the challenge and are promising to "contemporize" the program by making it "interactive, computer-related, [and] high-tech with an MTV-style approach."
Saban Entertainment, which bought the rights to Captain Kangaroo, also produces such contemporary hits as "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" and "X-Men."
Last year, the Federal Communications Commission ruled that stations must air at least three hours of educational children's programming every week. The revival of "Captain Kangaroo" is designed to help meet the new FCC requirement.
A half-hour production of "The All New Captain Kangaroo" is being syndicated to commercial television. Nearly 150 stations covering 90 percent of the country have already signed on.
The series, which is being taped in Tampa, Fla., targets children from ages 2 to 7. A partnership with Busch Entertainment, a unit of the Anheuser-Busch Cos., allows for frequent visits with animals at nearby Busch Gardens and Sea World. Despite the partnership with Anheuser-Busch, the nation's biggest brewer, beer commercials won't be airing during the program.
Bob Keeshan, who created Captain Kangaroo and played the role for nearly 40 years on commercial and public television, is distancing himself from the new Captain. He had hopes of relaunching the character himself after the original program went off the air in 1983.
He's "very disappointed" not to be involved in the show, says his spokeswoman, but turned down the offer of a consulting position because he wouldn't have "artistic control."
An open casting call in March brought more than 1,000 actors interested in donning the Captain's big-pocketed suit. John McDonough, a large man with a booming voice and expressive, black-bearded face, walked away with the role. His past experience includes children's theater, narrating audio books, and small roles in feature films.
Many of the familiar old characters will be brought back to life, including Mr. Green Jeans, Grandfather Clock, and the puppets Mr. Moose and Bunny Rabbit A new character - Joey the Kangaroo - is moving into a bigger, more colorful Treasure House to replace Dancing Bear.
Not to worry, Mr. Moose will still be dropping ping-pong balls on the Captain and telling knock-knock jokes.