“Time For Fun!” – Saturday morning 1950’s Television reviewed by Kevin Butler
Local:WZJ/WABC TV Ch.7 NYC
Weekday afternoons and weekday
Monday September 23,1953-Friday
Hosts/Performers:“Corney The Clown”:
“Johnny Jellybean”#1(Bill Britten)12/31/1956-
8/1/1958,”JJ Jellybean”/”Johnny Jellybean”#2
In the early 1950’s..tv producers:Jules Power and Danny Wilson created and produced a series of local kids tv wraparound shows that were seen on numerious markets and sponsored by The Ward Baking Co.
Most of the series had different titles and were mc’d by popular entertainers and personalities in their local viewing areas(“Cousin Cliff’s Tip Top Clubhouse”in Birmingham,Al.,hosted by “Cousin Cliff”Holman”,”Uncle Joe’s Tip Top Clubhouse”in Cleveland,Ohio and “Time For Fun”with Nicky Francis The Clown in Chicago,Ill.)..Power and Wilson also created a NYC edition of their successful Chicago,Ill. series “Time For Fun” that debuted on Monday September 23,1953 as a weekday afternoon concept.
To host the program..The two showmen hired former “Howdy Doody”regular Bob Keeshan. Keeshan..who had played”Clarabell The Clown”, “Chief Featherman”,”Prof.Oscar”and other comedic characters on NBC TV’s Landmark children’s show..had been abruptly dismissed from the series’ cast and he was unemployed.
He accepted their offer to audition for the show and Keeshan appeared on the show once again playing a circus clown.
Unlike the character of”Clarabell”..Keeshan’s buffoon person “Corney” on “Time For Fun”was a gentle,non slapstickish type..who talked to the child at home in a quiet and caring fashion. He would engage them in stories, craft-making, hobbies, games, informational segments and eat lunch with the viewers..while introducing reruns of old movie cartoons and comedies.
The show also had a different backdrop..it was set against a city park and”Corney The Clown”would take time out from his performances with the circus to eat lunch and spend time with the kids at home.
For a time..Keeshan’s dog “Pudgey”would appear with his father on the program(the reason that the dog was on the show..was Keeshan was unable to find someone to care for the family pet.)and she would add to the charm of the program.
“Keeshan’s”Corney The Clown’would continue to host the show..until he left the series following the Friday July 29,1955 broadcast ..where he would give his time to his local NYC based educational kids tv show”Tinker’s Workshop”..which was seen weekday mornings on WJZ TV Ch.7 and working with director Jack Miller in creating and producing the pilot for”Captain Kangaroo.”
Former Cleveland,Ohio based stage/radio and tv performer Joe Bova..who had mc’d “Uncle Joe’s Clubhouse”was hired to succeed Keeshan as the show’s second host/performer,beginning on Monday August 1,1955.
Unlike Keeshan..Bova didn’t mc’d the series as an eleboratly dressed up character.He only wore costumes and make up for his skits..he also prefered to use his Uncle Joe”persona..who wore a t shirt,jeans and a derby.
Bova’s kindly relative character also engaged his viewers in song and dance routines,stories, craftmaking,hobbies,informational segments and drawing lessions.
His version of”Time For Fun”was set against the backdrop of a make shift neghiborhood clubhouse.
And he would use chromakey and simple props for the skits that he performed on the program.
“Uncle Joe”would continue to entertain and inform his clubhouse members..until he left the series following the Friday December21, 1956 broadcast. (“Uncle Joe”Bova would mc one more NYC based kids tv show”The Little Rascals Show”weekday evenings on WABC TV Ch.7 in NYC from 1957..until he left NYC kids tv in the fall of 1960 to return to the theater).
Former hotel social director/nightclub entertainer and circus clown:Bill Britten became the third and one of the most popular hosts/performers of “Time For Fun”..beginning on Monday December 31, 1956.
Britten began his career in show business working for “Wantashanta Lodge”on Lake Winemasoka as a social director. He also performed in nightclubs, with a puppet theater in Seatle,Wa. and he had been a clown..performing first for a gas station franchise in Seatle and later..he did his clown act,briefly for Ringing Bros.Barnum & Bailey Circus…before he made his debut in NYC kids tv as the second and last puppeteer and cartoonist on WJZ TV Ch.7 NYC’s:”Jolly Gene & his Fun Machine”in 1955.
He also took on the role of a loveable but bumbling clubhouse leader named”Johnny Jellybean”..who sported a striped, blazer wide poka dot bowtie..he also wore either a beanie with a plastic jellybean attop the crown or a beat up black top hat.
But? Britten’s version of”Time For Fun”would feature a studio audience of children..who would attened every broadcast of his version of the series.
The show also had appearances from the clubhouse’ mascot”Props The puppy”and The lunches were prepared by a nutrisionist ..who made sure that the meals that “Johnny Jellybean”ate were healthy.
The show became an even bigger hit with the viewers ..adults and kids would watch the program and Britten’s version of “Time For Fun”..”Would beat out (The) broadcast of soap operas in the (NYC) ratings”.
Britten would continue to entertain,inform and hold meeting on the series..until he left following the Friday August 1, 1958 broadcast to become the third host/performer of WABD/WNEW TV Ch.5’s”Wonderama!”.
Former stage and tv performer:Keith Hefner would become the fourth and last mc of “Time For Fun”.Hefer had hosted his own daily kids tv series”Mr.Toby’s Tip Top Merry Go Round “weekday mornings on WAAM/WJZ TV Ch.13 in Baltamore, Md.
One of the station execs from WABC TV Ch.7 went to Baltamore to watch Hefner’s program.Impressed by his talents and his rapport with his viewers.Hefner was invited to audition for the hosting job on “Time For Fun”.
He went to NYC..won the audition and gave the station execs at WJZ TV Ch.13 his two week’s notice and Hefner returned to NYC to begin his stint with the show..the show continued to ultilize it’s clubhouse backdrop and screen The Van Burean Movie cartoons
and “Adventures Of Willie Wonderful”TV Puppet films.
For a time..Hefner mc’d “Time For Fun” as “JJ Jellybean”..”Johnny Jellybean’s”Cousin..weekday afternoons starting on Monday August 23,1958..a year later.
The show moved to a weekday morning timeslot and was retitled”The Johnny Jellybean Show”..Hefner would mc the show as “Johnny Jellybean”2..performing without a studio audience..until the station excs finallyed closed down “Johnny Jellybean’s”clubhouse for good following the Friday June 23,1960 broadcast.
The character of “Johnny Jellybean”would be revived one last time for another series”The Johnny Jellybean Theater”..later titled:”Johnny Jellybean’s Factory”for The C TV Network in Canada during the early 1960’s. Comic/character actor:Ted Ziegler would host the show during it’s brief run in Canada.