For years CBS has tried to find a way to move the "Captain Kangaroo" show so that CBS News could expand its "Morning" program and compete with ABC's "Good Morning America" and NBC's "Today" show. Finally, and somewhat mysteriously, the stalemate was broken earlier this month.
But -- how? And -- why? And -- what did the programming executives and news boys do to get the Captain to cave in? We have, with the help of our operatives, obtained official documents and transcripts, and can now reveal for the first time to a breathlessly expectant nation, the full and fulsome details of -- Operation kangaroo: THE SECRET NEGOTIATIONS.
We take you to a board room deep inside Black Rock, the CBS HQ in New York.
"Gentleman! Gentleman!" the DBS executive is saying. "Let's have some order here, please! I'm sure we can come to an agreement. Now, Captain, what point were you about to make?"
"Abracadabra, please and thank you," says the Captain in his chipperest, chirpiest voice. "I was simply going to make this point, gentleman. If you touch one minute of my American institution, I'll have 5,000 mommies outside that window in 25 minutes screaming for your heads on a silver platter."
"Now now, Captain, I don't think that attitude is going to get us anywhere. Did one of your distinguished CBS News correspondents have something to say?"
"Yeah," one of them barks, jabbing his finger right in the Captain's bulbous bread basket. "Look, Kangaroo, you play ball with us, or you'll wind up on a slow boat to Haiti with not so much as a Nielsen point to show for it."
"Now Mike Wallace, you behave yourself," says the executive. "Please let's have some constructive suggestions here."
"Well," says another correspondent, "how about we get the Captain drunk and let the New York Post discover his lying in the gutter in front of the Four Seasons?"
"Dan, I'm ashamed of you," the executive says. "Captain, do you have something to add?"
"No I don't, sir, but Bunny Rabbit has something he'd like to say."
"On. Very well. What is it, Bunny Rabbit?"
"I defer to Mr. Green Jeans," says Bunny Rabbit.
"Well I defer to Mr. Moose," says Mr. Green Jeans.
"Well I defer to Grandfather Clock," says Mr. Moose.
Just then, who should walk in but Mr. William S. Paley.
"All right, who referred to me as Grandfather Clock?" he demands.
"Let's have our milk and cookies and Scotch on the rocks, and I'll tell you all a little story," says the Captain. "Now, once upon a time there was a man named William Morris . . ."
"Captain, with all respect due a man of your rank -- and age -- I think we know how that one goes," says the exec. "Now here's the deal We cut you back to half an hour a day. Then we bring in Charlie Kuralt over there at 7:30. In an effort to hang on to the kiddie tune-in, we'll call him something -- 'Uncle News,' something like that."
"Now just a minute," says Kuralt. "I'm not sure --"
"And we give him a $200,000 raise."
"Welllll, if you really think it's for the best," Kuralt says. "hey, can one of you guys give me a ride home? I'm feeling just a tad on the giddy side."
"Well you can share a cab with me," says Dan.
"Uh, thanks just the same, I'll walk."
"Now boys, we still hve to get the nod from the Captain," says the executive. "So what'll it be, Cap -- half an hour a day, plus some exposure on your new afternoon news show, or, a one-way ticket to Tootertown?"
"I don't think that would be very nice, do you?" the Captain says. "Oh my no. And think of poor old Mr. Mailman lugging all those heavy, heavy bags of protest mail up to your office every morning! Goodness gracious me! Sakes alive! Merciful heavens!"
"All right, Kangaroo, can the quaint sayings," growls Wallace. "I've got an appointment with my hairdresser and I intend to keep it. Now you sign on that dotted lkine or you'll never so much as see another chick-chick, moo-moo or gobble-gobble!"
"Hmmm," says the Captain. "I wonder what Mister Rogers would do."
"Never mind that! You just sign it," says the executive, who appears to be getting testy himself. He is thinking maybe he should call in some more lawyers, although there are many, many lawyers in the room, all in their places with bright shiny Gucci buckles. And then just when everything seems hopeless, the chandelier tinkles, a strange light fills the room, a heavenly choir can be heard in the distance, and the doors swing open as if by special effects.
"Wait," says the executive. "Here's someone who can help! It's, it's -- Gabriel Heatter! No, it's Paul Harvey.No, it's Walter Cronkite!"
"Sign the contract, Captain," says Walter. "I want to get back to my boat."
The Captain signs. Bunny Rabbit signs. Mrs. Green Jeans signs. Mr. Moose signs. Grandfather is asleep, or else holding out for more money, but his signature isn't needed. "There there, Captain." says Mr. Paley. "That wasn't so bad, was it? Now let me give you a lift in my limousine."
"Is Tootertown out of your way?" asks the Captain.
"No," says Mr. Paley. "No indeed."