With the popularity of Ross Bagdasarian’s creations, Alvin
and the Chipmunks, riding high with hit songs and album sales, the time had
come to expand the brand onto television in a more permanent basis. Bagdasarian
teamed-up with Format
Films, who redesigned the Chipmunks into more physically distinguishable
and cartoonish characters, and created storyboards
for a pilot episode to shop around to the networks. CBS ultimately bought the concept and
commissioned the creation of the show. It would be broken up into three
segments: the first was a standard Chipmunk misadventure, featuring Alvin, Simon, Theodore and their
hapless guardian, Dave
Seville (all Bagdasarian). In keeping with what made the characters so
popular, that would be followed by a song segment, and then a second song to
close out the episode. Additionally, the Chipmunks would appear in commercials
for their primary sponsors: Jell-O and Post Cereals, both owned
by General Foods. In
between the two songs was an original creation: scientist and inventor Clyde Crashup (Shepard Menken, impersonating Richard Haydn’s Edwin Carp
character) and his sidekick who only spoke by whispering in his ear, Leonardo. Clyde would tend to
invent something that already existed but with his own flair added. And,
usually, those inventions would backfire.
|The Sevilles: Dave, Alvin, Theodore and Simon.
The Alvin Show, named for the
most popular character in the group, debuted on CBS on October 4, 1961.
Bagdasarian would handle the music along with Charles E. King and Ken Lowman, with direction and
arrangement by Johnny Mann.
The series ran in black and white for two seasons in primetime before moving to
the Saturday morning line-up and being colorized. By the end of the 60s, the
individual Chipmunks segments were combined and the show was sold into
syndication as Alvin and the Chipmunks, making its way to NBC Saturday mornings in 1979. Ultimately, a new series would emerge through Bagdasarian’s son, Ross, Jr., and
daughter-in-law, Janice Karman.
Clyde and the original animated Chipmunks would make appearances on that show.
In 1994, Nickelodeon acquired the broadcast
rights for The Alvin Show and re-aired them in their original form, less
one song to make room for commercials. They also incorporated various segments
into their own program, Weinerville.
To date, only a few episodes and segments have seen release to home media,
and the program itself has not been broadcast since Nickelodeon dropped it.