The banned Bullwinkle bumper that had kids ripping off their TV knobs is making the rounds again. Back in the early 1960s, The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show had puppet intros by the lead character, who was played by Bill Scott. These intros and bumpers were often sarcastic and took part in making fun of Walt Disney, who had a show, Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, that aired directly following Bullwinkle and his friends. The resurfaced video features a few digs on Disney, along with the infamous call on kids to remove their TV knobs.
NBC took over on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show in 1961 from ABC, who previously called the series Rocky and His Friends. The decision to change the name came about when Bullwinkle’s popularity soared over his little flying squirrel friend Rocky. Bill Scott’s take on Bullwinkle during the intros and bumpers was quite different from what was shown in the animated segments, which are still in syndication today. Scott used a lot of sarcasm and self-deprecating humor, which the network found problematic at times.
During one infamous Bullwinkle bumper, Bill Scott suggested that children watching the show should go up to their television sets and pull the knobs off. The idea was that kids wouldn’t have to worry about changing the channel from NBC to enjoy next week’s episode. However, Scott and the network didn’t think that the kids would actually do it. The network reportedly received letters from 20,000 very angry parents in the days after the episode aired, which led to Scott having to tell the children to glue their knobs back on their TVs.
The puppet version of Bullwinkle looks a little off, and coupled with the voice of Bill Scott, he is a completely different character with a bit of an edge. While Bullwinkle has been in syndication for years, the live-action elements of the show have mostly been lost. DVD boxsets include some of the bumpers, intros, and segments of the character reading fan mail, but for the most part, it seems that the majority of Bullwinkle live-action segments are lost forever. While many thought the cartoon had an edge, Scott’s puppet version of the moose is pretty striking, even today.
The subversive style of The Bullwinkle Show has created a cult audience that is still discovering it today. Sadly, Bill Scott did not last too much longer as the live-action Bullwinkle after the TV knobs incident. NBC went on to ditch the live-action portion altogether and focus on the animated series alone. Scott was also a writer on the cartoons, while also providing the voices behind Bullwinkle, Dudley Do-Right, Fillmore, Mr. Peabody, George of the Jungle, Super Chicken, Tom Slick, Cloyd, and many other supporting characters. You can watch Bullwinkle ask viewers to pull off their TV knobs above, thanks to the BJ Retro YouTube channel. Head to the 4:48 mark to see Bullwinkle’s request and some digs on Disney.