|“Cro was a smart boy, had a lot on the ball,
But the family that took him in was so Neanderthal…”
The Children’s Television Workshop (CTW), creators of Sesame Street and The Electric Company, made their first foray into Saturday morning with Cro, the time-spanning adventures of a woolly mammoth, two scientists, and an inventive Cro-Magnon boy. The show was based on a popular children’s book of the late 80’s, David Macaulay’s The Way Things Work.
In the cartoon, woolly mammoth Phil was revived in the 20th century after falling into a glacier several millennia earlier. Scientist Dr. C and her hip-hop teen assistant Mike thawed the mammoth, and in gratitude, Phil entertained them with stories of his life before the Ice Age. Conveniently, Phil was a science expert, and when Dr. C and Mike had a perplexing problem, Phil’s story would point them to an answer.
Phil’s stories revolved around his activities with a Cro-Magnon 11-year-old named Cro. An orphan, Cro was taken in by a family of dimwitted Neanderthals—Nandy, Gogg, Ogg, and a monkey named Bobb. Thankfully, Phil was around to teach Cro the ways of science, explaining everything from tools to aerodynamics. All was not fun and learning in this prehistoric era, however. Conniving mammoths Earle and Mojo were always out to get smarty-pants Phil, and the Neanderthals were menaced by saber-toothed Selene and her henchbeasts Big Red and Murray.
Despite its educational credentials, the show didn't have the same impact as CTW’s earlier productions. Cro did last two seasons on ABC’s Saturday morning schedule, airing 21 original episodes before passing into the historical record.