28 January marks the debut of J. Fred Muggs on NBC’s ‘TODAY’ Show. Concerned over falling ratings, the network introduced the French Cameroon born chimp, Muggs, in 1953 as a mascot for the program in hopes of sparking new interest. The gimmick worked, audiences were amused by the unpredictable antics of the chimp, for instance, he stole the glasses off of the face of ‘TODAY’ show host Dave Garroway (pictured above) at a press conference. Muggs remained with the show until 1957.
International reaction however was mixed. Controversy arose in the UK when television commercials featuring Muggs interrupted the pre-recorded coverage of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The Russian newspaper ‘Izvestia’ commented, “Muggs is necessary in order that the average American should not look into reports on rising taxes, and decreasing pay, but rather laugh at the funny mug of a chimpanzee.”
Have a look at the one minute video clip below, in which a dispute over desk space arises between Muggs and the other members of the cast….