Because it is next to impossible to raise a boy in an apartment.
Watching some boys at their innocent play
Always pulling for the underboy
Newspapers made a big thing of it
Every dog should have a boy
Speak Sherman. "Hello." Good Boy.
Even though The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show was technically before my time (it officially ended the year I was born), my sister and I were lucky enough to catch it in syndication as part of our regular weekend cartoon lineup from elementary through high school. Macrame, crocheted vests, and constant second-hand smoke notwithstanding, the 1970s were good for this at least: regular television could give a girl a great education in satire, the power of voice characterization, and quality parody. I'm talking about the Carol Burnett Show, Saturday morning Warner Bros. cartoons, and the genius output of Jay Ward Productions, without which I may not be the classic film lover I am today.
Mr. Peabody (Bill Scott, also the voice of Bullwinkle) is a Harvard-educated, entrepreneurial, multi-lingual former puppy prodigy who lives all alone in his Manhattan penthouse. Peabody decides to get a boy for companionship, but finds none suitable in any pet shop. One day, he sees a little ginger kid with glasses getting beat up in an alley by some street toughs. After chasing off the attackers, Mr. Peabody intends to take Sherman (veteran radio actor, Walter Tetley) back home to his parents, but finding he is an orphan and living in a crummy orphanage, Peabody decides to adopt him instead.
To keep Sherman entertained, Mr. Peabody builds the WABAC, a time machine, through which he and Sherman can -- and do -- enjoy many an adventure in what "should have been" in history.
Between 1959 and 1963, Mr. Peabody and Sherman went on 91 five-minute trips through time and space, visiting the likes of Napoleon, Galileo, Lady Godiva, and Cleopatra along the way. Sherman was always good for charmingly stating the obvious ("Mr. Franklin, your kite is going to be struck by lightning!") and setting up the horrible pun Mr. Peabody inevitably let fly at the end of every episode ("We assisted the Pony Express. The least we can do is help...Western Onion." Tuba blast.)
Walter Tetley, the man who played Sherman, was 44 years old and already a twenty year veteran as a voice actor. He started out in the 1930s as the voice of Felix the Cat and later Andy Panda, but is probably best known to old radio buffs as Leroy, the annoying nephew of The Great Gildersleeve and Julius Abruzzio, the grocery boy on The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show.
Tetley was born with a hormonal condition that kept his voice from cracking, which enabled him to play boys and teenagers throughout his long career, but that also prevented him from fully developing to manhood. In 1971, Tetley was injured in a motorcycle accident that confined him to a wheelchair until his death from stomach cancer only four years later at the age of 60.
My generation will always remember him as Sherman, Mr. Peabody's faithful boy, although many of us will mistakenly credit June Foray (the voice of Rocket J. Squirrel) for his fine work. On a more uplifting note, it is now possible to watch the Peabody's Improbable History pun-soaked oeuvre streaming on Hulu Plus, and many of these wonderful cartoons are on YouTube for free (for the time being).