Home

THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW – THE LOST EPISODES – TREASURES FROM THE VAULT (DVD)

Leave a comment

CarolBurnettShowTreasuresGrade: B
Entire family: Yes, but . . .
1967-71, 1039 min. (15 episodes), Color
Time Life/StarVista
Not rated (mostly G, some PG sketches)
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
Featured audio: Dolby Digital 2.0
Bonus features: B+
Includes: 6 discs, color booklet
Amazon link

The Carol Burnett Show will appeal to two types of people: those who remember watching it when they were younger and respond to the pull of nostalgia, and those who are curious about a time in American television when variety shows, not reality shows, were popular. Burnett was arguably the best of all the variety show hosts, a multitalented woman who could sing, dance, act, impersonate famous stars, and make a comedy sketch work with ad libs better than anyone else. Because of her long-running TV show, which initially aired from 1967-1978, Burnett was toasted at a 2003 Kennedy Center Honors and also awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 2013. During its time, the show earned 68 Primetime Emmy nominations and won Golden Globes as the Best TV Show–Comedy or Musical in 1971. Burnett herself won five Golden Globes for her work on the series, and her talented regulars pulled down a few as well: Harvey Korman in 1967, and Tim Conway in 1976.

As Tina Fey remarked at the presentation of the Mark Twain Prize, “I fell in love with sketch comedy watching your show, and you proved sketch comedy is a good place for women . . . . Only in sketch comedy does a woman get to play Cher, Scarlett O’Hara, the Queen of England, and Girl Scout, Mrs. Wiggins’—all in one night.” At that same event comedian Martin Short summarized the long reach of her Burnett’s influence: “Everyone copied from her. There wouldn’t be Saturday Night Live without Carol.” So keep that in mind as you watch this pioneering comedy-variety show, which featured guest stars in musical numbers as well as sketches, and in which Burnett did indeed play almost anyone. This collection shows how wide of a range she had, and she was particularly “on” in sketches that aped other actresses. Included here is a sketch in which she pokes fun of Joan Crawford in “Mildred Fierce” and really nails Katharine Hepburn in “Guess What’s Coming to Dinner?”

Like a previous “Lost Episodes” release, this collection features 15 uncut episodes on six single-sided DVDs, with episodes culled from the first four seasons.

From Season 1:
Show #11—Guest Stars Sonny & Cher, actress/singer/dancer Nanette Fabray
Show #15—Mickey Rooney, singer John Davidson
Show #20—Shirley Jones, actor/singer/dancer George Chakiris
Show #21—comedian Jonathan Winters, singer Dionne Warwick
Show #22—comic actress Martha Raye, pin-up girl/actress Betty Grable
Show #23—Nanette Fabray, actor Art Carney
Show #29—actor Peter Lawford, Grand Ole Opry star Minnie Pearl

From Season 2:
Show #113—opera stars Eileen Farrell, Marilyn Horne

From Season 3:
Show #302—actress/dancer Gwen Verdon, singer Pat Boone
Show #317—comedian Soupy Sales, singer Mel Tormé
Show #318—Get Smart! actress Barbara Feldon, comedian Joan Rivers
Show #326—Family Show

From Season 4:
Show #404—Nanette Fabray, actor Ken Berry
Show #413—actress Dyan Cannon, comic actor Paul Lynde
Show #426—Nanette Fabray, Paul Lynde

Fans of Saturday Night Live will marvel at how LONG these sketches go on, how character-driven they are, and ultimately how much the “players” trust the material and their performances. CarolBurnettTreasuresscreenIt will also seem amazing to people of the anti-social social media generation that at the beginning of each show Burnett strides out in a gown that was glamorous then (kitschy now) and answers questions from a live audience. When an adolescent boy asks if he can read a poem he wrote for her and she says, “Sure, stand up and read it,” could you see that happening today? He starts reading the poem and when he gets to the part where he says he’s in love with a girl old enough to be his mother, she says, “Sit down.” In a truly historical moment, then Gov. Ronald Reagan walks onstage to join Carol in that opening Q&A and answers questions from the audience—one of them from a woman who asks if he has any interest in moving to Washington, D.C. His response is what you’d expect from a man known as the Great Communicator: he says he can’t see why anyone would ever want to leave California. Earlier he had gotten a big laugh when he offered a comic counterpunch. A woman asked, “Does the mayor know you’re in town?” Everyone laughed and Reagan shot back with, “The important thing is, is Yorty in town?” Mayor Sam Yorty had a number of nicknames, among them Travelin’ Sam, Suitcase Sam, and Airplane Sam.

There are some terrific sketches here, as well as some that aren’t so successful. Ultimately, though, the sketches seem less dated than the clothes or the musical numbers, and they are the reason people remember Carol Burnett and buy DVDs like this. The fun is in watching how many different characters Burnett can convincingly pull off, and whether she can stay in character or crack up with her co-stars. Some of her characters are convincingly ugly, others glamorous, and she even dons a Bugs Bunny costume for a sketch paying tribute to Warner Bros. animation. You get the feeling that Burnett would do anything for a laugh, and she provides a lot of them in this collection.

THE WONDER YEARS: SEASON 4 (DVD)

Leave a comment

WonderYears4coverGrade: A
Entire family: No. Age 10 and older.
1988-89, 520 min., Color
Time Life/StarVista Entertainment
Not rated (would be PG because of mild language, content)
Aspect ratio: 1.37:1
Featured audio: Dolby Digital 2.0
Bonus features: B-
Amazon link

As I wrote in my review of the complete series, this coming-of-age TV comedy-drama gets it right. Lots of things can shape a person, and just as WWII defined a generation, so did the ‘60s—which historians date from John F. Kennedy’s 1963 assassination to Richard M. Nixon’s 1972 resignation. The Wonder Years managed to capture the perfect storm of events that were always in a family’s consciousness—even as the father tried to put food on the table, siblings fought and sought to find their place in the world, and the mother tried to hold them all together. And Season 4 is the absolute best of the six seasons.

Like Leave It to Beaver, the series’ episodes were seen from the point of view of an adolescent, and you knew you were in for an interesting ride when this 1987 series shunned a laugh track and introduced the kind of voiceover narrator that we got in A Christmas Story—an adult version of the main character. And you knew that the series would meet the ‘60s head-on when the pilot called for the girl-next-door’s older brother to be killed in Vietnam, and for our hero to comfort her in a scene that would culminate in a first kiss for each of them—both as characters, and as actors.

WonderYears4screenFred Savage was perfectly cast as Kevin, who at 13 became the youngest actor ever nominated for a Primetime Outstanding Lead Actor for a Comedy Series Emmy. His doe eyes reflected innocence, while his impish smile was a sign that he could say or do something impulsive or mischievous at any moment. The girl next door, Winnie Cooper, was also well cast with Danica McKellar perfect as someone who would be both a best friend and love interest over the course of the show’s six seasons. And for comic relief and guy-to-guy matters there was bespectacled Paul (Josh Saviano), a brainy pal who was also Kevin’s best friend. The tone was wink-wink as this group navigated the halls of junior high, then high school and all of the problems that seem so major to this age group: crushes, dates, tormentors, cliques, and run-ins with teachers and coaches.

On the home front, older brother Wayne (Jason Hervey) was obviously fond of his brother but lived to torment him, while much older sister Karen (Olivia d’Abo) was so caught up in the ‘60s that she was a flower child from the very first episode. The parents were extremely well cast, with Dan Lauria returning from work each day grumpy and feeling chewed up and spat out, and Alley Mills deferring to him while also trying to act as mediator when he got on the kids.

Then there’s the music. I don’t know how they got the permissions, but Season 4 includes songs by Joan Baez, The Beach Boys, The Byrds, Nat King Cole, Judy Collins, Lee Dorsey, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Jimi Hendrix, The Monkees, Randy Newman, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Sam & Dave, Bob Seger, Edwin Star, The Ventures, The Who, and Hank Wilson.

Season 4 has the highest number of fan-rated classic episodes. This season the family goes to Jack’s company picnic—no one more reluctantly than Kevin, who’s afraid of seeing a girl who used to have a crush on him. This season his first girlfriend Winnie moves and changes schools, then finds a new boyfriend and breaks up with Kevin. No matter, because Kevin has also found someone else and is juggling two relationships. Never a show to shy away from reality, The Wonder Years: Season 4 also features an episode in which Kevin and his friends try to crash a 10th-grade girls pajama party thinking beer will be their magic pass. This season Kevin runs for student council against his nemesis, Becky Slater, and also discovers his coach moonlighting as a mall Santa. Kevin and Wayne argue over who’s going to take over Karen’s room when she goes off to college, Kevin and his father have another disastrous time of it when they go off to buy a suit for Kevin, and the up-and-down Winnie and Kevin saga culminates in an “I love you” moment and sets up the group’s graduation from junior high.

Though The Wonder Years may shock young girls who probably don’t want to believe that this is the way young boys think about girls, it remains one of TV’s most honest family coming-of-age comedies. And Season 4 catches the show at its apex. All 23 episodes are included on four single-sided DVDs and housed in a standard-size keep case with plastic “pages” holding the discs.

Language: Lots of junior-high insults (butthead, scrote, dork) and hells and damns
Sex: Lots of kissing; masturbation is referenced, as are nudie magazines and talk of orgies
Adult situations: There’s both smoking and drinking in the series, and some pretty intense family fights
Takeaway: When a show is this honest, it’s no wonder that it still informs and entertains, as it gets to the heart of male adolescence, families, and interpersonal relationships

CPO SHARKEY: SEASON 2 (DVD)

Leave a comment

CPOSharkey2coverGrade: C+/B-
Entire family: No
1977-78, 548 min. (22 episodes), Color
Not rated (would be PG for rude humor and adult situations)
Time Life
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
Featured audio: Dolby Digital Mono
Bonus features: C-
Amazon link

Stand-up comedian Don Rickles made a career out of insult humor and politically incorrect jokes aimed at all races. So what better sitcom for him to star in than one that has him playing a Chief Petty Officer at a U.S. Naval training facility in San Diego, where he gets to go off on recruits—especially when those recruits include a Polish American, a Jewish American, an Italian American, and a Puerto Rican?

Call it Sgt. Bilko revisited, because Rickles is surprisingly good at playing a tough, acerbic CPO with a warm heart. The show lasted only two seasons, but it’s not because the sitcom isn’t funny or because the cast isn’t likeable. My guess is that it was another case of bad timing. The public already had one sitcom with politically incorrect humor, and did America really want or need another Archie Bunker?

CPOSharkey2screenThat’s not fair, though, because Bunker was racist without knowing or admitting it. He tolerated black neighbors but wasn’t really friends with them. Sharkey is best buddies with fellow CPO Dave Robinson (Harrison Page), an African American with whom he feels comfortable enough to make racial jokes. Notice I said “racial,” not “racist.” There’s a difference, and in today’s hyper-politically correct world that difference isn’t acknowledged—hence the warning on the back of this DVD: “Some of the jokes and ethnic references heard in these episodes would most likely not be allowed on network TV today and reflect the tenor of the times.” Because of that racial humor, CPO Sharkey: Season 2 will only be for families with children old enough to realize that such jokes can’t be made today, no matter how fond you are of a person.

Still, CPO Sharkey is a refreshing change from the steady diet of family sitcoms that TV serves up. This second season begins as the first did, with a new commander taking over and rubbing Sharkey the wrong way. As with the first season, some of the humor is topical and has lost its comic edge, but the bulk of the jokes are of the insult variety—what Rickles was known for—and that never goes out of style. Just ask your junior high or high school family members.

This season is a little more uneven than the first. In some of the best episodes, Sharkey butts heads with “The New Captain” and can’t have fun on leave in San Francisco because he’s crammed into tight submarine quarters with Captain Buckner (Richard X. Slattery) in “Operation Frisco.” Sharkey’s barrack is selected for a coed pilot program in “Don’t Make Waves,” Sharkey’s girlfriend tells him he’s insensitive in “Close Encounters of the Worst Kind,” Sharkey breaks up a fight in a punk-rock nightclub (“Punk Rock Sharkey”) and has to deal with a runaway teen, Sharkey is afraid of flying and has to face the aerial music in “Fear of Flying,” and when Sharkey moves into an off-base apartment his life turns quickly off-base. Of the 22 episodes, nine are B or better, and the rest are C or C+ quality.

Language: Tame, but the insult humor and rude humor can seem abrasive
Sex: All talk, with adult situations
Violence: N/A
Adult situations: Some drinking, male-female situations
Takeaways: It’s hard to believe what TV got away with in the ‘70s, but while C.P.O. Sharkey is entertaining you have to be okay with insult humor to really like the show.

FRESH OFF THE BOAT: SEASON 1 (DVD)

Leave a comment

FreshofftheBoatcoverGrade: A-
Entire family: Yes
2015, 281 min. (13 episodes), Color
20th Century Fox
Rated G
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Featured audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Bonus features: C
Trailer
Amazon link

Fresh off the Boat is one of the freshest and funniest family sitcoms since Modern Family. Coincidentally, both come from 20th Century Fox, but this modern family is set in the past. It’s the story of an immigrant family from Taiwan that comes to America in the 1990s when Shaq was playing for the Orlando Magic. And for young rap-obsessed Eddie Huang, that was more alluring than any of the magic Disney had to offer.

Oldest son and junior-high student Eddie is the point-of-view character who, as an adult, offers a voiceover narration to describe his take on his Chinese American family and their culture-shock transition from Washington, D.C.’s Chinatown to mainstream Orlando suburban life.

Randall Park stars as Eddie’s father, the always smiling, always upbeat Louis Huang, who relocated his family in order to open a Western-themed steakhouse restaurant. We learn this first season that he originally came to Orlando by himself to become a franchise owner, but realizing that he fell way short of the franchise fee he absconded with a copy of the restaurant chain manager’s playbook. Running gags throughout the series involve him emphasizing slight changes in name and decor of his independent and competing restaurant.

As easygoing as Louis is, his wife, Jessica (Constance Wu), is strict and strictly uptight. She makes her children study hard because she wants them to succeed, but she worries constantly that they’re losing touch with their Chinese culture. At the same time, she’s become hooked on American melodramas, rollerblading with the neighborhood women, and American foods and recipes.

FreshofftheBoatscreenThe two boys are middle child Emery (Forrest Wheeler), who has a way with the girls that older brother could only wish for, and young Evan (Ian Chen), the perfect son who wants to please his parents and is as determined to do as well in school as Eddie is to just get by. Rounding out the family is the wheelchair-bound Grandma Huang (Lucille Soong), whose comic function is much like Grandpa Simpson in the Fox animated series, though she’s less clueless and more conniving.

The action shifts from Cattleman’s Ranch to home to school, with plots inspired by the 2013 memoir of the real Eddie Huang, a well-known restaurateur and chef. Like the best sitcoms, Fresh off the Boat episodes feel both original and vaguely familiar, with a strong and likable cast that extends all the way through the minor characters. They’re quirky but authentic.

This season Jessica decides to become a realtor and insists on conducting a sexual harassment seminar for Louis’s employees, Eddie works at the restaurant to save money to buy a new Shaq video game, vandals and dash-and-diners cause problems for the Huangs, Eddie tries to impress friends and one particular neighbor girl, and Louis is pressed into coaching Eddie’s basketball team. And in the funniest episode, Jessica gets excited than her old college boyfriend is coming to Orlando, and when everyone expresses surprise that Louis isn’t jealous that he’ll be spending the night she begins to wonder if he doesn’t think she’s “hot” enough to worry about.

Thirteen episodes are contained on two single-sided discs and housed in a standard-size keep case. The only bonus features are a gag reel and trivia track, but so what? This series is laugh-out-loud funny for all ages.

Language: A few mild swear-words spoken in Chinese with subtitles
Sex: Eddie tries to go from a hug to a hand on a woman’s butt
Violence: n/a
Adult situations: Innuendo and mild flirting
Takeaway: Are we entering another Golden Age of television sitcoms?

MODERN FAMILY: SEASON 6 (DVD)

Leave a comment

ModernFamily6coverGrade: A
Entire family: Yes
2014-15, 556 min. (24 episodes), Color
20th Century Fox
Not Rated (would be PG for some adult situations)
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Featured audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1
Bonus features: B
Amazon link

The streak is over. After winning Primetime Emmys for Outstanding Comedy Series its first five seasons, which tied Frasier for top honors in that category, Modern Family: Season 6 fell short. But it had nothing to do with the quality of episodes. This series remains one of the funniest sitcoms on television, and Season 6 has no shortage of laugh-out-loud moments. It’s every bit as strong as the other seasons.

The success formula for Modern Family is pretty simple: Clever writing, rapid-fire jokes, likable characters, a talented ensemble cast, reality-show cutaway remarks, and comedy that’s truly situation-based, rooted in emotions and scenarios that audiences can often identify with.

What makes this family “modern” is that it includes non-traditional models that are common today. The gruff businessman patriarch of the Pritchett clan (Ed O’Neill) has remarried a Colombian “hottie” (Sofía Vergara) 20 years his junior who has a son named Manny (Rico Rodriguez), whom Jay tries to toughen up. Jay’s two children are Claire, an OCD who married a doofus (Ty Burrell as Phil Dunphy, the self-proclaimed “fun dad”) that Jay couldn’t stand, and Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), his gay son now married to the flamboyant Cam (Eric Stonestreet). Mitchell and Cam have adopted a Vietnamese orphan named Lily (Aubrey Anderson-Emmons), while Claire and Phil have three biological children: the flirtatious and carefree Haley (Sarah Hyland), the studious Alex (Ariel Winter), and not-too-bright Luke (Nolan Gould).

That core group collectively has 27 Outstanding Supporting Actor/Actress nominations and six Primetime Emmy wins. There isn’t a weak link among them. In all cases, the actors and writers manage to create characters that are totally believable, both individually and in relation to the others. You accept them as couples, in-laws, steps, fathers and sons, brothers and sisters. There are also degrees of exaggeration that help to create the comedy, but without ever edging too close to the kind of over-the-top humor that too many sitcoms depend upon. And there’s no annoying laugh track to prod viewers.

This season new neighbors feud with Claire and Phil, Cam and Mitchell think about adding another child to their family, and Jay seems to be growing more sensitive about his age. He’s also worried his young son Joe is playing with too many “girlie” ModernFamily6screenthings, and it doesn’t exactly help his psyche to pretend to be gay in order to fill in for one of the bowlers on Cam’s team. Haley tries to get Alex to loosen up a bit this season, and the writers attempt a clever (some might say “gimmicky”) episode that’s told entirely from Claire’s laptop as she’s stranded at the airport. Despite the non-standard narrative format, they still manage laughs, and that’s saying something. Apart from an episode in which little Joe might be allergic to Jay’s beloved dog (shades of a Brady Bunch episode), what elevates this show is the originality of the plots from week to week . . . and the way those plots still incorporate ways to connect with viewers. In one Season 6 episode Jay takes a pottery class in order to make a clay bunny for his “Bunny” for their anniversary, but Gloria treats it like a piñata, wondering what he put inside. Anyone who’s ever made or received a personally crafted gift can identify with Jay, and common elements pop up in just about every episode.

Like most good sitcoms, Modern Family is addictive. Buy this season and you’ll probably feel the impulse to pick up the earlier ones. It’s that funny. Twenty-four episodes are included on three single-sided discs and housed in a standard-size keep case, with plastic “pages” to keep the discs from getting scratched.

Language: None, really
Sex: Same here—just some innuendo
Violence: Again, nothing here
Adult situations: A gay man tries to flirt with Jay, and that’s pretty much typical of how tame the adult situations are in this series. It’s all about comedy of character, and viewers are focused so much on the characters that everything else seems secondary.
Takeaway: A well-written sitcom is a thing of beauty.

THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW: THE LOST EPISODES (DVD)

Leave a comment

CarolBurnettShowcoverGrade: B+
Entire family: Yes, but…
1967-73, 1255 min. (16 shows), Color
Time Life/StarVista
Not rated (mostly G, some PG sketches)
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
Featured audio: Dolby Digital 2.0
Bonus features: B+
Includes: 6 discs, color booklet
Amazon link

The Carol Burnett Show is a tough one to review because it’s a variety show, and that brand of television is nearly extinct—TV-land’s dinosaur. It’s like trying to assess a pterodactyl, even though this particular old bird won 25 Emmys, eight Golden Globes, and three People’s Choice Awards.

Now TV is dominated by reality shows and snarky talk and news shows, but during TV’s golden age the variety show was king. The Ed Sullivan Show, which ran from 1948 to 1971, preserved the vaudeville format almost exactly, televising animal acts, circus acts, magicians, mind readers, musical acts, dancers, musical acts, and comedians. But it was Sid Caesar in Your Show of Shows (1950-54) and Caesar’s Hour (1954-57) who pioneered sketch comedy as the meat-and-potatoes of future variety shows, and that’s the direction that Carol Burnett took.

The Carol Burnett Show ran for 11 seasons, tying her with Milton Berle for eighth all-time among variety shows, and it was as popular as TV gets. But to watch her show now just isn’t the same as watching it then. So many of the sketches were parodies of TV shows, movies, and commercials, and topical humor loses its edge. Plus, as SNL fans know, sketch comedy is hit or miss. Amazingly, many of the sketches in this six-disc collection still work. In fact, I’d say that there are more “hits” here than the current SNL group manages to muster in an average week.

“Interactive” is a big buzzword now, but Burnett interacted with her audience from the time her show debuted. Instead of doing a monologue, Burnett strode out onto the stage and took questions from the audience for a full three to four minutes. Sometimes she was quick to crack jokes, while other times the questions prompted more serious responses. But can you see a studio allowing a live audience to interact with stars today? Stars would be a nervous wreck, and network honchos would be that times 10. So it’s a fascinating part of every show, and half of Burnett’s weekly traditions.

As for the other half, Bob Hope had his “Thanks for the Memories” theme, and Burnett often closed her shows by singing the words to her own theme song:

I’m so glad we had this time together
Just to have a laugh or sing a song
Seems we just get started and before you know it
Comes the time we have to say, So long.

CarolBurnettShowscreenIn between there was song and dance and performing guests. But anchoring the show were the comedy sketches, starring, at first, Burnett, Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Wagoner, and later Tim Conway, after Wagoner left the show to do “Wonder Woman.” Guest stars got in the act too, and the talents on these 16 episodes are Chita Rivera, Bob Newhart, Don Rickles, Mel Tormé, Nanette Fabray, Jim Nabors, Bing Crosby, Paul Lynde, Tim Conway, Eydie Gorme, Burt Reynolds, Lesley Ann Warren, Don Adams, Lucille Ball, Bobbie Gentry, Phyllis Diller, Gwen Verdon, Nancy Wilson, Andy Griffith, Bernadette Peters, Cass Elliot, Flip Wilson, Vicki Carr, Carol Channing, Steve Lawrence, Jack Jones, and Ruth Buzzi. I suspect that the more of these celebrities you recognize, the more likely you will be to appreciate The Carol Burnett Show. It’s suitable for families, but children and a new generation of viewers may find the musical numbers especially dated, though the sketches are still funny, and Burnett is as likable as ever.   More

THE HEE HAW COLLECTION (DVD)

Leave a comment

HeeHawcoverGrade: B/B-
Entire family: Yes
1969-71, 369 min. (5 episodes), Color
Not rated (would be G despite some innuendo)
Time Life
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
Featured audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
Bonus features: B-
“Pfft You Was Gone” clip

The hay-day (sorry, bad pun) of rural comedy on American TV was between 1960, when The Andy Griffith Show debuted, and 1971, when all of them were put out to pasture. The novelty of The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, Gomer Pyle: USMC, Green Acres, and Mayberry R.F.D. had worn off, so it was no surprise that in 1971 CBS also cancelled Hee Haw—a country version of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.

But like the Grand Ole Opry, this corny variety show, which debuted in 1969 and featured a group of talented regulars and some of the top country stars of the time, had a life of its own. It became an institution, going into syndication and lasting nearly another 20 years.

Hee Haw managed to have it both ways, featuring characters and jokes that celebrated rural life, but also poked fun of rural stereotypes. You’ll see nostalgic, folksy segments that lament the loss of cracker barrel philosophers, with Archie Campbell playing a barber and regaling customers with stories, Grandpa Jones and Junior Samples doing the same at Gordie’s General Store, or Stringbean reading a letter from home. Always it was a tall tale modernized or a long simmering lead-in to a corny punch line. Yet there were also recurring segments featuring not-too-bright farmer’s daughters in short-shorts or the country equivalent of mini-dresses, and a recurring sketch about barefooted moonshiners in overalls lying in the front yard next to a jug and a bloodhound. In fact, Junior Samples, with his slow-witted and deliberately speaking persona, was the anti-sophisticate, and darned proud of it. Put Junior in a Shakespeare sketch (as they often did) or making a used car commercial and it was instant laughs.

Hee_HawLaugh-In was hosted by a comic duo. Hee Haw’s hosts were musicians first and comedians second, which fit the corny concept just fine. Roy Clark, best known for his instrumental work on banjo, guitar, and mandolin, first appeared on the Grand Ole Opry at the age of 17. Buck Owens was a popular country singer and band leader whose best-known songs were “Act Naturally,” “Together Again,” and “Tiger by the Tail.” The pair appeared to have fun together and provided the perfect anchor for a boatload of sketches and musical numbers. Buck and Roy started each show with a rendition of “Hee Haw” and at some point did a vaudeville-style routine called “Pickin’ and Grinnin’” that strung jokes together with musical riffs. They also did at least one solo per episode.

Though the humor could be adult, the show was obviously intended for families because kids were included in some sketches and the show relied on animated farm animals to add to the laughs. One minute the audience could be enjoying some serious guitar-playing from Clark, and the next minute a chorus line of pigs would be dancing across the screen while he’s playing, lightening the mood.  More

Older Entries Newer Entries