*Announcement: (Melevision will return to the ‘American Idol’ chronicals tomorrow. So, be sure to have caught up with viewing all of the performances from last night. We have a lot to talk about.*
In the mean time, I am PROUD to bring to you A Special Guest Appearance. Yes. Thats right! This post was written by the totally super awesome Michael C from the blog : The Wonderful World Of Nothing. So sit back, relax, and enjoy!
Where Have All The Good Shows Gone?
Some say that TV is cyclical. Game shows have come back to being in vogue, courtroom dramas have always been a mainstay and sitcoms have come and gone and gone and come back again. There is however one very big notable absence in the revolving door of good TV, the Variety Show. They used to create the one big night of TV where the entire family could sit together and watch. You just don’t see mom, dad, sister and brother all sitting down to watch ‘Paradise Hotel’ these days. American Idol maybe, but that’s stretching the ‘Variety’ concept.
Watching PBS’ ‘Pioneers of Television’ a few weeks ago got me thinking about how cool variety shows were and how everybody had one. Of course there was Ed Sullivan, (possibly the homeliest looking individual on TV, short of President Nixon), Steve Allen, Milton Berle, Bob Hope, Sonny and Cher, Flip Wilson and one of my personal favorites, Dean Martin. Tony Orlando and Dawn had one as did the Smother Brothers with their establishment and network censor challenging late 60s show. Glen Campbell filled in for them during the summer months with his own show and the Brady Bunch had a couple of variety shows if I recall correctly. They were very common back in the day and offered a little something for everyone, assuming of course that you were into music, dance and sketch comedy. While not entirely a variety show, I also need to mention the Carol Burnett Show as a staple of entertainment back then.
Perhaps one of the best things about variety shows was that they were able to showcase new and upcoming talent and offer a stage for it before the days of cable and Youtube. Elvis, The Beatles, George Carlin, Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, Bob Newhart and so many more were able perform for virtually all of America as up and comers. Many times a variety show appearance was the only way that people could be introduced to comedians and musical acts like the Rolling Stones, many of the great Motown Artists and just about any music group from the 1950s-1970s. So great was the appeal and reach of variety shows that Elvis was famously ‘censored’ on more than one occasion because of his performing style by Ed Sullivan and Steve Allen. Granted there were only a few channels to watch back then, but virtually the entire TV watching public tuned in for Elvis and the Beatles. That’s quite a feat.
It’s great to look back today at some of the performers and situations in which some of the greatest performers of all time appeared in comedy sketches or musical duets. I think that’s what I long the most to see today. Imagine politicians (like Nixon on Laugh In) or Sinatra swinging on the Dean Martin show one minute and then in a skit the next. How would we react to seeing jugglers or a dancing act on TV today? Other than Saturday Night live perhaps, there is just no current outlet like that on TV.
Maybe in the days of DVDs, movies on demand, reality shows, Oprah and Law and Order we need a little more to keep us entertained than Topogigo the puppet or a couple of guys in tights that can spin dishes on poles. Sadly, I’m not sure the straight variety show format could work on network TV today and that’s unfortunate. Hopefully more and more of the classic variety shows from our past will make it to DVD sets so that we can enjoy one of the best formats from the golden age of television. What could be better for today’s short attention span viewing audience than an hour-long program that offers something new every 10 minutes? Yeah, we can cut out the part with the men in tights spinning dishes though…
If you enjoyed this post (or if you like fried cheesy goodness) just wait till you read HIS BLOG!!