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Worst TV Variety Shows Ever

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by Vidiot, Feb 17, 2021.

  1. Oatsdad

    Oatsdad Oat, Biscuits and Abbie: Best Dogs Ever

    Alexandria VA
    Wiki calls "Carol Burnett" a variety show, but I don't agree. It was a comedy sketch show with some music.

    Wiki claims "SNL" is a variety show, and I think that's nuts. It was closer in its early years - what with non-musical guest performers and weird films and the Muppets - but it's been a comedy sketch show with musical guests for a very long time!
    hi_watt and Dan C like this.
  2. P(orF)

    P(orF) Forum Resident

    Interesting thread - if I remember correctly, there were three basic types - the pure variety show, like Ed Sullivan or Hollywood Palace where there was a host who introduced, and may have chatted with, a string of performers, but the host never performed; the comedian or singer/variety show, where slightly past their prime artists like Jackie Gleason or Dean Martin or Andy Williams would have guest performers; and the talk shows which, uniformly, would have the host behind a desk.
    Sullivan and Palace were very popular, but the format couldn’t support too many variations because they depended on big names and there weren’t enough to support more than a handful of shows. The hybrid shows generally only featured one or two guest acts per week, so booking was a lot easier (and really, could you imagine Topo Gigio on the Johnny Cash show?).
    OldSoul, Shambolicus and Dan C like this.
  3. Roland Stone

    Roland Stone Offending Member

    I was too young for Ed Sullivan and the like. For me, the king (and queen) of variety shows was the Sonny and Cher version.

    After they split up, I think both got their own variety shows, briefly? I remember watching the Sonny Bono edition and pitying him, because it was so obviously a failure.
    Armjim likes this.

    FACE OF BOE Forum Resident

  5. Shambolicus

    Shambolicus It's 'cause I'm short, I know...

    Then there was perhaps the best “worst” TV variety show ever - David Letterman’s mid-80s send-up of the summer replacement variety shows that were a longtime network staple since the 1960s. To those familiar with them, it’s also a bit of a loving nod to programs like The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, as well as The Carol Burnett Show. Dave’s show originally aired as a one-off mid-week episode of his old NBC Late Night with David Letterman, in August of 1985, ostensibly as the last installment before Late Night returned for its “fall season.”

    Without further adieu, here’s Dave Letterman’s Summertime Sunshine Happy Hour. Enjoy!

    Last edited: Feb 18, 2021
  6. geo50000

    geo50000 Forum Resident

    Canon City, CO.
    'Ol Dave had a real knack for sniffing out bad variety shows...Here's the one-hit-wonder Starland Vocal Band's show, featuring David Letterman in another early embarrassing gig...of course they sing "Afternoon Delight" right at the beginning, because they had to:
    Shambolicus likes this.
  7. geo50000

    geo50000 Forum Resident

    Canon City, CO.
    Do "Variety Specials" count? If so, then here's an excerpt from Dora Hall's "Once Upon A Tour"...It featured such rockin' Rock 'n Rollers such as Phil Harris, Oliver, Rich Little, and ...wait for it...Frank Sinatra!....(ahem...Junior) performing some Rock 'n Roll classsics:
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2021
  8. peteham

    peteham Forum Resident

    Simcoe County
    I thought the Carmen Meringue news was pretty funny. And I don't see Letterman 'clearly hating every second of it'.
    O Don Piano likes this.
  9. Shambolicus

    Shambolicus It's 'cause I'm short, I know...

    Captain & Tennille, anyone? Despite being as good a musician as he was, Daryl Dragon was only comfortable onstage when he was behind the keyboards, so much so that his discomfort standing in front of an audience was cringingly palpable. Watch his desperation as he counts down the seconds before he can seek refuge behind the stand. Toni, on the other hand...she must’ve learned a thing or two from watching Sonny & Cher about doing the heavy lifting. :laugh:

    When it came to the writing, they grew some tall corn on that show. Serious mid-70s kitsch in every respect.

    hi_watt and geo50000 like this.
  10. geo50000

    geo50000 Forum Resident

    Canon City, CO.
    Yikes! Daryl Dragon was even more awkward in his own show than the Starland Vocal Band...he looks like he'd rather be Burning In Hell than in front of the cameras...never saw that one!
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2021
  11. Not Trending

    Not Trending Well-Known Member

    According to Wikipedia, "The Flip Wilson Show" was the No. 2 show in 1971-72 and the 12th ranked show during the 1972-73 season; "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour" was No. 7 in 1973-74 and No. 23 in 1975-76; "Tony Orlando and Dawn" was the 25th most watched show in 1974-75; and "Donnie and Marie" was ranked 26th in 1975-76.

    So some variety shows did better than others, and certainly some of them had an respectable audience at the time (with more than 20 percent of all American households watching TV during that hour watching the above listed shows). And I assume they were way less expensive to produce than scripted episodic shows thus turning a decent profit for the network. My guess is that they were hoping to recapture the success that Ed Sullivan previously had with the next generation of viewers, however the tastes were rapidly changing.

    I was a wee kid at the time, but I recall some of them being watched in my home.
    Leviethan likes this.
  12. Leviethan

    Leviethan Forum Resident

    Portland, OR
    Is there a scientific term for the embarrassment one feels while watching these? Who am I embarrassed for? Myself? The performers? It’s the weirdest feeling.
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2021
  13. Uther

    Uther Forum Resident

    Vicarious embarrassment.
  14. Dan C

    Dan C Forum Fotographer

    The West
  15. Hooperfan

    Hooperfan Your friendly neighborhood candy store owner

    New York
  16. Big Jimbo

    Big Jimbo Forum Resident

    Toni Tennille in her autobiography says the less Darryl appeared on the show, the more requests they got from viewers for him to be on. His main schtick was jokes about hats (to cover his receding hairline; Bruce Johnston told them they wouldn’t make it because they were too old). She says the powers-that-be wanted them to have insult each other like Sonny and Cher or Donny and Marie; they were no, we love each other (the divorce was a few decades away). They did get to work with Dick Clark which was enjoyable and could have gone for a second season but chose not to.Being on television caused them to be recognized in public a lot more, especially when on a three week break they tried to vacation in Vancouver, Canada and found themselves swamped with interview requests.
    The Johnny Cash Show was very good. Lots of top flight music guests from country, rock, gospel. Few, if any, bad comedy sketches. There was a 3 DVD set a few years ago. Linda Ronstadt showed up not wearing panties and June Carter Cash told her to put on a pair ...she was not allowing her to go on stage with her husband without panties
    Mylene and geo50000 like this.
  17. Holerbot6000

    Holerbot6000 Forum Resident

    The whole concept of Pink Lady and Jeff was just bizarre. Take a third rate 'opening act' style comedian and pair him with two Japanese girls who can't speak English and who no one in the US has ever heard of? Sounds like a fool proof idea to me. As someone else said, that cocaine is a hell of a drug.
  18. mr. steak

    mr. steak Forum Resident

    tempe az
    This is terrible.
    swedwards1960 likes this.
  19. digdug67

    digdug67 Hockley's Hits Here!

    Hockley, TX
    Yep I remember Pink Lady & Jeff lol!
    Yeah I don't why, but these variety shows were must watch tv when I was a kid. Maybe because my mom (and others) wanted to see all the different stars in one place.
    I remember watching Flip, Goldie (Hahn), Mac (Davis), and all those others :)
    Shambolicus likes this.
  20. fr in sc

    fr in sc Forum Resident

    Hanahan, SC
    Judy Garland had a self-titled variety show in '63-64 but the ratings started sagging and the ABC network execs started encouraging the writers to write skits that ended up humiliating Judy (pie in the face, etc.) before its one and only season ended. The show does live on for this terrific clip, however:

    I can't say I enjoyed anything else I ever saw on the show, though.
  21. O Don Piano

    O Don Piano Forum Resident

    I remember seeing this when it was broadcast! I was 21, so I actually remembered the shows he was lampooning. And I tell you what, when John Hartford was performing, I welled up watching it! It totally took me back to watching these kind of shows with my family. Letterman‘s approach was of course blatantly cheesy, but I felt that there was a rather fond undercurrent. I always wished that I had recorded that show.
    Shambolicus likes this.
  22. Avenging Robot

    Avenging Robot Forum Resident

    One of the most surreal moments I've ever had was when I was in Japan on business about 12 years ago and I turn on the TV and Pink Lady is on talking about their show in the US and their experience.
  23. Big Jimbo

    Big Jimbo Forum Resident

    Sid Caesar was so desperate to restart his career that he appeared on “Pink Lady and Jeff” several times.
  24. Kyle B

    Kyle B Forum Resident

    Dolly Parton had two variety shows: a 30-min syndicated show in the 70s that was relatively low-budget and aired on weekend afternoons and evenings; and a big-budget ABC affair in the 80s. The 70s version was successful but Dolly quit after one season because she didn’t have creative control. The 80s version flopped, though it improved when Dolly asserted more control during its lone season. Both have some great music. You can see Dolly performing with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt in the 70s version on YouTube.

  25. paste

    paste Forum Resident

    In fairness to them, it was a Saturday morning show, so they weren't aiming too high. Before the Saturday morning series, they had their own prime time summer variety show, but I'm not sure I ever saw that one.

    The Harlem Globetrotters had they own Saturday morning variety show the same season, from what I remember as a kid and from some of the clips I've seen, it was actually worse than the Hudson Brothers' one.

    Prior to the Saturday morning show, the Globetrotters had a prime time special with a similar name. You can find some clips from that on Youtube, too.
    Tanx likes this.

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