Adding a little schlock to my rock today by examining the lost art of variety shows…
Last week, I got on a serious Olivia Newton John kick. I bought a couple of her 70s era albums and learned a couple of her songs. I reminisced about the days when I adored Olivia in all her fluffy, sweet, squeaky clean glory. Or, at least she was that way until she sang songs like “Physical”, “Tied Up”, and “Soul Kiss”. Remembering an old song she sang about divorce called “Changes”, I took to YouTube to see if I could find it. The album it came from is very hard to find these days. I did end up finding Olivia’s old song. In fact, I found that she’d used it on a variety show she did back in the 70s. Check this out.
Here’s a video from 1976. Looks like Olivia tried to turn the song into a scripted scene from a variety show. This kind of makes me cringe and laugh at the same time.
Here’s another 1976 era video featuring Lee Majors… and Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman!
It’s been a very long time since I last saw an artist like Olivia Newton John host a variety show. Lynda Carter, herself a singer sometimes, also had a variety show back in the day. It’s pretty damn cringeworthy.
I actually remember when this originally aired in the early 80s.
The song Lynda is singing is called “You’re Moving Out Today”. It was written by Carole Bayer Sager, Bette Midler, and Bruce Roberts. It was a hit for Sager in 1977 and notable since though Sager has written a lot of songs, this one was the only one that she sang herself.
Here, she sings “Could It Be Magic” after telling her audience an entertaining anecdote about Mozart.
This is a song that was made famous by both Barry Manilow and Donna Summer, both of whom I’d rather hear sing it than Lynda Carter. But judging by the comments on YouTube, people were not tuning in to hear the lovely Lynda Carter sing “Could It Be Magic”. I think most of them were hormonally provoked.
While Lynda and Olivia had the odd musical special on primetime TV, there were other variety shows that were weekly affairs. Of course, I’m thinking about Donny and Marie Osmond, who had a very big hit with their show, Donny & Marie.
Here’s a clip of Donny and Marie Osmond introducing Roy Clark, who was on his own cornball variety show Hee Haw.
Roy Clark is kind of near and dear to my heart, since he was born in Meherrin, Virginia, a little town very close to where I went to college. The local hospital even had a plaque in the emergency room dedicated in his honor.
A little wholesome banjo picking on Hee Haw… I used to watch this show all the time when I was growing up. I’d watch it today, too.
And even imaginary television families got in on the variety show action. The stars of the 70s sitcom The Brady Bunch were guests on Donny & Marie. The episode was so popular that the powers that were at ABC decided to give them their own show. It was called The Brady Bunch Hour and it was truly a weird creation.
This show was based on a truly ridiculous premise. Apparently, Mike Brady gave up being an architect to get into show biz.
The Brady Bunch Hour didn’t last very long, but several big name stars were embarrassed on it, including Tina Turner, who at the time had just divorced ex husband Ike Turner.
I give her credit for being so game to entertain!
Sonny and Cher also had a great variety show back in the day. I actually love seeing old episodes of The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour. They were very entertaining.
A less country version of “Jackson” as interpreted by Sonny Bono and Cher.
And here Cher does a Stevie Wonder number with The Osmonds… This clip never fails to crack me up. I love how the electric keyboard comes down from nowhere and Donny pretends to play it.
Check out the dance moves on this lot… They’re pretty great, except at the end, when they finish off in a weird pose.
I love watching this shit. At the same time, I can’t imagine how this medium could be recreated for 2015. I doubt it would be very successful. These shows are so schlocky and corny. Oh well, I guess I could always go to Branson, Missouri for an evening of wholesome variety show fun.