Thursday, May 10, 2012

Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, The: The 20th Reunion (1988) (TV)

TV Reviews; The Smothers Brothers
Published: February 03, 1988   

TOM AND DICK SMOTHERS are in a helicopter that is taking them to their ''20th Reunion'' show at CBS. ''Don't forget,'' one says with evident satisfaction, ''this was the network that fired us.'' Suddenly, outside the studio below, a bunch of what look like suit-and-tie network executives man an antiaircraft gun and start firing at the chopper. We are back, happily, in the gently goofy but often pointed world of the Smothers Brothers, a world that was virtually banished from prime time in 1969, when CBS's censors seized and held the day.

Pre-empting ''The Equalizer'' tonight at 10 is ''The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour 20th Reunion Show.'' The title is, of course, meaningless. There have not been 19 previous reunions and, technically, this year marks only the 19th anniversary of the original show's demise. No matter. Looking remarkably untouched by the passing years, Tom and Dick are back in their stained-glasslike set, standing on their circular podium, Tom with his guitar, Dick with his bass, and pattering their way into inspired silliness.

Just to illustrate how times and attitudes have changed, the brothers waste no time in getting to sensitive material. ''You are not responsible,'' says sensible Dick. ''Right now,'' counters Tom, ''I'm wearing a condom - I call that responsible.'' Dick: ''It's comments like that that got us fired.'' At that point, they launch into a duet of ''Those Were the Days, My Friend,'' recalling that ''Our shows were much too hip, so we got censorship.'' Clips from past shows flow across the screen, providing a clever album of familiar faces from the 1960's.

Several of the regulars join the brothers for this reunion. Pat Paulsen is still running for President and still getting off some mean cracks about his opposition. Vice President Bush, he says, is ''kinda like Jerry Ford without the pizazz.'' Gov. Michael S. Dukakis of Massachusetts, he says, must have got his name off the bottom of an eye chart.

Also on tap: Jennifer Warnes singing, quite seriously, a soppy ditty called ''Song of Bernadette''; Bob Einstein looking at himself as Traffic Officer Judy in a sketch that had him giving a summons to Liberace for playing the piano too fast; Leigh French doing a ''Tea With Goldie'' skit, promising her fans future discussion on such topics as ''Sexual Dyslexia'' and ''What to Do When You're Hipper Than Your Kids,'' and Glen Campbell singing two of his big hits, ''Wichita Lineman'' and ''By the Time I Get to Phoenix.''

Steve Martin makes an appearance because way back then he used to be a writer for ''The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.'' This reunion was written by Robert Arnott and Mason Williams, directed by David Grossman and produced for Comedic Productions by Ken Kragen. The hour is smooth and engaging. In an era when foul-mouthed comics are commonplace, Tom and Dick Smothers are as comfortable as an old hippie sandal. If anything, their routines together are tighter and sharper than ever. The timing is now just about perfect. And they are surprisingly relaxed about themselves. Wondering if Tom would do anything CBS tells him to do, Dick asks if he would jump off a bridge. Pausing to think a moment, Tom smilingly replies: ''Not again.'' Welcome back.

The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour: The 20th Reunion (1988) (TV)
Cast: Glen Campbell, Bob Einstein, Leigh French, John Hartford, Steve Martin, Lorenzo Music, Pat Paulsen, Rob Reiner, Dick Smothers, Tom Smothers, Jennifer Warnes, Mason Williams

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