If I had to pick a decade that was germinal for me I would probably not pick the sixties but the seventies. I was a teen in the sixties, true, but I was a late bloomer. I didn’t really absorb the sixties counterculture until the early seventies.
But I was there, and I was awake, if naïve, and I saw what was happening around me. And one thing that was happening in the late sixties was The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.
The show was not my first exposure to this dynamic comedy team, though. When I was a child we had a number of their records (that’s right – old vinyl LPs) and listened to them frequently. But when their show began I was a young teen, and as their show matured and became more radical so did I along with it.
This book describes the background of the rise of the Smothers Brothers as a popular comic team, but focuses mainly on the Comedy Hour show, and the battles with the censors at CBS as the show became more and more cutting edge as far as the youth culture was concerned. It’s fast paced and well-written and researched. Actually, Tom and Dick Smothers asked the writer to do the book and cooperated fully with interviews and information, as did most of the writers and other personnel.
But the book is not just about an old TV show that ran three seasons and then was forced off the air. It epitomizes an era. It was shown Sunday nights from 9:00 to 10:00 opposite Bonanza, the old stalwart, and nobody expected it to survive in that brutal time slot. Instead it lasted from 1967 to 1969, that is, from the Summer of Love to Woodstock – a point that the writer of the book brings out. And as time passed the Smothers tried to get more and more new and fresh ideas past the obdurate narrow-minded network censors.
It was a losing battle; in the end they were fired for their trouble. But it was a temporary loss, as is related in the final chapter of the legacy of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. They have been enormously influential on entertainers that followed them.
I highly recommend this book. For one thing, it gave me a great feeling of nostalgia. As the important moments of the show were described I remembered every one of them. But even if you are too young to have seen the show way back then, it’s an exciting story about entertainers who stuck to their principles in the face of great opposition by the powers that be.
The shows are now available on DVD. At the first opportunity, I gotta have them.