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08/21/2006 Entry: "Ah, The Smothers Brothers"

"The lanky, crew-cut, fresh-faced siblings--Tommy, the older, 'dumber' brother and Dicky the annoyed straight-man--would launch into a well-known folk song, only to have Tommy ruin it, much to the delight of the audience and the consternation of Dick. Song after song in the brothers’ set would come to an untimely demise by the (sometimes innocent, sometimes gleefully naughty) antics of Tom. Every show would come to a climactic war of words between the brothers, with Dick pointing out all of Tom’s flaws, shouting him down until Tommy would burst forth with, 'Oh yeah? Well, Mom always liked you best!' bringing down the house down.

"It seems a wonder that such an innocuous act could be considered threatening to anyone. And yet by 1969, the brothers had earned a reputation as troublemakers, ruffling so many feathers at CBS that, in spite of great ratings for the innovative variety show (the groundbreaking Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, which aired from 1967 - 1969), the network chose to fire the brothers, effectively ending the Smothers Brothers’ television careers. The story of how the brothers managed, by decade’s end, to transform from clean-cut, nice young men to 'radical agitators' and poster boys for free speech is one of the most fascinating in the history of popular culture.

"Because of their wide appeal, CBS had taken a chance on the brothers, and in 1967 The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was an instant hit. Within two months, it had knocked the once-proud Bonanza from the top spot in its time slot. Initial reviews were quite enthusiastic, and for a time, everyone seemed to be ecstatic with the arrangement. Indeed, it seemed that the brothers had accomplished what very few television entertainers had been able to achieve before: they were a hit with the kids and the grownups at the same time, partly due to the wide variety of guests. On any given Sunday, you might see Kate Smith on the same episode as The Who, George Burns and Ravi Shankar. The assortment of guest stars was so varied as to make Ed Sullivan’s shows look positively homogenized by comparison. Even the format of the show was attractive to several segments of the audience. It had elements of the typical TV variety show, but the way the Smothers Brothers went after the youth audience was new and innovative. The opening segment on the show might well be a blistering set by The Who. In fact, it was on the Comedy Hour, in a literally explosive performance of the Who classic 'My Generation,' that Pete Townshend’s eardrum ruptured, leaving his hearing permanently impaired. By appealing to young and old audiences alike, and by beating up on Bonanza, the Smothers Brothers were quite suddenly the heroes of CBS. They could simply do no wrong."
Unsmothered Brother, Interview with Tommy Smothers, by Russell Bartholomee, Being There, there's no date on it I can find, sorry.

Yeah, no wrong, and they were eventually kicked off all three networks. But they were way funny.

Posted by GM

 

 

 

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