When I was a kid and you heard those words you knew something special was about to happen.
Carol Burnett. Sonny & Cher.
In this case… “From Television City in Hollywood, It’s The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.”
To this day, I don’t know how or why my parents allowed me to watch it. Talk about edgy humor. So edgy that CBS had to cancel it.
We just lost Tommy Smothers. He died at 86. Tommy and Dick Smothers made up a comedy team that changed television.
Their act was different to say the least. Two musician brothers constantly arguing. “Mom always liked you best!”
Tommy played the dumb one. In reality, he was the smart businessman of the two. I’ve learned over the years that playing dumb in comedy takes a lot of smarts. Gracie Allen. Lou Costello. Stan Laurel. Dick Martin.
“The Smothers Brothers” ran on CBS from 1967 until 1969. It ran opposite “Bonanza” on NBC. Going up against it was considered a terrible time slot. “The death slot,” they called it.
“The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” worked against the establishment. It was a hit. It took on Vietnam, President Johnson, President Nixon, race relations, women’s rights. Anything that was considered too controversial at the time, the Smothers Brothers took it on.
Even religion. The New York Times recounts one particular joke Tom Smothers told: “Easter is when Jesus comes out of his tomb, and if he sees his shadow he goes back in and we get six more weeks of winter.” Yikes. And remember, it was the 1960’s!
The show launched the careers of Rob Reiner, Steve Martin, Pat Paulsen and Bob Einstein.
Every musician performed on that show. George Harrison, Cass Elliott, the Who, the Doors. Everybody who was anybody in the late 60’s.
Almost from the beginning, there was trouble with the network. It was just too much for middle America. Complaint letters and calls poured into CBS.
The network finally had enough and pulled the plug. Tommy Smothers always believed President Nixon forced CBS to cancel the show.
“The Smothers Brothers” was replaced by, of all things, “Hee Haw.” That year, “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” won the Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a comedy, music or variety series.
Tom and Dick Smothers also won in court for breach of contract against CBS.
The Smothers Brothers defined edgy humor on television. Tommy Smothers pushed that envelope.
He said of the show In an interview for the Archive of American Television: “It was the ’60s that we reflected. The country was going through a revolution — a social revolution, a political and consciousness revolution, about government and its part. We tried to reflect that.”
We lost one of the greats. A true pioneer of television.
You can argue that there would be no “Saturday Night Live” without the Smothers Brothers.
I can hear it now… “From Television City in Hollywood”…(Should I be watching this?) So glad I did.