Sunday, April 05, 2015

The Smothers Brothers

Back when I was a teenager growing up there were a handful of programs on TV that I enjoyed watching.  I had to compete with my brother on a few of them, but most of the time we had similar taste so it worked out well.  If memory serves, The Monkees came on Monday nights, and we'd always watch that.  It was a silly program, though I still enjoy their music from time to time.  For whatever reason, it was tailored made for teens, and more than likely to sell their music. We also watched Batman (with Adam West and Burt Ward as Robin).   Silly as they are I can still watch them ever so often today, though I really have to be in the mood.  But back then, it was hugely popular.  The other was Star Trek.  It was like anything else on TV.  There was a kid that we hung around with next door and he was a huge Trek fan too, and we used to discuss the recent episodes from the week.  The episodes were strange and sometimes mindwarped my teenaged dinosaur brain trying to stay up with them, but the special effects were par excellence, I always thought. They were like indulging in Owsley LSD-25 acid without the chemical equivalent.  Who need to turn on, tune in, and drop out, when you could beam up?

And then there was the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, which was attractive to my teenage rebellious side, funny, hip, socially conscience, and was a huge pop cultural showcase for many of the rock bands I loved at that time.  Growing up in a small town and isolated you hardly got anything like that, even in magazines.  Even if you grew up in LA at the time, but were eighteen, you would be too young to go to any of the rock clubs.  So TV was it!  The Smothers Brothers had the Jefferson Airplane, the Doors, Mason Williams, The Who, Pete Seeger, the Byrds, Donovan, Joan Baez, among many other performers of the age as their musical acts.  I suspect that the performances were lip synced or recorded previously to the broadcast, but back then it didn't matter to me, and I probably didn't know the difference anyway.

I often wished that someone would offer some type of variety hour similar today, but I don't know of anyone with that star power like the Smother Brothers, and although they're still around, I don't know if they'd carry enough weight with a younger audience to get the viewers.  And if they had someone else as a host, I can't imagine who that might be--to appeal to a young audience and adults as well.  At any rate, I recall the era fondly even though it had its share of troubles like every era.  I ran across the link to a Smothers Brothers thirty minute podcast called The Uncensored Story.   There is also a book out now called Dangerously Funny, which actually I'd like to read.

Last night I watched The Hunger Games: Mockingjay--Part 1, and enjoyed it quite a bit.  I've read that critics have said it's not as good as the previous two parts to the story, and maybe that's accurate, but if you're a fan of the franchise, I think you'll enjoy it and find it interesting.  I certainly didn't find it boring at all, and enjoyed being able to return to the world of Katniss and her plight.  Actually I had forgotten how HG: Catching Fire, the second installment had ended, and I thought a brief recap of the ending of that episode might have been nice.  But I soon more or less remembered, and was caught up in the current struggle and world building that the Hunger Games captures so well.  I can't wait for the final episode. 

Friday, as I prepared a late lunch, and did dishes I listened to Fresh Air with Terry Gross, a NPR program I enjoy from time to time depending on who the guest interviewee is.  I wasn't aware of  Hilary Mantel, nor of her books of historical fiction, but got caught up in listening to the interview, her take on history and life, and oddly enough found her voice appealing.  If you care to hear it,  you can find it here.  Tonight on PBS Masterpiece Theater they'll be showing the first part of her drama, Wolf Hall.
The historical drama about Thomas Cromwell and the Tudor court begins with King Henry VIII, desperate for an annulment from Katherine of Aragon, stripping Cardinal Wolsey of his powers. Wolsey, hoping to regain the king's favor, turns to his ever-loyal aide Thomas Cromwell for help.  During the Mantel interview, however, the writer touches on several things of that history that always alluded me like how Henry the VIII, could divorce his wife, and then have her executed.  I, of course, still don't quite understand that part of it fully, but can understand more what all that was about after the interview, and understand, it was a different place, time, and customs.  Tonight also begins the last part of the Mad Men series.  I've enjoyed that program, so I'll certainly tune in to it.  I guess I'll have to fire up the VCR tonight.


At 1:20 PM, Blogger Richard Bellush said...

Variety shows thrived better when there were limited channels. Nowadays everything is divided into niches. Each type of act is likely to have its own station.

I liked the Smothers Brothers, too. Good music and good topical humor -- much of which I suppose presently would lost on those younger than Boomers.

At 9:56 AM, Blogger El Vox said...

Richard you're right. There were way less channels back then--I just remember the big 3: ABC, NBC, & CBS. Hard to imagine these days. Having said that, however, I think there's something to the Bruce Springsteen song, 57 Channels (and nothin' on).

I'd agree you're probably right too about the Smothers Brothers humor & social commentary. It may be one of those things that you have to be of that generation to understand/appreciate it.


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