Television Variety Shows

Histories and Episode Guides to 57 Programs


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About the Book

For the few hundred television viewers in 1946, a special treat on the broadcast schedule was the variety show called Hour Glass. It was the first TV program to go beyond talking heads, cooking demonstrations, and sporting events, featuring instead dancers, comics, singers, and long commercials for its sponsor, Chase and Sanborn coffee. Within two years, another variety show, Texaco Star Theatre, became the first true television hit and would be credited with the sales of thousands of television sets.
The variety show formula was a staple of television in its first 30 years, in part because it lent itself to a medium where everything had to be live and preferably inside a studio. Most of the early television stars—including Jackie Gleason, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Ed Sullivan, Red Skelton, Dinah Shore, and Arthur Godfrey—rose to prominence through weekly variety shows. In the 1960s, major stars such as Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Judy Garland and Danny Kaye were hosting variety shows. By the 1970s, the format was giving way to sitcoms and dramas, but pop music stars Sonny and Cher, Tony Orlando and Dawn, and Donny and Marie Osmond hosted some of the last of the species.
This book details 57 variety shows from the 1940s through the 1990s. A history of each show is first provided, followed by a brief look at each episode. Air date, guest stars, sketches performed, and a listing of songs featured are included.

About the Author(s)

Since 1981 David M. Inman has been the author of “The Incredible Inman,” a TV question-and-answer column that is syndicated nationwide by Gannett News Service and appears in more than 35 newspapers. His work has also appeared in VCR and Southern magazines as well as USA Today. He is also the author of Performers’ Television Credits, 1948–2000 (2001) and lives in Louisville, Kentucky.

Bibliographic Details

David M. Inman
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 427
Bibliographic Info: photos, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2006
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2198-5
eISBN: 978-1-4766-0877-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface      1

Introduction      3

I : The Pantheon      5

1. The Steve Allen Show      7

2. The Variety Shows of Milton Berle      16

3. The Carol Burnett Show      23

4. The Variety Shows of Sid Caesar      40

5. The Variety Shows of Jackie Gleason      47

6. Arthur Godfrey and His Friends      62

7. The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour      67

8. The Variety Shows of Ed Sullivan      73

II : The Beginning      119

9. The “Arthur Murray” Variety Shows      121

10. Cavalcade of Stars      128

11. The Colgate Comedy Hour      133

III : The Sketch Artists      141

12. The George Gobel Show      143

13. The Variety Shows of Bob Hope      148

14. The Danny Kaye Show      154

15. The Don Knotts Show      162

16. The Jerry Lewis Show      165

17. The Garry Moore Show      170

18. The Variety Shows of Red Skelton      180

19. The Flip Wilson Show      201

20. The Jonathan Winters Show      208

IV : Mostly Music      213

21. The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour      215

22. The Variety Shows of Perry Como      224

23. The Eddie Fisher Show      234

24. This Is Tom Jones      236

25. The Dean Martin Show      242

26. The Variety Shows of Dinah Shore      264

27. The Andy Williams Show      270

V : A New Host Every Week      283

28. The Hollywood Palace      285

29. Kraft Music Hall      301

VI : From Pop to Prime Time      313

30. The Jimmy Dean Show      315

31. The Ford Show      319

32. The Variety Shows of Sonny and Cher      324

VII : Memorable Misfires      335

33. The Julie Andrews Show      337

34. The Judy Garland Show      341

35. The Variety Shows of Mary Tyler Moore      346

36. NBC Follies      349

37. Pink Lady and Jeff      352

38. The Paula Poundstone Show      354

39. The Richard Pryor Show      356

40. Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell      358

VIII : The Last Gasp      361

41. The Captain and Tennille      363

42. Dick Clark’s Live Wednesday      365

43. The Variety Shows of Donny and Marie Osmond      367

44. Tony Orlando and Dawn            374

Bibliography      379

Index      381

Book Reviews & Awards

“highly recommended”—ARBA; “excellent”—Big Reel; “ample references…informative…detailed and comprehensive…massive amounts of material”—SPERDVAC Radiogram; “outstanding”—Television Chronicles; “a potpourri of pleasant reverie”—Chattanooga Airwaves.