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Primetime TV Book Reviews
Funny: The Uncensored Story of "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour"
~ David Bianculli
This was a fascinating book. I've always liked "The Smothers Brothers".
I was small when their show was on, but we did watch it, and we listened
to the records of the people on their show (not just the musical acts
but also comedians like David Stineberg). It was great to learn all
about the background of their show and the conflicts they had with CBS.
I'd heard about their fights but heard few details until now. I also
watched their other show in the late 80's.
The only fault I would find with the book is that the author is so
enamored of them that he does not exactly give an unbiased view of them.
I would rather read something that gave more juicy details about their
lives or about people who disagreed with them, etc. as well as just
less-enthusiastic prose about them. But still, it was a really exciting
book to read. I laughed many times when reading about the show and the
funny skits and lines. It makes me want to go buy the DVD's of their
shows. I only hope they are half as good as reading about them.
If you didn't live back then, you probably still have heard how the 60's
were a very tumultuous time and had many important political things
going on that affected our lives both then and now. TV generally is a
bit behind what is going on in the world, and back then, they were
especially behind because the networks did not want to show TV episodes
about issues or politics. The Smothers Brothers not only tried to bring
politics to their comedy show but also young new rock and comedy acts
(and hence younger viewers). The people in charge of CBS definitely did
not want their comedy shows to be political at that time.
It didn't help that Tommy Smothers was kind of a jerk (they do admit
that in the book, in so many words) and not very good with dealing with
the CBS executives...but it sure does make for a lively book. If only he
had held out a few years, the network completely changed and brought in
political shows like "All in the Family"! A few years later, the two
brothers did win their lawsuit against CBS for being fired. It didn't do
them much good, it sounds like.
It's hard to imagine a world where the Smothers Brothers kept their show
and it became even more successful, and they were like "Saturday Night
Live", still on TV years later. That would have been an interesting
universe in which to live.
You will definitely enjoy this book if you have any interest in TV,
politics, or history.
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