I remember, with great fondness, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Tom and Dick Smothers started out as a comedy/folk duo, playing clubs like the legendary Purple Onion. When CBS offered them their own TV show, they had no idea what they were letting themselves in for. The Brothers Smothers started fairly innocuously, but as the series progressed it became a bastion of political satire that caused one U.S. president, LBJ [who clearly had a sense of humor], to send the duo a letter of praise – and another [Johnson’s successor, in fact] to ask CBS to take them off the air [making them the second top ten-rated series to be removed from a network’s schedule because a sitting president didn’t like it – the first being The Wild Wild West].
My favorite moment of the series came as the teaser for one episode that found Tom and Dick noting that CBS had been getting a lot flack because of the show, and that henceforth the audience wouldn’t hear “anything you wouldn’t hear in your own home…” followed by the sound of a toilet flushing. The Best of Season 3 has moments that match that hilarious moment [the opening song of the season premiere, We’re Still Here, for example notes that they’ve survived, among other things, the network’s censors]. And presented some of the most memorable musical performances of sixties television – as when Jim Morrison of The Doors blanked on the words for Touch Me, or when Donovan turned the show into a love-in/sing-along for Happiness Runs. And where else would you find George Harrison stopping by just for a couple minutes to urge the brothers to keep on keeping on?
Most of the eleven episodes included here are edited – partly for content [not all the moments on the show were gems, and not all of the show’s musical guests were all that memorable], and partly because the pacing of variety shows [and television in general] wasn’t anywhere near what today’s audiences are used to. What remains, though, is the wit and charm of the Smothers Brothers and their show’s writers – along with some hot button issues that contributed to their show’s demise – including a medley that was excised from the season premiere because of controversial content [activist Harry Belafonte performing a carefully structured medley of calypso songs before a screen on which played scenes from the Democratic Convention of 1968]; a comedy sermonette by David Steinberg [part of the episode that CBS removed from the schedule when they fired the brothers, and other odd bits [like the take-off on Bonanza that dared question why the series featured only men as regulars…]. Also included is the CBS Special, Pat Paulsen For President, possibly the funniest campaign film of all-time [and, given the manner in which Paulsen spoke about the issues, another nail in the Comedy Hour’s coffin].
Along with the eleven episodes [which include that unaired ep], The Best of Season 3 also comes with a mitt full of bonus features. Two such are especially noteworthy: when you click on certain episodes in the Episode Selection menu, before it plays, you will hear Tom Smothers comment on the notable circumstances of that episode, and, again, when you use the Episode Selections menu, you can choose to screen each ep with an Introduction and Close by the Smothers Brothers.
Other Features: Disc One: Interviews With Harry Belafonte, Bob Newhart, Third Season Producer Allan Blye, Doors’ Drummer John Densmore, Filmmaker Chuck Braverman, and Writer Rob Reiner; Featurette: A Fable For Our Time [Tom smothers reflects on the series the duo’s battles with the network]; Rehearsal Footage Shot By 60 Minutes [aired January 7, 1969]; 1969 Emmy Awards Clip; Photo Gallery, and CBS Documents: Network memos and other documents regarding some of the show’s controversial elements.
Disc Two: Interviews: Just Collins, Bob Einstein [Writer/Occasional Performer]; Mom Always Liked You Best – Tom, Dick and Mrs. Smothers; Dr. Benjamin Spock Interview [censored from season three premiere]; Photo Gallery, and CBS Documents.
Disc Three: Interviews: Joan Baez, Jackie Mason, David Steinberg; Excerpts from Tom and dick’s Post-Cancellation Press Conference; Jackie Mason Dress Rehearsal; Joan Baez Dress Rehearsal and Alternate Performance; Episode Promos; Smothers Brothers 2000 Reunion at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colorado; LBJ Letters; David Rumsfeld’s “Department of Peace” Letter; CBS Documents; Photo Gallery, and Tom’s Final Reflections.
Disc Four: Robert F. Kennedy With Pat Paulsen and Tom Smothers – never before seen outtakes from the Pat Paulsen For President special; Interview Outtakes From special: Woody Allen, David Frye, Eddie Fisher, Paul Hornung, Nancy Ames, and Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara; Pat Paulsen at the White House; Pat Paulsen at the 1968 Democratic National Convention; Pat Paulsen Comedy Club Act at the Pierce Street Annex, Anchorage, Alaska [March 31, 1992]; E! Intro segment to Pat Paulsen For President; Photo Gallery; Pat Paulsen’s Malignant Humor – Pat’s personal notes from his fight with cancer, At Paulsen’s Memorial humor.
Grade: The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour: Best of Season 3 – A
Grade: Features – A+
Final Grade: A