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Smothers Brothers Finally Coming Out on Video -- With My Liner Notes!
August 12, 2008  | By David Bianculli
SMOS-BROS-DVD-BOX-SET-COVER.jpgExcuse me for being excited about this, but there's no hiding my enthusiasm or pride here. After decades as one of the last important TV series never released on home video, the influential 1967-69 Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour is finally being released.

The groundbreaking variety show's rollout on DVD begins with The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour: The Best of Season 3. It's a terrific set, loaded with an unbelievably rich amount of extras. I should know. I wrote the DVD liner notes.

Actually, I'm knee-deep in Smothers Brothers right now, writing a book on Tom and Dick and their controversial CBS series. It's scheduled to be delivered in November, and published next year, which is the 50th anniversary of the Smothers Brothers' first appearance as a comedy team. It's also the 40th anniversary of their show being yanked off the air by frustrated CBS executives.

The DVD set, beautifully produced by Paul Brownstein from episodes hand-picked by Tom and Dick themselves, is a fabulous reminder of just how good they were, and how bravely they fought to speak out against the Vietnam War and other hot-button issues.

Here are just two paragraphs from my introduction to the Best of Season 3 set, which will be released August 25:


"Tom and Dick Smothers begin season three by singing boldly about political unrest and network censors, and end it by having a show yanked in its entirety by CBS, with the brothers being summarily -- and, as a lawsuit later proved, wrongly -- fired. In between were shows in which Tom, Dick and their guests challenged political and corporate authority, spoke out on current events, ran Pat Paulsen for President as one of the best extended performance-art pieces in TV history, and opened prime time to new young voices, performers and writers, including then-unknown staffers Steve Martin, Rob Reiner, Mason Williams, Bob Einstein and others.

"The best of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, season three, is a sort of condensed Best of the Sixties. George Harrison shows up to offer moral support, and musical performers on the show include The Doors, Joan Baez, Donovan, Ike and Tina Turner, Ray Charles, and the cast from Hair. Controversial comedians included George Carlin, Jackie Mason and the man whose comic sermonette got the series pulled off the air, David Steinberg."

Why start with Season 3? That was Tommy's idea -- and, though it threw me when he first proposed it, I now think it's a briliant move. Not only does it present the most controversial material -- the stuff for which he and Dick were fired, after the show had been renewed for a fourth season -- but by starting a DVD release with Season 3, it makes it much more likely that Seasons 1 and 2 will follow suit.

Otherwise, if a TV show's first season doesn't sell well, future releases are shelved, as in the case of St. Elsewhere. By starting at the end, the Smothers Brothers are increasing the odds that all three seasons eventually will be available.

So starting with Season 3 is a great move for them. And for you. I say this not because I wrote the liner notes, but because I've seen every second of this set, and know just how fabulous it is. You can pre-order it by clicking on the image here:


...And I really, really hope you do. It's that good, and, in terms of TV history, that important.

And as you watch it, think of me toiling away, writing the book...




Robert said:

Between your upcoming book and the Time-Life DVD set (both of which I'm anxiously awaiting), it looks like it's going to be a busy year for both fans and Tom and Dick themselves...the past few weeks I've begun to rewatch the "Comedy Hour" reruns that I was fortunate enough to tape from when E! aired them in 1992-93 and am (again) marveling at how cutting edge their show really was...

David, since you have the privilege of knowing Tom and Dick personally, do you think that they fully realize how many people love and respect what they did back then? (Good question. My best answer is, by the end of next year, they'll know for sure... but it's wonderful to hear you say that, and I'll be sure to pass it on. -- David B.)

Comment posted on August 12, 2008 12:56 PM

kenneth kahn said:

>You can pre-order it by clicking on the image here:

I couldn't find any hot spot in the article to click on. Also, could you confirm how many discs are in the set. Netflix only has a single disk, and Amazon has 3, though both state 840 minutes. (The smallest image in the blog, the one just below the word "here," is the one with the hot button. Put your cursor over it and click, and it ought to take you straight to the Time-Life order form. It works for me, anyway. As for the number of discs, there are three DVDs of the Comedy Hour episodes, one disc of additional extras (including lots of Pat Paulsen material), and, if I understand it correctly, an additional fifth disc that presents the "Smothered" documentary. Please let me know, everybody, if the link does or doesn't work. -- David B.)

Comment posted on August 13, 2008 8:56 AM

mark o'keefe said:

really, a best of instead of the entire episodes?
no thanks. (Just to clarify: The "Best Of" refers to hand-picked episodes from each season -- four per disc. So it's not every episode from season three, but Tom and Dick's hand-picked dozen or so. -- David B.)

Comment posted on August 13, 2008 1:36 PM

Jim said:

I was in junior high at the time and the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour definitely was the coolest thing on TV at the time, particularly for someone growing up in a small town. Definitely let them know they were and are regarded as heroes. As loathe as I am to shell out $70 for a DVD package, I might just have to do it.

It looks like the Johnny Cash Show started in 1969, the last year of the Smothers Brothers. Do you think the SmoBros had an impact on Cash's show? (If so, it's probably because of the 1968 summer show, produced by Tom, that thrust Glen Campbell into TV stardom. -- David B.)

Comment posted on August 13, 2008 1:59 PM

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