Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour
By Sam Graham
It's not what you'd call high art, but there are some highly enjoyable
moments in this nicely packaged box set, featuring nine complete shows
(plus ample bonus material) spread out over three discs.
Beginning as a summer replacement in 1971, The Sonny & Cher
Comedy Hour earned its own regular time slot that same year, running
for three straight seasons and then returning in 1976 (as The Sonny
& Cher Show), after the couple's divorce.
The show's formula, which had already been established both onstage and
on the small screen (their '69 pilot episode is among the extra features),
includes plenty of music (duets, Cher's solo performances in typically
outlandish Bob Mackie gowns, various guest shots); lots of shtick
(consisting mostly of Cher's put-downs of the minimally talented but
good-natured Sonny); and sketches and skits (ranging from lame to
inspired, including a mock-opera based on All
in the Family and starring Metropolitan Opera tenor Robert Merrill
as a warbling Archie Bunker). Guests range from the obvious (TV stalwarts
like Harvey Korman, Ruth Buzzi, and Don Knotts) to the downright weird
(then-California governor Ronald Reagan).
It's all fairly middlebrow, but Sonny & Cher's unpretentious,
unself-conscious charm carries it; and once in a while everything congeals
into one surreally entertaining package, like the '72 show featuring the
Jackson 5 (led, of course, by Michael, who was then 14 and still
apparently normal), who are followed to the stage by Reagan (telling
jokes, sort of) and singer-actor Howard Keel, veteran of numerous movie
Bonus features include 2003 audio commentary by a nostalgic Cher,
interviews with the producers, the '69 pilot, bios, discographies, and a
show history. The DVD
set also comes with a music-only CD, featuring live performances of
"The Beat Goes On" and "I Got You Babe."
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