Ah, the Variety Show
. A quirky mish-mash of musical acts and comedy sketches. Definitely the highlight of television entertainment in The Seventies
Then came Pink Lady And Jeff
As the story goes, in 1980, NBC
head Fred Silverman saw a Walter Cronkite report on a popular Japanese pop
duo called Pink Lady. Echoing a similar situation with Ed Sullivan and The Beatles
in 1964 (Sullivan saw the Beatles in a Cronkite report and immediately booked them), Silverman thought that Pink Lady would be a HUGE success in the United States.
So he gave the two members of Pink Lady, Mitsuyo "Mie" Nemoto and Keiko "Kei" Masuda, a variety show (also called Pink Lady
), to be helmed by Sid and Marty Krofft
, featuring Mark Evanier
as head writer and seasoned variety show director Art Fisher as director.What could go wrong?
Well, right from the beginning, the show was destined for failure. Mie and Kei didn't know a word of English, so the producers brought in comedian Jeff Altman (who was under contract to NBC) as a co-host. Mie and Kei learned their few English lines phonetically.
Plus, the girls weren't allowed to sing the songs that made them popular in Japan, and were only allowed to sing covers of American disco hits. Which, if you recall your music history, wasn't a good thing in 1980.
And wouldn't you know it, the show died after five episodes, taking the already-dying variety show genre with it.
It gained a reputation as one of the worst TV shows ever.The Agony Booth
eventually recapped all five episodes (plus a Missing Episode
) in 2010. You can read their reviews here.
Pink Lady And Jeff contains examples of:
- Drop-In Character: Since the show was already suffering in the beginning, NBC decided to bring in an ensemble cast of comedy players to try and help boost the slumping ratings, including a then-unknown Jim Varney.
- Executive Meddling: Big time. Basically, NBC just up and had Sid & Marty Krofft make this show for them (and lied to them in the process when Marty asked if the girls knew how to speak English). Secondly, Sid outlined the entire show, coming up with the idea that the entire show would play out of a Japanese music box... which NBC shot down in favor of a Donny And Marie clone (seriously, Marty Krofft actually said in an interview that NBC refused Sid's proposal/pitch, and told them, point-blank, "No, let's just do ''Donny and Marie''). Lastly, see Drop-In Character above. This eventually lead to its premature, yet well-timed cancelation.
- Fanservice: Each show ended with Mie and Kei luring a tuxedoed Jeff into a hot tub. Jeff tried to convince the writers to do away with the segment, but he was shot down in favor of what was basically an excuse to see two attractive Japanese women in bikinis.
- Faux Fluency: Part of the reason why the skits featured in each episode were so unfunny are because Mie and Kei could not speak a word of English. All their lines were learned phonetically, making improvisation impossible. Also, they were unintelligible half of the time anyway...
- Follow the Leader: Silverman ordered PL&J to follow in the footsteps of Donny And Marie. This led to what The Other Wiki calls "...the strangest knockoff of ''Donny And Marie'' ever broadcast." See Executive Meddling above.
- Old Shame: Even Marty Krofft is aware (and pretty much agrees) that this was one of the worst shows ever made in the history of television, and has acknowledged that Saturday Night Live has even done a spoof of it once.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: The show was actually called Pink Lady, since the girls' manager demanded that the show be Pink Lady's and Pink Lady's ONLY. Except you wouldn't know it from the adverts at the time, which billed it as Pink Lady And Jeff, and which pissed off the band's manager to the point where he threatened to sue (which was a moot point anyway). In the public consciousness, the show is still referred to by the latter name, and was even listed as Pink Lady And Jeff on the DVD release.
- At the same time, Jeff Altman's manager demanded the show be named Pink Lady And Jeff, since he was, for all intents and purposes, the anchor of the show.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: A running gag was about how little the girls knew or understood about American culture. Which made sense, considering they didn't even fluently speak the language of the country their show aired in.
- Sex Sells: Pretty much the reason the Running Gag with Pink Lady stripping down to bikinis for, "Hot Tub Time," at the end of every episode.
- Not only that, but one episode's guest stars were Hugh Hefner and some of the then-current Playmates.
- Short Runner: Six episodes, of which only five made it to air before cancellation.