Series: The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour

The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was a landmark comic Variety Show, hosted by folk-music duo The Smothers Brothers (Tom and Dick), which ran on CBS from 1967 to 1969.

Originally produced as a sacrificial lamb of a production against the NBC powerhouse series, Bonanza, on Sunday nights, the series soon became an outstanding hit that appealed increasingly across the demographics, but especially youth audiences who found it appealed especially to them.

Part of that appeal was a wry sense of humor that not only played on the Brothers' usual playful Sibling Rivalry musical shtick, but also to its increasingly fearless political satirical humor along with as much ribald humor as they could get away with with great writers like Steve Martin. The former was especially apparent in Pat Paulsen's editorials that eventually led to a mock presidential election bid in 1968.

The show also noted for its musical guests, which included not only Hollywood stalwarts like Jimmy Durante, but wild rock acts like The Who and The Doors. As such, the show gained such clout that it was able to make move like breaking the blacklist on the noted folk singer Pete Seeger, getting the first American screening of The Beatles' Music Video of their all time biggest hit single, "Hey Jude," and even staff writer Mason Williams got a moment to shine debuting the hit guitar instrumental, "Classical Gas."

Unfortunately, this innovative and contemporary comedy and music all too often had to be hard won against Network Executive Meddling over the show's content. For instance, while the execs were okay with Seeger being on TV, his new Protest Song "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy," was not and the brothers had to fight to eventually get it on air in a later broadcast. Eventually, the show and the network were butting heads continually, with Tom Smothers being more brazen and stubborn and the network execs receiving complaints both from the President of the United States himself and rural oriented affiliates. Furthermore, the show's good ratings had less sway with CBS than they would have had with a lower-rated network (and those ratings were beginning to fall anyway, due to the controversy and in competition with Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In on NBC). The execs eventually lost all patience and abruptly pulled the show in 1969. The Brothers successfully sued the network for Breach of Contract, but their peak time of cultural influence was over.

Still, the Brothers had set a precedent for political satire daring humor that later shows like Saturday Night Live would take much further.

Don't confuse this with The Smothers Brothers Show, a Fantastic Comedy that aired in 1965-66 with Tom playing his brother's guardian angel.

The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour provides examples of:

  • Draft Dodging: One of the Brothers' more notorious musical numbers was a great cover of "The Draft Doger Rag" with George Segal with glorious three part harmony.
  • Rockers Smash Guitars: The Who did plenty of that on their appearance, including smashing a prop guitar from Tom and Tom jokingly asking Dick if the band have his double bass for a minute.
  • Take That: The Brothers' on air jabs against network censorship were notorious.
  • Uncancelled: The Brothers were revived for a number of NBC specials in the 80s and a short lived CBS series run. The pilot of the CBS 90s run featured the brothers in a helicopter on their way to do their first show. Dick is worried that CBS holds a grudge against them, when Tommy reassures him that everything has been forgiven between them and the network. Then sharpshooters on the roof of CBS Television City start trying to take the copter down....
  • Variety Show