Season: 4 (The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour)
Guest(s): Ken Berry, George Foreman, Miss Teenage America
CBS air date: Date: December 12, 1973
Also aired: TV1
Strangely this episode is missing in most online show guides. But the date of its airing lines it up as episode #56, not to be confused with the similar cast of the Danny Thomas, Ken Berry and George Foreman episode which is #60 and aired on January 16, 1974, an episode with different songs and skits which has only been re-released on the Sonny & Cher DVD Collection.
To further complicate matters, this opening song is an almost repeat of the one in episode #62 which aired on January 30, 1974 with guests The Jackson 5 , Sally Struthers and Tennessee Ernie Ford. Sonny & Cher wear the same lime green outfits in both versions but the banter is different, as are the breakout skits.
But I think this is one of the better episodes, all things considered. Although I may be saying that after a year-long hiatus of episode reporting.
Subway Intro: A drunk Ted Zeigler interacts with Teri Garr (dressed to look pregnant), Ken Berry and George Foreman. There’s a police joke and George Foreman makes a President Nixon joke that can be read either as Nixon is invincible or very secretive (“most of my moves are outa sight”).
Opening Song: “Take Life a Little Easier” (Video)
Cover of Rodney Allen Rippy (1973)
Cher’s in wearing a lime green dress and Sonny is in a matching green plaid suit. She wears big white earrings.
Sonny is still grooming Cher.
Breakout 1: Sonny and Ken Berry are complaining that the secretary is having too much fun on her coffee break. The camera pulls forward to show Cher with Hawaiian hair and dress in the center of a interested of men. Double entendres ensue.
Breakout 2: Sonny is interviewing George Foreman at Lavitch’s Gym (very specifically named). Foreman says one of his pastimes involves the violin. Foreman then shows Sonny by replacing the punching bag with a violin and obliterating it.
Banter: Sonny says he’s looking forward to retiring, saying he won’t always be a superstar (which is eerily prescient). Cher agrees and says his three-and-a-half minutes are almost up, which is eerily prescient too, especially in contrast to what Sonny was allegedly telling Cher behind closed doors, that she wasn’t pretty enough or popular enough to survive without him. And she was worried about that so…yeah. There's that going on.
Anyway, Sonny says he wants something to fall back on. Cher says she plans to fall back on Paul Newman (and his “baby blues”). Sonny says he's been told by his financial advisers (here Cher jokes that they are Italian mafia) to invest in a small Sicilian airline. Cher makes a joke about the acronym SST: Spumoni, Spaghetti and Tums.
Sonny says he plans to call it Trans Bono Airlines (and here we need to recall that trans was not a mainstream word yet for trans gendering…but still this is more hindsight foretelling). Cher actually uses the word greasy here referring to something Italian. Err.
At the end they introduce the 1974 Miss Teenage America (not to be confused with the later Miss Teen USA), an adorable girl from Hawaii named Lori Matsukawa (hence the breakout skit). Miss Teenage America says that by winning she gets to stand on-stage once with Sonny Bono. The runner up has to do it twice, and the third-place winner has to do it three times. Cher says she didn’t even make the finals and so she has to do it every week. Miss Teenage America looks at Cher a lot during the conversation and Cher and Miss Teenage America walk off stage together leaving Sonny alone and earning us the first Sonny-stare of the episode. The women walking offstage together is a very powerful image as they eschew competition between themselves and embrace a common liberated solidarity.
- Sonny is trying to place a bet at the horse-racing counter but he has no money. He gives Ken Berry his kid Chastity as collateral. Sonny wins but all Berry returns is two Chastitys with a clever little green screen special effect. This causes Sonny stare #2.
- Ken Berry and George Foreman sit on a bench in a park where Berry proclaims he’s been very unlucky lately due to losing all his money gambling and he lists out all his misfortunes that have resulted. One by one women walk by and hand their babies over to George Forman and proceed to slap, punch and knock Berry over the bench with increasing amounts of violence. Teri Garr and Cher both take their turns. Berry ends the skit saying, “At least I’m lucky in love.”
George doesn’t laugh at this joke. Good for him.
The color theme of this episode is lime green.
- Cher is dressed in overalls and is using flares to direct airplanes in for landing. There is a lot of exhaust blowing on her. Ken Berry compliments her skill, saying “it usually takes a man to park one of these 747s….into a steam bath." Three men, including Sonny (Sonny shirtless alert) walk by wrapped in towels and looking confused.
Skit: Ken Berry sings “Who Could Ask For Anything More” dancing around a nursery filled with plants. Sonny comes in needing help keeping his plants alive. Berry suggests Sonny sing to them and demonstrates how plants thrive when he sings to them. All the fake plants grow taller. Sonny thanks him and leaves. Ken Berry turns on the TV in the nursery (?) and Sonny can be seen on his variety show (very meta) thanking Ken Berry for the plant advice and then Sonny starts to sing “plants are really beautiful” and all the plants in Ken Berry’s nursery start to wilt and die while Berry runs around trying to save them, some poor plants even throwing themselves off their shelves.
Solo: “I Am I Said”
Cover of Neil Diamond (1971)
It’s a shame this little number isn’t available online. There is a face she makes when singing this song where I thought this Cher is still here. That's a face she still makes. Cher is dressed like Hollywood’s idea of a New York street kid complete with vest and cap albeit with Cher-like with feathers and sparkly jeans. In parts of the song she does a sultry growl decades before Britney Spears.
Sonny’s Pizza: Cher is making pizza with the guys. She ducks as they pitch dough into the oven. The final time they miss. Sonny has a toothache and Billy Van (Luigi) accidentally knocks out the tooth with a cutting board. Ken and Berry come jogging in, Ken saying the restaurant smells like a gym. Ken is The White Tornado and George Foreman is his trainer, which nobody in the pizza place believes. So George Foreman demonstrates how ferocious Berry is by punching a hole in the wall, breaking chairs and tables and ripping up the set.
We get both a Cher stare and Sonny stare at the end.
At the Launderette: Olivia and Laverne talk about Laverne and Harry’s sixth wedding anniversary which Laverne jokes is rubber so Harry gave her a bounced check. There’s a joke about Chinese food giving Harry gas. On their anniversary Harry and Laverne went to see Sonny & Cher live (very meta), “remember them?” like they’re a has-been show, "those crazy kids." Olivia asks about the fur vests but Laverne says “they’ve changed…he got his nose fixed and she didn’t" (yet)…."when they shortened his nose, they found a mustache underneath.”
Laverne describes Cher as a “jewel in the tiara of life, a goddess….she’s got IT.” But then Olivia comments that Cher is not really “built” and Laverne concurs that Cher is a “hope chest…sunken treasure all the way…if only that girl had a body like mine…” Laverne passes on a tabloid rumor from Screen Gems magazine that Cher tried to silicon shots but they couldn’t find a place to put the needle!” It’s interesting that Cher had not yet been accused of plastic surgery but speculation had started already, even in this fictitious context).
Laverne also claims Cher can’t sing, that Sonny is a ventriloquist and if they could only find someone to sing for him. Lavern says she’ll never forgive Sonny & Cher as she married Harry after first hearing “I Got You Babe.”
Concert: “The Beat Goes On”
Cover of Sonny & Cher (1967)
Cher is wearing the purple and pink cut out promo dress with big earrings. There’s no band and the stage is very different with gold and diagonal light banks. Sonny wears a pink suit. He whispers through part of the song and Cher seems very chipper. Here are good examples of Cher’s hanging hand, Cher rolling her mike around with her wrist and throwing the mike out and catching it.
Mr. and Ms.: This is a very interesting Mr. and Ms., an example of how men and women were struggling with the changing times and roles for women, right from the skit’s tagline: “the liberated woman and the sniveling coward who liberated her.” Oy, this skit might be the death of me today. The premise of this skit is both offensive and yet funny too, in context with its time.
It’s after breakfast and Sonny is clearing the table. He bends over a chair and Cher checks out his ass, grabs him and pulls him onto her lap. He’s outraged and exclaims, “is that all you ever think of!?” Sonny’s brother is visiting (Ken Berry) and Sonny is worried that Cher’s friend, Teri Garr, has taken advantage of his innocence overnight, that she enticed him to her apartment and “got him bombed.” Cher wants to know “why you men think every woman is on the make. Does it occur to you that some woman might like a man for his mind?” (Dear lord, give me strength).
Ken Berry comes out complaining of a hangover. Sonny's anxiety ramps up, “that woman is an animal!” he screeches. Ken can’t remember what happened the night before and worries that it’s “so easy to get a bad reputation in this town.” He imagines Teri Garr over “at the pool hall telling all the girls what a pushover I am.”
Then Garr arrives in full swagger and cockiness (performed perfectly by Garr) and says to Berry “Hey, wildcat.” Cher insists there’s nothing to worry about. Sonny looks at Berry and says, “Is there?” This gets a big laugh. Sonny really does a good job in these skits. But mostly because he probably considers the premise ridiculous.
Cher looks consistently tiny in suits but kind of owns a version of stereotypical jerkiness. Turns out nothing happened between Garr and Berry…but only because Berry was too drunk for Garr to extract from a chandelier. The skit ends with a Cher stare.
I find it interesting that the set for this skit was designed entirely in black and white, as if to suggest the skits own premise (or humor) is too black and white, as well as being a throw-back to 1970s interior design.
Skit: Sonny is at a piano singing “A Song for You” and he says he’s not really alone with us (he’s also not really playing the piano). He introduces his own piano among the likes of other famous pianos, a veritable museum of pianos the show has assembled: George Gershwin’s, Burt Bacharach’s, George M. Cohen’s and a Japanese piano “that gets 40 miles per gallon.” (you could get away with that joke back in 1973), and a French piano from 1917 that had lived through World War I. Good example of Sonny's hand on hip gesure.
Sonny talks about the piano’s role in wartime while ghostly characters assemble around him from World War I. They gather to sing a humorous World War I song. Another set of singers comes on stage for another humorous song from World War II. The two soldiers representing the Korean War and Vietnam admit there are no funny songs for those wars. Sonny then sings Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” and the cast joins.
IGUB: Chastity and Cher are wearing matching outfits with the initials CB. Cher points out to Chastity that they have the same initials. Cher has said it was Ret Turner who would design the little versions of the Bob Mackie dresses Cher wore.
Chastity tells Cher this joke: What does the baby porcupine say to the cactus? Are you my mommy?
Chastity kisses Cher but is dismayed by the lipstick that comes with the kiss. Chastity keeps trying to wipe it off. Sonny quips, “I do that too.” Sonny tells Chastity Cher uses bacon fat and so we see for a moment how the glamourous cheese is made.
Highlights: The nursery skit about Sonny’s bad singing, Cher’s solo for “I Am I Said,” the concert segment for “The Beat Goes On,” the fame and plastic surgery meta-content at the Launderette and the uncomfortable social changes occuring in Mr. and Ms., and the touching war song segment…overall a great semi-lost episode (unless you’re Australian).