Season: 1 (The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour)
Guest: The Grass Roots
CBS air date: September 5, 1971
Also aired: TV1
Full Episode Index
Opening Song: “Gotta Get You Into My Life”
Cover of the Beatles, 1966
Sonny is in pink. Cher is in an orange summer pantsuit with white stars down the leg. Love it. But I can’t find online video of this entire episode. Boo. Sonny & Cher will open with this song two more times in their first series and Cher will open with it once on her solo show. The performance includes loud clapping, some tapping (my notes say), and Cher riffing. The stage looks small all the way through this first run.
Banter: Cher calls the song to a stop, telling Sonny he was supposed to come in and missed his cue. Sonny says he’s stubborn. Cher claims he’s really wishy washy. This turns into very interesting conversation about the women’s liberation movement. They talk about male chauvinistic pigs and check in to see if Cher feels inferior, miserable or downtrodden. Sonny comes across now as being condescending about these issues but says he will stop treating Cher like a “sexual plaything.” There’s unintended irony here if consider Sonny’s TMI commentary about their sex life in his autobiography. Not cool, Sonny! But anyway, back in 1971 Sonny claims he’s been doing some housecleaning and there’s a suggestion to change the name of the show to The Cher Show. Wait for it!
Cher does a massive hair flip in this segment. And that's pretty empowering on some level.
Skit: Sonny sings the song “Sunny” while all the male cast comes onstage dressed as Sonny, with his hair and mustache. They mimic his hand gestures, his explanations of “whoa” and his dancing. There are 9 Sonny’s total. Cher comes out as the final Sonny with a prosthetic big nose. Sonny ends the sketch by saying, “that’s not funny.” It’s another meta moment where the show is already chiding itself.
Cher Solo: “More Than You Know”
From the 1929 musical Great Day
This is one of my favorite love songs by Cher, as heard a bit more uptempo on her Bitterseweet White Light album of 1973. Cher must have liked this song too because she covered it often on TV shows and specials all the way into the 1980s. Here, Cher wears a white head wrap and a fur over a white dress with butterflies down the front. She’s wearing a big ring, is very tan and sings with her hand on her hip.
Skit: Sonny wakes up in a good mood but does something to “fool mother nature” played by Cher. This is a spoof of the commercial popular at the time. Sonny ends the skit saying again, “That’s not funny.”
Guest Spot: Cher introduces The Grass Roots singing their hit, “Love is Gonna Get You.”
Skit: Crazy skit with Cher making a recipe for kumquat cookies and Sonny coming in as a French cat burglar. Cher wears an afro and wears a purple outfit. There’s a conflict between Cher’s use of “si” and Sonny’s use of “oui.” Cher breaks his ladder at the end.
Cultural spot: Freeman King is in a leather chair for the first time, instead of sitting on the balcony, introducing another Cliff House segment, but portrayed here as a Gothic Soap Opera with organ music and thunder claps at jokes. I wonder if this was the first Cliff House installment and became switched with the last show's version. There's the same bad lighting but the set seems more sparse than other Cliff House segments. Cher is in a white southern dress. This episode is about Sonny cheating on his wife. I start to wonder in this episode if the writers aren’t trying to tell Cher something about her relationship with Sonny. We had the women’s lib opening, Sonny cheating here and in the next segment we have yet another message. People keep coming into Cliff House like a Marx Brother’s scene. Cher leaves with Freeman King, saying “Feets don’t fail me now.”
Skit: Cher is in an Asian flowing dress. The cast acts as puppets and it’s all about self-agency and not acting like a puppet. See what I mean?? It’s like, “Dear Cher, the writers are calling.”
Concert: “Something” / “Baby I’m Amazed”
Cover of the Beatles, 1969, and Paul McCartney, 1970
This is obviously a Beatles episode. Sonny, and maybe Cher too, were big Beatles fans. Sonny is in black and Cher is in green, sporting big hoop earrings. She’s wearing lots of rouge and her hair is in another variation of the tube ponytail. We get the same hanging-bulb background.
VAMP: This is only the second VAMP since the opening show, which for some reason surprises me. Cher is in a red slip, with a black, jeweled head wrap.
- Helen of Troy: Cher wears breast plates sings, “That’s the last time I’ll see Paris.”
- Catherine the Great: Cher sports a big red headdress and encounters Sonny the Bono. Sonny jokes with Freeman King about Black Russians. At the end, when Sonny is the butt of the final joke, he says, “that’s not funny.” Soon, this comment will be replaced by a look of total disgust Sonny gives to the camera.
- Sadie Thompson - This is the first installment of Sadie, which will become the #3 segment of every VAMP segment, but there’s no set yet. Sonny plays the Preacher of this tropical island and Polynesian girls are tempting him. Cher does a good Mae West impersonation for these segments. Sadie has red hair initially (later she will always be blonde) and she always gives Sonny a big initial hip-bumps knocking him down. She introduces herself to him as “the tramp in the woods.” They are already setting up Cher to be a sexually empowered, femme fetal but almost entirely unvanquished. Sonny talks about the good book. They mention the latest hit novel, Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint (1969) for some reason I can't remember, but how literate. The green screen is off in the finale scene and the characters look too big and too close to the piano.
I Got You Babe: Sonny talks about how they are a lucky couple with their baby. They thank their audience: “We got you, babe, too.” Cher is wearing a big sapphire ring. At the end, when Sonny says goodnight, he waves his hand right in front of Cher’s face. Boo, Sonny. Boo.
Highlights: The sexism conversation is a real timestamp of where we were back in 1971. The Sonny impersonations are funny; already the show has developed tics and is making fun of itself. This is the first episode of Cher playing Sadie Thompson and singing “More Than You Know.” The show ends Season 1 with some unintentionally irony and telling messages about being a puppet, cheating on spouse and women’s liberation.