When these shows first aired, I thought they were God's gift to television. When I re-watched them years later on TV Land, I thought they were pretty bad. Then I started watching them all again in my 40s looking for aspects of culture relevance and forward thinking. I found a lot:
The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour
Producers: Chris Bearde & Allan Blye
Director: Art Fisher (married at the time to Sally Struthers from All in the Family)
Filmed at CBS, Television City
- Peter Cullen (1971-1974) - M.C.
- Freeman King (1971-1974)
- Murray Langston (1971-1974) - went on to become the Unknown Comic on The Gong Show
- Clark Carr (1971-1972)
- Tom Solari (1971-1972)
- Ted Zeigler (1971-1972)
- Steve Martin (1972-1975) - big comedy club and movie career after this
- Billy Van (1973-1976)
- Bob Einstein (1973-1974)
- Teri Garr (1973-1974) - big movie career after this
- Jack Hanrahan (1971)
- Bob Arnott (1971-1974)
- George Burditt (1971-1974)
- Phil Hahn (1971-1974)
- Coslough Johnson (1971-1974) - brother of Arte Johnson from Laugh In
- Paul Wayne (1971-1974)
- Bob Einstein (1971-1974) - went on to become Super Dave Osbourne and appear on Curb Your Enthusiasm
- Steve Martin (1971-1973) - see above
- Jim Mulligan (1971-1974)
- Earl Brwn (1971-1972)
- Allan Blye (1971-1974)
- Chris Bearde (1971-1974)
Wikipedia production notes: “The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour taped its opening and closing segments in front of a live studio audience. The Sonny & Cher "concert" segment was also taped in front of the same audience, as were some of the segments featuring musical guest stars—as these typically were taped after the closing segment was completed. Due to blocking, costuming, and other staging and production requirements, most of the comedy segments were taped without an audience, with a laugh track added later.”
Art Fisher was the first television director to use chroma key (a.k.a. green screen) technology according to IMDB.
Shows were cut and rearranged on re-airing and so these listings are not the original or in a definitive order.
Season 1 (6 episodes)
Writers: Bob Arnott, George Burdett, Paul Wayne, Chris Bearde, Allan Blye
Associate Producer: Joe DeCarlo (Sonny & Cher's manager)
Musical Director: Jimmy Dale
Choreographer: Tony Mordente
Animation: John Wilson
Makeup: Louis Phillippi
Cher's Hair: Garry Chowen
Cher's Gowns: Bob Mackie
Costumes: Ret Turner
Sesion 1 Cast: Ted Ziegler, Peter Cullen, Freeman King, Murray Langston
Date Range: August 7, 1971 - September 5, 1971
Highlights: A lot of the first season’s banter is meta-performance on how bad Sonny is at performing, missing cues or how they’re not doing the act right, how they’re not on the same page. Some of the best musical performances are in this season. It's also a look at the humble beginnings of the Fortune Teller, Sadie Thompson, Cher singing VAMP, and Cliff House. The show is also tackling racial issues with Freeman King and showcasing Cher in a few ethnic looks, which at that time in television history seemed more inclusive than appropriating. This is a small summer replacement season and the budget is low for sets and costumes. It's like a mini-me version of the show.
Season 2 (13 episodes)
Writers: Bob Arnott, George Burdett, Paul Wayne, Coslough Johnson, Phil Hahn, Steve Martin, Bob Einsten, Chris Bearde, Allan Blye
Jimmy Dale Orchestra
Bob Mackie (Cher’s Gowns)
Ret Turner (Costumes)
Tony Mordente (Choreography)
Louis Phillippi (Makeup)
Jim Oertel (Hair & Wigs) - He's NEW!
Season 2 Cast: Ted Zeigler, Tom Solari, Murry Langston, Peter Cullen (announcer), Freeman King, Steve Martin, Teri Garr, Clark Carr
Date Range: December 27, 1971 - March 20, 1972
Highlights: The show is getting slicker. Many fewer empty stage sketches this season. Cher's look is getting more glamorous although the dresses are still thrifty. The monologues have a different setup: Sonny brags, Cher undercuts. There are more Indian and nose jokes, less bad-singing jokes, but those are still there. Cher’s hair is much better, especially when worn straight and long. The show’s lighting is better. But you can see (and Cher has reported) that the makeup is taking its toll on her skin. The budget still isn’t allowing Cher to become a glamazon but she’s still looking groovy here. The last episode with meta The Sonny & Cher stomp (they’re not even a year into it) hints at the phenom they were becoming and they give a self-knowing wink at that. But the show has the formula down and is starting to explore special effects like double exposures.
There were not as many Vamp segments as I assumed there were. Not every episode has one. Of 13 episodes, there was only 1 poem (awww), 3 Headlines in the Papers, 3 S&C creation myths or reality videos, 3 John Wilson cartoons, 5 fortune tellers, 8 Vamps, and 9 operas.