HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Saturday, May 5, 2018


One might think "Laugh-In" would be starting to run out of steam after three seasons, but as we see in Time-Life's 7-disc DVD collection ROWAN & MARTIN'S LAUGH-IN: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON, the show headed into year four looser, nuttier, and funnier than ever. 

As informal as the structure of the show was previously, here it is practically nonexistent save for a few recognizable remnants such as "The Joke Wall", "The Party" (which is now seen intermittently throughout each episode), "Mod, Mod World", "The Farkle Family", a pared-down version of the "Laugh-In" news, and such special features as the "Fickle Finger of Fate" award for negative achievements and the "Wonderful World of Whoopie" award for positive ones. 

Also still seen are the tiresome song-and-dance numbers that I never liked anyway and can now skip thanks to the wonders of modern technology.  Other than that, however, "Laugh-In" is a breezy breath of fun that skewered dignity and convention when it was new and still comes closer to being America's version of "Monty Python" than even SNL ever was.

Comedy team Dan Rowan and Dick Martin are still on hand, of course, to gently prod things along while letting their own brand of supremely silly stand-up humor keep everything on a sharply satirical level. 

Dan's the straight man, an overaged swinger who's always smoking and looks like he should never be without a whiskey drink in his hand.  Dick's the oversexed, eternally tipsy buffoon who seems delighted to have never outgrown his childhood.

They're supported by one of the best variety-show casts in television history, consistently good despite several personnel changes over the years. "Old-timers" Arte Johnson, Ruth Buzzi, Henry Gibson, and Alan Sues continue to be the foundation for the group, always at the top of their game.

Sorely missed are the outrageous Jo Ann Worley, "Sock It To Me Girl" Judy Carne, and ditzy Goldie Hawn, whose foray into film quickly netted her a Best Actress Oscar. (Her "special guest star" return to the show is an irreverent hoot.)

Filling in the empty spots in the line-up are newcomers Johnny Brown, deadpan Dennis Allen, Ann Elder, and the tapdancing, Spiro Agnew-loving dervish Barbara Sharma.  Season three newcomer Lily Tomlin cements her status as one of the show's true superstars with such characters as Ernestine the telephone operator, precocious little girl Edith Ann, the "Tasteful Lady", and Susie Sorority of the Silent Majority.

"Laugh-In" was always known for its celebrity guests--everyone wanted to be on it--and season four is no exception, boasting such familiar faces as Art Carney, Don Rickles, Tim Conway (who is razzed mercilessly over his many failed TV shows), Truman Capote, Johnny Carson, Wilt Chamberlain, Carol Channing, Bing Crosby, Sammy Davis Jr., Rich Little, Bob Newhart, Vincent Price, Carl Reiner, Debbie Reynolds, Rod Serling, and Orson Welles.

But it's the cast (and their writers) who are the stars of this unbelievably flaky show that values pure kinetic, frenetic silliness over all--a perfect match for my own sense of humor both then and now--and having ROWAN & MARTIN'S LAUGH-IN: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON to watch on DVD today is a real nostalgic pleasure.

Buy it from Time-Life

Format: DVD/7 Discs
Running Time: 1384 minutes
Genre: TV DVD/Comedy
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: Stereo
Captions: English
Extras: In-depth interviews with Lily Tomlin and Arte Johnson


No comments: