1970 (Exact dates unknown; taping began March 31)
|PRODUCED BY||TK Productions|
In 1970, "You Don't Say!" was done. Tom had just arrived on "It's Your Bet," and after nearly a decade and a half of hosting game shows on national television, it seemed like the time was right for Tom to expand his horizons. He had explored acting off and on for a time, and now was the time, Tom decided, to try a new horizon: Daytime talk shows.
Whereas today, the term "daytime talk show" would bring about an entirely different mental image, the daytime talk shows of the 1970s were a more mainstream, crowd-pleasing formula: A well-informed witty host and lively guests who appeared regardless of whether or not they had something to plug, coming together and simply chatting. All that a 1970 daytime talk show asked was that you were interesting enough to carry a conversation with the host for 10 minutes or so. Guests came from every possible realm: show business, sports, politics, current events, and the occasional "just plain folks," often all in a single episode. So it would stand to reason that if you were a broadcaster looking to show off your versatility, this kind of show was exactly what you wanted to do.
It's with tremendous thanks to some special benefactors that Tom Kennedy's World presents this look at the first taped episode of "The Real Tom Kennedy Show."
The show opens with Rowan & Martin turning on the TV getting prepped to watch Tom Kennedy, with Dick Martin offering, "I'm a big fan of hers!" The duo realizes that the TV is on the wrong channel, but rather than change it, they settle for watching the "Lone Ranger" rerun that they've accidentally tuned to.
And with that, the series opens. Tom kicks things off by explaining that the show is about anything fun, but every now and then, they'll throw in some controversy and showcase the world's most renowned performing artists. As Tom deadpans all of this, a "statue" walks off the stage, Lola Falana gyrates through the studio, fighting cowboys brawl their way through a window, and Pat Carroll plays the accordion. Tom also promises something for the kids--a pair of hip youngsters who really know where it's at!--And then he throws it to a Mountie and his best gal singing an old-timey love ballad.
But that's enough kidding around for now. Tom immediately throws it to the Righteous Brothers, who belt out a lively rendition of "Po' Folks."
After that, we take a break. I'm not sure if 1970 is too early to declare anything on US television to be "inspired by Monty Python," but the commercial bumpers on "The Real Tom Kennedy Show" definitely merit at least a comparison. Each segment begins and ends with an animated photo of Tom riding around various cities in the world in strange poses.
When we come back, Tom heads into the audience to have a few words. Tom asks if we have any Hollywood natives in the audience, gets a smattering of applause, and asks if anyone actually living IN Hollywood has any desire to be a movie star. One woman raises her hand and Tom asks her if she's hip to how different movies today are from movies of yesteryear. He asks her if she'd ever consider doing "skin flicks," and she nods shyly and says, "Well...I've got a lot of skin."
Tom's conversation is disrupted by a drunk man, who insists that he has a good reason for being so drunk..."I've been drinking a lot." A page handily escorts the drunk from the studio as Tom bolts back to the stage. Once he's gone, Tom lets the rest of the audience off the hook and reveals that, of course, the drunk man is actor/comedian Foster Brooks.
Tom chats with Pat Carroll, John McCormick, and Kelly Garrett about childhood memories of family vacations and they swap theories on how the sizes of their families affected their upbringings.
Kelly heads over to center stage and sings a tune by Allan Sherman titled "Did I Ever Really Live?" Tom marvels that such touching, serious lyrics could have been written by a comedic genius like Sherman.
Back from commercial, Pat Carroll takes a moment to wish a stagehand a very happy birthday and promises a birthday surprise...Which brings us to Rip Taylor barging on stage and into the audience, throwing confetti, flowers, and paper bags all over the studio.
Rip hangs around for a few more moments, doing rapid-fire puns and prop comedy and, yes, throwing more confetti.
Rowan & Martin are still at their TV. Tom drops in to ask what they think of "The Real Tom Kennedy Show" and Dan Rowan asks, "Who's that?"
Tom talks to Pat Carroll about one of her outside activities, the Goodbye Girls. "It's the opposite of a welcome wagon; we organize activities for people who are leaving the neighborhood and make them feel like they'll be missed." I've never heard of this, but that's a nifty idea.
Tom's next guest is Lola Falana, who sings a tongue-in-cheek rendition of "Hey Big Spender" to a child buying cotton candy from her.
Tom takes a short look at the 1968 cinematic masterpiece Vixen, and discusses the film's $6 million gross (impressive for 1970) and introduces producer Russ Meyer. Tom asks about the outrage expressed toward "skin flicks" and Meyers attributes it to female insecurity. Russ mentions that countless people claim that they've never seen the film, and he's only met one person who has admitted to him that, yes, he watched the movie: Bob Crane.
Tom talks to three members of the studio audience who voice their distaste for Meyers' films. All acknowledge that they haven't actually watched Meyers' films, and Meyers replies that he can't accept judgment from anybody who doesn't actually bother watching his work. A woman complains that the film is corrupting children and Meyers points out that no one under 18 is admitted to the theaters. A man named Chris says he wouldn't want to watch or be in any of Meyers' films, and Tom jumps right on that...
The subject turns to Meyers' next film, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, and Tom introduces one of the stars of the film, Edie Williams. Edie flirts with Tom, who admits to feeling a little insecure at the moment. Edie asks if she'd want to be in a movie with Chris and she eagerly says he's very sexy and she'd love to be in a movie with him. Tom walks the two of them onto the set and pulls out some cue cards so Chris and Edie can shoot a scene together while Chris' wife watches them from the audience.
Tom warns Chris that he's supposed to be angry and intense during this scene, but Edie keeps grabbing his hands and running them across her own body, making him smile and giggle and unable to finish his lines. Tom finally shouts "THE END!" to put Chris out of his misery.
Enough talk-talk, time to make laugh-laugh. We envision what Romeo & Juliet might have been like if they had lived and eventually wed. Juliet (Pat) wants Junior (Tom)to eat up so he can be strong enough to climb a balcony wall, like his daddy did. Junior protests on the grounds that he's afraid of heights. Daddy Romeo arrives home, disappointed in his son when he finds out that Junior horsed around with his friends after school instead of "molesting a native."
Romeo tries to teach his son how to fence, hoping that it might bring Junior out of his shell, but Junior's sword is strangely flaccid. Junior insists that it isn't necessary because he already has a girlfriend. He brings in his best gal, Jennifer, and reveals that he used his dad's lines to win her over. They head off for their date and Romeo & Juliet sit down, exhausted and relieved that they don't have to keep the facade going with the kids out of the house. They slump over, whip out a flask, and call it a night.
Back from the break, John McCormick leads the audience in a sing-along.
We finish out the show with one final musical number. Lola Falana sings a soulful, funky cover of "Let It Be."
The biggest surprise of the show is saved for the credits, where we learn that "The Real Tom Kennedy Show" was produced by Roger Ailes, who went on 26 years later to found Fox News Channel.
"The Real Tom Kennedy Show" quietly disappeared after one season. The likely suspect would be the bloated market for daytime talk shows in 1970. Mike Douglas & Merv Griffin dominated, while Phil Donahue and Dinah Shore both arrived at the same time as Tom's show. With that kind of competition, you had to be prepared to bring out something extraordinary to survive and thrive on a daytime talk show.
My only real knock on the show is that it actually seems TOO fast-paced. There was so much content crammed into a single hour that none of it really got proper consideration. (The Russ Meyer segment with audience members debating him alone could have filled 20 minutes, for example, but here's it's over and done within five.) That may have just been from a strong desire to make the first show a stand-out to grab everyone's attention, but it sort of hurt the show overall.
As an interviewer in this format, though, Tom came across as comfortable, informed, prepared, funny, engaging, and enthusiastic for his new role. It would be a delight to be able to look at the show, see how it evolved, and see who else Tom talked turkey with during the season...but don't hold your breath for that. :-)
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