From Publishers Weekly
Tom and Dick Smothers had confrontations with CBS censors when they did their satirical television series from 1967 to 1969. To write this authoritative and entertaining examination of a comedic cornerstone, TV critic Bianculli (Teleliteracy
) interviewed scores of producers and performers. He reveals what went on behind the cameras and also probes the generational, artistic, and moral duels being fought in the '60s. He opens with the childhood of the brothers (and sister) when their father became a WWII POW fatality. After high school and college bands, the brothers rode the folk music wave into San Francisco's Purple Onion, switched to comedy at Aspen, and recorded their debut comedy album in 1960, exploding into fame on Jack Paar's Tonight
show. After the failure of their 1965–1966 CBS sitcom, they went full throttle when their variety series, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour
, began taping in 1967, pushing boundaries musically, comically, satirically, politically and courting controversy. They strove for topicality while CBS scrambled to avoid it: For CBS, almost every mention of religion, sex, drugs, politics, and war was anathema. Reviewing each episode, entire sketches and individual gag lines, the book probes internal battles, with Tom Smothers fighting censors, executives, affiliates, and increasingly his own managers and staff members. Documenting each event that led to the show's cancellation, he concludes this entertaining and well-researched bio with the duo's huge influence on today's TV troublemakers and iconoclasts. (Dec. 1)
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"It is hard for many of us to remember--back when there were only a handful of stations on the dial--just how profoundly influential and controversial the Smothers Brothers were. But David Bianculli's brilliant new book has brought it all back to vivid life. ...This is a superb, at times moving, portrait of an entire age -- seen through the dramatic careers of two endlessly interesting entertainers." -- Ken Burns, Filmmaker
"David's book documents a true prime-time crime caper pulled off forty years ago. The perpetrators got away. The Smothers Brothers and the American viewing audience paid the price. As another old saying goes, 'Freedom is a dangerous way of life.' It was ours -- and thanks to David, this is our story."-- Mason Williams, writer for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour