If American television watchers craved intellectual stimulation, then Nova
would top the Nielsen ratings and C-SPAN2 would enjoy boffo viewership. Since that's obviously not the case, what we end up with is decidedly middlebrow fare like Tony Orlando & Dawn
. This mid-'70s variety show is neither very bad nor especially good; instead, these three discs (a total of eleven shows) are a thoroughly undemanding way to kill a few hours (nine, to be exact, including extras).
When the CBS network scheduled their show as a mid-summer replacement in 1974, Orlando and Dawn (Joyce Vincent and Telma Hopkins) were enjoying a string of kitschy but catchy hits like "Knock Three Times," "Candida," and, of course, "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree." Like those songs, the TV show offers light, often corny entertainment with nary an edge to be found. The format is similar to that of The Sonny & Cher Show, which preceded it by a few years (and which was released in a three-DVD set by the same studio, R2 Entertainment, in 2004), combining comedy sketches, appearances by a variety of guest stars, and plenty of music, including the trio's own material and various popular songs of the day. Orlando plays the Sonny role to the hilt, wearing a succession of ridiculous outfits (cowboy, kung fu fighter, vaudeville entertainer, etc.) and standing by good-naturedly as the girls take caustic potshots at him. An average vocalist at best, he readily hands over the spotlight to Vincent and Hopkins, superior singers who perform both solo and together and whose weekly appearances as soul sisters Moreen and Lou Effy are among the better comedy bits. Indeed, Orlando's easy charm and lack of pretense (not to mention his big hair) are probably the show's strongest suits; here's a guy who was on a roll, happy just to be there and loving every minute of it. So what if their versions of Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff" and Isaac Hayes' "Theme from 'Shaft'," to name just two, are cringe-inducing? The latter, at least, is played for laughs, and the studio audience (consisting largely of the kind of folks who clap on the one-beat), especially the older ladies, can't get enough of this stuff.
The guests are fairly predictable, ranging from old pros (an ebullient Jackie Gleason, a sentimental Danny Thomas, a zany Phyllis Diller) to stars of then-current TV shows (Freddie Prinze, Ted Knight, Loretta Swit), with a few oddball choices (Alice Cooper, George Carlin, homerun king Hank Aaron--who sings!) as well. Among the bonus features are Orlando's appearance on "The Tonight Show" (with Prinze subbing for Johnny Carson), a mildly amusing bit with Dawn and Don "Father Guido Sarducci" Novello on "Fridays," and Carol Burnett's take-off on Orlando's TV show. --Sam Graham
The 3-disc package from the group that sold over 70 million records between 1970 - 1977. Tony Orlando & Dawn's already huge recording career morphed into a hit weekly CBS-TV variety show. Never before available on any home video format, this is the first and only Tony Orlando & Dawn video collection of any kind - in living, digitally remastered color! DVD extras include Tony Orlando on The Tonight Show with guest host Freddie Prinze, Telma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent (Dawn) in a segment from the show Fridays with Don Novello as Father Guido Sarducci, a clip from The Carol Burnett Show: a parody with Harvey Korman as Tony and Carol Burnett & Vicki Lawrence as Dawn and more. These highlights from the 1974-1977 CBS variety show are a virtual who's-who of Hollywood legends, including Jackie Gleason, Danny Thomas, Jerry Lewis, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Phyllis Diller, Joey Bishop, Anne Meara, Dom Deluise and more. Also included are 70s favorites Freddie Prinze, George Carlin, Ted Knight, Georgia Engel, Loretta Swit, Ruth Buzzi and Adrienne Barbeau. Also featured are musical guests Alice Cooper and Neil Sedaka, plus baseball great Hank Aaron and one entire show with the gang from Hee Haw!