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Smothered - The Censorship Struggles of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour

4.1 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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(Jan 28, 2003)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

An incredible slice of America’s media and pop-culture history, SMOTHERED tells the story of the censorship struggles of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, the Emmy Award winning television program, broadcast on CBS from 1967 until it was prematurely stru

The tribulations of Tommy and Dick Smothers and their popular late-'60s television show are detailed in Maureen Muldaur's interesting 92-minute documentary. Viewing the clips from The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, one might find it hard to imagine that they were considered controversial at the time; indeed, the jabs at censorship, gun ownership, the Vietnam war, and more seem mild by today's raunchy standards. But controversial they were, especially to CBS, who aired (and eventually canceled) the Smothers' show. Turns out that Tommy, the "dumb" one, was in fact a gadfly who turned the program into a cause célèbre somewhat beyond its actual significance; and in the end, as one of the talking heads featured here points out, it was the Smothers' decreasing sense of fun that really doomed it. Both brothers are interviewed, as are writers Rob Reiner and Steve Martin and others. DVD extra features include bios and an excerpt from a book on the subject. --Sam Graham

Special Features

  • Smothers Brothers biography
  • Director biography

Product Details

  • Actors: Joan Baez, Jack Benny, David Bianculli, Allan Blye, George Burns
  • Directors: Maureen Muldaur
  • Writers: Maureen Muldaur
  • Producers: Maureen Muldaur, Charles Derbyshire, Shannon Gee
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: New Video Group
  • DVD Release Date: January 28, 2003
  • Run Time: 93 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00007CVSP
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #88,339 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Smothered - The Censorship Struggles of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lawrance Bernabo HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on July 12, 2003
Format: VHS Tape
The 2002 documentary "The Great Smothers Brothers Censorship Wars" tells the story of how one of the most popular comedy variety shows on television in the Sixties went to far and was axed by the network. Tom and Dick Smothers were a popular comedy and folk singing team: Tommy played both the guitar and the role of dullard while Dick played bass, sang the tenor parts in the arrangement, and tried unsuccessfully to keep his brother in line. "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" first aired on February 5, 1967 going up against the #1 show on television, "Bonanza." The show finished 16th in the Nielsens and helped knock the Cartwrights out of the top spot the following season. The show was a hit with younger viewers, who liked the irreverence of the show, which poked fun at every sacred cow they could find, aided and abetted by Pat Paulsen's "editorials."
As this documentary shows, the Smothers Brothers were having trouble getting things past the CBS censors almost from the start. When Paulsen ran a joke campaign for the presidency, CBS kept him off the air fearing the real candidates would demand equal time, but the two key blows were an appearance by folk singing legend Pete Seger, who sang the Vietnam protest song "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" and a pair of comedy "sermons" by comedian David Bernstein. The technical reason for canceling the show was the failure to provide a tape on time to be cleared by the censors, but the motivation was clearly the anti-war, left-wing, and outspoken guest stars.
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Format: DVD
After watching this engaging documentary, I'm left seeing both sides--it had to be a terrible headache for CBS (which was trying to please everyone and make profits) to constantly deal with Tom Smothers' cast of writers who were weekly trying to push the envelope. It was also necessary for Tom Smothers as an artist to pursue his personal (and his writers') vision. For that reason alone, this is a fascinating study of the times as well as personalities. Perhaps Dick Smothers said it correctly in a short scene (near the beginning) that if they had tried to say less in an episode they would've stayed on longer and been able to say just as much.

My only wish is that there would've been more actual skits and songs from the show. Perhaps someone with a little bit of intelligence will realize that they could make a lot of money by releasing the seasons on DVD. If we have seasons of Gilligan's Island and the original Battlestar Gallatica, we should certainly have seasons of quality television such as the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Wow! I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised at how wonderful this DVD was! I wasn't sure what to expect based on the mixed reviews here on Amazon. I loved it!

But, I must ask, where are the original shows? This DVD has enough clips (some never broadcast) that it would seem that the original series (which, oh by the way, was filmed using video rather than film cameras so the transition to digital should be SO easy!) is out there just waiting for some smart (hint, hint, hint) soul to package up, sit back and watch the dollars come flowing in!

Why isn't this happening? (I ask rhetorically but hoping for an answer somehow!)

I encourage you to buy this video BUT, if given a choice, I would buy the originals shows first! Of course since the original shows AREN'T available . . .
2 Comments 39 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: DVD
I am among those who remember the Smother Brothers Comedy Hour. And I remember one of the things that a commentator said during this show, that they had some out-of-the-ordinary guests, "Not just Steve Lawrence and Edie Gormet, or Wayne Newton," as the guy said. The Who. Arlo Guthrie. Pete Seeger. These were guests they had.
But, as Rob Reiner, one of the writers, and others commented, they were so...ordinary! The blazers, the short hair (earlier, anyway). They were so American that people couldn't resist. It was also "wholesome" humor, not, say, George Carlin, or Lenny Bruce. That's how they got on, to compete with the select hour which "Bonanza" had dominated for years.
Then they did a bit--Tommy and Elaine Maye did--spoofing censors. That's where the censorship began. The whole bit was removed from the show!
In fact, the documentary shows that they were politicized by the censorship. The more they tried to say, the more they were challenged by CBS.
For what it's worth, I think their comedy hour was the last variety show I could even stomach. Most weren't very good anyway. They either weren't funny or were pathetically predictable. This opened new doors. In fact, contemporary critics said if it weren't for the Smother Bros.' show, Saturday Night Live would probably have never been on the air.
The timing of the show is just about right. Any shorter and I might have felt short changed. Too long and it may have gotten a little dry. The people the producers talked to included the Brothers themselves, the writers, including head writer Mason Williams, famous for his single, "Classical Gas," and guests including Joan Baez and Pete Seeger (who was responsible for letters CBS received reminscient of the McCarthy witch hunt!)
If you want to remember an era when television even had some potential, or even just remember a great comedy duo, this is a DVD I recommend.
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