Time Life once again awesomely socks it to us with the March 20, 2018 DVD release of the 1969-70 S3 of the unique "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In." The S2 review provides a good introduction to this phenom of a Swinging '60s borderline burlesque sketch-comedy show that features both Hollywood royalty and young lions.
One surprise is that second-season newcomer Dave "Reuben Kincaid" Madden does not return for the third season despite "The Partridge Family" not premiering until 1970. High-profile new kids on the block for S3 include '60s sex kitten Pamela Rogers and Britcom star Jeremy Lloyd of "'Allo 'Allo" and "Are You Being Served." Having fellow Brits Peter Sellers and Michael Caine as guests early in S3 further demonstrates that legendary producer/creator George Schlatter recognizes the incredible comedic talent of our former oppressors.
Further, the Ready for Primetime Players that also include Ruth Buzzi, Goldie Hawn, Lily Tomlin, and Henry Gibson demonstrate that talented "kids" offering hip and subversive comedy goes back before the mid '70s.
The mod lightning-paced format intersperses song-and-dance numbers with one-liners by the cast, the special guest-stars, and the Burbank and Hollywood royalty who stop by to deliver either one line or to make a similar very brief appearance. An example of the later is Bob Hope literally popping as a brother-in-arms of the "very inteeeresting" German soldier character of Arte Johnson.
A perfect instance of all the above is Sellers appearing as the twin of Johnson's dirty old man Tyronne F. Horneigh to join that character in sandwiching Buzzi's frumpy spinster Gladys Ormphby on the park bench that Horneigh and Ormphby frequently frequent.
Rowan and Marin personally awarding the "Fickle Finger of Fate" to a well-deserving individual or entity is the most blatant example of political humor that often risks making the Smothers Brothers state that "Laugh In" goes to far. The first presentation goes to a judge who does not reduce the sentences of two black men who cause minor damage in retaliation for a KKK attack; the "rest of the story" is that the judge admits that the punishment is unduly harsh.
S3 is particularly notable for adding Lily Tomlin to the cast mid-season. She states in an interview that is an S3 bonus feature that that comes about as a result of Schlatter watching her audition for another series. Tomlin shares during the tribute to Schlatter for his MASSIVE donation to Pepperdine University that is the other bonus feature that Schlatter would ask Worley to perform the light-blue material regarding which Tomlin did not feel comfortable.
Tomlin beginning this run with her portrayal of Ernestine the operator gets things off to to a strong start that never wanes. Her sharing in her DVD interview that Schlatter sneaks a subliminal message in those skits is hilarious.
Early S3 episodes also stand out for bringing popular music stars of the day to the show. Diana Ross, Sonny and Cher, and The Monkees show up on subsequent weeks and prove the philosophy of Carol Burnett that the best guests on a variety show are the ones who can both sing and do comedy. Ross outshines the group in both regards by fully embracing the "Laugh-in" spirit. Ringo Starr does not show up until late in the season.
As cliched as it sounds, they simply cannot make 'em like "Laugh-In" these days. At the outset, the hostile political divide in 2018 ensures that any form of gutsy political humor prompts calls for boycotts by half of the audience. Second, the public appetite for good corny humor sadly is greatly diminished. The people mostly demand insults and/or genuinely blue material.
Finally, we are more of a culture of personalty than genuine talent these days. On top of this, most celebrities have a more narrow following than the generation of matinee idols before them. They also typically lack their sense of humor.
A prime example of this contrast is Greer Garson being an incredible sport each time that she appears on "Laugh-In." One cannot imagine Meryl Streep even agreeing to appear on such a show or being a total goof if she makes the trip to beautiful downtown Burbank. Look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls Ricki.
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