Monday, November 19, 2012

What Might've Been: The Rich Little Show (1976)

Rich Little is perhaps the best known, and most accomplished impressionist in show business. Billed as "The Man of 1,000 Voices", the Canadian-born Little was a regular guest on the Dean Martin Celebrity Roast at the end of the 70's, and made the usual rounds of talk-variety shows (i.e. Mike Douglas, Dinah Shore, Merv Griffin) back in the day. He even headlined a couple of HBO specials that allowed him to do 1-man productions of A Christmas Carol, among other things.

In 1976, NBC took a chance on Little and gave him his own comedy-variety show, airing on Mondays. Most viewers forget that this was where they were introduced to sitcom icon Charlotte Rae (later of Diff'rent Strokes and its spin-off, The Facts of Life). Tweaking the television establishment of the time, Little would feature the Family Hour Fairy (Julie McWhirter) in short skits which were quite fun.

Most of all, Little was allowed the opportunity from time to time to sing, usually with A-list guests, such as Bing Crosby, as you'll see shortly. Of course, Little reaches into his deep repertoire of voices to make this medley work. Sadly, the show was not renewed for the fall season, as there weren't enough viewers interested. You see, NBC had given up airing baseball on Mondays, and ABC scooped up the contract with Major League Baseball. NBC's attempts at counter-programming during the spring & summer, then, were often met with abject failure.

Now, here's Rich & Bing:

Little would get one more chance at his own series, hosting a revival of You Asked For It as a daily series just a few years later, but that didn't sustain itself in the long term, either.

Rating: B.


magicdog said...

A shame it didn't work out. Variety shows had all but died out by this point - save for Carol Burnett's show, and that one would be off the air by 1978 or so.

Rich Little was a great impressionist. My cousin used to play his comedy albums for me - his impression of the presidents (From Nixon to then President Reagan) was hilarious!

hobbyfan said...

I had First Family Rides Again on cassette at one time, and nearly wore it out. Some of the lines he used as Johnny Carson (i.e. "May a camel with a weak kidney find your jelly bean jar") stuck with me. It's too bad I can't find it on CD......