Thursday, April 23, 2015

Classic TV (?): Donny & Marie (1976)

I wonder if there was any sort of unofficial rivalry between Donny Osmond and the late Michael Jackson.

Jackson and his brothers landed an animated series, though they didn't lend their voices to their cartoon counterparts, in 1971. Donny and his brothers followed a year later. The Osmonds must own the rights to that short-lived series, since it hasn't seen the light of day since ABC took it off the air.

A few years later, the Jacksons were given a primetime variety show on CBS. See where this is going? In January 1976, Donny & Marie premiered on ABC, as the network strove to reclaim control of Friday nights, and outlasted The Jacksons by plenty. In all, Donny & Marie ran for 3 calendar years (1976-9), but by the time the series ended, it'd been rechristened, The Osmond Family Show, and if memory serves me correctly, it'd been moved to Sundays.

Originally, the Osmond family's production company co-produced the series with Sid & Marty Krofft, giving the Saturday morning icons, who'd once worked for Dean Martin, a return to primetime. The format was rather simplistic. There'd be ice skating skits, a healthy mix of country (Marie) and rock (Donny) music, and the usual cornucopia of celebrity guests, including unofficial series regular Paul Lynde (Hollywood Squares), who was spun off into his own Halloween special a year and a half later, also on ABC. Beginning with season 3, the Osmonds moved production out of Hollywood and to their new studios in Utah, ending their association with the Kroffts, who moved on to their last project for ABC, the ill fated Brady Bunch Variety Hour. Once that and Krofft Supershow were cancelled at the end of the 1977-8 season, the Kroffts said good-bye to ABC for good.

It can be said, too, that the success of Donny & Marie also led to the siblings' likenesses being used for a pair of Saturday morning cartoon characters who debuted in the comics in the spring-summer of 1977. I refer, of course, to the Wonder Twins (from Super Friends), who were modeled after Donny & Marie. Just take away the twins' pointed ears, and Jayna's ponytail, and, well, you get the picture if you're a serious comics fan.

Right now, let's take a time trip to January 1976, and the debut of Donny & Marie. Vincent Price and the aforementioned Paul Lynde are among the guests.

As we've previously documented, Marie moved to NBC in 1980, but her solo series didn't last too long. The sibs reunited for a talk show that ran for 2 seasons at the end of the 90's. Donny was last seen doing an infomercial, of all things. Marie tried another solo series, this one for Hallmark Channel, but that faded out a while back.

Rating: B.


magicdog said...

Don't forget Marie's ads for Nutisystem.

I loved watching the show as a kid. I even had the dolls!

Donny & Marie are still performing to sold out crowds here in Las Vegas! They're performing nightly at The Flamingo. Great show!

We've had Donny on our local news show for an interview - one of the anchors is also a fan and she couldn't help but break into the song, "I'm a Little Bit Country"... and right on cue, Donny finished the refrain, "I'm A Little Bit Rock & Roll". It was magic to see.

Both of them are also involved in local charities and are very much adored by the Las Vegas community.

hobbyfan said...

Marie's been shilling for---and using---NutriSystem for a few years. Still can't get over the fact she actually did go to seed for a while (the before picture in the print ads).

To me, they'd be the last ones to even be called for informercials, but today, it seems everyone gets a crack at that......