Monday, March 14, 2016

Classic (?) TV: The Richard Simmons Show (1980)

To think that once upon a time, Richard Simmons actually considered being a priest. At that time, Simmons, you see, was obese, tipping the scales at close to 270. A life & career change, including a move to Los Angeles, turned Simmons into an 80's exercise icon.

One of Simmons' 1st TV appearances was on NBC's Real People, and it went from there. A syndicated exercise/talk show was parlayed into a series of appearances on General Hospital, both over the course of a 4 year period (1980-4). The sight of Simmons leading some of the show's nurses, who'd swapped their hospital whites for leotards & tights for these segments, was worth the price of admission for some young teenage boys (interested in the nurses) just as much as the girls.

The Richard Simmons Show aired in the morning in most cities, avoiding a scheduling conflict with Hospital, an ABC afternoon staple (and the only ABC soap opera left). As noted, Simmons not only did exercise segments, like on General Hospital, but was more of a full-service talk show host, doing interviews and cooking segments. Kind of like Jack LaLanne crossed with Graham Kerr and David Frost, if you will.

Simmons is back in the news these days, as there'd been reports, refuted by Simmons on an appearance on Today earlier today, that he was supposedly being held prisoner in his own home. Draw your own conclusions, but as Simmons is in his late 60's, and with pal David Letterman having retired from broadcasting, it would be more likely to assume that Simmons himself has gone into retirement, and leave it at that. Must've been a slow news day to think he was in dire straits.....!

Following is the first half of a 2-part show on "Candy Criminals":

As I noted in reviewing General Hospital upon its 50th anniversary 3 years ago, Simmons was immortalized in the lyrics to the Afternoon Delights' 1-hit wonder, "General Hospi-Tale", in 1981, cementing his status as an icon.

Rating: B+.

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