Sunday, February 4, 2018

Classic TV: The Lawrence Welk Show (1955)

The Lawrence Welk Show ran against the rising tide of rock music when it went from being a regional program to national in 1955. In the course of its 16 seasons on ABC (1955-71) and 11 more in syndication (1971-82), Welk and his musical family ultimately began covering pop standards of the day, even resorting to a bit of network cross-promotion when the band covered "Flight of the Bumblebee", otherwise known as the theme from The Green Hornet. Problem was, they tried it without horns. As the kids say today, that would be an epic fail.

The series began its ABC run as the Dodge Dancing Party, and Welk was given a 2nd night of programming for a few years. However, it's better known as a Saturday night staple, which it was for most of its run. You probably have read about how the show's original "Champagne Lady", Alice Lon, was dismissed for wearing a shorter than normal dress or skirt, replaced by Norma Zimmer. The format was not entirely all about music, though. There would be some tap dancing bits, mostly with either Arthur Duncan or Bobby Burgess (ex-The Mickey Mouse Club), perhaps one of the most famous Mouseketeer alumni, after Annette Funicello and Don Grady (My Three Sons).

A few years after first-run episodes had ended, the series began airing in rerun form on PBS, after an Oklahoma group acquired the rights to the show. Locally, WMHT continued the standing tradition of running Welk on Saturdays, except it was in late afternoons, usually around 5 pm (ET), or two hours earlier than it had during its syndicated days.

Following is a pilot for the show from 1955:

My Three Sons producer Don Fedderson took on the task of handling distribution of the series when it went into syndication, and it would be the last series to bear his name in the credits. Once first-run production ended in 1982, Fedderson, for all intents & purposes, had retired from television.

Rating: A.

No comments: