Saturday, January 2, 2021

Forgotten TV: The Funny World of Fred & Bunni (1978)

 In the mid-70's, Hanna-Barbera renewed their efforts to produce live-action programming. However, the Saturday morning series, Korg: 70,000 BC, lasted just 1 season at ABC, as far as first-run episodes went. 

Four years later, H-B sold The Hanna-Barbera Happy Hour to NBC, and that lasted about a month (previously reviewed). The network also aired the movies, "KISS Meets The Phantom of The Park" and "The Beasts Are on The Streets".

But CBS wasn't left out of the picture after all.

The "Tiffany of The Networks" was home to a studio-produced documentary at Thanksgiving 1977, ahead of Bill Hanna & Joe Barbera's 40th anniversary as a team. The following summer, they sold a pilot to CBS, which suddenly had cold feet and couldn't bring themselves to air the pilot when it was scheduled in August 1978.

The Funny World of Fred & Bunni was set up as a variety show vehicle for impressionist-singer-songwriter Fred Travalena (ex-The Kopykats), who'd later work for the studio on Shirt Tales (1982-4). Here, the "Bunni" in the title is an animated female acting as Fred's "conscience", as it were. Sources say that future talk show icon Kathie Lee Gifford (then still known as Kathie Lee Johnson) was the voice of Bunni. Kathie Lee was in between gigs, having left Name That Tune, and Hee Haw Honeys would debut in the fall of '78.

On stage, Fred is joined by Pat Harrington (One Day at a Time) and, as shown in this sample clip, Sandy Duncan. Video trickery enables Fred to impersonate Paul Williams, as well as Frank Sinatra, Barry Manilow, Anthony Newley, and Fonzie (Henry Winkler), all in the same sequence.

WarnerMedia owns the rights to the show, so it's on them to decide if they want to exhume it for a new audience. No rating.


Goldstar said...

I actually saw this the one time it aired on CBS. The network aired it in the summer time and billed it as a "special", but of course it was actually a pilot for a series that wasn't bought.

This was one Hanna-Barbera's attempts to out-Krofft Sid & Marty with their own prime time comedy/variety show(the other being the Hanna-Barbera Happy Hour, which you mentioned previously). Remember, this was the late 70s and it would still be few more years before the variety show format would go out of style, giving way to cable channels that were geared to specific tastes and interests.

hobbyfan said...

Hmm, the story was that this didn't air. There isn't much else available on this one, but there are a couple more unsold pilots to find, including The BB Beegle Show.

Silverstar said...

CBS definitely dropped Fred & Bunni on the air once; Goldstar and I saw it was kids. It was during the summer and they billed it as a 'special' (which we now know to be TV code for 'unsold pilot'); at that time we'd watch anything with cartoons in it, so we managed to seize temporary control of the TV in order to sit through it.

We experienced a similar Lazarus Effect situation years ago, upon purchasing the book Bad TV by Craig Nelson; Mr. Nelson stated the 1982/3 Bob Denver sitcom vehicle "Scamps" never aired, but we saw it on NBC twice where again it was billed as a 'summer special'.

Now, The BB Beegle Show, that's a new one on me; I've never heard of that one. Is BB Beegle any relation the Great Grape Ape's pal Beegle Beagle?

hobbyfan said...

Nope. This was another live-action/puppet show, ala Hanna-Barbera Happy Hour, this one with Joyce DeWitt (Three's Company) & Arte Johnson.

I never saw "Fred & Bunni" 'cause at my house, baseball and movies on the cable were summer staples.

I remember seeing commercials for Scamps, so I know it aired. Yes, that was another Sherwood Schwartz bomb.