Dean Martin wanted to be on TV but also wanted to be free to do movies and records; his contract required that he only show up to do his variety show one day per week (on Sundays). That's why he always seemed slightly out of step with the rest of the cast, who had rehearsed with Lee Hale standing in for Martin the day before. When Martin made a mistake he'd just laugh it off. The audience loved it.
Charles Nelson Reilly, who was a regular on the show, said one time, he was driving his convertible and the script for that weeks show flew out of the car. Reilly said he wasn't worried because they way the show was done, the script didn't really matter.
After a decent debut, the show's ratings sank steadily for the first few months. The original producer was fired and Greg Garrison was given producer/director responsibilities. He was largely responsible for making the show an eventual hit.
While filming True Grit (1969), John Wayne was trying to keep his weight off with drugs - uppers for the day, downers to sleep at night. Occasionally, he got the pills mixed up, and this led to problems on a The Dean Martin Show (1965) taping in 1969. Instead of taking an upper before leaving for the filming, he took a downer - and was ready to crash by the time he arrived on the set. "I can't do our skit," Wayne reportedly told Dean Martin when it was time to perform. "I'm too doped up. Goddamn, I look half smashed!" Naturally, Martin didn't have a problem with that. "Hell, Duke, people think I do the show that way all the time!" The taping went on as scheduled.
The only known European country where the show aired was West Germany. There, portions of show were edited down to half-hour episodes and broadcast on an program called Larry's Showtime (1975), which ran on Saturday afternoons on the ZDF network during the 1970s. On alternate weeks, the series would feature excerpts from other U.S. variety programs hosted by Danny Kaye and Jerry Lewis. The singing on the shows was left in English, but the speaking voices were dubbed into German.
Not wanting to do a weekly TV series, Dean Martin made deliberately outrageous demands when he was approached by NBC. Aside from his sky-high salary, his contract stipulated that he was never required to rehearse (which irked many of his guest stars) and that the show was to be shot on Sundays. He'd usually be on his way home in his Facel Vega before the taping was completed.
The footage from the series first became available on home video in a compilation called Dean Martin: That's Amore (2001). The earliest volumes of Guthy-Renker Entertaiment's The Best of The Dean Martin Variety Show followed later that same year. The complete seasons sets are yet to be released on any home video format.
Dean Martin's contract stipulated that he was only required to work on Sundays. This necessitated that blocking the camera setups and rehearsals be done on Saturdays. It also meant that guest stars rehearse with Lee Hale standing in for Martin. On Sundays, Martin would usually work less than four hours and leave the set before taping was wrapped.