Turn-On (1969– )

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Ratings: 4.4/10 from 41 users  
Reviews: 20 user | 1 critic

A multimedia presentation satirizing sex, politics, and everything else, splattered across the screen at blinding speed. One producer called it "A visual, comedic, sensory assault involving... See full summary »

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Title: Turn-On (1969– )

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Series cast summary:
 Regular (1 episode, 1969)
Bonnie Boland
(1 episode, 1969)
Hamilton Camp
(1 episode, 1969)
(1 episode, 1969)
Maxine Greene
(1 episode, 1969)
Ken Greenwald ...
 Member of Repertory Company (1 episode, 1969)
Debbie Macomber
(1 episode, 1969)
Carlos Manteca
(1 episode, 1969)
(1 episode, 1969)
Maura McGiveney ...
 Member of Repertory Company (1 episode, 1969)
Cecile Ozorio
(1 episode, 1969)
Robert Staats
(1 episode, 1969)
Mel Stewart
(1 episode, 1969)


A multimedia presentation satirizing sex, politics, and everything else, splattered across the screen at blinding speed. One producer called it "A visual, comedic, sensory assault involving animation, videotape, stop-action film, electronic distortion, computer. Written by Molly Malloy

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Release Date:

5 February 1969 (USA)  »

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Did You Know?


Rejected by CBS after executives claimed it left test audiences physically "disturbed." NBC rejected it flat-out. See more »


Featured in TV's Most Censored Moments (2002) See more »

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User Reviews

Tune In, Turn On, Look Out
25 August 2010 | by (Arlington, Virginia, USA) – See all my reviews

The show opens in a huge white void, with some kind of computer console sitting in the middle of said void. A pair of technicians, their backs always to the camera, walk in and sit down at the console. One of them says, "Well, Charlie, this is it: The first computerized TV show." Charlie says, "I never programmed a program before. What's first?" Technician #1 replies, "This week's guest star: Tim Conway." "Groovy," says Charlie. "Turn on!" Someone presses a button, whereupon Tim Conway magically appears just long enough to announce, "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to 'Peyton Re-place!'" before vanishing. Considering what's to come, Conway may have wanted to take a powder for the remainder of the show.

And with that, we're off and stumbling with the only episode of "Turn-On" to air on ABC, a show that lives on in legend as one of the worst things ever to grace (or disgrace) network television - a program deemed so bad, ABC canceled the rest of its run while this half-hour premiere was still in progress. (Tim Conway has claimed that an ABC affiliate in his home state of Ohio actually pulled the show off the air midway through.)

I'd missed out on "Turn-On's" first - and last - showing on Feb. 5, 1969. But thanks to the Paley Center for Media in midtown Manhattan, I was able to watch the program that inspired a May 17, 1969 TV Guide article, "The Show That Died After One Night" as well as a chapter in the book, "The Worst TV Shows Ever." More than 40 years and 29 mirthless minutes later, I agree: This was one awful show.

"Turn-On" was created by executive producers George Schlatter and Ed Friendly, the creators of "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In." Comparisons are inevitable, since both shows go in for the same kind of "hip" 60s humor. But it's obvious that "Turn-On" tried hard to be different. Instead of "Laugh-In's" psychedelic swirls and fully-dressed sets, "Turn-On" embraced a minimal look with its mostly white backgrounds and rudimentary decorations. Instead of videotape, "Turn-On" was shot on film. And instead of canned or real laughter, there's no laughter at all (and, for that matter, no laughs). In keeping with the premise that the show is being churned out by a computer, there are "computer sounds" that keep beeping away throughout the half-hour; sometimes they burst into a yadda-yadda-yadda transition melody.

Maybe Schlatter, Friendly & Co. thought they were pioneering a new, postmodern show offering pure, distilled comedy, but the result is a visually empty, sterile-looking program that viewers probably found disquieting, if not disturbing, to watch. And what with some of the unfunniest material this side of Beautiful Downtown Burbank that the vaguely recognizable cast is given by a team of nine credited writers, the show didn't stand a chance.

Some examples:

A bikini-wearing Teresa Graves lounges on a bench surrounded by cardboard bushes. She exclaims, "I feel so guilty - I mean, lying here and all." Pause. "I should be out *shopping* somewhere!"

An armed hijacker tells an ersatz Superman: "OK buddy, take me to Cuba."

Chuck McCann, dressed as a cop, prowls around cardboard bushes with his flashlight while singing, "Hello, young lovers, wherever you are ..."

Blonde chick: "Do you love me?" Tim Conway: "Do I love you??? We just met a couple of minutes ago. For all I know, you might be a pot-smoking, jaded, wild-eyed, radical dropout." Blonde chick: "I *am* a pot-smoking, jaded, wild-eyed, radical dropout." Conway: "I love you."

Tim Conway, being booked in a police station on a variety of charges, demands to use the phone. He then orders a bucket of chicken (not a ham sandwich, as TV Guide would have it).

Sometimes things get downright embarrassing for the performers. The extremely attractive Maura McGiveney, decked out in a tastefully low-cut evening gown and half-reclining on a chaise, is repeatedly introduced with the words, "Ladies and gentlemen, the Body Politic." As the "Body Politic," a deadpan McGiveney gets to deliver such lines as, "Mr. Nixon, as president, now becomes the *titular* head of the Republican Party," and, "We *must* reorder our nation's priorities to resolve the *cleavages* that separate us."

Some of the jokes do attempt to be pointed and topical. There are two references to the then-raging Vietnam War. In one bit, we see a set of black tables arranged in the shape of a swastika. A voice declares, "You are now looking at the table at the Paris peace talks agreed to by General Ky," a slam at South Vietnam's Hitler-admiring vice president. In another scene, two cast members are perusing a large globe. One says to the other, "Tell me, where is the capital of South Vietnam?" The other cast member (Hamilton Camp, I do believe) moves the globe toward Europe and replies, "Mostly over here, in Swiss bank accounts."

Some viewers were apparently shocked and appalled by what they were seeing. People may have thought "Turn-On" was unfunny because it was in bad taste. I think the reverse is true - it was in bad taste because it wasn't funny. If a show is genuinely entertaining, viewers, then and now, can be very forgiving. If not ...

Footnote: The copy of "Turn-On" at the Paley Center included commercials. One was for Ban deodorant spray. In it, an actor and actress playing a Northern gentleman and a Southern belle stand against a mostly empty white background. Northern gentleman: "Melanie, I forgot to use New Dry Ban antiperspirant on my trip down South." Southern belle: "Oh! A damp Yankee!" How about that? A commercial that not only looked and sounded just like the show it was on - it was just as chillingly unfunny.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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The Show Nobody Saw? athuberty
'Turn On' should have gone to HBO. gary3414
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I worked on this show jimstinson
Could Robot Chicken... the_real_Doc_Justice
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