Free-form comedy/variety show starring singer/comedian Ken Barry, this 1972 summer replacement series also featured such soon-to-be-famous performers as Steve Martin, Terri Garr, and Cheryl...
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Free-form comedy/variety show starring singer/comedian Ken Barry, this 1972 summer replacement series also featured such soon-to-be-famous performers as Steve Martin, Terri Garr, and Cheryl Ladd as cast members. Off-beat sketch comedy was the order of the day on this short-lived but well-remembered series. Written by
You might remember Ken Berry, the actor who portrayed the bumbling Captain Parmenter on the mid '60s F-Troop, then Sam Jones on Mayberry RFD, and, in the '80s, alongside Vicky Lawrence on the long-running Mama's Place. What you might not recall about Berry is that he also had a short-lived variety show (remember those?) on ABC. No penalty, though, if you don't recall "The Ken Berry 'Wow' Show." You're probably not alone, especially if you took an extended vacation or were otherwise busy on Saturday nights during the summer of 1972. The show, a summer replacement series (another prehistoric TV term), ran for six weeks before disappearing forever. Or sort of. Let us digress for a moment.
The versatile Berry was a visible presence on network TV in those days, and the 1-hour "Wow" was his chance, albeit brief, to combine his established (from F-Troop days) physical comedy style with his considerable skills as an old-fashioned song-and-dance performer. The result was a Carol Burnett-type show featuring an ensemble cast that would perform numerous laugh-laden skits (though generally more risque' than Burnett's versions), as well as giving Berry a chance to do his song-and-dance thing.
But "Wow's" contribution to the TV landscape went far beyond the six weeks it ran that summer. Rather, it lies in that ensemble cast, and their introduction to a national audience. Steve Martin, Terri Garr, and a young Cheryl Stopplemoor (later Ladd)...not bad for identifying up-and-coming talent. Hard to remember any show, especially one with a 6-week lifespan, helping launch so many memorable careers.
As for "Wow" itself...if only it had Burnett's writers. Though Martin and Garr gave hints of their upcoming stardom, and Berry was a competent host, the skits still tended to be a bit corny, often resorting to Benny Hill-like schtick by parading the more-attractive female members in skimpy bikinis (including Ladd, Laura Lacey and the spectacularly-endowed Barbara Joyce). Or was "Wow" simply ahead of its time? What can't be denied, however, is that as a spawning ground for the likes of Martin, Garr, and Ladd, "Wow" made a lasting, if inadvertent, impact--even if it took us several years to realize so.
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