Rod Serling (of all people) was signed to host "Keep on Truckin'", but his unexpected death got him out of the contract. He was lucky.
"Keep on Truckin'" had good intentions, but not much else going for it. This was supposed to be a fast-moving comedy/variety show, with a hip young viewpoint and a large multi-racial cast of cutting-edge performers ... in short, another "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In". But that show had good writers, and a very talented cast. "Keep on Truckin'" had nothing much.
This show consisted of isolated vignettes and musical spots, strung together in random order with no central theme and very little pacing. There were a couple of good performers in the cast, notably Fred Travalena (doing impressions of celebrities) and African-American stand-up comedian Franklyn Ajaye. Chipmunk-voiced actress Didi Conn was enjoyable in small doses. Charles Fleischer (yonks before Roger Rabbit) made odd sounds, and Gailard Sartain basically looked like a fried hush puppy.
The most notable cast member on this show was gay ventriloquist Wayland Flowers ... or, rather, not Flowers himself but his 'figure' (dummy), a rod puppet named Madame that was meant to be an incredibly old ex-movie star actress of the flamboyant Norma Desmond type known as a 'fag hag'. Flowers was an excellent "vent" from a technical standpoint; his lips didn't move (not while he was performing, at least) and his 'Madame' character actually sounded like a genuine (deep-voiced) woman. Like the much better (and very much funnier) English ventriloquist Arthur Worsley, Wayland Flowers used the gimmick of never speaking as himself onstage, and letting his dummy (Madame) do all the talking. Often, Flowers (unlike Worsley) would pretend he wasn't there at all; he would manipulate the rods in Madame's body from a distance whilst trying to look as unobtrusive as possible.
To give you an example of how very bad and completely arbitrary "Keep on Truckin'" was, one episode wasted several minutes of air time with a long sequence in which several of the cast members merely stood about watching while Madame (this is a puppet, remember) climbed up and down the walls lip-synching to the voice of Melba Moore singing 'I Got Love' from the original-cast album of the Broadway musical 'Purlie'. Now, precisely what are we seeing and hearing? A man is sliding a puppet up and down a wall, pretending to produce a voice which is actually a pre-recording of an entirely different performer who isn't even here, while several other people stand about pretending that the puppet is a real woman climbing up and down a wall and singing. Eh? Huh?
Since this series never explained its fairly arbitrary title, I guess it's down to me to explain it. "Truckin'" has nothing to do with vans, lorries or two-ton semis. The wheels of a railway train are attached to an undercarriage known as a "truck". During the Depression, thousands of jobless men (many of them African-American) drifted from one town to another, desperately seeking work or at least another day's hand-out. Since they couldn't afford train fare, some of them obtained free transport (illegally but dangerously) by lying on the flat undercarriage directly above the train's wheels: the truck. If they had no luck in one town, they would "keep on truckin'" to the next one. Only later did "truckin'" come to mean sashaying: strutting or walking in a prideful or flamboyant manner.
"Keep on Truckin'" doesn't even have camp value. A few of these performers went on to more impressive work elsewhere, but they probably still have nightmares about being trapped in this show.
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