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Donny and Marie Osmond were the first brother and sister to host a variety show. Critics picked on the duo the whole time they were on the air. It wasn't great art, but it was fun, wholesome entertainment for an hour on Friday nights. Donny and Marie, like all variety shows, was expensive to put on every week, and that, along with changing tastes, eventually drove the show off the airwaves. Sometimes Nick-At-Nite will show reruns of it.
The 1970s were the heyday of variety shows. It seemed everybody who was
anybody had one. Carol Burnett, Dean Martin, Tom Jones, Engelbert
Humperdinck, Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, Sonny & Cher, the Captain &
Tennille and the Jacksons all had them. There were other, short-lived
summer replacements and specials like Tony Orlando & Dawn, Shields &
Yarnell, Barry Manilow, Lola Falana, Olivia Newton-John and, though it
pains me to recall them, the Starland Vocal Band and Pink Lady & Jeff.
And then there was Donny & Marie with their immaculate pearly whites.
Could it get any more wholesome? (And, yes, I admit it, I did have a
huge crush on Marie.)
If you weren't cool enough (or old enough) to be out boogieing at Studio 54 or whatever the hot club was in your town, then maybe you were one of the millions who tuned in every Friday night at 8. Assuming you didn't prefer the edgier humor of Sanford & Son and Chico & the Man. Curiously, Redd Foxx once guest-starred on D&M, so he was competing with himself that week!
To me, the first season was the best. Though I haven't seen the show in over a quarter century, it still comes back to me. They always stuck to the formula and for D&M in the Bicentennial year, it worked. The show would fade in to the pair, one facing the camera, the other facing to the side. One would slowly sing a few words to a song, then they would alternate positions and the other would take over. After a few lines, cue the band as the two kick into full pop duet mode before announcing the week's guest. Then the ice skaters with their Busby Berkeley Meets Ice Capades choreography and overhead camera. And finally D&M skate out to greet the studio and TV audiences and trade banter. After that teaser and a commercial break, a few comedy skits and musical numbers before the infamous "I'm a little bit country, I'm a little bit rock & roll" segment about 25 minutes into the hour, where they had separate, glitzy mini-stages and bands. A few more skits, the musical finale and then the weekly farewell, "May tomorrow be a perfect day. May you find love and laughter along the way..." Guests ranged from the obscure to the hot stars of the moment, for instance, the aforementioned Olivia fresh off her box office smash, Grease.
There were changes in the second season, notably Marie getting a shorter hairstyle. In the third, her hair became shorter still and she began sporting an outrageous Bob Mackie-designed wardrobe. The ratings started to slip. By the fourth and final season, when the show moved to the Osmonds' own newly-built Utah facility and became virtually unrecognizable, it wasn't worth watching anymore. The show had lost its kitsch value (something the Krofft brothers specialized in) and become too overproduced for its own good. Oh, well. It was fun while it lasted.
Call me a devil's advocate if you must, but I for one had the time of
my life growing up watching this show. To me, the Osmonds were, are,
and shall always be, the best entertainers on the planet. (I emphasize
the word "entertainment" over "music" in this case.) So the music
wasn't always the best. So the jokes were often lame. So
"squeaky-clean" wasn't everybody's thing. THAT DOES NOT MEAN EVERYONE
IN THE WORLD HATES THE SHOW! As far as my family and I were concerned,
"squeaky clean" was in. We never had to worry about the show being
offensive or risqué. Choosing "Donny & Marie" on weekends was a
no-brainer. No matter how silly or over-the-top things got, it took us
out of ourselves and made us forget our troubles for one hour every
week. I don't recall any episode that failed to entertain us,
particularly me. I enjoyed the humor, the songs, the guest stars, the
Krofft puppets, even the cross-references to other period shows.
Compared to today's lame-brained comic fare, this series is truly a lost gem that deserves rediscovery. (As I recall, one night in 1993, Nick at Nite did air a New Year's Eve episode of the show, but they aired it only once. Maybe they thought no one was watching. They were wrong. I was.) If Nick at Nite, TV Land, or even Goodlife TV won't put it back on the air, at least put it out on DVD. I rank this show right up there with other classic variety shows like "Lawrence Welk,""Ed Sullivan," "Sha-Na-Na," "Carol Burnett & Friends," Flip Wilson," and "Tony Orlando & Dawn." (Believe it or not, "Sonny & Cher" never appealed much to me. Maybe it was the music, or Cher's outrageous choice of wardrobe. I don't know.)
Suffice to say, there's no point in adding to Donny's socio-phobia. Not everybody got the Captain Purple jokes. But you did good by my family. Take a bow! This show absolutely deserves more credit than it's been given. (If YOU don't like it, please go puke in the bathroom.)
The very first time this show aired I was NOT a fan of the Osmonds. Someone gave me an Osmond record for my birthday and I sorta smiled and half-heartedly said "Thanks". I secretly rolled my eyes and thought "How lame" (or whatever the equivalent of that phrase was back in the 70's). However, the show grew on me and after a while I was hooked. From then on, every Friday night at 7:00 you could find me in front of the TV drinking in the music, the comedy, the goofy skits, I loved it all. I couldn't wait till next week. If only VCRs were easily affordable back then, I'd have taped every show. Too bad the world has become a more complex and sadder place where silly slapstick and good time music are no longer appreciated.
I was in LOVE with Donny when I was about 7 years old. I am not afraid to admit it, I am still a Donny and Marie fan. I got the new DVD set which has 4 vintage episodes of the Donny and Marie Show, and the bonus Christmas special. I have watched it three times already. Granted, I watched with my six year old, and she keeps making me replay it. She's now singing "Everybody Dance," "I'm a little bit country..." and doing lots of prat falls and Captain Purple imitations. There are guest appearances by Ruth Buzzy, Bob Hope, Paul Lynd and more. Just great fun. If you would like to take a trip back to the glorious 70s, this is a must see.
"Donny & Marie" was one of the last variety shows on the air. The
variety show format on TV gained popularity in the early 1960's, and
was highly successful until the late '70s. A typical episode was a
combination of jokes, skits, dance routines, and musical performances.
As with any show of this type, some episodes were stronger than others,
depending on the guests.
Variety was format that allowed many aging Hollywood greats, such as Lucille Ball, Bing Crosby, and George Burns amongst many others, to perform for their fans on an albeit infrequent basis. Sadly, nearly all of the big name guest stars of the variety show format have passed away.
"Donny & Marie" was truly a family-friendly show. Looking back, it was definitely a wholesome program, one we remember fondly and wished that we would see more of today.
When Donny and Marie premiered they had the full backing of the studio.
With big name guest stars like Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Milton Berle,
and Bing Crosby. As time went on ABC began using the Donny and Marie
Show as nothing more than an hour long advertisement for other ABC
shows currently on the air. Charlie's Angels cast, Happy Days cast,
Mork and Mindy cast, Eight is Enough cast, Check out the first cast
lists and later cast lists.
They were just kids so they couldn't even fight the grown-ups on a level footing. Bringing the show to Utah was an attempt to wrest back control over the guest list and bring in the big drawing names again. Didn't work, as punishment, ABC moved the show opposite the highest rated show on TV at the time; Sixty Minutes. Then complaining about "poor ratings" they canceled the show. They did a remarkable job for being the youngest people to host a musical variety show. With all those adults telling them what to do.
When I wrote my comments on all the shows in the "Brady Bunch" franchise, I often said that they caused the diabetes rates to jump. Well, this is another show that definitely caused it to go up. This show had to be the most sickeningly sweet show and it was a worthy successor to that other family that was on Friday nights. However, whereas the Brady's were played by a bunch of actors, the Donnie and Marie were a real life brother and sister act. Also, they probably would have been the perfect spokespersons for Crest or Ultra Brite. This show was definitely a product of its time.
Talk about purple socks and disco shirts from that decade,please gimme a break! This variety show was one of the worst outta the bunch from the 1970's which ABC-TV showed on Friday nights since this was pure adulterated garbage. Marie sings a little bit of country,and Donnie does rock and roll songs? Yes,it may have been the first brother and sister variety show during that time,but some of scenes and mostly the segments they did made me puked.
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