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Ten episodes were originally ordered but Pryor walked off the show due to disagreements with NBC over the show's time slot and content. Pryor returned but agreed to produce only four episodes. NBC and Pryor announced that they would produce two specials a year for the next three years to fulfill the ten-episode agreement. But Pryor never worked for NBC again. See more »
In 1977,the powers that be on the Bureau of Standards and Practices at NBC decided to create a weekly variety show centered around a comedian who was on the brink of becoming not only the hottest stand-up comedian in the country,but one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. Richard Pryor was at the peak of his astounding fame and fortune in 1977,as anyone who has seen his classic hosting episode of Saturday Night Live can attest. NBC was the network of Saturday Night Live,so bringing one of the most controversial comedians on the planet home on television sets throughout the country seemed like a natural recipe for his outrageous success. Despite the reviews the episode became a cult classic and made Richard Pryor one of the hottest acts in America. But it didn't happen that way. That same year network executives at NBC gave Pryor the green light to host his very own weekly variety show. "The Richard Pryor Show" was short-lived and very controversial and it was a far cry from the cookie cutter,goofy,"bad comedy skits with songs" type of variety show that dominated the airwaves during the entire decade of the 1970's. "The Richard Pryor Show" aired on NBC-TV from September 13, 1977 until October 4,1977,and was produced by Burt Sugarman Productions. Richard Pryor had creative control of this series as well as serving as executive producer,and head of production along with Producer Rocco Urbisci.
Pryor's program was basically a true variety show that featured an unpredictable mix of satire,social commentary,conceptual comedy,improvisation,slapstick,and the occasion dramatic bit along with some of the controversial content. The show lasted for four episodes and from recently watching some of them on DVD,I can see why this did not last long. Most of the skits are simply not funny. Some of skits are brilliant,but as far as the rest of it goes,the humor seems forced along with the sketches go on forever. Some sketches were indeed hilariously funny,but the rest of it falls flat. Reason? From the start,the show faced controversy about its time slot and subject matter. Pryor's contract stated that the show was suppose to air at 9:00 p.m.,but it aired at 8:00 p.m. Many people wondered why NBC would put one of America's most controversial and profanity-laced artist's show in the middle of "family hour" on Tuesday nights. Many more wondered why the network slotted the show opposite the most popular shows of the day(they put the show opposite ABC's powerhouse winners "Happy Days",and "Laverne and Shirley"),all but assuring its failure. Many people also wondered why didn't network executives at NBC put the show at a later slot like during the 10:00 p.m. hour where it would be toward adult audiences? It could have saved it from the cancellation axe. The other reason? Pryor's battle with network censors and low ratings cause this short-lived variety show to be canceled after four episodes. The other reasons were based on network intervention,indifference,incompetence during the development stage.
Despite the differences,what you get here is a brilliant piece of work by Pryor and his crew of talents supporting actors who would go on to bigger and better things in their careers which included Robin Williams (who shot to incredible fame after this series),Sandra Bernhard,along with Tim Reid(WKRP in Cincinnati and Frank's Place),Marsha Warfield (Night Court),John Witherspoon(The Wayans Brothers,and of the Friday movies),Paul Mooney(who was also one of the writers for this series and would write most of the comedian humor for Pryor as well before going into production duties for another short-lived Pryor show "Pryor's Place'),Edie McClurg,not to mention Mike Evans(aka Lionel of The Jeffersons fame as well as one of the original writers and producer for the series Good Times)just to name a few.
Pryor pushed the limits for comedy in this series by taking it one step further and going beyond the boundaries where few entertainers could not even get away with in 1977,but in today's standards anything goes. It shattered glasses and broke barriers at a time when television comedy was still at a crossroads which took comedy at another level. This was WAY before Eddie Murphy,Chris Rock,Dave Chappelle,Martin Lawrence,Steve Harvey,Robert Townshend or even to an extent The Wayans Brothers and Jamie Foxx. Richard Pryor paved the way for them all.
When the series was canceled on October 4, 1977, NBC executives were quick to find a replacement show "Grandpa Goes To Washington",which was within itself a short-lived family show that lasted no more than six episodes.
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