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I rented the DVD collection in hopes of getting a bit of a fun '80s
flashback with this near-legendary bomb of a TV series. However, I was
not at all prepared for how truly embarrassing and awful it is. Like
the films "Myra Breckinridge," "Xanadu" and "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely
Heart's Club Band," "Pink Lady and Jeff" is one of those pop culture
misfires that surpasses its reputation; it's even worse than you were
told it was.
Everything you've heard about it is true. This cross-cultural nightmare occurred during that awkward period when disco was wearing out its welcome and variety shows had sunk into a tired routine of endlessly replicating the Donny & Marie / Sonny and Cher format. On "Pink Lady" it went like this: If Cher began every show crooning in mid close up only to peel off her wrap and reveal a ridiculous glitter-festooned outfit as the music tempo picked up, then indeed Mei and Kei started every episode in kimonos that they whipped off to reveal twin icky, Bob Mackie-esqe creations (a-la Donny and Marie or The Captain & Tennille remember that stinker of a variety show?). If Tony Orlando and Dawn followed the first song with a lame series of gags in which one member of Dawn was the sweet one and the other sarcastic, then "Pink Lady" did them one better by having the girls deliver their lines without a clue as to what they were saying and co-star Jeff Altman (who is unfunny in any language) creating a black hole of nothingness in the center of the screen. There were the flat comedy skits, the lame medleys and the clubfooted dance routines by, in this case, a chorus line of chubby legged girls with too much permed hair and apparently not enough rehearsal time.
Every variety show had a gimmick back then as well as their own troupe of dancers and comedians. Donny & Marie had an ice rink, The Brady Bunch Variety hour had a swimming pool, "Pink Lady" had a hot tub. Sonny and Cher had Steve Martin and Teri Garr, Mary Tyler Moore's variety show had David Letterman, Pink Lady had Jim (Ernest) Varney! Yikes!
Every poorly chosen song, all the cheesy choreography, the throw-a-name-in-a-hat lineup of "guests" who all look like they'd rather be anywhere else, and the groan inducing skits all make for a surreal experience unsurpassed by anything on "The Twilight Zone"
For a clue as to the level of delusion that must have played a huge part in the making of "Pink Lady & Jeff" listen to the special features interview with Jeff Altman. While fast to poke fun at the show and himself, he goes beyond diplomacy when he describes the writing staff as "talented" and his sanity is called into question when he waxes on about the comic versatility of the late Jim Varney while using as an example, a character that Varney created that was now get this a hillbilly! How's that for versatility? Altman also gives himself "credit" for bringing his own stand-up act material to the show and launches into an abysmal Nixon impersonation that makes it obvious that he STILL has no idea of how unfunny he is!
What's apparent is that nobody would have thought the show was crap if it was a hit. Honestly, everything Sid and Mart Krofft did was crap, some of it was just more successful crap than the others. "Pink Lady and Jeff" is just a sterling example of the former.
...for if TV is indeed a vast wasteland, this was the show found at the
lowest elevation near the stagnant alkaline pool. We had world hunger
and want in 1980, and NBC could have spent money to solve it, but
inexplicably used the funds to put this show on the air for five
Did Fred Silverman ever notice that the ability of Keiko and Mituyo to handle English was minimal at best? Heavily padded out with guest spots to cover this rather blatant shortcoming. (The first show featured as guest star...Sherman Hemsley. Be still my beating heart.)
Not to mention Silverman's failure to consider America was not exactly a massive market for Japanese "idol music," whose appeal to the Japanese is that it is entirely predictable. And yes, Jeff Altman -- with the exception of his own routine in the first show of a certain U.S. President trying to boogie -- is scathingly unfunny.
I watched it out of the car-wreck syndrome, in other words it was so terrible I couldn't stop watching. And oh yes, if you stayed until the end of the show, a bikinied Keiko and Mitsuyo got into a hot tub with Jeff Altman. I guess I was easily bribed back then.
Pink Lady and Jeff is widely considered one of the worst shows ever made for
television. I didn't think anything could be worse than "That 80s Show," but Pink Lady is.
The sketches are horrendous; as we sat around watching the DVDs (a gag gift
my friend gave his brother), we argued about whether they had actual writers, or the performers made it up as they went along. My best guess is that the writers had a big bottle of tequila and a bunch of funny cigarettes in the writing room.
File this one under "so bad it's funny." I can't imagine watching it alone, but if you're with a bunch of friends who want to make fun of it, the DVD's worth a
First, let me be very clear: "Pink Lady" was not a good variety show.
It was a pretty horrible one most of the time. BUT it WAS at the same
time a truly awesome show. The 70s also gave us variety shows from
Donnie and Marie, the Mandrell Sisters, Captain and Tennile and many,
many others. All of them sucked--lame comedy, bad music, horrible
production values. That was the standard in the 70s--especially from
producers Sid and Marty Kroft. "Pink Lady (and Jeff)" rises above all
these by being just plain weird. Casting two unknown Japanese pop stars
along with a homegrown but not really any better known comedian was so
stupid a thing to do that it bordered on genius. In other words no one
in their right mind would have thought of it. The result 30 years later
is a great 1980 time capsule of the clash between American Crap-Lame
culture and the rising Japanese pop culture that you're not going to
see anywhere else. Lots of jokes are made at the girl's
expense--especially by semi-regular Sid Caesar, who does a recurring
samurai bit that makes John Belushi's old SNL routine look PC by
comparison. But the Pink Ladies get their digs in as well, making fun
of Altman's non-celeb status, height, and lack of manliness. And its
even funnier when you can tell that they have very little idea what
they're even saying.
The culture clash plus the language barrier plus the really poor taste plus the ultra lameness of the comedy bits, mixed in with the super-peppy, semi-sexy disco performances (in English and Japanese) by the perky, super happy Pink Lady makes for a late 70s Variety Show parody you could not make up today. It is a time capsule of stupid fun that makes me nostalgic for the days when "crap TV" was good natured goofiness instead of "reality" show meanness.
Screw the 21st century! BRING BACK PINK LADY AND JEFF!
This series should be watched ONLY to either torture detainees at
Guantanimo OR if you want to see something so bad that it's funny in a
horrific way (sort of like PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE). Be warned, though,
as I have never been able to get anyone to watch more than about 10
seconds of the show--they get up and leave and invariably ask me "why
are you watching this #&#@^!".
I've got to tell you the basic concept for the show. It will convince you that the programming people were either nuts or totally stoned. Jeff Altman is a horribly unfunny comedian. His timing, delivery and presence are less enjoyable than cancer. So, some network bigwigs thought they should give this terribly unfunny guy a series! BUT, to spice it up, it should also star a Japanese pop duo who speak almost no English!!! And, these Japanese ladies should also sing REALLY inane songs. Perhaps they were more popular than Pokemon in Japan, but they just couldn't make the transition to America--their music, to the average American, sounded as attractive as cats in heat. Well, the recipe for disaster was NOT yet complete. Nope---the show wasn't yet bad enough! So, they gave them a cast of supporting regulars who were even less talented than Altman! You KNOW you're in trouble when the standout star among these supporting "actors" is Jim Varney!!! Then, wrap all this together and "VOILA"--total dreck!! I do advise you, if possible, to see an episode (one episode was about all I could take)--just so you can see how bad it really was. The problem, though, is that this show was being re-broadcast on TRIO and this channel has recently dropped off the cable lineup throughout the country and is now a broad-band channel. So, if you don't get a chance to see it, I recommend you try to closely approximate the experience. First, find a family that doesn't speak any English and which has an annoying young child who thinks they can sing or tell jokes. Get a translator to tell the child to entertain you--that they should really give it their all. Then, when he or she begins, stab yourself in the head with a fork repeatedly throughout the performance. Then, remember that this is STILL better than watching PINK LADY AND JEFF!! "Know what I mean"?
This was from the period when NBC was horrible and Fred Silverman was
running the show (no pun intended). This from the man who help develop
like "Three's Company" and "Laverne and Shirley" for ABC and beauties like
"All in the Family" and "M*A*S*H" for CBS.
It baffled me that he went to NBC and came up with crap like this. How could you give a show to 2 women or anyone for that matter who could barely speak English??? I still remember both Kei Masuda and Mei Niemoto at the beginning of the show tell the audience who that night's guests will be. You could barely make out what they were saying and it was very painful to listen.
Jeff Altman as well; This had to set his career back 2-3 steps. I like his comedy, but even he couldn't save this show.
Every episode would always end with Mie and Kei say something to Jeff you couldn't understand, then they would remove their kimonos revealing the swimsuits they were wearing under it and would drag him fully dressed into the hot tub. It was one of the few funny things I can remember, but they did that every week and it got old fast.
Clearly, not one of television's best moments.
I caught a showing of this variety show over on Trio, and cannot say
I'm overwhelmed by this relic of the Carter Years. The idea was
certainly original enough: Take a popular (and actually pretty
talented) idol-singer duo from Japan, team them up with a second-banana
American singer and craft a variety show around it. Nice idea, lousy
execution. Where to begin...
1. The writing is rivaled only by those apocryphal monkeys trying to write Shakespeare, an sad fact as Mark Evanier is easily capable of much better than this dreck (look at his consistently funny co-writing work on "Groo the Wanderer")
2. Mei and Kei are talented enough singers, and probably were talented actresses in Japan, but they didn't have enough of a command of the English language to grasp the right comic timing for the language.
3. Jeff Altman DOES have enough of a command of the English language, and he couldn't make a man being tickled to death laugh.
I was only a baby when this show aired. When I grew up, I borrowed the DVD set from my boss. Next to My Big Fat Greek Life, this is the worst TV show I have ever seen. Unfunny sketches, Mie and Kei singing in badly broken English to bad disco songs, Jeff Altman royally embarrassing himself...need I say more? It was fun to see a young Jim Varney (later of "Ernest" fame) in the sketches, he was the best part of the show. The DVD set should be used for revenge/torture purposes only!
There's a special place in my heart for the "summer replacement series" and Pink Lady always springs to mind. ALL of the people I know think I'm making it up when I tell them about this marvel of programming. I didn't even remember Jeff Altman on the show, just the two girls. My favorite part was the "Letter to Home" segment near the end of the program, where they "read" their letter in phonetic English. It haunts me...
I also watched this for the car wreck syndrome. Any second I thought for sure a head would come rolling across the stage. (you just never knew). I just loved when Jeff Altman and Pink Lady would try to talk to each other...you know, the usual banter of a variety show. It was funny because they couldn't understand what each other was saying. Altman would try to make a joke, Pink Lady would look at him, then at each other, and giggle. Very surreal...
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