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Variety shows were the mainstay of early American TV with stars such as Milton Berle, Red Skelton and Sid Caesar dominating the airwaves. Ed Sullivan was a mainstay of television with his ... See full summary »


Steve Boettcher


Jack Jones


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Episode credited cast:
Lucille Ball ... Self (archive footage)
Jack Benny ... Self (archive footage)
Milton Berle ... Self (archive footage)
Pat Boone ... Self
Carol Burnett ... Self (archive footage)
George Burns ... Self (archive footage)
Ruth Buzzi ... Self (archive footage)
Sid Caesar ... Self
Dick Cavett ... Self
Imogene Coca ... Self (archive footage)
Nat 'King' Cole ... Self (archive footage)
Perry Como ... Self (archive footage)
Tim Conway ... Self
Mary Jane Croft ... Self (archive footage)
Phyllis Diller ... Self


Variety shows were the mainstay of early American TV with stars such as Milton Berle, Red Skelton and Sid Caesar dominating the airwaves. Ed Sullivan was a mainstay of television with his Sunday night show presenting everything from acrobats to stand-up comedians to scenes from Broadway plays. Arthur Godfrey at one point had two hit TV shows on the air and his folksy charm seemed to be just what America wanted at the time. His firing of popular singer Julius LaRosa on live TV changed the public's perception of him. Singers hosting their own variety show became popular with Pat Boone, and Andy Williams both hosting very popular shows. Perry Como was so popular that his show trounced The Honeymooners (1955)in the ratings and six years later did the same against The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961). Sid Caesar's _"Your Show of Shows" (1950)_ made sketch comedy a staple of the variety hour, something that carried on for several decades with show like _"The Carol Burnett Show" (1967)_. Variety ... Written by garykmcd

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User Reviews

The number of shows covered in this one is astounding.
3 October 2015 | by MartinHaferSee all my reviews

Unlike other episodes from the first season of "The Pioneers of Television", this one focuses on far more shows and performers than the others. Part of it is that there were so many different TYPES of variety shows. Beginning with "The Ed Sullivan Show" (which no one seemed to understand WHY it was so popular), it moved on to contemporary variety shows Milton Berle, Red Skelton and Arthur Godfrey. Godfrey is interesting because is also talked about his huge rise and huge downfall. Then, on to the 60s with the musical hosts, such as Perry Como and Andy Williams. Then, after a short discussion on how the industry didn't give a fair shake to the black entertainers, it went on to discuss the comedy variety shows like "Your Show of Shows", "The Carol Burnett Show" and, the very controversial "Smothers Brothers Show" followed by "Laugh-In", "Flip Wilson" (the first successful black variety show) as well as crap like "Tony Orlando and Dawn" (why it talked about this god-awful show, I have no idea). Oddly, while I never liked it, it is very strange that they didn't mention "Sonny & Cher", as it was MUCH more influential and popular than Tony Orlando.

Despite being much longer in content and offering a huge variety of variety shows, this was yet another terrific program. As usual, filled with interviews, clips and commentary.

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Release Date:

16 January 2008 (USA) See more »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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