Pink Lady (TV series)

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Pink Lady
Pink Lady Title Card.jpg
Also known as Pink Lady Starring Mie and Kei with Jeff Altman
Pink Lady and Jeff (in retrospective)
Genre Variety
Written by Jim Brochu
Mark Evanier
Directed by Rudy De Luca
Art Fisher
Starring Pink Lady
Jeff Altman
Jim Varney
Anna Mathias
Cheri Steinkellner
Ed Nakamoto
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 6 (1 unaired)
Production
Producer(s) Sid and Marty Krofft
Running time 45–48 min
Production company(s) Krofft Entertainment
Broadcast
Original channel NBC
Original run March 1, 1980 (1980-03-01)  – April 4, 1980 (1980-04-04)

Pink Lady is an American variety show that aired for five weeks on NBC in 1980, starring the musical duo of the same name. The show is most commonly referred to by the title Pink Lady and Jeff, which refers to co-star Jeff Altman. The series ranked #35 on TV Guide's 50 Worst TV Shows of All Time list.[1]

Synopsis[edit]

The series starred Japanese female singing duo Pink Lady, Mitsuyo Nemoto ("Mie") and Keiko Masuda ("Kei"), and American comedian Jeff Altman. The format of the show consisted of musical numbers alternating with sketch comedy. The running gag of the series was the girls' lack of understanding of American culture and the English language; in reality, Pink Lady did not speak fluent English.[2] Jeff would then attempt to translate and explain the meaning of things, which led to more confusion.[3]

The series also featured Pink Lady performing various songs (usually English-language disco and pop songs such as "Boogie Wonderland" or "Yesterday", which the duo sang in English) along with interaction with celebrity and musical guests. The group would end the show by jumping into a hot tub together. After the poorly rated series premiere, NBC moved Pink Lady to Friday nights and added Jim Varney, who achieved later fame as Ernest P. Worrell in the Ernest series of movies and television shows, as a character actor. The move and retooling failed to help ratings and the series was canceled after five episodes.[3]

After the series ended, Pink Lady returned to Japan where they performed their farewell concert in 1981. The duo reunited in 1996 and celebrated the 25th anniversary of their first hit in 2003 with a successful concert tour.[4]

Jeff Altman went on to co-host Solid Gold and returned to stand-up comedy.[4]

Production[edit]

The show was the brainchild of Fred Silverman,[5] then President and CEO of NBC, who was desperate to replicate the success he'd had at ABC and CBS. After seeing a Walter Cronkite story about Pink Lady on the CBS Evening News,[6] Silverman thought their Japanese success could be translated to the American market, so he brought in Sid and Marty Krofft to produce a variety show for them. At the time, Pink Lady had recently achieved their first, and only, top-40 hit on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, when their song "Kiss in the Dark" peaked at #37 on August 4, 1979. The Krofft brothers were told that the ladies were fluent in English, but within moments of meeting them, it was apparent that they weren't.[6] Unsure of how to stage the show, Sid Krofft developed the concept of making "the strangest thing that's ever been on television... The whole show was gonna come out of a little Japanese box."[6] Silverman's response was, "No, that's just too different. Let's just do Donny & Marie."[7] (That show also moved to NBC the same year, though without Donny, and under the title Marie.) Sid bowed to Silverman's wishes.

Comedian Jeff Altman had a contract with NBC,[8] and, on that basis, he was offered work hosting the show to compensate for the fact that the leads were un-versed in English. Writer Mark Evanier previously worked with Kroffts on The Krofft Superstar Hour and the pilot Bobby Vinton's Rock 'n' Rollers, so he was brought aboard as head writer and seasoned variety show director Art Fisher (The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour) was brought in to direct. But according to Evanier, the late Fisher hated the show and only did it because he was contractually obligated, which resulted in many behind the scenes battles.[9]

Meanwhile, the language barrier provided the biggest obstacle for everyone involved. Mie and Kei had to hold English conversations through an on-set translator.[8] The writers, meanwhile, struggled because once dialogue had been written for and learned by the ladies, it was set in stone and could not be changed.[9] This was particularly problematic when a guest star would be booked at the last minute, such as Lorne Greene, who agreed to appear on the show a scant four hours before the episode was taped.[9] Mie and Kei wanted to sing the songs that had made them famous on the other side of the globe, but the network insisted they sing songs in English,[9] so they recorded English songs phonetically and performed lip-syncing at the show's tapings.[8] Lip-syncing was already a common practice on American variety shows, but it was especially noticeable since the ladies were performing in a language that was foreign to them. Additional problems were caused when the network insisted the writers develop separate identities for Mie and Kei.[9] The established Pink Lady act was that they were so much in unison that they performed as one entity, so the ladies never felt comfortable having separate stage personalities.[9]

Because Mie and Kei were commuting back and forth to Japan to appear in sold-out concerts,[9] their time on the set was spent memorizing lines and routines, so the brunt of the comedy skits were carried by Altman and ensemble players Jim Varney, Cheri Steinkellner and Anna Mathias.[8] On rare occasions when Mie and Kei appeared in any of the sketches, their time (and dialogue) was minimal.

Booking guests for the show was also a huge problem.[9] Variety shows were vanishing by 1980, and that the series headliners were an act of which no one in America had heard did not help matters. Larry Hagman and other big name stars were coerced into appearing with sizable paychecks.[6][10] Alice Cooper was friends with the Krofft brothers and submitted an original performance both as a favor to them[11] and to promote his upcoming album release. Other stars who had previously worked with Kroffts were also brought in, including Florence Henderson (The Brady Bunch Hour), Donny Osmond (Donny & Marie), Red Buttons (Side Show) and Bobby Vinton (Bobby Vinton's Rock 'n' Rollers). Cheap Trick and two-time guest Blondie had no actual involvement with the show — Cheap Trick's music video for "Dream Police" was shown, as were Blondie's videos for "Shayla" and "Eat to the Beat," which were both shot for a then newly released home video.

Each show closed with a tuxedo-clad Jeff getting lured, pushed or pulled into the on-set hot tub by Mie and Kei. This gag originated with Sid Krofft,[9] who had used a similar device on The Brady Bunch Hour; on each episode, Greg would push Peter into the swimming pool. Altman felt it would have been an amusing one-time gag, but by employing it each week, it became contrived.[8] Altman tried to convince the writing staff to do away with this segment, but he was vetoed, most probably because this segment afforded everyone the opportunity to see Mie and Kei in skimpy bikinis.[8]

The show's title has often been the source of confusion. On-screen, the show was simply titled Pink Lady, but the series is most commonly referred to as Pink Lady and Jeff—even on the cover of the DVD release. Altman felt that since he carried the show, his name should appear in the title, and the network agreed, but Pink Lady's manager strongly protested[8] and threatened a lawsuit if "and Jeff" appeared on the show's title.[12] In NBC's on-air promos, sometimes the show was referred to as Pink Lady,[13] whereas at other times the voice-over announcer referred to it as Pink Lady and Jeff.[14] In print advertisements for TV Guide and the like, however, the show was always titled Pink Lady and Jeff, though it was cited merely as Pink Lady in the text TV listings.[15]

Episodes[edit]

Ep # Airdate Title Director(s) Writer(s) Guest Stars(s)
1 March 1, 1980 Episode 1 Art Fisher Mark Evanier, Rowby Goren, Lorne Frohman, Jim Brochu, Paul Pompian, Stephen Spears, Biff Manard Byron Allen, Sherman Hemsley, and Blondie
Music
2 March 14, 1980 Episode 2 Art Fisher Mark Evanier, Rowby Goren, Lorne Frohman, Jim Brochu, Paul Pompian, Stephen Spears, Biff Manard Larry Hagman, Sid Caesar, Donny Osmond and Teddy Pendergrass
Music
3 March 21, 1980 Episode 3 Art Fisher Mark Evanier, Rowby Goren, Lorne Frohman, Jim Brochu, Paul Pompian, Stephen Spears, Biff Manard Greg Evigan, Hugh Hefner, and Cheap Trick
Music
4 March 28, 1980 Episode 4 Art Fisher Mark Evanier, Rowby Goren, Lorne Frohman, Jim Brochu, Paul Pompian, Stephen Spears, Biff Manard Lorne Greene, Sid Caesar, Florence Henderson and Blondie
Music
5 April 4, 1980 Episode 5 Art Fisher Mark Evanier, Rowby Goren, Lorne Frohman, Jim Brochu, Paul Pompian, Stephen Spears, Biff Manard, Jerry Lewis Jerry Lewis, Red Buttons, and Alice Cooper
Music
6 untransmitted Episode 6 Art Fisher Mark Evanier, Rowby Goren, Lorne Frohman, Jim Brochu, Paul Pompian, Stephen Spears, Biff Manard Roy Orbison, Bobby Vinton, Sid Caesar and Byron Allen
Music

Syndication and DVD release[edit]

Pink Lady and Jeff reruns were seen on Trio for a brief period.

In 2001, Rhino Entertainment released the complete series on Region 1 DVD in the United States.[16]

In popular culture[edit]

On National Public Radio's Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!, the series was the subject of the "Not My Job" segment with actor and novelist Harry Shearer on November 18, 2006.[17] During the spring of 1980, Shearer had appeared as Carl Sagan on Saturday Night Live's spoof, "Pink Lady and Carl" with Gilda Radner and Laraine Newman playing the singing duo and Paul Shaffer as special guest star Marvin Hamlisch.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The 50 Worst TV Shows of All Time?". Vevmo.com. Retrieved 2009-11-26. 
  2. ^ Hofstede, David (2004). What Were They Thinking: The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History. Backbeat Books. p. 135. ISBN 0-8230-8441-8. 
  3. ^ a b Phillips, Brian. "Pink Lady and Jeff". tvparty.com. Retrieved 2008-08-29. 
  4. ^ a b Hofstede, David (2004). What Were They Thinking: The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History. Backbeat Books. p. 137. ISBN 0-8230-8441-8. 
  5. ^ Marindale, David (1998). Pufnstuf & Other Stuff. St. Martin's Press. p. 230. ISBN 1-58063-007-3. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Sid & Marty Krofft - Archive Interview Part 4 of 5". Retrieved 2009-11-26. 
  7. ^ Marindale, David (1998). Pufnstuf & Other Stuff. St. Martin's Press. p. 231. ISBN 1-58063-007-3. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g "Jeff Altman Interview", Pink Lady and Jeff DVD, Rhino Home Video, 2001.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i Evanier, Mark. "Pink Insider". pinkladyamerica.com. Retrieved 2009-11-26. 
  10. ^ Mark Evanier. "My Larry Hagman Story". Retrieved November 28, 2012. 
  11. ^ Sherman, Dale (2009). The Illustrated Collector's Guide to Alice Cooper, 10th Anniversary Edition. Collector's Guide Publishing, Inc. p. 208. ISBN 978-1-894959-93-3. 
  12. ^ "NOTES from me". Retrieved 2009-11-26. 
  13. ^ "NBC Pink Lady and Jeff promo 1980". Retrieved 2009-11-26. 
  14. ^ "NBC Promo 1980". Retrieved 2009-11-26. 
  15. ^ "The Lost Art of TV Guide Advertising, Volume 5 of 265,890". Retrieved 2009-11-26. 
  16. ^ "Pink Lady and Jeff DVD info". tvshowsondvd.com. Retrieved 2008-08-29. 
  17. ^ http://www.npr.org/templates/rundowns/rundown.php?prgId=35&prgDate=11-18-2006&view=storyview

External links[edit]