The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour

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The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour
Sonny Bono Telly Savalas 1973.JPG
Sonny and Telly Savalas begin the show's third season, 1973.
Genre Variety
Directed by Art Fisher
Starring Sonny and Cher
Theme music composer Sonny Bono
Opening theme "The Beat Goes On"
Ending theme "I Got You Babe"
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 4
No. of episodes 63
Production
Producer(s) Chris Bearde
Allan Blye
Running time 45–48 minutes
Broadcast
Original channel CBS
Audio format Monaural
Original run August 1, 1971 (1971-08-01) – May 29, 1974 (1974-05-29)
Chronology
Followed by The Sonny & Cher Show

The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour is an American variety show starring American pop-singer Cher and her husband, Sonny Bono. The show ran on CBS in the United States, when it premiered in August 1971. The show was canceled May 1974, due to the couple's divorce, though the duo would reunite in 1976 for the identically-formatted The Sonny & Cher Show (a title sporadically used during the run of the Comedy Hour), which ran until 1977.

The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour (1971–1974)[edit]

In 1971, Sonny and Cher had stopped producing hit singles. Cher's first feature film, Chastity, was not a success, and the duo decided to sing and tell jokes in nightclubs across the country. CBS head of programming Fred Silverman saw them one evening and offered them their own show. The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour was originally supposed to be a summer replacement series, but high ratings gave Silverman sufficient reason to bring it back later that year, with a permanent spot on the schedule. The show was taped at CBS Television City in Hollywood.

The show was a Top 20 hit in the ratings for its entire run. Each episode would open with the show's theme song, which would segue into the first few notes of "The Beat Goes On". Every episode, Sonny would exchange banter with Cher, allowing Cher to put down Sonny in a comic manner. Comedy skits would follow, mixed in with musical numbers. Three of the regular cast members who regularly appeared in sketches were Teri Garr, Murray Langston (who later found brief fame as "The Unknown Comic" on The Gong Show), and Steve Martin (who also served as one of the show's writers). At the end of each episode, Sonny and Cher would sing their hit "I Got You Babe" to the audience, sometimes with daughter Chastity Bono in tow.

Among the many guests who appeared on The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour were Carol Burnett, George Burns, Glen Campbell, Tony Curtis, Bobby Darin, Phyllis Diller, Farrah Fawcett, Merv Griffin, The Jackson 5, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ronald Reagan, Burt Reynolds, The Righteous Brothers, Dinah Shore, Sally Struthers, The Supremes,[1] Teri Garr, Chuck Berry, and Dick Clark.[2]

The show was scheduled to return for a fourth season in October 1974. However, Sonny and Cher separated that fall, resulting in the cancellation of the show.

In 2004, selected episodes from The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour were released in a three-disc set on Region 1 DVD.

Recurring routines[edit]

  • The Vamp Sketch: This was a sequence featuring at least three mini-skits, each one preceded by Cher (sitting or lying on top of an old-style upright piano with Sonny pretending to play) singing one verse of the song (the lyrics usually set up the next mini-skit), followed by the chorus, "She was a scamp, a camp and a bit of tramp, she was a V-A-M-P, vamp". It ended with all the characters from each skit (even Sonny and Cher, via camera trickery, in their respective costumes) all converging to sing the final chorus together.
  • Sonny's Pizza: Sonny as the owner of a pizza restaurant whose food, according to almost everyone except Sonny himself, is not fit to be eaten. (The logo on the front door is augmented with the slogan, "You won't believe you ate the whole thing", a play on the then-popular Alka-Seltzer commercial.)
  • Mr. & Ms.: Gender-bending sketch with Cher as the bread winner in the household, working as a business executive and wearing a three-piece suit. She would come home to Sonny, a beleaguered house-husband who usually complained about how bad his day had been.
  • The Fortune Teller: Cher inside a fortune-telling vending machine. When Sonny would insert a quarter to hear his fortune, she would give bad news or insults, but anyone else, particularly a given week's guest star, would get a good fortune that would almost immediately come true.
  • At The Laundrette: Laundromat sketch with Cher as Laverne, a housewife with tacky fashion sense cracking jokes to straight-woman Olivia, played by Garr.

The Sonny Comedy Revue[edit]

In 1974, Sonny and Cher agreed to end the show as they were separating from each other. Their timeslot was given to Tony Orlando and Dawn the next fall. They both starred in separate variety shows over the next two years. Sonny Bono's 1974 variety series, The Sonny Comedy Revue, led off the ABC Sunday night lineup, but lasted just 13 episodes. While it retained the creative team behind The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, Bono's solo effort was largely a victim of the show's weak time slot and the established hits it faced on NBC and CBS. Initially, people assumed that his show would be the greater success when it was heard that Cher was to appear in her own show on CBS.

Cher[edit]

Starting in early 1975, Cher also returned to network television with her solo variety show, entitled Cher. It did well during its abbreviated run and was renewed for the 1975-76 season. However, during the second season Cher herself decided to end the show to work with Sonny again. Although Sonny's show had all the cast and crew from the comedy hour and was expected to be the bigger hit, Cher's show easily became the greater success in the ratings. Due to contracts, Cher was unable to perform many of her sketches and characters from the comedy hour on her show; Sonny had them on his show, instead.

Among the many guests who appeared on the Cher show were Pat Boone, David Bowie, Ray Charles, Steve Martin, Tina Turner, Dion, Wayne Newton, Linda Ronstadt, Lily Tomlin, Frankie Valli, Tatum O'Neal,[3] Raquel Welch, Wayne Rogers,[4] and Labelle.[5]

The Sonny & Cher Show (1976–1977)[edit]

In February 1976, the bitterness of their divorce behind them, the couple reunited for one last try with The Sonny and Cher Show. It was basically the same as their first variety series but with different writers to create new sketches and songs. Many considered the "magic" that had made the show initially successful was gone now that the couple was no longer married and that the barbs they aimed at one another were no longer cute after such a bitter divorce. (Some jokes would get awkward. In one opening segment Cher gave Sonny a compliment and Sonny jokingly replied "That's not what you said in the courtroom.") Despite this, and even with Cher married to Gregg Allman, on tour with him, pregnant with his child, the revived series garnered enough ratings to be renewed for a second season, finally ending its run in 1977. (By this time, the variety show genre was already in steep decline, and Sonny and Cher was one of the few successful programs of the genre remaining on the air at the time.)

Some of the guests who appeared on The Sonny and Cher Show included Frankie Avalon, Muhammad Ali, Raymond Burr, Ruth Buzzi, Charo, Barbara Eden, Neil Sedaka, Farrah Fawcett, Bob Hope, Don Knotts, Jerry Lewis, Tony Orlando, The Osmonds, Debbie Reynolds, The Smothers Brothers, Tina Turner, Twiggy, and Betty White.[6]

Production notes[edit]

The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour taped its opening and closing segments in front of a live studio audience. The Sonny & Cher "concert" segment was also taped in front of the same audience, as were some of the segments featuring musical guest stars—as these typically were taped after the closing segment was completed. Due to blocking, costuming, and other staging and production requirements, most of the comedy segments were taped without an audience, with a laugh track added later.[7]

Syndication[edit]

Reruns of the series were seen on TV Land at the time of its launch in April 1996, with both the 1971-74 series and the 1976-77 series being treated as one; however only about 65 of the original 100 episodes were aired. TV Land then edited the shows down to a 30 minute episode from the original hour, and ultimately discontinued broadcasting the series.

List of guest stars[edit]

A[edit]

B[edit]

C[edit]

D[edit]

E[edit]

F[edit]

G[edit]

H[edit]

J[edit]

K[edit]

L[edit]

M[edit]

N[edit]

O[edit]

P[edit]

R[edit]

S[edit]

T[edit]

V[edit]

W[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour Full Episode Guides on CBS". TV Guide. Retrieved 2012-10-28. 
  2. ^ Bego 2004, p. 381
  3. ^ ""Cher" (1975) - Episodes Cast". IMDb. Retrieved 2012-10-28. 
  4. ^ Bego 2004, p. 101
  5. ^ Bego 2004, p. 109
  6. ^ ""The Sonny and Cher Show" (1976) - Episodes Cast". IMDb. Retrieved 2012-10-28. 
  7. ^ Rolling Stone, 5/24/73

References[edit]

  • Bego, Mark (2004). Cher: If You Believe. Taylor Trade Publications. ISBN 0815411537. 

External links[edit]