The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour

Last updated
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 byArt Fisher
Starring Sonny and Cher
Theme music composer Sonny Bono
Opening theme"The Beat Goes On"
Ending theme"I Got You Babe"
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons4
No. of episodes67 [1]
Production
Producers Chris Bearde
Allan Blye
Running time52 minutes original air time [2]
Release
Original network CBS
Audio format Monaural
Original releaseAugust 1, 1971 (1971-08-01) 
May 29, 1974 (1974-05-29)
Chronology
Followed byThe Sonny & Cher Show (1976-1977)

The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour was an American variety show that starred American pop singers Sonny Bono and Cher, who were married to each other at the time. The show ran on CBS in the United States, and premiered in August 1971. The show was canceled in May 1974, due to the couple's divorce, but the duo would reunite in 1976 for the similarly-formatted The Sonny & Cher Show (a title sporadically used during the run of the Comedy Hour), which ran for two seasons, ending August 29, 1977. [3]

Contents

The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour (19711974)

By 1971, Sonny and Cher had stopped producing hit singles as a duet act. 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 sarcastic, yet comic manner. Comedy skits would follow, mixed in with musical numbers. At the end of each episode, Sonny and Cher would sing their hit "I Got You Babe" to the audience, sometimes with their child Chaz Bono (then going by "Chastity") in tow.

There were many regular cast members who appeared in sketches. Some notables include 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). Regulars included:

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, [4] Chuck Berry, and Dick Clark. [5]

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 called The Sonny & Cher Ultimate Collection: The Best of The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour and The Sonny & Cher Show on Region 1 DVD.

Recurring routines

The Sonny Comedy Revue

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.[ by whom? ]

Cher

Starting in early 1975, Cher also returned to network television with her solo variety show, entitled Cher , which also aired on CBS. 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 most of the cast and crew from the comedy hour (except the musical director) and was expected to be the bigger hit, Cher's show easily became the greater success, both in the ratings and by fan response. [6] 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 Bette Midler, Elton John, Pat Boone, David Bowie, Ray Charles, Steve Martin, The Jackson 5, Ike & Tina Turner, Dion, Wayne Newton, Linda Ronstadt, Flip Wilson, Lily Tomlin, Frankie Valli, Tatum O'Neal, [7] Raquel Welch, Wayne Rogers, [8] and Labelle. [9]

The Sonny and Cher Show (19761977)

In February 1976, the bitterness of their divorce behind them, the couple reunited for The Sonny and Cher Show. This incarnation of the series was produced by veteran musical variety-show writers, Frank Peppiatt and John Aylesworth. It was basically the same format as their first variety series, but with different writers to create new sketches and songs. A new logo – a stylized hand with fingers crossed – symbolized their working relationship.

The duo's opening conversations were markedly more subdued and made low-key references to the couple's divorce, as well as Cher's subsequent marriage to Gregg Allman. (During production, Cher was pregnant with and eventually bore Allman's son, Elijah). Some jokes would become awkward; in one opening segment Cher gave Sonny a compliment, and Sonny jokingly replied "That's not what you said in the courtroom!" Nonetheless, the revived series garnered enough ratings to be renewed for a second season. By this time, however, 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. The show's final season, which aired as a mid-season replacement in the winter of 1977, was moved to the Friday night death slot, with the last episodes burned off in a late-evening Monday night time slot not typically used for comedy or variety series that summer.

The cast of regulars included Comedy Hour alums Ted Zeigler and Billy Van, Gailard Sartain (on loan from Peppiatt and Aylesworth's other series Hee Haw ), announcer Jack Harrell (who later gained fame as the longtime announcer for the original version of The People's Court ), and mime duo Shields and Yarnell. Billy Van left the show during season 1.

Some of the guests who appeared on The Sonny and Cher Show included Lynn Anderson, 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, The Jacksons, and Betty White. [10]

Production notes

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 in postproduction. [11]

Broadcast history and Nielsen ratings

The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour

SeasonTime slot (ET)RankRating [12]
1970–71 Sunday at 8:30-9:30 pmNot in the Top 30
1971–72 Monday at 10:00-11:00 pm2720.2
1972–73 Friday at 8:00-9:00 pm (September 1972 - December 1972)
Wednesday at 8:00-9:00 pm (December 1972 - May 1974)
Not in the Top 30
1973–74 723.3 (Tied with Kojak )

The Sonny and Cher Show

SeasonTime slot (ET)RankRating [13]
1975–76 Sunday at 8:00-9:00 pm2321.2
1976–77 Friday at 9:00-10:00 pm (January 1977 - March 1977)
Monday at 10:00-11:00 pm (May 1977 - August 1977)
Not in the Top 30

Reception

The series earned one Emmy award out of 22 nominations for Art Fisher for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Variety or Music in 1972. Fisher also received Emmy nominations for his work in 1973 and 1974, as did Tim Kiley as director for the series in 1976. Other Emmy nominations were for Outstanding Variety Series in 1972, 1973 and 1974; Outstanding New Series in 1972; Outstanding Single Program - Variety or Music in 1972; Outstanding Writing Achievement in Variety for Bob Arnott, Chris Bearde, Allan Blye, George Burditt, Bob Einstein, Phil Hahn, Coslough Johnson and Paul Wayne in 1972 and 1974 (Steve Martin also was nominated in the category in 1972 and Jim Mulligan was in 1974); Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design for Bob Mackie and Ret Turner in 1972, 1974 and 1977; Outstanding Achievement in Music, Lyrics and Special Material for Earl Brown in 1972 and 1973; Outstanding Achievement in Musical Direction for James E. Dale in 1972 and for Marty Paich in 1974; Outstanding Achievement in Lighting Direction for John R. Beam in 1973; Outstanding Achievement in Technical Direction for technical director Charles Franklin and cameramen Gorman Erickson, Jack Jennings, Tom McConnell, Barney Neeley and Richard Nelson in 1973; and Outstanding Achievement in Any Area of Creative Technical Crafts for Rena Leuschner for hairdressing in 1974. [14]

The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour also earned Golden Globe nominations in 1973 and 1974 for Best Television Series - Musical or Comedy and a win for Cher for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Comedy or Musical. [15]

Syndication

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 30-minute episodes from the original hour, and ultimately discontinued broadcasting the series in 2000. getTV broadcasts both the 1971–74 and 1976–77 series, also carrying Cher under a separate contract. [16]

List of guest stars

A

B

C

D

E

F

G

H

I

J

K

L

M

N

O

P

R

S

T

V

W

Notes

  1. TV Guide Magazine weekly issues from August 1, 1971 to March 6, 1974 showing
  2. Archival Television Audio, Inc.
  3. "The Sonny & Cher Show". Metacritic. Retrieved August 22, 2020.
  4. "The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour Full Episode Guides on CBS". TV Guide . Retrieved 2012-10-28.
  5. Bego 2004 , p. 381
  6. Witbeck, Charles (6 June 1975). "Bicentennial Minutes 'a network hit'". Boca Raton News. Retrieved 4 July 2016.
  7. ""Cher" (1975) - Episodes Cast". IMDb. Retrieved 2012-10-28.
  8. Bego 2004 , p. 101
  9. Bego 2004 , p. 109
  10. ""The Sonny and Cher Show" (1976) - Episodes Cast". IMDb. Retrieved 2012-10-28.
  11. Rolling Stone, 5/24/73
  12. Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946-Present (Ninth Edition). Ballantine Books. pp. 1686–1687. ISBN   978-0-345-49773-4.
  13. Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946-Present (Ninth Edition). Ballantine Books. p. 1687. ISBN   978-0-345-49773-4.
  14. "Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour Emmy nominations". Emmy Awards. Retrieved 6 April 2015.
  15. "Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour Golden Globe nominations". Golden Globe Awards. Retrieved 6 April 2015.
  16. "getTV". www.get.tv.

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