Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Overlooked TV: The Jack Benny Show

A few years ago I bought some dollar DVDs that each had three of Jack Benny's TV shows on them.  The one I watched had a show from 1953 with Humphrey Bogart as the guest, the New Year's show from 1957 with Jayne Mansfield putting in a brief appearance, and a show with Liberace from around the same time.

I always preferred Benny on radio, but I have to admit that there's no way radio could compete with the appearance of Jayne Mansfield.  It's just something you have to see to believe.  The rest of the show took place right in front of the curtain with Benny doing a "talent show" with Mel Blanc as one of the contestants.  Blanc did some animal impressions, and there were some sight gags that wouldn't have worked on radio.  As there were with the Landrews Sisters.  Lots of fat jokes that wouldn't go over at all now.

The Liberace show had a sketch with Benny and Lee in Lee's mansion (furnished with dozens of candelabras, of course.  Then Lee and Benny share a piano/violin duet on "September Song," with Benny clowning it up most of the time.  However, at one point he plays it straight and shows that he's not bad at all.

The Bogart show also has a sketch, with Bogart as a tough crook arrested by tough cop Benny.  It's an okay sketch, but I think radio would've been just as good for it.

What really stands out in all three shows is the hard-sell commercials for Lucky Strike cigarettes.  Wow.  I saw these all the time when I was a kid, but I'd forgotten what they were like.  The shows are worth watching for the commercials alone.  No wonder everyone smoked.  If I'd had a Lucky handy, I'd have lit one up.

7 comments:

Dan said...

I got a 5-CD collection a few years ago and found it a bit disappointing. When it's funny, it's a scream, but there are just too many obvious gags.

George said...

I watched JACK BENNY as a kid. I'm sure I didn't get most the jokes when I was only six years old, but I knew Benny was funny.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

I always loved the interaction between "Mr. Benny" and Rochester, Eddie Anderson was great. Check out THE MEANEST MAN IN THE WORLD.

James Reasoner said...

I loved this show as a kid, and what I've seen in recent years has held up pretty well.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I am not sure why but I always found Benny vaguely threatening as a kid. Maybe it was his asides to the audience.

Richard Robinson said...

The sight gags, with that expression he had as he glanced out at the audience. Priceless. My parents watched it, so I did too, and they laughed, so I did too. Maybe I got my sense of humor from Benny, that would account for it today.

Anonymous said...

Lucky Strikes, which I gave up many years ago, were a wonderful smoke.