When Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In hit the air in 1968, the show altered TV comedy. It tossed away the conventions of the time. Instead of prolonged sketches that filled the space between commercial breaks, it went with quick gags. The pace was perfect for a America that had embraced a faster pace of life. The comedy went with big characters, large catch phrases and repetition of punchlines. What could have easily fizzled away with a horrified audience flipping back to the safety of The Lucy Show, exploded. And thus the show didn’t get yanked off the schedule. Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In: The Complete Second Season keeps up the weirdness.
The cast slightly changes with Dave Madden arriving. He’d become iconic a few years later as manager Reuben Kincaid on The Partridge Family. More importantly was Alan Sues. His big character was a sports anchor who was flamboyant in his coverage. During the first season, Dan Rowan and Dick Martin like to toss around the phrase “Here come da judge!” And in an amazing form of payback, they brought onto the cast the creator of that routine: Pigmeat Markham. He played the judge. It should also be noted that Pigmeat also created “Look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls.” So it was nice that the nightclub comic was given more than credit, he got a rightfully deserved role.
The big get for the season was presidential candidate Richard Nixon for a quick moment. He participated in the “Sock it to me” fun without getting socked. This small moment somehow made him look less up tight which might have swayed voters’ opinions of him. Now you have to host an entire episode of Saturday Night Live. There’s a great routine for the season of John Wayne swearing he’s not going to appear on the show. Among the guest stars that pop up for the party or other short moments are Jack Lemmon, Vincent Price, Phyllis Diller, Hugh Hefner, Jack Benny, Mel Brooks, Johnny Carson, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Marcel Marceau, Rod Serling and Liberace.
Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In: The Complete Second Season shows that this was not a quickie production as the sketches keep poking both the system and the attention span of viewers. They do seem to do slow down the cuts when the audience is supposed to read something on screen. A lot of the humor is topical so a sense of late ’60s history is a plus. Rowan and Martin weren’t ready to shutdown the party they were having with America.
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfer looks fine for a series that was shot on standard definition videotape and 16mm for the exterior sketches. The audio is Dolby Digital mono with a mix that lets you hear the jokes over the studio laughs. The episodes are Closed Captioned.
Interviews with Dick Martin, announcer Gary Owens and Ruth Buzzi illuminate what went into the mayhem.
Time Life presents Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. Starring: Dan Rowan, Dick Martin, Ruth Buzzi, Gary Owens and Henry Gibson. Boxset Contents: 26 Episodes on 7 DVDs. Released: January 5, 2018.
Tags: Dick Martin, John Wayne, Richard Nixon, Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In