DVD Review: “That Show” with Joan Rivers (Vol. 1-3)

Did you know there was a time when Joan Rivers might have appeared on a TV show with nearly all of her original face? The queen of E!’s Fashion Police wasn’t always a creature of silicone, botox and non-biodegradable materials. She appears positively life-like on “That Show” with Joan Rivers. The comic hosted a half-hour talk show from New York that was syndicated around the country back in 1968. Allegedly the only thing she had done to her face at this point was an eye lift. Forty-four years later, the topics on this series will lift up your eyes. She explores nudist camps, natural childbirth, teenagers and men wearing fur coats with an expert and a showbiz pal. “That Show” with Joan Rivers, Vol. 1-3 has 18 episodes of Joan’s sassy version of daytime chat.

The show’s format brings out Joan for an opening monologue based on the topic. She pumps the audience for laughs like she still does. An expert on the subject is introduced for a short solo chat with Joan. Then out comes the star attraction to really lighten things up. They were able to land quite a few big names to converse with Joan and the experts. The Tonight Show‘s Johnny Carson shares the chairs with a woman that runs a nudist camp. He’s never been on a naked vacation, but has plenty to ponder. Johnny works so well with Joan. Their friendship wouldn’t last. Johnny would attempt to destroy her when she started a late night talk show on Fox nearly 20 years later. “Natural Childbirth” deals with whether to go without painkillers while popping out a baby. Actress Carol Lawrence is a great choice since she’s had kids both ways. Why doesn’t the nurse at least offer drugs to the father in the delivery room?

“Woman’s Hats” is quite intriguing since the expert is Mr. John. He designed hats for Gone with the Wind. He has a fun time with Joan and Soupy Sales in reminding us the need for a good hat. “Are You in Shape” gives us a glimpse of a pre-Brady Bunch Florence Henderson. She was into hardcore workouts before there was cross training. “Cosmetic Surgery” lets Joan testify about the joys of being touched by the knife. Dick Cavett has a few words about procedures. He jokes that as a kid he thought plastic surgery was what you get when you can’t afford the real thing. “Do You Need a Maid?” features Nancy Walker, the director of Can’t Stop the Music. She needed a policeman, Indian, soldier, hardhat, leatherman and cowboy.

“Children in Show Business” has Jerry Lewis do more than crack jokes about a childhood in the limelight. Jerry’s son had gone onto be the leader of Gary Lewis and the Playboys. “This Diamond Ring” was a major hit in 1965 when he was 18.So Jerry knows what it’s like to be the showbiz kid and parent. Jerry shares one of his parenting stories about how he was upset at a report card when Gary was 14. On national television, Jerry describes taking off his belt and giving Gary major welts for not being an honor student. What star could drop that story on Leno without being greeted by social services back at the house to interview the other kids in the family? These were times when you could be franks and smoke cigarettes on camera.

The show is a unique mix of historical perspectives and topics that are still valid in the 21st century. The star guests truly add to the conversation and the humor. Nothing can top the weirdness of the microphones used during the sit down segments. They look like stiff garden hoses aimed at the guests. Joan Rivers is so loose on the screen as she keeps the conversation informative and the audience laughing.This show is joy for anyone as old as Joan or as young as her body parts.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. Most of the episodes are remarkably fine for being shot on video back in 1968. There’s an occasional glitch in the tape, but nothing that will drive your eyes nuts. You’ll be able to enjoy the hot fashions of 1968 worn by the studio audience. The audio is mono with Joan’s voice taking up a lot of space on the soundtrack.

No bonus features.

“That Show” with Joan Rivers, Vol. 1-3 is perfect for those who can’t get enough Joan on the Fashion Police. She is the perfect hostess in this format getting to educate and entertain the studio audience. The episode with Jerry Lewis is astonishing since he’s not merely there to play the fool. The confession of putting welts on his son’s ass isn’t played for laughs. Joan’s charm and most of her old face shines on this pioneering talk show.

Synergy Entertainment presents “That Show” with Joan Rivers, Vol. 1-3. Starring: Joan Rivers, Jerry Lewis, Johnny Carson and Soupy Sales. Boxset Contents: 18 episodes on 3 DVDs. Released on DVD: February 21, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.

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