DVD Review: The Hee Haw Collection

When Fred Silverman performed his “Rural Purge” at CBS, he mainly eliminated a bunch of shows that were on their last legs. The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction had seen better days. Does anyone really think that losing Mayberry R.F.D. for The Mary Tyler Moore Show was a bad deal? The only program that was axed that made zero sense was a comedy variety show called Hee Haw. The new series was doing well in the ratings with its countrified version of Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. Unlike all the other shows that merely packed up their sets and fake corn plants, Hee Haw realized their was a demand. Instead of going to another network, they wisely syndicated themselves. This move allowed the show to become a Saturday evening institution across the nation for two decades. The Hee Haw Collection brings together five episodes of a series that brought the world to Nashville.

Unlike Laugh-In, the humor of Hee Haw is completely non-political or even dealing with the news of the day. There’s probably a musician on stage tonight in Branson using these routines without changing a word. The jokes are heavy on the cornball humor. This is “safe” comedy made it more comforting to an audience that was tucked in bed before Saturday Night Live aired. Junior Samples wasn’t going to go all anti-Nixon or Lulu mocking Vietnam policy. The show didn’t spend too much time evolving a sketch. Like Laugh-In, it was all about quick set up and punch line. They stuck the cast in a cornfield to exchange their corny jokes. The longer pieces were humorous stories told at the barber shop. They did their best to not bore the viewers with cutting edge humor. This is also why the show maintains its simple charms. The “writers” at Duck Dynasty crib jokes off Hee Haw.

The longer segments on the show are dedicated to the musical guests and regular performers. These are normally lip sync moments with the singer sans band mouthing the words to a hit in front of a living room set. There’s no massive production numbers with the Hee Haw dancers. It’s simple affairs. There’s footage of Hank Williams Jr. before his beard. Performers include Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Charlie Rich, Merle Haggard and others. Buck Owens and Roy Clark would also have their own musical moments during the show to remind the audience they weren’t merely TV hosts. The episodes included on the boxset are 13, 15. 19 56 and 99, These are the early years so the early ’70s huge country fashions on the screen. The Hee Haw Collection takes us back to a simple show that didn’t give up when the network ax came down.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers are from video masters. They don’t show too much wear and tear for their age. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The music reflects that it’s just lifted from the original recordings.

Hee Haw Laffs (29:35) is a clip show of just the comedy bits.

Interviews include Roy Clark, Lulu Roman, George “Goober” Lindsey, Roni Stoneman, George Yanok, Charlie McCoy, Jim and Jon Hager. They all have fond memories of the show and other performers. Lulu admits that she worked in Jack Ruby’s nightclubs.

Time Life presents The Hee Haw Collection. Starring: Buck Owens, Roy Clark, George Lindsey, Lulu, Minnie Pearl and Junior Samples. Boxset Contents: 7 Episodes on 3 DVDs. Released: September 8, 2015.