DVD Review: Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In (The Complete Third Season)



After its second season, Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In was a massive hit. The show had revolutionized the pacing of a comedy show in many ways. The quick sketches made the audience understand that if you didn’t get one joke, don’t worry, another one with different characters was coming in 30 seconds. You didn’t have to wait until after the commercial break. The commercials were longer most of the time. The show offered up catch phrases that people at offices would exchange around the water cooler like lines from Saturday Night Live and Borat. Even with success, it was a show of change that constantly brought in talent to keep it worth talking about at the water cooler. Thus when original regular Judy Carne (The Americanization of Emily) was departing, the producers brought in Lily Tomlin and proceeded to kick things up another level. Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In: The Complete Third Season shows how a great show found an extra gear.

Lily Tomlin had mainly worked stand up before she was selected for the show so she was an extremely fresh face when she popped up at the cocktail party celebrating New Year’s Eve during episode 15. She had found the perfect home for many reason. First was the fact that Laugh-In was already a great spot for female performers. The audience was already laughing at Ruth Buzzi, Jo Anne Worley, Goldie Hawn and Carne. This wasn’t like previous comedy shows that had one or two female cast members who mainly served as wives, girlfriends or waitresses. They were more than the punchline on this series. They could be the meat of the sketch. Buzzi’s Gladys Ormphby was a sensation as she attacked Arte Johnson’s dirty old man with her pocketbook. A big second was the amount of material that the show went through in an hour must have made it simpler to pitch a sketch or character idea. This isn’t like Saturday Night Live where you have to fight for a precious segment and someone has to lose. Tomlin was able to bring so many of her characters onto the small screen in fast order. First there was Ernestine, the nosy telephone operator from back when Ma Bell ruled us all. More importantly was Edith Ann, a five-and-a-half-year-old girl goes back and forth on a giant rock chair as she reflects on her life. Mrs. Earbore is a tasteful lady always wanting to give tips to people to living a tasteful life.

The guest stars and famous cameos was once more a Hollywood yearbook. Jack Benny, Milton Merle, Michael Caine, Carol Channing, Tony Curtis, Bing Crosby, Sammy Davis Jr, Phyllis Diller, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Peter Sellers, The Monkees, Carl Reiner, Mickey Rooney, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra, Ringo Starr and Sonny & Cher drop by to share a few quickies. At the end of the third season along with Carne; Jo Anne Worley and Goldie Hawn departed the show. In a sense this is the season most people think of when they recount the greatness of the cast. All the major cast members are here. Lily was able to show up and immediately catch fire with her characters that fit nicely into the rapid format. Laugh-In‘s third season was a time of change that made it even more hilarious.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers look fine for a show shot in 1970 with standard definition video. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The levels are proper so you don’t miss the quickie humor. The episodes are Closed Captioned.

Lily Tomlin Interview (9:59) talks about her shocking original idea of how to dress for her Laugh-In audition. She was happy that the show appreciated her since she had been dumped by the Gary Moore Show.

Still Laugh-In (52:20) is a tribute to George Schlatter at Pepperdine University. Among the people talking are Larry King, Arte Johnson, Lily Tomlin, Jo Anne Worley, Tim Conway and Goldie Hawn.

Time Life presents Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. Starring: Dan Rowan, Dick Martin, Lily Tomlin, Goldie Hawn, Arte Johnson and Jo Anne Worley. Boxset Contents: 26 Episodes on 7 DVDs. Released: March 6, 2018.

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