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Monday, January 02, 2006

During the 1960's, the comedy-variety format remained status-quo as far as quantity of programs with an average of ten to thirteen per year on the schedule. In the early part of the decade, old standbys like Garry Moore, Andy Williams, Jackie Gleason, and Perry Como retained their popularity. Reflecting the changing times, the late ‘60's introduced comedy-variety programming with more "bite" in the form of "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" (1967-1969) and "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In" (1968-1973). Tom and Dick Smothers were popular with the younger set and their show became an immediate hit. Unfortunately for them, while the kids liked the rebel attitude and their stinging satires of various hallowed institutions like religion, government, and motherhood, the CBS censors were not amused. After two years of battle, CBS canceled the show in spite of its high ratings. They were given another chance in 1970 on ABC but by that time attitudes were beginning to change and their style had worn off with their fickle fans. "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In" was similar to the Smothers Brothers in that they dealt with topical humor, but "Laugh-In" also had a faster pace and a cast of talented young performers like Goldie Hawn, Lily Tomlin, and Eileen Brennan. It shot to the top of the ratings during the period of 1968-1970 but began to drop off after that as the cast began moving on to other pursuits plus the format had basically run its course.
As Woodstock signaled the end of the drug culture of the late ‘60's, shows like "Laugh-In" were representing the end of the era's television mentality. The 1970's of Archie Bunker, Mary Richards, and Hawkeye Pierce were just around the corner.

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