Judge Cynthia Boris is a little bit country.
"Cute Marie, real cute."
They sold 77 million records, with 30 gone to gold. They had four decades of sold out performances and one of the most recognized, swooned-over names in teen idoldom. How could this TV show go wrong? I think the ice skaters had a lot to do with it.
Facts of the Case
In 1962, The Osmond Brothers Quartet was hired to perform their barbershop-style repertoire at Disneyland. It was the start of something big, to say the least. The boys were heard by Andy Williams's father, who arranged an audition with his famous son. That led to a regular gig singing on The Andy Williams Show, which led to them being groomed for the teen market in 1970. At the ripe old age of thirteen, Donny Osmond became the group's star performer. Songs like "Puppy Love" sent the group to the top of the charts. By the mid-seventies, The Osmonds were one of the hottest tickets in town. Screaming fans broke down barriers to get the briefest touch, and Donny was front and center. With his wholesome good looks, Ultra-Brite smile, and pop-heaven singing voice, he earned the title of teen idol extraordinaire. After seeing Donny host a talk show along with his sister, Marie, ABC decided to give the duo their own variety show. Donny & Marie was born.
Think of it as the white bread version of The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour. Musical montages of the popular tunes of the day were interspersed with badly written sketch comedy featuring variety staple guest stars (such as Bob Hope, Ruth Buzzi, and Charo). Like Sonny and Cher, Donny and Marie had the comic putdowns and the familial camaraderie. They both had Bob Mackie-inspired costumes with glitter, feathers, and panache. They both had pleasant singing voices and they were all very likeable people. But the one big difference between the Sonny & Cher show and the Donny & Marie show is that Sonny and Cher made it work. They were funny. When jokes missed the mark, they went with it so you felt like you were laughing with them and not at them. The sketches on Donny & Marie looked like over-acted dress rehearsals. By the last season, Marie doesn't even try to keep from laughing at Donny's ridiculous antics.
You'll understand a lot when you learn that the show was produced by Sid & Mary Kroft, the people who gave you H.R. PuffnStuff and The Land of the Lost. So enamored with their new foray into the variety genre, they went on to produce The Brady Bunch Hour, The Bay City Rollers Show, and The Pink Lady and Jeff. You can't fault them for effort.
Well, maybe you can.
Donny & Marie goes like this: The show opens to the two of them. One faces in, one faces the camera. They begin to sing a song that was not meant to be done bubble gum style ("Jive Talking," "Nights on Broadway"). They sing, taking turns looking at the camera and each other as they move. They bounce, they make hand gestures—there's not a single bar of music that isn't punctuated by some bodily motion. And then the ice skaters come out. Oh, yes. The stage below our delightful duo is an ice rink. The skaters (in costumes that match the hosts and the theme) perform Busby Berkley-style routines. And then—lo and behold—Donny and Marie skate out to join them. The music stops, and idiotic, childish banter ensues with plenty of eye rolling and snarks of "cute Marie, real cute." Cue music, cue skaters, finale!
The show has just begun. Now we're on to ridiculous sketches, then Marie's a little bit country and Donny's a little bit rock and roll (the best part of the show). There's one more big sketch with a musical theme, then it's time for the ending—which, I hate to admit, I could sing on cue. Yes, I used to watch this show.
And how creepy is it to hear sweet Donny and Marie sing the sexually
suggestive, "I'm Your Puppet" in the Toyland sketch?
As if that wasn't bad enough, let's look at this DVD. It's called The Best of Donny and Marie, Volume 1. Even the distributor must not think this show is very good because there are only FOUR episodes on this whole set. Yes. Four. Two per disc. Four hours total. What the hey? Why bother?
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There are a few good things I can say about this set. Musically, it's nice. If you've got the equipment, there are several audio choices on this disc including Dolby Digital 5.1. If you're a fan of pop music, Donny and Marie deliver. They have a nice mix of popular tunes and I appreciate Marie sneaking in a few country hits. (Though granted most everything is delivered elevator music style.) There is one fun "murder mystery" sketch which uses lyrics from songs as clever bits of dialogue (the lady of the house dies and the maid sings, "one less bell to answer, one less egg to fry…").
It's also very interesting that the set has one episode from each year of the series run: 1976, 77, 78, and 79. You can see Marie go from chubby child in her communion dress, to overly thin, mature young woman in disco spandex in the space of four hours.
Don't get me wrong. I like Donny and Marie Osmond and all the Osmonds when it comes to their musical abilities and on-stage presence. I just don't like how this TV series reduced them to the level of bad slapstick comedians instead of just letting them do what they do best—sing.
In summary: "May tomorrow be a perfect day. May you find love and laughter along the way. May God keep you in his tender care, 'till he brings us together again."
Good night, everybody.
The Best of Donny and Marie, Volume 1 fulfills your minimum daily requirement of milk but sadly, this court prefers Diet Coke. Guilty!
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