"I don’t believe what I just saw!" The late Jack Buck’s famous words were never truer following my recent viewing of the Captain & Tennille’s old TV variety show DVD. While I do remember watching it a few times in first-run circa. 1976-77, I sure don’t remember this thing being so utterly wretched! To be fair, this was back in the day when everybody and their mother had a TV variety show that copied the tried-and-true Flip Wilson/Sonny & Cher/Donny & Marie formula. Even the Starland Vocal Band had their own show that lasted all of a month, based solely on the strength of their insipid hit "Afternoon Delight", but C&T’s ignominious show was like watching Sonny & Cher on Prozac. Not unlike Rachel on "Friends" after watching one of Joey’s plays, I "feel violated"!
I barely got through the first four episodes on DVD, and I couldn’t take any more. I cringed numerous times throughout and was actually embarrassed for not only C&T (esp. Tennille), but their guest stars, as well. I mean, Redd Foxx and Leonard Nimoy looked so out-of-place doing this show. And did Jackie Gleason need a paycheck badly enough to appear on TV in a tacky pink (I shit you not—PINK!) leisure suit and waving his cigarette around like a queer? [By the way, Jackie, any chance you coulda put your smokes out long enough to spend a few minutes on camera, bud?] There was also plenty of shameless self-promotion on ABC’s part, as the majority of C&T’s other guest stars were from network shows like "Happy Days", "What’s Happening!", and the entire cast of "Welcome Back, Kotter" except Epstein and Mr. Woodman. And Penny Marshall singing? Loved her to death as Laverne, and she’s a dandy film director today, but her caterwauling made Edith Bunker sound like Gloria Estefan!
If all that weren’t bad enough, then there was C&T themselves. Toni Tennille is a great singer and a decent performer and wasn't too hard on the eyes, but the not-so-good Captain was a total dullard! Excellent musician, yes—he used to tour with the Beach Boys, in fact—but Daryl Dragon had all the personality of a coat hanger, and his totally insufferable hat "jokes" made Bob Saget seem like Robin Williams. Thus, Tennille was forced to pretty much carry the show herself and the results were pretty damn sad. She sounded so silly doing songs like Jim Croce’s "You Don’t Mess Around With Jim" and Elton John’s "Honky Cat" without even changing the gender in lines like, "Living in the city, boy, is gonna break your heart", all the while doing hokey choreography with a bunch of male dancers dressed in tacky orange jumpsuits, etc.
The one saving grace for the show was when they featured musical guests that you rarely got to see on TV in the pre-MTV days like Heart or Rufus with Chaka Khan. But honestly, Captain & Tennille should have stuck to making records—this show actually made "Pink Lady & Jeff" and the "Brady Bunch" variety show look brilliant by comparison, which is no mean feat!
I have been slimed…