Last night we watched the above installment of ‘Hollywood Palace‘, an hourlong variety show that broadcast Saturday nights (except September 1967 to January 1968, when it aired on Monday nights) on ABC from January 4, 1964, to February 7, 1970. This particular episode was broadcast on January 20th, 1968. The host is Jack Benny ( the show featured an impressive list of revolving guest hosts) and the guests include Sammy Davis Jr., a young Liza Minelli, Peter Allen (freshly married to Liza) who performs a duet with his brother (who knew?), a juggling act etc. The odd thing here is that, while the show is delightfully entertaining, part of its charm is that it’s all a bit…off. Allen and his brother make a peculiar duo–if you have any love or even a vague liking for Peter Allen you’d much rather see him bust out and do his Peter Allen thing (he almost does at one point…you’ll see what I mean when you watch) rather than keeping him tethered to their odd, semi-folk act. Liza sings a very strange song about a mother happily deserting her children to be a free woman…and Sammy, despite some groovy ‘sock it to me’ dance moves, wastes an entire song lip-syncing to Robert Preston singing ‘Ya Got Trouble’ from “The Music Man’. Why the hell would he have done that? Sammy singing ‘Ya Got Trouble’ would have been a knock-out, don’t you think? Even the juggling act feels a little underwhelming–I kept waiting for the duo to shift into second gear but it never quite happens. The entire thing holds together largely because of Jack Benny. Then seventy-three, the oldest man on the set is the savviest show-biz guy in town. He lays back, observes with subtle dubiousness, speaks slowly and wryly and manages to keep thee audience focused on him rather than the others…even though he appears to do much less than any of the guests. Of course this was Benny’s specialty; allowing the others to work hard while his studied non-participation somehow became the funniest part of the show. All in all he pretty much wipes the stage up with the remains of the guests.
For most of its television run, with a lead-in of The Lawrence Welk Show at 8:30 pm, The Hollywood Palace enjoyed consistently respectable ratings, although surprisingly it never made the top 30 programs. By the start of the 1969-1970 season (its seventh), the ratings had slipped, and ABC canceled the series in February 1970. Bing Crosby hosted the final episode, sans audience, which consisted of clips from previous shows. I find HP a delight to watch. Now that the various Hollywood union strikes appear to be forcing reruns of stuff that you probably didn’t want to see to begin with (at least I didn’t) I offer the above as terrific evening entertainment, preferably enjoyed while eating dinner on a stack table in front of your Zenith color TV.