Pink Lady... and Jeff “Episode #2” (part 1 of 2)
America seems to have a love-hate relationship with the late Jim Varney. One the one hand, just about everybody liked him as a person, but on the other, it was generally conceded that just about everything he was involved with was dogshit.
Sure, the Ernest movies made a pile of money, and many of them still hold up to this day, but no one’s allowed to admit that. In a way, he’s like a Bizarro-version of Mr. T: he’s a talented entertainer in movies that people actually saw, but would never make an animated film that much more awesome just by being in it. (Only the real Mr. T could do that. And Bruce Campbell.)
As I said before, Pink Lady was his big break. Sure, he did some earlier stuff, but I defy you to name any of it. (Admittedly, being on The Johnny Cash Show would seem pretty major, but I don’t know if anyone remembers it; besides, the Ernest commercials which made him a star didn’t debut until well after this piece of crap went on the air, making my insanely convoluted theory sound as a pound.)
The reason I mention all this is that this episode, in contrast to the previous Jeff-centric episode, seems to be all Jim Varney, all the time. Sort of. Which is a step in the right direction any way you slice it, but that just gets your hopes up that much higher, since even he couldn’t make any of this work.
So join me once again as I devote more thought to this show than anyone in history.
Ho-hum, swan flying through space, baseball field, ah! Here we are. This week’s guests are Donny Osmond, Sid Caesar, Teddy Pendergrass, and Larry Hagman. Also, the box lists Jim Varney as a guest, despite his being a member of the cast… Huh. We see more clips from the upcoming episode, and this week focuses more on the musical numbers than sketches, only instead of the Hollywood sign, the bird erases a scene depicting what looks like a hoedown on the Great Wall of China.
I’m not sure what part of that paragraph to disbelieve first.
So, let’s see, this week’s line-up includes:
- A guy who got famous for being the first in a long line of white Michael Jackson impersonators.
- A once legendary comic and television pioneer, now an old man slowly biding his time on the Celebrity Roast circuit until the first Comic Relief special briefly rekindles an interest in his work, six years after this episode airs.
- A recently deceased singer that everyone gushed over when they heard he passed, a significant number of which probably couldn’t even name any of his songs.
- And finally, a guy who, at the time, was mostly thought of as being the male lead from I Dream of Jeannie, with Dallas having not quite caught on just yet.
Before we get too far into the show, I thought I’d take a second to share a bit of history about Mie and Kei, since the last time I treated them with as little thought as this show did. Besides, their back story makes this whole mess even more sad.
In 1976, teenagers Mitsuyo Nemoto and Keiko Masuda appeared on the Japanese version of Star Search, and made such an impression that the recording industry snapped them up, and in less than five months they saw their first single, “Pepper Keibu”, hit #4. By March of 1980, they’d released sixteen Top 40 hits, starred in a movie, gotten their own anime on what is now TV Tokyo, and become the second Japanese group in American history to score a hit single with “Kiss in the Dark”, which debuted on the The Leif Garrett Show in 1979. (See, they did just give anybody their own show!)
However, by the time NBC sunk their filthy claws into them, the girls had tarnished their reputations following a scandal involving a New Year’s Eve special and a school for the blind. In fact, their participation on this show was basically a Hail Mary pass to save their careers.
In the end, they slunk back to Japan with their tails between their legs. They had a few more singles, sinking as low as #85, before finally disbanding a year later, becoming has-beens while still in their early twenties.
In the final twist in this long and strange trip, Mie ended up, get this, singing lead for a heavy metal supergroup that did covers of TV theme songs. No, really.
Jeff marks the beginning of the second episode by joking that it’s the longest he’s ever hosted a show, and pulls some newspaper clippings out of his pocket, reading from various reviews which, conveniently, fit his shtick of being a complete non-entity, save the last one, supposedly from the Tokyo Sun, which gives him an excuse to butcher Japanese for his audience’s amusement.
He muses about how this show was airing opposite The Dukes of Hazzard, which, as you’ll recall, was his old stomping ground. This, of course, is an excuse for a lame joke about how he’s a professionally trained actor and that show was beneath him. Honestly, I doubt that the floor was beneath him.
He brings the girls out and… Oh my various gods, they’re doing the bit with the kimonos again! Yeesh, with all the other gimmicks getting used over and over you’d think they could shake up the intro a little. This week, they open with “Ease On Down the Road” from my favorite movie, The Wiz. Except, rather than butcher it with their less than perfect English skills, it turns out their voices are too deep for this song!
Their outfits are much more tasteful this time around, though.
They bring out the backup dancers again (who get louder applause than they did) and, well, it’s more or less exactly what happened last time, except it’s to “Ease On Down the Road” instead of “Boogie Wonderland”.
The banter starts off casually, and I mean actually casual, not fake casual like most monologues. They talk about Jeff’s cheap tux and why he doesn’t have any other outfits, and how in Japan they wear robes. While the girls’ pronunciation has gotten better, I don’t think their comprehension has improved much, although Kei can still get her zingers in like a pro, even if she does sound embarrassed to be here.
The girls bring out a blonde in a kimono to model a tea service outfit, and another carrying a wedding robe. The girls present Jeff with a samurai outfit, which makes him feel powerful and ready to fight someone, until confronted by an actual samurai, at which point he claims to be an insurance salesman and runs off.
I assure you, seeing it in writing is funnier than in real life.
The girls are smiling because they’ve finally gotten rid of him, and they finish the monologue as best they can, and bring the dancers back out, which is capped off by Jeff trying to teach the samurai how to dance.
Back from commercial, Jeff introduces Larry Hagman, whom Jeff repeatedly confuses with his character J.R. Ewing, which is fine, while Larry complains that the show has turned his own mother against him, but Jeff calls him J.R. one too many times. Larry strong-arms him into believing he’s a nice person in real life, punctuated by a sandbag just barely missing Jeff’s head. And his car blowing up off-screen. Okay.
The girls wander out and suddenly Larry’s all smiles and he, er, smiles. The girls take a liking to him and invite him to watch their next number, and he thanks them in their native tongue.
They leave, and Jeff’s indignant, until Larry reveals he was just acting. He gives Jeff his cowboy hat and we cut to the Radio Dance! Yeah!
This week, Jeff plays a televangelist (again), and Jim Varney (finally!) hosts a country music show, with Jeff as Jimmy Carter (they’re “The Carter Family”. Get it?). This gag goes on for a while, so we don’t get a third job this week, which is fine by me.
End of the episode music plays while Jeff commends the girls on their English, saying that with all the guests they have tonight, they don’t need him. Which is true, but the girls beg him to stay, saying he shouldn’t be jealous of Donny Osmond, which leads to Jeff trying to check off ways they’re similar, with predictable results. (I dig the over the top “kawaii” gestures, though.) The girls kiss him on the cheeks and leave to change outfits.
Jeff gives Sid Caesar a rather sentimental intro (seriously, why do they have plot resolution music playing?), and faster than you can say Mood Whiplash, we’re plunged into an alternate universe where Sid is the girls’ father. Sid switches back and forth from Japanese, English, and gibberish with alarming speed, as he plays a sort of drill sergeant, inspecting their outfits before their dates, while making English phrases sound like Japanese words, which they don’t understand and have to be repeated over and over before he explains it. It’s almost funny.
Jim and Jeff arrive, nearly getting impaled on Sid’s samurai sword for putting their shoes too close to the girls’. Again, that’s almost a joke. The guys make first date small talk while Sid Caesar sharpens his samurai sword on a stone. Now, that’s a joke. It’s also consonance. Jeff gets a little too close to Kei, which prompts another display of swordsmanship, ending with Sid chopping up a statue he had lying around. And spitting on it.
Here’s the thing. Sid Caesar is one of the funniest men who ever lived. It’s really a testament to how lame the bit is when even he can’t make it work. The sketch is capped by revealing that, rather than a first date, the four are actually on their way to get married (oddly, Kei’s hooked up with Jeff), and Sid Caesar’s wife is actually a fat man with a mustache.
Alright, now I believe Sid and Marty Krofft were involved.