Pink Lady... and Jeff “Episode #5”
Well, this is it! The penultimate episode, and the only one to air outside of March 1980. You know, it seems easy to judge Pink Lady and Jeff. After all, it was a dying format, based around music that people didn’t listen to anymore, featuring an obscure comedian as a host and older pseudo-celebrities taking part in corny sketches involving lame puns. No wonder it only lasted a few episodes.
I can see where you would think that, but I’m reminded of another show. A game show, matter of fact, that came out in the early ‘90s (when game shows were out). It also starred an obscure comedian as host, who regularly did silly sketches with an older actress who was best known for a bit part in a cult classic from over a decade earlier, and which had a doo-wop group as the house band.
Same basic concept, right? Except Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? ran for five seasons, had almost three hundred episodes, won a Peabody Award, and was the second longest running children’s game show of all time. To say nothing of the fact that it was what inspired me to become the successful internet comic I am today.
So, really, Pink Lady and Jeff have nobody to blame but themselves. And everything else that went wrong. Still, NBC was bound and determined to get their money back somehow, whether that meant whoring the girls out to another of their failed variety shows…
…Or by pulling out all the stops. Trust me, you’ve never seen stunt casting this bad.
- Red Buttons was a comedian back in the day, who actually won an Oscar for a movie he did where he married a Japanese woman. Incidentally, the actress who played his wife, Miyoshi Umeki, was the first Asian to ever win an Academy Award. You would probably know him best from The Poseidon Adventure, or the villain’s sidekick from Pete’s Dragon. Also, his voice reminds me of Mel Tormé.
- Alice Cooper is, frankly, the greatest rock star ever. Unfortunately, his career wasn’t doing so hot in early 1980, his credibility all but destroyed after the double whammy of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Sextette. Fortunately, his career would pick back up and he would go on to inspire almost all of today’s heavy metal bands.
- Jerry Lewis is… Jerry Lewis. Do I really have to explain this to you? The man’s a comedy icon. Without him, there’d be no Rat Pack, no Jim Carrey, no public awareness for muscular dystrophy. And no crappy direct to video CGI film with Drake Bell. Wait…
- Robby the Robot was a character from Forbidden Planet that, for one reason or another, they kept trotting out for crappy TV shows, and became arguably the most famous mechanical man in pop culture. Until Johnny 5 came around. Oh yeah.
Dispensing with Jeff altogether, the girls, dressed as bad guys from Power Rangers, burst into one of their own songs, “Monster”, while the Blondes, complete with Viking helmets, join in with little fanfare. Kei actually looks like she’s enjoying herself.
In a strange twist, the girls introduce Jeff, who’s upset because they went to a disco without him. This leads to a dumb pronunciation gag about zodiac signs, and Jeff trying to explain computer dating. Ah, for the days when your romantic future hinged on an easily broken, partially wooden mystery box that had less than 1/500th the computing power of my cell phone. It was a simpler time.
This is capped when Robby (seriously, Robby the Robot?) is revealed to be Jeff’s date, although I suspect they just brought out the bucket of bolts so they could have someone introduce the guests while displaying a certain range as an actor.
The Blondes come back out, helmets and all, and as Jeff, Robby, and the girls dance their way into the commercial break, I can’t help but think that if the show had been this Japanese when it first started, it might have survived.
We come back to (Burn it! Send it to hell!) the Magazine Dance.
Jim Varney hosts a Dating Game rip-off about finding a replacement host for Johnny Carson, which is down to a high school girl and Jeff doing his best Jerry Lewis impression.
Red Buttons is a patient in Jeff’s emergency room (poor bastard) which apparently doubles as a car wash/assembly line. The surgery goes horribly wrong, the girls make a lame joke about Suzanne Sommers, and this travesty of a sketch is over.
Mie and Kei bring Red out again, he makes with the patter about Sayonara and how his name used to be “Blue Zippers”. To be honest, I don’t think he’s any funnier than Jeff, but the difference is that Jeff is aggressively unfunny, whereas Red Buttons is more the kindly old grandfather type, you know? He tells a corny joke, you chuckle to make him feel better, he slips some bourbon in your milk, that sort of thing.
Red leads the girls in a little dance, until Kei starts singing, which brings it to a screeching halt. The girls do “Yes… no”, which Red thinks is dynamite, and he introduces (ugh!) the Art Commercial.
Jeff’s moved his store back outside (how many birthdays does Vincent Price have, anyway?) and the producers actually sprang for an elephant! Which… just sort of stands there. Okay, then. Jeff’s decided to expand his business to include scientific artifacts, like pacemakers and satellites.
The elephant relieves himself as Jeff frantically tries to distract us, leading into the sketch within a sketch about Abraham Lincoln. Or, more specifically, a roast of Abraham Lincoln.
Oh, roasting. I never thought you could be misused.
Jeff plays Jefferson Davis (ha ha) who’s emceeing the roast, and well… let’s just say they’ve abandoned the “not-so-subtle” part of the equation. A racist joke about the NBA; some lame puns from Mary Todd Lincoln; Red as John Wilkes Booth dusts off the old “never got a dinner” routine, and gives Abe (Jim) two tickets to Our American Cousin (classy); Jim as Abe gets off a few historical in-jokes that are actually funny; the audience wonders why anyone besides the Friars Club would even attempt to roast somebody; the Blondes, in kinky 19th Century saloon girl underwear, do a god-awful spoof of “Camptown Ladies”, and we get another in a long line of Pink Lady and Jeff’s Inappropriately Placed Hoedowns™.
The bottom of the barrel, ladies and gentlemen.
We fade (what the hell?) into a music video of Mie and Kei singing “MacArthur Park”, managing to make the lyrics make even less sense (quick question: why does anybody like this song, again?). Visually, the video’s the same as last time, and I think even Mie’s given up trying to pronounce any of these words. This version of the song is mercifully shorter than the real one, and we fade out with Mie and Kei giving looks that say, “What am I doing here?” and “Please kill me!”, respectively.
We finally get to the gooey Glazed McGuffin at the center of the series, as Jeff and the girls bring out Jerry Lewis, who mocks Jeff for being completely obscure (even Kei’s laughing). Jerry develops a coughing fit, but fixes it by lighting a cigarette, which almost sets his incredibly greasy hair on fire.
The girls ask Jerry to help make Jeff funnier, which just might be possible, since his very presence is even making Mie and Kei funny. Well, intentionally funny.
You know, Jerry’s solo act is much more vicious than I remember.
They reintroduce Jerry, who comes back in, stumbling over some ill-placed chairs (they couldn’t just hand it off to him when he was on stage the first time?). Jerry does his standard bit, a few gags, a song which he butchers in all the right ways, he hits himself in the groin with his microphone, and flashes back to another sketch within a sketch about him rehearsing the song he just did.
Okay, let’s see where they’re going with this.
What follows could best be described as a discourse on old-fashioned stand-up and how to do it right: Jerry gets bopped in the head with a microphone, makes funny faces, misreads his cue cards, tries to sing while dealing with the wardrobe and makeup girls, has three TV cameras shoved in his face, and ends up hoisted in the air by a cherry picker.
From there we cut to another music video, for Alice Cooper’s “Clones (We’re All)”. Now, despite my initial disappointment, I thought to myself, “Sure, it’s a music video, but maybe it was made especially for this show.” Then I found out it wasn’t, and this is the actual music video for this song. Although it would seem they’ve since made another one.
Oh well. By the way, Alice looks really weird without his make-up.
Jeff brings the girls back out, complete with drum set, which Jeff uses to prove he’s actually good at something.
He hams it up for a bit, and the girls, wearing their most ridiculous costumes yet, launch into the song “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” by Rod Stewart, who in addition to his impeccable spelling, is best known these days for reinventing the Great American Songbook. And still looking like a gnome after all these years.
They lead into ABBA’s “Dancing Queen”, then from completely out of nowhere, the girls are transformed into marionettes as they break into “If My Friends Could See Me Now” from Sweet Charity. Fortunately, the Pink Lady Dancers are all dressed up like Brother Power, the Geek, or else this wouldn’t make a lick of sense.
So, we finally got a good show tune, three episodes too late.
We come back from commercial for Hot Tub Time, only Jeff is nowhere to be found. Turns out Jeff’s already stripped down and beaten them to it. The girls refuse to hop in, because Kei read in the newspaper about a local shark sighting, which leads to a lame gag about Jaws, involving Jeff’s near-immolation and the girl’s mocking laughter.
Jeff runs off, the girls tell us they’ll see us next week (no, they wouldn’t), and the shark is revealed to be the sumo wrestler. We freeze-frame on him laughing, the screen goes orange for some reason, and we see the only sensible credit in this entire mess:
So, let’s go over this again: the girls started out strong, we got a weak cameo from an overused costume, Red Buttons embarrassed himself for no other reason than people were interested in seeing him again (he’ll sort of be back next time), Jerry stole the show and then disappeared, Alice Cooper became another in a short line of people who’ll stare at you blankly if you ask them about this show, Mie gave up, and it all just sort of wound down towards the end. Honestly, I think Jeff Altman might have been the only person left who still thought this show was a good idea.
And there you have it, a last gasp from the Carter Era. The following week, what few people actually tuned in to watch this show were treated to… something else entirely. Then the viewing public shrugged and quickly moved on with their lives. But we won’t. Because there’s still one more episode to go, where we actually get to hear Jeff sing.
Can Michael maintain his sanity for one more go? Could Jeff be any less funny? Will the art sketch really be the only bit they did in every episode? Tune in next time to find out! Same Agony Booth time, same Agony Booth channel!