Friday, March 20, 2015

Unbelievable TV: "Pink Lady & Jeff"

In the late 1970's through the early 1980's, NBC was hitting new lows when it came to viewership. The network's glory days seemed to be in the past; very little it put on the air actually caught on. Perhaps that explains why the network produced a bizarre show that was so unbelievably bad that it had to have been greenlit by someone who was higher than a kite. How else to explain why a major television network would air a variety show (long after variety shows were remotely relevant) with two foreign stars (who knew little English and were virtually unknown in the United States) paired with a comedian who was best known for occasionally starring as a distant relative of Boss Hogg on Dukes of Hazzard? As hard as it is to believe, NBC did just that, "proudly" producing the disastrous Pink Lady & Jeff.

Wait a minute.... Doesn't that title card just say Pink Lady without the Jeff? Well, when NBC signed the Japanese sensation Pink Lady to a contract, they agreed that the show would only feature the duo's name in the title. However, when NBC realized that it had agreed to produce a weekly show with two young ladies who knew little English, they realized the girls needed a co-host. Relatively unknown comedian Jeff Altman was enlisted to try to make the best of the situation, but his name couldn't officially be in the title. So it wasn't included on the show itself, but as you can see in this vintage ad, they promoted it with the show's unofficial name:

Watching just a few minutes of this debacle will instantly make anyone question his or her sanity. That so many talented people wasted their time on this is even more baffling. Mr. Altman has zero chemistry with the ladies, who seem to despise him and the hackneyed jokes they can barely enunciate, much less probably understand. The bizarre guest stars included Florence Henderson, Teddy Pendergrass, Roy Orbison, Lorne Green and even Jerry Lewis himself. 

While six episodes were produced, only five actually aired. The "lost" episode made it onto the DVD release, proving once and for all that truly everything must be available on DVD. Luckily for all involved, the show eventually became forgotten. Pink Lady returned to Japan while Jeff Altman has a lucrative voice-over career. One of the "featured" players who would become quite famous after this show was Jim Varney. NBC would eventually put the bad times behind it, becoming the home of mega hits like Family Ties, Cheers, Night Court and The Cosby Show.