“I’m a little bit country, and I’m a little bit rock and roll'”
Though they were only in their late teens, Donny and Marie Osmond were already seasoned show-business veterans by the time they began their self-titled weekly variety series in 1976. Both had successful solo careers, had scored a few chart hits together as duet partners, and had toured the world with their brothers as part of The Osmonds. But it was The Donny and Marie Show that made the two performers household names.
Donny and Marie were singled out for television success by ABC executive Fred Silverman in 1975. He saw the two co-hosting an episode of The Mike Douglas Show and noticed that they had a natural chemistry that the audiences responded to. He brought the duo to ABC to do a variety special for the network in November of 1975. This special earned high ratings and prompted ABC to order a weekly variety series to showcase the two young stars for 1976.
Donny and Marie was produced by children’s-television legends Sid and Marty Krofft and designed as an all-purpose showcase for the showbiz skills of Donny and Marie. The show moved at a blitzkrieg pace as the two stars performed a variety of other artists’ songs’ranging from current hits to classic oldies’as well as their own hits. In between, there was plenty of comedy in the form of skits and Donny and Marie’s trademark banter before and after each of the show’s musical setpieces. The two were also accomplished ice-skaters and would open each of the first two seasons’ shows with an elaborate ice-skating musical number. During these numbers, they were bolstered by the show’s resident group of skaters, the Ice Vanities.
Weekly guest stars would appear in both the musical and comedy sequences. The many guests who appeared throughout the show’s four-year run included Andy Williams, Dirk Benedict, Andy Gibb, Cheryl Ladd, Kris Kristofferson, and Redd Foxx. The Osmond Brothers showed up on a regular basis to lend a hand on the musical numbers and trade a few well-timed one liners with the hosts. Paul Lynde also frequently appeared as an uncredited regular.
The format of the show never changed, but certain cosmetic alterations were instituted in its second season. The Osmonds moved the production of their show to a newly-built $2.5 million production complex in their hometown of Orem, Utah, and Bob Mackie was brought into to develop a new, more mature line of outfits for Marie. Mackie had previously done similar honors for Cher on The Sonny and Cher Show. The show continued successfully into its fourth season, when it was retitled The Osmond Family Hour and its scope was broadened to include the entire Osmond clan on a regular basis.
The show was cancelled after its fourth season. In many ways, Donny and Marie represented the end of an era for the televised variety show. Just the same, it managed to close this era with a bang. The costumes and sets were always dazzling and colorful, the leads were unfailingly charming and multi-talented, and everything moved at a consistently lighting-fast pace. In short, Donny and Marie will always be remembered for maintaining an over-the-top yet endearingly old-fashioned vision of what family entertainment should be.
USA / ABC – Sid and Marty Krofft Prods. – Osmond Prods. / x50 minutes / Broadcast 23 January 1976 – 19 January 1979
Johnny Dark (1978-79)