Musical variety show The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour debuted as a CBS limited-run, summer-replacement series on August 1, 1971. In December 1971, CBS re-launched it as a regular series, where it ran until May 1974 – coinciding with a marital split between its two stars. Two years and a couple of short-lived solo TV projects later, the pair reunited for The Sonny and Cher Show, which ran on CBS from February 1976 to August 1977. Yet this series failed to capture the magic of their first effort, which is now regarded as a classic in a genre which has all but vanished from contemporary TV.
As a vehicle for this Southern Californian folk-pop-rock duo, the original series capitalized on their complementary personalities. Sonny and Cher together were like oil and vinegar. While Sonny was ebullient and unctuous, Cher countered with a strong dose of the tart and sour. Much of the banter between these two was rooted in insult humor, with the targets invariably being Sonny’s shortness and Cher’s nose. These carefully crafted comic personas were drawn largely from the pair’s Las Vegas lounge act – which was perfected after a mid-1960s string of pop hits, including “The Beat Goes On” and “I Got You Babe.”
In a style patterned upon The Carol Burnett Show, Sonny and Cher mixed musical numbers with comedy sketches, many of them featuring recurring characters and settings. Two of the more popular characters Cher created were Rosa, the sexy waitress in the “Sonny’s Pizza” sketches, and Laverne, the raspy-voiced housewife who talked about men at the laundromat in the “Dirty Linen” segments. Another regular feature was “Vamp,” a collection of mini-sketches in which Cher would portray a series of historically notorious women.
The series is also remembered for its dazzling glitziness. In addition to showcasing Cher in an endless series of stunning and revealing Bob Mackie gowns, it also featured big production numbers, special guests from the worlds of music, comedy and cinema, and a stock company which included future stars such as Steve Martin, Teri Garr and Bob “Super Dave Osborne” Einstein.
USA / CBS / x50 minute episodes / Broadcast 1 August 1971 – May 1974
Theme Music: The Beat Goes On by Sonny Bono / Producers: Allan Blye, Chris Bearde / Announcer: Peter Cullen
Chastity Bono (1973-1974)
Tom Solari (1971-1972)
Clark Can (1971-1972)
Murray Langston (1971-1974)
Freeman King (1971-1974)
Peter Cullen (1971-1974)
The Jimmy Dale Orchestra (1971-1973)
The Marty Paich Orchestra (1973-1974)
Steve Martin (1972-1973)
Teri Garr (1973-1974)
Billy Van (1973-1974)
Bob Einstein (1973-1974)
The Tony Mordente Dancers (1971-1974)
The Earl Brown Singers (1971-1974)