The Best of The Dean Martin Variety Show
starring Dean Martin
Let’s go back to the mid-’60s — back when variety shows ruled the newly colorized television and male chauvinism was the norm. Most of those shows are distant memories, but Time/Life is bringing back one of the greats. The Dean Martin Variety Show had it all: singing, dancing, comedy, and some strange acts that are rather tough to explain.
This set has six uncut episodes that prove just how talented and charismatic Dean Martin really is. Show #718 has Martin at his chauvinistic best on a skit called “Playmates,” where several girls surround Martin and wander around like mechanical toys while Martin quips lines like “They can touch me, but I can’t touch them.” This episode also includes a cameo from a young Pat Boone and a killer number from the incredibly talented and underappreciated Leslie Uggams.
Because these are uncut, there are some acts that don’t translate well. Jackie Mason has a great comedy bit, but the majority of the jokes are dated. There is also a strange, vaguely homoerotic strongman act that calls itself David & Goliath, followed by another dated, yet hilarious, comedy bit by George Gobel.
Some of the acts are just as good now as they were back then. Bob Newhart and Dom DeLuise litter Show #815 (the best one of the bunch) with timeless humor that will make anyone with a funny bone double over. Other acts that are still dynamite include Buck Owens singing “How Long Will My Baby Be Gone” and Dean Martin trying to act out every word of “The Merchant of Venice” as Orson Welles reads.
Martin hardly ever rehearsed his shows, which could be a blessing and a curse. Sometimes, he would look around like he had drunkenly stumbled into something he wasn’t supposed to (which was probably true in more than one instance). Other times he would ask the stage manager what he was supposed to sing or ad lib to keep everything moving. It didn’t matter whether Martin had control of the show or not. His goal was to have fun with his guests and entertain. Whether he knew what was going on was not only irrelevant, but also one of the best parts of the show. You never knew what you would end up seeing on The Dean Martin Show.
Time/Life released The Best of The Dean Martin Show a few months ago, and the difference here is that these are full episodes (minus commercials). You probably won’t like every act, but that is what makes this so good. These episodes are what families were sitting down to watch forty years ago and the vast majority of the entertainment is still top-notch today. That is why this collection is a must-have for everybody. For those who long for the past and for those who realize just how good television was — and how bad it is today.