03 January 2006

The following program was splattered in living colors...

Several years back, I used to host a weekly classic rock show on a little station in southeast Alabama. One occasional feature I enjoyed doing was something called The Jukebox From Hades. I'd play a really bad record -- ranging from the usual suspects "You Light Up My Life", "Feelings" and "Playground in My Mind", to obscurities like "My Pal Foot-Foot" and "What Do You Get a Wookie For Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb)"

But is there a video counterpart? A TV Schedule From Hades?

You betcha.

And I just finished watching 58 minutes of it this evening. In a batch of video tapes I received in a trade was an abomination called Pink Lady and Jeff. I'd heard of it, how it was a (mercifully) short-lived variety show on the wasteland that was NBC's 1980 schedule, that Pink Lady -- a Japanese duo with as much grasp of the Queen's English as your average convenience store clerk -- actually had a pop single called "Kiss in the Dark" squeak into the Billboard top 40 (#37, to be exact). Heard it a time or two on the radio. Both times it made me crave the musical substance of Kenny Rogers. Or Kermit the Frog.

Okay, one very minor single. A couple of weeks getting a brief nod from Casey Kasem (who, I might add, voiced all NBC promos during this period). And they got their own bloody TV program out of the bargain!

Who's Jeff, you ask? Glad you did. "Jeff" was Jeff Altman, a comedian who acted as something of a translator and straight-guy. He had his moments, but overall he made Bob Saget look like Jack Benny!

Oh, and there was a supporting player by the name of Jim Varney. A few years later, he'd pair up with a guy named Vern. We know how his career ended up, knowhutimean?

After an intro by Jeff, we see Mei and Kei come onstage wearing these gaudy kimonos. Then the music kicked up. Off went the kimonos. Our Tokyo goddesses then lit into a jaw-dropping lobotomy of "Boogie Wonderland."

No, that wasn't the pollution Indian from the PSA. That was Maurice White shedding a tear.

But wait, there's more. "You've Got a Friend" is also torn to fine molecular fiber. Boy, with 'friends' like that, who needs an ex-wife......

And, years before Bill "Spooge King" Clinton tarnished the song, Pink Lady gave a musical case of pinkeye to Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop."

The rest of the show was your typical Fred Silverman TV variety hour. Remember Tony Orlando & Dawn's variety show? The Brady Bunch Hour? Donnie & Marie? The Bobbie Gentry Happiness Hour? The Hudson Brothers Variety Hour? PL&J was such a low mark in an already shallow genre pool that I dare say the show was bordering on self-parody.

But no, Fred Silverman really had a thing for these smarmy TV variety shows, and in 1980 he was president of NBC. Remember, he's the guy who thought David Letterman deserved his own talk show. And he gave him one. In a WEEKDAY MORNING timeslot!

Did I mention how NBC was a terribly distant third place in 1980? Well, I just did. This was the network -- and president -- who unleashed upon us such TV classics as Manimal and Supertrain. This is why stations like Atlanta's WSB-TV 2 dropped NBC - a network they were involved with from day one - and got hitched to ABC.

The program's finale involved Mei and Kei coaxing Jeff into a hot tub. The show faded to credits as the girls were each giving Jeff a good massage.

Hmmmmm, maybe THAT'S why the guy consented to do the show.

But the hot tub bit reminded me more of Eddie Murphy's immortal 1983 sketch on SNL called James Brown Celebrity Hot Tub ("gonna GIT ... in da HOT TUB!!! OW!! TOO HOT!!")

Pink Lady and Jeff. That's 58 minutes I'll never get back!

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Goodnight, Everybody!!" Gleck

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