After previously releasing the Complete Series in June 2017, Time Life is releasing Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In as Complete Season sets. The Second Season, now available, presents 26 episodes, airing between September 16, 1968 and March 31, 1969, spread across seven DVDs.
The comedy team of Dan Rowan and Dick Martin hosted Laugh-In, an anarchic take on the variety show that matched the youthful spirit of the era with fresh faces of its main cast; presented material that dealt with sex, politics, and drugs; and had a visual form with more in common with French New Wave films than anything else on the tube. The second season was so popular it was the #1 ranked show of 1968-1969 season
Returning cast members were Ruth Buzzi, Judy Carne, Henry Gibson, Goldie Hawn, Arte Johnson, Jo Anne Worley, and announcer Gary Owens. Eileen Brennan, Larry Hovis, and Roddy Maude-Roxby left, as did the musicals acts. Joining the show were Alan Sues, Chelsea Brown, Dave Madden, "Pigmeat" Markham, Dick "Sweet Brother" Whittington, J.J. Berry, and Byron Gilliam. Charlie Brill and Mitzi McCall were in a recurring sketch called "the Fun Couple," which was not fun and resulted in violence between them, like a live-action Punch and Judy.
Arte Johnson had the most characters, such as Wolfgang the German soldier; Piotr, a recent arrival from Communist Europe; and Rabbi Shankar, an Indian guru he played in brown make-up. Although slightly progressive, racial sensitivity was not the show's strong suit, an unfortunately common occurrence for the era. Johnson was also dirty old man Tyrone F. Horneigh to Ruth Buzzi's unattractive old maid Gladys Ormphby. Alan Seus was Big Al, the clueless sportscaster. JoAnne Worley would always protest chicken jokes. And Judy Carne was the sock-it-to-me gal, taking some form of abuse such as a bucket of water, a bonk on the head, or a fall through a trap door. Legend has it, comedian Markham learned his "Here come da judge" catch phrase and comedy routine were being used on the show. He asked to join so he could do his routine, which seems more than fair. He is also credited with the show's frequently used line: "Look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls".
Laugh-In had a number of recurring sketches. After Rowan and Martin's opening banter, they would head to the "The Party" which saw the cast performing a lot jokes in quick succession as they did during show-closer "The Joke Wall". After the ladies introduced the “News” segment, Martin would come out to a desk and The Tonight Show theme to perform a monologue. The Flying Fickle Finger of Fate was awarded to individuals or groups for some embarrassing achievement. It's fun to see them work in advertisements like Breck shampoo.
The series had a large number of guest stars from many fields of entertainment that would be edited in with reactions to the proceedings or saying silly things, although they were clearly recorded at another time. Stars from TV and film, as well as comedians and musicians would appear. Possibly the most notable this season was Richard Nixon, a few weeks before the 1968 election, who seemed to be asking "Sock it to me?" Hubert Humphrey declined his invitation, and some, including Lena Horne, blamed Laugh-In for helping to elect Nixon president.
Disc 1 contains the only Bonus Features: Dick Martin Interview (21 min), Gary Owens Interview (20 min), and Ruth Buzzi Interview (25 min). All are very interesting as they talk about their histories and working on the show. The video and audio understandably show signs of wear and age.
Other than some then-modern references that may be missed, the humor of Laugh-In holds up, remaining just as wonderfully wacky as when it premiered. However, the relentless number of jokes may not make it a show to binge watch as they seem to pack in more than an hour's worth into each episode.