On September 4, Time Life concludes their release of individual seasons of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In with The Complete Sixth Season, presenting all 24 re-mastered episodes across six discs that aired Monday nights at 8pm, September 11, 1972 - March 12, 1973. For the first time, the show had failed to make the Top 30, which surely contributed to the series being canceled.
According to IMDB, “George Schlatter did not produce the final season, but he won the rights to those episodes in a subsequent court battle. For many years, he neither allowed those episodes to be re-aired, nor any clips to be included in retrospectives. On March 13, 2017, Decades TV was allowed to begin airing the final season.” So these episodes will likely be unfamiliar to fans who only watched the show in reruns.
Aside from Rowan and Martin, who also took over the executive producing duties from Schlatter and Ed Friendly, Ruth Buzzi and announcer Gary Owens are the only cast members to co-star throughout every season. This season also features returning cast members Lily Tomlin, Dennis Allen, and Richard Dawson. New to the show are Brian Bressler, Patti Deutsch, Sarah Kennedy (the new "Goldie Hawn" based on her voice, looks, and ditziness), Jud Strunk, Willie Tyler & Lester (the only minority in the cast), Donna Jean Young, Lisa Farringer (a foreign sex kitten who said “whoo-pee”), and kids (??) Moosie Drier and Tod Bass. Jo Anne Worley returned for a couple of episodes.
The show remains basically the same with its mix of sketches, including recurring bits like the Cocktail Party, Laugh-In Looks at the News, and the Joke Wall; characters such as Buzzi's Gladys Ormphby, Tomlin's Edith Ann, and Dawson's W.C. Fields' imitation; and quick cutaways to visual and verbal gags. Straight man Rowan and dimwitted, sex-crazed Martin perform a couple routines each episode. Before a show ends, there is usually a preview of the next show, but it's not always the next episode on the disc.
The shows are packed with celebrities who appears as guest stars throughout an episode or in quick cameos, although Sammy Davis Jr. and Dom DeLuise each appeared on episodes with just the Laugh-In gang. Those who appeared this season include Steve Allen, Jack Benny, Carol Burnett, James Caan, Johnny Carson, Howard Cosell, Angie Dickinson, Phyllis Diller, Jack Klugman, Michael Landon, Rich Little, Don Rickles, Vin Scully, Mark Spitz, Sally Struthers, and John Wayne. Some material with the guests was clearly shot at one time and then interspersed through a few episodes, like Martin Milner and Kent McCord as their Adam-12 characters, which are at their funniest when they flub their lines.
The comedy is irreverent, but at times comes across dated. Not just with its reference to current events but some attitudes about sex. There is some funny commentary about race, like Martin in drag joking they lost Alabama when Sammy Davis Jr. kisses him on the cheek, but then they are surprising tone deaf with white actors play Asian characters. Seeing them speak broken English is cringe inducing and makes no sense since they were able to find an Asian member of the dance troupe.
Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In: The Complete Sixth Season might not generate as many laughs as it did in its prime what with the uniqueness wearing off and some very talented people no longer working on the show, it still delivers plenty of laughs. It's a great time capsule of show business circa 1972-'73 and because they were kept in the vault for so long, this final season is like getting 24 new episodes for many fans of the show.