The Red Skelton Hour in Color 3-DVD Set Review: An Entertaining, Old-fashioned Variety Show

Red Skelton, who became a personality in vaudeville, radio, and movies, had a very impressive run with his TV program, The Red Skelton Show, which aired from 1951 to 1971. Starting in September 1962, the show expanded to an hour, leading to the name change. During the time period of the the late ’60s when these episodes debuted, between January 4, 1966 and October 28, 1969, the show aired Tuesdays at 8:30-9:30 pm on CBS and ranked in the Top 10 except for the 1968-1969 season when it dipped to #11, tied with Mission: Impossible and Bewitched).

Most of the twelve episodes have the same basic format with Skelton opening the show with a monologue, a long comedic sketch, Skelton chatting with a guest, and closing with “The Silent Spot” where Skelton and his players do pantomime routines. Many of Skelton’s characters appear, such as seagulls Gertrude and Heathcliffe, hobo Freddie the Freeloader, and Midwesterner Clem Kadiddlehopper. The guest stars include Milton Berle, Tim Conway, Phyllis Diller, Martha Raye, and John Wayne, the only star to appear on two shows, one celebrating Wayne’s 40th anniversary in motion pictures and the other as host of the second edition of “The Skelton Scrapbook”, a greatest-hits collection where he re-created sketches and pantomimes that audiences requested. The performers are loose and having a good time, frequently ad-libbing and breaking up. Musical guests feature Simon & Garfunkel – “The Dangling Conversation”, Lou Rawls – “On A Clear Day”, Robert Goulet – “Try to Remember”, and Merv Griffin – “I’m Henry VIII, I Am”.

The shows have are edited. The longest runs 46 minutes and the shortest 33, but it’s not always clear what’s been cut. Episodes “Dial M for Moron” and “The Fastest Cuspidor in the West” don’t have “Silent Spots”. Disc 1 contains Bonus Features of Interviews with Bobby Rydell (5 min) and Vicki Lawrence (1 min), but aren’t long enough to be very informative.

The Red Skelton Hour is an entertaining, variety show, but certainly a bit old fashioned. These shows could have been created in the ’50s as there’s no sense of what was going on in America or Vietnam during the turbulent ’60s. Skelton is a great host, just as happy when a guest gets a laugh as when he does. He ends every show hoping he and the gang have at least brought a moment of entertainment into the viewer’s life over the hour, which they do many times over.

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Gordon S. Miller

Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of this site.

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