My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I’ve only discovered the Smothers Brothers fairly recently, and I’ve never seen their show (I was 18 months old when it went off the air). After reading this book, I’d really like to fix this.
I knew them as funny folk singers. I’d heard they had a political bent as well, as many folk singers of that era did. I had no idea what they’d accomplished on their show, and how much more they tried to do, but were stopped by CBS and the censors.
I really enjoyed the look at the brothers as people, and I particularly liked finding out about how they influenced the world. Tom Smothers had an eye for talent, featuring writers, comedians and musicians that had never been heard from before, but are well known now.
The late 60s/early 70s were a time of change, and the conflicts within the show were representative of this.
On the one hand, there was a desire (particularly among the younger set) for more openness about sexuality (we’re talking use of the word “breast”, not anything that would be seen as steamy today), about religion (the first skit that caused problems was one that was actually enjoyed by audiences of clergy of multiple denominations), and drugs.
On the other hand, there was a feeling that the airwaves should be safe for everyone– that no one should be offended by what they see on TV, and that the network censors had a responsibility to make that happen.
Then there was the political landscape– the changing views about the Vietnam War, and what was appropriate to say about it was an ongoing issue for the show, and popular opinion underwent a significant change over the three years the show was on the air.
I really only know the big facts about Nixon and his presidency– this book showed me a part of the kind of control he tried to wield over the entire nation, including the world of television.
The book also does a very good job of showing the influence the Smothers Brothers have had on later generations of shows and entertainers.
The content of the book gets 4.5 stars from me. Unfortunately, the writing style did not work quite as well.
I can’t quite describe what bothered me about it– the best I can say is that I was often aware of the narrator over the story being told, and I usually didn’t see the value to this. In addition, the same information was repeated multiple times, perhaps in an effort to make each chapter able to stand on its own.
I didn’t have any major problems with the writing, but it did dampen my enjoyment of the book a little.
Overall, this was a wonderful read, and I’d recommend it for anyone with an interest in television, in politics, or this era. Think holiday present!
I received this book for review from Touchstone Paperback/Simon & Schuster. Thank you for this opportunity!