Old Time T.V. “Reality Shows”


My friend and coworker, Karen and I were talking about the old-

fashioned “talk shows.” We were comparing them to the old style

“variety shows.” In the talk shows, we agreed, mainly the famous

people gathered on chairs or sofas, with a “Host” or “Hostess” who

seemed to be monitoring the conversations. One recent experience,

that both Karen and I ‘caught’ was the subject of laughter and some

convivial spirits floating around our lunch table in the break room.

On “Me-TV” or some such channel, while I was looking at a better way

to greet my day than the news on CBS Channel 10 in Columbus, Ohio.

I found an old classic, “talk show,” with Jack Benny as the “Host.”

It was hilarious in the two sketches or skits that were presented, as

if they were ‘real’ situations.

The first one was with four wives of famous people, gathered together,

around a card table, while playing cards being the impetus for casual,

“impromptu” conversation. This auspicious occasion included the wives

of Milton Berle, Grouch Marx, Kirk Douglas and we were trying to decide

what the fourth person at the table’s name was!

Our memory of the conversations included some details about each of

the famous husband’s professional and personal pastimes. Along

with Jack Benny interrupting to ask, “Can I play the violin in the

next Kirk Douglas’ movie?” or “Can I be a guest, playing my violin,

on Groucho’s variety show?”

The humor is how Jack Benny is not considered to be a very talented

violin player. His accomplishments don’t indicate that he was one,

at least to our knowledge!

Notice, we did not mention any current “Reality Show” traits like

hair pulling, name calling or people hitting one another! The simple

act of playing cards, conversing and including little popular facts

about, at the time, famous people was the motivation to watch this

show! Everyone may look back and remember how some television or

even radio shows were based on pleasantries…

Another ‘famous’ fact about Jack Benny came to the forefront in the

next comedy skit. His “penny pinching” ways meant he was not going

to leave lights on, using up lightbulbs or spending a lot of money

on different items. Many times this characteristic was one that

would bring laughs, sometimes due to a family member sharing this


There was a person who ‘mugs’ him or ‘kidnaps’ him, finding that

he is famous, decides that Jack needs to get a ransom together.

He gets taken to a bank, where once Jack fills out the withdrawal

slip, he approaches the bank teller, asking for a huge (at the

time) sum of $10,000!

The astonished bank teller, turns to the next one in her little

area, with the bars across, small slot where the person’s slip

is passed to the teller. Then, the teller, usually, will return

the money, by counting it. In the ‘olden’ days, the money would

be placed into an envelope with a slip enclosed.

The stunned teller whispers, in a ‘stage whisper:’

“Mr. Benny wishes to withdraw the amount of $10,000!”

The live audience roars with laughter, while seeing the woman

leaning over to tell the next teller, repeating the message.

Until the last and final teller, calls the police!

Once the police arrive, the punch line is delivered…

“How on Earth did you know that Mr. Jack Benny was being held

for ransom?”

The distraught and agitated woman responded,

“Because he NEVER, EVER withdraws money!”

(I apologize, but these two scenes on “The Jack Benny Show” were

paraphrased, since both Karen and I were not, at 5 a.m. in the morning,

paying close attention to the actual words being spoken! The ‘gist’ of

these is easily grasped, though. I hope this gave the people who are

my age and older a chuckle or two!)

Together we had a few laughs over how ‘these days,’ this would not be

nearly ‘controversial’ enough to get high ratings!

We made a compilation list of our favorite variety and talk shows from

our memories, at lunch, too. I would like you to read the list, make

comments on which ones you liked or remembered and please feel free to

add to our list! Melvin, Tammy, Chuck, Robin and Karen made this list!

Smiles for these memories and hope you have a great Friday evening!

1. The Jack Benny Show

2. The Jack Paar Show

3. The Jackie Gleason Show

4. The Merv Griffin Show

5. The Dinah Shore Show

6. The Lawrence Welk Show

7. Hee Haw Show

8. The Groucho Marx Show

9. The Johnny Carson Show

10. Regis and Kathy in the Morning Show

11. In the UK, The Good Old Days (1953-1983)

12. The Sonny and Cher Show

13. The Andy Williams Show

14. The Rowan and Martin Laugh-In Show

15. The Joey Bishop Show

16. The Dean Martin Show

Your turn to add to the fun…


15 responses »

  1. Great fun, Robin.

    I’d like to add:

    The Dave Cavett Show.

    The David Frost Show.

    I don’t think anybody since has mastered the desk-and-couch crowd as well as Johnny Carson. The man was as famous as the stars he had on his show, and he got the biggest! And yet he made you feel like you could run into him down the block. Funny thing.

    I also want to add that I always had to laugh when the Merv Griffin Show came on in the afternoon because my grandparents had to watch it, and for some reason, they both refused to call him Merv. No, my Pop Pop and Nana had to watch Murph every day.

    • This was a great contribution to my continuing list of talk and variety shows! I just added a couple more when I arrived at the library, too! I love the fact your grandparents liked to watch the Merv Griffin show but still, even seeing the title of the show as it aired, called him, “Murph!” I have a friend who cannot pronounce some of her words, even though a teacher. I don’t know if it is her background, but “humor” and “humid’ come out almost like, “yumid” and “yumor.” Weird but I would never dream of correcting her! Fun stuff! I heard that Johnny Carson was actually “shy!” I think it was from his friend and longtime armchair buddy, Ed Mc Mahon. Not sure about where I read this! Smiles, Robin

      • Now there you go, Robin, you have hit the pronunciation ‘y’ for ‘h’ thing on the head. It is indeed a regional dialect. And I did it while growing up on Long Island. When I went to college in upstate New York all the students from the area laughed at me when I said the name of the governor of New York State at the time, one Hugh Carey. Out of my mouth came “You Carey.” They all said “Hue Carey,” make the ‘H” sound. Something gigantic to me was “Yuge.” To them it was huge. So it went. Now I try to pronounce my h’s at the beginning of words.

  2. Thanks for the great post, Robin! I would add the Steve Allen Show, the Dick Cavett Show (as did Mark), the Carol Burnett Show, and The Mike Douglas Show. I’ve been reading about and watching documentaries about Johnny Carson lately, really appreciating his talent.

    • I am so glad you added those shows, Ann! My parents admired Steve Allen and thought Dick Cavett was brilliant! I also liked the way the Carol ensemble worked together and Mike D. was a pleasant interviewer, too! I liked Johnny Carson and sometime will try to see a documentary from the library on him! Thanks, Ann!

      • You are most welcome, Robin. A documentary I saw recently, which I recommend, is “Johnny Carson: King of Late Night.”

  3. I think we have the Me-TV channel, Robin. I’ll have to check it out because I don’t recall the talk show with Jack Benny.
    My first recollection of the talk show was The Mike Douglas Show. I remember my mother watching that and the Dinah Shore Show.
    As a family, I remember watching Hee Haw. My dad loved that show. I liked Minnie Pearle. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Of course, as we’ve chatted about, The Sonny and Cher was my favorite.
    I just love your posts, they are a trip down memory lane! Have a great weekend!

    • I enjoyed this set of comments, Jill! I especially liked the way Mike Douglas was a very friendly and pleasant interviewer. I also liked “Hee Haw,” and laughed at their country jokes on themselves! Minnie, with her price tag on her hat with a flower on it, was a hoot! I enjoyed the music and friends that Sonny and Cher attracted. They were (or seemed) so young and upbeat on that show! Glad you liked the post and am so glad you felt like another trip down memory lane! Smiles, Robn

    • Thanks for commenting, Elizabeth! They were a long time ago!! Sometimes, it is fun to remember the pleasant style and hardly any gossip on those shows. They would just talk like you and me, although, obviously, more famous! I guess I was in awe of the stars, back then! Smiles, Robin

    • Me too, Beth! I liked the tone and friendly banter, the way they seemed like they could be our friends, but I was also a little bit in awe of their fame!

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