The world is in a perilous state today. People once perhaps friends have been divided by unscrupulous political and media heads. The threat of war, economic strife and all kinds of other issues are way too prominent around the world, so it goes without saying that the world certainly could use a good laugh. Enter Time Life and the fourth season of NBC’s classic variety comedy series Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. Time Life will release the fourth season of the classic series next Tuesday, May 8. It goes without saying that regardless of one’s familiarity with the series, this latest installment is another welcome watch for anyone looking for that good laugh. The collective work of the series’ writers and cast prove that with ease. The set’s bonus material offers its own interest, too. It will be discussed later. The set’s companion episode guide enhances its presentation even more and will be discussed a bit later. Each element is important in its own way to the collection’s presentation, and will be proven through this review. All things considered, they make the fourth season of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In a welcome laugh riot.
The fourth season of NBC’s classic variety series Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In is another welcome addition to the home collection of anyone looking for a fun escape from all of the tension and drama filling everyday life. That includes the most devout Laugh-In fans and the least seasoned of its viewers. This is proven in part through the collective work of the series’ writers and cast. The rapid fire jokes (and their scenes) are products of their time, obviously. But somehow, they are still so funny. On a side note, one can’t deny the seeming influence of that approach on CBS’ similarly formatted show Hee-Haw. That’s especially the case considering that Laugh-In ended in 1973, only two years after Hee-Haw had gotten its start. Getting back on topic, there are jokes in this season of Laugh-In about the media, random skits involving an orchestra director, a meter maid, and more. That’s just on the set’s lead disc. The other discs feature equally fast-paced bits with jokes about literature, the Federal Communications Commission, world events and much more. It all happens so fast that audiences are basically forced to pay attention in order to catch the jokes. That’s the case in every bit. What’s more, even though the jokes and skits are products of their time, they are still somehow so funny even now, decades later thanks to their delivery by the show’s cast. Whether it’s hosts Dan Rowan and Dick Martin delivering jokes about politicians of the time, cast members Ann Elders and Arte Johnson delivering wild, random bits and more, the cast’s work on camera with each segment makes every line so funny. Speaking of Johnson, the bonus interview with Johnson adds its own interest to the collection. Alongside the interview with Lily Tomlin, the two interviews prove to be just as important to this set’s presentation as its jokes, skits and acting.
The bonus interviews that come with this season of Laugh-In are so important to note because of the insight that they offer into life off camera for the cast. Case in point Arte Johnson’s sit down. Johnson notes in his discussion, how well the cast worked together in regards to meting out lines and the general chemistry among the cast. There is also note in his discussion about his own influence – one Peter Sellers – and the comparisons of today’s shock comedy to simple comedy. His discussion makes clear that he was not happy with what has become of comedy in this era. It’s eye-opening in its own right. Tomlin’s interview is just as insightful as that of Johnson. She talks in-depth about the evolution of her Edit Ann character, and how that character almost didn’t happen. There’s also discussion on Suzy Sorority that connects the two together and so much more. What’s really nice here is that unlike with Johnson’s interview, each topic is separated by its own slate. That makes it easier to follow the discussions, thus ensuring even more viewers’ engagement and entertainment. What’s really great here is that whereas Johnson’s interview is very straight forward, Tomlin’s interview offers its own share of laughs. The one interesting theme that connects the two is the mention of how families would be able to come together to watch Laugh-In and how that is not the case anymore today. It’s a simple statement, yet says so much. It is a statement, once again, of how far from grace television has fallen since the days of Laugh-In and even similar shows like Hee-Haw, The Carol Burnett Show and others. Thank goodness Time Life has resurrected now four seasons of this comedy standard. Now having said of all of this, the interviews that come with this season of Laugh-In are still not the last of its most important elements. Its companion episode guide is important in its own right.
An episode guide might not seem like much on the surface, but as this critic has pointed out many times with other releases, its value is more than just aesthetic. The episode guide here, as with the series’ previous seasons, gives brief but concise descriptions of what audiences have to expect with each episode. That makes it easier for viewers to decide on which episode(s) to watch, thus taking far less time in the overall process. Having to go through disc after disc with no guide can get tedious to say the very least. That tediousness can wear on viewers very quickly and easily. What’s more, the episode guide even provides each episode’s original air date and the episodes’ guest stars. To that end, not only is the episode guide an episode guide, but it’s also the starting point for a history lesson of sorts. That history lesson can then lead to an even deeper appreciation of the show and – in the bigger picture – an appreciation of where television once was in comparison to where it is today. Keeping this in mind, it should become clear why the set’s companion booklet proves to be its own important part of the set’s presentation. When it is joined with the work of the series’ writers and cast and the bonus interviews, all three elements – discussed in whole – show clearly why this latest season of Laugh-In another laugh riot and such a wonderful watch.
Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In: The Complete Fourth Season is another wonderful addition to any classic TV lover’s library. It is just as welcome for those looking for an alternative to all of the sex and violence currently polluting television today, and a great way to get away from the tension in the news. That is evidenced in part – as discussed – through the collective work of the show’s writers and cast. While the jokes and skits are products of their time, there is something about the way in which they were written that still makes them funny to this day. The same can be said of the cast’s execution of each bit’s script. Regardless of viewers’ familiarity with the series, the cast’s execution of the scripts makes every joke so funny. It shows the power of performance. The bonus interviews with Lily Tomlin and Arte Johnson offer their own share of insight and entertainment. They are the set’s only bonus materials, but are still entertaining in their own right. The companion booklet that comes with the set proves to be more than just an episode guide. It offers a starting point on a history lesson on the show and on television history. Each element proves critical in its own right to this set. All things considered, they make the fourth season of Laugh-In another entertaining entry from a timeless classis series. It will be available next Tuesday, May 8. More information on this and other titles from Time Life is available online now at:
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