hippies in this crowd the only freaks here are the high-hairdo'd
housewives in the studio audience of the 1969-1971 crowd-pleasin' This is
Welshman sings, grinds and gyrates himself into a sweaty, dizzy ratings
winner and you better like his hit "It's Not Unusual," because he sings
it. And sings it. A lot. No worries, though: you'll never, ever get tired of
a natural choice for TV variety, the genre ruling the airwaves for only a
few years more before it goes hopelessly out of style. When ABC offered this
up as their idea of hip and "now," the emphasis was on the music, which was
just fine. Jones rocks out, and you are there. End of story. Don't be
ambitious son of a humble Welsh coal miner (and he won't let you forget it),
he is talented beyond belief and comfortable in his own skin. His act is
over-the-top intense, but his vibe is casual; like all good TV hosts, he invites you over
and persuades you to stay, in a way that most men of that era would not or
could not ever successfully get you to RSVP.
James Bond with tighter pants, he pulls off not his pants but the unlikely
feat of being both a man's man and a woman's naughty fantasy.
birds in the studio audience, more older than younger, are on their best
behavior no panty throwing, only seat wetting.
this is the Age of Aquarius, but this isn't Woodstock or Altamont this is
Vegas, baby, and here we get a peek at the rarely appreciated flip side of
the sixties (happily mixing both rocking and swinging, with occasional
also foresee a Nostradamus-like coming attraction of the seventies
(irreverent group-sketch comedy with The Ace Trucking Company and The
Committee, predecessors to Saturday Night Live. Look for a very young
Fred Willard, a very long-haired Howard Hesseman, and a funny-voiced Patty
Deutch, who would not live up to her original promise and
instead go on to be a
regular on The Match Game).
comedy is mildly topical (Women's Lib is as far as they go, with Anne
Bancroft appearing in not one but two bafflingly unfunny sketches about the
inequality of the sexes. No, you're not having a freak-out: that's really
her, in Stepford-Wife mode, plucking a chicken.).
special guest star Bob Hope gets into the spirit of "today," wisecracking
that Jones is "ABC's answer to Women's Liberation," and musing that "black
is so beautiful that everybody has a series except Slappy White."
Tom Jones is unique in that it was essentially filmed twice, to accommodate
cultural differences: once for English audiences (in colour!) and once for
the Americans. You can easily differentiate the two versions by the lighting
(British lighting is less warm and comfy due to a different camera system);
as well, the distinction is also made, of course, by the degree of bawdiness
in the humor and performance (Americans are presumed to be prudes and may
get the vapors if Tom gets carried away by the music that's welling up
inside of him that yearns to get out).
also dig something else you'll never find anywhere today: a fully staffed
and classy orchestra, backing up the unlikely likes of Aretha Franklin,
Stevie Wonder, Joe Cocker and even Janis Joplin (Jones has to explain who
Joplin is: "if you like blues as much as I do
Unfortunately, most musical numbers feature an obligatory troupe of
Broadway-style dancers, just before the concept was forever dismissed as out
of touch and scorned as even cheesier than Jones' act.
Another agonizing moment in the series comes
with the fabulous guest Burt Bacharach, who wrote some of the most intensely
genius songs of that era (including Jones' own "What's New Pussycat").
We cheer him as a super songwriter, but alas, Bacharach personally
can't sing a note (and yet this somehow never stops him).
nation, we pray to our Lord that Burt won't choose to sing this time, and
after a tense few moments of banter and Jones' crooning, we almost have our
prayers answered. Then, to our horror, Bacharach insists on warbling
"Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head," and America runs as fast as they can
to the fridge.
Who make the scene, tearing it up with "Pinball Wizard." At the time of the
broadcast, the band wouldn't release the album Tommy for another
three weeks. And Richard Pryor is new on the radar, politely doing a gig
about growing up black and Catholic. American television was on the verge of
great change. See some of it reluctantly morphing here.
be horrified or baffled, but you won't ever be bored. In the current
commentary intros (Jones still looks good, even at 800-years old), he
entreats us to "do it. Dig it." Can do.
credit: Jones really sells it, and works hard for your ratings
offers up guests and music and a good time that you won't soon forget. By
today's niche-obsessed standards, this beautiful mix may seem unusual, but
it's not unusual.
©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: August 17, 2007.