The David Steinberg Show is a variety show, with an unconventional format. The program ran for one season in 1976, producing 21 half hour episodes. David Steinberg is Canadian, and this program recorded in Toronto, features the early work of some comedians who later achieved some notoriety, including Martin Short, John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Dave Thomas, Trudy Young, and Andrea Martin. The show also features major contributions from Bill Saluga, as both an actor and writer. The name conscious Raymond J. Johnson, is Saluga's most famous comedic character.
Steinberg typically opens the show with a monologue, telling a few jokes. Often during the monologue, Steinberg will be interrupted, either by that week's guest star, or by the character Raymond J. Johnson. David then introduces singer Johnny del Bravo, played by Martin Short. Typically while Del Bravo is singing, David leaves the studio and heads over to the Hello Deli, a small diner run by Vinny DeMilo (Saluga). At the diner, David, Vinny, and the week's guest star(s) engage in some kind of comedy sketch. After this, the show usually switches back to the studio for some kind of performance featuring the guest star.
Steinberg's show has an unusual format, but unfortunately is seldom very funny. The many attempts to incorporate guests into the pet routines featuring Johnny del Bravo and the Hello Deli, are only occasionally successful. With so many supporting players, the focus is often so diffuse, that in some episodes the guest stars actually do very little. In general, the talents of the various guest stars are not showcased very well.
The good news is that this "best of" collection of six shows, does indeed feature some of the more memorable programs in the series. In the episode with Robert Vaughn, Steinberg experiments with incorporating a game show into his program, much to the disgust of Mr. Vaughn. Guest stars seldom do any singing, but Ethel Merman's episode probably features the closest thing to a full scale production number in the whole series. Jon Voight, and old friend of David's has come on the show to speak about the extinction of the whooping crane, but he is mistaken for John Denver, and things don't quite go as planned. Ruth Buzzi's appearance has a nice storyline involving a male's only lodge, and includes a cowboy themed sketch in a saloon. Johnny del Bravo spends most of his time harassing Adrienne Barbeau in her appearance. After upsetting his production staff, David decides to give them awards, with the assistance of Michele Lee.
What David Steinberg probably does best is standup comedy, making astute and quirky observations on current events. Sketch comedy, and performing songs does not appear to be his strength, which is somewhat unusual for the host of a variety show.
In an informative half hour interview segment, David Steinberg explains how the show adapted its format from The Jack Benny Show, and The Burns and Allen Show. He also discusses some of the guest stars, and the supporting cast, many who went on to bigger things. One thing not mentioned is Bill Saluga, who had such a major role on the program, and seemingly limited appeal. Steinberg was apparently the youngest person to guest host The Tonight Show for Johnny Carson, reportedly appearing on the program over 130 times.
Bouncing around between the studio and the diner, the David Steinberg Show is simply unfocused. The progressive format might have been an admirable experiment, but comedically it misses the mark more than it hits. These are probably some of the more well written programs, so this would be a good way to get a taste of the show, although for those with a stronger interest The David Steinberg Show, a four disc set with all 21 episodes, is typically available at reasonable prices used. The David Steinberg Show is still mostly an acquired taste, that will probably be most appreciated by those with a deep affection for the 1970's, or the early works of comics Candy, Short, and Flaherty.