The Dick Cavett Show: Comic Legends
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840 minutes (that's fourteen hours, including various bonus features). Four discs. Twelve shows. Eleven famous guests. The Dick Cavett Show Comic Legends boasts some big numbers, but what it doesn't have, surprisingly, is a whole lotta laughs. The lineup is certainly impressive, from old school stalwarts like Groucho Marx, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Jack Benny, and George Burns to relative youngsters (at least at the time; the shows were recorded from the late '60s to the mid-'70s) like Bill Cosby, Woody Allen, and the Smothers Brothers. But this is not a procession of mirth-meisters coming out and doing five or ten minutes of one-liners and standup shtick. There are no performances, per se; like guests on Leno, Letterman, or any other TV talk show, the "legends" converse with and are interviewed by the host, sometimes by themselves, sometimes in the company of other celebs. This casual format yields decidedly mixed results. Take Groucho. Pushing 80 at the time of the first of his two Cavett appearances included here (in 1969), he's sharp and witty, telling many stories, offering up a few good lines ("I liked Perry Como's singing, when he was awake"), even warbling a song or two. But his '71 appearance, in which he reveals himself to be a testy old curmudgeon, railing against nudity in movies and feminism ("As long as women are willing to take alimony, they have no right to women's lib") and unwilling to cede the limelight to anyone else (Cavett's conversation with author Truman Capote is ruined by Marx's refusal to shut up), is tedious at best. Cavett fawns over Hope, who tells some nice anecdotes but, in the absence of his writers, simply isn't very funny; nor is Lucy, whom Cavett describes as "a tough, hardened showgirl." But Jerry Lewis is a riot, peppering the conversation with his trademark mugging and slapstick and engaging in an entertaining Q&A with the studio audience; Mel Brooks is manic and motor-mouthed; Benny's deadpan routine, including the usual zingers about his age, cheapness, and bad violin playing, is charming; and Cosby, then in his mid-thirties and years away from becoming the sweater-wearing sage of The Cosby Show, is hip and relaxed in the presence of Cavett, who at other times comes off as stiff and ill at ease. Meanwhile, other guests range from veteran actress Ruth Gordon and cheeky film critic Rex Reed to the two sullen young stars of the film "Zabriskie Point," who manage to bring the proceedings to a grinding halt. Bonus features, as is the case with Shout Factory's various other Cavett compilations, include Cavett's new introductions to each show, along with interviews, outtakes, and more. --Sam Graham
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1. September 5, 1969 - Groucho Marx
2. September 19, 1969 - Woody Allen, Ruth Gordon, Gina Lollobrigida
3. October 4, 1972 - Bob Hope
4. Bonus - June 10, 1968 Here's Dick Cavett - Groucho Marx, Bob Hope, Woody Allen, Pat McCormick, Jack Burns, Debbie Drake
5. Bonus - Cavett Remembers The Comic Legends
6. Bonus - Alternate Opening For The September 5, 1969, Groucho Marx Episode
1. October 20, 1971 - Woody Allen
2. April 6, 1970 - Mel Brooks, Rex Reed, Mark Frechette, Daria Halprin, Dr. Aaron Stern
3. November 10, 1971 - Bill Cosby
4. Bonus - Outtake Segment From October 20, 1971, Woody Allen Episode
5. Bonus - August 6, 1968 - Joanne Carson Interview
1. January 27, 1973 - Jerry Lewis
2. May 25, 1971 - Groucho Marx, Truman Capote, Jim Fowler
3. February 21, 1974 - Carol Burnett
4. Bonus - November 20, 1966 - Dick Cavett on The Ed Sullivan Show
5. Bonus - The Dick Cavett Show Promo - May 25, 1971
1. February 21, 1973 - Jack Benny, Bill Cosby, Joe Frazier
2. December 15, 1971 - George Burns, The Smothers Brothers, Adelle Davis
3. March 7, 1974 - Lucille Ball
4. Bonus - Cavett Backstage
5. Bonus - The Dick Cavett Show Promo - February 21, 1973
6. Bonus - The Dick Cavett Show Promo - December 15, 1971
1) His love of Groucho made him blind to his faults as a guest, the inability to share the spotlight and a hectoring personality in old age. But, when Groucho was on, he was gold and he was mostly on during the first interview in the set.
2) Woody Allen doesn't really talk to interviewers anymore, which is too bad, because his work with Cavett was awesome.
3) I loved the Bob Hope interview because he wasn't funny, but was just having a normal conversation.
4) Ditto the Jerry Lewis interview and as a general rule, I find Jerry Lewis pretty hard to take. Very smart guy, but you can tell that the critical drumming he received throughout his career really stung.
5) The Lucille Ball interview wasn't that good, but that wasn't Cavett's fault. Lucy looked like she wanted to be anyplace else but the Cavett show.
6) The Carol Burnett interview was nice, but not earth shattering.
7) It's almost worth the price of the DVD alone to see Bill Cosby make Jack Benny crack up during the story about jazz drumming.
Rumor has it that the next DVD's will be with Hollywood Stars and we can only hope that Cavett's incredible interviews with Katherine Hepburn and Orson Welles will be on that set
Bonus Material Includes:
* New show introductions by Dick Cavett
* New interviews with Dick Cavett, producer/director Bob Weide ("Curb Your Enthusiasm") and original Dick Cavett Show writer Tom Whedon ("Benson," "Alice")
* Classic footage of Dick Cavett doing his own stand-up routine on the "Ed Sullivan Show"
* Classic Outtake and Alternate Show Opening
* Classic, rare footage from Cavett's morning show.
Runtime: 14 hours
But as I watched his shows, I grew to enjoy them more. So it was intriguing to see that there was a collection focusing on his moments with comics, some of whom had the ability to draw Cavett out of his shell, to make his reserve less apparent. However, his session with Robin Williams was NOT one of those moments and that interview is still painful to watch, which probably explains why it isn't listed in this collection (Cavett actually appeared insulted by Williams, perhaps uneasy by the chaotic atmosphere that seemed to surround William when he was at his most impromptu).
If you are one of those people who adores comics - including Groucho Marx, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Jack Benny, and George Burns (all of them are interviewed in this collection) and have to see EVERYTHING they'd put on film, including appearances on talk shows, you might want to buy this. As a slice of tv history and culture, this is also revealing.
Otherwise, I wouldn't advise buying this. In most of the sequences, the comics were wooden or awkward, like a fish out of water (with a few notable exceptions).
Cavett had some wonderful shows but this collection doesn't show what I consider to be the best of them.