Friday, September 22, 2017

Chad & Jeremy: The Comfort TV Beatles


I’ve always believed shows from the Comfort TV era have retained a timeless appeal in part because they refrained from commentary on the issues of their day.

Would Father Knows Best have been better if Jim and Bud Anderson spent several episodes debating whether President Eisenhower was doing a good job? Would a discussion about the Cuban Missile Crisis have made one of Rob and Laura Petrie’s dinner parties more interesting? I think it would have the opposite effect – taking viewers out of stories that, because they cannot be dated so precisely, are as relatable now as they were 50 years ago.

Still, some happenings are so culturally momentous that they were impossible to ignore completely. One of them was The Beatles. 



References to the Fab Four can be heard in many classic ‘60s shows; when Opie joins a band on The Andy Griffith Show (“Opie’s Group”) Goober hopes they’ll be “as big as them Beagles.” And on The Beverly Hillbillies (“Hoe Down A-Go-Go”) Miss Jane tells Mr. Drysdale that The Beatles are the top band in the world. Drysdale still prefers Guy Lombardo.

Perhaps the most Beatles-centric classic TV episode is “The Ladybugs” from Petticoat Junction‘s first season. The three Bradley sisters, joined by Sheila James (Zelda on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis) don mop top wigs and form their own band. 



Kate’s reaction to the Beatles is typical of many older folks of the day.

Uncle Joe: “It’s the new sound!”
Kate: “You mean, instead of music?”

The Ladybugs perform a gender-switched (and off-key) version of The Beatles’ “I Saw Her Standing There,” and actually appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show



The episode is a lot of fun and far more entertaining than the thematically similar Gilligan’s Island episode “Don’t Bug the Mosquitoes.”

Some of the most memorable episodes about Beatlemania are those that don’t mention the group at all. Since the shows could never get the actual band to make an appearance, they looked for a surrogate with the right hair and the right accents. Enter Chad Stuart and Jeremy Clyde. 



Chad & Jeremy began performing together in 1962, the same year the Beatles had their first #1 single (“Love Me Do”). From 1964-1966, at the height of their U.S. chart success (7 top-40 hits), they boosted their profile on three Comfort TV classics.

In 1965 they played Fred and Ernie, aka The Redcoats, on The Dick Van Dyke Show (“Here Come the Redcoats”). The band is booked to perform on The Alan Brady Show, but crazed fans keep finding them at every hotel, so Mel persuades Rob to let the duo stay with the Petries. Of course, the secret gets out and pandemonium ensues. The episode features two songs, “My, How the Times Goes By” and “No Other Baby.”



Of all the ersatz Beatles shows, this is the one that most closely parallels the uproarious atmosphere of the era – and is also the most dubious about whether it was justified. Those sentiments are summed up in the Bill Persky-Sam Denoff script by Buddy’s rebuff, “Boy, if I had funny hair like that and no talent, I could have made a million.” 

As for Chad & Jeremy, they know why they were hired and deliver Liverpool lilts and self-effacing charm in abundance. Hopefully it eased some fears among older viewers that music really wasn’t going to hell because of all these long-haired foreigners. 

On an episode of The Patty Duke Show that aired just one week after “The Redcoats are Coming,” Chad & Jeremy play Nigel & Patrick, an undiscovered act that Patty helps propel to stardom. The duo’s performances are more natural here, without the silly forced humor in the Redcoats show.

The episode (“Patty Pits Wits, Two Brits Hit”) once again illustrates how the musical generation gap that started in the 1950s only widened after the British Invasion. “Mindless, monotonous drivel” is how Patty’s father describes the then-current music scene. It’s also the best of the group’s classic TV appearances as they perform two of their best songs, “Yesterday’s Gone” and “A Summer Song,” plus the equally catchy “The Truth Often Hurts the Heart.” 



The following year, Chad & Jeremy pop up in Gotham City, playing themselves for once, and have their voices stolen by Catwoman (likely a bit of wish-fulfillment for some). When she tries to ransom their voices for $22 million. Steve Allen, playing a talk show host, quips “No one will pay that much money for those voices!”



“The Cat’s Meow/The Bat’s Kow Tow” is a typically strong Julie Newmar show (I still don’t think anyone has played Catwoman better) written by Stanley Ralph Ross. “Distant Shores” is another strong folk-rock performance from Chad & Jeremy, but “Teenage Failure” is best forgotten.



Also best forgotten is “That’s Noway, Thataway,” a 1966 episode of Laredo that (according to Wikipedia) was intended as a pilot for a Chad & Jeremy series. Best I can tell after watching it for the first time last week, they were trying for a Bob Hope - Bing Crosby vibe from their series of ‘Road’ films; Chad and Jeremy play cowardly, fast-talking actors who use their trunk of theatrical costumes to assume new identities in each town they visit. Here, Chad plays a preacher, hoping to deliver one sermon and abscond with the contents of the collection plate.

It doesn’t work. Happily, Chad and Jeremy would go on to better projects. They would never be the Beatles but they surpassed that legendary band in longevity, as the duo is still performing together more than 50 years after their formation. And now that we’ve lived through punk and death metal, Eminem and Nicki Minaj, it’s hard to believe that their gentle, folksy tunes were once viewed as a danger to decency. 


5 comments:

  1. Since you didn't mention it ...

    Chad Stuart's son, James Patrick Stuart, has had a pretty good career going acting on TV for some years now.
    As a boy, he did a short stint on Galactica 1980, playing Dr. Zee.

    As an adult, James Patrick Stuart has established himself as an edgy younger actor, with many prime time series guest appearances (check IMDB).

    Currently, James Patrick Stuart can be seen as Valentin Cassadine, the latest good/bad guy on General Hospital.

    Far from a "Teenage Failure", if you ask me ...

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    Replies
    1. Indeed. And Jeremy Clyde also became quite the staple on British television, including on Downton Abbey.

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  2. What a coincidence, the Patty Duke episode was on this morning 9-22-17, on Antenna TV.

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  3. Mr. Hofstede, what do you have to say about the countercultural phase of The Beatles?

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  4. For a camp classic, check out the following URL:

    https://youtu.be/mZyI2sWcA7g

    ReplyDelete