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FLIP (a.k.a. The Flip Wilson Show)


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#1 of 5 OFFLINE   Jeff#

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Posted June 30 2007 - 06:06 PM

In the past, the hour-long NBC 1970s hit comedy-variety series showcasing the talents of the late Flip Wilson was syndicated as a half-hour version. It was also released to DVD that same way with selected episodes. I vowed to not buy FLIP unless it was released in full form. Well, the show finally was earlier this month and I bought "The Best of Flip Wilson Show". SFM still has the rights.

What made FLIP so entertaining other than Wilson's natural comedy talent and his likeability (plus occasional ad-libbing) was that it had some of the best writers in the business, including Stan Burns, Garren Keith and former Jack Benny writers Hal Goodman and Al Gordon. However...according to producer Bob Henry, he actually fired those guys (he didn't name them) which amazed Goodman and Gordon because they were never given the axe in their lives.

This series didn't require big sets or production numbers. A couple of songs per hour were the only breaks from the comedy. That he was the first black host of a successful network variety show isn't that signifigant today considering that Flip Wilson and his crew brought back the concept of Theater in the Round, in that the audience could often be seen in the background offstage since portions of most of the sets were exposed. Of course adept direction and camerawork were present. Yet to be able to see the audience laughing at the sketches was in itself very enjoyable. In spite of that intentional budgetary measure, it worked extremely well.

Unfortunately, the $35 I spent for this 3 disc collection at Best Buy was only for a mere 6 episodes from the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th seasons. Anything Joe Nameth does other than football isn't what I would describe "Best of" material, but George Carlin and Johnny Cash (with his wife June Carter Cash) were quite good. So were episodes with Redd Foxx, Richard Pryor, Ray Charles, Albert Brooks, Joan Rivers, Phyllis Diller, Tony Randall, and Tim Conway. Diller & Conway individually did video intros to their episodes.

It would have been better to get full seasons of this classic series, but if SFM has to do Best Of sets how about the shows with Jack Benny, Lucille Ball, Ed Sullivan (who did two after his own series was cancelled), and the Christmas 1970 episode with Bing Crosby?

At least two of the limited extras are unusual: One was an animated special called "Clerow Wilson and the Miracle of P.S. 14", which has Flip doing the voices of several of his favorite TV characters including Geraldine Jones, Reverend Leroy of the Church of What's Happening Now, and Herbie the Ice Cream Man among others. Clerow is Flip's real name, but the cartoon is avoidable because of the silly plot and very odd artwork by Fritz Freling and his animation team. The Pink Panther this wasn't. Posted Image

The second is another special: "Clerow Wilson's Great Escape", which I'm sure I don't want to look at...

Maybe Flip was taking a cue from the success of Bill Cosby's "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids", but it was an experiment that failed. After all...how can Clerow be a boy growing up in his neighborhood if it takes place in the present day (in this case 1972 and in the other special 1974)???

The only other special feature is a short interview with Bob Henry from earlier this year, and that's on Disc 1.

Just two years after his self-imposed retirement to spend more time with his family, Flip return to making films and doing television. Then in February 1983 he got to play Geraldine again on Saturday Night Live on a show he hosted. His last two series included a new version of "People are Funny" and a CBS sitcom (with Gladys Knight as his wife) called "Charlie and Company" -- both failures.

Even in his final years, Flip Wilson could create controversy. He went on The Howard Stern Show in 1998 and revealed that he wore a penis pump in order to perform sexually. It was a rare chance to hear Flip on the radio (which like everything else at that time was taped and soon put on E! Television for a 2-part video version of Stern's show). Months later he died of liver cancer, just two weeks before his 65th birthday.

#2 of 5 OFFLINE   DeWilson

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Posted June 30 2007 - 07:09 PM

Well considering the unedited 1- hour shows haven't been seen since their original NBC airings, I'm thrilled they did this box set.

I'm wondering if episode selection was based on the quality of the 2 inch master 1-hour elements as well musical performances needing to be cleared.

Didn't Bob Henry die just recently?

#3 of 5 OFFLINE   Bill>Moore

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Posted July 01 2007 - 01:01 PM

Wow - I'll have to check this out. I haven't seen any Flip Wilson since the show's initial airings. I loved it back in the day and would love a chance to revisit it again. Even if it's only a handful of episodes.

#4 of 5 OFFLINE   David Rain

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Posted July 01 2007 - 03:57 PM

I wouldn't expect complete sets since there's so much music that would have to be cleared. And considering the "dated" nature of a lot of the sketches I'm not sure that we're missing all that much. I love Flip but other than the music and the Geraldine sketches I generally fast-forward through a lot of this show.

By their very nature variety shows are not always that good because of long-forgotten "current events" and the guest "stars" that plague shows like this. Even a legendary show like Carol Burnett is not immune from these problems.
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#5 of 5 OFFLINE   Jeff#

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Posted July 01 2007 - 04:16 PM

I disagree, David. A lot of the Flip Wilson and Carol Burnett sketches hold up well in spite of the era they were produced in because funny is funny. Geraldine was OK, but Reverend Leroy is still my favorite character of his.

The only thing dating these shows are the bad 1970s clothing and large afros....but then again both have made comebacks in recent years! Posted Image At least Flip himself always had short hair.