Painful … and with the strangest casting of any TV show … ever!

If there was some sort of award for the weirdest casting ever for a TV special, surely The Paul Lynde Halloween Special would take it!  Think about it….Lynde’s guests were Margaret Hamilton (of The Wizard of Oz fame), Billie Hayes (‘Witchiepoo’ from H.R. Pufnstuf), Florence Henderson, Billy Barty, Betty White, Donny and Marie Osmond…and KISS!!!  It seemed as if some producer simply closed their eyes and picked celebrities out of a hat!!  So is this strange mélange any good?  Nah…it’s pure crap!  And that’s why it’s included in another installment of my You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet series on appallingly strange movies and TV shows…and this one certainly is strange!

I have nothing against the host, Paul Lynde.  In his own may, he had a niche—whether as the center square on the American TV show The Hollywood Squares, as the befuddled father in Bye, Bye Birdie or playing the deliberately annoying Uncle Arthur on Bewitched.  However, no one would say that he was a man who could do it all.  Yet, oddly, here in the special Lynde was given EVERYTHING to do—from comedy, singing, stand-up and playing the great, straight lover.   None of them worked very well but the worst was definitely his attempt at stand-up at the beginning of the show. This routine wouldn’t have worked even if Jerry Seinfeld or Henny Youngman had delivered it—and having a non-stand-up guy like Lynde deliver it was downright painful—especially since the laugh track was horrid.  EVERYTHING he said was unfunny and every line he delivered resulted in loud guffaws from the laugh track!  It was a combination of embarrassing and awful at the same time.

There were a few skits as well—all of which were painfully bad.  The most difficult to watch had Lynde playing a rhinestone bedazzled trucker who inexplicably was stuck on a trashy waitress and had to battle against Tim Conway and Billy Barty for her love.  Seeing him in this jumpsuit was simply amazing…and hard to describe in its awfulness.  You just have to see it to believe it!

Did it get any better?  Mostly, no, it didn’t. There was a lot of singing and Lynde’s singing range was very, very limited—and he’s clearly out of his range with “Kids” and “Disco Baby”!  Florence Henderson, who possessed a nice voice, wasn’t much better with “That ‘Ol Black Magic” because the song and style just weren’t suited to her talents.  As for Donnie and Marie, they inexplicably didn’t sing(!) and only KISS came off well—and sang some of their best tunes (“Detroit Rock City”, “Beth” and “King of the Nighttime World”).  In fact, that is why I was generous enough to score this one an F+–their tunes, though inappropriate for this lame show, were definitely the highlights and hold up pretty well today.  Even if you hate KISS, I can’t see anyone disliking the song “Beth”.

Overall, the humor and entertainment in this tacky confection were just dreadful—even by 1970s standards.  I would place this in the same category as The Brady Variety Hour (once The Brady Bunch was canceled the network execs decided to give them a variety show) and Pink Lady and Jeff (Pink Lady was a musical duo who didn’t speak English) as among the worst of the era.  The only worse and more painful excuse of a show I can recall from that same time period was the god-awful Star Wars Holiday Special—which I previously talked about in an earlier Influx article.  It’s all just too weird, disjoint and awful to be believed—and that’s why I’d love you to see it!  And, if insist on treating yourself to this mess of a show, it is available from Amazon.com.

Martin’s Grade: F+

Article by Lead Entertainment Writer & Film Critic, Martin Hafer

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