Monday, May 5, 2014

That Joan Rivers

Remember when it was just CBS, NBC, and ABC? Now there's a multitude of ways and places in which to watch TV. Ironically, what some of these platforms do best is give us a chance to see dimly remembered -- or never before seen -- curios from TV's vaults.

Hulu is currently unspooling That Show, a late 1960s syndicated talk show hosted by comedienne Joan Rivers, who'd previously made guest appearances on the likes of The Hollywood Palace and The Ed Sullivan Show. Aimed at a female audience, the format called for each segment to be devoted to a discussion topic. Joan began with a monologue on the subject of the day, then introduced an expert and a celebrity guest to the discussion. Later in the show, Joan went into her studio audience to take questions. I watched the series opener, in which a young and slightly giggly Joan, joined by her guest Johnny Carson (back when they were friendly), interviewed the proprietress of a nudist camp. As you can imagine, Joan had a few things to say about that.

Compared to the outrageous Joan Rivers we've come to know in the forty-odd years since, she's pretty tame on That Show. Still, as she confessed in a November 1968 interview with United Press International's Patricia E. Davis, Rivers had a tendency to set off censors' alerts. "I can't swear and I can't say 'Oh, God,'" she explained. "I've always said that to fill up a space between sentences but now every time I slip the censors blip me and subtract $35 from my salary." Since beginning the show a few months earlier, she estimated that she'd been bleeped on an average of three times per segment. Can you imagine how busy she'd be keeping those censors today?

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