Fulvue Drive-In.com
Current Reviews
In Stores Soon
In Stores Now
DVD Reviews, SACD Reviews Essays Interviews Contact Us Meet the Staff
An Explanation of Our Rating System Search  
Category:    Home > Reviews > Variety Show TV > Sonny & Cher Ultimate Collection

The Sonny & Cher Ultimate Collection


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: B     Episodes: B



When they arrived in the later 1960s, Sonny & Cher has a fairly good run on the Pop charts, for a brief time being as hot a duo as any in Pop music.  After films like William Friedkin’s Good Times and Sonny Bono’s big production showcase for Cher called Chastity (reviewed elsewhere on this site), they began to see their commercial success drift away.  They continued their nightclub act until a fateful night where an executive offered them a television variety show.


This offer came from CBS and Fred Silverman, who ran the network, though enough of them to think they had the perfect show to succeed a retiring Ed Sullivan.  As was often the case in those days, Silverman was right and The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour was an instant hit.  It ran three seasons, and even after the couple divorced, they reunited for two more seasons of another series.  The Sonny & Cher Ultimate Collection chronicles highlights form some of the best shows from all five of those seasons and much more.  The three DVD set from Respond 2 is a very well rounded look at the ride their renewed success gave us.


As a promotional appearance for the Chastity feature film on The Barbara McNair Show in 1969, included here as “1969 Pilot” shows that their act was set up even then.  Sonny would be the insecure, loudmouth criticizing a quiet Cher, who lets him go on and hang himself with his egotistical perception of how talented and great he proved to be in the duet they just sang.  The performance here is especially what we would term sexist, having her sit down on a stool when he says so, the quiet wife, then she comes up with deadpan sound bytes that cause his wall of ego so slowly crack until in collapses altogether.  With woman’s liberation, changing times, and various social movements, this was clever enough to be timely and capitalize on many things going unaddressed.  Their Hippie credibility from their initial hits only added to the interest and authenticity.


The first disc includes the very first-ever episode of the show and two of the stronger ones that debut season.  Harvey Korman and cameos by Freeman King & Glenn Ford launch the long line of guest stars.  Cher’s clothes were always made Bob Mackie, who also did The Carol Burnett Show, so Korman was a perfect choice to help launch the show right and it worked.  Then there is the All In The Family send-up as an Operetta in which even the “CBS Censor” shows up.  The second show has Burt Reynolds sending himself up throughout the show.  Merv Griffin shows how entertaining he could be in the third show, when he was still known as a talk show host and not a game show mogul.


The second and third seasons are looked at on the second disc.  The classic Jackson 5/Ronald Reagan show is up first, which gets more interesting (and bizarre) with age.  With daughter Chasity a part of the show, they gave her a Mr. Rogers Neighborhood-like trolley car to enter, which would then show us the guest stars of the show.  Howard Cosell and Chuck Connors are in the second episodes, while Danny Thomas with Ken Berry and George Foreman is the final of the six shows form the first three seasons this set offers.


The third disc starts with the first new show of the new series, with the animation and light-up globes set gone.  Donnie & Marie show up in what was a crossover appearance, as they also appeared on the Osmonds hit show.  Alex Karras and Ruth Buzzi co-star.  As far as the 1970s is concerned, the Bono/Osmond thing is one of those touchstones that retro cannot touch.  Farrah-Fawcett made a great appearance in the second show with Glenn Campbell as guest star, who also does one of his hits.  Then there is the third show.


Over the years, the show was criticized for butchering other people’s hit songs, but I always got a kick out of their covers.  That was whether their singing worked or not.  The Vamp segments were my favorites, something that the intended successor Lady Luck never supplanted.  Besides their own hits, Cher landed a slew of solo hits that the show helped launch, including three number ones!  They are sometimes considered gloriously annoying oldies from hell, but I enjoy those even more than the singing with Sonny.  But the most inarguably great moment in the five seasons of the show is with the guest starring of Tina Turner.  On her way to one of the most spectacular comebacks ever, the show was broadcast March 11, 1977 and it was in the disco era both Cher and Tina took their best shots at the genre.


Once the show was over, Cher would hit in 1979 with Take Me Home, while Tina would do notable covers of Disco Inferno and Hot Legs with Rod Stewart.  Both would also become hit acts in Las Vegas, but would also have big chart success in the 1980s by leaving Vegas behind and embracing Rock music like never before.  For Tina, it was Private Dancer, while Cher has several albums that gave her hits.  Both free of abusive husbands, with Cher and Sonny resolved enough to do the series, the music performances by Tina solo, then the medley she does with Cher is a glorious moment in TV and music that turned out to be a triumph bigger than anything even they could have imagined at the time.


The only show not here that should have been is one that offered Mike Connors of Mannix & Jean Stapleton from All In The Family as guest stars.  Without going though an episode guide, that is a great one and maybe we’ll see it down the line.  Otherwise, this is a great set of programs that will show you why Sonny & Cher were so popular and so loved.  They were themselves like no team and certainly no variety show team had ever been before, and had a pop culture moment few ever could claim, the kind TV rarely delivers anymore.  The Sonny & Cher Ultimate Collection nearly lives up to its name.


The full frame images throughout the DVDs in this set are in great shape and show that the 2-inch reel-to-reel videotape survived very well.  The color is as consistent as professional, analog NTSC video from that time can offer, but the limits are there.  With that said, these are pretty clean.  The producer interviews are newer and Barbara McNair footage older.  The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono throughout, with some warping on the shows on the third DVD, odd considering they are the newer shows.  The audio on Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves is a bit distorted and on Half Breed is outright warped, but since Cher was lip-syncing to the hit records, they should have been replaced with a stereo copies of the songs.  The Way Of Love (a duet someone forgot to rewrite for Cher, so she sounds like a lesbian character by the end of the song) and Dark Lady are also here, with original vocals she sang during the taping.  The Music Video clips are monophonic as well, but are still good extras, but there are more.


Disc One has the first of a two-part interview with the producers of the original three seasons and two 16mm promo spots CBS used to launch the series.  The second, concluding part is on DVD 2.   The third disc has the 1969 Pilot, a three clip karaoke section, three clip Music Video section, brief text biographies of the duo, too brief text on the show history, a discography that is limited only to albums of them as a duo with chart positions, an odd radio jingle with explanation, and promo spots for their solo shows when they split.   All shows feature limited commentary tracks by Cher herself, and they are all worth hearing.  Add what the producers share and there are some great stories here.


The animated sequences by John Wilson, who served as the show’s equivalent of Peter Maxx throughout the original three seasons was a signature of the show and the combination of his work and the way videotape was used on this show was as much a forerunner of anything you would see on MTV’s classic promo spots as anything.  And yes, that is Terri Garr and a bearded Steve Martin in the supporting cast.  To find out more about this set, visit www.Respond2.com and also look into all the other great exclusives from R2 Entertainment.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


 Copyright © MMIII through MMX fulvuedrive-in.com