DVD REVIEW: The Bobby Darin Show @ 8 April 2014 12:26 PM
The Bobby Darin Show may well be the very last of the grand TV variety shows done in the classic style. Sonny and Cher, Donny and Marie and their ilk were more campy, more deconstructive, in their approaches. Bobby Darin was a throwback to the Rat Pack, the essence of cool and ultimate timelessness. (For those too young to know Darin's work, one of his biggest hits was "Beyond the Sea," which gained new fame in Finding Nemo, as performed by rock star Robbie Williams in tribute to Darin.)
It's also a study of a extraordinary performer giving his/her all, almost to the point of collapse. (Judy Garland's TV series is another example.) Here is a singer/actor/musician/showman who is seriously ill. Darin had struggled with health issues since childhood and when he was doing this series, his irregular heart beat often made him in a dreadful state when the cameras stopped rolling. He passed away only a few months after the series left the air.
But when the cameras were on, all the audience sees is a consummate entertainer with seemingly boundless energy and a personable quality ideal for television. He also had the rare quality of reaching audiences of all ages by singing Sinatra pop, country, classic rock and roll and blues, all in a way that came naturally. That was because there were many Bobby Darins -- he was one complicated fellow. Everything he had he gave on stage.
The TV show, whose writers included Alan Thicke and regulars included versatile TV host/radio personality Geoff Edwards, followed the basic variety format. The first few shows' finales salute a specific city with its music, there were assorted sketches, commercial bumpers with Darin as Groucho, and what had to be the most personal of the sketches, "The Neighborhood."
"The Neighborhood" was akin to Jackie Gleason's "Honeymooners," a slice of life in the tough, working class streets of New York, surely as much a part of Darin's early life as Gleason's. Darin plays Angie, the voice of reason, while familiar character actor Dick Bakalyan (who appeared in numerous Disney comedies, as well as voicing the Oscar-winning "It's Tough to Be a Bird") plays Carmine, the dreamer who always hatches a money making scheme or is snared by a fishy endeavor.
Darin's other characters include a hippie poet and "The Godmother," two more personas that come from his life as living in a trailer on the beach and in the company of tough old Italian mamas.
The shows also include another unique regular feature, in which Darin sings to his female guest, face-to-face, both in a highly seductive way that says more than the most of today's more overt depictions of romance and general bedroom hijinks.
This was the early '70s, so many of the songs have that groovy sound. The dancers have that Disneyland "Kids of the Kingdom" vibe. It's also interesting to see what fine singing voices guests like Dyan Cannon and Cloris Leachman have. (Ever strange, Leachman does a butterfly number that is characteristically bizarre.)
But it's the last episode that is most unforgettable. Watch the bonus documentary for the background. Because of a lack of rehearsal, Darin performed pretty much his entire Las Vegas act while Peggy Lee simmered in her dressing room, waiting to go on. Once she did her segment with Darin, the tension is palpable, yet fitting as the duo sings very dark songs of lost loves. By the end, the two have connected as two giants of song interpretation.
One can only speculate what Bobby Darin would have given the world had he not died at 37. This DVD truly captures his lightning in a bottle.
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