March 11, 2014

We Interrupt This Week, 1978

What we have here is that rarity, a program that proves PBS has a sense of humor.

The show in question is We Interrupt This Week, and it was the first game show to be broadcast on Public Television.  I don't think that's really a big deal - when I became a fan of it, during its single season of 1978, I didn't care if it was PBS' one-hundredth game show.  What mattered was that it was thirty minutes of witty, erudite humor.  It came during my PBS/British phase, when I'd discovered the charms of both British programming (The Prisoner, Monty Python) and PBS as a refugee from the single commercial television channel I endured in the world's worst town.

We Interrupt This Week was a mock game show that was hosted by the BBC's Ned Sherrin, who was perhaps the closest host I've seen to John Daly.  (I also loved his word pronounciations.)  It started out, if I'm remembering correctly, as a monthly program called, appropriately, We Interrupt This Month.  When it met with surprising success, it became a weekly series and changed its title accordingly.

I called it a mock game show, but I'm not sure that's either accurate or fair.  The two teams, made up of media celebrities of one extent or another*, did play the game for real, and did score points that, in the end, would determine the winning team.  And the questions were legit, if often ridiculous. The scorekeeping was slightly less capricious than that on another British import, Whose Line is it Anyway?, though Sherrin did echo Clive Anderson with his pronouncement at the beginning of each show that "My decisions will be arbitrary, prejudiced and final."

*In the original monthly version, the sides were called the "Home" team and the "Home Away From Home" team.  When the show started its weekly run, the teams were simply labeled "Home" and "Visitor" or "Guest."  That "Home Away From Home" moniker tells you a lot about the show's sense of humor.

It was great fun seeing celebrities not always known for having senses of humor* - Jeff Greenfield, Richard Reeves - in a battle of wits not only with the other team but with the sardonic Sherrin, who in the tradition of quiz hosts always managed to have the best lines.  As far as I can tell, this is the only recording of the program - at least it's the only one I could find, so I'll let you be the judge.  It's been a long time since I've seen this show - I was reminded of it by running across it in last week's TV Guide listing - but I find it holds up just as I'd remembered it, if you can put yourself back into the headlines from 1978.

*It also showed which of them were smarter - or perhaps stupider - than you thought.  Watch this and judge for yourself.

5 comments:

  1. Funny you should bring this show up ...

    I remember coming across We Interrupt This Week by accident one Friday night, while channel-surfing - or at least its 1978 equivalent.
    You see, this was before I had a remote control-TV, and channel changing had to be done manually, with the big clunky dial that went ka-chunk, ka-chunk as you went from station to station. This meant that you had to give what you encountered a few minutes at least.
    The first thing that caught my notice about WITW was one of the guest panelists: Carrie Nye, a theater actress best known as Mrs. Dick Cavett (check the credits and you'll note that WITW had numerous personnel in common with Cavett's various talk shows from that period).
    Carrie Nye (who was always addressed as such, never by one name or the other) was a fairly frequent panelist on WITW, where she was known for having the deepest speaking voice of anyone else on the show, males included.
    Interestingly, although she had a considerable reputation on stage, Carrie Nye rarely acted on film or TV; her one extended credit was a year she spent on Guiding Light as a murderous society lady.

    More (but not much more) back at the previous post.

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    Replies
    1. Fascinating - you came to it in exactly the same way I did, through the 70s version of channel surfing. I became a fan of Doctor Who in somewhat the same way. I wonder how many of our favorite shows came to us by accident?

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  4. Darn. Linky-wink didn't work. I remember seeing this show when I was a kid. I was a National Lampoon reader then, and one of its main editors, Gerald Sussman, was sometimes a panelist on WITW. And no, the host didn't have the best lines. Jeff Greenfield BY FAR had the best lines. He was sorta like the Paul Lynde (or Richard Dawson as a "Match Game" panelist) of WITW, but with a bit more knowledge, and irony, when necessary. Every answer he gave was hilarious as shit. I was a bit too young to get all the topical questions, but was blown away by how mom would get almost all of them. Sad that video-wise WITW seems lost to the sands of time now. I'm guessing we're all too dumbed down now to entertain the idea of reprising something like this again. Oh, and SUCKS TO YOUR RAYBANS, duuuuude.

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And now for something completely different.