“The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” not seen on TV since CBS fired the satirist folk singers in 1969, will be recycled on E! Entertainment Television as an hourlong nightly series on the cable network starting Jan. 4.
E! has struck a three-year exclusive deal with Comedic Prods., Tom and Dick Smothers’ company, to air episodes of the 1960s program that was once at the center of a fiery dispute over censorship rights.
This go-round, E! will cut the hourlong shows by 10 to 15 minutes and will add new commentary by the Smothers Brothers.
Dick and Tom Smothers will introduce and close the shows on E! in wrap-arounds shot at the cabler’s Wilshire Blvd. studios.
It’s an effort to put the program into context so it will be accessible to viewers who may not have been around when “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” was top-rated and inflaming the Vietnam-era censors with its political edge, said straight man Dick Smothers.
The Smothers Brothers always owned the rights to the variety show, and they have never before licensed the rights.
Licensing a variety show involves the complex process of gaining clearances from the performers, and the unions that represent them. With some effort, the duo has done that, manager David Carroll said.
“The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” E!’s first hourlong strip, will air Monday through Friday at 5 p.m. (PT). The deal calls for airing 71 original episodes.
The Smothers Brothers have not been regulars on TV since a short-lived revival of the series was broadcast on CBS in 1988 and 1989.
Currently touring around the country as a successful nightclub act, their career “is going really well,” Dick Smothers said. But, he continued, “You hope your future doesn’t lie in your past.”