Three hours seems hardly enough time to encapsulate the career of Bob Hope, celebrating his 55th year with NBC and -- come May 29 -- his 90th birthday. But crew and celebrity-laden cast under the supervision of exec producer Linda Hope give it a good try. How much material was there? Put it this way: Brooke Shields didn't show up until 2 hours and 41 minutes into the show.

Three hours seems hardly enough time to encapsulate the career of Bob Hope, celebrating his 55th year with NBC and — come May 29 — his 90th birthday. But crew and celebrity-laden cast under the supervision of exec producer Linda Hope give it a good try. How much material was there? Put it this way: Brooke Shields didn’t show up until 2 hours and 41 minutes into the show.

Marathon taping at net’s studios May 1 was hodgepodge of clips, in-person and taped tributes and song and dance numbers.

After a brief parking-lot monologue by Jay Leno, action moved inside with Johnny Carson making his first official network appearance since retiring last year; he looks and sounds ready for another 30 years.

Various hosts introduced segs outlining Hope’s vaude, stage, radio, film, TV and concert careers, other performers — including every living president of the U.S. — dropped by or sent taped segments to relate anecdotes of varying interest. Action was broken from time to time for rather anachronistic live numbers by dancers lip-synching to pre-recorded tracks.

Highlight performances included Rosemary Clooney singing “I’ll Be Seeing You” and Peabo Bryson and Lea Salonga dueting on a medley of songs –”The Lady’s in Love with You,””Silver Bells,””Buttons and Bows”– introduced by Hope. Phil Hartman and Michael Richards appeared as veterans of Gettysburg (said to be the first time Hope went out to entertain the troops), Dave Thomas showed up with a less-than-brilliant Hope impresh, and audiences may still be wondering why Whoopi Goldberg was imitating Moms Mableyor what a nervous-but-charming Kirk Cameron was doing up there at all.

The funniest line of the evening belonged to Chevy Chase: “I usually celebrate (Hope’s) birthdays quietly at home, with my family,” and the most telling segment was a roundtable of Hope’s writers including Mel Shavelson, Larry Gelbart, Mort Lachman, Gene Perret and Martha Bolton — when an earthquake struck Southern California, Bolton said, her policeman husband received the second call to come to work – the first was from Hope, looking for up-to-the-second material.

Bob Hope: The First 90 Years

(Fri. (14), 8-11 p.m., NBC)

Production

Taped in Burbank by Hope Enterprises Inc. Exec producer, Linda Hope; producers, Linda Hope, Don Mischer; directors, Allan Kartun, Don Mischer; script , Gene Perret, Martha Bolton, Linda Perret, Buz Kohan; special musical material, Kohan, The Other Ray Charles.

Crew

Lighting, Olin Younger, Bill Klages; editor, Robert P. Schneider; art director, Jerry Dunn; musical director, Nick Perito; choreographer, Don Crichton; production designer, Bob Keene.

Cast

Hosts: Johnny Carson, Angela Lansbury, Paula Abdul, Betty White, Tom Selleck, Paul Reiser, Roseanne and Tom Arnold, Walter Cronkite, Lucie Arnaz.
With: Jay Leno, Bob Hope, Dolores Hope, Whoopi Goldberg, Candice Bergen, Rosemary Clooney, John Denver, George Burns, Dorothy Lamour, Peabo Bryson and Lea Salonga, Chevy Chase, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George Bush, Bill Clinton, Phil Hartman and Michael Richards, Raquel Welch, Florence Henderson, Kirk Cameron, Les Brown, Garth Brooks, Ann Jillian, Milton Berle, Dave Thomas, Brooke Shields, members of Bob Hope's staff.

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