Taped at Bovard Hall, USC, Los Angeles, by Schaen Prods. and Meadowlane Enterprises for American Program Service. Executive producers, Lionel Schaen, Steve Allen, Bill Allen; producer, Schaen; director, Michael Dimich; writer, Bill Allen; executive in charge of production; Niki Vettel; Host: Bill Maher.
Steve Allen is feted in this special produced for public TV stations. Taped in September, program should be a staple for fundraising months, with plenty of nostalgic clips, guest appearances (via video) and handy spots for pledge breaks. Allen gets to showcase his myriad talents, making for a fast-paced and entertaining tribute.
Show is essentially a setup for pre-taped comments from the likes of Milton Berle, Jackie Mason and Jay Leno, and an unexpectedly funny turn by “Nightline’s” Ted Koppel. With David Letterman also contributing a message, and “Politically Incorrect’s” Bill Maher hosting, all three networks sent their birthday tributes via their latenight hosts.
The clips are the highlight of the show, especially one of Allen and his mother, vaudevillian Bella Montrose, re-creating her stage act. Allen’s ability to get laughs without a script is showcased in man-on-the-street interviews in which he asks passersby if they could ever vote for an “admitted heterosexual.” Allen’s musical turns are more uneven: A song whose lyrics consist of Spanish dishes falls flat, but he brings down the house when he does a duet with vibraphonist Terry Gibbs.
Only drawback for longtime Allen fans is that Allen regulars Bill Dana, Pat Harrington, Tom Poston, Don Knotts and Louis Nye are represented by but two sketches. Nye is the only one who made the birthday show, appearing briefly from the audience.