This compendium—released on October 20th—contains the entire series run of CPO Sharkey (Seasons 1 and 2), and two collections of The Don Rickles TV Specials (Volumes 1 and 2). Since I already had copies of three of these titles, I packed them up and sent them to members of the Thrilling Days of Yesteryear faithful who are wild about Rickles. But I hung onto The Don Rickles TV Specials, Volume 2 in order to give it a proper review.
|Seeing this at the beginning brought back a flood of memories...|
|Your homework assignment: which of these celebrities were invited to the show because they also had series on CBS at the time of the telecast?|
“Millie, the Best-Dressed Woman,” “Goober the Elder”)—who gives Don much-needed advice when our hero learns at his father’s funeral that his brother (Jim Connell) puts on women’s clothing and hangs around in bars, as the song goes. Popular 50s vocalist and later Gong Show exhibitionist Jaye P. Morgan plays Don’s wife; she’s peculiarly introduced in the opening credits as simply “Morgan,” and I don’t know if she was going for some sort of “Garbo” thing or announcer George Fenneman’s mike got cut off at the “Jaye P.”
The best of the sketches—you can probably understand the appeal, me being an old-time radio fan and all—features Jack Klugman, Bob Newhart and Loretta Swit reading straight lines from a radio script and when it comes to Don’s part, he ad-libs something wacky and/or insulting…the gimmick is that Jack, Bob and Loretta must continue reading their straight script lines. The oddest of the show’s sketches is set in an airport lounge, where Don plays a customer relations representative dealing with some really odd passengers…who include:
Andrew “Grover” Leal fave Steve Landesberg—who laughed more than I did, though it was mostly at himself (very Carol Burnett Show of you, sir)…
…and Bill Saluga, the man who inspired the age-old unanswerable query: “Why did anyone ever think this guy was funny?”
|That reminds me...I wonder if Stacia is caught up with her work?|
|Eventually someone had to call in the cops.|
Don does a musical number at the beginning—his signature tune I’m a Nice Guy—and is joined on stage by other “nice guys”: Jack Palance, Bobby Riggs, Otto Preminger, Larry Linville & Loretta Swit (as their M*A*S*H characters, Majors Burns and Houlihan) and Bruce the Shark from Jaws. (You have to see this to believe it, folks.) A later portion of the show has Don welcoming Elliott Gould, James Caan and Michael Caine (all promoting Harry and Walter Go to New York) and an identified audience member for a funny bit of improv. (Don also gives the legendary Joe Louis a shout-out; the Brown Bomber is sitting in the audience, enjoying the show.)
|Don has a vision in which he's outside the Pearly Gates pleading his case to The Gatekeeper (Arthur Godfrey). Jack Klugman and Don Adams try to put in a good word for their pal.|
It shows that Don wasn’t too shabby when it came to demonstrating his acting chops…but it also brings the proceedings to a screeching halt. Rickles is pure Las Vegas cheesiness; Michele Lee and Don do a showy production number (along with the Argentinian Gauchos and the Royal Scots Guards) that Rickles describes in an intro to the special thusly: “She was a great lady…we marched downtown, singing, dancing…wow…and having the best time of our life…trying to get a drink someplace. As soon as we got a drink, the parade ended.”
|In a later vision, Don winds up in H-E-double-hockey-sticks...where he chats with His Excellency (Jose Ferrer).|
If you’re lying awake at night wondering: “I wonder if there’s a TV special that lets Don Rickles sing with Helen ‘I Am Woman’ Reddy?” then you will definitely want to put The Don Rickles TV Specials, Volume 2 in your shopping cart.