Back at the beginning of the '70s, everyone was looking for the next "Beatles". Of course, given the Fab Four's creative and cultural influence, such a task was foolhardy at best. And in reality, those in power weren't looking to actually recreate the lads from Liverpool. Instead, the marketing men wanted a genial group they could feed to the masses without much pop life indigestion - oh, and if they had any acting chops, that would add immensely to their variety hour variables. It worked with the Monkees, after all. Often referred to as rock's answer to the Marx Brothers, the Hudson Brothers seemed to fill the necessary Madison Avenue ideal. Their sunny shtick and Lennon/McCartney lifts were enough to gain them a replacement slot for a vacationing Sonny and Cher. When they failed to click in prime time, a Saturday morning kids concept was announced. Thus The Razzle Dazzle Show was born. Clearly, the search was about to continue.
At this point, it was time for a real musical interlude. These are perhaps the most trying moments of the entire Hudson Brothers experience. Sure, "So You Are a Star" is so solo era John that you halfway expect Yoko Ono to show up and start caterwauling (or suing), but for the most part, the trio trashes classic rock rollers like "Free Ride". Of course, everything is lip synced - no amplifiers or power lines involved. And the songs all had the same kitschy upbeat quality, as if the band had only one type of style they could rely on - no matter the lyrical content. When the lame laugh track and faked applause died down, there would either be another small sketch (perhaps a one liner about life as a farmer) or just a bumper to commercial. Upon returning, the Hudsons would indulge in the show's cornerstone comedy bit, the "Razzle Dazzle Wrap-up of Everything (Including the Kitchen Sink)". It was here that the rest of the cast did most of the heavy lifting. As the Brothers bopped around and added their elements here and there, we were treated to a continuing cycle of silliness.
Typical of the "Razzle Dazzle Wrap-up" was a selection from an oversized book of mystery (that would eventually produce scary arms and attack the reader), a visit to the Frankensteins' lab (where the monsters would make one of several social servants, like a nurse or a postman), a trip to the smallest island in the entire world, and later on, a moment with smart alecky youngster Chucky Margolis. These were perhaps the best moments in the entire Hudson repertoire. As the title character Brett Hudson affects a perfect voice, while brother Mark played the pathetic dupe - and Chucky's best friend - Alan. Bill acted as interviewer, and the material often mimicked real life. Later on, there was also a talking bear named Sam who occasionally solved noir like mysteries as a bruin private eye, and other musical laugh-a-thons. After that, the "Wrap-up" would end, the boys would once again seek approval from Fabulous Freddy, and just as they were about to go on for "another hour or two", a funny farm net would drop over their heads, dragging them back into the truck. Cue closing theme, and another episode of The Hudson Brother Razzle Dazzle Show was in the can.
It has to be said that as a slice of sunny nostalgia, this is great stuff. The Hudsons may be as fake as any other TV talent of the era, but they were sure sincere. They never appeared to be playing down to their pre-teen demo. Instead, you could sense they truly had fun making the show. It's a spirit of silliness that washes over every other facet of the show. Rod Hull and his Emu are so manic and mad that you can't help but laugh, and some of the sketches work simply because they're so completely surreal and strange. It's tough to tell if modern audiences would appreciate this low brow level of entertainment. Everything is simple, straightforward, and aimed for the easy chuckle. There is nothing sarcastic or satiric, and the Hudsons purposely come across as happy go lucky squares (even if they are wearing flairs, platform shoes, and David Cassidy shag haircuts). Unlike another attempt at fame - their wonderful syndicated series Bonkers - the Brothers aren't trying to break with tradition. Instead, this is an amiable grasp at whatever success a Saturday Morning series can provide. Those of us old enough will instantly recognize its retro charms. The Hudsons however may be lost on a contemporary crowd.