Laugh-In had its roots in the humor of vaudeville and burlesque, but its most direct influences were from the comedy of Olsen and Johnson (specifically, their free-form Broadway revue Hellzapoppin'), the innovative television works of Ernie Kovacs, and the topical satire of That Was The Week That Was. The show was characterized by a rapid-fire series of gags and sketches, many of which conveyed sexual innuendo or were politically charged. The co-hosts continued the exasperated straight man (Rowan) and "dumb" guy (Martin) act which they had established as nightclub comics. This was a continuation of cartoonist Chic Young's "Dumb Dora", and acts from vaudeville, best popularized by Burns and Allen.
Each episode followed a somewhat similar format, often including recurring sketches. The show would start with a short dialogue between Rowan and Martin. Shortly afterward, Rowan would intone: "C'mon Dick, let's go to the party". This live-to-tape segment comprised all cast members and occasional surprise celebrities dancing before a 1960s "Mod" party backdrop, delivering one- and two-line jokes interspersed with a few bars of dance music (later adopted on The Muppet Show, which had a recurring segment that is similar to "The Cocktail Party" with absurd moments from characters). The show would then proceed through rapid-fire comedy bits, pre-taped segments, and recurring sketches.
Ruth Buzzi, Judy Carne, Henry Gibson, Larry Hovis, Arte Johnson and Jo Anne Worley were originally in the pilot special from 1967. Gary Owens (announcer), Eileen Brennan, Roddy Maude-Roxby, and Goldie Hawn came on in the show. Most of the cast members were not in all 14 episodes from the season. Only the two hosts, announcer, and Judy, Henry, and Arte were in all 14 episodes. Eileen only appears in half of the episodes. She, Larry, and Roddy left after the first season.
The third season saw several new people who only stayed on for that season, Teresa Graves, Jeremy Lloyd, Pamela Rodgers, and Stu Gilliam. Lily Tomlin joined in the middle of the season. Jo Anne Worley, Goldie Hawn, and Judy Carne left after the season.
Laugh-In writers included: George Schlatter, Jack Mendelsohn, Lorne Michaels, Phil Hahn, Jim Mulligan, Jack Hanrahan, Gene Farmer, Jim Abell, Bill Richmond, Don Reo, Allan Katz, Jack Wohl, Larry Siegel, John Rappaport, Allan Manings, Jack Margolis, Bob Howard, John Jay Carsey, Richard Goren (also credited as Rowby Greeber and Rowby Goren), Chris Bearde (credited as Chris Beard), Chet Dowling, David Panich, Marc London, Paul Keyes, Dave Cox, Jack Kaplan, Stephen Spears, Hugh Wedlock Jr., Coslough Johnson (Arte Johnson's twin brother), Hart Pomerantz, Barry Took, Digby Wolfe, Jeremy Lloyd.
In 1977, Schlatter and NBC briefly revived the property as a series of specials – entitled simply Laugh-In – with a new cast, including former child evangelist Marjoe Gortner. The standout was a then-unknown Robin Williams, whose starring role on ABC's Mork & Mindy one year later prompted NBC to rerun the specials as a summer series in 1979. Rowan and Martin, who owned part of the Laugh-In franchise, were not involved in this project. They sued Schlatter for using the format without their permission, and won a judgment of $4.6 million in 1980.
January 23, 1983
George Peppard, who memorably starred opposite Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), played the A-Team’s leader, John “Hannibal” Smith; he called his A-Team role “probably the best part I’ve had in my career.” The show also featured Dirk Benedict as Templeton “Faceman” Peck and Dwight Schultz as H.M. (Howling Mad) Murdock, but its breakout star was the mohawked, gold-bedecked Mr. T. Born Laurence Tureaud in a tough Chicago neighborhood, Mr. T got into show business after winning a contest as the “World’s Toughest Bouncer.” He was spotted by Sylvester Stallone, who cast him as a boxer in Rocky III (1982). As the surly A-Team mechanic B.A. (Bad Attitude) Baracus, Mr. T uttered some of the show’s most memorable catchphrases, including “You better watch out, sucker” and “Pity the fool.”
Campy and outrageously violent, The A-Team was particularly popular among children and teenagers, and with male audiences. Over the years, the show’s producers experimented with adding a woman to the mix--including Culea’s Amy Allen, Marla Heasley as Tawnia Baker and Tia Carrere (who later starred in Wayne’s World) as a Vietnam war orphan meant to provide a link to the soldiers’ past--but these stints were relatively short-lived, and the team’s testosterone-heavy vibe remained intact. By its fourth season, the show’s popularity was waning, due partially to its formulaic nature and partially to the growing trend towards family-friendly comedy that was being driven by the success of The Cosby Show. In the spring of 1986, Cosby-inspired shows such as Who’s the Boss? and Growing Pains on ABC were beating The A-Team handily in the ratings each week.
A-Team producers tried different tricks to win audiences over, including one episode centered on the popular game show Wheel of Fortune and various guest appearances by such prominent personalities as the pop star Boy George, the professional wrestler Hulk Hogan and the Chicago Bears defensive lineman William “Refrigerator” Perry. The show hung on into a fifth season, but aired only 13 episodes, ending unceremoniously in March 1987.