Occasionally I request DVDs and come to regret the decision. Lots of discs sound good at the time, but when they actually arrive, I come to the frightening realization that I really need to watch the things.
While many of the DVDs I’ve reviewed belonged in this category, we have a new champion: Rhino’s edition of Pink Lady …and Jeff. When I saw this sucker on the release calendar, I nearly fell off my chair. About five people actually remember this ill-fated variety show from 1980; I guess at least one of them works at Rhino, because I can think of no other explanation for this package. At least shows like Get A Life maintain a cult following; Pink Lady stands as an almost-totally forgotten piece of dreck.
So why in the world would I go out of my way to check out this catastrophe? A morbid sense of curiosity, I suppose. I maintain a vague recollection of the show, mostly because it really was such a clunker. Here’s the bizarre tale: Pink Lady were a female singing duo from Japan. They achieved great success and some brainiac decided they should try to duplicate this popularity in the United States. As a vehicle for their entry in the American popular culture, NBC contrived a weekly variety show in which they would star.
Unfortunately, the Ladies spoke virtually no English, so they received a cohost: mediocre comedian Jeff Altman. Formally called Pink Lady, the show was commonly known as Pink Lady …and Jeff, as it featured all three participants in fairly equal amounts. Altman handled most of the “comedy” while the Ladies contributed some phonetically memorized English to skits and warbled bland and inane tunes, most of which were semi-discofied renditions of then-fairly-recent hits. A couple of PL originals appeared, such as episode three’s “UFO”, but those examples were rare.
The structure of the show was pretty much set with the first episode. It began with some stand-up shtick from Altman, who then introduced PL. They came out in kimonos and started to sing a quiet Japanese tune, but then - surprise! - they shed the robes and busted into a rousing rendition of something called “Boogie Wonderland”, I believe. From there, the rest of the show alternated ridiculously unfunny sketches - like those with Altman’s Art Nuvo and faith healer characters - and absurdly overdone and witless musical numbers. All of the music received a glossy disco sheen, no matter how little the original material had to do with that genre. Lastly, the program concluded as PL forced Jeff to hop into the hot tub with them - while he’s fully clothed!
In addition to the opening set-up, a few other components appeared on most of the shows. Four of the six used a sketch montage based on radio performers; the other two featured a similar gimmick, but it went with a tabloid magazine motif. The first few episodes took the concept of a “letter home to Japan” to provide a mix of musical numbers and skits based on American cities like New York and Chicago; this “big ending” idea faded pretty quickly, though.
The hot tub gimmick made it through all six episodes, and it didn’t get any funnier. Actually, it would have been worth sitting through additional PL broadcasts to see the varied moronic ways this segment was handled; Jeff invariably fought the immersion in the tub, so it would have been perversely amusing to see how the writers tried to alter the segment.
Each episode offered a mix of bizarre guest stars. Some actually had talent, such as comic legends Sid Caesar, Jerry Lewis and Red Buttons. Granted, we saw virtually no signs of their abilities here, as their skills were fully buried beneath the horror, but at least some decent performers appeared. Musically, even the most compelling acts were nothing more than early-Eighties forgettables like Cheap Trick and Blondie, though Teddy Pendergrass added a little soulful class to the production. Almost all the rest of the musicians were atrocities like Donny Osmond and Bobby Vinton, and I ignored the attempted crossover of BJ and the Bear actor Greg Evigan, who played sax and sang, and did both poorly.
Even the only good performer of the bunch couldn’t escape the nightmare. Roy Orbison appeared in episode six for a version of “Oh, Pretty Woman”, but his usually solid voice abandoned him; Roy warbled a surprisingly feeble and off-key rendition of the classic tune.
As for the other non-musical guest stars, take a look at this roster: Sherman Hemsley, Lorne Greene, Bert Parks, Byron Allen, and Hugh Hefner! Not all of them were untalented, but they seemed badly out of place here. Will there ever be another TV moment as mind-numbingly atrocious as the sight of Greg Evigan and Hugh Hefner singing together?
Granted, I’m not sure who wouldn’t seem out of place on this show. By the time Pink Lady hit the air in 1980, the variety show had largely gone the way of the dodo. This program attempted to keep the format going, but it only succeeded in totally killing the genre. Actually, I think that even if variety shows had still been popular in 1980, Pink Lady would have destroyed them. The program was so laughably bad on a consistent basis that its poor quality almost seemed intentional; surely no one could create such an atrocity while they attempted to do something good, could they?
In its defense, I must admit that the show improved during its brief six-episode run. That doesn’t mean that it became funny, endearing or clever. No, it just denotes that it went from jaw-droppingly atrocious to simply bad. Nothing witty occurred on the last couple of shows, but they lacked the shock factor witnessed in the earlier programs.
Maybe I just got inured to the pain by that point. However, I suppose I may protest too much, for while Pink Lady was unquestionably a terrible show, it did offer perverse entertainment value. Frankly, it was hard to turn away from the program, for who knew where it would lead? Just when I thought it had hit rock bottom, some new atrocity would occur. From the aforementioned singing appearance by Hef to a comedy sketch about the Lincoln assassination, Pink Lady rarely ceased to amaze me. Add to that the silliest and most absurd musical numbers on record seen via the Pink Lady performances of disco dreck and the show kept me coming back for more.
Objectively, Pink Lady offers an absolutely terrible piece of TV. Subjectively, it’s so bad that it borders on being “must see”. TV doesn’t get any worse than Pink Lady, which means that it’s a show that all fans of crummy programming just have to observe.
Pink Lady …and Jeff appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on these single-sided, single-layered DVDs; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I expected little from the picture, so I wasn’t disappointed. Pink Lady is a 20-plus-year-old TV show, and the image showed its origins with a drab but typical visual experience.
Sharpness seemed to be fairly lackluster. Close-ups looked acceptably distinct, but they never displayed much presence or definition, and wider shots came across as rather fuzzy and soft. Overall, the picture was bland and mildly blurry. Some moiré effects and jagged edges cropped up at times, and some distinct edge enhancement marred much of the production. Source flaws appeared as well, mainly through some occasional video interference and pixelization. However, these stayed minor and infrequent.
Colors looked consistently drab and lifeless. Colored lighting appeared rather heavy and runny, and the remaining hues - mainly seen via clothes - were flat and without much distinction. Black levels actually came across acceptably well, as they looked moderately deep, but shadow detail was thick and excessively opaque. For example, the sketch in which Pink Lady break into an office looked very dense during the low-light scenes. Ultimately, Pink Lady provided a pretty weak image, but given the source material, I thought the DVD replicated the show in an acceptable manner.
I felt the same about the monaural soundtrack of Pink Lady. As a whole, the audio seemed about what I thought I’d get from an older TV show. Dialogue appeared thin and hollow, but speech was acceptably distinct and accurate; a little edginess occurred, but no problems related to intelligibility happened, discounting the accents, of course. Effects were similarly flat and insubstantial, but they played only a small role on this show, which stuck with a mix of comedy and music.
Speaking of which, the songs offered erratic quality. For the most part, the sounded fairly tinny and lackluster, but occasionally the tunes appeared more robust and full. I never found the musical tones to appear bad in the context of the rest of the disc, but definite variations occurred, and at the higher end, the songs sounded pretty decent. Ultimately, the audio of Pink Lady was nothing special, but it seemed fine for a TV show from 1980.
This DVD includes a minor smattering of extras, all of which appear on DVD One. The most significant is a recent Interview with Jeff Altman. During this 18-minute and five-second piece, Altman discusses his experiences on the show and some of the problems he faced. The segment offers some decent facts about the production and is generally interesting, but it’s not quite as rich or revealing as I’d expect. Still, it’s worth a look.
All of the episodes start with introductions from Altman as well. These come from the same interview session and add a little show-specific material. However, they’re too short to contribute much, though it seems clear Altman felt that the show improved as it continued. He’s correct, but the differences remained minor.
A Memorabilia section shows four screens of material. There’s a trade ad for the show and a couple of publicity shots plus an image that purports to show a TV Guide listing from the period during which Pink Lady aired. Unfortunately, it’s clearly fake, as a number of the shows - like Bosom Buddies and Magnum PI - weren’t on TV yet. Heck, Hill Street Blue wouldn’t hit the air until Pink Lady had been dead for almost a year!
History of Pink Lady adds additional text. We learn their origins and their progress through the years, all leading close to modern times. It’s a good little look at their career. “News Clippings” consists of four TV critic blurbs, all of which thoroughly trash the show.
If you told me when I started this gig that eventually I’d review a three-DVD package of Pink Lady …and Jeff, I probably would have simply killed myself then. However, since I’m still here, I gave it a look, and somehow lived to write about it. Yes, the show is as bad as I thought, but it offers some strange entertainment value; it’s so dated and so terrible that it’s hard not to watch. The DVD provides bland picture and sound, but they seem acceptable for the age and source of the material. A few extras round out the collection. Pink Lady …and Jeff won’t be for everyone - or more than just a few - but those with an eye for this kind of program will definitely get a kick out of this set.