1 9 7 7 – 1 9 7 8 (USA)
50 x 30 minute episodes
Introduced as the summer replacement for Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, this was one of the most talked-about tv shows of 1977.
Barth Gimble (Martin Mull) and Jerry Hubbard (Fred Willard) were the hosts of a talk show produced in the fictitious town of Fernwood, Ohio (Mary Hartman’s hometown) on local station WZAZ-TV, Channel 6, down on Acacia Street.
Gimble was natty and egotistical while sidekick Hubbard was a fatuous idiot. Martin Mull had previously appeared on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman as Garth Gimble, a wife-beater who eventually impaled himself on an aluminium Christmas tree in the closet.
Barth was presented here as Garth’s twin brother, and there were occasional visits by their father, Garth, Sr.
Guests on the show were parodies of every mind-numbing act that ever paraded across the real television talk show circuit, from Vietnamese refugee Mian Co Tiam, who had written a patriotic book titled Yankee Doodle Gook , to a housewife who was campaigning to have her late Aunt Dora made a saint because she made “remarkable raisin bread”, to a Jewish man named Morton Rose who had been caught speeding through all-WASP Fernwood.
He was brought on because Barth was sure many of the local viewers had never seen “a person of the Jewish persuasion”. “What tribe are you from?” asked Hubbard. “I’m originally from Toledo”, responded the guest eagerly.
Then they opened the phone lines for a ‘Talk-to-a-Jew’ call-in segment, in which one woman wanted to know, “When is Barbra Streisand’s next movie coming out?”
Other guests included Linda Barry, owner of the Fernwood Nudist Colony, mechanic Virgil Sims, Barth’s aunt Edity, a couple discussing the La Fro-mage method of childbirth, the founder of the Church of the Divine Lemonade, and the Salvation Army Singers performing Da Do Ron Ron.
Sad-faced Happy Kyne (Frank DeVol) led the ragged four-piece studio band, the Mirth Makers – when not touting his franchised dental service or his fast-food restaurant, Bun ‘n’ Run.
The writers spared no one. They offended everybody equally – regardless of race, creed, colour or income level.
Although the show was only marginally successful in its summer 1977 run, Norman Lear brought it back in April 1978 as America 2-Night.
Barth and Jerry had moved to Alta Coma, California (“the unfinished furniture capital of the world”) and hoped to boost the show with appearances by major Hollywood stars. Many did appear, playing parodies of themselves, including Charlton Heston, Robin Williams, George Gobel, Elke Sommer, and Gary Burghoff.
The new series got off to a grand start with a week-long buildup for ‘Electrocution Night ’78’ in which a death row convict was to be executed on-air while his wife lined up book, movie, and T-shirt deals.
Viewers had a chance to participate by entering an “I would like to throw the switch because . . .” contest.
Garìh Gimble, Sr.
Robert B. Williams