Saturday, June 29, 2024


After twenty years of waiting to see “Turn-On”, the American TV sketch show cancelled during its one and only episode, its unearthing in 2023, along with a second episode that was completed but never shown, was a “holy grail” moment for me, rewarding the anticipation.

Therefore, I was dismayed to find that a “third” episode had, completely without my knowledge, been made available to all on YouTube for the last four months.

Posted to “Clown Jewels”, a repository channel for shows produced by “Turn-On” producer George Schlatter that were not “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In”, which has its own channel, “The Lost Episode” is really an assembly of the remaining footage available for the show, as described by Schlatter: “We had more footage than we knew what to do with. Endless pieces were found in our vault. It was a challenge and a treat to create more offbeat, crazy programming for the offbeat YouTube audience.”

Watching many segments of “Laugh-In” makes clear that sketches were shot in blocks – they were not asking Sammy Davis Jr back every week to say “Here Comes the Judge”. Having many hours of footage to work with then makes assembling episodes a matter of selecting which sketches fit alongside each other, and how those are paced over one episode. This is true of all TV sketch shows, but the sheer number of sketches made for “Laugh-In” makes the process more visible.

This is why I felt the third episode of “Turn-On” didn’t work so well. Of course, two episodes is not enough for patterns to establish themselves, but I saw there were more interstitial shots of mainframe computer control rooms, and of Spirograph-like patterns, because they were there to use. The repeated presence of actor Sebastian Cabot, going uncredited here, suggests he would have been the guest star of the completed third episode, but these appear alongside pieces with Tim Conway, the first episode’s guest. The constant synthesiser beats of the first episode, replaced by punchline punctuation in episode two, is back this time around, but you cannot determine if this was the intended soundtrack, or a choice made in the editing process today.

Still, it would be better for me to accept the pieces that we now have available to view, regardless of how they have been presented: spraying deodorant on the Statue of Liberty. A speech bubble saying “Mommy!” coming from a woman’s navel. “I’m the Boston Strangler-" “Margaret, it’s for you.” Tim Conway messily eating peanut butter and jelly/jam to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. Someone leaving the bathroom in a towel to answer their car phone. Tim Conway trying and failing to gas himself with exhaust fumes, but his car won’t start – even the breakdown truck won’t run him over. A cartoon of a man attempting to pop a child’s balloon, so the child pops them – there are enough cartoons here to make you think you are watching an adult “Sesame Street” but may have been intended for multiple further episodes.

More recently, the “Clown Jewels” channel has started posting the revival of the “Laugh-In” format, which lasted for six episodes from 1977. The hellzapoppin’ format of the original “Laugh-In” and of “Turn-On” is evident, and holds the show together, but the knowledge of what followed made you wish they would just put the camera on then-unknown cast member Robin Williams, and leave it there.

No comments:

Post a Comment