Herbie J Pilato Remembers ‘The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour’

The singing duo of Sonny and Cher still resonates with Baby Boomers in a way that can seem quite a mystery to later generations. Here’s our fave Classic TV historian, Herbie J Pilato, to explain.

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The Beat Still Goes On
by Herbie J Pilato

When it comes to vintage comedy-variety shows headlined by pop-music stars, before Tony Orlando and Dawn, Donny and Marie and the Captain and Tennille, there was Sonny and Cher.

Breezy, brazen and groundbreaking, The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour started it all.

Premiering August 1, 1971, as a six-week summer replacement series on CBS, it starred the married musical duo who rose to fame in the late ’60s on the popularity of such hit songs as “I Got You Babe” and “The Beat Goes On.”

Cher (née Cherilyn Sarkisian) was sylphlike and sardonic; Sonny (Salvatore Bono) was short and silly. She cracked wise; he was the butt of her jokes. She could belt out a tune; he had difficulty carrying one. But it didn’t matter. When they got together, it was television magic.

Created and produced by innovative Brit Chris Bearde and Canadian Allan Blye, The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour stayed on the air until March 6, 1974, when Sonny and Cher decided to divorce.

When they went their separate ways, it wasn’t long before they were back with separate shows: The Sonny Comedy Revue (produced by Beard and Blye in the fall of 1974 on ABC) and Cher (produced by Laugh-In’s George Schlatter from May 1975 to January 1976 on CBS).

Each of the new series, like the original, featured A-List guest stars (Glen Campbell, Twiggy, the Staple Singers on his show; Farrah Fawcett, Bette Midler, Elton John on hers). But the audience missed seeing Sonny and Cher together, and neither show lasted.

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Herbie J Pilato, host of Then Again, a classic TV talk show streaming on Amazon Prime, is the author of several books about television. For more information, visit HerbieJPilato.com.

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