|Best of Barbara Mandrell & the Mandrell Sisters Show (1980)
Starring: Barbara Mandrell, Irlene Mandrell, Louise Mandrell
Director: Bob Henry
With all due respect to Louise and Irlene Mandrell, there’s a good reason why their sister Barbara headlined this early ‘80s variety show: she’s the only one who seems even remotely comfortable on camera.
That being the case, you might wonder how the series lasted for more than a few weeks, let alone two years. Those of you with longer memories may recall that Barbara Mandrell was a sufficiently big name in country music to earn the CMA’s Entertainer of the Year Award in both 1980 and 1981. (To this day, she’s the only woman to have achieved such a feat.) In other words, she was pretty hot stuff, and when someone’s hot in the music industry, you know it’s only gonna be a matter of time before someone in Hollywood wants to figure out how to get a piece of the action.
“Hee-Haw” began on network TV, was quickly cancelled, but then became an unexpectedly huge hit in syndication. Someone at NBC probably thought they had a major cash cow on their hands with “The Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters Show.” It’s a little strange, though, that the ones who ended up getting the task of producing the series were Sid & Marty Krofft, whose variety show track record included “The Bay City Rollers Show” and “Pink Lady and Jeff,” neither of which could be said to have been roaring successes. (As it happens, there’s only one thing that’d inspire anyone to say, “Oh, yeah, this is a Krofft production,” but it’s a pretty noticeable one: a life-sized puppet band named Truck Shackley and the Texas Critters.)
Given Barbara’s high profile in the music business, “The Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters Show” was in a position to score some pretty big country names as guests. Some of those appearing on this best-of collection include Johnny and June Carter Cash, Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Alabama and Glen Campbell. It wasn’t just country folks, either… hell, even Bob Hope did the show! It only takes a couple of minutes of viewing, however, to realize that these folks did the show for the exposure, for the money, or as a favor -- because it sure as hell wasn’t the quality of the material.
It’d be inaccurate to say that there aren’t any funny moments. When Irlene goes to a cowboy preacher for confession, his advice to her is to “say three Gene Autrys, four Tex Ritters and sing 11 choruses of ‘San Antonio Rose.’” Okay, it’s not “Seinfeld.” But for the most part, you’re left thinking someone was raiding the trash cans on the “Hee-Haw” set for material. There’s a moment when Louise jokes about doing charity work and, when Barbara says she didn’t know Louise did charity work, her response is, “Sure you did! You’ve seen the guys I date!” This comes on the heels of the revelation that Irlene wants to do an all-night telethon to cure…wait for it…insomnia. Yeah, so, basically, not really a funny show, but for what it’s worth, even if the jokes were better, neither Louise nor Irlene demonstrate any sort of comedic instincts, anyway. (Seriously, does anyone know why NBC didn’t just make it “The Barbara Mandrell Show” and leave her sisters out of it altogether?)So, okay, you’re probably wondering if the music sequences make up for the lack of decent comedy. Well, certainly not enough to result in an unreserved recommendation, that’s for sure. But you saw that list of names above -- you can put up with a lot of groan-inducing jokes to see Johnny Cash sing a couple of songs. And, boy howdy, that’s exactly what you’re gonna have to do.