CBS (ended 1970)
Considered by many as a "poster show" for the First Amendment, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour didn't quite begin that way.
Less than a year after the cancellation of a sitcom also on CBS, the network gave Tom and Dick Smothers another chance with a variety series. This time, the formula worked. The sibling rivalry continued with aplomb, and the show was a better showcase for their musical and comedic talents. Not to mention the high-caliber talent who guested on the show: Mickey Rooney, George Segal, Kenny Rogers, and Liberace, to name just a few. The show was also a showcase for new talent and a venue for hot music. Mason Williams, Steve Martin, Bob Einstein, and Rob Reiner cut their teeth in the entertainment business with this show. Among the highlights in the music department: The Doors, The Who (whose "smashing" appearance ranks among VH1's Greatest Moments In Rock And Roll History), George Harrison, and Paul Revere And The Raiders. The show was also a hotbed of controversy, more or less. Through 72 episodes over 2½ seasons, and depending on the source of the story, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was either working their butts off to make the CBS network happy over bits and pieces of their programs being censored, or were just being outright rebellious to see how much they could put on the air. In April 1969, the flashpoint happened: the show was cancelled, despite protests. The battle over the show would actually end in 1973, when a court ruled the Smothers firing to be illegal (they had been officially renewed weeks before their cancellation), and that their First Amendment rights had been violated. The win was financially small compared to the multi-millions won in lawsuits today, but the moral win was a lot bigger: the door opened for more venues or creativity. There remains some question, however, if Free Speech in the form of political satire is still really free. Tom Smothers expressed this in his appearance on the American Public Television series Speaking Freely.moreless