Bea Arthur, Others 'Celebrate' NBC's 60th Anniversary With Forced Melodic Cheer

Based on the set design, they're all in heaven. Based on the facial expressions, they're all in hell.

What the hell? NBC celebrated its sixtieth anniversary in May of 1986 with, I guess, a variety special? According to Wikipedia, much of the special's framing device/plot "hinges on the question of whether little Keshia [Knight Pulliam] will ever get to see Johnny Carson in person," so that's what we're dealing with here.

The main attraction in this particular clip is Bea Arthur joining Nell Carter, Charlotte Rae, Marla Gibbs, and Alfonso Ribeiro (Soleil Moon Frye, apparently the Alyson Hannigan of this production, is given a spoken-word line) to celebrate how the NBC sitcom stars are "a family." The pacing of the tune, weighed down as it is with self-regarding syrup, is like a parody of a children's performance for local Party leaders; Ribeiro in particular looks pained and afraid.

And who put Marla Gibbs in Rusty's Italian-shopping-montage outfit from National Lampoon's European Vacation?

How'd you find this...whatever this is? Reader Dave In Chicago sent it along a couple of weeks ago, and quite frankly it took me until now to get through the entire clip, which is only three and a half minutes long.

Who cares? Nell Carter's weary "even a saccharine show must go on" affect is instructive re: professionalism (and re: carefully reading the fine print in your contract), plus it's a window into an interesting time in broadcast TV, when I think we were approaching the end of the major nets' ability to put on this kind of show and expect anyone to tolerate it.

Evidently the special marks the debut of the "current" NBC peacock logo as well, for your branding-evolution buffs out there.

Send your oddities and vagaries of vintage teevee to sarah at previously dot tv!


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