Cher in Show Biz 2020
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The Baby Thing (The First Nine Months is the Hardest)

A new show cropped up on Amazon Prime recently that no fan I know had ever heard about, no biographer had ever written about or obscure list mentioned. I've come to call it "the baby thing."

Amazon Prime has been including some great old 1970s material lately, like all the Tattle Tales episodes and Paul Lynde’s Halloween Special and now this Sonny & Cher special from 1971. Most fans I’ve spoken to have never even heard of it, let alone seen it; which begs the question: what else is out there that we don't know about? Anyway, many thanks to Cher scholar Michael for alerting me to its existence.

The show is called The First Nine Months are the Hardest and Amazon lists the air date as 1971, but a few fans tell me it looks like it was filmed much earlier judging by how Sonny and Cher look.

And there is a lot of Sonny & Cher here doing skits and singing songs. I can't help but think this show might have helped sell TV execs on their ability to do a variety show.

The show is hosted by Dick Van Dyke (who I love!) and includes outfits by Bob Mackie (which seem oddly pedestrian for him) and an Emmy nominated score by Ray Charles. Whaa???

Cher scholar Robrt dug up an earlier non-musical version directed by Carl Reiner in 1964.

The show features three real celebrity couples. Michele Lee is lovely and amazing and her husband James Farentino is nice on the eyes but doesn't really pop out. Ken Berry and his wife Jackie Joseph are typical Broadway fare. The other couples have oodles of talent for sure, way beyond Sonny & Cher in song and dance ability, but somehow Sonny & Cher have such an interesting chemistry in comparison. They steal the show.

The tone of the show is a bit weird, nostalgic and retro even for 1971, as if its trying to convince bra-burning women to settle down. But really, it's all about the gas-company sponsor promoting fears in new mothers in order to get them to want to switch from electric or coal to “clean gas.” But aside from that, this is a gem of a new find for Sonny & Cher fans.  

Check it out on streaming from Amazon Prime. In the meantime, here's the play-by-play of the show (at the least the parts where Sonny & Cher appear).

The show begins with a big song and dance number. Each crib has the couple's surname on it.

Baby2 Baby2

 

 

 

 

 

In Cher's first skit, the new mothers are in a doctor's waiting room (Dick Van Dyke plays a somewhat smug doctor) wondering how hard their pregnancies will be. Cher's hair looks great in all these skits.

Baby4 Baby4 Baby4

 

 

 

 

 

In the next skit with Cher, Sonny is trying to call Cher's father to tell him the good news, but Cher wants to keep the secret until she's showing.

Baby7 Baby7

 

 

 

 

 

In the next skit, Sonny & Cher argue about purchasing too many things for the baby.

Baby9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the next skit, they argue about Cher's mother coming over to help out once the baby is born.

Baby101

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next is another big song-and-dance with the full cast singling about baby names. Cher actually considers the name Mary. I can't deny this was somewhat exciting seeing as I once fantasized about being the kid of Sonny & Cher. As if Cher would ever pick such a pedestrian name for her kid, though.

But I always think about that little grade-school boy who wrote about the meaning of love as "when your name sounds good in their mouth." 

Bby102 Bby102

 

 

 

 

 

This last skit is a creepy one where the three women idolize their doctor, Dick Van Dyke, who sits on a throne! The women are all infantilized as little girls. Ugh. This was back before you could insist on having a female gynecologist!

Baby104 Baby104

 

 

 

 

 

The last skit is where the dad's get one last visit at their wives before they're wheeled into the delivery room. This was also back in the day when new fathers did not get to stay in the delivery room! What a time capsule this is!

Baby106

 

Comments

Jay

IMDb.com shows that this was released Feb. 24, 1971 so production was probably done in last quarter of 1970. I would say that would be correct according to pics you're showing. It's about the same look they had on their 1970 appearance on Love, American Style. Cher's hair is definitely longer here than it was when they co-hosted on The Mike Douglas Show in Oct. 1969.

Cher Scholar

Good point of reference, Love American Style. Thank you.

John Wiblin

In Sonny’s book at page 177 he wrote of the year 1970:

“Cher and I worked our asses off that summer. It probably cost me my relationship with Cher, but all I saw was the chance to get a leg up on things and stabilize our debts, and I went for it full throttle. We guested on several television specials...In July we guested on a summer special costarring Michele Lee, James Farentino, Ken and Jackie Berry and Dick Van Dyke. Our manager began to receive inquiries from producers.”

So that was Sonny’s excuse. I wonder what the others’ excuses were because this TV special has no redeeming feature that I can discern. I suspect that few of those who were in it and who are still alive in 2020 (Cher, Michele Lee, Jackie Berry a.k.a Jackie Joseph, and Van Dyke) will have welcomed it coming back to light again after all these years. Cher had never before looked as dowdy as she did here in yellow, orange and brown, and she never would do so ever again. It is extraordinary to think Bob Mackie did the costumes. But, no doubt, he had a brief to execute. The (trite and instantly forgettable) music by the other Ray Charles (not the blind singer and pianist) won the Emmy in 1971! Sonny would have been entitled to think that his scorned Inner Views album and the throw-away Quetzal instrumental b-sides on the early Sonny and Cher singles were all undiscovered classics if this was really what Emmy winning fare sounded like.

Still, from a fan’s perspective, the show is a valuable document that evidences how difficult this middle period was for Sonny and Cher and how desperate they were at this time. This is conventional mainstream television at its worst and it’s extraordinary to see Sonny and Cher playing the roles of such conventional entertainers when only 5 years before they had been seen as something very different.

What is also remarkable is that although Michele Lee is the most obviously polished performer and, by conventional standards, the finest voice here, neither Sonny nor Cher are obviously shown up in the company of these comparatively seasoned TV professionals. They turn in creditable dancing, singing and acting performances.

Mary (CS)

Thanks John. Well worded response. My only guess is that this was an elaborate add to get mothers to buy gas appliances instead of electric (judging by the commercials). And thanks for the clarification about Ray Charles. That makes much more sense now. I agree Sonny & Cher hold their own somehow alongside these polished song-and-dance performers.

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