The Variety Show that SHOULD Have Been

March 10, 2010

I started watching clips of the variety shows of my childhood.  One night as I was watching these, a thought crossed my mind:  What if the great Joe Raposo had had the chance to showcase his talent and grand humor in a prime time variety series?

This thought was too good to let go of!  The first thought that I came up with:  which network would have been right?  NBC had Flip Wilson, and ABC had Donny and Marie, so that left CBS.  They were always known as the Tiffany Network (before Mark Burnett came along), and would have jumped at the chance.

OK, so the network would have been CBS.  Now how about a title?  Well, Joe was a musical genius of great variety and invention.  Invention?  That led me to the word Machine.  OK, so “Machine” would have been part of the title.  Joe’s name would obviously be featured in the title.  All of a sudden it hit me:  the show would have been called THE JOE RAPOSO MUSIC MACHINE.

Now I’m beginning to really see it!  Joe’s announcer would have been either John Harlan, Dick Tufeld, Peter Cullen, or Gary Owens (I know who my friend would have picked, I think).  The show would open with a quick animation of Joe approaching a music machine (with all kinds of instruments.  He’d tap a couple of notes of SING, and a musical note would zoom out from the machine and open up on the set.  Joe’s band would be onstage center, and the announcer would say, “From CBS Television City in Hollywood, please welcome Joe Raposo!”  Joe would come out and either sing a new song he’d written, or talk with the audience, and get their energy up. After which, Joe would say, “Stay tuned, I’ll be right back!”.  Back to the animation, and Joe is playing “Sing” again.  This time, the Machine kicks in, and an uptempo, jazzy, brassy version of “Sing” would be heard.

Cue announcer:  “From Hollywood, it’s THE JOE RAPOSO MUSIC MACHINE!  Starring Joe Raposo!  With Bob Cranshaw, Danny Epstein and the Joe Raposo Combo.  Featuring the magic of Jim Henson’s Muppets (maybe some Muppet Show characters would have been introduced here?).  Also starring Paul Dooley, Judy Graubart and Skip Hinnant, Marty Brill, Didi Conn, Luis Avalos (do you see a pattern here?), the Patricia Birch Dancers, and this week’s special guests Frank Sinatra, Paul Lynde, and from Broadway’s PIPPIN Ben Vereen!  Once again, the star of our show, Joe Raposo!”

Joe would continue the show’s opening segment.  A song, a dance,maybe some comic business with the Muppets or guest stars…it would be different every week.  Like every good variety show I watched, there’d be recurring skits and characters.  Of course the Muppets would have their own segment in the first half.  That way, if the kids had to go to bed before the show was over, they’d have had the chance to see them:-).

The middle part of the variety shows I grew up with had what was known as the “concert spot”  MUSIC MACHINE would be no exception.  Joe would lead the band in his original pieces, maybe pay tribute to the different composers he admired.  The musical guests would be invited to participate, to be sure (especially if Frank was on the guest list).  The second half would regularly include a production number featuring the dancers.  But one thing I felt would have been essential, would have been the last 10 minutes or so being just Joe at the piano sharing some of his gentle philosophies interjected with bits of song.  Just Joe, on a dark stage connecting with his audience.  Joe would thank his guests after the last commercial, and close the show with a chorus of “Little Things”, then a simple , “Good night ladies and gentlemen, we love you!”, with the combo playing out an instrumental version of the song, while the announcer gives any last minute credits.

I would have loved to have seen this happen.  It would have been an excellent showcase for Joe.  But you know something?  I believe that part of the joy of heaven is getting to try things we were unable to try on Earth.  When my time comes (and I hope it’s not TOO soon, of course).  I want to produce this with Joe, and we KNOW we’ll have nothing but great audiences and a 50 share!



  1. Sounds like the greatest variety show that never was! 🙂

    • Indeed, Dana. I was thinking about who would have been on the writing staff. Jim would have scripted all the Muppet segments, naturally. I’d have brought it Jon Stone (give him a chance to get a little bawdy, but within good taste:-)) Coslough Johnson (Arte’s brother) would have been welcome, too!

  2. I would have tuned in to “Joe Raposo’s Music Machine” in a heartbeat. It’s amazing how you visualized it – the animated cartoon beginning is a must, and would have definitely happened. Have you seen the opening to “The Hudson Brothers” variety show? I imagine Joe’s show starting out a lot like theirs… check out the intro here.

    This is a great article. It makes me want to go out and make a show like this right now.

    • Have I seen it? I have the complete series on DVD :-)! It was made available last year, or the year before. That’s why I put Peter Cullen in the list of announcers. I loved his high pitched laugh! Like I said, the thought occurred to me, and it was just too good to ignore.

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