Statler Brothers: Allegiance to country

Who says the musical variety show is extinct on television? Certainly not Harold and Don Reid, Phil Balsley or Jimmy Fortune.



You're no fan of cable TV's "The Statler Brothers Show" if you cannot identify those four singer/musicians, whose variety show begins a second season tonight on the Nashville Network. Randy Travis appears as the guest star.

The basic-service network says the hourlong program, at 9 p.m. Saturdays, is the most popular on TNN (carried by most cable systems in this area) and also ranked last year as the highest-rated original adult series in prime time on basic cable.


Not bad for a show that comes across as a nearly perfect throwback to the days when the musical/variety format could be seen throughout prime time. Such figures as Dinah Shore, Garry Moore, Perry Como, Carol Burnett, Dean Martin and even the Smothers Brothers presided amiably over lots of song and dance and corny small talk.

Tonight's season premiere even includes a quick shot of Baltimore native Garry Moore (Thomas Garrison Morfit), whose show was a CBS fixture from 1950 to the mid-1960s.

We see him in a brief clip during a feature called "YesterYear," in which the hosts tease viewers with songs and nostalgic trivia to guess the year in question. And some viewers may recall that feature itself pretty much clones "That Wonderful Year," a weekly showcase of "The Garry Moore Show."

Adding to the throwback feel are the stagy sets, the skimpy-skirted women who turn over cards to preview and introduce each segment and the basic simplicity of the music presentations.

Music drives the show, presented on stage in front of an audience and with none of the gimcrackery now commonplace on TV. No video clips, no fancy lighting, no editing tricks, just three-chord country music.

Nothing wrong with that. And regulars Janie Fricke and Rex Allen Jr. contribute to the mix.

This week's comedy guest, Lynn Trefzger, also contributes an unusual act: She's a ventriloquist but has no puppet. Instead, she invites three members of the audience onstage to play the role. She supplies the voices as they move their lips.

"The Statler Brothers Show" repeats at midnight.



A MOB STORY -- Did you know a family group of kangaroos is called a "mob?" And that kangaroo life oddly mirrors human societies?

This weekend's "National Geographic Explorer" (9 p.m. tomorrow on TBS) pays a fascinating visit to "Valley of the Kangaroos." Some 60 eastern gray kangaroos live in the isolated Australian valley under study. Actress Jane Alexander narrates.


SAVE "BROOKLYN BRIDGE" -- CBS this week announced it has suspended the series "Brooklyn Bridge," and creator/producer Gary David Goldberg has said the removal from the air amounts to cancellation. But fans are being asked to mobilize a campaign to save the sweet show about family life in the 1950s.

" 'Brooklyn Bridge' wasn't given a chance to prove itself this season. It aired just three times in its regular time period prior to the baseball hiatus, then one more time before the decision was announced," contends Dorothy Swanson, president of Viewers for Quality Television.


Fearing this week's announcement that the show would leave the schedule after tonight, Ms. Swanson's group two weeks ago declared a "Tune in to Quality" night, urging viewers to watch "Brooklyn Bridge." Too late.

In a letter this week to television writers, Ms. Swanson contended the series "was squandered on Saturday nights, the wasteland of network television."

Her group urges CBS to at least air seven remaining episodes of "Brooklyn Bridge" already filmed, and also invites viewers to write to VQT for help in protesting the apparent cancellation. Write: VQT, P.O. Box 195, Fairfax Station, Va. 22039.