Tom and Dick Smothers
Movies - TV
Why CBS Tried To Kill The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour
In 1967, the country was waging war in Vietnam, the Civil Rights movement was in full swing, and also troubling for CBS, "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" aired in prime time.
Tom and Dick Smothers were in their late 20s when their show debuted. They knew what their audience liked, and once CBS realized this, they couldn't turn them off fast enough.
The trouble started almost instantly. The show was despised by conservative, churchgoing Americans and earned them a spot on Richard Nixon's enemies list.
The Smothers and their writing staff, including Steve Martin, Albert Brooks, and Rob Reiner, were unbowed. Today, the jokes are incredibly tame, but they were uncouth at the time.
Musical guests like folk singer Pete Seeger's reference to the Vietnam War and Harry Belafonte's criticism of the 1968 Democratic National Convention caused major dust-ups.
CBS might've loathed "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour," but it was so popular during its third season in 1969 that the network had no choice but to pick it up.
However, CBS honcho William S. Paley used the Smothers' flouting of the network's standards and practices as an excuse to yank the show off the air in 1969.
The Smothers Brothers successfully sued the network for breach of contract and won almost $800,000. They remained a comedy institution for decades to come.