The Sonny & Cher Ultimate Collection (review)

It’s 1970s pop culture in a bottle. The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, one of the most popular shows of the decade, parades guest stars like a who’s who of the time: Burt Reynolds, Farrah Fawcett, Tina Turner, Harvey Korman, Howard Cosell, Glen Campbell, and The Jackson 5. This best-of set collects nine original, unedited episodes from 1971 through 1974 and from 1976-77, when the duo, who had since divorced, reunited for The Sonny & Cher Show. He plays the dummy, she smirks a lot, and the musical variety and marital bickering combine with bad lip-synching and worse attempts at comedy to create what can now be seen only as high camp. Solo and duet performances include the hits “I Got You Babe” and “Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves,” but the high point may come when Sonny asks a still-black Michael Jackson, in 1972, what Jackson wants to be when he grows up; of course, it’s all a joke building to a punchline that will invariably be a putdown of Sonny, but it’s still a tad disturbing in retrospect. Cher offers unenlightening commentary on select scenes — we learn which were her favorite earrings! — but fans will surely love every tidbit she shares. Plus, there’s “Sonny & Cher Karaoke,” three famous tunes sans lyrics, so fans can sing along. The audio and video on the featured episodes are near perfect, though some of the extras — like the hilarious CBS promos — have not been remastered.

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