'The Merv Griffin Show, 1962-1986'
(Merv Griffin, et al / 12-DVD / NR / 2014 / MPI)
Overview: 'The Merv Griffin Show' is widely considered one of the premier talk shows in the history of television. Hosted by the charming and intelligent Merv Griffin, this ground-breaking show was known for in-depth interviews with celebrities and newsmakers, innovative stand-up comedy and stellar musical performances. Over the course of its run from 1962-1986, the show garnered 10 Emmy Awards and welcomed more than 5,000 guests , including many from the most important names in the fields of entertainment, politics, music, art, sports, fashion and literature.
DVD Verdict: To start off factually, 'The Merv Griffin Show' was an American television talk show, starring, of course, Merv Griffin. The series ran from October 1, 1962 to March 29, 1963 on NBC, May 1965 to August 15, 1969 in first-run syndication, from August 18, 1969 to February 11, 1972 at 11:30 PM ET weeknights on CBS and again in first-run syndication from February 14, 1972 to September 5, 1986.
OK, those are the facts, now let's get to the nitty-gritty. Merv’s warm, conversational style created the perfect atmosphere for conducting intelligent interviews that could be serious with some and light-hearted with others. Rather than interview a guest for a cursory 5- or 6-minute segment, Merv preferred lengthy, in-depth discussions with many stretching out past 30 minutes. In addition, Merv sometimes dedicated an entire show to a single person or topic, allowing for greater exploration of his guests’ personality and thoughts.
Merv’s idea of the perfect show was to have as many diverse guests as possible, from entertainers to scientists, Hollywood glamor to Vegas variety, and from comedians to political leaders. A perfect example lies in an episode from September 1965 which featured the zany comedienne Phyllis Diller followed by an interview with Capt. Mitsuo Fuchida, the Japanese navy officer who planned and led the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941— a truly unique moment in television history.
For over a quarter of a century, more than 25,000 guests appeared on 'The Merv Griffin Show' including numerous significant cultural, political, social and musical icons of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Four U.S. Presidents - Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan ("In this world today, your lines of defense are all around the world. You can't stand by and see the Middle East lost to the Western World, or or to our own country, for that matter") - appeared, as did Dr. Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks ("You changed the history of the United States. That's quite a thing to do."), Dr. Jonas Salk and Robert F. Kennedy.
Indeed, 'The Merv Griffin Show' hosted Whitney Houston’s first TV appearance in 1983 - did you know that? Nope, nor did I until I dove inside this warm, cozy TV box-set myself. To watch her knock out that last word from the song, her top lip ever-so-slightly quivering, her depth of vocal range not quite there yet, her youthful smile still emblazoned on her face, well, it's just about as close to perfection in the business as you'll get for anyone's first time out on live TV.
Sports figures interviewed by Merv on the show include Muhammad Ali, Joe Namath, Roger Maris, Willie Mays and Reggie Jackson. In the Mays piece from 1966, Merv throws him a fast, looped ball and asks him - whilst ducking - to hit it up in the stands. He swings, but misses!
This stunning, breathtaking 12-DVD collection of 'The Merv Griffin Show, 1962-1986' brings to our TV screens once more over 200 guests from the worlds of entertainment, politics, music, sports, literature and art. Most all of these appearances have not been seen for decades and so over its 42 hours, we are entertained by the likes of Mel Brooks, Lucille Ball ("Did someone point at you one day and say, Make that woman a star?" - "No, they just said, Make her"!), enlightened by Dr. Timothy Leary (“It takes courage to take LSD”!)and Maya Angelou; taken aback by Gore Vidal as he waywardly calls for President Richard Nixon’s impeachment (garnering a varied degree of responses from the audience that night); inspired by a 1967 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ("What has the Civil Rights Movement done to the negro, individually, from his side?" - "I think what it has done is given the negro a new sense of dignity, a new sense of somebodyness."); and intrigued, as Griffin discussed the civil rights movement with comedian Dick Gregory.
Among the film and TV legends interviewed by Griffin in this collection are John Wayne, a hilarious Gene Wilder, a cool, calm and collected Laurence Olivier, Ingrid Bergman, Bette Davis (who talks about the day she stupidly turned down 'Gone With The Wind' - "I'm sure it'll be a pip," she told the Warner Bros. executive on the phone), Farrah Fawcett-Majors (who talks abut working on 'Charlie's Angels' with the other girls), Warren Beatty, the cast of The Golden Girls (where Betty White lovingly makes us all aware her breasts are getting saggier), Dennis Hopper, a breathtaking Jayne Mansfield, George Clooney (who retells his now infamous beach volleyball story about his meeting with the executive from ABC), Jane Fonda ("Actors are usually quite dumb. We're really quite stupid about what we think we can do well"!), and the final interview with Orson Welles - who died just a few hours after the show.
Among the collection’s 50 great musical moments, the three stand outs (for my money) is a 1972 tribute to Stax Records hosted by Soul legend Isaac Hayes, 17-year-old Stevie Wonder singing 'I Was Made to Love Her,' Merle Haggard performing 'Amazing Grace' at San Quentin prison in 1971, and the aforementioned 19-year-old Whitney Houston in her national TV debut (1983).
The extensive bonus material includes seven hours of interviews with such wide-ranging figures as Norman Rockwell, Barbara Walters, Adam West and Burt Ward of Batman, James Michener, Alec Baldwin, Muhammad Ali and many more.
In addition, many of the most important comedians of the era were on the show including early performances by an uber young, quietly mannered, almost unrecognizable 1965 b/w George Carlin, Richard Pryor (who, whilst Merv introduces the musical act for that night, opens up his cigarette case and begins to shove all of them into his mouth in bundles!), Andy Kaufman, Steve Martin and Jerry Seinfeld ("Who's shaving on a plane? That's a good move at 40,000 feet"!), who made his TV debut on the show in 1981. And don't get me started on the one-on-one, face-to-face between both Don Rickles and Mr T. from 1983 (Mr. T: "You don't mind if I touch you, do you?" - Rickles: "You do whatever you want"!). Other notable guests that rarely made TV appearances showed up to talk to Merv include Andy Warhol (together with heiress, socialite, actress, and fashion model Edie Sedgwick, Warhol's muse), Norman Rockwell and yes, even Salvador Dalí! In this episode, Merv asks him if he dreams his paintings, to which he replies, "I dream in glorious technicolor"!
Other legendary actors and directors who appeared on the program include John Wayne, Doris Day (Griffin's longtime friend), Robert De Niro, Tom Cruise, Sophia Loren, Tom Hanks, Dustin Hoffman, Clint Eastwood and Grace Kelly. Other musical performers and composers include Devo, Carol King (singing a highly seductive 'You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman'), Aretha Franklin, the Everly Brothers, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Marvin Gaye, The Bee Gees, Phil Spector (who when asked if he would ever clean up his image, replies: "I'm not Walt Disney, I keep telling you that"), and amongst others, the "Man In Black" himself, Johnny Cash.
FYI - Andy Kaufman's appearance on the show in a segment produced by John Scura was edited into the 1999 biopic 'Man on the Moon,' with Griffin being played by character actor Mike Villani. The movie claims that all guests of the show receive an autographed photo of Mr. Merv Griffin, mainly as prizes on game shows, coupons, and Turtle Wax! Who knows if that was true, but it's a glorious fact, is it not. Oh, and Griffin's longtime bandleader was Mort Lindsey, although Griffin frequently clowned and sang novelty songs with trumpter Jack Sheldon.
In one of the special features, a brand new interview with late night host, Jay Leno, he reveals that he loves Merv Griffin, but that, and as much as everyone always seem to talk about their first Tonight Show, a lot of the great comics mostly seemed to all do The Merv Griffin Show long before they ever did The Tonight Show! He goes on to say that he thought Merv broke as many comics as any late night talk show, and in reflection of viewing this spectacular DVD, I'd have to agree! This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Seven hours of additional interviews, musical performances, stand-up comedy, and a new interview with Jay Leno reminiscing about Merv Griffin.
52-page Booklet with foreword by Dick Cavett, extensive liner notes, rare photos and memorabilia.