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John Lamb, Published November 08 2011

Lamb: Tuning in to ‘ah-one, an-ah-two’

The verdict is in on the new TV season and it’s a split decision for the latest female-fronted shows. Ratings for “The Playboy Club” were skimpier than a Playboy bunny’s wardrobe and the show’s run was shorter than a Kim Kardashian marriage.

The “it girl” seems to be Zooey Deschanel’s “New Girl,” which was picked up for a full season of 24 episodes.

Deschanel’s adorkableness aside, I’m tuning in elsewhere for my eye (and ear) candy; particularly, Prairie Public television at 7 p.m. Sundays for replays of the “The Lawrence Welk Show.”

I admit, I have a soft spot for the Lawrence Welk girls. But truth be told, the maestro’s show is growing on me.

For years my parents and I have watched “The Simpsons” while eating Sunday dinner. In the past year my mom and I have expanded our quality family time to adopt the last half-hour of “The Lawrence Welk Show.”

At first we watched out of disbelief – shocked by what was happening on screen. The show, particularly the syndicated ones from 1971-82, are a full-on over-stimulated assault on the senses. The music, the clothes, the hair. So much hair. And so many smiles. It’s like Mr. Rourke from “Fantasy Island” is a stage manager instructing, “Smiles, everyone.”

And what’s not to smile about? There are no sad songs in the Lawrence Welk repertoire. This is champagne music, not beer-bloated country ballads or whiskey dirges. You want a downer? I’m sure “Law & Order” is on somewhere.

Two weeks ago, we tuned in for Welk’s 1975 Halloween special. Folks who think the holiday has turned into a dark and dirty strut through Trampsylvania need to catch Welk’s take on dressing up. The most revealing outfit was a woman in a baby gown with bare forearms.

Scandalous.

Costuming aside, I was liking the songs. I never heard the Rosemary Clooney song “This Ole House” (used in the haunted house intro) or realized the tune “ ’Dem Dry Bones” (performed with a tap-dancing skeleton ensemble) was a spiritual.

This past weekend, I was in the kitchen when I heard some of Welk’s singers crooning Anne Murray’s “You Needed Me.” A few minutes later I sat slack-jawed at the table as a quartet sang through the Oak Ridge Boys’ “Elvira.”

These songs I recognized; they were on the radio when I grew up.

A few numbers later, a couple, made to look like senior citizens, sat on a park bench and piped up to “Kids” from the musical “Bye, Bye Birdie.” The song is a litany of grievances against the youth of the 1950s: “Kids! With their awful clothes and their rock ’n’ roll!”

When the cantankerous couple closed with the line, “What’s the matter with kids today,” I caught myself nodding along, as if to say, “So true.”

The 1981 show was called “You’re Never Too Young,” but it had me feeling really old.


Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533