Before Ellen, before Oprah, there was Joan. Well, briefly.
Synergy Entertainment and Film Chest recently began putting out "That Show" with Joan Rivers on DVD. The most current item, which just recently went on sale, includes Volumes 1-3 of the series, a full eighteen episodes of the daily daytime talk show from 1968. All three volumes were released separately late last year, but are now in a single box set. Each half hour has two guests, as Joan and her friends discuss and laugh about a topic.
"That Show" isn't an unfamiliar format. Each episode begins with Rivers delivering a sort of monologue to prepare her audience for that show's topic. Then she brings out two guests, one an expert on whatever it is they will be talking about, and one a showbiz person. Often that celebrity has no knowledge or connection to the topic, to the chagrin of some of the "expert" guests. Though not all of them are unhappy with the circumstances. Some take the situation with good humor, or even a zeal in getting to educate others of such notoriety. Either way, the three talk about the issue, and Joan and the famous guest often get in some really good zingers, though they are rarely rude. Then, Joan takes questions from the audience.
The guest list for "That Show" is pretty impressive. Among the Hollywood types that appear are Johnny Carson, Jerry Lewis, Soupy Sales, Dick Cavett, Florence Henderson, and Shecky Green. And these are just in the first 18 episodes. Wait until the others make it to DVD!
The topics are varied and interesting, too. For instance, the first episode finds Rivers and Johnny Carson discussing the finer points of nudism with a woman that runs a nudist resort. Carson is asked by audience members about his personal experiences with nudism, and while not particularly interested, he also avoids passing judgment in those that are into such practices.
No topic is too daring, as Joan brings up natural childbirth, hypnosis, catering, teenagers, maids, speed reading, men's furs, and yes, even cosmetic surgery. It's a wonderful time capsule, made all the more relevant by the fact that the issues being spoken of are still things people are interest in today. The set may be dated, as is the guests' penchant for lighting up their cigarettes on air, but the conversations and laughs hold up rather well.