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Watching Red Skelton Means You'll Never Laugh Alone

April 30, 1998|JOAN FANTAZIA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Red Skelton was a great audience. While playing such characters as the Mean Widdle Kid, Clem Kadiddlehopper and Deadeye on his variety show in the '50s and '60s, he'd crack himself up so much that you could barely understand some of his lines.

Thank goodness nowadays you can tape, rewind a little and figure out those trampled lines. And thank goodness that KOCE Channel 50 is going to air episodes of "The Red Skelton Show"--even though it's just 10 of them.

Red will be in good company on Saturday nights: The station is airing episodes (just 10 of those too) of "The Jack Benny Program" after "The Red Skelton Show." Skelton's show ran for 20 years, beginning in 1951; Benny's ran for 15 years, starting in 1950.

In the first "Red Skelton" offering (Saturday at 9 p.m.), from 1954, Red's punchy boxer, Cauliflower McPugg, is interviewed by guest star Ed Sullivan, but it's the ornery Deadeye who'll keep you--and Red--chuckling the most.

Deadeye usually shoots first and delivers the punch line later, like when he guns down the boyfriend of a saloon girl. "Did you have to shoot him?" she whines.

"Yep," Deadeye drawls. "I could have starved him to death, but it wouldn't be quite as visual that way." It's as funny as Red thinks it is.

At the poker table, Deadeye shoots a fellow card player but realizes it's going to leave the table short. So he yells down at the victim: "Come back, Shane! Shane!"

The TV show doesn't seem like work to Skelton. It seems like just a big onstage party--one that we shouldn't miss.

"Jack Benny" is fun, though his radio show (which airs at 9 p.m. Saturdays on KNX-AM 1070) is superior. In Saturday's TV program, from 1954, he teams up for some silliness with George Burns and Bing Crosby. Bob Hope makes a cameo in a tree.

DETAILS, DETAILS: In which category did Jack Benny win an Emmy in 1957? Answer appears next week. The answer to last week's quiz (Who originally played "Dallas" character Digger Barnes--and was succeeded by Keenan Wynn in the role--and what was Digger's given name?): David Wayne; Digger's first name was Willard.

Set your VCR

You think Charles Grodin is smug on his talk show? It's nothing compared with his role on "The Big Valley" (Saturday at 2 p.m. on the Family Channel). He and Russell Johnson (the Professor on "Gilligan's Island") play a town's beloved citizens who are murderous thieves.

Trapper's gone, and B.J. is his replacement, in a two-part "MASH" (Sunday at midnight on KTTV Channel 11). It was the fourth-season opener in 1975 and won an Emmy for direction.

A "Sanford and Son" marathon (from 5 to 11 p.m. each night from Monday through May 8 on the TV Land cable channel) starts with the premiere episode, from 1972. Other highlights: Fred (Redd Foxx) and his pals Grady and Bubba go on the game show "Wheel and Deal" to win a birthday present for Lamont (Wednesday at 8:30); Fred finds out that the woman he's fallen for is a fugitive--and a man (May 8 at 8 p.m.). Guest stars in the marathon offerings include Lena Horne (Tuesday at 5 p.m.); Billy Eckstine (Wednesday at 9 p.m.) and George Foreman (May 8 at 5 p.m.).

Ricky sings the words to the theme song of "I Love Lucy" (Saturday at 5 p.m. on KTTV Channel 11). It's the only episode that has the words.

Do you really need to know any more than the title to tune in to the "Andy Griffith Show" episode "Goober and the Art of Love" (Friday at 10 a.m. on KTTV Channel 11)?

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