Growing up in the 1970s there were three talk show hosts I watched on a regular basis: Merv Griffin, Phil Donahue and Mike Douglas. In the days before Jerry Springer and his dysfunctional circus of society’s flotsam and jetsam, you could tune into any given talk show and see politics mixed with celebrities mixed with unknowns with some unusual tale to tell. These days that format has primarily shifted to late night television, with just a few shows trying to capture the magic of decades ago (and most failing miserably). Mike Douglas is the focus of this documentary DVD, and being older now I can really appreciate the cutting edge television he brought to audiences across America.
“Mike Douglas: Moments and Memories” touches on Douglas’ start in entertainment, but it is most interesting when it gets to his talk show, which was 90 minutes of fascination. Guest commentators, which include Bill Cosby and Kiss’ Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, remember what it was like to be on the show and how much ground he broke without America blinking an eye. Black guests were invited to the couch, groups like Kiss were given airplay, and John Lennon and Yoko Ono were allowed to take over the show for a week and bring on guests like Bobby Seale and Jerry Rubin. Besides the commentary from various celebrities, there are plenty of highlights like John Lennon singing with Chuck Berry, a young Tiger Woods shooting golf balls, an early Rolling Stones performance and an appearance from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to name just a few.
This DVD is going to spark some memories with anyone who grew up with this show, and for those interested in television history, this will offer plenty of insights. It’s a beautiful reminder of what daytime television used to be like before campy divorce court shows and paternity tests. Sure, those old shows had some questionable moments (I remember a drug scare episode of Donahue, but that memory may be a bit tainted), but they are nothing like today’s cesspool of entertainment. There was class in even the worst of the worst, and that’s an era we’ll never be able to return to, but at least we can visit now whenever we want to.