By Phil Hall | November 16, 2008

Unless you were watching U.S. television in the mid-1970s, you probably never heard of the Hudson Brothers. The siblings Bill, Mark and Brett enjoyed third-tier pop stardom during that period, but it was enough for CBS to push them into a Saturday morning kiddie show.

However, “The Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show” wasn’t your run-of-the-mill program for youngsters. In fact, it probably wasn’t even designed with kids in mind. Instead, it was a broad, Borscht Belt-style comedy revue full of wonderfully corny sketches performed by the Hudson Brothers with support of a rather larger ensemble of second bananas (including Ted Ziegler, Billy Van and Murray Langston, who later achieved his own iconic stature as the Unknown Comic on “The Gong Show”). There was even a man in a bear costume wandering about the show.

The program scored bullseyes with a pair of comic highlights. One involved British comic Rod Hull, whose act featured a large avian puppet called Emu. Hull offered a mild-mannered, cautiously cordial personality that was inevitably set upon by Emu in bouts of wild violence. I am not certain if this would pass TV’s standards and practices for children’s programming today, but three decades ago this was considered benign.

The second highlight involved the character of Chucky Margolis, a sarcastic boy played by Brett Hudson. Brother Mark was Chucky’s dumb sidekick Alan, while Bill was the grown-up who interviewed the lads and tried to explain the basics of good citizenship and morality. It never worked, as Chucky inevitably turned violent against poor ninny Alan while Bill offered no intervention.

Oddly, the show’s only serious failing was the music – the Hudson Brothers lacked charisma and vocal prowess as singing stars. Fortunately, each episode only consisted of one brief stab at a pop song.

For those (like me) who recall this program when it had its one and only 16-episode season in 1974-75, this DVD collection provides a fine nostalgic treat. And for those who never experienced the Hudson Brothers, this is a fun curio that may offer more insight on why the 1970s were such a brilliantly f****d up decade.

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