It seemed that every celebrity in the 1970s who could sing eventually got their own variety show. Most were forgettable, but a few won our hearts – perhaps none more so than the husband and wife team of Salvatore Bono and Cherilyn Sarkisian, better known to millions as Sonny and Cher.
Sonny was a songwriter working for Phil Spector in the 60s when he met a young singer, eleven years his junior (she was 16 at the time). The pair developed a friendship, followed by a relationship, as they tried to score a hit on the pop charts. They got their wish in 1965, with a moderate hit called “Baby Don’t Go.” The same year, they released their debut album, Look At Us which contained a little ballad called “I Got You Babe.” The song soared to the #1 spot on the Billboard charts and Sonny and Cher became a household name.
As the pair made countless television appearances to promote and perform their material, America got a glimpse of their undeniable chemistry. When the pair guest-hosted The Merv Griffin Show, they caught the eye of CBS executives who offered them their own variety show. The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour debuted in 1971 as a summer replacement series and quickly became one of the most popular shows on television.
Consisting of a mixture of sketch comedy and musical numbers, The Sonny and Cher Show started each week with the pair singing a few songs, then launching into a number of comedy shorts that featured that week’s guest stars. Some of the many celebrities that appeared included George Burns, Ronald Reagan, Burt Reynolds, Carol Burnett and Farrah Fawcett. Steve Martin appeared regularly and was one of the show’s writers. Terry Garr was also a regular, often appearing alongside Cher in a popular laundry room sketch called “At The Laundrette.” Each week, the show would end with Sonny and Cher looking lovingly into each others eyes as they sang their trademark song, “I Got You Babe,” usually accompanied by their (then) daughter, Chastity.
For the first three seasons, the show always ranked in the top-20 but tensions were brewing between the once-happy couple. Sonny and Cher separated, then divorced, shortly after the season’s end. Cher married rock star Greg Allman and CBS decided to cancel The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour.
Each took a stab at their own variety show. Sonny’s lasted a few weeks, while Cher’s lasted a full season and garnered four Emmy nominations. By 1976, the pair was on friendly enough terms to give the old show another try. The Sonny and Cher Show resumed in 1976, but the charm had diminished. What once seemed like playful insults tossed at each other now seemed less cute and more venomous. The public lost interest and the show was cancelled for good in 1977.
Cher went on to do some respectable movies and Sonny entered a life of public service, becoming a U.S. Congressman. Sadly, he lost his life in a tragic skiing accident in 1998. A decade earlier, the pair made this emotional appearance on Late Night with David Letterman, singing their trademark song one last time. When they finished, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
If you have fond memories of watching The Sonny and Cher Show back in the 70s, we’d love to hear your thoughts in our comments section below.