Friday, September 11, 2015

Hee Haw: 1969-1992, Part Twenty...

In this 20th entry in my Hee Haw tribute posts I'm here to spread the word about a couple of Hee Haw related happenings that took place this month that the general public might not be aware of yet. On September 8th Time Life issued a new DVD project titled The Hee Haw Collection: 3 DVD Set. The project is highlighting the inclusion of episodes previously unavailable for commercial/retail purchase. It's only been available for 3 days and here's a PRESS RELEASE about the project and it also features a link to Amazon. There are 5 episodes total in that collection spanning the years 1969-1973.

A YouTube video/commercial appeared several weeks ago (August 4, 2015) for a similar collection being sold exclusively on Time Life's site. I never posted the video clip because I knew very little about the project and the fact that there's the other DVD project I felt it may create confusion...

If you visit Time Life's site it'll have a page advertising 2 separate Hee Haw DVD projects on the same page. There's a DVD package that consists of 11 episodes, 8 discs and there's a DVD package that consists of 23 episodes, 14 discs. Each package includes the Hee Haw Laffs collection of famed comedy sketches from the summer 1969 season and a disc of interviews of surviving cast members. You can visit the Time Life page by clicking this LINK. It's pretty self-explanatory on how to purchase the 2 items.

Here's the YouTube commercial advertising the 8-disc version...

The Hee Haw Laffs is something that's been circulating for close to 20 years. The compilation debuted on VHS in 1996 as a response to the popularity of the reruns on cable TV channel The Nashville Network and in addition to this Opryland had featured a live, stage-version of Hee Haw for several seasons during the mid 1990s consisting mostly of musical numbers, re-creations from the long running series, and it featured a newcomer named Jason Petty...billed as the newest Hee Haw Hunk (the term given to the male equivalent of the female Hee Haw Honey). This Opryland stage show that launched in the summer of 1994, titled Hee Haw Live, coincided with the reruns of the series on TNN. The cast of the Opryland series was very small and it had no official hosts although I'm sure either George Lindsay or Gunilla Hutton acted as emcees. Sam Lovullo, the producer of Hee Haw, released his memoir in 1996 titled Life in the Kornfield.

During the making of that book Hee Haw had become a major success story all over again thanks to TNN's airing of reruns. During it's run on TNN it aired, usually, at 7pm Eastern (6pm Central) Saturday evening. This is the same time slot it had held across most of the country throughout the '70s and '80s before local newscasts and syndicated game shows expanded from 5 to 6 days a week in the early '90s (causing Hee Haw to move from an early Saturday evening time slot to scattered weekend afternoon time-slots across much of the country in it's final 2 seasons). After about a year TNN moved the program from 7pm Eastern to 10pm Eastern following the hour long Statler Brothers television program on the Saturday night schedule. I don't remember the reason for the schedule shift from 7 to 10pm Eastern but it remained at 10pm for the remainder of it's time on TNN.

The Nashville Network, referred to as TNN, had been airing reruns of the program on it's Saturday evening line-up since October 1993. The half hour sketch compilation (Laffs) that appeared on VHS in 1996 has the distinction of being the first commercially available footage of Hee Haw and in the next decade Time Life began releasing DVDs of entire episodes of the program for the first time ever. It filled a demand from fans who had long expressed their desire to have complete episodes of the program available for purchase.

In the years before the DVDs came along, and after the reruns had stopped airing rather abruptly on CMT in 1997 (after a 3 and a half year run on TNN), Roy Clark often mentioned that his fans always asked why episodes of the program had never been made available for purchase or why hasn't reruns of the program surfaced on television again, etc. etc., but Time Life filled the desire with their release of numerous DVDs...and then, in 2008, RFD-TV rescued the series from an almost certain fate of limbo (as far as television airing is concerned) and reruns of the program started airing on the RFD channel and they've aired there ever since. Reruns of the series, by 2008, had never been aired on any television outlet since their final appearances on cable TV in the mid 1990s.

The on-going popularity/fascination with this series via it's exposure on RFD-TV and video clips on YouTube helped spawn a tribute program called Salute to the Kornfield which aired exclusively on RFD-TV in 2012. It's since been released on DVD. A Hee Haw exhibit was unveiled last year in Roy Clark's home state of Oklahoma during the 45th anniversary of the program's debut in 1969. Country Weekly magazine published a nice salute to the program's 45th anniversary celebration.

This year a musical surfaced titled Moonshine: That Hee Haw Musical. It's currently making the rounds of various theatrical venues.

Here's another site that promotes the 3-DVD Hee Haw's a bit longer and has some detail and some opinion but it provides a link to Amazon, too...


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