The Nashville Network’s attempt to revive the TV variety show has resulted in this curious, not unamusing, time-warp example of the genre; in every way, The Statler Bros. Show looks as if it was filmed in, say, the early ’70s. Each show features the smooth country-music quartet harmonizing on an opening song and delivering a few amiably dopey jokes. The group’s featured guest is invariably a solid, middle-of-the-road country act like Barbara Mandrell, Conway Twitty, or, this week, the Oak Ridge Boys. A typical introduction goes like this: ”When you play this good and sing this good, you don’t have to be this pretty, but she is — ladies and gentlemen, Suzy Bogguss!” The Statler Bros. Show also has its own resident vocalists, Janie Fricke and Rex Allen Jr., as well as an old-fashioned corn-pone comedian, Royce Elliott (”My wife is such a rotten cook we pray after we eat!”).
Maybe it’s because there hasn’t been a show like this in so long, but I find The Statler Bros. Show to be lovable fluff. It displays an unabashed urge to entertain that makes its corniness endearing — there’s no irony, no winking at the audience, no lip-synching. Heck, these guys even conclude each show with a seriously sung gospel song. How can you not be charmed? B