The folk at Dangerous Minds specialize in unearthing fascinating obscurities from the depths of the Internet, but they outdid themselves this week by finding a clip from a pilot for a sitcom Kraftwerk made in the early 1970s, circa The Man-Machine. (Yeah, you did read that right: a Kraftwerk sitcom.) The spectacle of what must surely be the strangest TV show you’ve seen in quite some time got us thinking about other musicians’ curious TV ventures — so here are ten of the most weird and wonderful, from Snoop’s sketch comedies to New Kids on the Block not playing themselves in their own show.
No, honestly, Kraftwerk really did make a pilot for a Ralf ‘n’ Florian sitcom in the 1970s. God bless Germany. (Also, fuck Daft Punk — Kraftwerk were doing this robot schtick 40 years ago.)
Our editor-in-chief and resident glam-rock expert Judy Berman told me about this: Marc Bolan hosted his own TV show, which was titled simply Marc, and aired in mid-1977. Sadly, its run was cut short by Bolan’s death in September of that year, and only six episodes were made. They make for fascinating viewing, though — each show featured several performances from Bolan and T. Rex, along with songs from an impressively diverse array of guests, from punk bands like Generation X and Boomtown Rats to the more mainstream likes of 10cc and Bay City Rollers. (And yep, that’s David Bowie above jamming with Bolan.)
Calvin Broadus has always been a man keen to diversify his business interests, so hey, maybe it’s not especially surprising that he had his own sketch show on MTV in the early ’00s. Behold the glory of Doggy Fizzle Televizzle, which sadly lasted only a single season (it was canceled after Snoop asked for $1 million to return for Season 2).
Back in 2008, the idea of a talk show hosted by the mouthiest woman in pop music doubtless sounded like a can’t-miss concept for BBC Three, but sadly it wasn’t to be — Lily Allen and Friends was canned after two months and eight episodes. Still, even in that time she managed to drum up some controversy, bless her.
There’s a long and proud history of endearingly anarchic shows on public access TV, and TV Party is certainly part of this lineage. The show was co-hosted by Blondie’s Chris Stein, and featured regular appearances from Debbie Harry, among many others. From the clips above, it looks like a complete shitshow (in the best possible way, of course).
For reasons that remain unclear, there was a brief flourish of popularity in the late ’90s and early 2000s for engineering-based game shows wherein people had to construct machines designed to withstand various forms of punishment, which was inflicted either by a series of challenges or by other contestants. And yes, of course one of these shows was hosted by Henry Rollins. It was called Full Metal Challenge, and it aired on British TV in the early ’00s.
New Kids on the Block
NKOTB were as ubiquitous in the early 1990s as Justin Bieber and One Direction are now, so it made perfect sense to cash in on their fame with a TV show, and thus the animated New Kids on the Block show was born. The only problem was that due to some sort of licensing snafu (the exact nature of which remains unclear), the band were unable to voice their own characters. Instead, the band’s animated selves were played by voice actors, which makes the whole spectacle more than a little bizarre.
A sitcom called The Chris Isaak Show, about the travails of being Chris Isaak. Remarkably, it was better than it sounded, and lasted three seasons from 2001-2004.
Parton has in fact had two variety shows: a successful venture in the mid-’70s called Dolly!, and another in the 1980s called, um, Dolly. The lack of exclamation mark on the second show’s title might have reflected the general lack of optimism about the viability of variety shows by the time the ’80s came around, and sadly, any fears ABC had about the idea were borne out in the show’s ratings — it was canceled after a year. (Dolly pocketed $44 million for her trouble, though.)
OK, you probably knew this one — but on the off chance you didn’t, Parton wasn’t the only country star to have her own show. The Man in Black hosted his own successful variety show, which ran for 58 episodes between 1969 and 1971. (And yes, he did open the show by intoning, “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.”)