A Classic Television Thursday Bonus – Letters To Laugh-In (1969) and Baggy Pants And The Nitwits (1977)

There are times while I’m researching these posts that I am completely caught off guard by something that will turn up. That’s what happened while I was looking for information for today’s post on Dan Rowan and Dick Martin’s Laugh-In. As a matter of fact, it happened twice.

Laugh-In was, of course, one of NBC’s highest rated shows in 1969, so it only made sense that the network would want to find some way to capitalize on that and spin-off shows of popular series were always good bets. The only question for the network was what kind of show would take advantage of the original show’s popularity without diminishing the original’s popularity.

I’m not sure exactly who came up with the idea of creating a daytime game show, but that’s what they went with.

b2Letters to Laugh-In was created to fill the void left by the recently cancelled Match Game. The concept of the show, hosted by Laugh-In‘s announcer Gary Owens, was simple: viewers would send in their jokes which would be read by a panel of comedians which usually consisted of two Laugh-In regulars and two other comedians. Each joke would then be rated on a scale of 1-100 and the viewer who sent in the highest rated joke each day would win a prize.

If you don’t think that sounds like the premise for a winning show, well, you would be right, as it lasted for only three months, from September 29 to December 26, 1969.

Here’s the only episode I could find readily available. it’s the second episode, and don’t worry if your screen goes black while watching it, as it actually looks like it could be a network feed to local stations with blank spots for the insertion of commercials.

Even more of a curiosity is the Saturday morning cartoon Baggy Pants and the Nitwits.

Once again, this is one of those shows that I cannot explain, but since there are episodes available to be watched, I have to accept it as a real thing.

b1The show was created by the prolific team of David H. DePatie and Friz Freleng. It was comprised of two segments, Baggy Pants, which featured the adventures of an anthropomorphic cat version of Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp character, and though there was music, there was no spoken dialogue. The second segment, which is the one that relates it to Laugh-In, was The Nitwits.

The Nitwits, you see, were Arte Johnson’s mumbling old man character Tyrone and his wife, Ruth Buzzi’s Gladys. However, instead of occupying the bench where they could be found “courting” (if you want to call it that) on Laugh-In, in this show the two were married, and Tyrone was a superhero who had come out of retirement in order to show the younger heroes how it was really done. Johnson and Buzzi even provided the voices for the show.

Yeah. I know. Complete WTH? But here it is:

Again, probably not too surprisingly, Baggy Pants and the Nitwits was not destined to last. If anything is surprising it’s that it did get a full 13 episode run.

So there you go. Two completely different and I dare say widely unknown spin offs from Laugh-In. And a couple of examples of the surprises that can turn up on the internet when you least expect them.

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