Pink Lady ...And Jeff

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Television at its finest.

Ah, the Variety Show. A quirky mish-mash of musical acts and comedy sketches. Definitely the highlight of television entertainment in The Seventies.

Then came Pink Lady ...And Jeff.

As the story goes, in 1980, NBC head Fred Silverman saw a Walter Cronkite report on a popular Japanese pop duo called Pink Lady. Echoing a similar situation with Ed Sullivan and The Beatles in 1964 (Sullivan saw the Beatles in a Cronkite report and immediately booked them), Silverman thought that Pink Lady would be a huge success in the United States.

So he gave the two members of Pink Lady, Mitsuyo "Mie" Nemoto and Keiko "Kei" Masuda, a variety show (also called Pink Lady), to be helmed by Sid and Marty Krofft, featuring Mark Evanier as head writer and seasoned variety show director Art Fisher as director.

What could go wrong?

Well, right from the beginning, the show was destined for failure. Mie and Kei didn't know a word of English, so the producers brought in comedian Jeff Altman (who was under contract to NBC) as a co-host. Mie and Kei learned their few English lines phonetically.

Plus, the girls weren't allowed to sing the songs that made them popular in Japan, and were only allowed to sing covers of American disco hits. Which, if you recall your music history, wasn't a good thing in 1980.

And wouldn't you know it, the show died after five episodes, taking the already-dying variety show genre with it. It gained a reputation as one of the worst TV shows ever.

The Agony Booth eventually recapped all five episodes (plus a Missing Episode) in 2010. You can read their reviews here.

Amazingly, the show in its rather miniscule entirety received a DVD release in 2001 -- and as of early 2015, a mint unopened copy of the box set can fetch asking prices over US$150.

Tropes used in Pink Lady ...And Jeff include:
  • Fan Service: Each show ended with Mie and Kei luring a tuxedoed Jeff into a hot tub. Jeff tried to convince the writers to do away with the segment, but he was shot down in favor of what was basically an excuse to see two attractive Japanese women in bikinis.
  • Follow the Leader: Silverman ordered PL&J to follow in the footsteps of Donny and Marie. This led to what The Other Wiki calls "...the strangest knockoff of Donny and Marie ever broadcast."
  • Friday Night Death Slot: NBC put it there presumably as a mercy kill.
  • Genre Killer: Though it definitely wasn't the last, PL&J's failure convinced programmers that the Variety Show genre was no longer viable.
  • Hey, It's That Writer: One of the writers for the show was comic book author Mark Evanier.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: Averted for a short time. Rhino Entertainment briefly released the entire series onto DVD in 2001. Right now, the DVD set is out of print, but it can fetch a pretty penny on eBay -- sets routinely sell for over $100, and have even reached as high as $630 [dead link]!
  • Old Shame: For everyone involved.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: The show was actually called Pink Lady, since the girls' manager demanded that the show be Pink Lady's and Pink Lady's only. Except you wouldn't know it from the adverts at the time, which billed it as Pink Lady ...And Jeff -- which pissed off the band's manager to the point where he threatened to sue (which was a moot point anyway). In the public consciousness, the show is still referred to by the latter name, and was even listed as Pink Lady ...And Jeff on the DVD release. (IMDb, as by-the-book as ever, follows the official usage and lists it as Pink Lady.)
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: A running gag was about how little the girls knew or understood about American culture. Which made sense, considering they didn't even adequately speak the language of the country their show aired in.
  • Short Runner: Six episodes, of which only five made it to air before cancellation.
  • Star-Derailing Role: Pink Lady's popularity in Japan had peaked in 1978, and by 1980 they had been rocked by a few scandals that had pushed their Japanese record sales into decline. So they shifted their focus to the United States, and ultimately gambled on PL&J reviving their careers. Except it didn't work out, and they disbanded a year later. Strictly speaking, though, their careers were not destroyed by the show. Mie and Kei both had successful solo careers in its wake. They reunited several times in the ensuing years for special concerts and recordings, and staged a successful comeback as Pink Lady in 2010. Over the course of their careers they have jointly and separately made more than $100 million.
    • Jeff Altman hasn't done badly for himself, either. Anyone who's appeared on Late Show with David Letterman 41 times for his stand-up and other comedy cannot be said to have had his career derailed.
  • Writer Revolt: Art Fisher hated directing this show, which he was required to do since he was under contract. This led to some behind-the-scenes tension.