Tom Smothers, the folksinger/comedian who with his younger brother Dick Smothers became an unlikely countercultural touchstone in the late sixties, has passed away after a battle with cancer. He was 86.
- KC's View:
I have strong memories of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, which caused all sorts of headaches for CBS with its irreverent humor and antiwar stance at a time when Vietnam was the center of a contentious American debate. The show's unwillingness to water down the jokes or the politics finally caused CBS to cancel the show - which was a top 10 hit.
To be clear, CBS made that decision in part because of viewer reaction - but also because of pressure from the Nixon administration, which wanted the FCC to take action against what it deemed to be "inappropriate content."
I was a young teenager then, but I can remember being outraged by the idea that the government was going to try to censor - even indirectly - political opinion and speech. I can remember thinking that people who did not want to watch the Smothers Brothers could always watch "Bonanza," and that CBS should've had the stones to stand up for the show, which was speaking to a new generation of viewers. My generation.
I still feel that way. And since reading about Tom Smothers' passing, I've spent a bit of time going back and watching some of the show's segments online. They were very, very funny (and tame by today's standards). But they stand as a warning about what can happen when the government tries to censor what it deems to be "inappropriate content."