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Release: Dec. 12, 2002

Professor Appears On Bravo Smothers Brothers Documentary

UI law professor and former FCC commissioner Nicholas Johnson appeared on a documentary on Bravo TV about the turbulent three-season run of "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" in the 1960s.

Johnson was a member of the FCC when the show was on the air and was interviewed for the documentary about the controversy the show generated. The documentary charts the course of "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour," which aired on CBS from 1967 to 1969. It started as a traditional comedy-variety show hosted by the genteel musician-comedians Tom and Dick Smothers and featured such mainstream guests as George Burns and Jack Benny. Within a few episodes, though, it took a turn for political and social commentary, most of it with a liberal, anti-Establishment sensibility that upset advertisers, network executives and even the White House. CBS began censoring the show, prompting a public battle with Tom Smothers and even more attempts at cutting edge humor on the show, until the exasperated network finally cancelled it during its third season.

Johnson supported the Smothers' attempts to address issues that some people would rather not have seen addressed on TV and eventually became friends not only with the brothers, but also with other writers and performers on the show, such as Mason Williams, Steve Martin and David Steinberg.

"Tom and Dick broke some barriers and were broken by others," said Johnson. "The tragedy is that commentary remains so centrist today that we need to listen to the BBC to know what's going on in the world."

Johnson was interviewed in early September in Los Angeles.

The documentary aired December 5. It will be repeated on Bravo at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14.