VOTW: The Woody Allen Special 1969


Before he became a film director, Allen was famously a stand-up comedian. What seems to be more forgotten was he was a big TV personality as well. In the 60s he appeared on game shows, panel shows and even guest hosted The Tonight Show. Allen even had a prime time special, and a newly uploaded full version of that show is now online. It’s our continually rare video of the week.

The Woody Allen Special aired on 21st September 1969 on CBS. He had one special two years earlier (Woody Allen Looks At 1967), filmed in London. Yet this one crosses into his film career – Take The Money And Run was released a month earlier on (18th August). He was also starring in Broadway in his own play, Play It Again, Sam.

The one hour show had a bit of everything. Stand-up from Allen. Sketches featuring Candice Bergen. Musical performances by the 5th Dimension. There’s a fascinating interview evangelist Billy Graham.

That interview with Graham would stick with Allen, and inspire the script for You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger in 2010, forty odd years later.

There’s also a very odd sponsor message starring Tony Randall. Randall would go on to appear in Allen’s Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex.

The stand-up in particular, is excellent. There are jokes from Allen’s comedy albums, but many never heard before – or since. This special aired once and has never aired again.

It’s a look at where Allen’s career could have gone. If films had not taken off, perhaps a television future could have beckoned. Or perhaps Allen would be part of the fascinating late night circuit around today. Alas, not to be.

He would make another TV special in 1971 called Men Of Crisis: The Harvey Wallinger Story, that never even aired. He would make a TV film in 1994 called Don’t Drink The Water.

Allen is making his return to a form of television this month with his first scripted series Crisis In Six Scenes. Funnily enough, it’s set in the 60s. The characters could turn on the TV and watch Woody Allen.

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