THE PAUL LYNDE HALLOWEEN SPECIAL (1976).
First broadcast on October 29, 1976, this hour-long TV-special is so excruciatingly ill-conceived that it's difficult to avert your eyes from the multi-career carnage -- it's not unlike driving past a highway pile-up, and suddenly spotting Paul Lynde's sneering, severed head hanging from a shattered windshield. But first, some backstory for younger readers unfamiliar with Lynde. Thanks to '60s and '70s TV-gigs like THE HOLLYWOOD SQUARES and BEWITCHED, the 'flamboyant' (nudge nudge) Paul Lynde became one of the biggest, cruelest, barely-closeted douchebags in Hollywood. And at the height of his comedic fame, some coked-up ABC exec greenlighted this holiday fiasco, which is loaded with guest stars and (in the rudest in-joke of all) begins with perpetual-asshole Lynde in a Santa suit! He looks so uncomfortable that you'd think he was being forced to perform a gynecological exam. The slim excuse for a plot has Margaret Hamilton as Paul's homonculus housekeeper, who takes him to her sister's creepy manor on Halloween night. Suddenly Hamilton transforms into her old WIZARD OF OZ Wicked Witch of the West costume, while sis is H.R. Pufnstuf's Witchiepoo, Billie Hayes! They hope to hire Lynde as a "spokeshuman" who'll convince the world that witches are cool, in exchange for three wishes -- with each wish segueing into one bile-rising skit after another. First up, Paul is the 18-wheeled, white-pleathered "Rhinestone Trucker." In an effort to find a guest star with even less testosterone than Paul, Tim Conway plays his CB-buddy, and both fight over truckstop waitress Roz "Pinky Tuscadero" Kelly. Next up, Lynde is a Valentino-style desert sheik, "Florence of Arabia," who attempts to seduce Florence Henderson (hey, if '60s audiences believed Robert Reed could do it, why not Paul?). Finally, Lynde and the witches host a Halloween disco, with Henderson warbling a 'groovy' cover of "That Old Black Magic." The only genuine highlight is an appearance by KISS, with full regalia and pyrotechnics, performing three tunes from the recently-released "Destroyer" album: "Detroit Rock City," "King of the Night Time World" and "Beth." The band merely seems bored while bantering with Lynde, but later looks like they're ready to can their management and slit their own throats when forced to sit in on a "Disco Lady" finale with the whole cast. Also look for Billy Barty playing the witches' butler and a diner cook, and Donny & Marie Osmond making a public-service cameo by putting Lynde in a garbage can. Musically inept and comedically challenged, it's hard to imagine anyone having the nerve to accept a paycheck for this lame drivel. That includes talentless fat-fuck co-writer Bruce Vilanch (in an early gig back when he was still penning stale one-liners for Manilow and Midler), director Sidney Smith and production supervisor William Asher, who all deserve an extra circle of Hell as punishment for this kitsch abomination.
© 2004 by Steven Puchalski.