'Sigmund' and Other Krofft Shows Resurface on DVD Sid and Marty Krofft created some of television's most memorable hits -- and disastrous flops. The Kroffts are experiencing somewhat of a resurgence as their shows -- including H.R. Pufnstuf -- are re-released on DVD.
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'Sigmund' and Other Krofft Shows Resurface on DVD

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'Sigmund' and Other Krofft Shows Resurface on DVD

'Sigmund' and Other Krofft Shows Resurface on DVD

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

They created some of television's most famous hits and disastrous flops. Now producers Sid and Marty Krofft are experiencing a bit of a resurgence. The Kroffts were best known in the 1970s for psychedelic Saturday morning kids' shows and prime-time variety hours.

(Soundbite of "Donny and Marie")

Announcer: Ladies and gentlemen, Donny and Marie Osmond!

Ms. MARIE OSMOND: (Singing) I'm a little bit country.

Mr. DONNY OSMOND: (Singing) I'm a little bit rock 'n' roll.

MONTAGNE: Now many of Sid and Marty Krofft's most popular shows are being re-released on DVD. NPR's Barry Gordemer reports on some of their greatest hits and misses.

BARRY GORDEMER reporting:

Sid and Marty Krofft did not produce reality television. It was more surreality TV, real actors surrounded by talking creatures and inanimate objects.

(Soundbite of "H.R. Pufnstuf")

Unidentified Group: (Singing) H.R. Pufnstuf, who's your friend when things get rough.

GORDEMER: H.R. Pufnstuf was the story of a boy, a magic flute and a dragon with white boots and a Southern drawl.

(Soundbite of "Lidsville")

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) Everybody there wears a hat. Everybody knows where it's at. In the land of hats. That's Lidsville.

GORDEMER: "Lidsville" featured a bunch of hats that walk, talk and sing.

(Soundbite of "Sigmund the Sea Monster")

Unidentified Man #2: Sigmund, you're a rotten sea monster.

Unidentified Child: Sigmund, you're a troll.

Unidentified Man #2: Cry out your lava here(ph).

GORDEMER: "Sigmund the Sea Monster" was about an affable pile of seaweed. The Krofft productions were extremely colorful and a little bit weird.

Mr. DAVID MARTINDALE (Author): My favorite turn of phrase, especially for the early Krofft shows, is `an adolescent acid trip.'

GORDEMER: David Martindale is the author of "Pufnstuf and Other Stuff," a biography of Sid and Marty Krofft.

Mr. MARTINDALE: You're not quite sure what makes them come up with these strange dreams and put them on television, but when it works, it's a feast for the eyes.

(Soundbite of music)

GORDEMER: Many of the Krofft characters were larger-than-life puppets, not surprising considering the Kroffts came from five generations of puppeteers. Sid, who's now 76, took up the family trade when he was eight years old.

Mr. SID KROFFT (Producer): In the '40s, I worked in vaudeville all over the country. I played Radio City Music Hall, the Palladium in London and all over the world.

GORDEMER: Marty Krofft joined Sid in the late '50s, when they became the opening act for Judy Garland.

Mr. MARTY KROFFT (Producer): And we created our show called "Le Poupee de Paris" with all those showgirls and the dancers and the stars.

Mr. S. KROFFT: There was a swimming pool on the stage. There were waterfalls. That's the show that put us on the map.

(Soundbite of music)

GORDEMER: The Kroffts broke into television with "Pufnstuf" in 1969 and almost immediately, people began to accuse the brothers of not-too-thinly veiled references to drugs. Again, writer David Martindale.

Mr. MARTINDALE: The title "Pufnstuf"--it was very popular with college kids who would get high and watch "Pufnstuf."

GORDEMER: Marty Krofft denies any direct connection to drugs, but he says, `Hey, it was the '70s.'

Mr. M. KROFFT: Yeah, we used to get calls from Brian Epstein from The Beatles, and they wanted a 16-millimeter film every week for The Beatles to watch it.

GORDEMER: But I guess you could see how they would make the connection: Smoking mushrooms?

MONTAGNE: Well, you know, they were smoking a cigar.

(Soundbite of program)

Unidentified Man #3: Hey, buddy, what are you doing with our little mushroom?

Unidentified Man #4: Grab him!

GORDEMER: In the mid-'70s, the Kroffts moved from one extreme to the other, from the psychedelic to...

(Soundbite of "Donny and Marie")

Mr. OSMOND: (Singing) May tomorrow be a perfect day.

Ms. OSMOND: May you find love and laughter along the way.

GORDEMER: The Kroffts ventured into prime time in 1976 with Donny and Marie Osmond. Their variety show was very successful. A few years later, the Kroffts had another hit, again with a variety show, this one featuring country music star Barbara Mandrell.

(Soundbite of "Barbara Mandrell & The Mandrell Sisters")

Ms. BARBARA MANDRELL: (Singing) Sleeping single in a double bed.

GORDEMER: In between there were, well, some unfortunate creations.

(Soundbite of "The Brady Bunch Variety Hour")

Announcer: Ladies and gentlemen, The Brady Bunch.

THE BRADY BUNCH: (Singing) I've got the music in me, I've got the music in me, I've got the music in me.

GORDEMER: "The Brady Bunch Variety Hour" seemed like a good idea at the time. Reunite the cast of the popular sitcom and put them into a song-and-dance show. There was just one problem, says David Martindale.

Mr. MARTINDALE: The kids had absolutely no skill for singing and dancing. Susan Olsen, who was Cindy, the youngest girl, she talks about it like watching a train wreck.

(Soundbite of "The Brady Bunch Variety Hour")

THE BRADY BUNCH: (Singing) Oh, here we go again! Aah.

GORDEMER: Despite the lows and the really lows, the Kroffts have been rebuilding. Right now they're developing a couple of movies, including a big-screen version of "Pufnstuf."

(Soundbite of a "Far Out Space Nuts")

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Step right up, you won't believe your eyes. At what those Far Out Space Nuts find.

GORDEMER: Sid and Marty Krofft never won an Emmy. They do not have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but their shows have earned a warm spot in the hearts of Americans hovering around 40. The Kroffts have also secured a place in pop culture history, albeit a bizarre place. Barry Gordemer, NPR News, Washington.

MONTAGNE: For pictures and video of the Kroffts and their creations, go to npr.org.

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

(Soundbite of "H.R. Pufnstuf")

Unidentified Woman: Whoo! I've got, you've got, everybody's, too, got someone who cares by the name of H.R. Pufnstuf, where to go when things get rough. H.R. Pufnstuf, well, you can't do a little, 'cause you can't do enough.

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