Richard Pryor's challenging and innovative show was apparently too much for audiences in 1977. The show only lasted 4 episodes total...
Curated by The Sadnesses
Total Runtime: 0:48:33
The Richard Pryor Show is an American comedy variety series starring Richard Pryor. It premiered on NBC on Tuesday, September 13, 1977 at 8 p.m. opposite ABC's popular television shows Laverne & Shirley and Happy Days.
The show was produced by Rocco Urbisci for Burt Sugarman Productions. It was conceived out of a special that Pryor did for NBC in May 1977. Because the special was a major hit, both critically and commercially, Pryor was given a chance to host and star in his own television show.
The Richard Pryor Show lasted four episodes during the 1977 season. It was a far cry from the goofy, cookie cutter "bad comedy skits with songs" type of variety show that dominated the airwaves of the day. Pryor's program was a true variety show, featuring an unpredictable mix of satire, social commentary, conceptual comedy, improvisation, slapstick, and the occasional dramatic bit. From the start, the show faced controversy about its time slot and subject matter.
Pryor's contract stated that the show was to air at 9 p.m., but it was aired at 8 p.m. Industry observers wondered why NBC would put one of America's most controversial and profanity-laced artists in the middle of "family hour" on Tuesdays. Many more wondered why the network slotted the show opposite the most popular shows of the day, all but assuring its failure.
Pryor was ready to quit before production even began because of network intervention, indifference, and incompetence during the development stage. He was eventually wooed back, agreeing to do four episodes of the show instead of the ten originally required by his contract. The four episodes were produced, and they aired in consecutive weeks, but the network interference that almost canceled the show before it began returned when the first episode's introductory bit was cut just before air. The bit began with a close-up of Pryor's face as he explained that he was not going to have to give anything up in order to bring his brand of comedy to network television. Then the camera pulled back to show an apparently nude Pryor with his genitals removed (Pryor wore a full-length body stocking, so no nudity was shown).
The Richard Pryor Show did not do well in the ratings while the programs that preceded it and followed it were highly rated. After Pryor fulfilled his contractual obligations, neither he nor the network pursued any further episodes or specials.