What has been heralded as one of the worst hours of television ever - THE PAUL LYNDE HALLOWEEN SPECIAL has got to be seen to be believed. This ABC special originally aired once in 1976, but after years of showing up a bootleg copies, it's finally available on DVD.The show has a loose "storyline", as legendary flamboyant HOLLYWOOD SQUARES celebrity Paul first thinks it's a Christmas special, then an Easter special, and then a Valentines Day special - until his elderly housekeeper (guest star Margaret Hamilton) sets him straight, so to speak. After a barrage of cornball jokes (some written by Bruce Vilanch), Paul breaks out in song: a decidedly Halloween take on "Kids" from "Bye, Bye Birdie". (Which Mr. Lynde introduced in the original Broadway show). Basically the song is a complaint about the younger generation, calling out everything that is wrong with them. My favorite line is "Too much Alice Cooper and not enough Alice Faye!" Like anyone in 1976 knew who Alice Faye was! During this number he gets attacked by trick or treaters dressed as devils - but two of the gang members are revealed to be his ABC pals Donny & Marie in a cheap cameo.After the song, Margaret convinces her bitchy and bitter boss Paul to take a drive with her to visit her sister, who lives at the mysterious Gloomsbury Manor. Sis turns out to be none other than the fabulous Witchie-Poo (Billie Hayes) from H.R. PUFNSTUF! Then, amazingly Margaret transforms herself into her WIZARD OF OZ character - the Wicked Witch of the West! Talk about crossovers! It turns out the witches want to enlist Paul to help them erase their negetive media image. 1970s little person superstar Billy Barty shows up as the butler–just in time for some insulting midget jokes, followed by an appearance by a delightfully youthful Betty White as Miss Halloween 1976 - who has won a date with Paul, but she was expecting PAUL NEWMAN! The witches then offer Paul 3 wishes...Wish #1 - Paul wishes to be a "rhinestone trucker", apparently so he can communicate with Tim Conway via CB radio-which was all the rage in '76. Tim arrives at a dinner where Pinky Tuscadero (Roz Kelly from HAPPY DAYS) is the waitress. Tim is about to marry Pinky, but Paul crashes through the wall with his big rig in time to stop the wedding and ask Pinky to marry him instead! Pinky challenges the guys to a contest to see who's more macho. Billy Barty plays the "short order cook"-and he's the most macho!!!Whaa-whaa. What does all this have to do with Halloween? Then there's an awful musical number with Paul, Pinky and Tim and some square-dancing disco dancers. After which the witches invite some of their musician friends to perform "chamber music" for Paul - and the quartet turns out to be none other than KISS - who perform "Detroit Rock City," while the camera rotates 360 degrees and viewers get queasy. Then the witches play Monopoly with Paul. Huh?Wish #2 -Paul wishes he was in the Sarah dessert - he's now a dashingly romantic sheik and Florence Henderson is his potentially lusty lover. Mrs. Brady was already used to faking romance with gay leading men-so she plays along just fine. He tells her he first fell for her after he saw her "milking a cobra"! Then he talks about the "ruby portrals of her lips" and he gives his rival Tim Conway a cock-a-too "cause a man gets lonely in the foreign legion." Bruce Vilanch was probably giggling backstage and loving that he got away with all this filthy innuendo. How can they top this? Wish #3 - Paul goes to a haunted discothèque - "the only play where a person can hustle without getting arrested". Then just when you think it can't get any worse, Florence appears sporting a Dorothy Hamill hairdo and a glittering black gown and sings a disco version of "That Old Black Magic".Then KISS comes back to sing the monster hit "Beth" and another song called "King of the Nighttime World." (I think it's supposed be about Larry King, but I'm not sure) It all comes to an end when Pinky returns to sing "Disco Lady" with Paul and the rest if the cast in an epic production number, while the guys from KISS look on in disbelief. Roll credits.
This has to be the strangest, gayest, bitchiest, most surreal mess ever to air on primetime TV - but of course, I love it. Now if only someone would put out a DVD set of the one-season wonder THE PAUL LYNDE SHOW - then I'd really be happy. Imagine Paul as an upscale, wisecracking Archie Bunker-type dad who gets dumped in the swimming pool each and every week - doesn't that sound truly heavenly?