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R.I.P. Ken Berry

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Having just watched that You Tube clip of Berry dancing with effortless exuberance and agile fluidity, reminds me of a time when a person had to have talent that actually moved people in order to get on TV.  Now, anyone who can throw a chair or table can get on television.

 

Ken Berry had wonderful comedic timing and he played clueless so convincingly (but never in a mocking or mean-spirited way) but his dancing skills, which were a delight, are sometimes easy to overlook because he made it look so easy and like so much fun!

 

R.I.P. Ken Berry-- I hope you felt appreciated for your talents. 

 

I can't help but think of his former Mama's Family co-stars and wonder how they feel today. 

 

A slice of Americana.

 

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I'd never seen this commercial until today, but it shows what a phenomenal dancer he was, especially since there's none of the puffery and stalling that many variety shows had in their dying years - it's just pure dance. 

 

(the disco part is cringe, admittedly)

 

 

I feel like Ken was born in the wrong era - he could have easily been a huge musical star 10 or 15 years earlier - but then he wouldn't have had such a long career in comedy. I knew him for comedy. Vint, the Brady Bunch, F Troop. Shows I spent years watching when I was a kid. I was so frustrated even back then at how he just had to play the idiot for so much of Mama's family, when his work in the first, superior two seasons was much more layered. 

 

And then years later I saw some of his work in the "Family" sketches on the Carol Burnett Show, and his range became even more apparent. 

 

I hope he knew how much he meant to many of us. How special he was. This is probably one of the saddest celebrity deaths for me in a few years. 

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One of Jackie Joseph's posts...Ken with his partner. Another of her posts mentioned that they remained friends and that her current husband included Ken in many of their events. Ironically, today was her 15th anniversary with her current husband.
 

 

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I'd watched parts of this before, and remembered how bleak (if honest) the ending was, but watching it all the way through for the first time I'm really amazed at how incredibly bleak it is (you can hear the audience trying to figure out the times they're supposed to laugh, then tapering off). I wonder how viewers felt at the time. 

 

Carol Burnett is very strong in this (the phone call from Bubba, where we really see the chain of destruction from grandmother to daughter to grandson, is a standout) but it's so hard to watch - it's just so much. Sometimes too much. Yet once you start it's difficult to stop, as the cast work so well together. The moments near the end with Ellen and Eunice and with Eunice and Ed and Eunice and Philip are so good, so raw, so painful. 

 

I'm so glad this exists to give a glimpse of what Ken Berry could offer beyond the pratfalls and dumb jokes that wasted so much of his last years with Mama's Family. I love the way they repeatedly show him sitting on the porch, trying to tune out his family's screaming. It's a perfect framing device. 

 

This has all sorts of hints to Mama's Family (Mrs. Boylin, Naomi, Bubba running away) yet this just feels like such a world away from that show, even the earlier, tougher seasons. 

 

I wonder if there has ever been a property that had such hugely disparate yet also similar recreations of the same material and characters, over and over again. 

 

 

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