Before (& after) Burnett: The Tim Conway Show(s)

Two shows that shared the same name and ultimately, similar fates.

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Branching out on one's own can be some tough business. Especially when that business is show business, leaving the success of an ensemble to go solo is a very big risk. Sure, now and again, a solo record will eclipse the sales and acclaim of the act's former bandmates, but those instances are the exception that proves the rule. It's not easy going it alone.

Maybe that explains the tumultuous history of Tim Conway's two shows. He seems like a shoo-in to successfully lead a program with his name in the title. When Tim Conway is part of a team, he contributes what is often the best part of the show. Despite sharing the screen with legends like Ernest Borgnine and Joe Flynn, Conway consistently stole scenes on McHale's Navy. His Ensign Parker was instantly likable, and his comedic timing and pratfall prowess were always highlights of the program.  If any character was worthy of a spin-off, it was the bumbling, good-natured Ensign Charles Parker. 

But instead of Parker's Platoon, viewers were served the first of two series to use the title The Tim Conway Show. This earlier Show saw Tim Conway teamed again with Joe Flynn, who played Captain Binghamton on McHale's Navy. Here, Conway and Flynn played new characters that kept the same power dynamics of their earlier pairing. Flynn was again cranky, and Conway was once more trying his best to not muck things up. Their obvious chemistry could only keep the show in the air, though, for a short run of 13 episodes.  {seelaso}

"13" really was the unluckiest number for Conway, too. This wasn't the first time that a show with him on the topline failed to make it past a baker's dozen. "Rango ran for thirteen weeks until a fellow came in from ABC and said 'Don't do this anymore," Conway told the United Press International. "Then I did The Tim Conway Show about a bad airline and we found out viewers didn't think it was funny to make fun of airlines."

"They also didn't think it was funny to make fun of the West in Rango. Then I did The Tim Conway Comedy Hour, which they didn't think was fun. The Carol Burnett Show was fun."

During the time he was quoted, Conway was gearing up for his second attempt at a Tim Conway Show. This second iteration would be formatted as a variety show, rather than a sitcom like its predecessor. Obviously, with his history on The Carol Burnett Show, Conway is a perfect pick to lead a variety program. But Conway was untrusting and self-effacing while looking to the future of his new show.

"I'm trying to get out of the TV business, and I think this show will be the quickest way. This should just about wrap it up for me."

"We're thinking about having a comedy patrol in the industry where if you do a bad show, rather than cancel or do another show, they come around to your house and they actually shoot you. Depending on how bad the show is, of course. If it isn't all that bad, they shoot you in the leg. But if they kill you, you know you did a pretty bad show." 

The second Tim Conway Show fared better than the first. It lasted two full seasons. For his efforts, Conway was only ever "shot" by directors. 

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18 Comments

timothys71 10 months ago
I remember watching The Tim Conway Show (the sketch/variety series) on TV when I was a kid. Apparently one girl in my school also liked it because she called me "Tim Conway"! (I share his first name, but my last name is not even close.) It would be cool if MeTV could show it sometime, maybe coupled with (or temporarily replacing) The Carol Burnett Show.
Runeshaper 10 months ago
Tim Conway was AWESOME! Bummer that his shows didn't make it too far.
Bapa1 10 months ago
I remember the show he did with Flynn. They ran an airline together. My brother and I thought it was funny. Apparently we were the only ones.
Lantern 10 months ago
There was a very sad ending to Tim Conway's life - read the book written by his daughter Kelly ("My Dad's Funnier Than Your Dad").
Andybandit 10 months ago
Tim Conway and Harvey Korman are my favorite people on TCBS. I love their skits together. They are so funny.
justjeff 10 months ago
MeTV writers put forth: " Conway was again cranky, and Flynn was once more trying his best to not muck things up." Were they writing inside a parallel universe??? FLYNN was the cranky one and CONWAY was the bumbling one.

As usual, facts (or for that matter spelling and grammar) *never* get in the way of a MeTV story...
You'll be happy to know that somebody at MeTV paid attention to your comment. Today the article states "Flynn was again cranky, and Conway was once more trying his best to not muck things up."
I'm shocked if they did... but it's more than likely they caught the goof on their own,,,
daDoctah 10 months ago
Conway was a guest on an early episode of Laugh-In, where Dan and Dick asked him about a number of the shows he had done previously, to each of which he had to add "until it was cancelled". They even mentioned that he had been on "Turn On" and got the same response.

"Turn On", for those not familiar with that little glitch in television history, was the show George Schlatter created after "Laugh-In" that was famously cancelled halfway through its first and only episode. Conway was the guest host for that first show; the premise involved having a different host every week. (In some parts of the country they ran the rest of the show, in others the local affiliates ran something else to fill the time. I have to think they did have at least a few things from the anticipated second episode, which was to have been hosted by Robert Culp and France Nuyen.)
MrsPhilHarris daDoctah 10 months ago
How can a show be cancelled half-way through an airing? 🤔
LoveMETV22 MrsPhilHarris 10 months ago
MeTV did a story about it in 2015:

https://www.metv.com/stories/turn-on-was-the-shortest-lived-show-in-tv-history-and-one-of-the-most-fascinating
MrsPhilHarris LoveMETV22 10 months ago
Interesting story. Funny how one guy seemed to have so much clout. I guess Peyton Place was his favourite show. 🤭
MichaelGreene daDoctah 10 months ago
I remember "Turn On. IIRC, the Philadelphia NBC affiliate ran the show all the way through. It's one shot was during Laugh-In's run, but not on the same night. Laugh-In ran until 1973, but by the time it ended, Dan Rowan and Dick Martin were not only Laugh-In's stars, but the show's owners.
rvoyttbots daDoctah 10 months ago
The whole half hour was shown in our small city in NW Iowa. I was a teen at the time. Everyone was outraged by the show but I seem to remember someone saying "damn" on the show. Heck, LAUGH-IN was more outrageous.
Wiseguy70005 MichaelGreene 10 months ago
"It's one shot..."
The possessive form is Its.
It's is the contraction of it is or it has. English 101.
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