Variety shows were the biggest thing going on TV in the 1970s. They have been almost completely gone since, with only even a few ultimately disastrous attempts at revival, including a run of Nick Lachey/Jessica Simpson specials on ABC in 2004 and a series of Rosie O’Donnell shows for NBC in 2008 that had the plug pulled after one critically-roasted and audience-ignored episode. The only moderately successful attempt at a variety show came from ABC in 1987: Dolly. If anybody could revive the dormant variety genre, it would be Dolly Parton, a bubbly, sexy, star of stage, screen, and sound loved by virtually all of America for two decades. ABC even aired it on Sundays, the big family viewing night. She even sang “I Will Always Love You” on every show. It couldn’t miss! Except that it did, fizzling out after just one season, making ABC eat a solid half of the $44 million it paid to Parton for a two-year contract.
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