Comic duo returns to television for anniversary variety show. Smothers Brothers' 20-year show

Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour 20th Reunion Show CBS, Wednesday, 10-11 p.m. Producer: Ken Kragen. Director: David Grossman. Twenty years after their successful CBS variety show was canceled, the Smothers brothers are back on CBS with an anniversary variety show - still as relaxed, relevant, and irreverent as ever.

If they've mellowed at all, it has been gracefully. Their humor is still laced with charming sibling rivalry, offbeat madness, and just enough ribaldry to qualify as problematic for a network bent on sedate safety.

The old CBS was determined to censor the seemingly uncensorable brothers. This time around, Tommy makes it clear that the old irrepressible humor is still there by introducing a joke which in the days before AIDS would have caused anxiety among the program-practices people. They'd hardly notice now.

But what is noticed and still seems hilarious as ever is guest Pat Paulsen and his candidacy for president. He manages to put down just about every other candidate: Bush - ``Like Jerry Ford without the pizazz.'' Dole - ``Do you want a pineapple for president?'' Robertson - ``God told him to run, and it proves that God has a great sense of humor.''

Then, as if he hadn't insulted enough people, Paulsen asks: ``Where are the Washingtons and Jeffersons and Johnsons of yesteryear?'' Out comes another insistently offensive response: ``Playing basketball mostly.''

In between return musical engagements with other-era stars like Glen Campbell, John Hartford, Mason Williams, and Jennifer Warnes, there is not quite enough of the mild, warm, and amusing Tommy and Dickie chatter. The music seems merely a nostalgic throwback.

When Steve Martin, once a Smothers brothers writer, returns to join his old bosses, he performs an amusing, if cerebral, skit about the lack of spontaneity in performance today. Amusing, too, is the return of Bob Einstein as Officer Judy. Leigh French scores with her offbeat commentary on the everyday life of an ex-hippie.

The show serves up nostalgia laced with up-to-the-minute humor. Some of it is in questionable taste, but in an era of ``Saturday Night Live'' grossness, the Smothers brothers are mere babes in the off-color woods, most of what they say is funny, intelligent, good-natured, and as heartwarmingly lovable as the brothers themselves.

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