YouTube Memory Lane: An Appreciation for The Judy Garland Show

In Depth

In 1963, Judy Garland found herself in dire financial straits. Deeply in debt with the IRS and having recently taken a loss financing A Star Is Born, the performer agreed—quite reluctantly—to partner with CBS for The Judy Garland Show, a primetime variety hour featuring guests, songs, and sketches, for which she’d receive $25-$30K per episode.

The series only ran for one season before it was canceled, but somehow, in that short amount of time, it managed to create a lifetime’s worth of memorable moments. The sixties were the golden age of variety television, a time when celebrities were expected to go on shows and display not just a funny anecdote, but an actual talent (and unlike in these Jimmy Fallon-dominated days, beer pong wouldn’t cut it). Judy’s guests (Mickey Rooney, Barbra Streisand, Peggy Lee, and more) were always good and their host was always better…albeit seemingly drunk and/or on tranquilizers. The show’s musical arrangements by Mel Tormé are remarkable in their own right and, in Garland’s skilled hands, they become endlessly watchable—something I know because I watch and rewatch them all of the time.

No need for you to fork over money for the DVD box set. Just head on over to YouTube, type “judy garland show” into the search bar, and watch as many clips as your little heart desires. Put them on in the background while cleaning or—if you want to be dramatic about it—get into character by wrapping yourself in a silk and marabou robe and watching from bed. Whatever your viewing method, I promise that these Judy Garland Show segments will be a delightful little respite from the doldrums of your day-to-day life.

Here are some to get you started.

These subtle barbs and backhanded compliments traded by Judy Garland and her guest, a young Barbra Streisand, are what drag queens dreams are made of. (Their follow-up duet isn’t half bad either.)

Judy and her daughter Liza Minnelli.

This reunion between Judy and Ray Bolger (the scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz) is sweet and a little bit sad. Looking at a picture of herself as Dorothy Gale, she sneers, “I was a fat little girl.”

Judy Garland and Peggy Lee like men. And matching dresses.

Look at these glamorous (and yet somehow so charmingly unpolished) CHAMPS.

Continue your browsing here or—if you’re feeling extra productive—grab a friend and start practicing Judy and Babs’s “Happy Days Are Here Again”/”Get Happy” medley.

Contact the author at [email protected].

Image via CBS/The Judy Garland Show.

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