Scott D. Pierce: Pairing Donny & Marie with the producers of ‘H.R. Pufnstuf’ was weird. Even back in 1976.

One of those producers, Marty Krofft, had died at the age of 86.

Way back in 1976, when it was announced that siblings Donny and Marie Osmond would host their own network variety show produced by siblings Sid and Marty Krofft, it seemed … well … weird.

The Osmonds teaming up with the Kroftts, whose credits (at that point) included “The Banana Splits,” “H.R. Pufnstuf,” “The Bugaloos,” “Lidsville,” “Sigmund and the Sea Monsters” and “Land of the Lost”? The Kroffts were inventive and undeniably smart and talented, but their experience was in Saturday-morning kids shows, not prime-time variety shows.

Weirder still, it seemed, this would be a collaboration between the squeaky-clean Osmonds and guys whose shows were loaded with not-so-heavily disguised drug references.

Well, that part, it seems, was exaggerated. Even though the title of “H.R. Pufnstuf” was thought to be a reference to smoking marijuana. And the “H.R.” was thought to be short for “hand rolled.” And the theme song lyrics included, “H.R. Pufnstuf – who’s your friend when things get rough? H.R. Pufnstuf – can’t do a little, ‘cause he can’t do enough.” And one episode featured the young hero, Jimmy (Jack Wild) battling a bunch of evil mushrooms.

It was colorful and crazy and, some said, psychedelic — in an age when that word meant drugs.

The Kroffts denied all this — they strongly denied they used drugs while they were working on the show — but, in 1976, it seemed a strange pairing.

And “Donny & Marie” was a strange show. All these years later, there are generations who don’t recognize that because they’re unfamiliar with the format. Because, of course, variety shows no longer exist. A TV staple for decades, the format was relatively simple: The star (or stars) would open the show by singing or telling jokes (or both), and the hour was filled with comedy sketches and musical performances featuring the hosts and their guest stars.

“Donny & Marie” was all that, filled with bright colors and ice dancers. Yes, their opening bit featured production numbers with ice dancers.

That was totally weird. Different than other variety shows? Sure. But super strange. And the ice dancers got dumped after Season 2 (of three).

But “Donny & Marie” was a success for a couple of seasons at a time when variety shows were at death’s door. And a lot of the credit for that goes to the Kroffts, as Donny Osmond acknowledged on social media after Marty Krofft died Saturday at age 86.

“I am so saddened by the passing of my dear friend, Marty Krofft,” Donny tweeted. “He and his brother, Sid, created the whole format of The Donny and Marie show. Together, they put my sister and me on the map and both of us will be forever grateful for their vision and creativity.”

Marty Krofft and his 94-year-old brother, Sid, did indeed leave a “television legacy” that is “incredible.”

It wasn’t the Kroffts’ idea

The idea for “Donny & Marie” didn’t originate with the Kroffts. They were brought in by then-ABC president Fred Silverman, who was the only man to be the chief programmer at all the Big Three networks — CBS, ABC and NBC.

In 1971, when he was at CBS, Silverman saw Sonny and Cher on “The Merv Griffin Show,” went to see their nightclub act and signed them to headline a variety show. “The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour” was a huge hit ... right up until the couple announced they were divorcing and CBS canceled the show in 1974.

In 1976, when he was at ABC, Silverman saw Donny and Marie on “The Mike Douglas Show” and signed them to headline a variety show. It was nowhere near as successful as “Sonny & Cher,” but the Osmonds had one thing the Bonos did not. “At least they can’t get divorced,” he said.

Stranger still

The Krofft brothers went on to produce other variety shows after the premiere of “Donny & Marie,” and a couple of them were way weirder than the Utah siblings’ show.

• “The Brady Bunch Hour” (1976-77) featured most of the original cast of the sitcom (all but Eve Plumb as Jan) as the stars of a variety show. The premise was that the family had somehow been chosen to star in the show, so Mike Brady quit his job as an architect, the family moved to a beach house, and they sang and danced their little hearts out.

It was terrible. It lasted for nine episodes. Donny and Marie Osmond appeared in the pilot. H.R. Pufnstuf appeared in Episode 4.

There were no ice dancers, but the show did feature a big pool on stage and water ballet dancers known as the Krofftettes. Really.

• “Pink Lady & Jeff” (1980) featured Pink Lady, a highly successful Japanese singing duo, and comedian Jeff Altman. Altman can speak English; the Japanese singing stars (Mitsuyo Nemoto and Keiko Masuda) could not. And the Kroffts were unaware of that when they signed on.

It was a disaster. It wasn’t just bad, it was incomprehensible. And it was canceled after five episodes.

Donny Osmond appeared in the second episode.

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