Photo credits: NBC
The 20th century variety show, which was known as The Flip Wilson Show premiered on NBC in the United States on September 17, 1970. It continued to air on that network until June 27, 1974.
The show was hosted by Flip Wilson, who is widely regarded as one of the funniest comedians of all time. It was one of the first television series in American history to feature a black main celebrity. The show was also among the first African American-centered television programs to achieve massive success among white viewers.
In particular, it was the first successful network variety program to include an African American as the host. According to the Nielsen ratings, over its first two seasons, The Flip Wilson Show maintained its position as the second most watched show in the whole nation.
Because of his influence, Wilson was able to obtain both of the new breakthrough artists (such as The Jackson 5, Roberta Flack, Sandy Duncan, Lily Tomlin, George Carlin, Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, Albert Brooks, Lola Falana, and Melba Moore, all of whom transformed big into stars at that time). In addition to that, other well-known singers made guest appearances on his program.
The gospel icon Mahalia Jackson had one of her last performances in front of an audience on The Flip Wilson Show in the latter half of 1971. After first sharing a studio with other primetime TV shows, Flip Wilson was able to move into his own own soundstages – beginning with the 1972–1973 season. This came as a direct result of the enormous success of Wilson’s variety show. However, as the seasons progressed, the show’s ratings continued to decrease.
By the mid-1970s, ratings for variety shows as a whole started a trend that would continue indefinitely. This, in conjunction with Wilson’s persistent requests for bigger pay increases, resulted in the series going over its allotted budget, which ultimately led to the show being canceled. From 1997 through 2006, TV Land broadcast episodes of the series that lasted half an hour. TV One broadcast the program beginning in 2011 and ending in 2012.
The Aspire network broadcast thirty-minute episodes of the program beginning in 2012 and continuing until 2016. Wilson battled liver cancer until his death in 1998. He was 64 years of age when he passed away in Malibu, California. Wilson left five children to mourn his death.
He is remembered throughout the performing arts spanning television, film, and musical theater for being a trailblazer in comedy.