Sat, 03/13/2010 - 7:00pm

Lawrence Welk operates a television camera.

Credit: The Welk Group

This documentary about The Lawrence Welk Show features rarely seen footage from more than 50 years of never-before-seen archival performances by members of the Welk Musical Family. 

Fourteen members of the Welk Musical Family are interviewed for the special: Ava Barber, Bobby Burgess, Jo Ann Castle, Dick Dale, Ken Delo, Arthur Duncan, Ralna English, Guy Hovis, Jack Imel, Dee Dee and Janet Lennon, Mary Lou Metzger, Rocky Rockwell and Norma Zimmer. They vividly describe how the weekly show was produced and tell "behind the scenes" stories. In addition, costume designer Rose Weiss and Larry Welk, the son of Lawrence Welk, discuss the early days of the show and how it evolved from a "band" showcase into a full-fledged weekly series. LAWRENCE WELK'S TV TREASURES airs Saturday, March 13 at 7 p.m. on WXXI-TV (DT21.1/cable1011/cable11).

Part one of LAWRENCE WELK'S TV TREASURES describes the origins of the show's remarkable 27-year run (1955 to 1982) on national commercial television. It ends with a special tribute to the extraordinary band members, who perform a medley from My Fair Lady. 

Part two of the special highlights the "overnight" popularity of "The Lawrence Welk Show" and the public's fascination with the Welk stars, which continues today. The tabloid press doesn't write about the Welk Musical Family anymore, but at one time, the Welk Stars were the darlings of the fan magazine world, along with Elizabeth Taylor, Jackie Kennedy and the Beatles. Various performers discuss love and marriage within the Welk Musical Family and laugh about the "soap opera" aspect of the show.

Part three of LAWRENCE WELK'S TV TREASURES explains how "The Lawrence Welk Show" was produced each week, from concept to broadcast, with producer/director Jim Hobson, who worked on the show for 27 years. Marimba-playing Jack Imel, a member of the Welk Musical Family, also served as associate producer of the series and discusses ABC's decision to cancel the series and Welk's quick and ultimately successful move into national syndication. 

Part four features a special segment on the humor and hi-jinks of "The Lawrence Welk Show." It opens with a tongue-in-cheek "champagne music" version of the "Counter-Revolution Polka" and looks back at some of the funniest moments in the series' history.

The special also includes segments from the first black-and-white show on July 2, 1955, to the last syndicated show on commercial television. Many of the clips mark major milestones along the way, including Jo Ann Castle's "surprise" birthday cake presentation by Lawrence Welk, and the 500th show, taped in 1965, which featured a guest appearance by all four Lennon Sisters and their seven siblings.  

One of the "priceless" moments featured in LAWRENCE WELK'S TV TREASURES comes from the pen of nationally syndicated cartoonist Joe Martin. In November 2006, his character "Mr. Boffo" had something funny to say about the Welk Show. Martin created a special animated version of the cartoon, which will be seen for the first time in this program. Also included are "Off the Mark" cartoons by Mark Parisi and by various other cartoonists over the years.

Excerpts from dozens of musical numbers are part of LAWRENCE WELK'S TV TREASURES, including some of the few shows shot "on location" in places like Pacific Ocean Park, the Aragon Ballroom and Escondido, California. The Lennon Sisters are featured singing on a ferris wheel ... Tom Netherton sings from the Goodyear Blimp ... and the entire cast is seen around the pool of the Welk Resort in 1965, on the first color show.

Larry Welk, in a heartfelt interview, talks about his father's life and career and expresses great admiration for his achievements. The Welk stars also describe their feelings about "The Boss"; their candid comments reflect their affection for Lawrence Welk and for one another.