Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Taped approximately six weeks before the 100th birthday of comedy legend Bob Hope, this elaborate (and highly-rated) TV "love letter" to "Old Ski Nose" is hosted by former Today Show anchor Jane Pauley. The special covers the familiar biographical ground, tracing British-born Leslie Townes Hope from his first paying gig as a Charlie Chaplin imitator at age 12, then on to nearly two decades of singing, dancing, and adlibbing in vaudeville before achieving stardom on the Broadway stage in the 1933 musical Roberta. Achieving even greater success in films and on radio, Hope still remained just another entertainer until he began his celebrated, indefatigable tours of far-flung military camps in WWII, thereby kicking off a humanitarian "second career" that would extend well past the Vietnam era. Finally, the program covers in detail Hope's years on television, specifically the 285 specials which he headlined on NBC from 1950 to 1996. Many of the film clips will be familiar to even the most casual Hope fans, with one noteworthy exception: A clip from a mid-'80s Mike Douglas Show, in which Hope engages in a putting match with a two-and-a-half-year-old Tiger Woods. Dozens of Hope's contemporaries and fans from all walks of life show up to offer their own special tributes, though sadly many of his co-star's from his classic films -- notably Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour -- are no longer around to put in their two cents' worth. Nor does Bob Hope himself make a "live" appearance on 100 Years of Hope & Humor, though it is the understatement of the century to say he is certainly there in spirit. And need we add that the theme of the show (in more ways than one) is "Thanks for the Memory"?