Picks and Pans Review: Riders Radio Theater

updated 09/05/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/05/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Riders in the Sky

It helps to have a long memory to appreciate the Riders, since their act is mainly a parody of those old cowboy radio shows that combined Western music and adventure' yarns (including the all-important hokey sound effects). But Ranger Doug, Too Slim, Woody Paul and their sometime Gabby Hayes-Andy Clyde-Slim Pickens-like saddle pal, Sidemeat, are funny enough to appeal to the young'uns too. (The boys' sense of humor lapses when it comes to their real names, which like, say, a Paula Abdul sideman, they refuse to reveal.) This is basically a 55-minute comedy routine, though there are a few seconds of straight music. Too Slim and Woody Paul, however, can't resist embellishing Ranger Doug's rendition of Cattle Call with a story about a circus train wreck—so they can do their horrendous animal noise imitations. Then again the interruptions are the best part. Even the commercials for Deadwood Darlene's Prairie Lubricant products, such as udder butter on a rope, are fun. And there's a you-can't-buy-it-in-any-store record offer, too, for a collection of Canadian Mountie classics such as When It's Beaver Flipping Time in the Yukon and A Nation of Laws. In the trail traffic report, Too Slim says the herds are backed up and adds, "I'd recommend an alternate arroyo." The Riders, who first mounted their act in Nashville in 1977, are good-natured without being innocuous. There's a Smothers Brothers tinge to a lot of their material. The Riders, though, stay close to their premise. Meltdown on the Mesa, for instance, is an installment—ostensibly part 37—in a serial about a villain named Slocum who has nasty plans for a nuclear reactor but even worse, burns down the Riders' bunkhouse and destroys their Vaughn Monroe poster. This bit goes on a while at 23 minutes, but the short takes are more economically funny. To wit: the "Sagebrush Sports Report," which notes, "Folks, the deer and the antelope play later today, and we'll have all the scores." (MCA)

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