Articles - Raes, The (Series) (1978-1980)

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Raes, The

From TV Guide on Jun 24, 1978.

Raes of hope
Cherrill and Robbie Rae make their debut this week in a summer show that could lead to bigger things

By Jeani Read

There he is, bright and blond and boyish, grinning a bright and boyish grin into the camera. There she is, all curvy coquette, tossing sultry little almond-eyed glances his way from under smoky lashes. There they are: a cuddle here, a kiss there, a showy step or two, a playful teasing look. Singing, nose to pert nose, harmonies closely, lovingly entwined.

They sing love songs damp with sentiment. Lyrics talk of standing together, a love stronger than Gibraltar, of becoming together a winning combination. And that's what they— and the CBC—fervently hope will happen.

It was predictably just a matter of time before we came up with an answer to Donny and Marie. And the Raes— Robbie and Cherrill, husband and wife, sweet and stylish and mainly undeniably cute—are gearing up to be it. Their seven-week CBC network summer replacement series starts June 30, and if that pilot project works out, they'll almost certainly be back for more.

Robbie, 26, from Wales, and Cherrill, 23, from St. Thomas, Ont., cut their showbiz teeth as teenagers on the tough pub and workingman's club circuit in the United Kingdom. Solo acts for years, they teamed up in 1974 after marrying and moving to Canada—and the Las Vegas-directed patter-and-song routine they put together for lounges will likely move into the living room with only slight alterations. Even more conveniently, their pop-disco remake of Doris Day's 20-year-old ditty, "Que Sera Sera," became a No. 1 Canadian hit last year. That gave them a handle on public awareness and an opportunity to show themselves off on a cross section of already established television variety and talk shows.

And, along the way, they just happened to be in the right place (as guests on the Miss Teen Canada Pageant) when the right person was watching: CBC variety chief Jack McAndrew.

McAndrew had in mind the CBC's recently accelerated efforts to capture the hearts and large disposable incomes of the 18-to-49-year-old audience. Pegging the Raes as "a contemporary Steve and Eydie," McAndrew is banking on their niceness and cleanness to fit snugly in with increasingly conservative popular taste. "Entertainment now is non-revolutionary," he says. "People are looking for escapism and nostalgia. And the Raes are right in that groove."

No argument there. The Raes are about as revolutionary as The Newlywed Game—at which they'd probably be hands-down champs since they spend virtually 24 hours of every day together. They look happy. They light up each other's lives.

"They're bubbly and very loving," says one of their Toronto-based managers. "Their image offers stability—they're the boy and girl next door. It's a family thing."

The fact that they can actually sing, too, is a bonus. In variety programming, personality is the key. "The Raes have it," says the show's producer Ken Gibson. "The basics are there. We think they'll grow on the audience, if the audience gives them a chance."

Gibson isn't entirely convinced that will happen; the problem being, he says, not the Raes themselves, but their time slot. Friday at 9 P.M. is traditionally Tommy Hunter Country time, which means older, traditionally country-oriented viewers. Gibson worries that a nipple glimpsed through a disco dancer's slinky costume may have that crowd diving for channel selectors from coast to coast, even if Robbie Rae is likely to be singing something as respectable as "You'll Never Walk Alone" after the next commercial break.

Naturally, Gibson is hedging as many bets as possible. The show may feature parodies of rock stars such as Mick J agger and Elton John, but the Raes' repertoire of songs is being stretched to cover much middle-of-the-road territory, and their guests—people such as Shari Lewis, Morey Amsterdam, Tammy Wy-nette and Patsy Gallant—have been picked to hold the country faithfuls as well as encourage some new, younger fans to tune in.

"Talk about safe," Gibson says ruefully. "But the main thing is, even if people don't like the show, we'd like to know they do like the Raes."

Of course, personality. The show is about 80 per cent music, says Gibson, but he's marketing them as "tiny perfect people" (she's five-foot-nothing, he's barely six inches taller). The show's comedy sketches are tailored around their actual lives and attitudes. "Natural" is an oft-repeated watchword here, right up there with "cute."

And the Raes help the scriptwriters get into the spirit of things by coming up with examples of everyday-style kibitzing on cue and a steady stream of anecdotes. Such as the time they first heard their version of "Que Sera Sera" on the air on an old radio being sold at an auction, and made such an excited fuss they ended up having to buy the thing.

Or the time Cherrill's father's house burned down and when radio newsmen came to interview him about the fire, he spent most of the time on the air plugging their record. Or when they played their first date together, in Sault Ste. Marie, they mugged and hammed it up so outrageously that they were fired after a week.

And there's the one about how they met. He was a host on a TV show in northern England. She was a guest. He heard her voice. He saw her face. He fell in love. So did she. That was Wednesday. "On Saturday," he said, "if it's sunny we'll get engaged." It was. And they did. Now if that isn't cute...

But there's nothing cute about their ambitions. Success on television isn't the only thing on their minds. In spite of the light-hearted public image they cultivate, in private they give the impression that anything short of a whopping hit, not only on TV but in records and the top North American club rooms, would be, to say the least, disappointing.

"We're very ambitious," says Robbie. "Dedicated," amends Cherrill. People in the business use words such as aggressive and keen (which goes better with cute) when they talk of the Raes. Some even say arrogant.

But their high hopes for becoming a multi-faceted, international winning combination go back a long way, to before they were any kind of combination at all. Ambition has become a habit that has stood them in good stead. "Before we met we had the same goals," says Cherrill. "We each of us even knew we could never get involved with anybody who wasn't in the music business," adds Robbie.

When the new TV series goes on the air the Raes will be preparing for a stint in Reno, where they will open the show for Tommy Sands at the new MGM Grand Hotel. After that it's back to the recording studio to see if they can prove they're not one-hit wonders. Then they hit the road again, picking up an average of $5000 a week in their regular run of club engagements.

Family plans take a back seat for the time being to their professional game plan. "Just before 'Que Sera Sera' made it we were very depressed," says Robbie. "We thought about having a baby," grins Cherrill, and adds with not so mock relief: "But we had a hit record instead."

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For an in-depth look at CBC programs (1952-82),
Blaine Allan's directory