The The Gong Show Movie begins with Chuck or "Chuckie Baby," as he was called by fans, waking up at home and getting motivated to go to work. He leaves his girlfriend Red-Head (Robin Altman, soon to be his actual wife) in bed and tries to get a cup of coffee and just get to the studio, but at every turn, someone is trying to audition their groundbreaking (and awful) act to him. Once there, he is faced with more terrible acts and also an annoying studio head named Mr. Buddy Didlo (James B. Douglas) berating him about ratings slippage. Mr. Didlo continues to plague him throughout the film, complaining because he and celeb judge Jaye P. Morgan are just too wild and filthy.
When one of the acts on his show has a heart attack, Chuck feels to blame and he and Red go to visit the man in the hospital, only to have the man's doctor try to perform. He goes to the sauna to relax, but there's no peace to be had there either. He and Red go to a private dinner, where the maître d' is none other than Rip Taylor, but you guessed it, the cook is an aspiring singer! Finally, Chuck's 16-year-old daughter Della announces she is getting married.
Chuck tries to escape into his music, jamming with his country band The Hollywood Cowboys, but even that doesn't help. Red implores Chuck to take a vacation and get some rest, but no matter where he goes, he is plagued. Whether it is reviewing potential acts for the show or filming the show itself, Chuck is just wiped out. The final straw comes when he is out with Red and some guy recognizes him, only to make nasty remarks about the show and its host behind his back. This results in an amusing fight between tiny Chuck and the very tall jerk, with tourists wanting a pic with Chuck during the whole debacle.
Even as Chuck decides to essentially run away from home and heads to Morocco, the largest desert he can find to escape, a man behind him in the airport (the late Phil Hartman) recognizes him. When he finally achieves solitude, all of his friends find a grand way to remind him that he is loved and needed and that The Gong Show must go on!
Throughout this crazy week in Chuck's life, you'll see clips from the show, some that aired and a lot that didn't, including an infamous scene where Jaye P. Morgan flashed her boobs and one where some teenaged girls were suggestively eating some popsicles. You can quickly see why Mr. Didlo was concerned... There's cast regulars like Gene Gene the Dancing Machine, The Unknown Comic, and Father Ed, and eagle-eyed viewers can spot Tony Randall, Ed Marinaro (Hill Street Blues), and Vincent Schiavelli (Ghost), among other actors and sports figures of the time.
The Gong Show Movie is no great piece of cinematic art. Some of the acting is a bit overplayed and just like the TV series on which it is based, it is completely ridiculous. However, I get the feeling Chuck Barris' life was a lot like this. A "Can't even buy a damn cup of coffee in peace!" kind of life. For what it's worth, I enjoyed revisiting the zany show and it's even zanier cast of regular characters. While definitely not a show for children, if you were a fan of The Gong Show back in the day, you'll probably enjoy this just for the nostalgia factor. The only special feature is an audio commentary by Pop Culture Historian Russell Dyball, but it does provide some interesting insights into the time period. Also, it's fun to see what a 1970's Los Angeles looked like, so very different from today.