Television: High-Priced Pea Picker

Ever since he first loped onstage last fall opposite such formidable opposition as CBS's Playhouse go and ABC's Wire Service, it was clear that Tennessee Ernie was a new kind of Ford in TV's future. Jaws slack and chipmunk eyes watering, his mouth listing to port in a mustachioed half-smile, Ernie could slam into a fair-weather tune with authority, sink back languidly into some corn pone-and-molasses badinage about his pea-pickin' cousins (he claims 150 kinsfolk) or how to make porcupine meat balls. He could turn a muffed line into an "Ernie-ism" ("I'm as...

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