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George Carlin's first HBO special, taped in 1977, now looks like a fascinating piece of television history. Preceded by a cautionary statement about Carlin's penchant for using strong language (and a reminder that Chaucer and Shakespeare wrote bawdy material, too), On Location with George Carlin clearly draws a line between the then-fledgling cable channel and commercial networks. With that much drama in the background, one might expect Carlin's appearance before a young University of Southern California audience to sizzle with controversy, but that's hardly the case. A little tentative before the cameras (and hampered by a failing microphone that takes a while to replace), the comic leans on safe but genuinely funny conceptual material: "Did you ever clear your throat for another person?" "What if everybody came to your house?" There's a cute bit about playing Monopoly with no strategy for winning, and even a slice or two of good old head humor. (Try fasting for two days, Carlin advises, then smoke seven joints and take $500 to the grocery store.) An entertaining though modestly ambitious program, all around. --Tom Keogh
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