Upcoming from Shout! Factory is ‘The Ernie Kovacs Collection,’ a six-disc DVD set that’s a must for connoisseurs of early TV and groundbreaking comedians.
Before there was David Letterman, Garry Shandling and Conan O’Brien, there was Ernie Kovacs, a visionary who “between 1951 and 1962 broke rules that hadn’t even been made yet and created a language that is now taken for granted,” says the [amazon_link id=”B004IB04NU” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]product description on Amazon[/amazon_link].
I asked my mom about Ernie Kovacs, and she immediately brightened up like I’d just mentioned a favorite long-lost cousin who always made her laugh. It makes me a little sad that I wasn’t around during Kovacs’ heyday in the 1950s and ’60s, but hey, that’s what’s so fantastic about DVD and blu-ray. We get to know and re-visit the old greats.
Kovacs has an impressive TV and film career that would make James Franco tired just thinking about it. His first paid entertainment work came in 1941, as a disc jockey on Trenton’s WTTM radio. He went on to do numerous film and TV projects, many of which are included in this set.
I found this little description on Wikipedia that sounds like it exemplifies his style of offbeat and groundbreaking humor:
At WPTZ, Kovacs began using the ad-libbed and experimental style that would become his reputation, including video effects, superimpositions, reverse polarities and scanning, and quick blackouts. He was also noted for abstraction and carefully timed non sequitur gags and for carefully allowing the so-called fourth wall to be breached.
Kovacs’ cameras commonly showed his viewers activity beyond the boundaries of the show set — including crew members and outside the studio itself. Kovacs also liked talking to the off-camera crew and even introduced segments from the studio control room. Ernie frequently made use of accidents and happenstance, incorporating the unexpected into his shows.
One of Kovacs’ Philadelphia broadcasts was “enlivened” by a homeless man who sought shelter inside the TV studio; Kovacs invited him onto the set, where he slept for the duration of the telecast, but nonetheless was introduced on camera to the audience as “Sleeping Schwartz.” He was once knocked out when a pie in the face still had the plate under it.
Here’s a look at what’s included in ‘The Ernie Kovacs Collection’:
- Episodes From His Local and National Morning Shows
- Episodes From His NBC Prime-Time Show
- Kovacs On Music
- Five ABC TV Specials
- The Color Version of His Legendary Silent Show, Eugene
- His Award-Winning Commercials for Dutch Masters Cigars
- Short Films, Tributes, Raritie
- 44-Page Booklet Featuring Rare Photos, Program Notes and an Essay by Jonathan Lethem (‘Motherless Brooklyn’)
Buy [amazon_link id=”B004IB04NU” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]’The Ernie Kovacs Collection’ on Amazon[/amazon_link]. It’s scheduled for release on April 19, 2011.