Pioneering Video Genius Ernie Kovacs - DVD Box Set
Long time readers of Retro Thing may have noticed that I'm a huge fan of Ernie Kovacs, one of television's earliest geniuses. You hear the word "genius" flung around a lot, but I use the word deliberately as we're still living in a TV world molded by his many innovations. Watching the long overdue 6 DVD Ernie Kovacs Collection box set, you'll be amazed at how many times you see Kovacs echoed in the offbeat TV comedy of a David Letterman (who names Kovacs as a hero, even hiring Kovacs' old announcer Bill Wendell for his NBC show), or a Conan O'Brien. Kovacs was first to lift the veil on the secret world of making TV, inviting viewers to peek on on behind the scenes nonsense, and having lots of fun even when things didn't quite work out the way they were supposed to.
Today is the 50th anniversary of Kovacs' untimely death, and were it not for the untiring efforts of his wife Edie Adams, his work would have disappeared too. She single-handedly rescued many of the master tapes that were destined for the demagnetizer. Kovacs' work has always been hard to find (a scant few VHS releases and a 2 DVD compilation that quickly went out of print), making this DVD box set a boon.
In the set you'll get extended clips from his morning show; Kovacs pioneered the first morning show ever, when his bosses at NBC saw how well the format worked they cancelled Ernie to put on a little thing called the Today Show. The set includes many of his favorite bits like the Nairobi Trio, Percy Dovetonsils, Miklos Molnar (a growling and surly Eastern European, decades before Borat),or how about the classic song "Sentimental Journey" brilliantly brought to life by an empty office...
The bulk of this material hasn't been seen since original airings of the show. All these rarities feel amazingly fresh even today (I recently spent a year launching a morning TV show, and I cribbed a lot of Kovacs). If you're a fan of TV, especially early TV... or you just like to laugh, this is a terrific set. I'll be commemorating the 50th anniversary of the loss of this under-sung genius by playing some of the discs from this set today. Yes, I'll be marvelling at the genius of Ernie Kovacs, but more importantly I'll be laughing too.