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It’s Time for Ernie!

September 19, 2012

I watched the Barbara Walters “20/20” special about greatest TV shows of all time and wasn’t surprised that there was no mention of Ernie Kovacs. The “greatest” shows had been decided by popular vote, and how many viewers today (certainly not the non-Boomers) even remember Kovacs?

I’m old enough to have watched him as a child. He scared me, with that moustache and big cigar and he looked about seven feet tall to a wee one like myself. But I couldn’t stop watching him. Everything he did was so bizarre, so different from the other shows I watched: Lassie, Mr. Ed, To Tell the Truth. And I absolutely hated “I Love Lucy,” the show voted greatest of all time. The only episode I liked was the one in which Kovacs had a guest role.

Kovacs was a pioneer, breaking all the accepted rules, living according to the motto “Nothing in Moderation.” Some of his contemporaries copied him; Johnny Carson and Steve Allen come to mind. “Laugh-In” was inspired by Kovacs’ shows. Later comedians also have said they were influenced by Kovacs.

The problem was that Ernie Kovacs was way ahead of his time and wasn’t appreciated until long after his death. He wasn’t popular because he was an “acquired taste.” Whatever that means.

It doesn’t matter. I acquired a taste for his humor long ago and accumulated tapes of his show and plan to watch one tonight. That Percy Dovetonsils cracks me up. And the Nairobi Trio never fails to delight.




From → Verbiage

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