Unseen by audiences for more than a half-century, the television variety series Here's Edie
does much to promote the legacy of its star, Emmy-nominated actress, singer, and television preservationist Edie Adams, as a small-screen visionary on par with her celebrated husband, Ernie Kovacs. Here's Edie
, which aired on ABC from 1962 to 1964, provided not only a spotlight for Adams's numerous talents--a Tony winner on Broadway for Li'l Abner
, she also proved to be a fine film actress, as evidenced by turns in Billy Wilder's The Apartment
, among many other pictures, and could more than hold her own as a comic performer in the surreal maelstrom generated by Kovacs--but also a means of alleviating the staggering financial burdens placed upon her by his untimely passing in 1962. Here's Edie
shines a spotlight on all of her particular gifts, from an abundance of musical numbers--everything from Broadway to Brecht--to quirky comic bits featuring Adams in tandem with stars like Bob Hope, Buddy Hackett, Dick Shawn, and Soupy Sales. But the series' unexpected gifts are a wealth of stellar musical and dramatic guests, including such jazz luminaries as the Duke Ellington String Quartet, Count Basie and His Orchestra, and Stan Getz, all of whom are given extended and exceptional showcases to play live for a national TV audience on a major network. Singers are naturally a staple of the show, with such talents as Sammy Davis Jr. (who gets to show off his dancing and impressions), Bobby Darin, Johnny Mathis, and Eddie Fisher each performing current and songbook numbers. Though never emphasized by the program, the fact that Adams was provided equal amounts of airtime and even collaborating as an equal with African-American performers only adds to the series' remarkable nature.
But what sets Here's Edie apart from the majority of variety series and helps to underscore Adams's unheralded gifts, are the first eight episodes of the program, each of which is devoted to a single theme or concept: "Love," "New York," "Bossa Nova," and so on. Unlike the traditional variety series approach to these ideas--skit-musical-number-skit--Adams and her producer-director Barry Shear address them in a manner similar to Kovacs's specials for ABC, with quick edits, nonlinear and wordless sketches, experiments with split-screen and other in-camera effects, and other decidedly artful approaches that seem more in line with television projects that came a decade or more after Here's Edie left the air. The show was also willing to tackle some ambitious location shooting, most notably on the streets of New York and amidst London neighborhoods still displaying damage from World War II, for a small-screen effort, and devote air time to decidedly nontraditional material, like Peter Falk's monologue as a New York cabbie and Sir Michael Redgrave overlooking the Thames while reciting the St. Crispin's Day speech from Henry V. These are quietly thrilling moments, both in concept and execution, and it's a shame that they--and Adams--didn't receive the acclaim they deserved due to the relatively short network run of Here's Edie. Thankfully, modern audiences can reframe their understanding of and appreciation for her gifts with this four-disc set, compiled by her son, Josh Mills, who also provides thorough liner notes on the show's history, which are also annotated with program notes by historian Ben Model and appreciative comments from admirers ranging from Bob Dylan to Ann Magnuson and Paul Reubens. The set is rounded out by a wealth of terrific extras, including 19 musical numbers (some exclusive to this set) by Adams from various iterations of Kovacs's TV output, a pair of promos by Adams and Sid Caesar for their respective shows, which alternated weeks in the same time slot, and a terrific, jet-setting 1965 promotional film for Muriel cigars, which Edie promoted in an iconic series of sultry commercials throughout the decade, and whose parent company, Consolidated Cigar Corporation, backed both the Kovacs specials and Here's Edie. --Paul Gaita