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The Best of Ernie Kovacs

4.3 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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(Nov 28, 2000)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The Best of Ernie Kovacs is a revealing, sympathetic close-up of one of America's greatest comedians. From the hustling days of radio in Trenton, to the premiers in New York, and on to the extravaganzas in Hollywood, Kovacs' career and lifestyle are explored in a way that brings his memory back to life.

Amazon.com

For anyone interested in the history of television comedy, The Best of Ernie Kovacs is indispensable. This five-part series, originally broadcast on PBS, is a six-hour guided tour through Kovacsland, and a more surreal or cockeyed landscape has never been broadcast over "the orthicon tube." The best cigar-mustache combo since Groucho, Kovacs, who perished in a car wreck in 1962, was one of the fledgling medium's pioneers. He turned staid television convention on its ear and satirized the medium itself (David Letterman is a kindred spirit). The Best of Ernie Kovacs offers a generous sampling of more than 100 blackouts, musical diversions (including a simian version of "Swan Lake"), sketches, and technological dalliances. The macabre game show "Whom Dunnit," in which a panel must determine the identity of the mystery guest who has wounded an unfortunate studio audience member, would not be out of place on "Saturday Night Live." Another highlight is "Eugene," a 1961 broadcast in which not a word is uttered. And let's not forget the musical gorilla-costumed Nairobi Trio, one of Kovacs's signature creations. The DVD edition has a few noteworthy additions, including a clip from Kovacs's 1959 quiz show, Take a Good Look. In another memorable clip, Edie Adams, Kovacs's wife, performs her definitive impersonation of Marilyn Monroe (singing "The Ballad of Davy Crockett"). Though this footage dates back to television's early days, this is no antiquated museum piece. Some of it is dated, but much of what Kovacs unleashed on an unsuspecting public is fresher, funnier, and more original than most of what passes for prime-time programming. Boy, do we need him now. --Donald Liebenson

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Format: Black & White, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: White Star
  • DVD Release Date: November 28, 2000
  • Run Time: 360 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000056B07
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,595 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This 2-disc set includes all of the 1977 PBS Series that re-introduced this television pioneer to a new audience. Seeing this material again for me after almost twenty years was like visiting an old friend and catching up on great times. I would caution those just discovering Kovacs, however, that some of this DVD is not side-splittingly funny in a conventional sense; rather, much of it is gently humorous and cerebral. Mostly, it is fascinating - incredibly surreal (still the most surreal stuff EVER seen on television) and way, WAY ahead of its' time; much of Kovacs work remains indescribable and uncategoriazable. Having said that, characters such as Percy Dovetonsils and the Nairobi Trio will have even the most jaded viewer chuckling, if not laughing out loud at the sheer outrageousness of these images. Keeping in mind when these shows were made (late 50's/early 60's) Kovacs' body of work remains among the most subversive ever done for network television. By the way, Kovacs solemnly intoning a scene from Julius Ceaser, dressed in full Roman centurian regalia, and then breaking into a tap-dance is still one of the funniest things that I have ever seen. Highly recommended.
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Format: VHS Tape
These videos are taken from tv shows compiled in the late 70's. We get to see the genius of Kovacs, his great skits, bizarre antics, wild characters, and ingenious visual gags.
But...
We sometimes see the same clip three or four times. The clips are edited together in ways that don't necessarily complement each other. And if I hear that version of "Mack the Knife" again, ...[I'll go insane].
Kovacs is deserving of a new survey of his works. A better job of compiling his work can be done than this, and we don't need to hear the same Jack Lemmon introduction repeatedly. (I do worry that some of this archival material may have deteriorated over the years, hopefully it's still preserved.)
This set is worth your time, and worth your money. It's reasonably priced, and contains a variety of good material. It would just be nice to have a better assembled, more thought-out collection.
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Format: DVD
Ernie Kovacs was the guy who said televsion (50s style) was called a medium because it was neither rare nor well done. He instsed on looking at things his own way, and using TV's technology in ways no one else would even imagine.

Today, whenever a business seminar leader trots out the well-worn cliche "thinking outside the box," Ernie's face comes before me.

And music was innate. So much of Ernie's TV tech stuff was 100% visual, it was tantamount to viewing a series of silent films.

And we remember that silent movies had musical accompaniment. Ernie had to furnish music which would at once associate itself with the ruthlessly original visual imagery and also be, hopefully, something we'd not heard before.

He scoured the globe for 1950s-era music that you'd never heard before. For example, even fifty years later, I cannot hear the version of "Jalousie" on this CD without seeing the "office equipment" visuals he made. And I'd be grateful for a plateful of fish.

Ernie's outlook on things has warped me for life. He made the fifties what they were. There would not be a Saurday Night Live but for his influence.

Now, here's the "but." This collection is better than no collection at all, but not much better. Kovacs was an editor of great skill, and the editing on these DVDs is awful.

So, some Kovacs is better than none at all. But I would hope somebody would come along and do it right some time...
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Format: DVD
I, like the majority of the reviewers for this DVD have great things to say about it. But more that that, I think that people need to see more of Ernie Kovacs' genius. Here was a man with more savvy about what television could do to entertain -- and an understanding of what it could and would become -- than any network programming executive, ever! Most of what's on the DVD is timeless. Unless you only think what's on the WB is actually funny, then get this. Now having said that, I want to make a request. Pester the studios for more of Ernie's work. Write to distributors and demand that for every "Sleazy Coeds in Toxic Appartments of Death" they release that they should also release a "Wake Me When It's Over" or an "Operation Mad Ball" with Ernie Kovacs. The second one, BTW, also stars Jack Lemmon: a double treat. Even Kovacs; "Sail a Crooked Ship" one of his final performances, is a hoot as is "Five Golden Hours," his last movie. Sure, these movies aren't his writing, but he brought an irreverance to the roles that make them a joy to watch, much more so than "Beat Billy Jack to Death with a Bat, Part 7!" And as for this DVD, I think it's as important as The Sid Ceasar Collection as a great TV history lesson we all could use.
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Format: DVD
I haven't seen these bits in nearly 20 years, and coming back to them was like a bullet of nostalgia, with a hint of sadness. Like the voice-over intro states, "Slow down your internal clock. It was a quieter time." The humor is strong on some pieces, but a lot of the stuff on these discs is not as funny as Python, or Belushi. Still, if you take into account the fact that TV was still a relatively new concept, at this time, and that main-stream America was very laid back, and homespun, you look at Ernie's work, and realize how bizarre, funny, and experimental it all was. The sadness only comes in the fact that many people, today, will dismiss it, as my niece did, as stupid, or boring. Ernie even pioneered the concept of music videos! Like the humor of Python, however, some folks just don't get it. As far as the collection, itself, this 2 DISK set is chock full! There is so much to it, I had to stop viewing, after the first disk, because I had had an overdose already, and needed to save the other disk for later. There is just so much on these disks, and it is WONDERFUL to be able to preserve these sketches, rather than losing them to the ravages of time. If you enjoy, and respect, the work of Ernie Kovacs, quite possibly the greatest TV experimentalist of all-time, you need to get this collection. You'll laugh, and remember. Both are important.
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