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Saved from being erased, this 2nd set of Kovacs material will show you where Letterman Stewart, SNL and even Johnny Carson learn
on October 27, 2012
In 2011 there was great joy among fans of the late comedian/actor/writer Ernie Kovacs when the first volume of ultra rare Kovacs material was released by Shout Factory. The volume garnered many five-star reviews (including mine here on Amazon) and introduced a whole new generation (actually TWO generations, since Kovacs died in 1962 and his name had all but been forgotten - except by those of us who grew up watching him on TV.)
We were told that there was more material "in the vaults" - meaning that it was held by Kovacs widow - Edie Adams - who bought all the original video tapes and kinescopes from the networks when they were ready to erase the tapes and re-use them. The time has come and we now have Volume Two, a somewhat smaller set (just three DVDs this time) but there is still a lot of VERY funny material.
But for those new to Kovacs, let me provide some background:
Long before Monty Python, Saturday Night Live, and David Letterman's late night TV shows, there was Ernie Kovacs. It's almost certain that the creators of these sketch comedy and host-behind-the desk shows watched Kovacs during his all too brief career. (He died in a car crash in 1962, at age 47, barely 12 years since first appeared on local TV in Philadelphia). As irony would have it, Comedy Central host Jon Stewart was born in Trenton, New Jersey - Kovacs birthplace as well - the same year that Kovacs died. And Stewart (real name: Jonathan Stuart Liebowitz) would not be the success he is if Kovacs hadn't paved the way. (I, too, was born in Trenton and remember as a young kid, when Kovacs made the move from radio in Trenton to television in Philly.)
For the last four decades Kovacs was an "underground" celebrity. He was often overlooked in the history of TV and comedy. That was, until that first collection was released. . MAJOR credit for these releases (with, hopefully MORE to come!) needs to go to two people and a company. First is Edie Adams, Kovacs wife and co-star of his show. After Ernie's death, when the major TV networks (Kovacs shows were on NBC, ABC and Dumont) were erasing the video tapes of show to re-use them, Adams bought - at great personal expense - as many as she could - thus saving them from oblivion. She created an archive, now managed by her son - from her second marriage - Josh Mills. Mills is the "keeper of the Kovacs flame" and the Producer of this set. The third party we need to thank is Shout Factory, the LA video reissue company, who is making this available for home viewing in such a deluxe package. And, they pay even more of a tribute by offering a FOURTH "bonus DVD" with a few more of the "Take a Good Look" shows - but only if you order direct from them. (I haven't seen the bonus disc so I can't commemnt on it.)
I won't go into too much more detail about Kovacs because you probably found this review after reading about the set and want to know how good it is. (again, especially if you have the first set.)Well. It's better than good: It's Great. The first shows (1950), sadly, no longer exist. While his early Philly shows were on the first collection, this one starts with the daytime show done in New York.The prints (from the kinescopes) are not super sharp but more than passable, while the later ones (including Kovacs' game shows) look superb.And, There is a booklet with details of the shows but it's not as thick as the one that came with the first set.
There were some Kovacs VHS tapes released years ago and a few of those clips are here too (though in better quality, if that exists). But MOST of the contents on the set have not been seen in over 50 years! I'm told that there are still more shows "in the vault" so hopefully large sales will encourage Mills and Shout Factory to follow up with another sequel. The large sales of the first collection seemed to have shown SF that there is a market for Kovacs.
If you remember Kovacs you need to see this collection. (and if you have the first one, you know what to expect.) If you are too young to remember him, you need to see this as well. This is where those TV comedy icons YOU know got their ideas!
I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.