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Ernie Kovacs: The ABC Specials

3.9 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Before his untimely death at the age of 42, television pioneer Ernie Kovacs left us with a sublime body of comedy work whose influence can be seen on everything from Monty Python to SNL and David Letterman. He made eight TV specials for ABC in 1961, the final year of his life, and these show Kovacs at the peak of his creative experimentation with the medium, featuring many of his comic masterpieces and iconic set pieces. Five of these programs are presented here in complete uncut form, along with many of his celebrated, and delightfully offbeat, commercials for Dutch Masters cigars.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Ernie Kovacs
  • Directors: Ernie Kovacs
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Shout! Factory
  • DVD Release Date: April 17, 2012
  • Run Time: 145 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B006UKX7T0
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #66,852 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

This series of eight half-hour specials from 1961-1962 are essential viewing. There's no other way of putting it. The nice folks at Amazon.com will only allow me to rate it a maximum of five stars. I would give it ten if I could.

In the early 1950s an article was written called, "Kovacs Hates TV". This doesn't surprise me in the least. Radicals are seldom satisfied with things as they are - and Ernie was about as radical as they come. He changed everything. At a time when no one knew what to do with the new invention of videotape, Ernie Kovacs made it sing and dance. He was no mere, run-of-the-mill, fifties television comedian. He was in fact the world's very first video artist - incredible when you consider the fact that the term "video art" did not come into existence until 1966, four years after his passing. Even now, despite a half-century of video's technological evolution, Ernie's work still astounds.

Late on the rainy night of January 13, 1962, Ernie Kovacs was returning home from a party when he lost control of the Corvair station wagon he was driving and crashed it, wrapping the driver's side of the vehicle around the concrete base of a utility pole. He was killed instantly. Ten days later, on what would have been his forty-third birthday, ABC Television aired Ernie's last program which he had been working on right up until the night he died. Of the entire series of monthly half-hour specials he had been doing in the last year of his life, this final program was one of the best. At the end of the broadcast, the reverend who presided over Ernie's funeral was quoted:

"We loved this man. He brought joy, gaiety and laughter to the world. He was a rugged individualist and a creative genius. But he was always ready to listen, and slow to judge.
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Five stars for the material, but this is just a repackaging of one of the DVDs from the Ernie Kovacs Collection. If you love early T.V., and appreciate comic genius, buy the box set. The seeds for Laugh-In, David Letterman, and free-wheeling surreal comedic video were sewn by Ernie.
I also recommend the biography by Diana Rico, Kovacsland. Read it during the same time period you watch the DVDs, and get a deep, real understanding of the revolutionary and visionary Ernie Kovacs.
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I so wanted this to be a five-star review. I remember watching the original Ernie Kovacs broadcasts only to find the same humor and visuals he originated rerun by less creative minds for decades. Ernie Kovacs was more than a brilliant entertainer he was curious about what this new thing called television could be made to do.

Sid Caesar would arrive on national television at about the same time circa 1950. In time Sid Caesar would amass one of the most amazing comedy writing teams before or since. Okay there really was no before. Besides his own comedic skills said Caesar would have the likes of Imogene Coca Neil Simon, Woody Allen and Carl Reiner plus he had the ability to draw many of the top performing acts and stars of his time. Ernie Kovacs had a small resident comedic team and a willingness to take huge risks.

Among his many invented semi regular characters was Eugene. Eugene sketches were one half hour without talking and a few sound effects. One of these half hours is included on this disc. Imagine no talking. It is almost impossible to imagine a more outrageous indeed anti-television sketch. One of Ernie Kovacs' regular bita was a series of short visual jokes strung together between bursts of a German (?) rendition of Mac the knife song into an oscillator. That is to say Ernie Kovacs believed his audience was intelligent and sophisticated. A particular visual joke was based around the concept of books that produced sounds appropriate to the content of that book. You need not know War and Peace to expect a book with that name to produce cannon fire. Not many could be expected to understand why a book named Camille should produce female coughing sounds. For myself, the sketches built around his Nairobi Trio remains some of my favorite television gags.
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As in Shout Factory's Ernie Kovacs box, this collection features only the last five of Kovacs' eight half-hour monthly specials for ABC. Assuming the company withheld these initial 1961 episodes for some future project, I'm baffled as to why they weren't included in this single-disc release.

UPDATE 12/13/2013: Apparently rights to the first three Kovacs ABC-TV Specials are not controlled by Ediad Productions, which explains why they're missing from this DVD and Shout Factory's more extensive Kovacs collections.
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The name Ernie Kovacs today may not resonate with many TV watchers not around in the late 1950's, but this master comedian's innovations in comedy are still being used today in many programs and many viewers don't even know it. Some were so far ahead of their time that only now we see some of them being used. Ernie was a staple on TV from 1950 on, but these classic specials, the last he produced before his tragic car accident in 1959 that took his life, display his great wit, timing, and more. And who can forget his classic cigar commercials (which couldn't be viewed on TV today) and his love for all eras of music, which he used creatively in every program he did. Do yourself a favor and get this set.......you won't regret it!
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