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The Ernie Kovacs Collection

4.4 out of 5 stars 67 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Television’s Original Genius

In the infancy of any medium, there will be some who realize its potential well before anyone else. Ernie Kovacs was such a visionary, and between 1951 and 1962 he broke rules that hadn’t even been made yet and created a language that is now taken for granted.

The Ernie Kovacs Collection includes six DVDs and over 15 hours of programs that span the all-too-brief but brilliant television career of this hugely influential comic artist, from his earliest local morning shows in Philadelphia through his NBC prime-time shows and the ABC specials that represented the peak of his offbeat humor and creative experimentation with the medium. The Ernie Kovacs Collection is a treasure trove of comedy from television’s original genius, most of it unseen for over 50 years.


* Episodes From His Local and National Morning Shows

* Episodes From His NBC Prime-Time Show

* Kovacs On Music

* Five ABC TV Specials

* The Color Version of His Legendary Silent Show, Eugene

* His Award-Winning Commercials for Dutch Masters Cigars

* Short Films, Tributes, Rarities

* 44-Page Booklet Featuring Rare Photos, Program Notes and an Essay by Jonathan Lethem ( Motherless Brooklyn)

Genius is a term that's tossed around with a considerable lack of care when it comes to entertainment, but in the case of television personality Ernie Kovacs, the appellation is not only deserved but also historically accurate, as this long-overdue retrospective proves. From 1951 until his untimely death in 1962, Kovacs broadened the horizons of the television medium in the most outrageous and creative ways, starting with regional programming in New York and Philadelphia and later through his own shows, including a slew of brilliant specials, on the networks. Kovacs is widely credited as the first television performer to grasp the medium's possibilities, and he tackled them with the wicked glee of a boy let loose in a toy store, experimenting with breaking the fourth wall, early in-camera effects, and visual non sequiturs that rivaled everything from Mad magazine (for which Kovacs wrote) to Marcel Duchamp in their surreal assault on accepted reality. And years before Steve Allen, David Letterman, and Conan O'Brien, Kovacs was also the first television figure to demolish the rules of acceptable on-air behavior by revealing the inner workings of his programs to his viewers or pulling them along for improvised excursions into his studio audience or the street outside his studio.

The material compiled on the six-disc Ernie Kovacs Collection, much of which comprises the only surviving masters of his work (wife and costar Edie Adams spent the four decades following his death attempting to save his shows from the networks, which were all too ready to destroy the tapes), provides an overview of Kovacs's television career, with full discs devoted to his local and national morning shows as well as his prime-time efforts, including the legendary silent special, Eugene, which finds Kovacs's titular innocent abroad in a world driven by visual puns. An episode of his truly offbeat game show, Take a Good Look, is also featured, as well as a sampling of his brilliant commercials for Dutch Masters cigars, and a full disc is given over to his best-loved skits and characters, including the wiggy poet Percy Dovetonsils, proto-horror host Uncle Gruesome, grumpy Hungarian TV host Miklos Molnar (who tangles with Howdy Doody), and the legendary Nairobi Trio, which is still capable of generating gales of laughter, despite its simple premise, after five decades. A treasure trove of supplemental material, from 8mm home movies and short films to a collection of Edie Adams's sultry spots for Muriel Cigars, rounds out this set that cements Kovacs's status as one of television's most extraordinary personalities. --Paul Gaita

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Ernie Kovacs
  • Directors: Ernie Kovacs
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Color, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 6
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Shout! Factory
  • DVD Release Date: April 19, 2011
  • Run Time: 780 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B004IB04NU
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #43,804 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bruce Canwell on February 4, 2011
What grand news to learn of this collection! I came to Ernie by watching the PBS half-hour series originally broadcast in the mid-1970s, and the years have only added to my appreciation for this ground-breaking comedian whose own life was touched by uncertainty and loss while he was making audiences laugh. Ernie pioneered the music video (admittedly, he did it with classical music), his blackout sketches were often tremendous, and his cast of characters -- Wolfgang von Saurbraten, Auntie Grusome, Uncle Buddy, Miklos Molnar, and of course Percy Dovetonsils -- are good enough to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the creations of comedians such as Red Skelton and Jackie Gleason. The budgets and the technologies of the '50s could not always match Ernie's restless imagination, but even when the effects look dated to modern eyes, the _ideas_ at play are always first-rate. Ready for a good laugh? You'll get it with The Ernie Kovacs Collection!
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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 42, 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. With this DVD release - and all the press it should garner - the rest of the world, and a whole new generation of fans should become Ernie-holics. MAJOR credit for this release 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.
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Judge Chris Claro, DVD Verdict -- "Half a century after his death, Ernie Kovacs, with his antic eyebrows and head-honcho cigar, still stands as a comic genius. Thanks to this treasure trove from Shout! Factory,Kovacs' innovative techniques and singular comedy are available to a new generation through an exhaustive six-disc box that chronicles his criminally short career. As with many of its collections, Shout! Factory outdoes itself with extras. Among the other gems that Shout! Factory has unearthed for this cornucopia of Kovacs is the comic's silent half-hour, Eugene. While it certainly appears dated fifty years on, the invention behind the special, in which a mild-mannered guy goes about his day, is still dazzling."
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By smurdge on April 24, 2011
One of the best things about Ernie Kovacs was his consummate ease in front of the camera. There has probably never been another performer before or since who is so relaxed, so personable. There is none of the "i'm so much hipper than you vibe" that spoils a lot of comedy today- Kovacs was having a wonderful time, and he wanted you to have a wonderful time too. Even so, his sense of humor was quite dark for the 1950s. Hardly a skit goes by without some reference to death or pain, from Miklos Molnar killing Howdy Doody by cutting his strings with a pair of scissors to Kovacs himself bleeding to death while a vapid game show panel tries to guess "whom dunnit". There is a definite edge to much of his work that is the most startling thing here, more so than the technological experimentation or even the bizarre images that he could dream up. Though Ernie reportedly did not like working in front of an audience, I think he was energized by the crowd. I tend to prefer the 1956 NBC shows because they have that feeling of anything can happen that's missing from the more formalized ABC specials. But it's all wonderful stuff.

This is a beautifully produced box set, worthy of Ernie, which is saying a lot. I'm sure this was a labor of love by all concerned, especially by the late Edie Adams who made sure Kovacs' work did not end up at the bottom of the Atlantic like most other NBC programs of the period. We should have a discussion about the wisdom of allowing for-profit corporations to be the guardians of our cultural heritage, but I suppose this isn't the place.

Anyway, buy this. It's one of the best DVD boxes ever.
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This is without question the definitive set of Kovacs' work. I loved every minute. The one problem is that Amazon and other retailers don't include the 7th bonus disc. You only get it if you order directly from Shout Factory, who puts the set out. Sorry Amazon.

It's definitely worth it to get the bonus disc. I really enjoyed it. You get two clips from "Tonight!", from October 22 and December 11 1956, one which has a "Eugene" sketch and another which features Ernie, along with Allen Funt as a guest, doing a "Candid Camera" satire. "Eugene" was first introduced on "Tonight!", I believe, so this may have been the first time he was seen. Then there's "Tonight! America After Dark" from July 26, 1957 which is an interview with Ernie and Edie in their penthouse on Central Park West. In addition you get about an hour's worth of extra bits culled from various installments of "The Ernie Kovacs Show", which aired from 8-9pm on NBC, Mondays, July 2-Sept 10, 1956. The bonus disc contains an extra TWO HOURS worth of material.

There are several websites devoted to Ernie and they all have links to the Shout Factory site that has the bonus. It's about five bucks more than it costs here, not including shipping. A no brainer for the true Kovacs fan.
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