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CBS (ended 1967)

Ernie Kovacs Forum

  • Avatar of astorino

    astorino

    [1]Jun 14, 2005
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    Post all about Ernie Kovacs here.
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  • Avatar of EveCarla

    EveCarla

    [2]Jun 27, 2005
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    Anybody else out there find Ernie Kovacs to be a great addition to the panel?

    I thought he rocked. I was wary in the beginning because he had that whacky, absurdist sensibility in his own show (which admittedly I only know about from what I've read) & I wondered how that would fly with the urbane yet down-to-earth regulars. But he was great...seemed very comfortable in the format & with the other panelists & was witty & smooooooth. The absurdist stuff got in there, too, like in his intro for DK: "And now, the woman who will be sitting downwind of my cigar...Miss Dorothy Kilgallen!" & his pained reaction to getting a "Yes" answer but wishing he could just skip the whole thing. I thought it played out great. Very enjoyable -

    & very poignant again, seeing him looking so vital & handsome & knowing what WE know - that he was doomed to a premature & ugly demise. & Sal Mineo, oh my God...such a darling & so loaded with charisma.

    There's an emotional component to WML? that I would not have banked on.
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    Factotum1

    [3]Jul 5, 2005
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    Some Ruminations on Early Ernie

    Kovacs was always fun, and he had an incredible gift that worked out beautifully with the new medium of Television; he had a vision of his own, a rare commodity that comes along all too rarely. I'm sure as a child, he saw many of the masters of film comedy, their various sight gags, minuscule to heroic, and perhaps formed ideas of how to he'd skew reality himself, if given a chance.
    Well, the Philadelphia/mid Jersey area was as far from Hollywood as one could get without leaving land first, so prospects of film making never posed themselves to Ernie, but early television did, and Ernie made the jump from disc jockey and tabloid newspaper columnist on a struggling new paper ("The Trentonian") to WPTZ, Channel 3 in Philly in December 1950. An ad announcing his forthcoming debut in TV DIGEST shows a photo of him looking like a 14 year old with a penciled on Latin lover boy moustache! There he would work something appalling like 12 hours a day doing everything from a morning disc jockey TV show to a cooking series. ("Deadline for dinner", or as Ernie insisted on calling it, "Dead lion for dinner")He applied the concept of sight gagging everything, or at least, appearing to not take anything seriously. He worked hard at being the breezy, irreverent guy we remember him as.
    Unfortunately, not a lot exists from Ernie's Philadelphia years, probably not much was ever recorded. There's a piece of an "It's Time For Ernie" (1951), which employs a filmed gag made in the studio of Ernie shooting an arrow, which is then picked up in flight, with the camera at an angle, then rapid cut to another angle of same, then another to imply that it's ricocheting off the studio walls, then the last shot shows it ends up in Ernie's head! Well, you have to see it to laugh. He could do some subtler stuff too, In a 1951 "Ernie in Kovacsland", He speaks to the camera in close-up, then in the middle of his show, on-air, he decides to get a drink of water. He turns away, walks calmly off the set(Which resembled an incredibly cluttered radio station announcer's booth), open the studio doors, walk down a long hallway, all in view of a stationary camera. we see the tiny figure of Ernie bend down and get a drink from a water cooler. then he returns up the hallway at a nonchalant pace as if he had nothing important to do, comes back into the studio, and passes up close to the camera which has remained fixed, as if spellbound to the mundane-turned-fascinating deed. Ernie only suddenly realizes it's presence,saying; "Are you still here?"
    His viewers were mainly housewives, on during the daytime while kids were in school and husbands making a living. Though his sense of humor probably will appeal to men, with the references to mayhem, disasters, death and even torture,(for his 1956 NBC daytime series he wanted a torture chamber set, but they met him halfway and gave him a foreboding medieval stone walled castle wall and an evil dark throne to sit on) and general irreverence to popular culture. Throughout it all, Edie was a very talented helpmate. She was trained to be a singer (at Juliard, no less), but she could do any comedy acting that was asked of her. I think she has been seriously overlooked over the years, but then again, it's hard to step out from Kovacs' huge shadow.
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  • Avatar of Fat-tote-bag

    Fat-tote-bag

    [4]Jul 5, 2005
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    You can't generalize that viewers of Ernie Kovacs' daytime shows were mainly housewives. Maybe they were in certain bedroom communities, but large cities like New York and Chicago always have had men who do shift work.

    Ever heard of something called a "shift differential ?" It existed in the 1950s.

    Had Kovacs' audiences consisted mostly of housewives, he wouldn't have become a comedy legend.
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  • Avatar of Factotum1

    Factotum1

    [5]Jul 6, 2005
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    Oh no- another identity for "Jan Simonson"!
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  • Avatar of ymike673

    ymike673

    [6]Jul 6, 2005
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    I was really hoping that Ernie would ask the lady who makes cigar's if "The product was something he would use" but unfortunatly it did not happen. Did anyone notice the look on his face when the panel was told her occupation? Its too bad he was only on the panel for a short time.
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    Factotum1

    [7]Jul 6, 2005
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    The upcoming episode (8 September 1957) shows Ernie at his best- as a mystery guest, see how Ernie gives Dorothy a special clue to his identity!
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  • Avatar of ymike673

    ymike673

    [8]Jul 6, 2005
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    On the Sept.1 episode John Daly told the panel that Ernie would be away for a few weeks to make a movie. I would guess he said this to throw off the rest of the panel since Ernie would be the mystery guest on the next show.
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  • Avatar of Stopette

    Stopette

    [9]Jul 6, 2005
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    Factotum1 wrote:
    Oh no- another identity for "Jan Simonson"!


    Oh no, it's another non sequitur from the prophet Eric J. Paddon AKA Factotum1 AKA Lisa Pease of Illinois AKA West Virginia AKA New Jersey.

    What does the identity of an obscure Internet commentator have to do with Ernie Kovacs' use of daytime TV programming fifty years ago ?

    You've made another non sequitur, Mr. Fact Paddin' Nutcase. As a creature of habit you're liable to say the same thing I've said. Non sequitur.
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  • Avatar of Stopette

    Stopette

    [10]Jul 6, 2005
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    ymike673 wrote:
    On the Sept.1 episode John Daly told the panel that Ernie would be away for a few weeks to make a movie. I would guess he said this to throw off the rest of the panel since Ernie would be the mystery guest on the next show.


    The film Ernie made in 1957 was "Operation Mad Ball" with Jack Lemmon. Jack did soundbite interviews for a 1982 PBS documentary on Ernie. They were friends.

    For all we know, Bob Bach could have booked Ernie Kovacs at the last minute for the Sept. 8 episode. Gil Fates writes in his book that Mr. Bach sometimes had to find somebody at the last minute. The May 26, 1957 incident with Mike Wallace and Sammy Davis wasn't the only time it happened. As for Sept. 8, we'll never know the truth because Kovacs, Bach, Fates, Goodson and everyone else who knew is dead.
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  • Avatar of ymike673

    ymike673

    [11]Jul 7, 2005
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    Ernie had already filmed "Operation Mad Ball" because Dorothy said she had seen it and it was great. Ernie was probably filming "It Happened To Jane" at the time of this WML episode.
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  • Avatar of Fat-tote-bag

    Fat-tote-bag

    [12]Jul 7, 2005
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    ymike673 wrote:
    Ernie had already filmed "Operation Mad Ball" because Dorothy said she had seen it and it was great. Ernie was probably filming "It Happened To Jane" at the time of this WML episode.


    It's impossible to know exactly when in 1957 those movies were in production.
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  • Avatar of ymike673

    ymike673

    [13]Jul 7, 2005
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    Fat-tote-bag wrote:
    ymike673 wrote:
    Ernie had already filmed "Operation Mad Ball" because Dorothy said she had seen it and it was great. Ernie was probably filming "It Happened To Jane" at the time of this WML episode.


    It's impossible to know exactly when in 1957 those movies were in production.


    Since Dorothy claimed she had seen "Operation Mad Ball", Ernie must have been finished with that film.
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  • Avatar of Fat-tote-bag

    Fat-tote-bag

    [14]Jul 8, 2005
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    But we still don't what kind of vacation he was planning to go on.
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  • Avatar of Fat-tote-bag

    Fat-tote-bag

    [15]Jul 8, 2005
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    Fat-tote-bag wrote:
    But we still don't what kind of vacation he was planning to go on.


    We still don't know ...
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  • Avatar of ymike673

    ymike673

    [16]Jul 8, 2005
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    It was mentioned on the previous show that Ernie was going to Hollywood to appear in a film.
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  • Avatar of Linneman

    Linneman

    [17]Jul 8, 2005
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    After his appearance as a semi-mystery guest John Daly asked Ernie how he did Wednesday and he replied (major paraphrase here)that he had lost and not done well. Both Mr. Daly and Mr. Kovacs were poker players. Mr. Kovacs was apparently a notably bad gambler, something that added to his precarious financial situation at the time of his death. From fallible memory I think this came from Diana Rico's 1990 biography "Kovacsland" which I read when it came out.

    Kovacs' 1962 book "How to talk at Gin" I remember fondly as quite funny, although I read it probably 25 years ago.

    BTW, has anybody read Edie Adams' autobiography? ("Sing a Pretty Song", also 1990). Is it worth reading? I'm tempted - it apparently has quite a bit on Ernie.
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  • Avatar of Factotum1

    Factotum1

    [18]Jul 8, 2005
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    His appearance on the 8 Sept 57 show is definitely a WML? classic moment; Ernie's need to be subversive served to make a self-parody the show that would be hard to equal. He really had a gift for satire- he even sabotaged the "Write-in"! Daly's admonishment; "You're the worst guest we've ever had!" was a choice bit of irony because few MGs have been funnier.
    Due to the popularity of WML? over the years, many parodies were done, probably one of the easiest to get is on a 1954 episode of THE BUICK-BERLE SHOW, which used to show up on $1.oo Woolworth's tapes.The gag in that skit was that a man dressed in fireman's gear lugging a hose signed in as "Fire Captain so-and-so", and the panel was stumped.
    Ernie's own TAKE A GOOD LOOK was just one long parody of a panel show. He had it archly stocked with guest panelist that had funny voices/accents, like Caesar Romero or Zsa Zsa, whom which they could together bewilder the audience by speaking Hungarian. It was a silly game, based somewhat on IT'S NEWS TO ME, although the videotaped "clues" were remarkably obtuse. For instance, we see a young couple kissing in passionate embrace. Suddenly, an explosion! The smoke clears and we find they haven't budged an inch, though they're dirty and frazzled. The room that they were in is a burnt out ruin. The panel is baffled, as usual. Ernie reveals that it was supposed to remind them of an incident of a year before where a newlywed couple spent their honeymoon in a bomb shelter! Often the panel rebelled, I remember Hans Conried shouting to Ernie that he was a Hungarian Goulash! Ernie retorted "You're a Viennese Sausage!". Once, Ernie had to pull a gun out to make the panel sit back and behave!
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  • Avatar of ymike673

    ymike673

    [19]Jul 8, 2005
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    Back in the 1980's channel 9 here in NY replayed the "Take A Good Look" series. It was a very funny show and I wish someone would release the show on DVD.
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  • Avatar of Factotum1

    Factotum1

    [20]Jul 8, 2005
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    Believe it or not, just such a project is in the discussion stage. Edie owns them all, as well as lots of other Kovacs gold. You can see a lot of gems from her archive at the Museum of Television. (or at least they were there a few years ago.)Go down there and Take a good look. so to speak!
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