TV Junkie: The Ernie Kovacs Collection; Duran Duran on 'Chelsea Lately'
Today "The Ernie Kovacs Collection" was released on DVD by Shout Factory. Ernie Kovacs was a genius who took singlehandedly took television to a new level. Kovacs had a career as an actor and guested on almost every single TV program from 1951 to 1962 as well as feature films like Our Man In Havana, Bell Book and Candle, and many others. He is less known as a composer, writer, and in this case, TV show creator and runner. Whereas most TV productions looked more like stage plays with a TV camera placed in front of them, Kovacs recognized the medium as something that was greater than the stage and yet very different from film production. If you have enjoyed the sketch comedy of "Monty Python," "Saturday Night Live," "SCTV," "The Kids In The Hall," and perhaps even "The Banana Splits," you will recognize how much these shows were inspired by Ernie Kovacs.
Absurd, surreal, sometimes political, always archly comic and intelligent, Kovacs brought his brand of comedy to a primetime show on NBC and multiple specials on ABC in the 1950s. The DVD set contains more than 13 hours of his work from the 1950s and 1960s, some of which has never been seen since it originally aired. The earliest programs were saved from kinescopes, which were 16mm films from cameras pointed at TV monitors. Did we mention that the majority of these programs were done on live television and that these kinescopes were done because videotape hadn't been invented yet? Yes, Kovacs was breaking the 4th wall, doing long and elaborate takes of highly complicated sketches on live TV, before video tape and before computers.
From his earliest shows, like "Ernie in Kovacsland," he was doing spoof commercials in between his live sketches and interviews meaning that there was no downtime on set - every moment his program was on, he and his cast was "on." Later, in his primetime show, "The Ernie Kovacs Show," Kovacs took advantage of his larger budget and added movie spoofs and music numbers with a full jazz ensemble. One would think that Kovacs would become more mainstream in his primetime venue but he stayed true to himself and his TV experiments continued with shows done without dialogue or an entire ballet done by dancers in gorilla suits. Kovacs was given another show, this time a celebrity panel show called "Take A Good Look" that Kovacs made into a surreal parody of panel shows.
For fans of television, this collection provides a great insight into how television was made in its early days and how radically Kovacs challenged standards that are still in effect today. Best of all, it's all very engaging, and when not hilariously funny, artistic and mesmerizing. Still, one can't help but reflect on how much more Kovacs could have done before his premature death in a Hollywood car accident in 1962. I'm not sure if/when "The Ernie Kovacs Collention" will be made available via Netflix but if you don't want to buy the set, absolutely put it on your queue to check out this unsung entrepreneur whose influence is still felt today.
We didn't get to go to Coachella but we sure as hell are going to enjoy Duran Duran on "Chelsea Lately" tonight at 11pm on E! We know that Chelsea Handler and show writer Chris Franjola are huge fans of Duran Duran so there will definitely be some antics on tonight's show. It's our pick of the night! Also, fans of the show seemed to really like Chris Franjola's (@ChrisFranjola) gay caveman character that was unveiled last week - looks like he's already got a Twitter address: @Real_GayCaveman
The TV Junkie Must-Watch Plan: "Attack of the Show," "The Fabulous Beekman Boys," "Raising Hope," "Traffic Light," "Sports Show With Norm Macdonald," "Chelsea Lately" (Duran Duran), "Lopez Tonight" (Actor Dax Shepard; actor Gary Busey)
7:00pm Attack of the Show! G4 - New DVDs; game break.
8:00pm Deadliest Catch Discovery - New Blood The 2010 season begins with new people joining the crab fleet.
8:00pm The Fabulous Beekman Boys Planet Green - With last year's modest success Brent is hard at work prepping for the 2nd Annual Harvest Festival, but as 5,000 visitors descend on the tiny village the festival becomes more than anyone could have imagined.
8:00pm Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution ABC - Jamie succeeds in his efforts to gain support and is permitted to teach students about healthy eating
8:30pm The Franchise: A Season With the San Francisco Giants Showtime - The lives of the players, coaches and team personnel.
9:00pm Raising Hope Fox - Maw Maw falls for a man she meets at Dead Tooth's day care; Sabrina thinks her college boyfriend is cheating on her.
9:00pm Deadliest Catch Discovery - Proving Grounds Bad fishing causes high tensions and low morale.
9:00pm Bizarre Foods With Andrew Zimmern Travel - Indonesia
9:00pm Frontline PBS/KOCE - The Silence Abuse of Native Americans by priests and church workers in Alaska; outsourcing of airline repair work to lower-cost maintenance operations; Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei.
9:30pm Traffic Light Fox - Callie and Adam baby-sit Tommy; Lisa and Mike have a romantic weekend away; Ethan's new fling lacks chemistry.
10:00pm Independent Lens PBS/KLCS - Waste Land Artist Vik Muniz travels to the world's largest garbage dump in Brazil; there he photographs catadores, collectors, as they pick through materials to sell for recycling.
10:00pm Parenthood NBC - No More Amber is in an accident; Adam finds Max's behavior troubling; Julia helps a woman deliver a baby
10:00pm Body of Proof ABC - Curtis questions Ethan's interest in the investigation of the mysterious death of a beautiful twin; Megan runs into resistance while investigating the death of a patient at the hospital where she used to work.
10:30pm Sports Show With Norm Macdonald Comedy Central - What Kobe Bryant called that ref; Norm takes on Barry Bonds; Norm's nephew files a report from the field. [See clip at end of this post]
11:00pm Conan TBS - Actress Tina Fey; CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta; Plan B performs.
11:00pm Chelsea Lately E! - Duran Duran.
12:00am Lopez Tonight TBS - Actor Dax Shepard; actor Gary Busey; Lee Dewyze performs.
12:05am Jimmy Kimmel Live ABC - Actor Dwayne Johnson; author Sammy Hagar; the latest contestant eliminated from "Dancing With the Stars"; The Belle Brigade performs.
12:35am The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson CBS - Comic Kathy Griffin; astronomer Derrick Pitts.