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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

'Ernie Kovacs: The Centennial Collection' DVD: Ideal Tribute to True Pioneer of Television

The Shout! Factory DVD release of "Ernie Kovacs: The Centennial Collection" continues the long Shout! tradition of paying homage to The Golden Age of Television; this proud history includes complete-series releases of "The Goldbergs" who precede Lucy and of the hilarious "Dobie Gillis." That early sitcom about an all-American teen boy launches the careers of Warren Beatty, Tuesday Weld, and Bob Denver. 

Kovacs is a true pioneer television pioneer, who can be considered an early version of a late-20th-century public-access star or an early-21st-century YouTube notable who achieves mainstream success. Shout! awesomely goes incredibly above-and-beyond to make rare material from every stage in the career of Kovacs available. 

As the back-cover of this nine-disc set states, "Centennial" gathers the previously released Shout! collections of Kovacs material. This synopsis describing this material as "groundbreaking, rule-breaking, surreal and charmingly silly comedy" hits the nail squarely on the head. 

The following YouTube video of a Shout! promo. for "Centennial" consists of hilarious clips that demonstrate the humor of Kovacs.

The incredible bonanza of year-end home-video releases is a primary culprit regarding only watching the "The Early Years" disc in "Centennial." The better news is that this leaves the remaining eight discs to savor on a later date.

The best news is that the wonderful bonus features on this disc including Carl Reiner posthumously inducting Kovacs into The Television Academy Hall of Fame provides a cheat-sheet in the form of a solid summary of the roughly 10-year career of a man who is truly is ahead of his time.  

The Reiner tribute notes that Kovacs begins his television career at NBC Philadelphia affiliate WPTZ. Learning that writing and appearing in several television programs each day requires a 15-hour daily schedule arguably makes Kovacs the hardest working man in show biz during that era. These programs include "It's Time for Ernie" and "Kovacs on the Corner."

One difference between this work of Kovacs and the mother of all '50s comedy "I Love Lucy" is that reel Kovacs enthusiastically has real-life spouse Edie Adams appear in the act. 

"Time" particularly highlights the way-out bizarre humor for which Kovacs is well known. A skit that an episode in "Centennial" includes has this man of numerous faces contort his features during a lesson on adjust the settings on a television. Another episode in either "Time" or a very similar program features Kovacs dragging a facsimile of a dead body down a city street.

"Corner" is more polished than "Time" and is of more a variety format that includes special musical guests. We also get everyday folks in what seems to be a regular segment. This consists of two persons exchanging junk with the hope that they end up ahead of the game. 

The included "Corner" episode perfectly illustrates this early-age of television for reasons that extend beyond the general format. We get an epic moment in which Kovacs perfectly ad libs when a piece of scenery collapses during his broadcast. 

The treats on the rest of the chronologically organized discs include an episode of the ready-for-prime-time "Kovacs on Music," episodes of his odd game-show "Take a Good Look," and five ABC specials. We further get the unaired pilot of the comedy-western "Medicine Man" in which Kovacs and Buster Keaton co-star.

As alluded to above, Kovacs is special because he is one of the first to take general humor and improv. to the next level. We arguably can thank him for folks such as Jonathan Winters and Winters devotee Robin Williams. Less thanks is due regarding the "Jackasses" who take advantage of the low-cost of public-access cable and later no-cost YouTube to inflict the same buffonery on their communities and the world that previously was limited to their buddies. 

All this boils down to "Centennial" allowing modern audiences to revel in the guy who was the first (and the best) regarding not being afraid to go there, 

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