Tuesday, February 9, 2010


If there were to be an epitaph for ERNIE KOVACS vivid and vibrant television history , it might be that one picture is worth a thousand laughs.

An incomparable video visionary, KOVACS understanding of silent storytelling was comensurate with cinema's earliest and most brilliant innovators, like Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd.

In the 1950's and early 1960's, television comedy was a brash and bold genre.But Kovacs, a Trenton, New Jersey native,had an eclectic repertoire. He occasionally employed a studied silence and creative production techniques to provoke loud and loving laughter from an audience that was a lot smarter than most network executives and program producers believed.

A man who was reported to be of vast and insatiable appetites in private life,that ranged from cigars to cards, ERNIE KOVACS actually left a legacy of subtle, stylish television comedy that was substantive and insightful in , both ,its social commentary and satirical impact.

One of his last efforts in video was a silent,B&W,ABC-TV comedy special, entitled EUGENE. It was 30 minutes in the life of an innocent. KOVACS portrayed Eugene as a person who viewed the world much as a camera: without guile or preconceived notion. His obsevrations were subjective, but not judgemental.

Eugene was one of KOVACS' beloved family of eccentric characters, like poet Percy Dovetonsils or magician Matzoh Heppelwhite. We follow EUGENE on his solitary and confusing journey with hilarious result.

It would be only a few months after this prime-time special aired on ABC-TV, that KOVACS would die in a Los Angeles car accident on January 13, 1962. He was survived by his second wife and frequent comic, co-conspirator Edie Adams, his first wife, Betty Wilcox and three children.

On January 23, 1962, what would have been his 43rd birthday, ABC-TV re-broadcast EUGENE.Subsequently,the Television Academy posthumously bestowed an Emmy Award upon KOVACS for the special.

It may look a bit primitive to those who grew up with digital video images , computer graphics and advanced, non-linear editing techniques,but the laughter still echoes loudly between the scan lines.

From his earliest work on shows like 3 TO GET READY at Philadelphia's original, NBC-TV affiliate, PHILCO'S WPTZ ( now KYW-TV , CBS 3) ,ERNIE KOVACS explored the burgeoning medium and experimented with early video as a tool for creating comedy in ways that few of his contemporaries, or succeeding generations of media practitioners, for that matter, ever did. He left a rich portfolio upon which David Letterman , George Schlatter and Conan O'Brien have built.

If you want to learn more about the incredible career and extraordinary legacy of ERNIE KOVACS , please visit The excellent ERNIE KOVACS BLOG (http://erniekovacs.blogspot.com/)which is written by two of his most devoted fans, Al Quagliata and Ben Model.

Here, posted below, from the video-rich, DOUG QUICK, YOU TUBE site, is a 9:38 excerpt of EUGENE. Enjoy!!!!!

1 comment:

  1. Paul,

    A great post and thanks so much for the heads up about our EK Blog.

    I just received a question today about the color version of "The Silent Show" (aka "Eugene) and came over here remembering that you had written a post on it at some point. I know there was a short clip which is no longer up. Ironic that this is your most recent post.

    Anyone who clicks the link in this comment will be brought to a post where I talk a bit about that color version.

    Al Quagliata