This series of eight half-hour specials from 1961-1962 are essential viewing. There's no other way of putting it. The nice folks at Amazon.com will only allow me to rate it a maximum of five stars. I would give it ten if I could.
In the early 1950s an article was written called, "Kovacs Hates TV". This doesn't surprise me in the least. Radicals are seldom satisfied with things as they are - and Ernie was about as radical as they come. He changed everything. At a time when no one knew what to do with the new invention of videotape, Ernie Kovacs made it sing and dance. He was no mere, run-of-the-mill, fifties television comedian. He was in fact the world's very first video artist - incredible when you consider the fact that the term "video art" did not come into existence until 1966, four years after his passing. Even now, despite a half-century of video's technological evolution, Ernie's work still astounds.
Late on the rainy night of January 13, 1962, Ernie Kovacs was returning home from a party when he lost control of the Corvair station wagon he was driving and crashed it, wrapping the driver's side of the vehicle around the concrete base of a utility pole. He was killed instantly. Ten days later, on what would have been his forty-third birthday, ABC Television aired Ernie's last program which he had been working on right up until the night he died. Of the entire series of monthly half-hour specials he had been doing in the last year of his life, this final program was one of the best. At the end of the broadcast, the reverend who presided over Ernie's funeral was quoted:
"We loved this man. He brought joy, gaiety and laughter to the world. He was a rugged individualist and a creative genius. But he was always ready to listen, and slow to judge."
Ernie Kovacs was a visionary. He was the first to realize that great art could be created within the nineteen-inch confines of an ugly box with a glass tube at its center. Unfortunately for humanity, he's gone and he's not coming back. Thank God for Edie Adams. Because she had the foresight to save her husband's work, we now have these kinescopes and videotapes to gently remind us what once was. Ernie's world was a delightful, wondrous and riotous place to enter. Someone once remarked, "In an ocean of noise, this island of quiet genius was typical of Ernie Kovacs." Indeed it was.
Early in his career, he would close his programs by telling the audience at home, "It's been real!", a phrase he coined. He was a bit of a paradox in that respect. Ernie Kovacs was the real deal alright - and television's first surrealist. Go figure.