Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Produced for public television, Ernie Kovacs: Television's Original Genius has in the past 15 years become a mainstay of local PBS fund drives. Utilizing deftly chosen vignettes from Kovacs' best TV work, the film is at once a biography and a paean to this unique talent. The story of Kovacs' troubled private life--including a bitter child-custody battle with his first wife--is juxtaposed with the inspired lunacy of his comic vision. We see snippets from Kovacs' early-morning network programs of the 1950s, highlights of his late-1950s quiz show You're in the Picture, and his brilliantly irreverent commercials for his longtime sponsor, Dutch Masters Cigars. Best of all, we're treated to videotaped vignettes of Kovacs' ABC network specials of 1961 and 1962 (the year of his sudden and tragic death), including his classical-music takeoffs, bizarre blackout gags, and experimental special effects and camerawork. Highlights include generous clips from his all-pantomime 1961 special Eugene, and a rare dramatic moment wherein Kovacs delivers a speech by Euripides. Woven throughout Ernie Kovacs: Television's Original Genius are interviews with Ernie's friends and intimates, including his widow Edie Adams and his best pal Jack Lemmon. Warm up your VCR the next time this one's on your local PBS outlet: this one's a keeper.
comedian, family, friendship, performer, television