Tag Archives: Pee Wee Herman

It’s Been Real

Sure, the event coincides with the availability of a new 6-disc DVD called The Ernie Kovacs Collection which hits the shelves on April 19. But paying tribute to one of television’s true pioneers is always a good thing, so I have no problem spreading the word.

On April 12th, Keith Olbermann will moderate a panel discussion that will focus on the impact Ernie Kovacs has had on television and on specific creators, long after his death in a car accident in 1962. The program will incorporate a wide range of Kovacs’ work in its original form and some repackaged to address specific themes. 

Most of these shows, which have never been screened since their original airings, have been newly transferred from original 16mm kinescopes and curated by noted film/television historian Ben Model. Much of Kovacs’ works have been archived at the Paley Center since his widow Edie Adams delivered original kinescopes and tapes dating back to the 1970s.

Model will participate on the panel at The Paley Center along with comedian and Kovacs fan Joel Hodgson,(Mystery Science Theater 3000), humorist-comedian-writer Robert Smigel, Laugh In creator George Schlatter, and Jolene Brand, a Kovacs cast member on his ABC specials.

Video: The Aesop Broadcasting Company (Weekend Update, prostrate thyself and pay homage!)

Ernie Kovacs transformed television’s early era with offbeat humor, sight gags and lunacy that had not been seen before. Scholars have remarked that Kovacs understood the impact and possibilities of television before many of his contemporaries. In fact, Kovacs is credited with shaping the medium’s visual possibilities rather than simply putting a picture to a popular radio show. Pretty much any television host or program with a taste for the absurd can be traced back to Kovacs, from Monty Python, SNL and Pee Wee’s Playhouse to late night hosts like Carson, Letterman and Ferguson.

As Kovacs said. “nothing in moderation“.

Click here for more information about the event.

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It’s Not Easy Being Yellow

Sesame Street

Would...you be...my neighbor? (Oops, wrong show...)

If you think it’s not easy being green, imagine how hard it is to be yellow! Carol Spinney has been playing the part of Big Bird since Sesame Street debuted on television forty years ago today. You may not realize that Spinney started playing the character while in his mid-30s, so the guy lifting that five-pound head with his arm is still doing it in his 70s (and no doubt he could whip you at arm-wrestling as well). Just one of the thousands of tidbits that will no doubt flood the Internet today as we celebrate and appreciate the program.

Sesame Street probably did as much to promote Public Television as those channels did to promote the show, a landmark exercise in combining educational television with entertainment. I was just old enough to be above their target demographic, although later on I’d come to appreciate the many adult moments the show offered (see below). I don’t know anyone today who grew up in the era who doesn’t have fond memories of watching the program.

Big Bird reading

A couple of generations ago most kids had two parents, and one of them was usually home. Mom or Dad could read to them and teach them the alphabet and how numbers worked so when they went off to school it wasn’t as intimidating. But over time the divorce rate started skyrocketing and many households suddenly needed two earners, and time with children became a precious commodity. When Sesame Street came along, for once sitting a kid in front of a television as a babysitting exercise wasn’t a bad thing.

But watching the show with your kids had greater benefits. Eventually, along with basic math and reading skills came life lessons, presented in a way that children could understand and discuss with their parents.

The Count

What imagination went into these characters and the program. Although never the most popular, my favorite was always The Count. That probably explains why I love Greg The Bunny as much as I do. (“Don’t turn this into Abbott and Costello, kid!“)

I also grew to like the human characters who interacted with the Muppets, like Gordon and Susan and Bob, and the list of celebrities who guested is staggering. As a result, just like with Rocky and Bullwinkle and the Road Runner cartoons, Sesame Street has a lot to offer adults, too. Like…

Sesame Street cast

Today’s column was brought to you by the letters D, R and B.

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