Emmy commemorative: Underdog – Ernie Kovac

Kovac's brilliant turn

One name stands out: Ernie Kovacs

” ‘The Ernie Kovacs Show’ was the first to use TV as a medium all of its own, not as a carryover from radio,” says author Tim Brooks. “His camera tricks, that odd Nairobi Trio, the techno tricks definitely influenced Steve Allen, David Letterman and ‘Your Show of Shows.’ ”

Syracuse U. professor Bob Thompson adds: “Even with three books written about him, he is still the most unappreciated TV comedic artist. Kovacs so understood the physical medium: the flat square with sound and motion. He did things found today at video installations. He essentially invented the MTV style. He was so extraordinarily experimental, it’s freaky.”

Among Brooks’ picks for programming that never got their due:

  • “December Bride” (1954-61): “Very nicely crafted character studies. Here was Spring Byington as an attractive widow showing her grown children how to live their lives. It spent four years in the top 10 on CBS and is now practically forgotten.”

  • “Our Miss Brooks” (1952-56): “Eve Arden was sarcastic but fun, and her show was the first to create a popular teenage character played by Richard Crenna. His screechy voice was practically stolen by ‘Saved by the Bell.’ ”

  • “The Alan Young Show” (1950-53): “A very innovative comic, almost Chaplinesque, he was someone who saw things through other people’s eyes. It also had very good writing.”
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