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Leone's Legends- The five most importent legends of early television

The five most importent legends of early television

Hello my friends, here in the winter wonderland we love so dearly, we do watch a fair amount of television. Whether its after a day on the slopes, or at the lodges between runs, we all naturally turn our heads toward the tube ( I know, I know there are no more tubes in tvs anymore Methuselah). So let's look at the five most important stars of the small screen (albeit flat).
1. Milton Berle. "Uncle Miltie" was the first mega star of the new medium of televised programming in the early 1950s. Berle actually brought his successful radio show "Texaco Star Theater" to television in 1948 and it ran until 1956. A few of his highlights were his unashamed willingness to dress in drag, and of course he was the first established tv host to feature a star from the upstart musical entity called "rock and roll" when he invited a young Elvis Presley to play on his show in 1956. He is also credited with starting sketch comedy on tv.
2. Ernie Kovacs. Ernie Kovacs Show was undoubtedly the most experimental and groundbreaking show in the history of television. His early use of special effects like reverse filming, slow motion replay, and the combining of live and taped content was unbelievable for 1950s America. He saw the opportunity to exploit the new medium because there was so little at that time to compare it to. His "Nairobi Trio" a threesome of costumed chimpanzees was so popular that it started a trend for people to keep chimps as pets that lasted throughout the 60s.
3. Carol Burnett. The Carol Burnett Show which ran on the CBS network from 1967 to 1978 was not only a classic sketch comedy show, but it utilized it's cast of characters more than any sketch comedy show had ever done before. Carol's versatility and likability combined with her impeccable comedic timing created a formula that was truly her own. The proof of the strength of this is that even to this day it has never been successfully copied or improved upon. The Carol Burnett Show broadcasted during a time when shows like the Smothers Brothers, and Rowan and Martins Laugh In capitalized on the political climate of the day, but Carol took it in another direction being a bit more family oriented with just a touch of sexual double entendre that was palatable to mid-America.
4. Jackie Gleason. Jackie Gleason was a bigger than life character in more ways than one. Yes, he was a big man weighing in a nearly 275 pounds, but Gleason in his unparalleled genius realized that he would take up a big portion of the screen. He realized this after watching large opera singers confidently take command over a stage while performing. He also realized that his appearance gave him a non-threatening "common man" appeal. His carefully constructed the Ralph Kramden persona, a bus driver, who like many in his audience perceived themselves as complex. Tough, yet sweet; strong, yet weak; loud, yet humble. And the genius of having Ed Norton as his foil and friend was so smart. Norton had an equally blue collar job working in the sewer, but seemed to have a nicer apartment, and more money because Ralph was a hapless dreamer, who thought "no cal pizza" was a great idea. Another trait that 1950s American men related to.
The stark set that the show was filmed on was another deliberate Gleason idea, he wanted the characters to be featured and the nuances of their performances to not be missed.
5. Lucille Ball. I Love Lucy was the show that generations of Americans grew up on due to its syndication and totally family-friendly format. "Lucy" whose constant meddling and conniving created a comfortable tension in every episode. The foil of the lovable, yet kindly stereotyped Latino husband "Ricky" (played fantastically by Cuban musician Desi Arnez) gave Lucy a character to victimize without making a fool out of him, actually Ricky became a sympathetic figure without making Lucy look mean-spirited.
She, like Gleasons Kramden, became a persona that women could relate to. Lucy did things that regular spouses only dreamed of doing like dressing in disguise and going to Ricky's job to spy on him when she thought he was attracted to another woman, talk about your 1950s archetype!
In all fairness much of the credit of the success of the I Love Lucy Show has to go Desi Arnez whose production ideas made the show have a look like no other of that era. Arnez pioneered the multi camera shoot, as well as "fifty shades" of grey he utilized in the set giving it an almost tropical feel. Quite smart, indeed!
Okay friends thats it for me for now, see ya on the "Big Hill" and as my momma Rosey used to say, "shut that tv off before you go to bed."
Peace, Joey.