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This was one of the first television shows I remember viewing when we
got our first set in 1953. I was only a kid but my entire family
enjoyed it. We seldom missed it on Saturday nights. A few of the
funniest shows are available on VHS. Hopefully more will be released on
DVD. What talent both before the cameras and behind the cameras. With
writers of the caliber of Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, and Neil Simon,
expect to see some of the zaniest routines ever. Add to this the most
gifted comedians around at the time, Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Carl
Reiner, and Howard Morris and you can't help but have a masterpiece of
wit and satire. Even though in black & white Kinescope, the humor is
just as rambunctious today as it was those many years ago.
The show was live, so expect a lot of ad-libbing, bloopers, and extemporaneous hilarity. At times, even though promoted as a family series, the buffoonery got a little risqué, especially for the early days of TV Land. I remember one scene when Caesar was playing a babe in the woods type character to Imogene Coca's more experienced woman about town. The two were dining together with another couple. Caesar dropped his spoon. In retrieving it, he poked his head under the table. He was confronted by Coca's feet and legs which were spread apart. Caesar looked up her dress, gave a double take, looked at the camera with a confused stare, got back in his chair with the same dopey expression on his face. Coca asked, "What's the matter?" Caesar blubbered, "I've just seen something that I've never seen before." The routine continued along those lines as the audience cracked up in gales of laughter. At times the chorus girls who performed during interludes between sketches wore extremely abbreviated costumes for those days. Kicking their legs in the air often gave the male viewers an extra treat.
I agree with critics that the funniest skit of all was the spoof on the popular TV show of the day "This Is Your Life," with Carl Reiner parodying the role of Ralph Edwards, the MC. This classic episode is preserved on the VHS copy that was released several years ago. If you get a chance don't miss it. You'll literally howl with laughter.
"Your Show of Shows" also did lampoons of popular Hollywood films. There are two skits that stand out in my mind. One was a burlesque of the Academy Award winning "From Here to Eternity," with Caesar and Coca mimicking the roles of Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr doing the beach scene with the tide coming in. In the travesty the ocean water keeps hitting the two would-be lovers in the face until it nearly drowns both of them. The other parody that I recall was of "On the Waterfront," when Caesar and Reiner do a takeoff of the famous backseat scene between Marlon Brando and Rod Steiger playing brothers when Brando coins the phrase, "I could've been a contender." Wait till you see how they fracture this Academy Award winner.
Though I relate some of the finest moments, there really were no weak or boring spots. This is amazing when one realizes the show was in a 90 minutes time slot every week, even allowing for the commercials. Truly one of the gems from the Golden Age of Television.
I was a little kid when this show was on, but I remember
it fondly. It was hilarious -- a great melting pot of
comic genius. Caesar and Coca were wonderful as were all
the supporting players including Reiner.
The show was marvelously innovative in the early days of TV comedy and outdoes any of the later imitations such as SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. Movie and TV satires, zany skits, and all sorts of funny mayhem reigned in Caesar's court with Coca as queen. Some of the best pieces are available in the movie 10 FROM YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS. If you get a chance to see that, do so. It is great humor from the innocent beginnings of live TV
To understand why "Your Show of Shows" (YSOS) is so highly regarded,
just take a look at the list of the cast and crew. The confluence of
all that talent took place at a time when the industry was still being
burped on the shoulders of its fathers. But, in retrospect, it was an
experiment that worked.
If the episodes don't seem as hilarious today as they did when the show was originally broadcast, it's because so many subsequent programs have absorbed, borrowed and reused elements of YSOS. The brilliant Carl Reiner's "Dick van Dyke Show" was undoubtedly inspired by YSOS, but that's an obvious example, and a classic in its own right.
The strain of putting on a 90-minute live TV show, with the same lead characters in harness week after week, must have drained even the most sturdy contributors.
I recall the last show of the run. Pat Weaver was there to help say good-bye. I had tape-recorded about a dozen programs on a reel-to-reel machine. At least I had those episodes to soften the blow.
Fortunately today episodes aplenty are available for home viewing, and that's something to celebrate.
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