Well-produced, heartfelt salute to the great comedian holds up well
A recent PBS broadcast of this 1992 HBO show proves they did a good job in documenting Jack Benny's career, as the sentiment and incisive material remained fresh.
It's not a traditional bio, but more of a salute to Jack's enduring comedy and especially the quality of both his radio and TV shows. The cast of each is given a decent showcase, but overall it is Benny's inimitable style that rules.
These tributes have an unintended benefit in also preserving the comments and personalities of co-workers, so many of whom soon join the subject in the Great Hereafter. Johnny Carson, in particular, is delightful in analyzing Jack's gift and showing how much he was influenced and inspired by the great Benny. Similarly, Carson's TV director Freddie De Cordova is right on the money when explaining working methods.
It was interesting to see George Burns always in character, still poking fun at his old buddy rather than waxing nostalgic. Perhaps the best segments are heartfelt statements by Gisele MacKenzie and Ann-Margret, who document how significant a contribution Benny made at just the right moment early in their careers, to give them a liftoff. Carol Burnett likewise gives solid testimony.
Now in the DVD era there is less impetus for this sort of TV special, but it is far, far more interesting and useful (and I suspect, enduring in value) than the endless string of puff pieces and "rah rah" journalism that typifies the "making of" extras that must be cranked out to make the legion of DVD lemmings happy that they got their money's worth.
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