The ABC Specials include five of Kovacs' shows that originally aired in the early 1960s.
The 1960s were well before my time. I'm familiar with some TV shows and movies from the decade, but I had never heard of comedian Ernie Kovacs until we received his ABC Specials DVD from Shout!. Last year, Shout! released a multi-disc, thirteen hour set on Kovacs, and this is the fifth disc of that set. In doing a little bit of research for this review, I discovered that, in some ways, Kovacs was ahead of his time. Kovacs was creative, finding interesting new ways to use the medium of television to present his comedy. Chevy Chase was once quoted as having been inspired by Kovacs work, and as a big Chevy Chase fan, that's interesting to know.
This disc contains about two and a half hours, spread across five of Kovacs' specials that aired in late 1961 and into January of '62. There really is no common theme between these episodes, just Kovacs and his unique brand of comedy. Watching the material, it seemed much older than the 1960s, and I found his comedy hard to follow. It's very disjointed and often bizarre. Laughs were very few and far between, but I could imagine how when these first aired -- when there was probably little to nothing like it -- that they would have been well received, at least by some. Still, I didn't find much entertainment here, although the Dutch Masters cigar commercials (a twelve minute reel is the only extra feature in the set) is pretty funny. As always, your mileage may vary.
In terms of presentation, it's rough, but given the age and quality of the source material, this isn't too surprising. Much of the show is in black and white, which is fine, but there is also a lot of artifacting, almost as though these were pulled off of an old VHS with tracking issues (although that isn't actually the case). Video is presented in full screen and the audio is mono, with no subtitle or alternate languages supported. The disc menu is functional, but not very appealing.
Kovacs comedy definitely seems intended for a niche audience and this disc is as well. It's a particular kind of comedy that I don't really connect with, but I'm still able to respect and appreciate the story of Kovacs and his work.