When our family bought its first television set in 1950, the first network show I recall seeing was the “Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca” program, “Your Show of Shows.” These were the days when “network” programs were on networks. Shows might originate in such places as New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Miami, Cincinnati, and Detroit, and fed nationwide across various networks. It was also a time when television was all done live: dramatic programs might be interrupted when stage scenery collapsed around the performers, or – on one show – a person came up out of the audience and shot one of the performers. There was no choice but to go one with the lines, or to have the script shift to calling the police or an ambulance, or catching the criminal. In short, there was a spontaneity, the risk of the unplanned, to which all had to be prepared to respond. There are those of us who think that getting away from live TV – going to the safely controlled filming of modern programming – was a major contribution for turning modern TV into what it has become.
Along with such other creative geniuses as Ernie Kovacs, Steve Allen, Jackie Gleason, and others, Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca let their talents explode in what, in many instances, was ad lib comedy. These two were assisted by such writers as Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Larry Gelbart, Howard Morris, and Carl Reiner, talent capable of creating scripts and routines of far greater quality than so much of the mindless swill that dominates modern television programming.
Caesar will be missed. But then his quality of television has been missing for many years.4:06 pm on February 13, 2014 Email Butler Shaffer