Film: Ten from Your Show of Shows (1973)

May 22, 2014 | By


YSOS_sFilm: Very Good

Transfer:  n/a  Extras: n/a

Label: n/a

Region: n/a

Released:  n/a

Genre:  Documentary / Toronto Jewish Film Festival 2014

Synopsis: Straight anthology featuring 10 memorable skits from the classic 50s TV series Your Show of Shows.

Special Features:  n/a




Released in 1973, the five year run of Your Show of Shows was distilled into a 92 mins. anthology film featuring 10 skits from the iconic live TV series which ran on NBC from 1950-1954.

A variety show that predated SCTV and especially Saturday Night Live’s blend of skits, parodies, music and monologues, the 140 90 mins. episodes featured the work of Sid Caesar often playing ordinary men often in receipt of assaultive embarrassments, Imogene Coca and her precision timing for peace / rage, Carl Reiner skilled at portraying smooth talkers with an overt air of contempt for any fellow man, thin and pliable Howard Morris, and dancer / choreographer James Starbuck, with skits showcasing moments of guilt, embarrassment, and outright ridiculousness of ordinary people, plus novel concepts and satires of pop culture in film, music, and TV.

This anthology includes skits of a wife holding back on crashing her husband’s car, a CEO missing out on a sandwich, a parody of From Here to Eternity (1953), a man trapped in a movie cinema with a crazy broad trying to shoo away her possessive and thuggish boyfriend, a so-called German ‘General’, a not-very astute scientist, a noisy operatic recital, a malfunctioning city clock, a silent movie parody set in a sweatshop, and the best of the bunch: an ordinary shmo literally dragged and carried onto the stage and forced to endure a version of This is Your Life (1952-1961). Each skit is bookended by basic credits, and the footage used in the film was sourced from surviving kinescopes.

The writing  – derived from Caesar, Mel Brooks (Young Frankenstein), Danny Simon, Neil Simon (The Odd Couple), Lucille Kallen, and Mel Tolkin (All in the Family) – is top-notch, and the cast is often powerful in the way they manage the dynamics of calm, horror, outrage, embarrassment, and insanity. The dialogue is snappy and the performances are meticulously timed – all the more impressive because each episode was performed and broadcast live.

(In a spoof of the famous beach scene from Eternity, Coca starts to turn away from the camera to hold back the giggles as off-camera grips toss increasingly larger buckets of water on her head. She never loses her cool nor her timing, and the energy of a live performance where the giggles were always being suppressed recalls was also evident in The Carol Burnett Show.)

YSOS was a powerhouse show whose legacy endured through the cast who succeeded in their own TV and film careers. After the show’s cancellation, Caesar and Coca returned to TV with their own comedy series, while Reiner scored with the Dick van Dyke Show (1961-1966) with Sheldon Leonard. Howard Morris appeared in countless TV series, often contributing voice work to animated series like The Flintstones (1960-1966).

Most of the DVD collections which assembled material from kinescopes are out of print, leaving this classic show from the golden age of TV poorly represented, especially since what’s available are often clips from the aforementioned skits. Ten from Your Show of Shows did receive a VHS release from Media (in the U.S.) and Astral (in Canada) but it remains unavailable on DVD. What would clearly please fans is a meaty set featuring full episodes, allowing one to experience the boldness of a full hour and a half of variety with some of America’s greatest comedians.



© 2014 Mark R. Hasan



External References:
IMDB  —  TJFF 2014 Listing — Wikipedia Entry
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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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