Picks and Pans Review: A Really Big Show: Ed Sullivan's 50th Anniversary
May 18 is a red-letter night for those who still miss the stone-faced sultan of TV variety whose Sunday program aired on CBS from 1948 to 1971. At 9 p.m., UPN has a special called The Virtual Ed Sullivan Show (not available in time for us to preview), which uses computer imagery to make the departed host appear to introduce contemporary talent. At 10, CBS offers A Really Big Show as part of the network's golden-anniversary celebration. In addition to some true time-capsule moments from the Sullivan show itself—Ed heaping praise on the Beatles for their model behavior, Ed playing the hipster in a 1955 chat with Marlon Brando ("a cat with a bongo beat")—the special includes vintage clips of Sullivan looking supremely stiff while being interviewed by Edward R. Murrow and Hy Gardner. It's easy to see why comedians like John Byner and Will Jordan (both seen here) had a ball mimicking Sullivan. Only one act bombs in A Really Big Show: your hosts, the Smothers Brothers, stuck with a bad script. Citing Sullivan's something-for-everyone policy, Dick says that watching the variety hour was "like having a giant remote control." Not exactly. Kids who tuned in for the rock band had to wait till the acrobats got out of the way.
Bottom Line: A fun look back