If you have ever laughed at, say, David Letterman or “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” or “Laugh- In” or “Saturday Night Live” or Steve Allen or Craig Ferguson, then you owe a debt to Ernie Kovacs. After more than 50 years, he remains the wellspring of TV as an instrument of humor and delighted innovation.
Sadly, much of Kovacs’ work is gone. In the 1950s, most shows weren’t preserved after airing. Prerecorded shows were routinely erased so the tape could be reused for the next thing.
But a new six-disk boxed set, “The Ernie Kovacs Collection,” curates surviving treasures from Kovacs’ prodigious TV output stretching from 1951 through his untimely death in 1962. (Distributed by Shout! Factory, it was released April 19, listed at $54.99.)