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TelevisionWeek Executive Editor Tom Gilbert joins our roster of bloggers with this forum all about classic television, where anything from "Leave It to Beaver" to "Malcolm in the Middle" is fair game for discussion. Reunion specials, DVD releases of classic shows, vintage commercials -- anything that's ever been telecast is the hot topic here.

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Timeless TV



A Really Missed Shew

August 7, 2007 3:55 PM

The greatest thing about “The Ed Sullivan Show," a Sunday night staple on CBS for 23 years, was that it was a common cultural reference point for just about everybody in the U.S., no matter how old they were or where they lived in the country.

Broadcast live from New York at 8 p.m. ET (when the kids were still up), it introduced the latest—in musical acts, comedians, Broadway musical numbers, trying acrobatic acts, what have you—and back in the days when there were just the Big Three networks, exposure on the Sullivan show packed some wallop. From 1948 to 1971, careers were made overnight, when up-and-comers suddenly became household words. Its effect was not unlike that of “American Idol’s” today, but with more frequency, a more varied lineup of professional talent and a lot more class.

When the Beatles made their historic debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” the next day grammar school kids and grandmas alike knew who they were. In fact, everybody around the water cooler knew the latest personalities to arrive on the scene any given Monday morning because they all had seen them on Sullivan.

Viewers could easily stay abreast of the American entertainment scene by tuning in regularly.

In the current fractionalized, über-multichannel/user-generated entertainment scene, fewer and fewer people are on the same page when it comes to new acts, particularly among the different generations. An “Ed Sullivan”-type variety show could perform a real service today if presented with a fresh approach—and with properly chosen acts—don’t you agree?

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Comments (1)

David:

About time someone addressed this cultural phenomenon! Even my grandmothers were acquainted with The Beatles, among others, courtesy of this weekly program! I could converse with them about Joan Sutherland too, despite my tempered interest.

While it is heartening to live in a no longer monolithic culture, the downside is that we are often in a land of Babel, with generational variations making those broad post Ed Sullivan show conversations (American Idol excluded?) a quaint relic.

Who is Lindsay Lohan anyway? Poison? et al.

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