Ernie Kovacs: Take A Good Look: The Definitve Collection DVD Review

A treat for fans of Kovacs and this era of television.
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Take A Good Look, Ernie Kovacs' comedic twist on the "Guess Who?" game-show genre, most notably What's My Line?, aired 53 episodes on ABC Thursday nights from October 1959 through to March 16, 1961.  This seven-disc set from Shout Factory presents the 49 episodes that still exist. The show was sponsored by Dutch Masters, and Kovacs appears in commercials for them and smokes cigars throughout the programs.

Coming from Kovacs, it should be no surprise that the show is a very silly affair. The celebrity panel needs to identify the mystery guests "who've done something that put them in the public eye" and the guest hopes they are unable to so they can win prize money, up to $300. As host, Kovacs certainly doesn't make it easy for the panelists. He asks questions of the mystery guest that provide no information to their identity and then provides the panelists with clues.

The gag is the clues are rather bizarre. For example, the first episode features Chuck Essegian of the L.A. Dodgers. His claim to fame was being the first pinch hitter to hit two runs in a World Series, which had just ended a couple weeks prior. The first clue shown to the panelists (Cesar Romero, Janet Leigh, and Hans Conried) was a segment from the 16th century painting Adam and Eve by Lucas Cranach, meant to indicate Essegain was the “first man” to do something. The clues got even stranger and more difficult when they were later hidden in taped sketches that Kovacs and his troupe performed. In addition to Romero and Conried, other frequent panelists included Kovacs' wife Edie Adams, Ben Alexander, and during Season 2, Carl Reiner, who also appeared once as a mystery guest by wearing a hood to hide his identity.

Over the course of the series, the mystery guests featured a lot of sports figures, particularly from baseball, but also boxing, golf, and the Olympics. There were a few who worked in Hollywood behind the scenes, such as film producer Mack Sennett, Hedy Lamrr's stand-in Sylvia Hollos, and Clarence Nash, the voice of Donald Duck. In addition, there people who had done notable things like Lothrop Withington Jr, who started the goldfish swallowing craze; Alonzo Fields, a White House Butler; and Jack Nolan, who had ridden the Pony Express.

While the clue sketches can be a bit annoying, I was rather surprised to learn Take A Good Look hasn't appeared on TV since a brief syndicated stint in the late '70s because it is an amusing program and an interesting time capsule thanks to all the people who took part. Aside from the rare glitch, the video quality is quite good for a TV show nearly 60 years old. This collection is a treat for fans of Kovacs and this era of television.

Ordering Take A Good Look directly from ShoutFactory.com to receive an exclusive bonus DVD, Ernie Kovacs: Private Eye, Private Eye, available while supplies last.

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