The Silent Show

In 1956, NBC wanted to present to the viewing public an example of the new technology of color television, and they hired comedian Ernie Kovacs to write and star in one of the first color television shows to be broadcast. Although NBC was more interested in the “visual splendor” of what would be shown, Kovacs went one step further. Aside from his opening monologue and the Dutch Masters cigar commercials, Kovacs decided to banish all human conversation from the show. NBC had another reason for the special — a hole in its lineup on a particular Saturday night. After Jerry Lewis broke up his longtime partnership with Dean Martin, NBC had offered Lewis the opportunity to host his own 90-minute color TV special on Saturday, Jan. 19, 1957. Lewis decided only to use the first 60 minutes, which left the network with 30 minutes to fill. Kovacs was more than willing to try something new, so he presented a silent 30-minutes with the Kovacs-created character Eugene. He supplied the pictures and left the dialogue to the viewer’s imagination.