The Ed Sullivan Show was the ultimate in family television. He literally had something for everyone on his show. My mother enjoyed the comedy of Joan Rivers and the sound of Johnny Mathis. My older sisters tuned in to see musical idols like The Beatles and The Byrds. My father always enjoyed the impressionists like Frank Gorshin and Rich Little. Me, I couldn’t get enough of those crazy Sullivan novelty acts and of course, sweet little Topo Giggio.
When I sat down with my husband to watch The Best of the Ed Sullivan Show on DVD, I found out that he had similar, but different memories. His parents enjoyed the Broadway and movie stars while he and his brother couldn’t get enough of The Rolling Stones and The Who. That’s why he wanted to start with the “Unforgettable Performances” disc while I went straight for Disc 4 with the plate spinners and the contortionist.
The Ed Sullivan Show ran from 1948 to 1971 and it always found its audience because Ed didn’t fear change. You can really see this on the All-Star Comedy Special included in this box set. Here you have the slapstick comedy of Jackie Gleason and Milton Berle up against the edgy, social commentary of Richard Pryor and George Carlin.
Of course, Ed will always be known for his willingness to spotlight the up and coming rock and roll groups that were driving parents and teens wild in totally opposite ways.
As I watched my way through the six-disc set, I was blown away by the amount of talent that walked across that stage every week; actors, singers, dancers, circus performers and comedians. People at the height of their careers and plenty who were just starting out. Ed Sullivan made it possible for people in Iowa to see Broadway stars and for New Yorkers to see four lads from Liverpool. Ed brought the generations closer together when he called Elvis Presley a decent and fine boy.
More than anything, Ed Sullivan made it possible for my entire family to sit down and enjoy an hour of television together every Sunday night. There haven’t been many shows on TV since then that could do the same. For that Ed, I’m grateful.
The Best of the Ed Sullivan Show box set has 6 discs: “Unforgettable Performances,” “The All-Star Comedy Special,” “World’s Greatest Novelty Acts,” “Amazing Animal Acts,” the “50th Anniversary Special” and an exclusive bonus disc never before available at retail.
- Rare appearances by Barbra Streisand, Bobby Darin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Marlon Brando, Humphrey Bogart, Fred Astaire and more
- Rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest — including Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Buddy Holly, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, The Byrds, Janis Joplin and more
- Comedic talents Milton Berle, Carol Burnett, George Carlin, Rodney Dangerfield, Phyllis Diller, Jackie Gleason, Bob Hope, Richard Pryor, Joan Rivers, the Smothers Brothers, Flip Wilson and more
- Classic Broadway performances from My Fair Lady, Man of la Mancha and West Side Story
- The best of the daring acrobats, challenging balancing acts and dexterous jugglers-selected by Ed as his personal favorites
- Zippy the roller-skating chimp, Heidi the Talking Dog, the legendary Lipizzaner stallions and more than a dozen other amazing animal acts
- Sullivan in a rare comic sketch with comedy legends Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz
Also over 2 hours of special bonus features, including the only surviving on-camera interview with Ed and Sylvia Sullivan, exclusive interviews with Milton Berle, Phyllis Diller, Shari Lewis, Johnny Mathis, Michelle Phillips, Joan Rivers, Smokey Robinson, Señor Wences, Flip Wilson and more.
The only downside to this set is that it is only curated clips strung together in themed collections rather than entire, uncut episodes. Ed went to a great deal of trouble to balance out the night with a mixture of performances so it’s a shame that we can’t revisit these shows the way they were meant to be.