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Event Details

Ernie Kovacs in Philly

Time: November 1, 2020 all day
Location: WPTZ TV
Website or Map:…
Event Type: historical
Organized By: "back of the head" humor
Latest Activity: Apr 28, 2020

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Event Description

Ernie Kovacs had his own show in Philly starting in November of 1950

Arriving at NBC's Philadelphia affiliate, WPTZ, for an audition wearing a barrel and shorts got Kovacs his first television job in January 1950. His first show was Pick Your Ideal, a fashion and promotional program for the Ideal Manufacturing Company.

Before long, Kovacs was also the host of Deadline For Dinner and Now You're Cooking, shows featuring advice from local chefs. When Kovacs's guest chef did not arrive in time for the show, he offered a recipe for "Eggs Scavok" (Kovacs spelled backward). Kovacs seasoned the egg dish with ashes from his cigar. The sponsor was a local propane company. Hosting these shows soon resulted in his becoming host of a program named Three to Get Ready, named for WPTZ's channel 3 spot on television dials.

Premiering in November 1950, Three to Get Ready was innovative because it was the first regularly scheduled early morning (7–9am) show in a major television market, predating NBC's Today by more than a year. Prior to this, it had been assumed that few people would watch television at such an early hour. While the show was advertised as early morning news and weather, Kovacs provided this and more in an original manner. When rain was in the weather forecast, Kovacs would get on a ladder and pour water down on the staff member reading the report. Goats were auditioned for a local theater performance and tiny women appeared to walk up his arm. Kovacs also went outside of the studio for some of his skits, running through a downtown Philadelphia restaurant in a gorilla suit in one; in another, he looked into a construction pit, saying it was deep enough to see to China, when a man in Chinese clothing popped up, said a few words in the language, and ran off.[33] Despite its popularity, the weekly prop budget for the show was just $15. Kovacs once asked his viewers to send unwanted items to Channel 3; they filled the station's lobby.

The only character no one ever saw inspired more gifts; he was Howard, the World's Strongest Ant. From the time of his WPTZ debut, Howard received more than 30,000 gifts from Kovacs's viewers, including a mink-lined swimming pool. Kovacs began his Early Eyeball Fraternal & Marching Society (EEFMS) while doing Three to Get Ready. There were membership cards with by-laws and ties; the password was a favorite phrase of Kovacs's: "It's Been Real". Kovacs continued the EEFMS on his morning show when he moved to WCBS in New York in 1952. The success of Three to Get Ready proved that people did indeed watch early-morning television, and it was one of the factors that caused NBC to create The Today Show. WPTZ did not begin broadcasting Today when it premiered on January 14, 1952; network influence caused the station to end Three to Get Ready at the end of March of that year.

During early 1952, Kovacs was also doing a late morning show for WPTZ named Kovacs on the Corner. Kovacs would walk through an imaginary neighborhood, talking with various characters such as Pete the Cop and Luigi the Barber. As with Three to Get Ready, there were some special segments. "Swap Time" was one of them: Viewers could bring their unwanted items to the WPTZ studios to trade them live on the air with Kovacs. The show made its debut on January 4, 1952, with Kovacs losing creative control of the program soon after it was begun. Kovacs on the Corner was short-lived; it ended on March 28, 1952, along with Three to Get Ready.Kovacs then began work for WCBS-TV in New York with a local morning show and a later network one. Both programs were canceled; Kovacs lost the local morning program for the same reason as Three to Get Ready—the broadcasting time was confiscated by the station's network in 1954.

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