Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Milton Berle was the "killer app" that transformed television from a luxury gadget into a standard home appliance. Mark Evanier posts a tribute suitable for those of the Seinfeld generation, who -- like me -- never had the opportunity to see a live airing of The Texaco Star Theater. Here's an excerpt:
Like many of my generation, I never laughed that much at Milton Berle and there was a time when I wondered why this pushy guy was so revered. In time, I think I came to understand that it had to do with innovation and longevity, two qualities that are rarely found -- at least, together -- in the comedy stars who began in television. Milton Berle was of another era, already an established performer before he or anyone appeared on TV, forced to invent and reinvent in front of an entire nation. Fortunately, he was a master showman and more than equal to the task.
Jeff Jarvis has a slightly different take:
People will be wailing about how he represented the "golden age" of TV. But that's bull. Early television was bad vaudeville; it was tinny, not golden: silly, slapstick, obvious, easy. The truth is that the golden age of TV is now; television today is filled with far greater talent and imagination and artistry. I don't mean to detract from Miltie's pioneering in a new medium; can't take that away from him. But I just have to say that young people should ignore all the nostaglic claptrap they are about to hear; things weren't always better in the old days; sometimes, things actually get better over time and TV is one of those things.

On the nosie, Jeff.


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