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Series / The Ed Sullivan Show

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"Ladies and gentlemen, we have a really big shew for you tonight!"

A long-running Variety Show, hosted by New York Daily News theater columnist Ed Sullivan, that was required Sunday-night viewing on American television for decades. It aired on CBS as Toast of the Town from June 1948 to September 1955, and as The Ed Sullivan Show until June 1971, when it fell victim to The Rural Purge.

It is best remembered for the numerous rock music acts it featured, particularly Elvis Presley and The Beatles, as well as its comedy and novelty acts such as Wayne and Shuster. And it played a key role in the early history of The Muppets, as one of the several shows that featured Jim Henson's creations.

Briefly revived in the 1990s as The Virtual Ed Sullivan Show, with a CGI recreation of its famous host a la Max Headroom.

As usual, you can find the basics at The Other Wiki and at IMDB.


"We've got some really big tropes":

  • Bowdlerise: The Rolling Stones were infamously forced to change the chorus of "Let's Spend the Night Together" to "Let's Spend Some Time Together".note  As mentioned below, The Doors were also asked to changed the lyrics of "Light My Fire", but didn't.
  • Broadcast Live: With the exception of the occasional film clip or short subject, it was all live every Sunday at 8 pm Eastern for most of the run, though toward the end he relied more on pre-recorded segments. The introductions of celebrities in the audience were often pre-taped as well.
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  • Catchphrase: Ed had a few phrases he would commonly use, such as "For all you youngsters out there...", "And now, right here on our stage...", and of course "a really big show", with "show" pronounced as "shew".
  • Cool Old Guy: Ed himself. He was already in his sixties when The Beatles first appeared on his program in February 1964 (and he'd booked them even before they hit it big in America, after seeing how huge Beatlemania was in Britain when he made a visit there in late '63). He also gave national exposure to the likes of Richard Pryor and George Carlin and featured youth-friendly musical artists such as The Rolling Stones, The Mamas & the Papas, Jefferson Airplane, and The Doors (even if the latter band was never invited back after Jim Morrison defied the censors' request not to sing "Girl, we couldn't get much higher" while performing "Light My Fire"). And even though Joan Rivers and Barbra Streisand aren't exactly considered "youthful" these days, they got a big help by appearing on Sullivan's show when they were young (or younger in Rivers's case) upstarts in The '60s.
  • The Eponymous Show: The show was commonly referred to as "The Ed Sullivan Show" even back when it was officially titled Toast of the Town.
  • Flipping the Bird: Comedian Jackie Mason nearly saw his career destroyed after being accused of having done this during a 1964 appearance. Sullivan banned him from appearing on the show again for nearly two years, and only relented after Mason (who vociferously denied having made the gesture, or even being aware of its meaning) initiated a libel suit.
  • Long-Runners: The show lasted for 23 years (1948-1971) and within the series, the Canadian comedy duo, Wayne and Shuster, appeared 67 times.
  • Malaproper: Particularly with first time guests, Ed was known to mangle the introductions. For example, the first time the Muppets appeared, he introduced them as "Jim Newsom's Puppets".note 
  • Muppet: Jim Henson made several appearances in the show's later years, and one of Henson's first full-length Muppet productions, The Great Santa Claus Switch, was produced as a Something Completely Different episode of the Sullivan show in 1970.
    • Early Installment Weirdness: The puppets that were to evolve into Cookie Monster and Grover made their earliest appearances in these skits; the former as a generic monster who devours an advanced computer piece-by-piece, and the latter as a minor villain in a Christmas sketch. The Great Santa Claus Switch debuts The Great Gonzo also as a minor villain. Grover and Kermit made an appearance shortly after the first season of Sesame Street ended where they debuted the Running Gag of Grover shouting "HEEYYY FROGGGIEEE!" at Kermit, giving him a Smack on the Back, then pestering him in a well-meaning way.
  • Self-Deprecation: Ed Sullivan encouraged comedians who appeared on his show to imitate his stiff posture, nasal voice and catch phrases.
  • Variety Show: Arguably the most successful one ever.
  • Wham Episode: Possibly the biggest ever when The Beatles were on.


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