Classic TV

Introduction to Your Show of Shows

Sid Caesar

Your Show of Shows was a popular variety show that aired on NBC from February 25, 1950, to June 5, 1954. The show starred Imogene Coca and Sid Caesar, two of the most iconic television personalities in the 1950s. Your Show of Shows was so well-received by audiences and critics that TV Guide ranked the show as the 30th greatest TV show of all time in 2002. To know more about this variety show, here is an introduction to Your Show of Shows.

Production

The show was first conceived to be the second half of a two-hour umbrella show called Saturday Night Review. The first portion of the said umbrella show was a comedy segment hosted by Jack Carter, a comedian and television presenter who previously appeared in Cavalcade of Stars on the DuMont Network and his own program on NBC called The Jack Carter Show. Due to poor reception and viewer count, Jack Carter’s segment on Saturday Night Review was dropped, and the second portion, which is Your Show of Shows, was given an extended run time of 90 minutes per episode.

Dozens of writers worked on every sketch in Your Show of Shows, and some of these writers include legendary screenwriters and playwrights like Neil Simon, Joseph Stein, and Mel Brooks. Carl Reiner, who also appears as a member of the show’s cast, also worked as a writer for Your Show of Shows. These writers were able to revolutionize the variety show genre by adding sketches that are situational comedies or sitcoms. Situational comedy is a genre of comedy wherein there will be a fixed set of characters that finds humor in every aspect of their life, including their work and relationships. After Your Show of Shows finished airing, most variety shows that have been produced from the 1960s up to the present still have sitcoms in some of their sketches.

There was a rumor circulating in the 1950s that prolific television writer Larry Gelbart worked for Your Show of Shows. However, he did not serve as a writer for the said show, but he did work on the program that succeeded Your Show of Shows, which was Caesar’s Hour. Larry Gelbart is mostly known in the entertainment industry as the creator and producer of M*A*S*H, a war comedy-drama series that is one of the highest-rated television shows in the United States.

During its run, Your Show of Shows was watched by 60 million people in the US, and its high viewer count continued until its final season in 1953. Despite getting positive reviews, the producers and cast members decided to end it on a good note in 1954 by letting Pat Weaver, the president of NBC during that period, appeared on the curtain call to congratulate the cast and crew of Your Show of Shows and to also wish both Coca and Caesar the best in their future projects. After the show ended, NBC gave Imogene Coca and Sid Caesar their separate variety show. Coca’s show was called The Imogene Coca Show, while Caesar’s show was called Caesar’s Hour.

Cast Members

The two main cast members of Your Show of Shows are Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca. Your Show of Shows was Sid Caesar’s first television role, although he has appeared in two films before, and these films are Tars and Spars (1946) and Guilt of Janet Ames (1947). Sid Caesar is also popular for playing as Coach Calhoun in the Grease movie franchise. His final film role was in Comic Book: The Movie, a direct-to-DVD mockumentary released in 2004, wherein Caesar played as the Old Army Buddy. Caesar died on February 12, 2014, at the age of 91.

Imogene Coca, whose real name is Emogeane Coca, was a Broadway actress before becoming a television star. She appeared in a variety of Broadway shows, including New Faces of 1934 (with Henry Fonda) and The Straw Hat Revue (with Jerome Robbins and Danny Kaye). Her first television appearance was in Buzzy Wuzzy, an unsuccessful variety show on ABC in 1948 that only lasted for four weeks. However, her next television appearance in The Admiral Broadway Revue in 1949 served as her breakout role. She died on June 2, 2001, at the age of 92 due to Alzheimer’s disease.

Imogene Coca and Sid Caesar

Besides the two main cast members, there were also other supporting members or guests that appeared on the show. Carl Reiner is the most frequent supporting cast members on Your Show of Shows, while the others, including Howard Morris, Judy Johnson, Marguerite Piazza, and Bill Hayes, only appeared in a few episodes.

Status of the Episodes, Reruns, and Home Video Release

Max Liebman, the producer of Your Show of Shows, kept the kinescopes, which are copied recordings of the show so that it can still be used in the future if ever NBC allows the show to be syndicated or rerun. In 1973, some of the kinescopes were utilized to produce the Ten from Your Show of Shows film that features ten sketches from the show. As to who holds the master copies or tapes of the show, it is The Paley Center for Media’s branches is Beverley Hills and Manhattan that currently has all the episodes of the show.

In the 1990s, reruns of the syndicated Your Show of Shows were aired on Comedy Central, although the only episodes that they aired are the ones considered by fans to be the best of the best. Unfortunately, there is currently no DVD or Blu-ray collection that exists for Your Show of Shows, but several sketches from the show can be found in The Sid Caesar Collection DVD set, which also contains episodes from the Caesar Hour. Interestingly, it was Caesar’s personal collection of Your Show of Shows sketches that were collected in the DVD set.

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