Ernie Kovacs: Between the Laughter (1984)
Ernie Kovacs was one of the true pioneers of American television, treating the new medium as his own personal plaything. Over twelve years and a variety of shows, Kovacs delighted himself and his audiences as he toyed with the comic possibilities and technical boundaries of television. This biopic nicely evokes those experimental days, but jars when it employs Kovacs’ zany humour to depict episodes of domestic strife.
Fortunately this scattershot approach subsides with the arrival of Edie Adams, portrayed by an ebullient Melody Anderson. Though Kovacs, a miscast Jeff Goldblum, is technically still married, his wife has abandoned him and their two daughters for another man. It’s only when Kovacs seeks a divorce so he can start a new life with Adams that his wife resurfaces. The ongoing battle for custody of the children, in and out of the courts, impacts heavily on Kovacs’ finances, creativity and relationship with Adams.
In addition to being physically wrong for the burly Kovacs, Goldblum’s familiar mannerisms encroach upon his ability to suggest the fondly recalled comedian. Nevertheless, he does give an affecting performance as a father determined to be reunited with his children. Cloris Leachman provides some laughs as Kovacs’ mother, but her outrageous behaviour threatens to make one sympathise with his wife, were it not for the over-the-top performance by Madolyn Smith. Regrettably, the judge’s request to have no Hollywood histrionics in his courtroom comes too late for her laughable meltdown.
Edie Adams herself appears briefly, giving a gratuitous yet excellent impersonation of Mae West.
Biopic states that Kovacs’ morning show ‘Three to Get Ready’ was replaced by 'The Today Show' starring Dave Garroway and a chimpanzee. This is only partly true as J. Fred Muggs, the chimpanzee, didn’t join the cast of 'The Today Show' until a year after its debut.
Biopic concludes before Kovacs begins his film career.