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1964: The Beatles First Appear on 'Ed Sullivan'
February 9, 2018  | By David Bianculli
 
There's so much to remember about The Ed Sullivan Show, from the sublime to the ridiculous — including, on the ridiculous side, Sullivan's cheesy conversations with the mouse puppet Topo Gigio, and those spinning-plate jugglers whose efforts, running around frantically while trying to keep several things in the air at once, provided a memorable metaphor for life as we know it. (Well, for life as I know it, anyway.)

As for the sublime, there were the Broadway musical excerpts, the ballet and opera, the standup comics — and, most readily remembered after all these years, Elvis Presley and the Beatles. With both of those "rebellious" rock 'n' roll acts, Sullivan played the part of the tolerant old uncle, informing middle America that these mop-topped or pelvis-shaking youngsters were "really good kids." Presley's three appearances (the last one only from the waist up) sold records, and the Beatles, with their first Ed Sullivan Show, appearance, broke records. That installment, on this day in 1964, became the most-watched TV show of its era, and remains, more than three decades later, the second most popular TV variety program of all time — beaten only by the 1970 Bob Hope Christmas Special Show.

—Excerpted from Dictionary of Teleliteracy: Television's 500 Biggest Hits, Misses and Events


 
 
 
 
 
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