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1971: 'The Ed Sullivan Show' Ends its 23-Year Run
June 6, 2019  | By David Bianculli
 
In teleliteracy terms, The Ed Sullivan Show — which ended its 23-year run on this day in 1971 — really was a "really big shew." This Sunday-night mainstay was broadcast TV in its broadcast sense, a variety show offering so much variety that it was bound to, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, please all of the people some of the time.

Ed Sullivan, who hosted Toast of the Town from the start in 1948 and worked his name into the revamped title seven years later, somehow managed to bridge four decades on nationwide TV while always seeming to be hosting for his very first time. Fumbling his way stiffly through every introduction, Sullivan became the celebrity impressionist's dream target: the variety-show equivalent of Rod Serling.

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

 
 
 
 
 
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