M here…. I feel very James Bond-y introducing myself that way. I like it.
Anyway, I had originally had something else planned for my first post here, however the sad news of yesterday has pushed me into a different direction. No, the sad news was not the announcement that Jon and Kate Plus 8 will continue on as the world watching Jon and Kate Divide 8, it was the passing of television icon Ed McMahon. I found myself reflecting back on his career at various times, and thinking about how unique it was. You see, Ed McMahon was something that we have rarely seen, if ever, and will likely not see again any time soon. Let me explain with an analogy from a horrible movie… Sky High. In case you haven’t seen it, and I’m hoping for your sake that you haven’t, it is set in a high school for super heros. The only catch is that if a student doesn’t have super powers, or have really lame super powers, they are put into the “sidekick” program, and learn how to become sidekicks. Now, the movie follows the typical path of the ugly ducklings becoming the heros, proving that everyone can be a hero, even sidekicks.
However, in the very entertainment industry that made that movie, that’s not really the case. Entertainers are pretty well divided into their levels, with stars NEVER becoming sidekicks, and sidekicks rarely if ever becoming stars. Ed McMahon, however, was both. And he wasn’t a sidekick who became a star, he was both at the same time. He was most famous, obviously, for being Johnny Carson’s sidekick, his automatic laugh. But he was also the star of the aptly title Star Search, and a full fledged “Ryan Seacrest wishes he could be me” level star in his own right on that show. Then throw in that he was the co-host, and half star-half sidekick, of Dick Clark on the wildly popular Bloopers and Practical Jokes.
Rarely has anyone pulled off that kind of star, sidekick, star and sidekick kind of, well, trichotomy. Since I thought of it I’ve been trying to think of anyone that has been able to pull that off, and I can’t think of another person. That’s not to mention that he was doing all three at the same time. Its also not to mention that the two partners he worked with are two of the greatest entertainers in television history. I mean, for younger readers (like C) who don’t remember or know them, Johnny Carson and Dick Clark make David Letterman and Simon Cowell look like former Late, Late Show host Craig Kilborn and Mike Richards, the host guy from Beauty and the Geek, and yes, I had to look up his name. Ed McMahon was the guy they wanted to work with, the guy they had by their sides for some, or in Johnny’s case most, of their greatest moments. He made them better, he made their shows better. Yet, at the same time he made his own show great. Star Search was the original version of both American Idol and America’s Got Talent. It was a phenomenon and it was Ed who tied it all together, and built the drama.
Will we ever see someone pull off something like that again? I don’t know, but I doubt it. I think there is too much division of roles, too many people are type cast, pigeon holed, whatever you want to call it. Needless to say, the entertainment industry lost a truly unique member.