Early in this collection of highlights from The Ed Sullivan Show, David Crosby, later seen performing with the Byrds in a 1965 clip, is asked about Sullivan’s success. ”Do I think he knew what was going on with us or the Beatles or the Stones?” says Crosby. ”No. I don’t think he had a clue.” If Sullivan was in fact clueless, it didn’t matter; he had what Steve Allen calls “the good journalistic sense to know who was hot this week.” And 23 years of hotness is what fills this special.
Have no fear that all the best clips were shown in last spring’s hit retrospective. Sullivan II brims with jaw-dropping moments — the good (Tina Turner tearing into “Proud Mary”), the bad (the Fifth Dimension singing “Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In” on a groovy spaceship), and the uncategorizable (Charles Laughton introducing Elvis Presley). And that’s not to mention the comedians, dancers, jugglers, impressionists, and ventriloquists. What makes these retrospectives so compelling is The Ed Sullivan Show’s status as a time capsule of trends and fashions, transient hipness, period kitsch, and moments of greatness. This special offers all of them in abundance. A-