Half the shows on television here in the second decade of the 21st century would have more than qualified as a novelty act during the first few decades of television’s history. How else to explain the presence of such “stars” as the Kardashians, the Duck Dynasty and any of the various bidders on storage areas. Say what you will about the crudity of early TV, at least the novelty acts of that era possessed some creativity. Which is more than you can say about the never-ending carbon copies and clones of the novelty shows of today.
Kuda Bux: Hindu Mystic
Almost no novelty act in TV history that came after can compare to “Kuda Bux: Hindu Mystic .” This fifteen minute show aired briefly on CBS in 1950 and featured a star whose real name was perhaps even stranger than his nickname: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes. Kuda Bux was your typical 1950s mystical magician who added a little mind reading in among his more mundane talents. But the highlight of every episode of “Kuda Bux: Hindu Mystic” came when his vision was totally impaired as a result of his eyes being completely wrapped behind things like bandages. Despite this lack of sight, he could perform seemingly miraculous feats that would seem to require the ability to see.
Anthology shows were all the rage during the 1950s. You had anthologies that dealt with nothing but stories of suspense, stories of karma coming back on bad guys and even stories about the post office. But surely one of the oddest anthology shows of the 1950s and one that has to qualify as a bona fide novelty act was “Crossroads .” The gimmick here? All of the episodes on “Crossroads” dealt with the various types of drama experienced exclusively by clergymen. Whether it was a rabbi facing persecution for supporting independence during the 1770s or a priest intervening in a hostage situation, “Crossroads” crossed all lines of faith and belief prevalent in America during the 1950s.
The uncle of actress Sigourney Weaver was the driving force behind one of the most creative novelty shows in TV history. The first episode of “Doodles Weaver ” explained that the host, Doodles, was to create a summer variety show. The only problem was that there was hardly any budget, no props, no set and not even the requisite female dancers to add a little eye candy. What to do? Make it up as you go. With no sets and no props. You think “Whose Line is it Anyway” is an exercise in improv comedy? “Doodles Weaver” pretty much was made up on the spot every week during its brief run in 1951.