Ed the Sock brings his wisecracks back to TV
He's baaaack. Yes, the Sultan of Shoe-business, the Howard Stern of Hose, Ed the Sock is back after a two-year hiatus.
Starting Friday, May 28, at midnight, Ed hosts "This Movie Sucks!," a new series originating from Hamilton's scrappy independent station CHCH and seen across the country on CJNT (Montreal), CHEK (Victoria), diginets Moviola and Silver Screen Classics.
Each week, Ed and Red (Liana K, the puppet's comely companion from his long-running Citytv series "Ed's Night Party"), plus a few "oddball friends and babes," will sit and watch a really bad movie and try to extract — through freeze frame, re-enactments and the usual wisecracks — the awesome from the awful.
"Sometimes we'll just speed search through the really boring parts, occasionally with Benny Hill-like music," says the man behind the sock, Steven Kerzner.
The films are of the "B" and "C" grade, features that have lapsed into the public domain, allowing Toronto-native Kerzner and company to have all sorts of fun with them. The first movie will be the 1951 epic "Bride of the Gorilla," starring Raymond Burr as as a mad plantation manager. The late Canadian-born actor is likely best remembered for long-running TV roles in "Ironside" and "Perry Mason."
"Raymond Burr acts as if he's practically anesthetized in it," says Kerzner, who adds that the leading lady, "looks like the Sea Hag from Popeye."
As his puppet alter-ego Ed the Sock, Kerzner has built a reputation as an outspoken smart-ass, never shy about telling it like it is. Which is one reason he's back, figures Kerzner. "There's nothing else out there that's calling B.S. on what's going on in the media," he says, suggesting people don't relate to the current world of corporate TV. Ed, whom he says is "nobody's puppet," simply "says things people really want to say."
The idea behind the cigar-chomping sock puppet goes way back to Kerzner's days wrangling community programming for Newton Cable, a Toronto-area carrier swallowed up by Rogers in the early '90s. That's when Kerzner took Ed to Toronto's Citytv and sister music station MuchMusic, where his biting deconstructions of bad music videos on the annual "Fromage" specials drew a wide national audience.
When Rogers acquired CHUM flagship Citytv after new owner CTV had to part with the Toronto-market station, Kerzner and his wife and writing partner Liana (who established her own cult following as Ed's busty co-host on the re-named "Ed & Red's Nite Party") knew their gig would soon end. That show's wild, hot-tub and party-girl shenanigans did not wash with Rogers blend of popular sitcoms and multi-cultural programming.
After 14 seasons establishing Ed as Canada's longest-running late night talk show host, the sock was sacked. The Kerzners worked on other projects, including a husband-and-wife radio gig on Toronto's Newstalk 1010, but Kerzner never gave up on the idea of getting Ed back on the air.
It has taken nearly two years but Ed has found a home at Hamilton's CHCH. Channel Zero, which acquired the station during the sell-off of Canwest Global's former E Channel assets, has returned CHCH to its community roots. The mix of local news and movies has found a foothold in Canada's largest TV market, with the supper hour newscast often outperforming the high-powered network competition.
As its moves into other programming areas, Channel Zero needed somebody who knew how to produce content on a Canadian dime. With networks talking about shrinking revenues and "broken business models," smaller media players would have to be especially resourceful.
Enter Ed, with Kerzner right at home at an "indie" station where thrift is always a reality. CHCH was, after all, the home of such iconic low-budget Canadian fare as "The Red Green Show" and "The Hilarious House of Frightenstein," locally-produced shows that proved you didn't need to spend a fortune to sell beyond our borders. Those shows were from another era but today's economic reality has forced even U.S. network broadcasters to reassess the big budgets they used to throw into programs.
All of which plays into Ed's toes, says Kerzner. "All this talk about local television, which people seem to value, Ed is local television."
He admits the new CHCH Ed the Sock shows — another, the entertainment magazine spoof "I Hate Hollywood," launches in September — are being cranked out on a shoestring. But that suits the sock, he says. He felt those last two years at City, where a U.S. media partnership took the budget to a higher level, was gilding the Sock.
He likens Ed getting back into the TV arena to the plot of the movie "Rocky III." "Remember how Rocky got a little too razzle-dazzle in his life?" says Kerzner. "He had to go back and train in the streets like he did in his first movie? This is that for me."