Does anyone else remember watching the 1950’s TV show "The Continental?" You could have easily missed it. It was a short 15-minute show that aired twice a week on Channel 10 at 11:15 PM, the last program before the station went off the air, and was followed by the familiar flag-waving National Anthem, a test pattern, and, in a few minutes, the hissing snow of the ended daily broadcast.
It was on only briefly from January to April of 1952, but was so outlandish it was ridiculed for years after. I had forgotten about it until I came across a review in a 1952 issue of The New Yorker—and it all came back.
The Continental was a suave European man who spoke with an vague accent, much like Charles Boyer. The one show I remember is described in the review. The scene opens in a dark room. Dressed in a tuxedo, he steps out of the shadows, quietly closing the door behind him, and, looking directly into the camera, coos, "Dun’t be afraid, my darling. Eet is only a man’s apartment, and I—I am that man!" Apparently, we, the viewers, are the woman about to be seduced right down to her skivvies. As the camera moves in, he picks up two stemmed glasses and hands us one. Faint organ music plays in the background. "You enjoy champagne, no? Eet is a superior vintage." His hand returns empty as if we have taken it. He turns to a bookcase behind him, slips out a book, and slowly almost whispers, "I would like to read you a poem I discovered last night that brought fond memories of you. Eet is by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. ‘How do I love thee? . . . ‘"
This treacle goes on until near 11:30 when his face suddenly drops and he says, "But I see now you must go. My heart, it is breaking. Until we can meet again, a rivederci, my darling." The scene fades. I was hooting and jeering, rolling around on the wall-to-wall in front of our 12-inch Dumont, but my sister, three years older, was still watching, mouth open, hypnotized.