The character Jack Benny portrayed on his classic TV program and long-running radio show was a lovable miser — an infamous cheapskate whose extreme frugality was a running gag on the series.
Who would ever have imagined that a half-century later CBS would reflect Benny’s TV persona by refusing to release masters of his classic program for the very same reason: they’re too danged cheap.
And that’s precisely what The New York Post is reporting:
CBS has shelved about 25 recently unearthed episodes of “The Jack Benny [Program]” — because it doesn’t want the hassle of paying for licensing, etc.
The International Jack Benny Fan Club, with the blessing of the Benny estate, approached CBS and offered to pay for the digital transfer and preservation of the rare episodes.
But, according to fan club president Laura Leff, CBS refused to let the episodes out of their vault — with a CBS exec citing unspecified “issues” thought to be potential musical copyrights, etc. and the costs associated with these elements.
Leff says she believes the roughly 25 “Benny Show” tapes are in the public domain, since they’re over 28 years old and weren’t copyrighted. “We just want [CBS] to realize they shouldn’t be locking away our cultural heritage,” Leff said.
The Jack Benny Program aired between 1950-65, and the popular weekly radio show that it spun off from was on the air for nearly 20 years prior to that. Both the radio show and TV program featured a number of guest stars from radio and film, including actors who’ve voiced characters in animation such as Frank Nelson, Bea Benaderet, Barry Gordon, Alan Soule, legendary ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and the late cartoon voice acting legend Mel Blanc.
I’ve been a member of the International Jack Benny Fan Club for more than a decade, and I fully support the IJBFC and the Benny estate in their efforts to procure and preserve the heritage of a television classic like The Jack Benny Program.
For those on Facebook, you can show your support by joining the group “Tell Les Moonves to preserve The Jack Benny Program Masters”.
This story has garnered additional support through other media sources:
– BoingBoing.net: CBS uncovers rare Jack Benny treasures, puts them back and tosses away the key
– TheModerateVoice.com: Killing Comedic Heritage? CBS Reportedly Seals Some Classic Jack Benny Show Comedy Masters
Further details and updates are available via JackBenny.org.