With the primary season in full swing, the death of Jack Paar yesterday at 85 has registered as barely a blip on the radar screen. That's a shame.
Paar was one of the greatest true broadcasters who ever lived, and perhaps the last (except for Johnny, who has no peer) of a generation of them. Along with his predecessor on the "Tonight Show," Steve Allen, Paar used the then-young medium of television to its fullest potential, managing to be funny, entertaining, suprising, volatile, and absolutely compelling every night.
Because of his sharp wit and tremendous storytelling ability, Paar remained one of the most entertaining talk show guests around in his rare appearances on Carson and Letterman well into the 80's and 90's. But because he essentially retired from television in the mid-'60's while at the top of his game, an entire generation of television viewers has little idea who he was or the impact he had in his era.
If you ever have a chance to watch a video or a documentary featuring some of his stuff, I can't recommend it highly enough. If there were about a dozen more Jack Paars, television might actually be worth watching again.