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The Continental screened late at night (after 11 pm) and was a particular favourite with early female television viewers.
‘The Continental’ was a sophisticated gentleman with a charming European accent. His name was Renzo Cesana and he made the ladies’ hearts flutter with his suave and romantic continental monologues.
The 15-minute segment was filmed in the first person, with the camera effectively becoming the “eyes” of the female viewer. At the beginning of each episode, the apartment door would open and Cesana (looking directly into the camera) would purr a suggestive come-on such as: ‘You have nothing to fear. It is only . . . a man’s apartment!’ Shyly, the camera would enter the room.
For the rest of the episode, Cesana would ply the camera lens with champagne flutes and lit cigarettes, all the while murmuring about ‘how lovely you look tonight’.
Cesana was said to have been an Italian aristocrat and a member of one of Rome’s most prominent families, although this speculation could never be substantiated. He was, in fact, an actor, composer, songwriter and author, and the brother of famed composer Otto Cesana.
Before CBS gave Cesana a network show, which originated from New York City, he had been performing similar monologues on a local TV station in Los Angeles.
For one year ‘The Continental’ was one of the most talked-about performers on television, but the novelty of his show soon wore thin, and when his first year on air ended, Cesana almost immediately faded into obscurity.
Cesana passed away on 8 November 1970, in Hollywood, from lung cancer.
Christopher Walken later parodied The Continental to great effect on Saturday Night Live.