Elvis Rules On Television!
Updated 3 times in 2006
Updated once in October 2007 (see red text entries)
Updated once in July 2009 (see green text entries)
has often said that Elvis has become an integral part of
our socio-cultural fabric. His name, image or likeness appears
regularly in our daily lives in our conversations, in movies,
in newspapers and magazines, as part of television and radio
commercials and on television. Many fans may not realise
that Elvis has been the narrative theme or secondary device
for many television programs.
date there have been few serious examinations of Elvis themes
on television and most listings of Elvis on television have
focused on US programming. What follows is arguably the
most comprehensive listing of Elvis themes, reference points
and motifs on the small screen, taking in programs from
the US, UK, Europe and Australia.
article does not cover Elvis's own appearances on television
- these are comprehensively covered in many other published
In August 2005 this article was expanded to include feature films with an Elvis theme.
Parallax - Children's program made in Australia and originally released in 2004. In the episode 'Achey Breaky Heart', a white jumpsuited Elvis (with silver hair!) has a prominent role as the headline act at a school rock 'n' roll dance. Whoever did the Elvis singing wasn't half bad and it was good to see school kids dancing to and enjoying an Elvis act.
Leap - this science fiction show premiered in 1989 and
enjoyed a prime time run until 1994. Starring Scott Bakula
as Dr Sam Beckett and Dean Stockwell as his ever present
comrade, Al Calavicci, the show was a 1990s equivalent of
the 1960s cult classic Time Tunnel, albeit with a twist
- the lead character travels through time and at each stop
he inhabits the body and mind of a storyline character.
In an episode called 'Memphis Melody' Sam inhabits the body
of Elvis in July 1954. two days before he is signed by Sam
Phillips. Sam's goal is to ensure Elvis gets the contract
and also that another aspiring singer, Sue Anne Winters,
gets her chance at stardom. The episode was entertaining
and showed Elvis in a positive light. Available on DVD from Amazon
- this science fiction show involved travel between
parallel (Earth) worlds. Starring teen heartthrob, Jerry
O'Connell as Quinn Mallory, Sliders was a fun show that
raised interesting ideas about what might happen if
you introduce ideas from one reality to another.
In the 1st episode of ‘Sliders’, the main character pulls up suddenly at a huge billboard. He gets out of the car and stares up at a very large picture of Elvis, in a Tuxedo. It is advertising Elvis’ latest show in Las Vegas.
a 1995 season one episode, The King Is Back, Mallory
and his companion, Rembrandt "Crying Man" Brown (Cleavant
Derricks), arrive in a world where Rembrandt's exact
double is as popular as Elvis - but he's been dead for
eight years! Not surprisingly, Rembrandt's appearance
creates chaos. An interesting play on the Elvis is alive
theme, made more interesting as the King in this story
is an African-American. Available on DVD from Amazon
Twilight Zone - One of the most popular science fiction
shows ever made, The Twilight Zone enjoyed two prime time
runs (1959-64 and new episodes made in 1985-86). Created
by Rod Serling, it featured stories from the fifth dimension
- imaginative fantasy stories depicting the diverse array
of human hopes, desires, strengths, weaknesses, fears, prides
and prejudices in ways never before done on commercial television.
Apart from featuring many soon-to-be famous actors, The
Twilight Zone boasted a fine group of story writers. In
the opening episode to the 1986 series, Jeff Yagher played
an Elvis impersonator transported back in time to 1954 where
he meets the real Elvis preparing for an historic audition.
A fight over Elvis' music ensues and the real Elvis is killed,
leaving the impersonator to assume the King's mantle. The
episode was aptly called "The Once and Future King". Available on DVD from Amazon
X-Files - It’s a clear case of “when your partner’s
away, the Agent will play” in the X-Files episode “Never
Again.” Mulder, forced to take some accrued vacation time,
goes to Graceland for an Elvis experience while his partner
Scully gets a tattoo.
Indiana - another short-lived US TV show from 1991-92.
This series had a supernatural theme and while odd, was
quite an interesting comedy-drama. The central character
was 13 year old Marshall Teller (Omri Katz of 'Dallas' fame)
who decided his new home town was indeed eerie. Full of
oddball characters and events the series included Elvis
coming out of his suburban home in the morning to collect
the daily paper. The scene formed part of the opening titles,
and the inclusion of Elvis, complete with sunglasses, bathrobe
and cadillac in the drive, symbolised the Elvis is alive/FBI
conspiracy theme. Available on DVD from Amazon
Nightmares - the TV adaptation of the Nightmare on Elm
Street character, Freddy Kruger, included an episode called
Heartbreak Hotel. The storyline revolved around an Elvis
sighting in the sleepy town of Springwood. Clever lines
punctuated the show ("Nope, left this morning to do a concert
with John Lennon") which includes a dead Elvis with snarled
upper lip and blue jumpsuit.
Nightmares & Dreamscapes - From The Stories of Stephen King - Horror maestro Stephen's King book of the same name was turned into a shortlived TV series in 2006. The episode "You Know They Got A Hell Of A Band" features Joe Sagal as Elvis, the Mayor of Oregon. Available on DVD from Amazon
Wars - this early 1990s US legal drama had as the major
storyline in its pilot episode, a man, who on becoming an
Elvis impersonator, faces divorce. In one sequence: Charlie: "He's back." Sydney: "Who's back?" Charlie: "Elvis..Who
do you think?" The show starred actress Mariel Hemingway.
Jordan: In a 2002 episode, Miracles & Wonders, we
were treated to a clever plot involving not only the "Elvis
faked his death" theory but also the much written about similarities
between Elvis and Jesus Christ (in this episode Saint Francis
of Assisi). In particular the power of Elvis as "healer" is nicely explored in the storyline. The story begins as
Elvis tribute artist, Walter Aaron Gulick (remember Kid
Galahad), turns up dead at the morgue, and suspicions are
raised when it is revealed the deceased shared the same
time, date and place of birth as Elvis. In addition, the
deceased has had his fingerprints surgically removed! Featured
throughout the episode are several Elvis songs (Jailhouse
Rock, Love Me Tender and Are You Lonesome Tonight?) and
there is a great exchange between two of the show's regular
Nigel: "The lynchpin of my entire belief system is based on
the fact that Elvis Presley died August 16, 1977."
Bug: "You're all shook up about this, aren't you.
Digimon Adventure - The character, Etemon, in this anime series is a parody of Elvis. He is given to saying "Thank you, thank you very much"; "Uh huh"; and "I'm the King".
Street - popular Australian drama series that saw 404
episodes telecast from 1989 to the mid 1990s. One of the
central characters, publican Ernie Patchett (Vic Rooney),
was a big Elvis fan and in one episode he and his bride
(Chelsea Brown) were married by an Elvis impersonator.
Bago - this shortlived quirky, comedy-drama aired in
1993. The theme was similar to The Fugitive. In one episode,'Spotting
Elvis', a gun-happy Elvis with pink cadillac appears within
an eco-political storyline. Ripe with references to his "disappearance", Elvis tells the lead character, Johnny,
"I just wanted to eat, I lost it!". The Elvis character
is portrayed sympathetically as vulnerable and Johnny works
to repair his low self-esteem.
Law - one episode of the popular legal drama series
centred around a defendant trying to have a real estate
contract made void because the house he bought is haunted.
The defendant claims that while the ghost does not rattle
chains, he sings and the voice is that of the King!
Las Vegas - Catching a glimpse of Elvis in this popular TV show is not unusual. Colorfully attired ETAs often appear in the background in the casino and several episodes have involved an Elvis sub-plot. In the show's 4th season one episode featured a travelling Elvis exhibit. Available on DVD from Amazon
The Miraculous Mellops: Litle known children's adventure series from the early 1990s. TV.com lists it as having an episode featuring Elvis impersonators.
Renegade - An Elvis theme was featured in the 3rd season (1994) of Lorenzo Lamas' 'bounty hunter' hit show. In the episode "The King and I" Reno gets into a bar fight where a polite stranger helps him out. Before Reno can say
thanks the stranger drives away in an old pick-up (the tags say "KING"). A young woman watching it all (she turns out to be a tabloid reporter) then crosses horns with Reno in her attempt to get the "scoop": Is Elvis really alive and well?
Available on DVD from Amazon
Texas Ranger - one episode of Chuck Norris' highly successful
TV series involved a storyline involving an Elvis impersonators
we've saved the best (drama) for last:
- this critically acclaimed, but ratings devoid half-hour
show faithfully recreated Elvis' early years (before signing
with Sun Records). Starring Michael St. Gerard as Elvis,
the 10 episode program was co-produced by Priscilla Presley
and aired originally between February and May 1990 in the
US. While it was not successful in finding a large audience,
the critics loved it and it had the distinction of being
the first TV show to tell the true story of a real-life
The episodes focussed on 'vignettes' from Elvis'
life in 1954-55 before he became famous. While 'Elvis' was
very authentic with the Memphis period carefully recreated,
many viewers found it too slow as it lacked the glitz and
drama fans were most familar with in the Elvis story. For
trivia buffs, one of Elvis's co-stars in Wild In The Country,
Millie Perkins, played Gladys Presley in 'Elvis'. Overdue
for DVD release!
- Alien life form (Alf for short) was a popular comedy
for three years in the 1980s. In an episode called 'Suspicious Minds', Alf and his adopted Earth father,
Willie Tanner, discuss the possibility of Elvis settling
in their neighbourhood. Subsequently a man named Aaron King
takes up residence several doors away from the Tanner home.
The man is aged in his early 50s, has a southern accent
and sings in the shower. Alf sets out to prove it is Elvis
and tapes a phone conversation with Aaron King, which when
played backwards sounds awfully like a young Elvis. The
episode is full of Elvis jokes and themes (Aaron King indicates
his pleasure at being given a peanut butter and jelly sandwich
by Alf, with Elvis' trademark 'Thank you, thank you very
the end of the story Alf discovers that Aaron King is in
fact a Tupelo truck driver named Clarence Williams III who
happens to be a huge Elvis collector. Alf can't accept the
truth and is insistent: 'In my heart, I'll always know you
are Elvis.' In an earlier episode of Alf, Alf suggests that
Neal Tanner use the Elvis ceremonial package for his wedding
in Las Vegas. Available on DVD from Amazon
Ally McBeal: Elvis songs were a regular inclusion in this offbeat comedy. It will be released on DVD in October 2009.
Boy Meets World: In one episode of this popular youth series, Cory is looking for Shawn at Chubbie's, Chubbie calls out an order and Shawn comes up to the counter. Cory remarks his amazement to which Chubbie replies "No, this is amazing." He calls out another order and Elvis comes up to the counter. The King takes his food and says "Don't tell anyone I was here."
Women - This very popular sitcom ran from 1986 to 1993
and starred Delta Burke and Dixie Carter as Suzanne and
Julia Sugarbaker, owners of an interior decorating business
in Atlanta. Their business partners were Jean Smart and
Annie Potts as Charlene Stillfield and Mary Jo Shively.
The character of Charlene is a big Elvis fan allowing for
Elvis references to be a regular part of the show. In one
episode the theme of Elvis as religion is suggested when
Mary Jo finds a shovel with the face of Elvis it (a play
on the Shroud of Turin).
another episode, E.P. Phone Home, the lead characters
find themselves in Memphis with four tickets for a VIP tour
of Graceland. This particular episode is rich in Elvis symbolism,
including the standard believer/non-believer dichotomy and
a character Vern, a truck driver from Mississippi whose
son died of lukemia at a young age and who was buried with
a TCB belt buckle. The Vern character is an integration
of Vernon, Jesse Garon and Elvis' occupational background.
At one stage in the narrative, Vern makes a telling statement: "I don't know what it is that Elvis gives people. But whatever
it is, I felt it. It picked me up. Kept me going. Got me
fans are presented in stereotypical fashion, allowing a
dramatic tension between Charlene and her co-workers. Elvis
souvenirs also function in the plot to heighten this tension.
A religious significance is another theme in the episode
with Julia initially rejecting Elvis ("I'd rather be buck
naked to the town clockonly to be converted as the episode
closes (her conversion symbolised by her placing an 'E.P.
Phone Home" bumper sticker on their car. Are You Lonesome
Tonight features in the episode. A touching and gentle portrayal
of what Elvis means.
Eek! The Cat - In one episode of this children's animated show Eek! is given the job of impersonating Melvis, an obese feline entertainer in a white, despangled jumpsuit.
Ted - irreverent English comedy about small island clergy.
In one hilarious episode, Father Ted dresses up as Elvis
(and most of his co-stars do too!). Funny stuff. Available on DVD from Amazon
Bravo - Children's
show from the Cartoon Network. The titular hero was
a blond haired, hip swinging, hair combing "Elvis"
complete with "down south Elvis drawl" and
wise-cracking attitude. Johnny was actually quite inept
but had a huge ego. Episodes from this very amusing
show were released on video in 2000 by Warner Home Video.
DVD releases of the show were released in 2007
- this almost obscure Australian comedy program aired
early in the new millennium on the Special Broadcasting
Service (SBS). Revolving around the trials and tribulations
of characters in a pizza delivery company, the first episode
featured several Elvis impersonators who in one scene get
into a fight with a group of KISS impersonators. Different
and the humour was not to everyone's liking.
Spitting Image - In one episode of this very clever and funny Claymation based satire, Elvis gets a run. The episode is called "I'm Sure Livin' Since I Died".
Simpsons: Viva Las Simpsons - despite its Homer "Elvis" Simpson cover (where Homer appears complete
with black Elvis wig, white jumpsuit and microphone),
there is actually no Elvis story on the four stories
on this video of the popular TV series.
In one episode
(Viva Ned Flanders) we do however get to hear Elvis
singing Viva Las Vegas and there is a smattering of
secondary jump-suited characters. The Simpsons is also
notable for its opening credits scenes that include
Bart (during Season 1) repeatedly writing on the blackboard 'I did not
see Elvis'. Available on DVD from Amazon
Hammer - unusual situation comedy starring David Rasche
as Detective Inspector Sledge Hammer. Produced between 1986
and 1988 Sledge Hammer was described as 'a wild burlesque
on tough cop shows' - a satire. Effectively the Dirty Harry
of television, Sledge Hammer was the ultimate tough cop,
uncompromising and totally self-confident. In one episode,
All Shook Up, Hammer goes undercover as an Elvis impersonator
to catch a nutter who takes pleasure in killing Elvis imitators
(a theme explored very well in The Elvis Murders, a book
by Art Bourgeau). Available on DVD from Amazon
Adventures of Mark and Brian - little known 1991-92
comedy centred around two real life radio disc jockeys,
Mark Phelps and Brian Thompson. The DJs had a popular morning
shift program on KLOS-FM in Los Angeles. They staged many
humourous stunts including a giant 8 by 16 foot head of
Elvis being towed across the country to Graceland, in homage
to the King. Another stunt involved Robert Goulet serenading
Los Angeles on Valentines Day from a helicopter with a giant
loudspeaker. Unfortunately, while many of the stunts were
hilarious on radio, they did not translate well to the small
Best of the Worst - Another short-lived US comedy again
from 1991-92. The series, hosted by Greg Kinnear, was a
celebration of the dumb, stupid, and non-functional things
in life. Elvis impersonators featured in one episode.
Last Precinct - short-lived 1986 send up of shows such
as Adam 12, this comedy about a bunch of misfit police officers
included the character of 'King' (played by Pete Wilcox)
- an Elvis impersonator. His police uniform had been altered
to look like a jumpsuit. King also sang to prisoners in
jail and arrested them with comments like: 'You have the
right to remain silent, baby.' The main star of this misfire
was TV's Batman, Adam West.
In Cincinnati - Life in a wacky radio station, telecast
between 1978 and 1982. In one episode, nerdy Les Nessman
delivers an editorial saying they should let Elvis rest
in peace. The editorial results in a phone call from the
King which in turn sets off a 'bring Elvis in alive' campaign.
Luckily an Elvis stampede allows the real Elvis to escape.
The episode closes with Les and late night DJ Mona Loveland
conversing: "If you're out there somewhere, please, stay out
there somewhere". In reply, Mona says: "Elvis is alive.
He has to be. There's just too many people that need him." Outside their window Elvis smiles.
The Don Lane Show: Prior to Graceland being open to the public, Don Lane did his weekly Australian TV show live from Graceland. It included a tour of the mansion and grounds and interviews with Graceland staff, including the cook. It was very unique at the time in that they did a split-screen effect, where Don (at Graceland) hands Bert Newton (in the Channel 9 studio) a piece of paper. During the show, they had guests perform Elvis songs. The show ended with Don walking from the house down to the front gates.
Carpet - Shoot Me Tender - Eat Carpet is an alternate,
often irreverent counter-culture program from Australia's
Special Broadcasting Service (SBS). A 1997 'Eat Carpet'
program was devoted to a diverse collection of Elvis film
shorts and shocked many fans.
six vignettes included He May Be Dead But He's Elvis,
an hysterical if very bad taste look at sending 'dead Elvis'
out on tour and to Hollywood with the promotion Necrophilia
Hawaiian Style. In Elvis Lives, we are treated
to Elvis sitting on the toilet; One Night With You
shows a young couple in bed making love to the strains of
the title track - the male being unaware the female is fantasising
about sex with Elvis not him. Diary of A Madman meanders
nowhere and the final untitled short is an amusing look
at an older Elvis joining his family at the breakfast table.
Shoot Me Tender was Australia's answer to Elvis, Elvisa,
a Greek-Australian female impersonator and the program also
featured an interview with one of the world's best Elvis
impersonators, Max Pellicano. Max to his credit played along
with the madness of the program.
Hours - in 1992, this CBS newsmagazine show aired a
Crazy About Elvis edition looking at Elvis' enduring
News - the TNT magazine show profiled an Elvis impersonator
and showed him rising from a coffin in New York's Washington
Square and singing Elvis hits.
with Tom Brokaw and Katie Couric - US newsmagazine show
from 1993-94. Generally sensationalist in nature, it featured
headline grabbing human interest stories and celebrity profiles
Footy Show (Sydney, Australia) - for non-Australian members
there are two major codes of football downunder - rugby league
and Australian Rules. In Sydney rugby is King. To commemorate
the 20th anniversary of Elvis' death, the Footy Show panel
dressed up in Elvis wigs and clothing. The show also featured
'Elvis to the Max', Max Pellicano. Amusing if a touch irreverent.
Footy Show (Melbourne, Australia) - The Melbourne
footy show has featured several Elvis themes including
editions around August 16 in 1996 and 1997. Max Pellicano
appeared in 1997 singing two songs. A Viva Las Vegas
theme was also used in the closing episode to the 1999
season and Aboriginal footballer, Nicky Elvis Windmar
is a regular guest.
Midday Show - a stalwart of Australian daytime television
for almost 20 years, the August 16 editions in 1987 and
1997 had an Elvis theme. Prominent impersonators, Max Pellicano
and David Cazalet were feature performers and the shows
included a cross to Graceland and other Elvis related segments.
For the 1997 edition, host Kerri-Anne Kennerley appeared
- long running newsmagazine show in the US. Even more
sensationalist than its counterpart, 60 Minutes, 20/20 presented
two Elvis specials questioning the circumstances of the
King's death. The September 1979 program was called The
Elvis Cover-Up and was presented by journalist Geraldo
Rivera. Promoted as a special investigation into Elvis'
death, it centred heavily on Elvis' prescription drug habits
and an alleged cover-up of the facts surrounding his death.
Some of those interviewed included members of the Memphis
Mafia, Elvis' stepbrothers David and Ricky Stanley, private
detective John O'Grady, Dr Nick and David Darlock (allegedly
the voice on a mysterious 'is it Elvis'? recording. Rivera's
partner was Charles C. Thompson who later co-athored The
Death of Elvis What Really Happened with James P. Cole. Another Geraldo "Elvis" episode was Elvis Wanted Dead or Alive.
Dotty Mack Show - this music show had a three year run
from 1953 to 1956. Simple in concept it featured performers
miming to top 40 hits. In the 1956 series Elvis hits were
a popular choice, although the sight of people miming to
them came across as quite ludicrous.
- a very popular teen music program from the mid 1960s.
Like Dick Clark's 'Bandstand', the producers of Shindig
tried valiantly to get Elvis to appear but he never did.
However, in May 1965 Shindig devoted an entire show to the
King's songs to mark his tenth anniversary in show business.
Clark's Live Wednesday - Clark was unable to lure Elvis
onto his popular Bandstand TV show in the 1960s, but one
program in this later 1978 series was devoted to impersonators,
including of course a number of Elvii.
Now Or Never (The Tribute to Elvis Presley) - this
1994 TV special broadcast from The Pyramid in Memphis
was a star-studded tribute to Elvis. Priscilla, Lisa
and her then husband, Michael Jackson, attended, and
some of the performers were: Michael Bolton (Jailhouse
Rock), Wet Wet Wet (It's Now Or Never), Chris Isaak
(Blue Moon), Tony Bennett (Love Me Tender), Melissa
Etheridge (Burning Love), Aaron Neville (Young & Beautiful),
Billy Ray Cyrus (One Night) and Michael Hutchence (Baby,
Let's Play House).
Long Live The King Country Salutes Elvis - Unsighted US TV special which may be an alternate title for the following listing.
Remembers Elvis On His Birthday - this 90 minute TV
special first aired on 8 January, 1978 and in 1978 was rebroadcast
in a one hour format as 'Elvis Remembered: Nashville to
Hollywood'. The country music stars appearing included:
Jerry Lee Lewis (You Win Again), Merle Haggard (Love Me
Tender), Charlie Rich (Lonely Weekends), Ronnie McDowell
(The King Is Gone) and Dottie West (An American Trilogy).
Jimmy Dean hosted the special which also featured recollections
from some of Elvis's movie co-stars: Nancy Sinatra, Jack
Albertson, Stella Stevens, Bill Bixby and Mary Ann Mobley.
Frank Sinatra Show "Welcome Home Elvis" - a slice of musical history, this 1960 special sees the
two legends together. Elvis and Frank sing a medley
of Love Me Tender and Witchcraft, while Elvis sings
Stuck On You and Fame & Fortune. Also released in
video and DVD format but greatly in need of video and
audio remastering. Also known as The Frank Sinatra Timex Special: Welcome Home Elvis. Available on DVD
The Frank Sinatra Timex Special: Welcome Home Elvis - see previous listing.
American Music Awards: Neil Schmidt reports that the 1978 (or 1979) American Music Awards predated Elvis The Concert by almost 20 years by getting musicians of the day up on stage to play with Elvis. Elvis was on a big screen singing ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ from the 1968 TV show and all the musicians took turns (from memory) to play a solo.
Music Awards - for a short time from the late 1980s this was one of
the numerous annual TV music award shows. Each winner
received a statuette modeled on Elvis, ridiculously called Elvii.
The International Rock Awards: appears to be an alternative name for the American Music Awards (see preceding listing)
Viva Las Vegas - EPE produced tribute show broadcast on the US ABC network after the 30th Anniversary of Elvis' death. Targeted at new fans it featured a mix of established and contemporary acts including Bruce Springsteen, Faith Hill, Paul McCartney, Rob Thomas, 50 Cent and Celine Dion. Priscilla Presley also appeared as did Jerry Schilling. Rated very poorly (4.4/7) against repeat programming on other stations and many fans were not impressed. Read EIN's review
100%: This general knowledge quiz show shown on Britain's Channel 5 from the Grundy organisation was introduced in 1997. It spawned various spin-off series including 100% Sex and 100% Gold and several "theme" specials. One of these was devoted to Elvis.
Talk - this comedy premiered and ended its four week
run in May 1990. A variant on the Kids Say the Darndest
Things concept, it included a feature on a four-year old
Galen Drake Show - unusual US children's variety show
from 1957. The host was originally a radio DJ who interviewed
guests of interest to a younger audience. One of these was
a young girl who had run away from home because she was
in love with Elvis. The David Susskind Show - This syndicated
US talk show devoted a program to Elvis impersonators.
Gong Show - in 1978 this popular US comedy/audience
participation show aired one program full of only Elvis
impersonators, all of whom allegedly were amateurs looking
for a break. In Australia viewers would recognise the concept
as New Faces or Red Faces.
note: many Elvis documentaries are originally released in
video and DVD format. Increasingly they are then telecast,
particularly on cable/pay TV channels.
A&E Biography: Elvis Story of a Legend - Unsighted Arts & Entertainment channel biography.
Little Bit Of Elvis - fascinating documentary following
British comedian, Frank Skinner, as he attempts to verify
the authenticity of a purported shirt once belonging to
Elvis that Skinner bought at auction. The documentary starts
in Britain and quickly moves to the Us where Skinner travels
around the country tracking down those that might be able
to confirm the shirt's authenticity. During his travels,
Skinner meets with Scotty Moore and gets to sing Peace In
The Valley with The Jordanaires. Wonderful viewing.
Elvis - Elvis Impersonators and Their Quest for the
Crown - fascinating documentary from John Paget
giving viewers an incisive look at the world of Elvis
impersonators. Critically acclaimed and deservedly so.
Released in 2000 by Blue Suede Films. Available on DVD from Amazon
Dr. Nick & The Colonel - Unsighted European documentary looking at two of the most infamous figures in the Elvis story.
Elvis All The King's Men - this six volume documentary set features the remembrances of Memphis Mafia members Lamar Fike, Billy Smith, Marty Lackar, Red West and Sonny West. The six volumes are:
- The Secret Life of Elvis
- Rocket Ride to Stardom
- Wild In Hollywood
- The King Comes Back
- Collapse of the Kingdom
- The Legend Lives On
Interesting collections of serious and humorous stories. Also released on PAL and NTSC video.
Elvis A Portrait By His Friends - Originally released on video this documentary by Marty Lackar and co. is a touching tribute to Elvis.
Elvis & June A Love Story - Originally released on video
and then seen on cable TV, June Juanico's one hour audio-visual
record of her time with Elvis in the 1950s is very good.
While the "love story" aspect is arguably overblown,
the inclusion of very rare home video footage and June's
recollections of the good times make for very interesting
and enjoyable viewing. A DVD edition was released by Brentwood
Home Video in 2002. Available on DVD
by the Presleys - Fans were divided on the merits of
this 2005 TV documentary (2 hours). The division was principally
due to the fact that The Beaulieu family (Priscilla's mother,
father and sister) provided substantial input to the narrative.
Pleasingly, the issue of drugs was not glossed over, thereby
giving the documentary an added presence for an EPE sanctioned
program. A DVD edition contained more than 2 hours additional
footage. A book by the same name were also released. Available on DVD from Amazon
Classic Albums - originally released on DVD and video
as part of the Classic Albums series, this 2001 producction
has enjoyed numerous screenings on television. The title
is somewhat of a misnomer as the documentary really looks
at Elvis' impact in 1956 rather than the making of his first
LP, Elvis Presley. Includes interviews witrh Sam Phillips,
Dixie Locke, Ernst Jorgensen and biographer, Peter Guralnick. Available on DVD from Amazon
'56 - this solid hour long documentary (originally released
on video and later on DVD) focussed on Elvis' television
performances during 1956, a pivotal year in the Elvis legend.
It was a time when "Elvismania" was at its peak
and The King transformed both the music charts and television
with his fresh, raw sound. It was a time Elvis had to be
censored, initially on The Steve Allen Show and subsequently
on The Ed Sullivan Show. Available on DVD from Amazon
Elvis - He Touched Their Lives - This was a very popular ITV documentary from 1980 hosted By David Frost. It followed 'The U.K Fan Club' flying off to Graceland & seeing the Elvis sites. On its original telecast on 23 December 1980 the hour long special attracted an audience of 14 million.
His Best Friend Remembers - Released in 2002 by Universal
Home Video, this DVD documentary was also screened on various
cable/pay TV channels. With a playing time of 2 hours 10
minutes, it is a very interesting look inside Elvis' world
by The King's close friend and road manager, "Diamond"
Joe Esposito. Includes hundreds of rare photos and great
recollections from Joe. Easily one of the better "insider" documentaries with high production values and absorbing
content. Available on DVD
In Hollywood - interesting if superficial look at
Elvis' 1950s film career. Interviews with Elvis' co-stars
and band at the time. Creative editor was BMG/Castle
Music's senior honcho Roger Semon. Available on DVD from Amazon
Elvis Induction to Demob - Unsighted European documentary looking at Elvis in the Army.
Elvis Is Alive! - If you can get past the first ten minutes of this ridiculous, boring, low budget documentary you will be doing well. Documentary makers travel in search of Elvis. Available on DVD in The USA and Germany. Available on DVD from Amazon
Lives! - hosted by Chris Isaak, this early new millennium
TV special was a surprise as it avoided copying other specials
by focussing on what Elvis' peers and contemporary rock
artists think about his musical genius. Initially rumored
for DVD release (by BMG) with bonus footage but due to copyright
problems as of mid 2005 we're still waiting.
Elvis Memories with Marge Thrasher Volume 1
Elvis Memories with Marge Thrasher Violume 2 - These two speciasl aired on Channel 13 WHBQ Memphis TV.
Presley's America - Interesting audio-visual record
of an Elvis Week US tour by members of the British Fan
Club. With its "fan" focus, offers a different
perspective than the more commercial releases of its
type. DVD release in 2001-02 including as a double feature
with Sun Days with Elvis. Available on DVD
Elvis Presley's Graceland - originally released as a video documentary there have been two DVD releases of this tour of Graceland originally hosted by Priscilla. Has also screened on cable TV. Available on DVD from EPE
Elvis Promised Land The Life & Times of Elvis Presley - Documentary previously released as part of the DVD/CD/booklet package, Elvis The Journey (see that listing). Available as single DVD with variable audio-video quality.
Presley The Last 24 Hours - well made documentary looking
at the final months of Elvis' life. Originally released
on DVD with bonus audio CD tribute by The Jordanaires and
a color booklet featuring a copy of Elvis' last letter and
a "revealing personality report". Available on DVD from Amazon
The Complete Story - this 93 minute documentary
was released in 2000. Some solid archival footage and
quite good look at Elvis' whole career. Also released
on DVD/video by LaserLight (see EIN review under Reviews).
Elvis The Early Days - unsighted compilation of 1950s live on TV footage and documentary.
Elvis The Early Years - unsighted compilation apparently of 1950s live on TV footage and documentary.
The Echo Will Never Die - popular syndicated 1980s documentary
hosted by the voice of Top 40, Casey Kasem. A gentle tribute
to the King of Rock 'n' Roll. Released on DVD in 2004. Available on DVD from Amazon
The Final Chapter - Yet another documentary focussing
on Elvis' last years. Not bad. Available on DVD from Amazon
Elvis The Great Performances Volume 1 Center Stage - Narrated by George Klein this documentary, one of three very good volumes, is now regularly screened on free to air and cable TV. Volume 1 focuses on Elvis' early rise. Originally a video release. Available on DVD. Some TV screenings of the documentary are introduced by Priscilla Presley. Available on DVD from Amazon
Elvis The Great Performances Volume 2 The Man & His Music - Volume 2 looks at Elvis' film career and rarities from his amazing story. Originally a video release this documentary, one of three volumes, is now regularly screened on free to air and cable TV. Available on DVD. Some TV screenings of the documentary are introduced by Priscilla Presley. Available on DVD from Amazon
Elvis The Great Performances Volume 3 From The Waist Up - Volume 3 takes its name from the "controversy" surrounding Elvis' early performances. Narrated by U2's Bono and written by "Elvis" biographer, Peter Guralnick. Originally a video release this documentary, one of three volumes, is now regularly screened on free to air and cable TV. Available on DVD. Some TV screenings of the documentary are introduced by Priscilla Presley. Available on DVD from Amazon
The Journey - Combination DVD/CD/booklet, this 2003
release was a standard but well done look at the Elvis story, although the audio-0video quality was variable.
The audio CD featured interviews with Elvis and the solid
32 page booklet had solid text and photos. The documentary
is seen periodically on cable/pay TV stations. The DVD was later released individually with the title, Elvis Promised Land The Life & Times of Elvis Presley (see above listing).
The Missing Years - Released in 2001 by Waterfall Home
Entertainment and screened on cable/pay TV, this was a combination
DVD/CD/booklet/audio documentary package. As its title suggests
it is a look at Elvis' time in the Army and Germany. Features
rare photos from the time and the DVD documentary is good.
The CD features the often issued recordings by Elvis and
The Blue Moon Boys such as Maybelline, Blue Moon of Kentucky
and That's All Right, Mama as well as interviews from the
time and a "We want Elvis" chant by his fans. Available on DVD from Amazon
Elvis The Undisputed King of Rock 'n' Roll - Originally released on video this is a standard documentary look at Elvis' life and career. Available on DVD from Amazon
Elvis The Unofficial Biography - Unsighted European documentary.
Elvis VH-1 From Memphis - TV special looking at celebrations around what would have been Elvis' 63rd birthday. Recorded over the period 5 to 11 January 1998.
E! True Hollywood Story - Popular tabloid documentary
show started out as a monthly special in 1996 before becoming
a weekly show in 1998. An early episode "Elvis"
had the theme that Elvis "died rich".
Families: The Presleys: Rock and Roll Royalty - arguably
the best Elvis documentary released in the 1990s and released
on Pay TV in the US. Released in 1998 and still being re-aired
throughout the world on Pay TV channels. Better than most
in that it doesn't sensationalise the Elvis story. Adios
- compilation documentary examining the worldwide TV media
reaction to Elvis' death. A later release of this title
included additional footage of the ambulance arriving at
Graceland on August 16, 1977. Bootlegged several times with
Touched Me The Gospel Music of Elvis Presley - this
two volume exploration of Elvis' musical roots in gospel
music is riveting viewing and arguably one of the best
ever documentaries released about Elvis. Featuring more
than 3 hours of music and interviews it is a window
to seeing Elvis in a new light. Also available on video
Joe Esposito: My Home Videos of Elvis - Controversial home video release originally released in late 1980s and I have received one claim that the documentary screened on European television.
Elvis: It's Now Or Never - Late 1990s Norwegian documentary
examining the aspirations of Kjell Henning Bjornestad a
28 year old factory worker with a dream - to appear in the
annual Elvis Impersonators contest during Elvis Week in
Memphis. The documentary follows Kjell Elvis over two years,
detailing his bouts of cosmetic surgery (to make himself
look more like the King) and his search for a good manager
(he ends up with two, and like Colonel Parker they take
60% of Kjell's earnings). After many obstacles, Kjell finally
makes it to Memphis and competes with 70 other impersonators
from around the world. Curious, touching and unsettling.
Looking for Colonel Parker - see Searching for Colonel Tom Parker. Available on DVD
- I Don't Sing Like Nobody/Cut Me and I Bleed - superb
two part documentary from Britain's BBC. Hosted by rocker,
Suzi Quatro, it was (probably still is) the best serious
documentary ever released about Elvis' life. Features instructive
interviews with those who knew Elvis best (Sam Phillips,
Memphis Mafia etc) and some great footage of landmarks throughout
Elvis' life from Tupelo to Beale Street and Graceland. Released
in 1987 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Elvis' death.
Deserves a DVD release.
Private Elvis - see next listing.
Presley - documentary based on the book of the same
name. Interesting footage of Elvis' time as a G.I. in Germany. Also known as Private Elvis.
Rare Moments With The King - Video/DVD documentary of familar material. Overall, not too bad.
Elvis - year 2001 documentary screened on pay television
and released in DVD/video format. Inconsistent approach
mars the final product. Some excellent archival and little
known interviews are engrossing but the documentary glosses
over other important things. Covers period up to the 1968
Comeback Special. Released on video/DVD by Delta Entertainment.
for Colonel Tom Parker - solid and absorbing Danish
documentary originally telecast in 1999. Good footage and
interesting story that will be unfamiliar to many fans. Some sources list the documentary as Looking for Colonel Parker. Available on DVD
Days with Elvis - Solid documentary examining Elvis'
early days at Sun. Well produced with interesting interviews
(Sam Phillips, Marion Keisker, Rufus Thomas, Bill Randle
et al) and archival photos. DVD release in 2001-02 including
as a double feature with Elvis Presley's America.
Burger and the King: The Life and Cuisine of Elvis Presley
- this 1996 documentary from Cinemax was based on David
Adler's book of the same name. Curious blend of history,
gastronomic indulgence and gross eating scenes it made for
fascinating if morbid viewing.
The Continuing Search for Elvis - Unsighted European documentary.
Cult That Is Elvis - originally a 1990 video documentary
that found its way onto television. Apparently won an award
for its examination of Elvis's most devoted and obsessed
fans. Some of the characters are twin sisters who believe
Elvis was their father, a woman whose husband divorced her
for obsessive devotion to Elvis, and an impersonator who
claims Elvis came to him in a dream. Also known as Mondo
Elvis. Disturbing viewing. Released by Rhino Records.
Day Elvis Died - standard documentary includes flashbacks
to Elvis' halycon appearances and snippets from his movies.
he best bits are people's reactions to Elvis' death. Released
in 1997 by the Visual Group. Available on DVD
Definitive Elvis - well produced and very long 8xDVD
release from Roajon/Passport International Productions was
the subject of successful legal action (by EPE and other
parties) in the US. Essentially the Elvis story told through
small interview snippets with those who were there at the
time and Elvis' peers (some of those appearing in the documentary
are Barry Gibb, Tom Jones, Ann-Margret, Linda Thompson,
Mac Davis, Kenny Rogers and Glen Campbell), the DVD release
was the biggest selling music DVD (even though it features
very little music!) in Australia in 2002. The documentary
series is often telecast by cable/pay TV operators in Australia
and the EC. The individual episodes (two per DVD) were:
The Memphis Years; The Television Years; The Hollywood Years
I; The Hollywood Years II; The Army Years; The Memphis Mafia;
Elvis and Priscilla; Elvis and The Colonel; The Many Loves
of Elvis; The Intimate Loves of Elvis; The Comeback; The
Vegas Years; A Man and His Music; The Spiritual Soul of
Elvis; Elvis Is Gone; All The King's Disciples:The Fans. Available on DVD
Elvis Files & The
Elvis Conspiracy -
two hour long specials hosted by Elvis' friend and co-star
in two movies, Bill Bixby. In The Elvis Files, viewers were
asked to vote on whether or not Elvis was still alive and
71% voted in the affirmative! Using material largely collected
and promoted by author Gail Brewer-Giorgio, the special
suggested Elvis had been too involved in an FBI operation
and had to drop out of sight (hence his faked death) in
order to protect his life.
the follow-up special (which interestingly took a different,
opposing perspective) people like Joe Esposito were interviewed
and stated strongly that Elvis was dead: "Elvis is dead.
I was there!". Host Bill Bixby concludes the second special
by suggesting that the weight of evidence says Elvis is
in fact dead.
specials were briefly released on video.
The Elvis Mob - Members of the Memphis Mafia (Lamar Fike, Billy Smith and Sonny West) reflect on their time with Elvis in this British TV special.
King Elvis Presley - released in Canada by Cascadia
Entertainment this 80 minutes documentary was digitally
remastered and concentrated on three areas of the Elvis
legend: Elvis in Hollywood, Elvis on TV and Elvis Live in
Concert. Available on DVD from Amazon
The Lost Elvis Home Movies - The content of this documentary had circulated in bootleg form for many years. It was the home video footage taken dureing Elvis' visits with dee-jay and good friend, Eddie Fadal. A DVD and TV edition with digitally remastered video has been issued by Dan Dalton Productions and features commentary by Eddie Fadal's daughter, Janice.
The Rock 'n' Roll Rookie - Unsighted European documentary about Elvis' early years.
Story of Elvis Presley - This 1990 TV/video documentary
was released on DVD in 2001-02. Quite well done with stock
archival material and little that is new. Produced by Ray
Atherton and Nick Borgias and written by Tom Lavagnia.
Hollywood Stories - The Last Days Of Elvis - standard
Hollywood treatment of Elvis' demise. Sensationalist but
very watchable. Available on DVD from Amazon
Viva Elvis - Unsighted TV documentary from Europe or South America.
Young Elvis - unsighted compilation apparently of 1950s live on TV footage and documentary.
3000 Miles to Graceland - Stellar cast including Kurt Russell, Kevin Costner, Courtney Cox Arquette, husband David Arquette and Christian Slater and an aggressive thrill ride make this much maligned 2001 blood fest watchable. Suspend belief and just enjoy. It's aurally explosive but worth the journey. Available on DVD.
Bubba Ho-Tep - Unusual 2003 comedy-horror film featuring Bruce Campbell as a geriatric Elvis and the late Ossie Davis as a black JFK. Well done cult film is scheduled for two sequels. Available on DVD.
Bye Bye Birdie - OK, Elvis doesn't exactly feature in this film but the character of Conrad Birdie is directly based on the King going into the Army. The film is fun and there is a bouncy soundtrack, not to mention a pre-Elvis Ann-Margret. Remade several years ago with Seinfeld's Jason Alexander in a lead role. Original 1963 film starring Dick Van Dyke, Janet Leigh & Ann-Margret available on DVD from Amazon
Eddie Presley - Any film (1992) boasting special appearances by Quentin Tarantino and Bruce Campbell (see Bubba Ho-Tep) must have something going for it. Duane Whitaker gives a sterling performance as the washed up (or is he?) Elvis tribute artist trying to make a comeback. Will be too slow and drawn out for some people's liking. Based on a stage play where its tone and pacing would work more effectively. Available as two-disc Special Edition DVD.
- This two-part mini-series on CBS TV (USA) in May 2005
faltered in the ratings, largely due to its first part being
up against the runaway hit, Desperate Housewives. A number
of "factual" errors and incidents (eg. Gladys
Presley drinking beer; Gladys driving her pink Cadillac)
plus a less than convincing lead also marred the release.
Overall this should have been a much better production.
Aka "Elvis The Early Years" as it only covered
the period to the '68 Comeback Special. DVD release scheduled
for October 2005 in the USA and Europe. Available on DVD from Amazon
and Me - the highly touted 1988 TV movie/mini-series
based on Priscilla's best selling auto-biography. Dale Midkiff
is an unconvincing Elvis; Susan Walters as Priscilla is
better. Faithful to Priscilla's book. Ronnie McDowell again
provides the soundtrack.
and the Beauty Queen - Don Johnson as Elvis! Hard to
take 1981 TV movie chronicling Elvis' relationship with
Linda Thompson. Cheaply made and it shows. Johnson doesn't
gel as Elvis; Stephanie Zimbalest as Linda Thompson is good.
and the Colonel - this little known 1992 TV movie
was based on the book of the same name by Dirk Vellenga.
Despite featuring respected actor Beau Bridges as Colonel
Parker and up-and-coming young actor, Rob Youngblood
as Elvis, it doesn't fire.
Elvis Has Left The Building - 2004 feature film starring Kim Basinger and John Corbett. Semi-amusing plotline involving Basinger as hapless heroine who everywhere she goes Elvis tribute artists die. Available on DVD.
Meets Nixon - You'll either love or hate this one depending on your sense of humor. This 1997 'mockumentary' is based on
Bud Kreogh's book of the same name. Tony Curtis is great while Rick Peters (as Elvis) hams it up and Bob Gaunson has a field day playing Tricky Dicky! The scenes in a Washington D.C. doughnut shop and L.A. "hippie" record shop are classics!
Some think Elvis Meets Nixon could have been better but it is slowly developing a deserving cult status! Actually much funnier than Bubba Ho-Tep. Video release (long deleted); yet to be seen officially on DVD.
Elvis' Grave - Little known 1989 production came to light again in the lead up to the 30th anniversary of Elvis' death. It was released on DVD and had theatrical screenings on two continents around August 2007. Described as a Southern Gothic Musical it was decidedly 'B' grade. A scorching rock 'n' roll soundtrack was its standout feature, although there were also moments of neat humor and interest.
The Early Years - alternate title for "Elvis" (CBS TV mini-series originally broadcast in May 2005 - see
(The Movie) - critically praised 1979 TV biopic starring
Kurt Russell as Elvis. Produced by Dick Clark it won its
timeslot with one of the highest TV movie Nielsen ratings
ever (27.3) - beating out Gone With The Wind and One Flew
Over The Cuckoo's Nest and earned Russell an Emmy award
nomination. Songs are not Elvis but by soundalikke Ronnie
McDowell. Kurt Russell had a small part in It Happened At
The World's Fair (kicking Elvis in the shins) and co-stars
with Kevin Costner in the upcoming theatrical movie 3000
Miles To Graceland (see listing above), in which both stars don Elvis jumpsuits in the
movie as they rob a Las Vegas casino. Due for DVD release in the US in August 2007 but release delayed. Check Amazon
Evil Elvis Christmas!: Little known underground slasher/horror film. Read EIN's review
Finding Graceland - One of the better "Elvis" films, this 1999 release starring the superb Harvey Keitel as a mysterious drifter and Bridget Fonda. The drifter is on his way home to Graceland in Memphis. And just who is the hobo seen in the final scene in the train carriage? Available on DVD.
Heartbreak Hotel - 1988 feature film about a young man who kidnaps Elvis hoping to fulfill a dream for his mother. Well written, acted and very funny. Tuesday Weld, who appeared with Elvis in Wild In The Country plays the mother, David Keith is fine as Elvis and Charlie Schlatter (The Delinquents; Diagnosis Murder) is the son. Available on DVD.
Honeymoon In Vegas - Entertaining 1992 film starring Nicolas Cage, James Caan (Las Vegas) and Sarah Jessica Parker (Sex and the City). Available on DVD.
Only Make Believe - lightweight offering featuring
an Elvis impersonator in love with a Marilyn impersonator.
Limited movie/TV release saw this title gain a bigger
audience when released on video. Storyline includes
Randy Friskie (Tommy Preston/Elvis) and Barbara Bogar
(Connie/Marilyn) appearing in the famous 'Legends In
Concert' show where Tommy becomes so popular he begins
to really believe he is the King. Ho hum....
Lilo & Stitch - Disney's very popular animated family film featured plenty of The King, both musically and narratively. Subsequent films in the series featured much less to nil Elvis. The TV show based on the film only rarely featured The King. Available on DVD from Amazon
Legend (The King of Rock and Roll) - another TV
movie that went quickly to video. The story revolves
around Eli Caulfield (Earl Owensby), the King of Rock & Roll. On stage he is supreme - in his private life
nothing goes right and his health is jeopardised by
the overuse of prescription medication. Interesting
oddity, badly acted but has the distinction of co-starring
Ginger Alden (Elvis' real life girlfriend at the time
of his death) and the soundtrack is by (would you believe)
Revenge of the Elvis Zombies: Little known 'B' grade horror flick from the 1980s.
Woman Who Loved Elvis - "strong" TV movie with Rosanne
Barr as the working class mother obsessed with Elvis.
Thought provoking, well acted and scripted. Poignantly
directed by Bill Bixby. Deserved to find a wide audience
when released. Unfortunately it didn't. Usually screened
as a late night movie filler. Available on DVD.
To Elvis, With Love - see next listing.
Touched By Love - 1980 tear jerker film based on true life correspondence between young cerebral palsy victim (Karen) and Elvis. Starring a young pre-fame Diane Lane as Karen and Deborah Raffin as nurse Lena Canada, make sure you have the tissues box handy. Released on video but as yet not on DVD. Also known as To Elvis, With Love. Released as a book in both hardcover and softcover formats written by Lena Canada.
(added August 2005) True Romance - slick, violent 1993 film features a great "Elvis" turn by Val Kilmer. Available on DVD.
|Television shows featuring a character named "Elvis" (but not the King!)
Crumbs: Shortlived off-beat comedy (2006) with "Elvis" character played by Reginald Ballard
Good Guys Bad Guys: Australian cop show featuring the lead character, "Elvis Maginnis"
Jungle Run: Children's show which included an ape called "Elvis"
Miami Vice: Crockett had a pet alligator named after "Elvis"
Clarissa Explains It All: Children's show (1990s) from Nikelodeon...like the previous listing featured a pet alligator named "Elvis"
The Strip: Las Vegas private investigator show (1999) with one of the lead characters named "Elvis Ford"
Cultural Depictions of Elvis Presley, Wikipedia
EIN's "Elvis TV Library"
on Television, informative booklet released by the US
based organisation, Strictly Elvis, in the 1970s.
of Elvis Presley in American Culture 1977-1997 The Mystery
Terrain, George Plasketes, New York, 1997, The Haworth
Press Inc., ISBN: 1560249102
Robs Elvis Presley site: http://home.wanadoo.nl/robs.epsite/webpages/video.htm
Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows
1946-present (Eighth Edition), Tim Brooks and Earle
Marsh, New York, 2003, Ballantine Books, ISBN: 0345455428
EIN wishes to thank Robert Vasilevski, Amber Smith, Geri Walker, Barbara Phillips, Neil Schmidt, Jenny Burns and Sally Jeans who provided information allowing us to greatly expand the number of listings in this article.
Rules on Television will be updated periodically.