Archive for the ‘Television Producers’ Category

Getting Real with Producer Jonathan Murray

Friday, February 24th, 2012

He’s responsible for those seven strangers, picked to live in a house and have their lives taped, to find out what happens when people stop being polite, and start getting real. Jonathan Murray, together with production partner Mary-Ellis Bunim, produced MTV’s hit reality show, The Real World, which many consider to be the first modern reality program. In his Archive interview Murray reveals that he was influenced by the 1973 documentary series, An American Family (often noted as THE first reality program) and shares that he studied broadcast journalism and worked in local news before dabbling in producing his own documentaries and reality programs. Some of the other successful programs in the Bunim-Murray family: The Single Life, Starting Over, The Bad Girls Club, and Keeping up with the Kardashians.

The Real World put Bunim-Murray on the map, and Murray describes the story of the show’s creation in his 2011 interview:

Murray will be inducted into the Television Hall of Fame on March 1, 2012. His production partner, Mary-Ellis Bunim, passed away in 2004 and will also be inducted, posthumously.

Watch Jonathan Murray’s full archive interview and check out our show page on The Real World to learn more about the ground-breaking program.

Superbowl Showdown: The Art of Televising The Game

Sunday, February 5th, 2012

It’s Superbowl Sunday! Time for junk food, expensive commercials, a halftime spectacular, and of course, football! Today the AFC’s New England Patriots take on the NFC’s New York Giants at Lucas Oil Stadium at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBC. The game will also be streamed online for the first time ever.

The Archive is honored to have interviewed several people who have made significant contributions to how television viewers experience the Superbowl. Don Mischer produced the  first of the big halftime spectaculars – featuring Michael Jackson at Superbowl XXVII:

And director Tony Verna is the man who brought instant replay to television, forever changing the way football and other sports were viewed:

Enjoy today’s game, sports fans!

For more on Superbowl XLVI click here.

Legendary “Academy Awards” Producer Gil Cates, Dies at 77

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

The Archive of American Television is sad to report that director/producer Gilbert Cates passed away suddenly on Monday, October 31st at the age of 77. He started in early television as an associate producer on game shows, and later produced variety shows and television movies. He served two terms as President of the Directors Guild of America, but was best known as the long-time producer of the Academy Awards (The Oscars). The Archive interviewed Gil in 2007. Here are some excerpts from the 2-1/2 hour interview:

On his approach to producing the Academy Awards

I think that everything that you do should somehow be authentic. There should be a connection to the world around. I’ve done 13 Oscar shows now and I’ve tried to connect as much as possible, the Oscar show with the emotional happening in the world.  Now that happens in large measure by the movies, because sometimes you have movies which are studio movies.  Sometimes you have movies which are independent movies.  Happy movies, sad movies.  But on the other hand, things are happening in the world. The first year that I did the show, the Berlin Wall had come down. It seemed that everybody was euphoric and it seemed a perfect time to have a party around the world.  So the first year that we did the show we had Jack Lemmon in Moscow and Charlton Heston in Argentina and then I had someone in Japan.  So we just opened up the world and had this big party. And the films were the films, but there was that. One year, when Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer were elected Senators from California, we had a show that was focused around women in film. We had film packages about such things as until World War II, basically, most of the editors that edited all the films you remember were women, that somehow, whether it was thought of like a tailoring job, I don’t know, but they were women.  All the great films. So, we were interested in women cinematographers. Each year seems to indicate an emotional connection to something. My approach is to try to find what that emotional connection is and see if we can graft that onto the movies. Then of course, the biggest choice, I think, that the producer has, is the selection of the host. When I started doing the show, the big hosts were Bob Hope and Johnny Carson.  So, I had to find a host. A couple of folks and I all thought that Billy Crystal would be a great host.  Initially the network wasn’t that enthused about Billy Crystal.  They didn’t know how Billy Crystal would play in the Midwest, all these kind of arcane thoughts that network minds go through. Billy was terrific and he has been terrific each time he’s done the show.  So, from my perspective, the big thing is to try to connect it to something authentically that’s happening and to try to find a good host.

On his long association with The Geffen Playhouse

The Geffen is a playhouse that was originally was the Westwood Playhouse.  I was Dean of the School of Theatre and Television at UCLA for about 8 years.  And during that time UCLA owned another theatre in town, the Jimmy Doolittle Theatre.   And it was just not a good fit because it was too far away, it was not really relevant.  So we convinced the University and a group of people to ultimately we sold that, to buy this theatre.  The theatre was owned by a woman who would not sell it unless whoever bought it guaranteed it would be a theatre forever. No one could really do that, except the University.  So a group of people put together the money to buy the theatre, gave it to the University, which pledged that it would be used as a theatre forever.  And then made an arrangement with an operating company of which I’m President, to run it.  For which, by the way, I don’t get paid.

On his proudest career achievement and his motivation to keep working

My proudest achievement is having had a career to begin with!  At this point it’s weird,  I’ve done so many shows, I don’t remember many of the shows that I’ve done.  And I love every show  I did a play of Robert Anderson’s in London.  With a great theatrical producer named Binky Beaumont, H.M. Tennant, and they produced hundreds of shows with John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier.  And I remember being with, Binky’s a weird name, isn’t it?  I don’t even know what his real name was, but he was called Binky. I remember being with him at the opening night party of “You Know I Can’t Hear You When the Water’s Running”. Jose Ferrer directed it and Tom Ewell was in it, Rosemary Murphy.  And at the party, he was about 81,  I remember asking him, “Binky, what are you looking forward to now?”  You know, 81, done it all, produced hundreds of plays. He looked at me and he said, I just want to find a good script.  I thought to myself, “Wow, that’s pretty good, at 81 and you just want to find a good script.”  But I know what he means.  You just want to keep doing it.

On how he would like to be remembered

When Laurence Olivier died, they ran a piece of him on the Barbara Walters Show. Barbara Walters asked Olivier how he would like to be remembered.  And he thought for a moment and he said, “as a worker.”  Barbara Walters said, “As  a worker?  That seems so prosaic.  What does that mean, as a worker?”  Olivier thought and he said, “well, you know, Michelangelo was a worker.  God is a worker.”  And in his context I know what he meant.  In my context, how would I like to be remembered?  I’d just like to be remembered as a fair and thoughtful guy.  Really, honestly.  I mean, at the end of the day, the only one who really remembers you, in terms of memory, unless you’re Albert Einstein, is your family anyway.  And the real thing that counts is that chain of which you’re a part.  All this stuff is transitory.  I remember going through a period of time when I would watch television at night and I would see a little clip of an old movie come on.  It gave me a little kick.  And as you get older, those clips get less and less.  But… that’s it. Just as a fair fellow.

Full Interview description (watch the interview here):
Gilbert Cates was interviewed for two-and-a-half hours on the stage of his theater production of “A Picasso” at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood, CA. Cates talked about getting hired as an NBC guide at Rockefeller Center and performing such tasks as “audience waver,” in which he encouraged applause from the studio audience. He described the excitement of working in “live” television in the 1950s and his association as director and producer on several game shows. He discussed his work as an associate producer on the series Dotto, the game show that infamously ignited the “quiz show scandals.” He described how the show was exposed and talked about the general nature of fixing shows during that era. Cates discussed projects that he produced and directed in the 1960s including the pilot for the music-variety series Hootenany; International Showtime (in which he filmed international circus acts), and Electric Showcase (including a show done at the 1965 World’s Fair). He talked about his transition to producing Broadway shows, including “I Never Sang for My Father,” which he later filmed as a feature film with Melvyn Douglas and Gene Hackman. He talked about several television movies he directed including Arthur Miller’s After the Fall. He spoke in great detail about his long association as producer of the Academy Awards broadcasts. He described the challenges of mounting the “live” broadcast and recounted several memorable moments from the show through the years. Lastly, he talked about the creation of the Geffen Playhouse where he serves as Producing Director. The interview was conducted by Gary Rutkowski on March 13, 2007.

Obituary from The Directors Guild of America

Obituary from The Wrap

Toasting a Legend: The Television Academy Presents “An Evening Honoring Carl Reiner”

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Congratulations to Carl Reiner, who will be honored by The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in North Hollywood this evening! Panelists paying tribute to the television legend include Mel Brooks, Jon Cryer, Ann Morgan Guilbert, Bonnie Hunt, Rose Marie, Larry Matthews, Bill Persky, Rob Reiner, Paul Reiser, Eva Marie Saint, Garry Shandling, and Dick Van Dyke. The event is sold out, but you can watch the live webcast at 7:30pm PST at

Reiner’s career in television began in the 1940s with appearances on The Fashion Story and The Fifty-fourth Street Review, and continues today with a recurring role on Hot in Cleveland. He’s won multiple Emmys, and in his Archive Interview, Reiner shares a fun fact about how his then-rules for wearing his toupee complicated his first Emmy win for The Dick Van Dyke Show:

“I didn’t wear my hair because if I had worn my hair and sat in the audience, it would be suggesting that I think I’m gonna win. I remember saying, ’should I put my hair on?’ Because my rule of thumb is if it’s national … local shows I never wore it. If I went on an interview show I never wore my hair during the day … If it’s a national show, I’ll wear it. But I decided that night, I said, ‘honey, if I put my rug on, people are gonna think I think I’m gonna win.’ So I said, ‘I’m gonna not wear it. If I win, I’ll go up there.’

In his acceptance speech, Reiner earned a huge laugh with the line, “If I’d known I was going to win, I would have worn my hair.”

He’s a winner with or without the toupee in our book.

Watch below for more memorable moments from Reiner’s career:

On creating The 2000 Year Old Man with Mel Brooks:

On working with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca:

On winning his first Emmy:

On working with the writers of The Dick Van Dyke Show:

Watch Carl Reiner’s Full interview online:

“Five” Premieres Tonight on Lifetime!

Monday, October 10th, 2011

From Marta Kauffman and fellow executive producers Jennifer Aniston, Paula Wagner, Kristin Hahn, Kevin Chinoy, and Francesca Silvestri, comes Five, an anthology of five short films “exploring the impact of breast cancer on people’s lives.” Known primarily for her comedies (she and writing partner David Crane co-executive produced Dream On, and co-created Veronica’s Closet and Friends), Kauffman shared a few words about incorporating humor into Five in her Archive interview:

“I’m working on a project for Lifetime … with Jennifer Aniston – she’s also executive producer. We’re doing five short films about breast cancer that will all air in one night, which I am very excited about. They’ll bring humor to a pretty dark subject … It’s a drama because it’s breast cancer, but there will be comedy in it.”

Jennifer Aniston, Alicia Keys, Demi Moore, Patty Jenkins, and Penelope Spheeris directed the films, and Patricia Clarkson, Rosario Dawson, Kathy Najimy, Tony Shalhoub, Jeffrey Tambor, and Archive Interviewee Bob Newhart are among the stars. Five airs tonight at 9pm/8c on Lifetime.

View Marta Kauffman’s full interview with David Crane here:

If at First You Don’t Succeed … Recast: “The Dick Van Dyke Show” Celebrates 50 Years

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Back in the summer of 1958, Carl Reiner, already an established writer and supporting actor on Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows, sought to create a sitcom in which he would star. He followed the adage of “write what you know” and created thirteen scripts of Head of the Family, a largely autobiographical series centered around Rob Petrie, head writer of “The Alan Sturdy Show.” Rob was married to Laura, they had a six-year-old son, Ritchie, and Buddy and Sally were Rob’s cohorts in the writers’ room. Sound familiar?

Reiner’s agent, Harry Kalcheim, shopped the Head of the Family pilot script around, and actor Peter Lawford wanted to front the money to shoot the pilot. Once Reiner sent a script to Lawford’s father-in-law and supplier of the cash, Joseph P. Kennedy, Reiner was given the green light. The pilot was shot in December of 1958 in New York, with Reiner starring as Rob, Barbara Britton as Laura, Gary Morgan as Ritchie, Sylvia Miles as Sally, and Morty Gunty as Buddy. And then … nothing. The pilot failed to sell for the Fall 1959 season, and for the next year, Reiner thought the project was dead. But Kalcheim refused to abandon the show. He presented the pilot episode to another client of his, producer Sheldon Leonard.

Already a successful creator/producer of The Andy Griffith Show, and producer of The Danny Thomas Show, Leonard recognized genius in Head of the Family, but identified one major flaw: Reiner completely miscast himself as Rob Petrie. It’s difficult to see how Reiner could be wrong for a role that he based on himself, but Reiner was a natural sketch performer, not a sitcom actor. Reiner didn’t take the news well, but as he describes in his Archive Interview, Leonard brightened his spirits by telling him that he was a natural producer:

Sheldon Leonard, himself a seasoned writer/performer (he played the robber who famously asked Jack Benny, “Your money or your life?”), convinced Reiner that one makes a much better living as a creator/writer/producer than as an actor. Reiner agreed and so began the hunt for a new Rob Petrie.

Re-enter Harry Kalcheim, candidate for best-agent-ever. A year earlier, at the urging of Kalcheim, Sheldon Leonard attended a musical revue called “The Girls Against the Boys” to check out a performer named Dick Van Dyke. In his Archive Interview, Leonard recalls liking Van Dyke, but not having any material at the time that could showcase his talents. Now, the right project had come along. Leonard convinced Reiner to hop a plane to New York to watch Van Dyke in Broadway’s “Bye Bye Birdie” and Reiner saw what Leonard now saw: Rob Petrie.

With a new lead, Reiner and Leonard distanced themselves from many elements of the failed Head of the Family pilot. The program assembled in the spring of 1960 was shot in California, in multi-camera format rather than single-camera, filmed in front of a live audience, and had an entirely new cast. The original scripts remained, but Reiner re-tooled them for multi-cam shooting and to play to the actors’ individual strengths, like Van Dyke’s talent for physical comedy:

Assembling the new cast was effortless in some ways, torturous in others. Sheldon Leonard knew he wanted Rose Marie as sassy Sally Rogers, who in turn suggested pal Morey Amsterdam for the role of Buddy Sorrell. Reiner took on the part of Rob’s boss, re-named Alan Brady; Richard Deacon portrayed producer Mel Cooley; and little Larry Matthews, who had never professionally acted before, played six-year-old Ritchie. Jerry Paris and Ann Morgan Guilbert rounded out the cast as neighbors Jerry and Millie Helper. Everyone was set … except Laura Petrie.

After auditioning many actresses for the part and coming up frustratingly empty-handed, Leonard and Reiner paid a visit to Danny Thomas, the largest funder of the newly formed Calvada Productions, which owned the show (Calvada: Ca – Carl Reiner, l – Sheldon Leonard, va – Dick Van Dyke, da – Danny Thomas). Thomas recommended they audition a woman who had tried out for the role of his daughter on Make Room for Daddy. The actress was wonderful, but with her cute nose, Thomas felt that no one would believe she was his daughter! Thomas remembered her as “the girl with three names.” With the help of a casting agent who tracked her down, Mary Tyler Moore auditioned for and won the role of Laura Petrie, as she explains in her Archive Interview:

Throw in advertising agency executives Lee Rich and Grant Tinker of Benton & Bowles, who secured sponsor Procter & Gamble and optioned the series to CBS, and that brings us to Tuesday, October 3, 1961, the premiere of The Dick Van Dyke Show. Reiner suggested the new title, following Sheldon Leonard’s tradition of naming a show after its star. Though no longer the lead in front of the camera, Reiner’s leadership behind the camera resulted in the classic sitcom of the 1960s.

Critics adored The Dick Van Dyke Show, but the program did not enjoy high ratings and was nearly canceled after the first year. Due to Sheldon Leonard’s persistence, four more seasons aired, and the show ended its run on June 1, 1966 with episode “The Last Chapter,” in which Alan Brady is set to star in and produce a television show based on Rob Petrie’s autobiographical novel. Talk about art imitating life!

But art imitating life is what made The Dick Van Dyke Show such a gem. You believed Rob and Laura as a couple. They showed affection, they fought, and she sighed, “Oh, Rob!” sometimes out of frustration, sometimes out of happiness. Sally and Buddy teased each other like co-workers really do; all of the characters represented people you felt like you knew or wished you could befriend. Fifty years later, the episodes and characters still remain approachable and real.

So here’s wishing a very Happy 50th Anniversary to The Dick Van Dyke Show. We expect we’ll be watching Rob trip over that ottoman for many years to come.

- by Adrienne Faillace

Prohibition? The Civil War? The Brooklyn Bridge? Filmmaker Ken Burns on How He Chooses his Projects

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Prohibition, a new three-part, five-and-a-half-hour documentary series by Ken Burns (The Civil War, Jazz, Baseball, Huey Long, National Parks: America’s Best Idea; Brooklyn Bridge, and many more) and Lynn Novick, airs October 2, 3 and 4, 2011, 8:00-10:00 p.m. ET on PBS. Set in the era of bathtub gin, bootleggers and speakeasies, the series tells the true story of the rise, rule and fall of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It was called the Noble Experiment, but it was in fact one of America’s most notorious civic failures, an object lesson in the challenge of legislating human behavior.

The Archive of American Television interviewed Ken Burns about his life, career, and documentary process in 2007, here’s a clip where he passionately discusses his documentary style and how he chooses his projects:

Also, check out Jim Benson’s TV Time Machine interview with Ken Burns about the project.

Ken Burns and Lynn Novick introduce the series in this promo video:

Watch the full episode. See more Ken Burns.

Watch the Archive’s full interview with Ken Burns here.

Photo courtesy of: John Binder Collection

Backstage and red carpet interviews from the Emmys are now online!

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

The Archive was on the red carpet at the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards and backstage during the show.

A full playlist of the red carpet interviews is online, and some excerpts below. Thanks to Pop Culture Passionistas for shooting and editing these interviews!

Martin Scorsese (Winner, Outstanding Direction for a Drama Series) discusses why he wanted to shoot Boardwalk Empire like a film:

Melissa McCarthy (Winner, Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series) discusses the appeal of her show, Mike and Molly:

Jim Parsons on his surprise Emmy win for Big Bang Theory (Winner, Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series):

Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen (Winners, Outstanding Supporting Actor/Actress in a Comedy Series) discuss their Emmy wins for Modern Family:

Producer Nigel Lythgoe talks about why he believes in his shows American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance:

Paula Abdul on being inspired by Gene Kelly as a young girl:

Matthew Weiner (Winner, for Oustanding Drama Series for Mad Men) talks about what he watches on TV:

The Secret Word is: 25! Twenty-five Years of Being Cuckoo at Pee-Wee’s Playhouse!

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Chairy, Jambi, Pterri, Randy… on September 13, 1986, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse introduced dozens of lovable characters to millions of viewers on Saturday mornings. Expanded from a live stage show into a children’s program by Paul Reubens, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse was a smashing success that featured Reubens as Pee-Wee Herman, a kid at heart who enjoyed the company of his fanciful Puppetland friends. Steve Binder, producer of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, talks about the early days of the program and the decision to go off the air after the fifth season, in 1991:

Mekka Lekka Hi-Mekka Hiney Ho!

Watch Steve Binder’s full interview online:

About this interview:

Producer/Director Steve Binder was interviewed for the Archive’s Living Television Collection in 2004. He talks about his early work at Los Angeles’ KABC, and directing The Steve Allen Westinghouse Show in the early 60s. He discusses at-length writing and directing his breakthrough rock documentary, The T.A.M.I. Show, which showcased such stars as The Supremes, The Rolling Stones, and James Brown. He also discusses many other programs he worked on including Hullabaloo, The Danny Kaye Show, Gilligan’s Island, Diana Ross in Central Park and Lucy in London, a CBS special starring Lucille Ball. He talks at length about producing and directing NBC’s Elvis: The ‘68 Comeback Special, which relaunched Elvis Presley’s career and set the bar for music specials. Steve Binder was interviewed at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences headquarters in North Hollywood, CA on March 4, 2004 by Stephen J. Abramson.

Get ready for Emmy!

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

The 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards will be given out September 10 and 18, 2011 in Los Angeles.

The Archive of American Television congratulates all of this year’s nominees! Below are some excerpts from the Archive’s nominated interviewees:

Dan Castellaneta, Nominated for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance (As “Homer Simpson” on The Simpsons)

David Crane, Nominated for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series (Episodes)

Louis J. Horvitz, Nominated for Outstanding Directing for a a Variety, Music, or Comedy Special (53rd Grammy Awards)

Susan Lacy , Nominated for Outstanding Nonfiction Series (Exec. Producer for American Masters)

Christopher Lloyd, Nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series (co-creator of Modern Family)

Matthew Weiner , Nominated for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series and Outstanding Drama Series (creator/writer of Mad Men)

Betty White, Nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (as “Elka Ostrosky” on Hot in Cleveland)

Other interviewees nominated for an Emmy this year:
Robert Dickinson for Outstanding Lighting Design/ Lighting Direction (Conan, 83rd Academy Awards, 53rd Grammy Awards)
Linda Ellerbee for Outstanding Children’s Nonfiction (Exec. Producer for Nick News with Linda Ellerbee: Under the Influence: Kids of Alcoholics)
Michael J. Fox for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series (“Louis Cannin” on The Good Wife)
Cloris Leachman for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series (as “Maw Maw” on Raising Hope)
Hector Ramirez for Outstanding Technical Director, Camerawork (American Idol, 83rd Academy Awards, The Kennedy Center Honors)
Don Mischer for Outstanding Directing for a a Variety, Music, or Comedy Special (83rd Academy Awards)
Sheila Nevins for Outstanding Children’s Program (Exec. producer for A Child’s Garden of Poetry)
Paul Shaffer for Outstanding Music Composition for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special (2011 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductions Ceremony)
Tim Van Patten for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series (Game of Thrones)

The full list of nominees can be found here.

The Creative Arts Emmy Awardss will be held on September 10. The Primetime Emmys Telecast will be broadcast live on September 18 on FOX. Check our 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards page for updates and winners!