Archive for the ‘Genre: Drama’ Category

Remembering Legendary Actor Ernest Borgnine

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

We’re sad to report that legendary actor Ernest Borgnine died today, July 8th, at the age of 95. The prolific Oscar-winning (for Marty) and Emmy-nominated actor (for McHale’s Navy and ER), began his carer in early live television, and is best known on TV for his starring roles in McHale’s Navy and Airwolf; plus, he is known to younger generations for his role as “Mermaid Man” on the animated SpongeBob SquarePants.

Born Ermes Effron Borgnino on January 24, 1917 in Hamden, Connecticut, Borgnine never thought he’d be an actor. It was at the urging of his mother (“Have you ever thought of becoming an actor? You always like to make a darn fool of yourself in front of people. Why don’t you give it a try?”) that he entered the field. We’re so grateful that he did!

After graduating high school, Borgnine joined the Navy in 1935, ended his service in 1941, and went right back in again when World War II broke out. Once he set his sights upon acting, he first attended Yale University, but then moved on to the Randall School of Drama in Hartford, CT to concentrate solely on the dramatic arts. After significant stage work at the Barter Theater in Virginia and time on Broadway in “Harvey”, Borgnine appeared as the evil “Nargola” on the popular 1951 children’s television show, Captain Video and his Video Rangers.

On working in early live television

In 1953 he played “Sgt. ‘Fatso’ Judson” in From Here to Eternity, but the role with which Borgnine would forever be associated came in 1955. Based on Paddy Chayefsky’s television play of the same name, Borgnine auditioned for, and won the part – and the Best Actor Oscar that year – for playing the title role in Marty.

On winning an Oscar for Marty

A big screen star, Borgnine soon conquered the small screen as well. In 1963 he made his first of many appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and was asked to play the lead in a dramatic show called Seven Men Against the Sea, which as Borgnine explains in the following clip, eventually became the 1964 comedy McHale’s Navy.

On the genesis of McHale’s Navy

Borgnine began his run occupying center square on the popular game show Hollywood Squares in 1966, starred in the film The Poseidon Adventure in 1972, and appeared in the short-lived series Future Cop in 1976-77. In ‘77 he played “The Centurion” in Franco Zeffirelli’s TV miniseries Jesus of Nazareth, and from 1984-86 he was back starring in a TV series again, this time as “Dominic Santini” in the action-adventure show Airwolf.

On starring in Airwolf

After playing “Manny the Doorman” on the mid-’90s show The Single Guy and voicing “Carface” on the animated TV series All Dogs Go To Heaven, in 1999 Borgnine began lending his voice to SpongeBob SquarePants‘ “Mermaid Man”, thrilling girl scouts and adults alike with his maniacal catch phrase, “EVIIIIIIL!”

On voicing “Mermaid Man” on SpongeBob SquarePants

On acting

“As an actor, you’re supposed to know what life and, and love is all about.  There’s so much to life, so much to bringing forth something in yourself that you have experienced, or have had an experience, or are thinking of an experience, or are willing to experience, something that you can bring to this theater, to this picture. And this is what makes an actor, I feel  it’s what you have here (points to heart) and what you have here (points to head) that counts. It’s not just reading things off of a thing that, some writer has written for you.  You make the writer’s words your own, besides thinking, “Am I living those words?” That’s what counts.”

See the entire interview a

About the interview:
In his two-and-a-half hour interview, Ernest Borgnine discusses his youth and the influence of his mother on his future acting ambitions. He reflects on enlisting in the Navy in the mid 1930s and on his service during World War II. He talks about his first appearances on television, including villainous roles on the DuMont children’s science fiction show Captain Video and His Video Rangers, and speaks of the role for which he is most associated – that of “Marty” in the 1955 film of the same name. He details his experience working with writer Paddy Chayefsky and director Delbert Mann (who had collaborated on the original television version)— and recounts stories about his audition for the part and of his Oscar win for Best Actor.  He details the popular 1960’s sitcom McHale’s Navy, describes the production schedule, and gives his impressions of the show’s ensemble cast. Borgnine recalls appearing on The Hollywood Squares, The Tonight Show, and (in an Emmy-nominated performance) the television movie “All Quiet on the Western Front.”  He chronicles his feature film roles in From Here to Eternity and in the disaster film classic The Poseidon Adventure, and comments on his work with directors Robert Aldrich and Sam Peckinpah,. He briefly speaks of his roles in the television series Airwolf, The Single Guy, and Spongebob Squarepants (he provides the voice of “Mermaid Man”).  The remarkably vital 91-year-old Borgnine spoke with humor and enthusiasm and a clear zest for life. Henry Colman and Jenni Matz conducted the interview on October 10, 2008 in Beverly Hills, CA.

TV’s First Anthology Drama Turns 65: Happy Anniversary, Kraft Television Theatre!

Monday, May 7th, 2012

It was the first of the Golden Age, classic anthology dramas. Kraft Television Theatre was born out of Television Theatre, the 1946 monthly showcase of plays courtesy of WNBT, NBC’s New York station. Once the monthly program proved a success, NBC found a regular sponsor for the show and officially launched television’s first live weekly, hour-long dramatic series, Kraft Television Theatre on May 7, 1947.

The program was so successful on Wednesday evenings that a Thursday installment was added for a two-year run on ABC. Between the NBC and ABC versions, there were a total of 650 shows produced – the series missed only three live telecasts in its eleven year run, due to coverage of political conventions.

Fred Coe directed several of the early episodes, and went on to produce several Golden Age favorites including Playhouse 90 and Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse. Sidney Lumet directed 1958’s two-part production of “All the King’s Men:”

E.G. Marshall starred in several productions, including a memorable 1950 “Macbeth” and Jack Klugman not only acted in the series, but also wrote 1958’s “Code of the Corner:”

Noteworthy writers tapped for the series included Truman Capote, Rod Serling (who penned 1955’s “Patterns” starring Ed Begley, Sr.) JP Miller, and Horton Foote, whose play “Only the Heart” was performed on Kraft Television Theatre in 1948:

Part of the magic, and the difficulty of the productions stemmed from the fact that they were live. The blocking and staging had to be precise, and if someone flubbed a line or missed a cue, there were no retakes. Makeup artist Dick Smith recalls the challenges of aging a character on live television, specifically, Nancy Marchand’s “Queen Elizabeth” in the 1951 production “Of Famous Memory:”

Kraft loved the show because cheese sales skyrocketed – a 1947 study by ad agency J. Walter Thompson showed that McLaren’s Imperial Cheese, which was advertised solely on Kraft Television Theatre, was regularly selling out at grocery stores. RCA (parent company of NBC) loved the show because quality programming was a draw for people to buy television sets, which RCA manufactured.

Kraft Television Theatre finally came to the end of its eleven-year-run in 1958, as serialized dramas and sitcoms with continuing storylines became the fashion. The show was briefly reconfigured as Kraft Mystery Theatre in April 1958 and went off the air for good five months later in September. Though the program was not shot on film, kinescopes remain of several of the most lauded productions, including “Patterns,” and the Titanic tale, “A Night to Remember.”

- by Adrienne Faillace

Dr. Kildare Celebrates Its 50th Anniversary!

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Fifty years ago today, on September 28, 1961, long before McDreamy and McSteamy, the strikingly handsome Dr. Kildare first graced our television sets. Swoon.

One of television’s first medical dramas, alongside ABC’s Ben Casey, Dr. Kildare followed a young intern, Dr. James Kildare (played by Richard Chamberlain) as he learned the tricks of his trade. The program highlighted teachable moments from Kildare’s mentor, Dr. Leonard Gillespie, portrayed by veteran actor Raymond Massey. Executive producer Norman Felton had long hoped to create a medical series, but never intended to make a television show based on the 1930’s and 1940’s MGM films starring the character of Dr. Kildare. Once Felton sold his pilot about a medical intern to NBC, a suggestion trickled down from the network and MGM representatives (where Felton had a production deal) to call the series Dr. Kildare, to lend it an air of familiarity. Chamberlain’s character was dubbed Kildare, and the rest is TV history.

Below, Archive Interviewee Richard Chamberlain discusses the character of Dr. Kildare:

Archive Interviewee Lamont Johnson, who directed several episodes of Dr. Kildare, shares why he was drawn to the medical aspect of the show:

Not that you’d ever want to get sick, but from 1961-1966, if you happened to fall ill, you would have been in good hands with Blair General Hospital’s Drs. Kildare and Gillespie.

Uncovering CSI: Creator Anthony E. Zuiker’s Interview is Now Online

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

The Archive of American Television “interrogated” CSI creator Anthony E. Zuiker in 2010. His full interview is now online.
See some video excerpts, below:

Anthony Zuiker wrote the pilot in two days

CSI was one of those scripts where I did research for three days.  I wrote the teleplay in two days.  I think I changed five words in it. And every writer who’s had some success, knows that there are those that just kind of channel down from the heavens, that  you’re just the typist. And that’s what “CSI” was. It really was the first thing I wrote, we shot every word of what I first wrote.

Screaming “I’m just the writer!” does not protect you at a crime scene

The ride-along happened before the construction of the pilot. As luck would have it– I met Daniel Holstein, who’s the real-life Gil Grissom– who’s  one of 15 people licensed in blood splatter analysis.  Keeps maggots inside of vials inside of his desk.  So I went on ride-alongs.  And on day two, there was a 19-year-old woman who lured another woman back to a motel.  And we got the call for a sexual assault. The next thing I know, we’re blowing red lights at 100 miles an hour. I was freaked out, scared to death.  We show up…The 19-year-old they couldn’t find. So the CSI, to be a big shot, said, “Hey!  Here’s some gloves and some booties and a little comb. Why don’t you go comb around the bed for biologicals.  Ha, ha, ha.”  So I had my little book and I was being a fake CSI and looking for things…  Next thing I know, the bed started moving. I lifted the bed skirt and there are two sets of eyes.  The 19-year-old girl comes out.  She scratches my face.  I jump to the ceiling.  The guy pulls out a gun and “Freeze!”  And they drag her out and handcuff her and slam her on the bed, and I’m like, “I’m just the writer, man!  I’m just the writer.” But what I’ve learned– is that law enforcement, if they don’t do their job right and clear the scene, then people will hang around or harm the CSIs trying to get the evidence to convict them.  They didn’t clear the scene properly.  That’s how come I got quasi-attacked.  But if you watch the pilot closely, you’ll see that Holly Gribbs was shot at the end of the pilot, and that’s where I got the idea.

You won’t see the CSI crime lab in real-life.

When you walk through a crime lab in Las Vegas, or even the number two lab in the country, or even in Quantico, they’re very boring, four walls, drab, don’t smell nice. Very archaic equipment. PCV pipes and tubes, drapes, machinery, unorganized.  It’s not a very pretty sight. But we are doing television, so we had to sex it up, so to speak. So we did these really state-of-the-art, cool sets with see-through windows and state-of-the-art computers and made it feel like you were in sexy Washington, in terms of the state-of-the-art buildings that you might see that might be Frank Lloyd Wright-designed. It was to give it a sense of pace and style, and that’s what we did.

On the inspiration behind “C.S.I”

On breaking TV rules

On how “C.S.I” stands out

On naming “C.S.I”

On pitching the show

Anthony Zuiker’s full  interview is now online at

Actor Cliff Robertson dies at 88

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

Legendary actor Cliff Robertson passed away on September 10th, one day after his 88th birthday. The Archive of American Television interviewed him about his television work in 2005. Here are some excerpts from the interview:

On his proudest career achievement

I would have to say, survived. I have survived. I’m not sure I’m proud, but I recognize that the dear Lord has helped.  Whether it’s surviving these airplane mishaps that I didn’t get on that crashed or whatever, whatever it is, he’s given me in spite of it… Maybe the fact that, I did confront corruption at the highest level and that’s what my dear friend, Congressman Udall, put me up in the Congressional Record for standing against corporate corruption in Hollywood at a time when it was very costly. I didn’t work for three years.  It’s a little perverse, but I’m  kind of proud of that.  Because I knew when I did it, people said, including my former wife, it’s the end of your career.  And somehow or other we survived. So, I’m just very lucky. I’m lucky to survive the traffic on the way over here.

On how television has changed since he started his career

Since I first started?  It’s fast. It’s five second, two second, one second shots, it’s accelerated, it’s almost bizarre, it’s so fast.  And along with that speed sometimes you sacrifice quality. I mean, it’s arresting, but like a shallow meal, it leaves you. I think if we had the courage to take time, I’m telling you a story and you have to have the courage to take time to let the reader or the viewer get involved so that he or she are not in a hurry, they’re willing to cover the words or the thoughts or kind of digest what you’ve just seen so it stays with them –  like a very memorable meal as opposed to this quick snack.

On his advice to aspiring actors

Lee Strasberg said to me when I went out to do my first film, he said, “Cliff, they’ll promise you everything.  You come in with your own homework.  You come in with having analyzed and thought about your character. You come in prepared emotionally as well as technically and don’t let the hollow promises infatuate you because although they may mean well, most of the time they’ll promise you everything and give you little” I tell my young students, give them a buck and a half for every dollar they pay you and maybe even more, not necessarily out of respect or love for them, but out of respect for your own profession, your own talent, don’t sell yourself short. Don’t come in and just walk through it, even though you know you can do it and pick up the check, just out of respect for your profession and yourself, give them more than they give you.

On his mentors

As an actor?   I think Henry Fonda.  But I had Olivier, I mean, certainly Marlon in his early days, but he was kind of a child. He’d be the first to admit it. He was child playing with this fabulous talent and letting it slip through his fingers. Maybe that was the way he wanted it, but as a mentor, I think they lost them all with Olivier and Richardson, people of that ilk.  I have such high respect. Willy Loman’s wife had that line in that wonderful Arthur Miller play, Death of a Salesman, “attention must be paid, attention must be paid!  And I think our attention span in this business is so short. We’re worried about some little starlet temporarily on all the covers of all the magazines, that’s kind of shallow. Attention must be paid to those talents that are real, that are viable, that are lasting.

On how he would like to be remembered

Spell my name right.

About the interview

Cliff Robertson was interviewed for two-and-a-half hours in Los Angeles, CA. Robertson talked about his training at the Actors Studio and his early career on the New York stage. He talked about working in anthology series during the “live” television era of the 1950s.  He discussed his role as mentally disabled “Charlie Gordon” in both television ( The U.S. Steel Hour’s “The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon”) and film (Charly, which earned him an Oscar for Best Actor).  He spoke in great detail about his work with director John Frankenheimer on the Playhouse 90 show “The Days of Wine and Roses.” Robertson talked about being personally selected by President John F. Kennedy to play him in the feature film PT109.  He described his two appearances on the classic anthology series The Twilight Zone and spoke about series creator Rod Serling. Robertson discussed his blacklisting by the industry following “Hollywoodgate,” in which he accused Columbia Pictures head David Begelman of forging a check.  Robertson spoke about several of his television movie appearances as well as such television series as Rod Brown and the Rocket Rangers and Batman.  The interview was conducted by Stephen J. Abramson on March 1, 2005.

Legendary blacklisted director David Pressman dies at 97

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

David Pressman (with Robert S. Woods) as "Bernie" on One Life to Live

We’re sad to report that director David Pressman passed away on August 29, 2011 at the age of 97. He was known as an “actor’s director,” who began his television career on early anthology series. His rising career was halted by the Blacklist; but he continued to work as a coach and, astonishingly, was able to “secretly” direct an anthology series during that time. He later went on to direct One Life to Live for 28 years. After his retirement, he returned to his first love, acting, and played One Live to Live’s recurring character “Bernie.” David was interviewed by the Archive of American Television for 3-1/2 hours in 2004. Here are some excerpts from the career-spannng interview:

On his early love of acting

I’d seen a lot of theatre since I was a child.  And my mother was an opera singer and I knew actors and it was something — a pretended person was emotionally… exciting.   I was in love with acting… I still am!  Because I think to me it’s a wonderful, human, craft of art.  And from which stems really acting began first, before drama, writing and direction. The acting was first.  And will always be the first.  Because that’s the human effort that’s so creative and so wonderful.  Look how many actors we have in the country today.  I don’t mean great or wonderful, but a huge amount of young, very talented people all over.

On being blacklisted and secretly helping Charlie Martin direct Philip Morris Playhouse

Right after they called me on the phone said “David, I can’t use you anymore.  I don’t know how to do it.”  So what happened was, I coached him. I would get the floor plan…I showed him how to do it. It was really a very unique situation.  I would come to the control room… the day of the show. I was there during rehearsals while he was staging.  He would look at me and say is this the way I should do it? This is a rehearsal.  So the actors knowing what’s going on.  I said,”yeah, Charlie, you’re doing all right.” I would help him in staging it in case it didn’t work. I would go home at night with the script and the floor plan and show him how to stage it for the three cameras. I would come to the studio the day of the show in the morning and the crew all knew what was going on. All these cameramen… the guys would come together.  I’d say Charlie’s going to take over and this is how it works.  Here’s the shooting script and I would explain some of the complexities and they understood everything.  And they were right with it so when he came into the control room; he was a very showy guy, always wearing a black Hamburg hat and a cigar in his mouth and he was that kind of a character.  And the crew already knew the show from my description because I would spend an hour before blocking time… and they would understand.  And he would run the show and then at the end of the show that night, that evening, whatever it was, he would pay me $250 behind the scenery, backstage; a check for $250. So that went on I think for about 10, 12 shows and then finally he calls me and says hey kid, that’s it.  I can’t do it anymore.  They’re after me.  By that time, of course, he learned how to do it more or less and there were maybe two or three shows left and he went on, finally it was off the air.  He was quite a character.

On the end of the Blacklist

My family understood everything.  Friends all understood it.  One or two people said, “lie, can’t you?” I wasn’t ostracized in any way socially; no such thing.  As a matter of fact, for 12 years David Susskind would try to get me, and he would call me back and say, “David, I submitted your name to Armstrong Theatre and they said no.” I said, “who said no?”  He said, “I cannot tell you.” Finally by ’63 he called me and said its okay. After all the suits and the McCarthy period sort of dissipated but it was so terrible and so many people lost their livelihoods. So I began to work for Susskind again.

On directing social issue themes on One Life to Live

We had one issue for instance which had to do with a girl who was on drugs.  And… all the characters that go on it since then but we went… to a drug rehab outfit in the Bronx.  They had kids living there for four or five days.  And we went and I shot, it was early… editing… it was still difficult to edit that.  It wasn’t like it is now.  But I shot for a week with the actress who played the character who was on drugs. I shot scenes with them talking  and we took that and we edited and incorporated into the show.  Because Agnes Nixon was very conscious of social issues like that.  About voting, for instanceand other problems of that kind.  But I remember this one particularly because we had to go on the street and shoot in a store, a storefront in the Bronx with the real kids mixed with actors.  And we had to re-edit it for two weeks to put the scenes into the show.

On playing “Bernie” on One Life to Live after retiring as director of the series

When I left the show in 1998 after 28 years of work, they called me back to coach the younger actors. Then I said “listen, I’m really an actor.  I really want to act…”  There was nothing in the script that I could play.  So I came home and I said to my wife, “what can I do?” And there’s an anecdote about David Mamet and Shakespeare which had to do with an actor who curses.  My wife said, “why can’t you be like a homeless actor who quotes a lot of Shakespeare and so forth?”  I said well, I’ll propose it.  So I went back to the producers and I said, “can’t I be like a homeless actor?” So they wrote me in. I’m a character named Bernard who lives in this hotel and I live in a cardboard box on the roof of the hotel. I had several scenes.  And my character is Bernie and every other line I’d drop Shakespeare lines which is very easy for me because I quote a lot of Shakespeare anyway when possible.

On his proudest achievement

My proudest achievement? I was very happy with the play “Summertree”.  And also, the Broadway “Disenchanted” with Jason Robards. I think those were the things I really loved doing the best. And that particular experience was extraordinary because of Jason Robard’s talent and his incredible capacity as an actor.  There have been several things on One Life to Live that I liked very much doing. I liked the experience of doing daytime because of the preparation, the work and that I was so… revered by the actors, in terms of helping them with the acting. The whole experience of daytime was to me a wonderful experience.  I loved doing it. And not only because it was a steady job but because of the nature of the thing.

On his advice to aspiring directors

Learn. Be prepared as best you can. An unprepared director who comes to rehearsal not fully prepared is a disaster.  And don’t depend on improvisation. In the theatre, you’ve got to know what you’re doing.  You’ve got to know how to stage it. You’ve got to know the values of all the theatrical work.  And, like a conductor of an orchestra, you have to know your instruments — how they work and what can they do. Otherwise, the musicians will find you out.  And so will the actors.


David Pressman (1913-2011) was interviewed for three hours plus in New York, NY.  Pressman recounted his arrival in the U.S. from Russia in 1922 and his early interest in acting.  He talked about acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse in the 1930s and his entrance into WWII in the early 40s (as well as describing the feeling of returning home from the war, seeing the Statue of Liberty from a porthole on his ship).  He talked about the Actor’s Studio that was created in 1947, which he described as a “gym” for actors.  He spoke in great detail about the “live” prestige ABC television drama series Actors Studio that started shortly after the Studio itself opened and which featured many of the emerging talent at the time.  Pressman talked about appearing as an actor in the very first production of Actors Studio and then becoming one of the series primary directors.  He talked about the process by which the productions were staged and directed for television.  He listed the writers, performers, and other talent who worked on the show and the series’ struggle for sponsorship.  Pressman talked about the excitement of working in “live” television and talked about other anthology series he directed.  He detailed his struggle to work as a director in television despite the shadow of the Hollywood Blacklist, and how he ultimately switched careers to teaching until the end of the blacklist, when he returned to television, notably as an Emmy Award-winning director of the daytime serial One Life to Live.  The interview was conducted in New York on July 27, 2004.

Composer Fred Steiner, best known for the “Perry Mason” theme, has died

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Legendary composer Fred Steiner passed away on June 23rd at the age of 88. The prolific composer (and musicologist) worked on many series including Playhouse 90, The Twilight Zone, Perry Mason, Star Trek, The Bullwinkle Show, and Gunsmoke. He also received an Oscar nomination for his work on The Color Purple. Fred was interviewed by the Archive of American Television in 2003. Here are some excerpts from his 4+ hour interview:

On composing the theme for Perry Mason.

CBS Music Director Lud Gluskin assigned me to it…. I have found some old sketches for the Perry Mason theme, some old pencil sketches, and they have no resemblance to what I finally came up with it. So it’s a complete mystery to me.  But apparently he liked it.  The original title was “Park Avenue Beat.”  And the reason for that was that I conceived of Perry Mason as this very sophisticated lawyer — eats at the best restaurants, tailor-made suits, and so on — and yet at the same time he’s mixed in with these underworld bad guys, murder and crime.  So the  underlying beat is R&B, rhythm and blues. And for the crazy reason that in those days, even to this day, jazz or R&B, whatever, is always associated with crime.  You look at those old film noir pictures they’ve always got jazz going for some reason or other. So it’s kind of a piece of symphonic R&B.  But since then, it’s been known as the Perry Mason theme.

On the opening of Gunsmoke.

I came up with the logo where you see him with the low angle shot of Matt Dillon. Well, first you see him from behind with the legs, it’s a face-off with the villain, the bad guy.  I wrote that.  And it ends up with the two gunshots, [HUMMING], bang, bang.  I wrote that. Now it seems like an obvious thing to do, set up the gunshot.

On writing the second theme for The Bullwinkle Show.

The first theme was written by Frank Comstock. Frank had kept the copyright to that music, and it was probably some lawyer, excuse the expression, who advised [creator/producer] Jay Ward, “hey, you’re losing money by not keeping the copyright to the music.” That’s when I got called in, and I got assigned to write, not only a new theme, but also about an hour’s worth of incidental music, and that’s what he used in various segments. The music editor was Skip Craig, who was very good…. The only thing Jay Ward told me that he wanted what he called a show biz theme.  But I wrote several themes for it.  I wrote the first one that you hear with Rocky flying around, he’s going back and forth.  Then you got the other one with Bullwinkle and the top hot strutting.  But he told me he wanted a show biz theme.  Jay was a marvelous guy.

On composing for Star Trek.

I had a conference with [series creator] Gene Roddenberry, and he said I don’t want any “boops and beep stuff,” like I guess they were having on some of the other science fiction shows.  He wanted, I think the term he used was “Captain Blood in space.”  And oddly enough, that was exactly the kind of thing that I had thought of.  They had shown me the pilot film, which Alexander Courage had scored, and he was of the same mind, although he had a little bit of kind of strange sounding stuff in there.  So the first one I scored, wow, it was a weird assignment as I recall. But I got assigned to, instead of scoring a whole episode, because Star Trek was very heavily scored with library, Bob Justman, who was the line producer, associate producer, line producer, whatever you want –  had things rigged so they’d use mostly library in a sequence.  But whenever there was a certain new character on the screen, or some new twist of a story that would demand new music.  So my first assignment there was writing special music for three — three different episodes in one session.  That was quite a way to break in.

Watch his full Archive interview here.

Link to his New York Times Obituary.

“Mad Men’s” Matthew Weiner responds to critics and more in an extended interview

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Just as last-year’s Mad Men season came to a close, creator and TV writer (Becker, The Sopranos, Mad Men) Matthew Weiner was interviewed for four hours about his entire career to-date by the Archive of American Television. Mad Men fans:  he discussed the creation and development of Mad Men in great detail, including decisions about the style and costuming of the show, the direction, the editing, and casting of the main characters and storylines. See Matthew Weiner’s full interview here.

When asked what he feels are the biggest misconceptions about him, Weiner responds to his critics directly in this video excerpt:

Scripting Reality: “An American Family” comes Full-Circle

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

40 years ago, in 1971 in suburban Santa Barbara, TV history was quietly being made as cinematographers Alan and Susan Raymond, along with producer Craig Gilbert, brought their cameras into the home and lives of the Loud family. The culmination of their work, the 12-part An American Family, aired on PBS  in 1973, and has since been considered the first true “reality” series. Now, the genre comes full circle with a fully scripted version of the story as HBO premieres Cinema Verite, a docudrama about the making of the documentary starring James Gandolfini, Diane Lane, and Tim Robbins.

In this Archive interview clip, Alan and Susan Raymond discuss meeting the Louds for the first time in New York and realizing how groundbreaking depicting an openly-gay Lance Loud on television would be:

The Archive of American Television interviewed the Raymonds (who continued to change the cinematic landscape with other acclaimed documentaries featuring grainy handheld footage and other techniques we take for granted) for four hours in 2010, just as Cinema Verite was in production. “It’s going to be another life experience,” they said. “First you see Steve Bochco take your footage [from The Police Tapes for the opening of Hill Street Blues]. And then you see the guy who makes Cops take your footage. Then you see reality TV like Real World, springboard from your work.  So now there’s going to be a narrative version of you, in which we’re characters in the movie.”

Cinema Verite trailer:

Again, as a sign of the times, apparently Craig Gilbert is not thrilled with his portrayal in the film. Hopefully, there was a crew filming a reality show of the making of the docudrama to help sort things out.

A reality TV footnote: in the Archive’s very recent interview with executive Tom Freston, who headed MTV as The Real World was developed, Freston mentioned that the series came out of an idea for a scripted soap opera featuring young adults. The concept proved too expensive, so the network opted to mount cameras in a house, and let the script write itself. The more things change….

Remembering Sidney Lumet

Saturday, April 9th, 2011

Director Sidney Lumet has died at the age of 86. The Archive of American Television interviewed him in 1999 about his work in television. The full interview is available at

Excerpts from the interview:

On being an actor’s director

I think because I was an actor myself, I know what they’re going through.  The process of acting is extremely painful.  I know that doesn’t sound logical to most people, but all good work is self-revelation.  That’s true for performing artist as well.  And actors, the only instrument they’ve got, it’s not a violin, it’s not a piano, it’s not just their bodies, the way a dancer is,  there’s no disguise.  That’s them up there.  And the better they are, the most of themselves they’re using.  That process of self-revelation is extremely painful.  I understand that process. If I can help them to feel any more secure, and any more unafraid of releasing whatever part of themselves they have to, I understand that I can help them that way.  And they feel that.  I don’t even have to articulate it

On  directing the feature film Network

It’s a peculiar movie.  Everybody keeps saying, ‘oh God, what a brilliant satire.’  Paddy and I keep saying, what satire?  It’s sheer reportage.  Everything that was discussed about television in that movie has happened, except we haven’t killed anybody on the air yet.  That’s the only thing that hasn’t happened.  Deliberately.  But other than that, everything has happened, news as entertainment.

On his advice to aspiring directors

Work wherever you can.  It doesn’t matter what.  A documentary, a commercial.  Wherever you can get near a camera, especially if you’re a director.  You’re not going to be a director until you put your eye into that finder.  And it doesn’t matter what. There’s no such thing as good work or bad work.  There’s only work, at the beginning.  Until you’ve got enough under your belt technically, and have your legs under you.  It’s like learning to walk, you need all of it.  Learn those lenses.  To hell with the zoom lens, it’s not going to teach you anything.  Bad lens. Visually it doesn’t help you tell anything. And the zoom lens lies, because it doesn’t relate to the eye, you see.  Doesn’t do what the eye does.  Because, if you notice, on the zoom lens, the background moves as well as the foreground.  As well as me getting bigger, that’s getting bigger behind me. That doesn’t happen with your eye.  So it’s basically telling you a lie visually, to begin with.  That’s why prime lenses are still, in my view, the heart of any visual medium.

Full Archive interview description:

Sidney Lumet was interviewed for three-hours in New York, NY. Mr. Lumet spoke of his work as an actor on the stage before he became a director in television.  He recalled his work on the television series Danger(1950-55), and You Are There(1953-57) both “live” dramatic shows of the time.  He discussed the use of blacklisted writers on these shows and how the material they wrote often reflected the era of McCarthyism. He also discussed other television dramatic anthology series he directed for including Omnibus, Goodyear Playhouse, The Alcoa Hour, Studio One, and Kraft Television Theatre. He described his direction of the well-known television special The Sacco-Vanzetti Story and The Play of the Week: “The Iceman Cometh” both of which aired in 1960.  He spoke of his transition to a feature film director with “12 Angry Men” in 1957 and his work on such other feature films as the Paddy Chayefsky’s satire, “Network” (1976).  The interview was conducted by Dr. Ralph Engleman on October 28, 1999.