Archive for the ‘Genre: Sports’ Category

Let the Games Begin!

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Tonight marks the beginning of the 2012 Summer Olympics! The opening ceremony commences with the traditional Parade of Nations, which Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle will oversee. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip will officially open The Games, “James Bond” (played by Daniel Craig) is set to make an appearance in a short film, and Sir Paul McCartney will also be on hand to celebrate “The Isles of Wonder,” as this year’s opening ceremony is called.

Enjoy some excerpts from Archive interviewees who have been integral to the Olympic Games over the years:

Sportscaster Jim McKay on covering the first televised foreign Olympics in 1960:

And McKay on the 1972 Munich Olympics:

Designer Ray Aghayan on making the U.S. athletes’ costumes for the 1984 opening ceremony:

Lighting designer Robert Dickinson on the 2004 Athens Olympics:

Broadcaster Bob Costas on what makes the Olympics so special:

And sportscaster Al Michaels on 1980’s legendary “Miracle on Ice”:

Visit our Olympics page for more info on The Olympic Games.

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.

Dick Ebersol steps down as Chairman of NBC Sports

Friday, May 20th, 2011

Dick Ebersol announced yesterday that he would step down as Chairman of NBC Sports — a title he has held since 1989. In this clip from his Archive of American Television interview, he talks about returning to work in sports television after working on Saturday Night Live and other entertainment shows.

About Dick Ebersol

Dick Ebersol began his career in sports television, working under Roone Arledge at ABC’s Wide World of Sports in the early 1960s. He became a producer on the show, and later on the Olympic Games. Ebersol was instrumental in setting up the deal that created Monday Night Football for ABC Sports. He left ABC in 1974 to join NBC as director of weekend late night programming, where he produced The Midnight Special with Richard Pryor. Later, he and Lorne Michaels would create Saturday Night Live (“NBC’s Saturday Night”), which debuted in 1975. In the same year he became Vice-President at NBC at the age of 28. In 1979 he was fired by NBC President Fred Silverman, but brought back later by Brandon Tartikoff to help “rescue” SNL during the early 80s. He would go on to produce many shows for NBC including Friday Night Videos, Saturday Night’s Main Event and Later with Bob Costas. In 1989 he was named president of NBC Sports, and later would become Chairman of NBC Sports, a title he held until this week.

Dick Ebersol was interviewed for the Archive in 2009. His full interview is not yet online.

ABC’s Wide World of Sports debuted 50 years ago today

Friday, April 29th, 2011

“Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sports..  the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat..ABC’s Wide World of Sports debuted on April 29, 1961 as a summer replacement show with host Jim McKay. The show featured a wide variety of sporting events, introducing surfing, gymnastics, rodeo, and more to the American audience. The introductory slogan was written by Stanley Ralph Ross. The theme music was composed by Charles Fox.

Sportscaster Al Michaels on what made Wide World of Sports a successful series:

“Roone Arledge was a brilliant man. He made you understand that sports are great and fun– but there’s a sameness to an event, and what makes that event unique is the human element.”

Sportscaster Jim McKay on how WWS got people interested in watching previously obscure sports, women’s sports and international events:

“The philosophy was very simple– sports, like everything else in life, is about the human beings involved. The idea was to focus on the individual.”

ABC Executive Thomas W. Moore on what got WWS on the air:

“Roone Arledge created the on-air show (but) that show would not have been on the air if not for Camel (cigarettes).”

Producer Chet Simmons on how WWS was the first to televise many sports that were never seen before:

“There was a big world out there of sports for television — the big events got televised. And along came Wide World of Sports, and I’ll give you Mexican cliff-divers or anything you want. There was something different all the time.”

ESPN is celebrating the 50th Anniversary by having fans rank the top 50 moments in Wide World of Sports history. Take the poll, or leave a comment here with your vote!

Sportscaster Al Michaels’ Interview is online

Monday, April 4th, 2011

About this Interview:

Al Michaels was interviewed for nearly three hours in Brentwood, CA. He spoke about his early years as a sports enthusiast who, as a child, wanted to become an announcer. He talked about the practical experience he gained announcing college games before becoming a professional. He also discussed one of his first jobs, as a contestant interviewer for Chuck Barris Productions. He then chronicled his illustrious sportscasting career, which began as a three-year stint in Hawaii for minor league baseball. He spoke about his long tenure at ABC sports featuring Wide World of Sports and Monday Night Football. He related his approach to announcing and how he prepares for broadcasts. He discussed some of his announcing highlights including the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” Olympic hockey game and the 1989 World Series, where a major earthquake disrupted the game. He also spoke in detail about working with his broadcast colleagues: Howard Cosell, Dan Dierdorf, Frank Gifford, Chick Hearn and Jim McKay. The interview was conducted by Jennifer Howard on August 31, 2005.

Clip of the Day: Ken Burns on Baseball in America

Friday, April 1st, 2011

In a week filled with baseball openers, here’s a clip from the Archive’s interview with documentarian Ken Burns (in reference to his 9-part PBS series Baseball). In this clip, Burns discusses the importance of baseball in American history and his deep admiration for Buck O’Neil, the first African-American coach in Major League Baseball.

See Ken Burns full interview here.

2008 Summer Olympics Begin Today

Friday, August 8th, 2008

The Summer Olympics begin today from Beijing, China. NBC Universal will be airing the most Olympic coverage in history with 3,600 hours on NBC, USA, MSNBC, CNBC, Oxygen, Telemundo, Universal HD and NBCOlympics.com.

American television began to air the Olympic Games as early as August 1936. Variety described this early attempt, thusly: “Definition of 180 lines, 25 frames per second, was very unclear and unsatisfactory…. General feeling is that commercially practical television is still several years off.” Seventy-two years later, the 2008 Summer Olympics will be the first Olympics to be covered entirely in high definition.

The Archive contains many interviews with the TV legends who captured the spirit of the Games. Designer Ray Aghayan, Sportscaster Curt Gowdy, network exec Don Ohlmeyer, and producer David Wolper, are among those found in our collection. Watch this clip from Wide Wold of Sports sportscaster Jim McKay (right) talk about the first televised foreign Games (from Rome) in 1960 and his encounter with Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay).

Sportscaster Jim McKay has Died – Archive Interview Online

Saturday, June 7th, 2008


American sports journalist and broadcaster Jim McKay (1921-2008) has died at age 86.

McKay was well-known for hosting ABC’s Wide World of Sports with the introductory line “…the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat” , but perhaps was best-known for his historic and humanistic coverage of the Munich Massacre at the 1972 Olympic Games, when 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage and then killed.

McKay discusses his career, and these landmark events in his 6-part Archive interview:

Click here to view Part 1
Click here to view Part 2
Click here to view Part 3
Click here to view Part 4
Click here to view Part 5
Click here to view Part 6

Detailed Interview Description:
Jim McKay was interviewed for nearly three hours in Monkton, MD. McKay talked about starting his career in 1947 at WMAR-TV in Baltimore. He went on to work with producer Roone Arledge at the beginning of ABC’s Wide World of Sports, staying nearly four decades with the job as the show’s host and commentator. McKay hosted the network’s coverage of the Olympic Games for over 30 years, including his critical coverage of the terrorist hostages and killings that interrupted the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. The interview was conducted by Gerry Sandusky on October 28, 1998.

Producer-director Garry Simpson’s Interview Is Now Online

Friday, May 18th, 2007


Garry Simpson worked on some of American television’s earliest productions in the pre-World War II era, and then continued following the war. He directed the 1946 Joe Louis-Billy Conn World Championship boxing match, episodes of American television’s first sitcom: Mary Kay and Johnny, and the famed 1949 production of Macbeth by “The Players.”


In Part 5 of his interview Garry Simpson talks about
All Star Revue and working with such stars as Jimmy Durante. Click on the arrow above to watch.

Click here to view the entire 8-part interview. Some sound bites from the interview:

On demonstrating television to the public (from Part 1):
RCA was hiring a crew to go out in the field and demonstrate television to the general public. So they hired about eight or nine people, and all of us had had some theatrical backgrounds. And we comprised some demonstration units, and we would go to various department stores in different cities and demonstrate television. Some of the sets at that time were only eight or nine inches wide, the television screen. The following year they brought out a screen that was eight-by-twelve inches in size. And they would take these sets to a department store and put them in one end of the department store and then at another end of the department store they’d set up a studio, and we’d hire local talent, and we’d put on comedians and musicians and little sketches. And people would see us with the bright lights in the studio and then they would walk around to the other end of the store and go in a darkened room and watch the television on the screen. And that was our job, to travel to the larger cities in the east, and we went as far west as Chicago, and we did these demonstrations.

On NBC’s television studios in the early years (from Part 2):
3-H was the only studio that NBC had for television. It was an old radio studio. And they took over 3-H. And 3-G, the studio next to it, was a vacant studio, so we made that our prop room, and we put furniture and draperies and effects that we needed in there and props. The third floor and the eighth floor of NBC were occupied at that time with radio studios, but the floors in between were not. They hadn’t been finished yet. Radio City was built in the late 30s. And they hadn’t expanded radio to use up all that space, so television came in and took over that empty space and [NBC] installed television studios in those empty areas. So, the sixth floor became a very active studio floor for television, and eventually we took over the eighth floor as all television. Then we outgrew the building and we had to go outside and start renting space, and we started renting empty theaters around New York City. And the first theater we rented was the International Theater, Columbus Circle, and that’s where Show of Shows came from, and the [Ford Festival] with James Melton, and many other variety shows came from there. Later we took over the Ziegfeld Theater. And each theater became sort of one show’s possession— The Tonight Show came from one theater that we rented.

On NBC’s post-World War II schedule and the stars he worked with (from Part 2):
Well, in the beginning remote programs filled up most of our schedule, because we didn’t have to build those shows. So we took advantage of all of the sporting events and special events. [When] we started building shows, the Chevrolet Tele-Theater [1948-50] was one of our first dramatic series, half-hour dramas. And those were weekly programs with stars. We started using well-known actors who hadn’t appeared on television before — most of them. And we spent the money to get those stars. I enjoyed working on those programs, and they were well received. [I worked with] Paul Lukas, Luise Rainer, Tallulah Bankhead, Brian Donlevy. Edward Everett Horton, Charlie Ruggles, Jackie Cooper. There’s a whole list of several hundred names. We started using actors then that were not known, who were beginning their careers, who [later became] big stars. I used Jack Lemmon when he first got out of college. I used Grace Kelly, giving her some of the first shows that she did. And I became very friendly with Grace, and she invited me up to her apartment in New York, and I intended to use her some more but Hollywood picked her up in 1950. She went out and made High Noon. We discovered James Dean and gave him a chance to appear on television. And he was a fascinating personality. Sort of an offbeat character. But I enjoyed working with him and had planned to use him more but Hollywood picked him up too, and you know the rest.

On covering the Joe Louis-Billy Conn World Championship boxing match [in 1946] at Yankee Stadium (from Part 3):
That was a big event for television. First of all, it was difficult for us to get the rights to televise, because the promoters were afraid we’d cut into the gate. But they finally came through and said we could do it. Yankee Stadium was just abuzz – it was so crowded, jammed, and the excitement was very high. And people had never seen television cameras at ringside like we had it. And those type of things really brought in an audience to television in those early days.

On the early documentary series Eye Witness [1947-48] (from Part 3):
This was to inform the public about television and how television had been developed scientifically. And we had on our team, RCA, Vladimir Zworykin, who was the inventor of the iconoscope, which was the first tube to turn a picture into electronics. And RCA had a laboratory in Princeton, and at that time Zworykin was working out of the Princeton labs. So I got the idea for this program, and I went down to see Zworykin, and we talked. He gave me the history of television as he knew it. I asked to see some of the early equipment that he’d developed. And he couldn’t put his hands on them, those early things that he had made. But after a few hours search he went out to a shed in back of the main building and there were some of these early tubes that he had worked, he had many prototypes before he finally developed a tube that would please him. He pulled out some of these old pieces of equipment and we brought them back into the main building, and we arranged the stuff all together, and it was quite an impressive set of pieces. And he brought in some of his assistants who’d worked with him. And we put on this program and afterwards all these pieces of equipment were displayed in cases…. And Zworykin was the main narrator of this whole thing. And at the end of the program we brought on General Sarnoff, Chairman of the Board of RCA. [In other shows] we would take people to the transmitter and explain the transmitter and show what it does. And we were in the studio and showing how you put on the makeup and rehearsing a show and the camera movements.

On directing the 1949 NBC production of Macbeth (from Part 4):
The Player’s Club cooperated with NBC to put on a special show. The Player’s Club is a club for actors in New York. Actors of renown. You’re invited to join the Player’s if you’re a very important actor…. and every part in the play, even the ladies-in-waiting and the servants were great Broadway stars. And Walter Hampden played the part of Macbeth. He, of course, had played the part all over the world for many, many years. And I was chosen to be the television director on it. I didn’t tell Mr. Hampden how to read his lines because he knew more than any of us about that…. It’s a very compact drama. And with the miracle of television and theatrics you can do great things with the witch’s scene in the castle and the murder scenes and it came off very well. And it was fun. All of the Player’s lit into it with great glee. They loved doing it, and for many of them, it was their first appearance on television…. It received a great deal of publicity. And it was sort of the first of its kind. It was the first Shakespeare play on television, American television. And it brought a lot of the curious art lovers to television who had not been regular viewers. So, “[television] spectacular” is a [term] that was developed after that.

On Jimmy Durante who Simpson worked with on All-Star Revue [1950-53] (from Part 5):
Jimmy was always hit up for money. He’d go out on the street and down-and-out actors and singers would go up to him, Jimmy, you know, can you help me out. And he’d pass out money to them. I observed his manager, after a show was over, the manager would go to Jimmy’s dressing room and say, “Jimmy, let me see your roll of money.” And Jimmy would hand his roll of money to the manager, and the manager would give him another roll of money. And instead of twenties and fifties that were in Jimmy’s roll, there’d be fives and tens in this other roll that the manager had given him, because he would give it all away, to whomever he met on the street. And these out-of-work people knew that he was a good touch.

On Jackie Gleason (from Part 5):
Jackie Gleason was developed on the Dumont television station in New York. …. [When Dumont ended] Jackie Gleason was available, and he went to the networks, NBC and CBS, to get a spot to do a show. So NBC said they would let him do a trial show, and if his ratings were good they would sign a contract with him. So he was brought to NBC and I was assigned as the director of the show. He had his staff of writers. So we started on the show and I called rehearsals, and the first day of rehearsal all the cast – and there were about fifty people in the cast, his regulars – came, but Jackie was not there. And he had a stand-in and I gave all the moves to the stand-in, who wrote them down on the script. They said, maybe tomorrow Jackie will come. And second day Jackie didn’t come to rehearsal. So I said, what’s going on here, and they said, well, it’s hard to reach Jackie. He’s not at his apartment and we’ll get hold of him. We’ll see he comes. The third day he missed rehearsal, and so I went to NBC management and I said, we’re not going to have a show because Jackie is not coming to rehearsals. And so they got in touch with the manager and on the fourth day Jackie appeared at rehearsal, and he really looked like he’d been in a wreck. He smelled of booze, and a real floozy blonde came with him. And I understand he shacked up in a hotel with this girl for a period of days. And anyway, he was very polite, first time I met him. And his agent had given him the script and he had the script, but he hadn’t even read it. We rehearsed the whole thing through and he was very courteous and receptive and we left after the rehearsal. And the next day, when we came to rehearsal, he was there and he knew every line of his one-hour show. He didn’t have to study, he just had a photographic memory. And it was no problem with him. He was very amenable to any changes in anything that would improve the situation. And he had some very difficult things in his program. In one skit he was a wallpaperer, and he climbed up the ladders and he’d get wallpaper all over himself. And he fell off the ladder and he’d drop the bucket of paste and everything. It was all written in the script, he had to do. So he had some tough things to do, as well as other skits he appeared in. But anyway, we went on the air, and he was letter perfect. He hit all of his marks. He made all of his entrances, all his costume changes, and said all the lines, and it was a fabulous show. So the people at NBC said, wow, this is good. NBC’s going to get him a contract now. So the vice-president of NBC met with the manager of Jackie’s and said, NBC will give him a contract. Let’s make an appointment and sit down and work out the details. And the manager said, sorry, we just signed a contract yesterday, before the show, with CBS. So NBC lost him and CBS got him. And he did his musical variety show for the first year at CBS, and then they developed The Honeymooners.

Interview description:
Garry Simpson was interviewed for four hours in Vergennes, VT. Mr. Simpson started in television directing live demonstrations of television around the country. He later directed some of the first sporting events, mobile events, and went on to direct the informational series
Eye Witness and direct and produce Wide Wide World (created by Pat Weaver). In the period before the war in the 1940s, Simpson was NBC’s only television stage manager. Simpson described his other directorial efforts on such programs including Chevrolet Tele-Theater, Mary Kay and Johnny (television’s first sitcom), All Star Revue, Ford Festival, and Campbell’s Soundstage. Among the actors he recalls working with are: James Dean, Grace Kelly, Jimmy Durante, Ed Wynn, Jackie Gleason, Jack Carter, and Olivia de Havilland. He later left NBC to head the formation of Vermont public television. The interview was conducted by Karen Herman on October 18, 1999.

TV Executive Thomas W. Moore Has Died

Monday, April 2nd, 2007


Archive interviewee Tom Moore, former program chief of ABC (1957-63), ABC president (1963-68) and independent producer (The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, the Body Human series), died at the age of 88 on March 31.

Here are some excerpts from his interview:

On ABC’s Monday Night Football.
We started Monday Night Football in 1970. Pete Rozelle had NBC and CBS, where do we put ABC? Well, it started out with a luncheon, and it was Friday Night Football. That was what we were going to buy. It wasn’t going to be Monday Night at all. I was very strong on Monday at that time and didn’t want to pre-empt programming after nine o’clock for football.

On ABC’s Wide World of Sports.
I believe the first Wide World of Sports event was a Drake Relay and it was terrible. It was a very inexpensive sports program cause we paid very little for rights to anything. But it began to pick up when we saw it had a combination in February of that year of skiing in New Hampshire, and water surfing in Hawaii in the same show. And then we got a big rating on that and it took off.

On bringing The Flintstones to television.
John Mitchell was head of Screen Gems, which was totally owned by Columbia Pictures. John was a terrific salesman. They made a deal with a pair of guys Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera. They called us and said, “We would like to show you something and Joe Barbera will be there.”….We went up there and the room is completely filled with storyboard. Joe Barbera started in one corner at the top and went around the room and performed the whole pilot and it was a rip-off almost entirely of Honeymooners. The characters, the relationships, the whole damn thing — it was just Honeymooners all over again. If you can believe it, we agreed to that thing. Now, the commitment on animation is a long time and you have to make it way ahead. We committed to it for next year, eight thirty on Friday night.

On The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.
There was this book called The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pitman, by Ernest Gaines and we’d, we bought an option on it. ABC gave us the money to do the script. The script was done by Tracy Keenan Wynn whom I had never heard of then, except he was a grandson of Ed Wynn and his father was Keenan Wynn, and Tracy wrote a script that I thought was just the best doggone thing that I’d ever seen. I got to work and was casting the thing when ABC’s Barry Diller, told me it’s fraught with too many dangers and we’re not going to make it. I took it to Bobby Wood at CBS who in the meantime had hired Freddy Silverman as the Head of Programming and Freddy was as enthusiastic about it as I was and CBS cast Cicely Tyson and she was magnificent in it. We made that picture for $1.2 million dollars, and I tried to talk Bobby into letting me go to two hours and a half. Freddy wanted to but Bob didn’t want to; that messed up his schedule. But it, it won great acclaim, it is now still a classic in that it is shown at schools and colleges and everywhere else.

On how he’d like to be remembered.
I would like to be remembered as one of the pioneers in this business who made contributions that were substantial, that I was always square with people even when I lost and I want to be remembered as somebody who never intentionally set out to harm anybody.

Moore was interviewed by the Archive of American Television in January of 2003.

The complete five-and-a-half hour interview, in which he discusses his long and distinguished career, can be viewed at Academy Headquarters in North Hollywood, CA.

ADDENDUM: (POSTED 4/6/2007) THOMAS MOORE’S INTERVIEW HAS NOW BEEN POSTED ONLINE. CLICK HERE TO ACCESS THE ENTIRE INTERVIEW.