Posts Tagged ‘TV Writer’

Writer/Producer William Froug Turns 90!

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

Happy 90th birthday, William Froug! Froug started out as a radio writer at CBS, transitioned to television, and wound up producing some of the medium’s biggest hits. He served as a producer on The Twilight Zone, Bewitched, and Gilligan’s Island, among others. When he left production, Froug began teaching screenwriting at UCLA and authored several books on the subject, including The Screenwriter Looks at the Screenwriter and Screen-writing Tricks of the Trade.

Here are some selections from his 2011 Archive interview:

On the secret to writing for radio:

What’s the secret? I think the secret is just keep making it up as you go along. I really do. It’s one sentence at a time. I never had an outline for anything I ever did. Ever. Just start writing. If you can entertain yourself, there’s a chance you can entertain somebody else. That was my philosophy. I kept myself amused and I’m a short attention span guy. But each sentence would surprise me. I never knew what was going to happen next, and that kept me going. If I’d had an outline I would have dropped it long ago.

On working with Rod Serling as a producer on The Twilight Zone:

On why The Twilight Zone has continued to be a popular series after all these years:

I think Rod Serling. He wrote great scripts. That’s why. Stories were great. By and large they are great.

On being the Executive Producer in Charge of Drama at CBS:

It really meant I read all the scripts for dramatic series – met with the producers of dramatic series. Let them know I was going to be reading their material and make suggestions from time to time. I was greeted like cancer, you know. The blank stares “You think you’re going to tell us how to produce our series?” I’d been a line producer. I knew that wasn’t going to happen. But that was the job. So I read their scripts. Never said a word.  Never met with them. That was my job.

On why he began teaching screenwriting at UCLA:

It’s in my blood. I can’t explain that. Like what made me have to be a writer? I just knew I wanted to be a teacher. I just knew I had to do it and I love it. When I first started at CBS in radio, in the very beginning, I started a course one night a week in radio writing at CBS in one of their offices. Had about three or four people show up. But I had this urge to teach. It’s just in me. There’s no “what led me to it” anymore than what led me to be a writer.

On producing Bewitched:

I didn’t have anything to do because Bill Asher actually produced it and directed it and correctly took the credit and was married to the star. There was no role for me there, really. He just wanted somebody to be the titular producer, who he could then blame for anything that went wrong. He wasn’t interested in me as a producer. He was looking for a fall guy, basically. Because when he had battles with his wife, he didn’t have anybody to blame. Now he could blame me. That’s all right.

On his philosophy on screenwriting:

Basically, find a clear line. The key is to find a line. The storyline is king.  And Page 1, Line 1 is when the story must start. You pick up the script. Page 1, Line 1, the reader has got to know what kind of story he’s getting and what kind of genre to expect. Is it going to be a mystery? Is it going to be a comedy? What’s it going to be? I called it the opening signal: Page 1, Line 1. Then you’ve got to grab the audience within the first five pages, preferably the first two. That’s very important.

Happy 90th birthday, William! Here’s to many, many more!

Watch Froug’s two-hour Archive interview here.

Phil Rosenthal Talks “Everybody Loves Raymond” and the Craft of Writing

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Phil Rosenthal wanted to be an actor.  He and several friends in New York wrote a show called “Tony and Tina’s Wedding”, in which he acted, and an agent saw his work and told him to come to LA to pursue acting. Rosenthal did, and instead wound up meeting up with high school friend Alan Kirschenbaum, writing a screenplay, and falling in love with writing.

A self-described TV addict, Rosenthal grew up watching The Honeymooners, Your Show of Shows, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and All in the Family. He discusses how the TV shows he liked as a kid shaped his sensibilities as a writer and helped to teach him structure:

After several years as a staff writer with writing partner Oliver Goldstick on A Family for Joe, Baby Talk, Down the Shore, and Coach, Rosenthal branched out on his own and created the popular sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond. In the following clip, he shares how he came up with the show’s title:

Everybody Loves Raymond ran for nine years on CBS, and lives on in syndication. Below Rosenthal describes his vision for what the series finale would be:

To learn more about Phil Rosenthal, and to see his tips for sitcom writing, watch his full interview here.

Legendary Comedy Writer Hal Kanter Dies at 92

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

The Archive of American Television is sad to report that writer/producer Hal Kanter passed away on Sunday, November 6th of complications from pneumonia. He was 92 years old. Kanter started in radio as a comedy writer and transitioned to television writing for The Ed Wynn Show. He wrote for The George Gobel Show and created 1968’s groundbreaking show Julia, the first sitcom to star an African-American actress in a professional role. Here are some selections from Kanter’s three-hour interview:

On his first job in the new medium of television, writing for The Ed Wynn Show

My attitude was,  I’d like to get into it and find out what it’s about, because my kids seemed to be fascinated by it.  My kids, they were tiny little infants at the time, but they were fascinated by these pictures. What convinced me to go into television was when I was asked by Harry Ackerman, at CBS, if I would like to write a television show for Ed Wynn. Ed Wynn was my idol and I thought I’ll do anything to work with him. I had never met the man, but I remember as a young boy in Long Beach hitchhiking into the city to see a matinee of Hooray for What in which Ed Wynn was the star. I’ll never forget seeing him in-person for the first time after listening to him on the radio, I was so excited, I almost fell off the balcony laughing at some of the things he was doing and saying on the stage.  So I said, “by all means I’ll accept that job.”  As a matter of fact, at the time, I was writing not only the Bing Crosby radio show, but also a radio show called Beulah, 15 minutes, five times a week.  I gave up the Beulah show which was paying me a great deal more money than television was going to pay me. I was told later, that I was the highest priced comedy writer in television at that time. I was getting $750 a week.

On creating Julia (video excerpt)

On the legacy of Julia

I think that the Julia show, the impact of that, is obvious any time you turn on television and you see black faces because she opened the door for all the black shows that are now current.  We couldn’t get black people on the air until Julia came along to prove that white people will watch black people on television.  So,I feel some gratification when I see that.

On creating The Jimmy Stewart Show

Working with Jimmy, well first of all, I had worked with Jimmy in radio –  he had been a guest star with Crosby several times.  That’s where I met most of these people.  And we always got along very well.  Then when I did the Gobel show, again he was a guest on that. He was hysterical.  He did a wonderful show.  But when they decided that he would go into television, they gave him a list of people he would work with and he said “him,” pointing to my name.  It was between me and a drama. Did he want either my comedy or a drama at Universal?  And one day, Herb Schlosser, who was then the  head of television at NBC, and Jerry Lieder, I believe who was, who was running TV for Warner Brothers at that time, and I went over the hill to see Jimmy Stewart at his agent’s office.  Herman Citron, those people, and we talked about the my show, some ideas I had and threw out several of them. And he was very frank and said that it’s either this or doing a drama.  I said I understand, you’d be wonderful in a drama.  He said “but anybody can play a drama.”  I said, “very few people can play comedy the way you do.  You are probably one of the best comedy actors that ever stood in front of a camera.”  And I wasn’t just bullshitting him, I really believe that. He’s absolutely brilliant as a comedy actor.  Anyway, we chatted for awhile and he got rather enthused about the idea and he said, “we’ll let you know.”  So Herb, Jerry and I left and we’re waiting in, in the elevator and Herb was very excited having met his fellow Princetonian and he said to me, “he’s kind of old though, isn’t he?”  I said, “I don’t know what you call old.”  He said, “how old is he?”  I said, “I think he’s about 63.”  He said, “how old will he photograph?”  I said, ” about 73.”  He said, “my God!” I said, “Herb, no matter how old he is, just remember, he is the only old-looking Jimmy Stewart there is.”

On writing for the Academy Awards

The first time was when I was at Paramount and Dick Breen, good friend of mine, who was then writing the show with Sylvia Fine because Danny [Kaye] was gonna be the emcee that year.  And Dick who was a very good writer said to me, “I really don’t quite understand these people.”  He said, “could you come in and give me a hand with some jokes for Danny?”  Which I did.  I was a ghostwriter, but in those days, nobody got paid for doing the Academy Awards, no writers … it was all volunteered.  It was supposed to be an honor to be asked to do it.  So the following year, they asked me to work on the show.  I think it was George Seton who asked me to work on the show and also would I do the audience warmup.  It was at the Pantages Theater in those days.  So I did that, and as a result of that, I sort of became the official writer for the Academy.

On how he would like to be remembered

I’d like to be remembered as a nice fella who made people smile, if not laugh, now and then.

Watch Kanter’s full interview at:

Full interview description:

Hal Kanter (1918-2011) was interviewed for three hours in Encino, CA.  Kanter talked extensively about his first television work as a writer for famed comedian, Ed Wynn, on The Ed Wynn Show.  He talked about how he ultimately wrote and directed The George Gobel Show, and recalled his pioneering sitcom, Julia, which starred Diahann Carroll, and featured the first black, female lead on television.  Kanter also mentioned his writing for the “Academy Awards” shows and dozens of feature films.  The interview was conducted by Sam Denoff on May 22, 1997.

Obituary from the LA Times

“Gilligan’s Island” and “Brady Bunch” Creator Sherwood Schwartz dies at 94

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

Sad news: Legendary comedy writer/producer Sherwood Schwartz, best known for creating and producing Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch has died in Los Angeles at the age of 94.

Schwartz began his career as a radio writer for Bob Hope in the 1940s, and soon transitioned to television as a writer for I Married Joan (where he worked with Jim Backus, who he would later cast as Thurston Howell III on Gilligan’s Island), The Red Skelton Show (where he had a volatile relationship with Skelton), My Favorite Martian, and other early comedy series. In 1967, he created the first of his signature series Gilligan’s Island, and in 1969 premiered The Brady Bunch. The two series spawned a array of TV movies, animated series, and in the case of The Brady Bunch, two reunion series. He also created Dusty’s Trail and developed Harper Valley PTA for television. Schwartz was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 2008.

In 1997, he graciously gave the Archive of American Television a wonderful “five hour tour” of his life and career. At the interview’s conclusion, when asked how he’d like to be remembered, he replied:

“As a man who tried to explain in his own way that people have to learn to get along with each other. I did it with comedy because that’s what I’m familiar with, and I think it’s more acceptable to tell it in comedy form. But that’s how I’d like to be remembered.”

Here are some video excerpts from the interview:

On working with Bob Hope early in his career

On working as script supervisor on My Favorite Martian

On the concept of Gilligan’s Island

On casting The Brady Bunch

On the impact of Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch

See his full Archive of American Television interview here.

“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: