News from the Archive

Growing Up with Dan Wilcox

April 12th, 2017
Dan Wilcox

When we were first offered the chance to interview TV writer Dan Wilcox we immediately got a vision, a very familiar screenshot of the credits rolling during an episode of one of our favorite ‘70s/’80s TV shows — M*A*S*H. Close your eyes, you can see it, too — the yellow, stencil font that reads “Written by Dan Wilcox and Thad Mumford.”

That credit appeared on 15 episodes of the series, including the legendary finale “Goodbye, Farwell, and Amen.” Wilcox and his partner Thad Mumford were also producers and story consultants on the last several seasons of the hit dramedy. But it wasn’t until we began researching Dan Wilcox further that we realized we grew up with the writer, watching his shows along every step of our formative years.

Pre-K: Captain Kangaroo

It all started with Captain Kangaroo. The weekday morning kid’s fare is truly one of our earliest TV memories. We’d watch each day in the morning with our mom as our older siblings went off to school — Make Way for Ducklings, Curious George, Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, Mr. Green Jeans and the Dancing Bear. Little did we know that as we were discovering the magic of television, Dan Wilcox was getting his feet wet as a TV writer just out of college. In this clip he talks about auditioning to be a writer on the show.

As we graduated from Captain Kangaroo to Sesame Street, so did Wilcox. In 1969, because of his experience on Kangaroo he was hired as a writer on a brand new, somewhat experimental children’s show for PBS called Sesame Street. He wrote scenes for Ernie and Bert, Grover and Cookie Monster, all while inhaling the brilliance that is Jim Henson. As we were learning to count along with the Count, Wilcox was mastering the ins and outs of writing educational materials while entertaining children.

Pre-teens: Alice, Roots and America 2Night

Through the years, our TV tastes matured and Wilcox’s writing was seen in more and more higher profile projects. We moved on from kids shows to sitcoms and tuned in each week to see Linda Lavin wait tables on Alice. We watched with the world as Kunta Kinte’s ancestors navigated the nation of post-slavery in Roots: The Next Generations and we snuck out of our bedrooms late at night to watch Barth Gimble (Martin Mull) and Jerry Hubbard (Fred Willard) lampoon the world of late night talk shows on America 2Night.

But without doubt, the highest profile show Wilcox and Mumford worked on was M*A*S*H. They joined the staff in Season 8 and stayed with the show until the finale. Along with Alan Alda, Burt Metcalfe, John Rappaport, Elias Davis, David Pollock, and Karen Hall, Wilcox and Mumford wrote what still stands as the most watched episode of a regular TV series of all time. Wilcox and Mumford sat down together and talked about writing “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen.”

Young Adults: Newhart

As M*A*S*H was wrapping up, Wilcox moved on to another one of our favorite shows of our formative TV years — Newhart. As Executive Producer he sat next to Bob Newhart at every table read, taking his notes on the scripts and basking in his comic genius. In our interview Wilcox talked about some of his favorite episodes, including the one where Larry, Darryl and his other brother Darryl go back to high school, and the Founder’s Days episode where Bob ends up in the stocks with an itchy nose. Watch this clip as Wilcox tries to sum up the mastery of Bob Newhart.

Watch the full Dan Wilcox interview here and check out Thad Mumford's interview, too.

- Pop Culture Passionistas

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From Yankees Batboy to "Roots: The Next Generations" - Thad Mumford Broke New Ground

April 12th, 2017
Thad Mumford

If you had asked a young Thad Mumford what he wanted to be when he grew up, he would not have predicted that he’d one day become the prolific writer of television shows like M*A*S*H and A Different World. As a kid, Mumford wanted nothing more than to be a New York Yankees’ player. While he never realized that dream, he would join the team in his own groundbreaking way — by becoming the first African-American batboy from the squad - that didn’t even have any black players at the time.

When his baseball aspirations came to an end, Mumford turned his attention to one of his other favorite pastimes, watching The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Ed Sullivan Show. The self-professed “world’s great harasser in getting what I want” went up to The Tonight Show offices of writer Marshall Brickman and asked for sample monologues. It wasn’t long before guest host Joan Rivers used one of his jokes in her opening bit.

A stint on The Electric Company followed. Although the show had a diverse cast that included Rita Moreno and Morgan Freeman, Mumford acknowledged that the show was not as inclusive behind the camera. Again, he was breaking ground.

After moving to Los Angeles, he started writing for variety shows and Flip Wilson...Of Course. He then went on to sitcoms including That’s My Mama and Good Times. During his Archive interview he talked about working on shows with predominantly African-American casts. 

Mumford ultimately achieved his goal of writing for Maude. And throughout his career he and his writing partner, Dan Wilcox, worked on many shows and were part of the team of writers that penned the iconic M*A*S*H series finale

But perhaps the most groundbreaking and racially charged moment in Mumford’s career came when he was asked to write the fifth installment of Roots: The Next Generations. As he explained during his interview, he was told he had to write the script alone, without Wilcox, his Caucasian partner. “It had nothing to do with the fact that they were determined to have one black writer, not with some honky attached to him,” joked Mumford. “A black writer writes this episode.”

Mumford and Wilcox agreed to write the script and only put Mumford’s name on it with the understanding that Wilcox would be financially compensated on the side. But when it came time to hand in the script, Mumford did what Wilcox called “the bravest thing I ever saw a human being do.” Mumford added Wilcox’s name to the cover page. According to the duo, the move infuriated everyone involved, except Roots creator Alex Haley, but it solidified a friendship between two men that will last a lifetime. 

Watch Thad Mumford's full Archive interview and also check out Dan Wilcox's interview!

- Pop Culture Passionistas

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Reiner on Reiner

April 7th, 2017
Carl Reiner and Rob Reiner

We're so excited that talented father-son duo Carl Reiner and Rob Reiner are being honored by getting their hand and footprints imprinted in the sidewalk in front of Hollywood's TCL Chinese Theatre. The pair already has adjoining stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

While having a parent in the entertainment industry may offer a leg up to aspiring writers, directors, and actors, having an extremely successful parent can also provide potential pitfalls. As Rob says, "There’s no question about it, you are definitely looked at differently. You’re scrutinized. And if you don’t measure up, you’re going to be tossed aside." 

Of course, Rob managed to overcome those odds, and both he and his father are Hollywood legends. Here's our tribute to Carl and Rob: Hollywood royalty, huge talents, and a loving father and son!

-Jenna Hymes

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"What's up, Doc?" Saturday Mornings with Bugs Began 55 Years Ago

April 7th, 2017
The Bugs Bunny Show

Somewhere in your memory there's likely an image of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck donning hats and canes, singing "This is It." That was the intro to The Bugs Bunny Show, which debuted on Saturday mornings on April 7, 1962 and became the longest, continuously-running morning children's program in network TV history.

The Bugs Bunny Show actually premiered in primetime 2 years earlier, on October 11, 1960, and ran through September 25, 1962 on ABC 's Tuesday nights from 7:30-8:00pm. (1960 was a big year for primetime cartoons - The Filnstones premiered that same season.) The program was developed for television after ABC President Ollie Treyz learned that WGN Chicago enjoyed ratings success by airing Bugs Bunny cartoons in primetime. ABC promptly purchased all Warner Bros. theatrical cartoons that had not yet been released for TV and packaged them into a half-hour program with new introductions and transitions by the Warner Bros. characters. While still airing in primetime, an A.M. version began airing on ABC on April 7, 1962 - the program generations of children would come to equate with Saturday mornings.

The shorts within the show were never intended to solely appeal to kids. The Warner Bros. cartoons were created for theatrical release as entertainment before the main film began, not as sketches for a children's television program. Kids and adults have been loving them for decades now.

The Saturday morning show employed several names over the years (The Bugs Bunny Show, The Bugs Bunny-Roadrunner Show, The Bugs Bunny/Looney Tunes Comedy Hour, The Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show) and ran on ABC from 1962-68 (on Sunday mornings during the final year), on CBS from 1968-73, back on ABC from 1973-75, again on CBS from 1975-85, and once more on ABC from 1985-2000. Mel Blanc did all of the original voices, and Archive interviewee Chuck Jones animated and created several of the legendary Warner Bros. characters, including Bugs Bunny:

He also put together shorts for The Bugs Bunny Show:

Bugs got an afternoon show on the WB from 1996-98 (Bugs 'n' Daffy), but is no longer a part of the Saturday morning cartoon block on network television. Cartoon Network now owns the rights to the Looney Toons/Merrie Melodies library and Bugs and friends can still be seen there.

That's all, Folks!

Watch animator Chuck Jones' full interview and visit our Bugs Bunny Show page for more info.

- by Adrienne Faillace

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From Al Bundy to Lucious Lyon: FOX Turns 30!

April 5th, 2017
Ed O'Neill

For years it was just the big three: CBS, NBC, and ABC. Dumont was a fledgling 4th during the early years of television, but collapsed in the 1950s. Then on April 5, 1987 the FOX Network launched into primetime and stuck.

FOX had trickled into the airwaves six months earlier with only 95 stations, striving to project a distinctive, younger image than the established broadcast networks. FOX's first offering on October 9, 1986 was in late night: The Late Show starring Joan Rivers. Rivers had been the permanent guest host for NBC's Tonight Show with Johnny Carson since 1983 and burned some bridges when she moved to FOX:

When FOX lept into primetime in April of 1987, it did so with only one day of programming - Sunday. The first shows included four comedies: Married ... With Children, The Tracey Ullman Show, Mr. President, and Duet - and one drama, 21 Jump Street, from executive producer Stephen J. Cannell:

From The Tracey Ullman Show soon came The Simpsons, not only the longest-running American sitcom in television history, but also the longest-running primetime, scripted series. Executive producer James L. Brooks recalls the birth of The Simpsons:

FOX soon succeeded in their goal to be the "young" network, with several other hits coming down the pipeline: Arsenio Hall got his own talk show later in 1987, and FOX scored a huge hit in 1990 with the teen drama Beverly Hills 90210 from super-producer Aaron Spelling:

Now with hit shows like Empire and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the network remains a force to be reckoned with.

Happy anniversary, FOX!

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