News from the Archive

Remembering Joseph A. Wapner

February 27th, 2017
Joseph A. Wapner

We’re sad to learn that Judge Joseph A. Wapner passed away on Sunday, February 26, 2017 at the age of 97. Wapner attended USC Law School and is best known as the presiding judge on the landmark syndicated series The People's Court, a post he held for twelve years. He also served as a lawyer and a judge for the Los Angeles Municipal and Superior Court. After The People’s Court ended, Wapner also presided over another courtroom series, Animal Court, (for the Animal Planet cable network), and made other television appearances,(including a memorable case he judged between David Letterman and Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson). 

Below are some excerpts from his 2005 Archive interview: 

On the origins of The People's Court:

On his proudest achievement:

On how he'd like to be remembered:

Watch Joseph A. Wapner's full Archive interview and read his obituary in The New York Times.

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Sammy Smooches Archie: All in the Family's "Sammy's Visit" Turns 45

February 19th, 2017
Sammy's Visit

It's been called "the kiss of infamy." Sure, there have been many great on-screen kisses over the years -- Scarlett and Rhett in Gone with the Wind, Milton and Karen in From Here to Eternity, Winnie and Kevin on The Wonder Years ... but the most unexpected and down-right hilarious kiss of all time, at least on the small-screen, has to be that between Sammy Davis Jr. and Archie Bunker on the "Sammy's Visit" episode of All in the Family.

The February 19, 1972 show featured Archie Bunker moonlighting as a cab driver who had Sammy Davis Jr. as a passenger in his cab one night. Davis left his briefcase in the car and Archie arranges for Davis to come to the Hauser Street house to retrieve the case. The two discuss how Archie's daughter and son-in-law think he's prejudiced, and the exchange ends with Davis wanting a picture with Archie. On the count of three, Davis kisses Archie on the cheek, garnering one of the biggest laughs and most memorable moments in TV history:

According to director John Rich, Davis' appearance on the show stems from Davis' guest spot on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson - where Davis expressed an interest in coming on All in the Family. Writer Bill Dana pitched to All in the Family co-creator Norman Lear a plausible way for Davis to end up in Archie Bunker's house, but Lear was originally wary, not wanting a big-name entertainer to shift the emphasis of the show. Dana's premise was believable, though, and his script ultimately highlighted both Archie's bigotry and the show's clever sense of sarcasm:

Davis was worried about having to memorize the dialogue for his part and wanted to use cue cards, but Rich wanted Davis to act under the same conditions as the other cast members:

Thanks to all involved with the episode for bringing Sammy and Archie together for a truly genius Kodak moment. 

Read more about the famous episode, which placed 13th on TV Guide’s list of "The 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time," at our "Sammy's Visit" show page.

- by Adrienne Faillace

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The Archive Celebrates Presidents' Day

February 17th, 2017

Celebrate Presidents' Day with our latest Google Cultural Institute exhibit: American Presidential Inaugurations. Hear stories from the people who reported on inaugurations and inaugural balls, and those who worked on them behind the scenes. This exhibit is part of Google's American Democracy Project

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Archive Lovebirds: Your Favorite TV Couples!

February 14th, 2017

Sometimes a couple just has chemistry. You can't always define exactly why two people fit together so perfectly, but you can almost see the sparks fly when halves so seamlessly make a whole. Luckily for all of us, television has provided many of these terrific twosomes over the years -- couples that we can't wait to see argue and make up, scheme and fall flat, or visit with nosy neighbors. TV's power couples make us want to tune in week after week, or daily, if applicable, to watch magic happen over and over again.

Throughout the years the Archive has been privileged to interview some of television's favorite couples. And although their on-screen romances didn't carry over into real life, these couples still displayed an awful lot of love and respect for each other when out of character. Have a look for yourself:

Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford, The Jeffersons' George and Weezy:

Anthony Geary and Genie Francis, soap opera super-couple Luke and Laura of General Hospital:

Tom Bosley and Marion Ross, Mr. and Mrs. C (Cunningham) on Happy Days:

And last but not least, Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore, Rob and Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show:

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! May you all find the George to your Weezy!

- by Adrienne Faillace

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Yeardley Smith: in her own voice

February 12th, 2017
Yeardley Smith

Born in Paris to a Harvard-educated ex-Marine who worked for the UPI and a Radcliffe grad who worked for the Smithsonian, Yeardley Smith’s background was a far cry from the family she would become an indelible part of, in The Simpsons. But there may be more similarities than differences between the young actress and the little girl who sets the moral compass for Springfield.

Her name was an early subject of schoolyard teasing: Yardvark, Yardweed, Yarddog, Yardstick (and her personal favorite- Barnyard). And like Lisa, she had those childhood social anxieties, but was still able to find her distinct voice. For Yeardley she honed that voice onstage, in the theater.

She explains finding this source of courage in her first play at age 12 (in a school production of “I Remember Mama”):“I remember being so nervous .. as soon as the curtain parted and the light hit me, I was completely calm and I thought, oh! This is good. This is a place where I think I can exist.”

She would later perform on Broadway to rave reviews in Tom Stoppard’s “The Real Thing”, directed by Mike Nichols, co-starring with Jeremy Irons, Glenn Close, and Christine Baranski. The role became hers when Cynthia Nixon had to abruptly leave the show, and Yeardley, then just a 20-year old understudy, got the part. Talk about timing. “It sort of comes down to survival of the fittest. And you don’t even necessarily have to be the most talented. You just have to be the one who didn’t die.”

On "The Real Thing" on Broadway:

Her acting career really took off after that in the mid-80s, appearing in the cult film The Legend of Billie Jean, followed by a plethroa of TV series-- Brothers, Mama’s Family, and many more theater roles. It was onstage in Los Angeles, in the play "Living on Salvation Street", that casting director Bonnie Pietila took notice, and brought her in to read for a series of animated shorts created by Matt Groening to appear as part of The Tracey Ullman Show. But lending her talents to a perpetually-8-year-old animated character was never something she had considered, even with that distinctive voice: “I wasn’t interested in voiceover. It was nowhere on the radar for my plan for world domination.” But she would wind up falling in love with her character, Lisa Simpson:

On playing "Lisa Simpson"

Yeardley has fiercley protected the character, even fighting for things Lisa would/wouldn't say. It was evident in the few hours we spent talking, that she truly loves this little girl: “You know, when “The Simpsons” is over and I don’t get to play Lisa Simpson 22 episodes a year anymore, that it will be like one of my very best friends in the world has moved away and she’s never coming back.”

On the legacy of The Simpsons, she says-- it’s simple: “Don’t let anybody tell you ‘no’. Because- from day one when everybody said- this is the stupidest idea the network has ever had - putting a cartoon on in primetime.. point to us doing what we do best, instead of trying to please everyone.”

On The Simpsons impact and cultural legacy:

See the full interview with Yeardley Smith here.

- by Jenni Matz

 

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