News from the Archive

"Tell me a story, and tell it well"- Jeff Fager and the legacy of 60 Minutes

November 6th, 2016
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Jeff Fager has been a producer at CBS News for over 30 years, and the Executive Producer of 60 Minutes since 2004, when he took on the reins from series creator Don Hewitt. But he never planned to have a career in news. Fager grew up in Wellesley, MA, the son of a neurosurgeon who didn't even allow him to watch television, calling it “brain rot.” But Fager knew he loved adventure and loved storytelling. So he got a job sweeping the floors of WBZ (an NBC affiliate in Boston) right out of college. He created opportunities for himself, volunteering to write copy for free. He once offered to drive Diane Sawyer to the airport from the station he was working at, knowing she was a rising star at CBS. He wasted no time, pointedly asking her, “How do I get to Network?” She told him they were hiring for the graveyard shift on a brand-new show, which turned out to be Nightwatch. Fager got the job, and then his career as a producer really began.

On the dangers of covering stories from war zones, such as a CBS News Story interviewing the PLO from Damascus:

Fager learned from CBS News executives like Tom Bettag and Don Hewitt about reporting a story in ways that were not always in keeping with conventional wisdom: “You can’t ignore something because it’s going to offend a sensibility… there’s a bias there that can’t exist, if you want the world to be a better place because of your reporting. We do what we do because we want it to have impact. We want it to make a difference. We want it to be fair and accurate. But we don’t want it to be driven by someone’s agenda. You really have to fight for that.”

On the 60 Minutes II coverage of the abuse at Abu Ghraib, covered by Dan Rather: “It was CBS News at its finest”:

When the creator of the oldest and most-watched newsmagazine on television, Don Hewitt, stepped down in 2004, Fager took on the responsibility of maintaining the 60 Minutes legacy. He told us what he learned from his mentor: “Tell me a story, and tell it well.”

On the best advice he’s received about producing, from Don Hewitt:

Fager was open with us about some of the more controversial stories that have aired on 60 Minutes, and how he dealt with the fallout as the show’s Executive Producer. “When you make a mistake, own up to it.”

On the controversial 60 Minutes Benghazi story and why they issued a retraction:

On how the media has covered the political campaigns and candidates in 2016:

60 Minutes has been on the air for 49 seasons, and not without controversy. But Fager is passionate about what the program stands for, and sees it as vital: “We don’t cover issues. We tell stories. And I think that is still a fundamental concept that makes 60 Minutes different.”

- Jenni Matz

See the full interview at http://www.emmytvlegends.org/interviews/people/jeff-fager

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Everybody Loves Phil

November 4th, 2016
Phil Rosenthal

Phil Rosenthal created Everybody Loves Raymond. And he's got a great piece of writing (and life) advice for you:

Thanks for that, Phil, and for the Barones.

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Remembering Hazel Shermet

October 31st, 2016
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We’re sad to learn that actress Hazel Shermet has passed away at the age of 96. She began her acting career on stage and in radio, appearing as “Miss Duffy” on Duffy’s Tavern, where she met her husband, the late writer Larry Rhine. In the 1940s she appeared on television shows including The Morey Amsterdam Show and hosted her own television program, Songs You’ve Never Heard Before. She was a regular on Blondie and New Zoo Revue, and had guest appearances on many shows including Mister Ed, The Addams Family, and That Girl. Shermet also had a long and successful career in both commercials and films, including “A Star Is Born” and “Gypsy.”

Below are some selections from her 2000 interview:

On her greatest career achivement:

On auditioning for New Zoo Revue:

On how she would like to be remembered:

Watch Hazel Shermet's full Archive interview and read her obituary in The Hollywood Reporter.

 

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Remembering Robert Mott

October 17th, 2016
Robert Mott

We’re sad to learn that sound effects specialist Robert Mott has passed away at the age of 92. Mott began his career in radio working as a freelance sound technician and went on to provide sound effects for early “live” television shows including Playhouse 90 and Studio One. Mott created character sounds and sound effects for Captain Kangaroo and worked with Dick Van Dyke early in Van Dyke’s career and Jack Benny late in Benny’s career. He provided sound effects for many other shows, including Days of Our Lives, The Ed Sullivan Show, and The Honeymooners

Below are some selections from his 2003 interview:

On working with Jackie Gleason:

On the hardest sounds he had to recreate:

On advice to aspiring sound effects professionals:

Watch Robert Mott's full Archive interview and read his obituary in The Hollywood Reporter.
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I'm So Glad We Had This Time with Carol

October 11th, 2016
Carol Burnett

Growing up, I never saw The Carol Burnett Show on CBS because it aired at 10pm, which was past my bedtime. Then, suddenly, when I was about 7, Carol Burnett and Friends, a truncated, half-hour version of the show began to air daily in syndication. It was love at first sight for me. Carol and each of her co-stars were so brilliantly funny, and the writing so perfect. The show inspired many a performer to get into show business. Including recent interviewee Geri Jewell.

As a 7 year old, I hadn’t seen any classic movies. But I adored The Carol Burnett Show’s movie parodies. To this day, I will start watching an old movie and about twenty minutes in suddenly realize, “Wait a minute! I know this movie from Carol Burnett!” They did as many obscure, Late-Late Show type movies as they did classics. Examples of movies I saw parodied on Carol Burnett before I ever actually watched them were “Mildred Pierce” (“Mildred Fierce”), “All About Eve,” and “Rebecca” (“Rebecky”). Carol Burnett made me love old movies before I ever even saw one!

The all-time classic Carol Burnett Show movie parody was their version of “Gone with the Wind” (“Went with the Wind!”), yes another case where I saw the parody before I ever saw the movie.  It wasn’t until I saw the actual movie that I fully appreciated how wonderful Harvey Korman’s imitation of Clark Gable or Vicki Lawrence’s take on Butterfly McQueen were. And I also couldn’t fully get the central joke of the sketch, “Starlet’s” curtain rod dress, created by interviewee Bob Mackie. The dress is funny, and Burnett’s line, “I saw it in the window and I just couldn’t resist it,” is sublimely hilarious.

Beyond the movie parodies, my favorite part of the show was the myriad of characters. Examples include Mrs. Wiggins, Nora Desmond, and Marion, the lead character on the recurring soap opera parody “As the Stomach Turns.” The best of them all was Eunice Higgins in “The Family” sketches. Eunice and her family became to The Carol Burnett Show what Ralph and Alice Kramden were to The Jackie Gleason Show: breakout characters that became as popular in their own right as the show they originated from. There was so much pathos, so much yelling, and it was so very funny. Like “The Honeymooners” sketches, Eunice’s family would eventually get their own series, Mama’s Family.

When you talk about The Carol Burnett Show, you have to talk about the guest stars. There were many who shined brightest with Carol on Stage 33 at Television City in Hollywood. Among them were Steve Lawrence, Bernadette Peters, Jim Nabors and Alan Alda. The greatest of these was so good that they eventually had to make him a member of the cast, Tim Conway. Another man who could do it all (sing, dance, comedy), and used the show to display these talents was the amazing Mr. Ken Berry

The Carol Burnett Show’s popularity persists. A November, 2001 reunion show, aired nearly thirty-five years after the show debuted, was number 1 for the week with a whopping thirty million viewers. Recent DVD sets are selling well, and various sketches and performances from the show have had millions of hits on YouTube. When we talked to Carol, she was hopeful about a return of the variety show format. I think if the genre ever does make a comeback, it won’t be like The Carol Burnett Show. To me, Carol, Lyle Waggoner, Vicki Lawrence, Harvey Korman, and Tim Conway captured lightning in a bottle for eleven years.

I’ve only begun to scratch the surface! For more information about the lives and careers of The Carol Burnett Show cast, search the collection. We’ve got it very well covered!

- by John Dalton

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