News from the Archive

Remembering Shelley Berman

September 1st, 2017
blog post image

We’re sad to learn that comedian Shelley Berman has passed away at the age of 92. Berman began his career studying acting at the Goodman Theater in Chicago, and went on to perform on The Steve Allen Show and to appear 22 times on The Ed Sullivan Show. He also starred in a classic episode of The Twilight Zone (“The Mind and the Matter”) and, in later years, was nominated for an Emmy Award for his role as “Nat David” on Curb Your Enthusiasm

Below are some selections from his 2012 interview:

On dealing with television censors:

"I guess there might have been times when you had to be sure that you're not going to do anything that would hurt the show. … I really didn’t spend a whole lot of my time worrying about whether it can get by the censors. I knew my audience in a nightclub, anywhere; I knew my audience.  And I was going to do something that was going to make them laugh."

On his starring role on The Twilight Zone:

"I picked up my phone, and this fellow said, 'I am Rod Serling. I want you to do one of my shows. Is that okay?' Well, besides almost dropping the phone …I said, 'Great, I'd like to do that.' … The premise of the episode is that I want everybody to change. I want everybody to be like I am. That's the way the world should be. Exactly like I am. And so everybody on that show had my face. It was incredible, what they did, how they photographed it and did it. The people all had that mask of my face. And it was very scary to see. … But it was a kick. Everybody liked it. I liked it. And people still compliment me on it."

On appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show:

"It could be wonderful. It could feel great. And he could treat you as if you are the most wonderful thing in the world. That's really where it is. And I had the good luck of pleasing him almost always. … When I got off the stage I knew to march right up to his office. You don’t go to your dressing room; you go to his office so he can tell you that you're no damn good. Or he can tell you, how long do you have to be? There are other people on that stage. He was very, very demanding, but he was never demanding in a way that was career ruining or career frightening. He just had a good way. I had [22] times with him. And it wasn't enough."

Watch Shelley Berman’s full interview and read his obituary in The New York Times.

Share and Enjoy:

Tuesday, August 29, 1967: The Day The Running Stopped for "The Fugitive's" Richard Kimble

August 29th, 2017

50 years ago today, The Fugitive's Dr. Richard Kimble finally got justice. Falsely accused for the murder of his wife, Kimble (played by David Janssen) spent four years on the run, pursuing his wife's true killer, the One-Armed Man, while also being diligently pursued himself by Lt. Gerard. In the two-part series finale ("The Judgment" Parts I and II) Kimble learns the One-Armed Man is in Los Angeles, but before Kimble can make his move, Gerard finally catches up with Kimble. Kimble tells Gerard of the most recent developments in his pursuit of the One-Armed Man, and Gerard grants him 24 hours to gather the evidence he would need to exonerate himself. 24 hours come and go, but just as Gerard is about to take Kimble to prison, the two are led to an amusement park where the one remaining witness to Mrs. Kimble's murder, Lloyd Chandler, is attempting to murder the One-Armed Man for blackmailing him. Then the showdown the world had been waiting for ensued: Kimble v. the One-Armed Man.

But viewers almost never got a chance to see Kimble find retribution. According to ABC's Leonard Goldberg, when David Janssen did not want to return for a fifth season of the series, The Fugitive was supposed to end in May of 1967, with the last episode being simply what had been shot as the conclusion of the fourth season when production still anticipated a fifth. There was no resolution to the series at that point - Kimble was still chasing the One-Armed Man. Goldberg describes how he fought for a real series finale (a two-parter, as it turned out), which would give viewers a satisfying end to The Fugitive. "The Judgment: Part II" earned the highest TV rating ever at that time - a whopping 45.9 and a 72 share, meaning that of all the television sets in use at that time, 72% of them were tuned to that episode. "The Judgment: Part II" was watched by over 78 million people that Tuesday night:

Kimble got his man, viewers got satisfaction, and ABC got huge ratings. And "The Judgment: Part II" remains one of the most memorable series finales of all time. Win win.

Learn more about The Fugitive at our show page.

- Adrienne Faillace

Share and Enjoy:

Remembering Jerry Lewis

August 21st, 2017
blog post image

We’re sad to learn that actor/comedian Jerry Lewis has passed away at the age of 91. Lewis began his career as a performer in the Borscht Belt before forming his legendary partnership with Dean Martin. As a team, Martin and Lewis hosted a radio program, made films together, and regularly appeared on television, including serving as rotating hosts of The Colgate Comedy Hour, and appearing on The Eddie Fisher Show and The Ed Sullivan Show. After the break-up of Martin and Lewis, Lewis went on to a wildly successful film career, as well as hosting annual telethons for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. 

Below are some selections from his 2000 interview:

On Martin and Lewis:

On the MDA Telethons:

On his advice for young comedians:

Watch Jerry Lewis’ full interview and read his obituary in The New York Times.

Share and Enjoy:

Joshua Brand ... Over Exposure

August 8th, 2017
Joshua Brand

"Like most human beings I'm just trying to make sense of things. I don't know if I accomplished that, I don't know if anybody can. The universe is a weird place. We break our teeth developing theories, equations, and systems... a system is like the tail of truth. But truth is like a lizard: it leaves its taile in your fingers and runs away knowing full well it will grow a new one in the twinkling."- Northern Exposure, "Nothings Perfect"

Having grown up on the “magical realism” presented in the philosophical meanderings of an ex-con radio DJ on KBHR, I was ecstatic when Northern Exposure's creator, Joshua Brand, agreed to an interview. The Queens-born writer has won mutliple Emmy Awards, two Peabody Awards, a Humanitas prize, a Producers Guild of America Award, the Writers Guild 2013 Television Laurel Award with writing partner John Falsey, and is currently busily working as a consultant on FX’s The Americans. Still, he graciously sat for over four hours to share his stories with us (he couldn’t believe it either).

His parents were working class Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. They had high hopes that Brand would become a lawyer or a doctor. Although he graduated with honors from CIiy College in Queens and got a fellowship to graduate school, Brand was not keen on the academic life. It wasn’t until he met a screenwriter at his sister’s wedding that he realized it was possible to make a living from writing. So he left grad school and drove cross-country with nothing but the number of an agent in his pocket. (He had asked his father for $500 to help him get started, but having grown up in a Polish shtetl and used to working six days/week as a tile man, his father couldn’t fathom how you make a living writing stories that never get produced.) Brand was on his own, writing spec scripts and trying to break into the industry, film or tv, it didn’t matter. 

While sitting in a waiting room ready to pitch for The White Shadow, Brand met another young writer named John Falsey. Falsey scored the gig. Brand almost gave up hope, looking to move back east to try for a teaching gig. But on the way back from NY, Falsey happened to be on the same plane and offered him a job on the series. Brand’s career as a writer formally began.

The medical drama St. Elsewhere was the pair’s first co-created series. But how did the idea to weave the highly-technical and jargon-filled stories from St. Eligius come about? It’s quite a story. Lance Luria was Brand’s roommate and childhood best friend from Queens. He became a doctor (an incredible fete involving flunking out of medical school, bribes for French Pierre Cardin suits, trips to Mexico and a Spanish-speaking girfriend). It was Luria who got Brand all-access to see what residents at a top-teaching hospital endure, and became the inspiration for the show, which was pitched to Grant Tinker as “Hill Street in a hospital” (even though Brand had not yet seen Hill Street Blues).  

On creating St. Elsewhere:

 

The show ran from 1982-88, but Brand left after the first season. When asked why, Brand was forthright. “I did not play well with others.” He admitted that while his inexperience enabled him to take risks, his lack of maturity prevented him from understanding that, with success, “there’s enough to go around.” He apologizes here to his colleagues on the show.

On leaving St. Elsewhere:

 

Brand and Falsey moved on to develop the sci-fi anthology series Amazing Stories with Steven Spielberg (despite having told Spielberg he hated The Twilight Zone and sci fi in general!), and the TV miniseries A Year in the Life, which won him his first Emmy award. When asked what made him take on these challenges, Brand iterated a theme which best represents his professional motto, “‘Yes’ is a better word than ‘no.’ ‘Yes’ creates possibilities and ‘no’ just ends possibilities, a no is a steel curtain. Unless you really, really don’t want to do something, I mean, what the hell?”

On A Year in the Life:

 

Brand enjoyed mixing drama and comedy, fantasy and reality, and divergent storylines in all his shows, but he says unequivocally that Northern Exposure was the closest to his heart. Another “fish out of water” story, inspired (in part) by his old friend Lance (the doctor/cop who by this time was living in a remote hamlet in upstate NY), about a begrudging big-city doctor to the desolate town of Cicely, Alaska (population: 829)  to pay off his medical school loan. Why Alaska? “It’s where everybody goes to recreate themselves,” explains Brand. “Everything that’s loose that isn’t tied down winds up there.”

It was a labor of love from the beginning. A 1990 summer replacement show, the initial order of 8 episodes made for only $829,000 (hence, the population # of fictional Cicely) everyone told Brand he was wasting his time and no one would watch the show. But he was determined to make this little show run. Brand bristles at the term “quirky," but I’m not sure how else to describe a show that catapulted a piano. Of Northern, Brand says, “We were going to see something that was going to look different than anything on television.”

On leaving Northern Exposure 

Brand gives a lengthy account of his personal writing process and one of the most important lessons he’s learned about writing for television, which he describes as “dream time," which includes specifically visualizing a scene before you write it - “Trust your unconsious.”

On his writing process:   

 

Josh spent the better part of the day speaking with us, both on-camera and off. His passion for his work and his effervesence are definitely contagious. Although he absolutely thinks this was overkill, I could have listened to his stories for hours more.  Watch the full interview here.

- Jenni Matz

 

Share and Enjoy:

Remembering June Foray

July 27th, 2017
blog post image

We’re sad to learn that voiceover artist June Foray has passed away at the age of 99. She began her career in radio before moving into voiceover work, voicing “Granny” in "Tweety and Sylvester" and “Witch Hazel” on Bugs Bunny, among others. Foray is perhaps best known for her work as “Rocket J. Squirrel” and “Natasha” on The Bullwinkle Show, but also contributed to many other animated programs from The Smurfs (as “Jokey”) to How the Grinch Stole Christmas (as “Cindy Lou Who”). 

Below are some selections from her 2000 interview:

On voicing “Rocky” and “Natasha” on The Bullwinkle Show

On voicing “Cindy Lou Who” on How the Grinch Stole Christmas:

On her first animation job:

Watch June Foray’s full Archive interview and read her obituary in The Washington Post.

Share and Enjoy: