News from the Archive

Producer Aaron Spelling Has Died

June 24th, 2006

Legendary producer Aaron Spelling died yesterday at the age of 83. The Archive of American Television interviewed him about his life and career for over 3 hours in 1999. Below are some excerpts from that interview:

On what it takes to be a good producer.
You have to be a good storyteller. It all starts with a script. We have a way that we work and I hope a lot of people work this way. We meet with the producers, they tell us a story concept, we work on the story concept with them or say “that’s great.” Then we get an outline and it’s broken down in all four acts of an hour show. If you have any notes to give, you give it on the outline, so that when your script comes in, you know the show the is going to work because the outline is proving it.

On casting.
If there’s anything that is heartbreaking it’s casting. The hardest thing is to say "no" to somebody. We don’t do that. We also have a rule, if any lady walks in to read something, everybody sitting better stand up or they’re not going to be invited anymore. And we talk to people, “where are you from?” When I was an actor and you’d go in to read, they’d say, "don’t tell us your life story, just read." I remember this on Gunsmoke, I was nervous enough. But those are the sensitivities a producer should have and must have.

On his legendary ability to remember most scenes in dailies.
I think you have to love what you’re doing. I’m a big football and baseball fan, but I can’t remember the name of the first baseman of the Dodgers, but I can tell you that you didn’t get that shot or you trimmed that shot of the man at the bar. You have to read these scripts and get an imprint in your mind of what the show is. I think if I can’t do that, I’ll quit, because to me, that’s the fun -- adding input. The credits should go, as I said before, to the great writers on all of our shows.

On Starsky & Hutch.
We hadn’t seen a buddy-buddy relationship on television, where one disagrees with the other but really, they adore each other. They can argue and fight and then do their job. We were lucky with casting, we didn’t know how the show would do. And it just exploded. We said many times, it was the first heterosexual love affair on television.

On Dynasty.
We found that people who watch television they’re not all rich and they love to see that rich people have problems, and more problems than they have. So money doesn’t solve everything. Then the wardrobe and the sets and the hairdos and Nolan Miller gowns that cost a fortune, all blended into it, so they had something beautiful to watch. But they said, “oh, that guy’s worth ten million dollars, and he doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing!” That was the fun of Dynasty.

On Beverly Hills, 90210.
I got a call from Barry Diller, who was the head of Fox, and he said, “I’d like you to do a high school show.” I said, “Barry, at my age, what the hell do I know about high school?” And he said, ‘you have two kids idiot!” And I listened to my kids and spied on them when their friends from high school would come over. I listened a lot, learned a lot. Darren Starr had never done anything that I knew. I met him, a terrific guy, and I love working with him, and we kind of developed this together. It was a great experience.

On his legacy.
The only thing that bothers me every time people do biographies of me, critics always talk about Charlie’s Angels, Love Boat, Fantasy Island, and they never talk about the issue shows that we have done. The issues that we did on 90210 and Melrose Place. They never talk about Day One, that movie we won an Emmy for. They never talk about And The Band Played On, the movie we won an Emmy for. They never talk about my movies, the Anne Baxter movie with the young lady, her daughter, who was going to commit suicide. They never talk about that, and that pains me a lot. I love being an entertainer, but I think you should get credit for whatever you do, like Family, like Seventh Heaven, family shows that no one has done before. But I know my epitaph will be, "he was Tori Spelling’s father and he did Charlie’s Angels."

The video interview is not yet available online, but can be screened at the Archive's headquarters in North Hollywood, CA.

Let everyone know what your favorite Aaron Spelling-produced series or film is. POST YOUR FAVORITES BY CLICKING ON COMMENTS (BELOW).

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An Archive Staff Note

June 23rd, 2006

Those of you who've watched our online interviews with Barbara Eden, Bob Mackie, Frances Reid, Phil Roman and Doris Singleton are already familiar with Jennifer Howard (pictured here with interviewee Doris Singleton, left), a staff researcher at the Archive of American Television who conducted those interviews. After being with the Archive for almost seven years and meticulously researching the lives and careers of close to 100 interviewees, Jennifer will be leaving her full-time position because she's moving a few more miles away from our headquarters -- which in L.A. traffic parlance, means that the commute is impossible. Today is her last day as a full-time staffmember.

Without the hard work of our research team, the interviews would lack the scope and detail so essential in capturing the voices of these television legends for generations to come. Please join us in wishing Jennifer the best and keep your eyes open -- as we continue posting interviews, you'll be seeing a lot more of her work in the months to come.

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Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Announces Hall of Fame Inductees

June 22nd, 2006

The Television Academy of Arts & Sciences has named five new inductees to its Hall of Fame. Included are: producer/executive Leonard Goldberg, actor William Shatner, director James Burrows, host Regis Philbin, and newsman Tom Brokaw. Academy Chairman Dick Askin stated that this year's inductees have helped shape the television industry and serve as an inspiration for others.

The Archive’s interviews with William Shatner and James Burrows are currently online and available for viewing on Google Video. The Archive’s interview with Leonard Goldberg can be viewed in the Archive’s Los Angeles offices and will be available online in the near future.

William Shatner was interviewed for two-and-a-half hours in Studio City, CA. Mr. Shatner described his early years in Canadian theater, and his debut on American television. He discussed appearances on anthology shows including Playhouse 90, Studio One, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Omnibus, and others. Shatner spoke in great detail about his starring role as Captain Kirk in the original Star Trek series and subsequent feature films. He also talked about his work as the star of T.J. Hooker and later host of Rescue 911. The interview was conducted by Ramin Fathie on September 15, 1999.

Click here to access all William Shatner interview segments.

Leonard Goldberg was interviewed for nearly six-hour hours (in two sessions) in Beverly Hills, CA. Goldberg talked about breaking into the business in the research departments at ABC and NBC in the 1950s. He talked about his return to ABC in the 1960s, where he worked in TV development and was later promoted to Vice President of Network Programming. He detailed his work at Screen Gems where he developed the celebrated television movie Brian’s Song, among others. He discussed the formation, with his partner Aaron Spelling, of Spelling-Goldberg Productions, and elaborated on the many projects that came from the company. He talked about the television movies The Boy in the Plastic Bubble and Something About Amelia. He described the creation and the casting of the popular detective show Charlie’s Angels, and producing the 2000 feature film version. He also spoke in detail about the series Fantasy Island, Hart to Hart, and T.J. Hooker. He discussed his accomplishments as President and COO of 20th Century Fox, where he facilitated such projects as the long-running animated series The Simpsons and the feature films Broadcast News and Working Girl. Lastly he discussed his position as head of Mandy Films. The two-part interview was conducted by Dan Pasternack on October 21 and December 7, 2004.

See May 15, 2006’s blog entry for details about the Archive’s interview with James Burrows: Archive of American Television: "Will & Grace" ends its eight season run

About the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame

Founded by former Television Academy president John H. Mitchell, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame honors individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to television: on camera legends and pioneering talent that include directors, producers, costume designers, writers, animators, executives, reporters and explorers.

Since the first ceremony in 1984, more than 100 of television’s notables have been inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame. Past honorees include Lucille Ball, Johnny Carson, David Sarnoff, Walter Cronkite, Milton Berle, Walt Disney, Bob Hope, Mary Tyler Moore, Barbara Walters, Angela Lansbury, Oprah Winfrey and Carl Reiner.

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The Archive's Interview with Stephen J. Cannell Featured in the Latest Issue of EMMY Magazine

June 13th, 2006

Readers of the latest issue of emmy magazine are being treated to excerpts from the Archive of American Television's terrific 4-1/2 hour interview with television legend Stephen J. Cannell. Loyal Archive blog readers, however, can see the whole interview (by clicking here) any time on Google Video.

Full Description:

Stephen J. Cannell was interviewed for four-and-a-half hours in Pasadena, CA. Cannell talked about the challenges of battling dyslexia and using his innate storytelling ability to break into the television business. He described his work with Jack Webb on the series Adam-12 for which he served as head writer/ story editor. He discussed his continued work in series television as a creator/ producer, on such series as Toma, Baretta, and some of the biggest hits of the 1970s, Baa-Baa Blacksheep and The Rockford Files. For Rockford, he talked about creating the series, selling it to the network, and working with series star James Garner. He spoke in great detail about his hit series of the 1980s and 90s, which included The Greatest American Hero, The A-Team, 21 Jump Street, Wiseguy, and The Commish. Throughout the interview, Cannell spoke about his approach to storytelling and characterization as well as the processes involved in producing a series for television. The interview was conducted by Stephen J. Abramson on June 23, 2004.

Mr. Cannell also has a great website of his own. Check it out by clicking here.

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Andy Griffith turns 80!

May 31st, 2006

June 1st is Andy Griffith’s 80th birthday. The Archive of American Television is proud to feature our two-hour interview with Griffith, which took place in North Carolina.

In his interview, Griffith recalls how his Broadway debut in "No Time for Sergeants" led to appearances on live television shows, including The U.S. Steel Hour, The Steve Allen Show, and Playhouse 90. He fondly remembers his long association with producer Sheldon Leonard, including the creation and run of The Andy Griffith Show.

Click here to access Andy Griffith's interview segments.

The Archive has interviewed several of the key contributors to The Andy Griffith Show, including Mayberry’s favorite deputy— Don Knotts — also available for viewing on Google Video.

Please comment on:
What's your favorite episode of The Andy Griffith Show?
(Here are some choices, but feel free to write-in your vote, too.)

“The Pickle Story”
“Man in a Hurry”
“Opie and the Spoiled Kid”
“Barney’s First Car”
“Dogs, Dogs, Dogs”
“Mountain Wedding”
“Opie the Birdman”
“Citizen’s Arrest”
“Barney’s Sidecar”
“My Fair Ernest T. Bass”

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