News from the Archive

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

Share and Enjoy:

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

Share and Enjoy:

"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

Share and Enjoy:

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!

Share and Enjoy:

Forgotten Lines, Laughing Fits, and Wrong Envelopes: A Brief History of the Television Blooper

April 1st, 2017
Dick Clark

LA LA-gate!

On February 26, 2017, if you were watching the end of the broadcast of the 89th Academy Awards, you were rewarded with seeing a bit of history. If you’re reading this I can’t imagine you don’t know, but Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were handed the wrong envelope, and thus announced the wrong Best Picture winner.

Awards show bloopers are all too common. From Christine Lahti winning a Golden Globe while still in the restroom at the Beverly Hilton, to Elizabeth Taylor mangling names or almost forgetting to read nominees, the combination of nerves and tricky logistics will often lead to some kind of problem. But the television blooper cuts across all TV genres, and has had a long, storied history leading up to Oscar night 2017.

Bloopers: The First Generations

I’m sure people have been screwing up while performing since the first preview of Aeschylus’ “The Persians” in back 427 B.C., but the first man to collect them and present them as entertainment was Kermit Schaefer. His “Pardon My Blooper” record albums, which collected mistakes from radio and the early days of television, were smash hits. The live television broadcasts of the ‘50s proved to be fertile ground for mistakes.

In his Archive interview, Larry Hagman spoke of a mishap with actor John Larkin on the soap Edge of Night, which was broadcast live. Hagman had a scene with Larkin. At his cue, Larkin ambled out on stage in his street clothes, and directly addressed the camera, “Hellllllo out there in TV land.” He proceeded to wander aimlessly around the set, half-heartedly saying his lines. It finally dawned on Larry Hagman that John Larkin thought they were in a dress rehearsal, and not live on air. Larry tried to signal John to look at the red light on the camera, to no avail. After about five minutes, which must have seemed like an eternity to the future Major Nelson/J.R. Ewing, the director cut to commercial, and a mortified John Larkin was rushed off to wardrobe.

George Takei recalled appearing in the Playhouse 90 production of “Made in Japan.” In rehearsal, veteran character actor Harry Guardino had been having trouble remembering his lines for a dramatic courtroom speech. Takei watched on a monitor during the live broadcast, and Guardino was doing well until suddenly there was no sound, even though Guardino was still moving his mouth and gesturing. Takei rushed to the stage in time to see Guardino continuing to pantomime, and then suddenly start talking again. Harry had forgotten his lines, but continued on with the scene mouthing words in hopes that home viewers would simply think there was something wrong with the sound on their television sets. Good save! 

The Early ‘80s- Bloopermania!

In the early ‘80s, Dick Clark took a page from Kermit Schaefer and produced a series of Censored Bloopers specials. They proved so popular that NBC put Clark’s TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes on the 1982 fall schedule as a weekly series. Not to be outdone, ABC gave Foul-Ups, Bleeps, and Blunders a weekly spot that same year. And still a third series called Life’s Most Embarrassing Moments, hosted by Steve Allen, aired that season, as well. Having such a glut of shows killed the goose that laid the golden blooper because by 1986, all of these shows had been cancelled or turned back into occasional specials. Turns out that watching Greg Evigan mess up his BJ and the Bear lines does have a limited shelf life.

Lorne Michaels’ No Blooper Edict

Tim Conway and Harvey Korman were guaranteed to crack each other up when they appeared in a sketch together on The Carol Burnett Show.

In fact, after a while, it was hard not to come to the conclusion that the crack-ups were increasingly planned beforehand. But what did it matter? All of America loved seeing Korman and Conway giggle and guffaw their way though a sketch. Except one man: Lorne Michaels. He hated it.

From Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad’s brilliant and definitive book about the early years of SNL, “Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live”:

 

Lorne made it clear that Burnett’s style encompassed everything Saturday Night should avoid. It lacked subtlety and nuance; it was too smug, especially when the performers broke out laughing in mid-sketch, doubling over at the hilarity of themselves. From then on, many an idea would be derisively dismissed on the 17th floor with the words, ‘That’s Carol Burnett.’

 

Lorne also rightly felt it was disrespectful to the writers to break during a sketch. He’s said to have been mildly annoyed at Candice Bergen for doing it during her second guest host stint in 1976. One wonders, then, what Michaels must have been thinking while watching the first Debbie Downer sketch. Rachel Dratch was unable to keep a straight face as Debbie, which in turn made the rest of the cast break up, including guest-host Lindsay Lohan. It stood out as one of SNL’s funniest sketches in years solely because of the cast’s inability to keep it together. Did Lorne owe Carol, Tim, and Harvey an apology? The argument could be made. Subsequently on SNL, Jimmy Fallon and Horatio Sanz became the Conway and Korman of their day, never able to appear in a sketch together without breaking each other up, and once again viewers loved it.

2004: Year of the Big Blooper

Before this year’s Oscarcast happened, the two most famous television foul-ups occurred within eight months of each other in 2004. Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction” during the Super Bowl Halftime Show, and Ashlee Simpson’s lip sync scandal on Saturday Night Live. Within days of each incident, multiple versions of events were told, with different people being blamed. There were even congressional hearings! Beth McCarthy-Miller happened to be directing both incidents, and she gave us the scoop on exactly what happened in each case. Lots of time and taxpayer dollars could have been saved if Congress just asked Beth!

For more of television’s greatest screw-ups check out our Bloopers page. We’ve got a million of ‘em!

- John Dalton
Share and Enjoy: