News from the Archive

Goodnight, Chet. Goodnight, David, And Goodnight For NBC News

July 31st, 2015
The Huntley Brinkley Report

Huntley was in New York, Brinkley in Washington, D.C. From these two East Coast cities, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley co-anchored The Huntley Brinkley Report from October 29, 1956 to July 31, 1970. When the program ended, Brinkley remained with NBC News, anchoring with John Chancellor and Frank McGee, but Huntley signed off for the final time 45 years ago today, on that last day of July in 1970.

Here's what Brinkley had to say about Huntley in his 1999 Archive interview:

In the final broadcast of The Huntley Brinkley Report, Huntley offered some hope to the American viewer with his parting words:

"Be patient and have courage, for there will be better and happier news, one day, if we work at it." 

Most would say we're still working at it.

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Happy 93rd Birthday, Norman Lear!

July 27th, 2015

You may know that Norman Lear created All in the Family and The Jeffersons, but did you know that he also produced "Stand By Me" and "The Princess Bride?" Today the prolific writer/producer/director turns 93 and we take a look back at the career of the man who not only brought "Archie" and "Edith" to the small screen, but helped bring "Princess Buttercup" and "Westley" to the big screen, as well.

Born Norman Milton Lear on July 22, 1922 in New Haven, Connecticut, Lear wanted to follow in his uncle's footsteps and become a press agent. (Lear's uncle worked at MCA and always seemed to have a quarter to spare, even during the lean Depression years.) At the end of his senior year of high school, Lear won the American Legion Oratory Contest, earning him a scholarship to Emerson College. He left Emerson in 1942 to become a gunner in the Air Force during World War II, then fulfilled his childhood dream and worked for George and Dorothy Ross as a press agent in New York. Now married with a baby on the way, he returned to Connecticut, but soon moved to California. Leaving the life of a press agent behind, Lear performed odd jobs to make a living, including starting a business to mail celebrity addresses out by request. He and friend Ed Simmons teamed up to dabble in writing, and Lear promptly fibbed his way to the big time. He pretended to be a reporter interviewing Danny Thomas, got Thomas' phone number, and pitched him a routine about Yiddish words that had no English counterparts. The not-Jewish Thomas wound up using the sketch at Ciro's nightclub, giving Lear and Simmons their big break:

Agent David Susskind (who happened to be Lear's first cousin!) then recruited the pair to write for Jack Haley's Four Star Revue back in New York. Shortly after, in 1950, Jerry Lewis lured the duo away to write for Martin and Lewis on The Colgate Comedy Hour, where a young Bud Yorkin worked as stage manager. Martin and Lewis had recently signed movie contracts in California, so the show and its writers relocated back to the West Coast. This time Lear would stay put in sunny California.

After three years writing for Martin and Lewis, Lear and Simmons moved on to writing for The Martha Raye Show in 1954, where Lear got his first taste of directing. He split with Simmons and became a junior writer on The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show from 1957-58, where Bud Yorkin was a producer and Lear's boss. Lear and Yorkin soon decided to form a company together, Tandem Productions. The pair complemented each other - Yorkin had more experience as a producer/director, and Lear was by then an experienced writer. They made a deal with Paramount to executive produce variety shows and specials, including The Andy Williams Show, and specials for Carol Channing, Bobby Darren, and Danny Kaye (who Lear says cooked excellent Chinese food).

Lear dabbled in films, writing the 1963 movie "Come Blow Your Horn," and soon read an article about the British sitcom 'Til Death Do Us Part, which featured a father-son relationship that reminded Lear of his own relationship with his father. From this premise he created All in the Family in 1968 and sold the show to ABC. He shot a pilot with Carroll O' Connor and Jean Stapleton, but not Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers, and the show didn't make it air. Lear then made a second pilot (also without Reiner and Struthers), which CBS picked up when Bob Wood replaced Jim Aubrey as head of the network. Just as All in the Family was starting, Lear wrote and directed the 1971 film "Cold Turkey" and was offered a three picture deal with United Artists. He turned down the deal in order to focus on All in the Family, which premiered to rather poor ratings:

CBS re-ran the series that summer and the audience grew. Then the Emmys that year did a cold open with "the four principles of All in the Family," putting the show squarely on the map.

All in the Family showcased Lear's talent for intertwining social consciousness with humor. In his Archive interview he explains how he can find comedy in anything:

Lear and Yorkin soon created 1972's Sanford and Son from the British program Steptoe and Son. Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson were tapped to play the leads:

The duo produced Maude in 1972, which famously aired an episode ("Maude's Dilemma") in which the title character decides to have an abortion. Lear describes how the episode initially aired without significant controversy, but caused a raucous when broadcast in reruns:

Lear became master of the spin-off, creating Good Times from Maude in 1974, and The Jeffersons from All in the Family in 1975 (Maude was already an All in the Family spin-off). In 1974 he started T. A. T. Productions with Jerry Perenchio (the name comes from the Yiddish expression "Tuchus Affen Tisch," which in Lear's words, roughly translates to, "enough with the talk, put your ass on the table.") Lear continued creating hit shows with 1975's  One Day at a Time, and the critically acclaimed, but short-lived syndicated show Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman in 1976. At one point during the 1970s, Lear created/produced four of the five top shows on television. Those were the days.

He had some flops, as well. 1977's syndicated Fernwood Tonight (aka Fernwood 2-Night) about a local talk show host, All That Glitters about male/female role reversals, and Hot L Baltimore about two prostitutes in The Hotel Baltimore, (the "E" had fallen off the sign, hence Hot L Baltimore), didn't last beyond one season.

Lear decided to end All in the Family in 1979 (he was not involved with Archie Bunker's Place) to dedicate more of his time to causes in which he believed - he formed the advocacy group People for the American Way in 1980. He was a member of the first group of inductees into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1984, along with honorees William Paley, Lucille Ball, Edward R. Murrow, David Sarnoff, and Milton Berle. Lear also became active in movie production, buying Embassy Studios (T. A. T. became Embassy Communications), and soon selling it to Coca Cola. Lear then formed (and currently serves as chairman of) Act III Communications, which produced 1986's "Stand By Me," 1987's "The Princess Bride," and 1991's "Fried Green Tomatoes," among others.

Lear remained active in television throughout the 1990s, producing Sunday Dinner in 1991, and 704 Hauser in 1994. More recently he's produced several movies, including 2000's "Way Past Cool," and the 2011 short, "The Photographs of Your Junk (Will Be Publicized!)." We can't wait to see what he'll come up with next.

Happy 93rd, Norman! Here's to many, many more!

Watch Norman Lear's full Archive interview.

- by Adrienne Faillace

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Vince Gilligan: Go Down Swingin' At Something That's Important

July 24th, 2015
Vince Gilligan

There are ups and downs in life, that's just part of the territory. But as Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan says, "if you're gonna fail, you might as well fail doing something you love."

Invite sometone to sign on to your crazy dream with you! And then watch Vince Gilligan's full Archive interview for more inspiration.

- by Adrienne Faillace

 

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Diahann Carroll Advocates Socially Responsible Television

July 17th, 2015
Diahann Carroll

She played the title character in the ground-breaking show Julia, portrayed the fabulous "Dominique Deveraux" on Dynasty, and more recently graced the small screen as "June Ellington" on White Collar. And today she celebrates her 80th birthday! Diahann Carroll has entertained television audiences for decades, but also understands the educational potential of the medium.

Well said.

Watch Diahann Carroll's full Archive interview.

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The Many Faces of Connie Britton

July 16th, 2015
Connie Britton

Connie Britton has a remarkable resume as a television actress. As a regular cast member on three popular, critically-acclaimed television shows, she has brought her signature toughness, vulnerability, and intelligence to Friday Night Lights, American Horror Story, and Nashville. Not to mention to earlier hits Spin City, The West Wing, and 24, as well. We clearly enjoy having Britton in our living rooms, and she relishes the chance to bring diverse characters to life.

Britton appeared in the movie version of “Friday Night Lights” alongside Billy Bob Thornton back in 2004. She wasn’t quite thrilled with how her character turned out, and was reluctant to return for the television adaptation. She was eventually convinced to return by show creator Peter Berg, but this time her character would be quite different.

After Friday Night Lights, for which Britton received four Emmy nominations, she could pick and choose her projects, film or television. She got a call from American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy, which helped her make up her mind. 

Britton thought her next move would be to go behind the camera. She’d sold a series to FX on which she collaborated with David O. Russell. But then she was sent the script for the pilot of Nashville, written by Callie Khouri. She found herself attracted to the world that the characters lived in, the prospect of working with music producer T Bone Burnett, and the challenge of singing in public for the first time since she appeared in her high school production of “Hello, Dolly.” In the early days of the show, Britton helped shape the character of “Rayna James.”

Connie Britton is a classically trained actor whose diverse projects and characters truly make her one of the most distinctive and interesting actresses of the 21st century.

Watch Connie Britton’s full Archive interview.

- by John Dalton

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