News from the Archive

Jon Hamm talks Mad Men, Don v. Dick, Hamm's Ham, and more!

September 16th, 2015
Jon Hamm

He has piqued our curiosity since first sauntering into the offices of Sterling-Cooper in 1961 (our 2007). Eight Emmy nominations later, the actor sat with the Archive for a two-hour interivew about all things Mad Men, Draper, and of course, “Hamm’s Ham.” Starting with his childhood in St. Louis, Hamm talked about what made him pursue acting, and his struggles breaking into the industry. He chronicles his early appearances on Providence, The Division, and how he came to audition for Mad Men. He talks in great detail about the series, the character, working with series creator Matthew Weiner, and gives his take on the show’s finale. Hamm also talks about playing comedic roles on 30 Rock, Web Therapy, Saturday Night Live, and another show that garnered him an Emmy nom - The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. (Fun fact— that show’s star, Ellie Kemper, is a former acting student of Jon’s!) You can watch the entire interview here.

Here are a few highlights from the interview:

On how he would prepare for a Mad Men table read:

On the challenges of filming the Mad Men finale without his fellow castmates:

On Don Draper’s darker side and the genius use of the Coca-Cola ad in the finale to sum up the theme of the series:

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Remembering Bud Yorkin

August 19th, 2015
blog post image

We’re sad to learn that producer/writer Bud Yorkin passed away yesterday, August 18, 2015 at the age of 89. Yorkin enjoyed a long career in television, directing or producing on many classic shows including: The Colgate Comedy Hour, The Dinah Shore Show, The George Gobel Show, and The Jack Benny Show. Starting in 1959, he teamed up with Norman Lear and co-created and produced shows including: All in the Family, Sanford and Son, Maude and Good Times, among others. 

Below are some excerpts from Yorkin's 1997 Archive interview:

On co-creating All in the Family with Norman Lear:

I was living in England doing a picture with Alan Arkin called I'nspector Clouseau' and that’s where I saw Till Death Us Do Part…I couldn’t believe anybody could put that on television. I sent a tape back to Norman (Lear) and I said, "this will blow your mind. You can’t believe what they say about the Queen, what they say about gays. I’ve never seen anything like this on the tube."  He said, "Well, I think we ought to do it."  I thought that, you know, (this is) one of Norman’s fantasies, we’ll never get this on the air! I didn’t have any belief that it was going to happen. I said, geez, there’s Norman again. I literally never thought it would get on the air, nor did I even think we would ever get to make a pilot out of it. When we finally did make the pilot, which I thought was terrific, ABC passed on it. They passed, it was too controversial. So... I got a meeting at CBS with Bob Wood. As I’m walking into Bob Wood’s office there’s a delay, he’s running a half-hour behind. So I walk over to Mike Dann who was president then and he’s got boxes all around, he’s moving out. And I always thought Mike Dann was a real terrific guy. He says, "I’d like to see that show" … and now we’re sitting in his office, watching the second pilot of All in the Family… oh, my God, he’s falling down. And Fred Silverman’s walking by and he’s says, "what’s all going on in here?" I said, "it’s a pilot." Fred Silverman sits down, watches it, says, "I’ve got to have this, this thing is going on CBS." I said, "I don’t even know if we can get it from ABC." He said, "I don’t care, we’ve got to have it."  The next thing I know we’re in meetings with Bob Wood.. I must say they had some bravery. We never changed three words from the first two pilots and that was the first show that went on the air.

On the controversial subject matter and language of All in the Family:

We said, don’t put us on if you’re going to put this first show on and then we’re going to have to fight for every show. We don’t want to do it because we’re not going to back down. And we went plain out with the areas that we were going to deal with the first year. We already knew we were going to deal with gays, we were going to deal with black and white problems. We were going to deal with contemporary problems. We were going to be funny, that was the purpose, to make people laugh, but beyond that we were going to make them think a bit. And if you don’t see that on, then don’t put the show on. At that point, Norman and I were doing reasonably well in the motion picture industry and we didn’t need this. So, they said, "no, no, no, we’ll do it." But they still gave us only an order for six shows. So it went on Tuesday night following Hee Haw, another show that was on CBS —you couldn’t find two shows that were opposite.

On the importance of casting:

I think the most important thing, once you get a script-- the right casting. Most important. Actors make directors look like they know what they’re doing. You get a bad actor in, I don’t care who the director is, sooner or later they’re going to say the guy doesn’t know what he’s doing. The magic is the acting. There’s no doubt in my mind.

On directing live television versus directing film:

Live (television) has the sense of real theatrics, it’s happening, it’s why you love to watch a football game, because you know it’s happening right now. Film has the feeling that it takes on another kind of energy— to do film that you rehearsed it, nobody’s going to make a mistake, if they do you’re going to redo it. I think from a directing point of view they’re much, much different. I think there are very few directors in television that (can) duplicate what you can do in film… To do the kind of energy that you can possibly do by editing a piece of film is one thing, to do that live is very difficult. And a typical example to me, quite honestly, someday people will examine, they did an ER on quote videotape “live”, and that was not live. See, they had no idea how to shoot a live show. So all they did is they took it on a steady cam, they kept moving it around and doing what is known as masters. Take shooting the whole group from one angle, shooting the whole group from another, move it around. You could have done that with a film camera. But they did it “live” and it was a good publicity stunt. But it had nothing to do with being live. Live is— can you get everything that you can get on film on a live camera. But it has to happen right then. You don’t have any chance for a mistake. Television is basically a close-up, as we all know. Film, you have a bigger, the picture is bigger and you have a bigger plane to fill, see your framing, your staging is different.

On the Hollywood Blacklist:

Well, I was impacted by it with the Tennessee Ernie Ford Show. Roland Kibby was on the blacklist. So he had not worked at all. And I was determined to give him a job and let him write on that show. And I took on J. Walter Thompson and Ford Company and threatened, quite honestly threatened that I would expose this sham if they didn’t allow me to use Kib. And they finally acquiesced. J. Walter Thompson  said, you can use him but we don’t have to give him credit. I said, oh, got to use him and got to give him credit! And, and I fought that and they backed down. I looked Kib in the eye and I said, you know, you’re going to do this show, and if you don’t do this show I’m not going to do this show. We’re going to see how far we can carry this thing. And so I’m very proud of the fact that I had first hand with that particular show.

On continuing to work in his 70s:

Well, I’m, I’m terrified that I don’t know what I would do with myself if I didn’t work. It means something to me in several ways. One is that I do have little children in my second marriage. I’m reliving my life. And I don’t want to feel like I’m a guy in a rocking chair, which maybe I should be, but I don’t want to feel like I am, with these kids around. So, one way that I can stay energized and involved is to get involved in a lot of things. And you know, and I was reading a book that the late Victor Frankel wrote. He was trying to sum up what happiness is: number one the ability to do things that make you happy, particularly in the workplace. And I believe that. I believe that even though it is more difficult for me because I’m not today’s flavor of the month. I’m a older person, It’s a young man’s medium, particularly television is, and it should be. But with all that, I always think that if you have the right idea, if you have the right piece of material, if you have the right kind of thing, you should go ahead and do it whether you’re older or younger.

On regrets in his career:

I regret that I didn’t do a Broadway show, because I’ve always wanted to do one. And did have the opportunity to do one and I turned that down. I regret that. In some ways, I know this sounds tough, in some ways I regret that, that by the amount of television that I did and the time that it took, in the amount of time that I spent at rehearsal halls or readings or tapings, that I missed a lot of family life. My older children grew up to a great extent without me being home. In television you don’t have a vacation when everybody else does. You finish taping or filming in February, you take off four weeks or six, whatever, and then you’re back writing, April May, and June you start to film.. So I never had the opportunity to go away, spend a summer with my kids, during a long period of my life. I’ve talked that over with them, and I kind of regret that, that. Television, you know, it’s a monster. You’re working, if you’ve got a series, it’s a monster. You’re working around the clock and you’re already worried about next year. It is the greed in a certain way. It’s not money, but it’s the greed that when you’re offered something and they say, here, do it, here, we’ll put it on. You say, gee, I don’t really want to but I’m not going to turn it down. And by the time you do that, you look around, you say, wait a minute, you know, where’s it all gone? It’s one of the reasons I think that people don’t last a long period of time in television.

On how he would like to be remembered:

That’s a big question. I think as someone who’s treated everyone fairly. I’ve never tried to take advantage of anyone. And I think that would be a nice way to be remembered.


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Remembering Frank Gifford

August 10th, 2015
Frank Gifford

We're sad to learn that sportscaster Frank Gifford passed away yesterday, August 9, 2015, at the age of 84. Gifford enjoyed a long career on the football field, playing for the New York Giants, and off the field, calling games from the booth as a sportscaster for CBS and ABC. Gifford reported for the first Super Bowl, covered the Olympics, and co-hosted the iconic ABC sports show, Monday Night Football for many years. Among the stories Gifford covered: Evel Knievel (for Wide World of Sports) and the terrorist attack in Munich at the 1972 Olympics. He also frequently filled in as co-host on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee and Today with wife Kathie Lee Gifford.

Below are some excerpts from Gifford's 2006 Archive interview:

On his first pre-game show in the 1950s, when football started to get very popular:

All of a sudden pro football was growing up, and when pro football really exploded was in 1956, when we played the Chicago bears for the NFL championship in New York, our first year in Yankee Stadium, and we beat them 47 to 7. All of a sudden people knew who we were. We couldn't walk down the street without somebody saying, "Hey," "Hi," pushing the baby cart, and it didn't matter. It was a wonderful, wonderful feeling, having gone through '52, '53, '54, and then things changing really when Lombardi came in in '54, and you knew things were going to get better, and they did get better. Tom Landry was our defensive coach. Vince Lombardi was our offensive coach. And if you don't follow football, these two guys are both in the Hall of Fame and were great, great coaches. They're in the Hall of Fame as coaches. So they made the difference for us. They turned us around. We had a wonderful season in '56, and we beat the Bears. All of a sudden we couldn't walk down the street. And naturally some of the media entities got involved in it, and Kyle Rote had his radio show at WNEW, and the next year, actually I was doing it that year, a show with Chris Schenkel, who was the broadcaster of the Giants game on television, and he and I had a pre-game show, The Frank Gifford Show, with Chris Schenkel. We had a little board that we used, and I had like chess players, only they were football players, and I diagrammed the plays we were going to run, and of course it was all nonsense, but it was my first taste of that.

On the first time he met Howard Cosell:

On working with Howard Cosell and Don Meredith on Monday Night Football:

When people think of me as it relates to Monday Night Football they think of Howard and Don, although there were many broadcasters I worked with over the years. I think what cemented Monday Night Football in the minds of the viewing public, particularly the sports viewing public, was the three of us. We each had kind delineated what our role was.  We just sort of found it; it was the strangest thing. Howard would get off on his nasal sort of a twang, he had the big city accent, he had the New York accent, and he'd make these pronouncements from on high, and, of course, sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't, and most cases he had no clue what he was talking about. And when he got into the personalities he was fine, because he had a good understanding of human nature, very little about sports, even though that was what he made his career on. But he had a great mind. He had unbelievable recall. And Don had that way of just puncturing this city slicker balloon in front of thousands of millions of people. Howard might be pontificating on something, and all the sudden Don would say, "Oh, come on, Howard!" And that was it, all he would say. But the next morning I'd be walking down the street or something -- "Did you hear what Don did to Howard last night? Oh, Frank, did you...? Boy, he really got him, didn't he?" And I started thinking, "What in the world is going on here?" It was the interplay between the three of us that was not planned, it just happened, and it was a very simple thing, and it was probably very simple to Roone Arledge, who knew what he wanted in almost every phase of his career, and he was brilliant. But it was fun and we had a great time, and I guess it changed the pattern of home viewing on television. It certainly changed programming for the networks who programmed on Monday night, and I would say the NFL has just grown from there.

On how he'd like to be remembered:

Watch Frank Gifford's full Archive interview and read his obituary in The New York Times.

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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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