News from the Archive

Composer Mark Snow Explains The Origins of His Music for Some Files Marked “X”

August 26th, 2016
Mark Snow

It’s one of THE most iconic TV themes of all time. It starts with a spooky echo, followed by 6 whistled notes. It’s from a popular sci-fi show, which was recently revived after its original 1993-2002 run. Yep, that would be The X-Files theme, composed by the talented Mark Snow. I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Mark for a few hours about his long, melifluous career; if you're a fan of TV scores and theme songs (I am!!), you're going to enjoy his interview.

Mark first started composing for television back on 1972’s The Rookies and worked on a number of other Spelling-Goldberg productions. He scored The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, composed the theme song to the third season of Starsky & Hutch, and was the primary composer on Hart to Hart. Outside the Spelling-Goldberg world he scored several seasons of both Falcon Crest and Smallville. But it's his role as the sole composer on The X-Files that truly secured Mark Snow’s place in both pop culture and television history.

So here it is: the creation story of The X-Files theme:

Mark also revealed that his X-Files theme was “secretly an homage” to composer Earle Hagen, who famously created and whistled The Andy Griffith Show theme. Mark studied with Earle, getting the chance to learn from one of the greats: 

We love it when one of our interviewees mentors another!

Mark is currently composing for CBS’ Blue Bloods and scored the recent 10th season of The X-Files. We hope there will be an 11th season for him to score, too…

Today is Mark Snow’s 70th birthday, so celebrate by watching his full Archive interview! His truth is in there. 

- by Adrienne Faillace

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Remembering Arthur Hiller

August 17th, 2016
Arthur Hiller

We’re sad to learn that director Arthur Hiller has passed away at the age of 92. A native of Canada, he began his career at the CBC before going on to direct “live” television anthologies in the United States, including NBC Matinee Theater and Playhouse 90. Hiller directed episodes of many classic television series of the 1950s and 1960s, from Perry Mason and Gunsmoke to Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Route 66. In the 1970s and beyond, he found great success as a film director. His beloved movies include “The Out of Towners” and “Love Story.”

Below are some selections from his 2003 interview:

On directing early television in Canada versus the United States:

“The set up between Canada and the United States in terms of live TV was very much the same. … you had the same problems. How do you do continuity? How do you get somebody from here to here? How do you get a camera here? How do you light this? You had to be so aware of those. In Canada we had to do a little more work because there was no such thing as an assistant director. … but you did have a technical director, you did have lighting, you did have all those things.”

On preparing to direct a project: 

“My preparation for television episode or for film are very much the same. I think maybe it comes out of my sort of insecurity, but I’m very much into preparing. First I just read the script and read the script and read the script and it starts then to sort of form in my head and I start thinking more deeply about the characters or their relationships. … I would like to be able, I’d say two weeks before we film, wasn’t quite so long in television, but to be able to answer any question that anybody would ask me on the crew or the actors. And I find that the more prepared I am and the more I have it in my head, the more flexible I am on the set when things happen that are a little different or I get an idea or somebody makes a suggestion, I’m not in panic because I know I can fall back, I have my what shall I say? My sustainer is there. And so I work that way. A lot of other directors I know will do most of their work at the scene. They will research, I mean they will prepare, but not like I do.”

On advice to aspiring directors:

“It better be the only thing you want to do, because to become successful in television or film in directing is just so, so hard, you need so much luck… part of it is you got to hang in, hang in and one day a door will open. Keep knocking on those doors. But when it opens you better be good.”

On how he’d like people to remember him: 

“I’d like them to feel I cared about the world in general and about people. I think I haven’t expressed, how shall I say? A worthwhile comment in every film, but at least I reached for an affirmation of the human spirit. I can’t do those films that… break down the human spirit or dismember people in a sense, I just I feel at least I want that affirmation of the human spirit.”

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Garry Marshall: An Appreciation

August 16th, 2016
Garry Marshall

In the 1970s, three men dominated the network television landscape. They were a holy trinity of comedic programming. Norman Lear, James L. Brooks, and Garry Marshall. We sadly lost Garry on July 19th.

It is remarkable to look back at the top ten regularly scheduled programs of the 1975-76 season and see that Lear, Brooks, and Marshall were responsible for creating eight of them. They each had several other shows in the top thirty, and their influence can be found in dozens of other shows on the air that year.

While Brooks and Lear were big on tackling social issues on their shows, Marshall always focused mostly on making us laugh. The Odd Couple never had the social relevancy of Mary Tyler Moore or All in the Family, but the laughs per minute ratio was always just as high.

Much of Garry’s genius was in casting. How could he match Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon from the movie version of “The Odd Couple”? He did. He found the perfect Felix and Oscar to come into our homes week after week in Jack Klugman and Tony Randall. If you’ve ever seen Henry Winkler speak in an interview, you’ll see that it isn’t immediately apparent that he could play a misunderstood hoodlum in 1950’s Milwaukee. Garry Marshall saw it and helped create the most iconic television character in history with Arthur “Fonize” Fonzarelli on Happy Days.

For Garry, as far as his shows were concerned, laughs and ratings were of utmost importance. I can remember a story where early in the run of Laverne & Shirley, Cindy Williams was discontent with some of the scripts. The show had hit the ground running at number one, and was only growing in popularity. Williams met with Marshall and spelled out for him all of the issues she’d been having, including the fact that she’d left a promising feature film career to do a sitcom. When she was done, Marshall paused, looked her in the eye and said “Cindy, TAKE THE MONEY!” He never had trouble with her again.

As a kid, I loved trying to figure out the “Garry Marshall-verse.” The Odd Couple had no continuity. Over the course of the series, the tale about how Felix and Oscar first met changed from week to week. One week they’d known each other in childhood, the next week they’d met on a jury, or in the army. Richie Cunningham first encountered Mork from Ork on Happy Days in a dream he had. Mork was such a hit that the story was retrofitted- he suddenly became real for his own series, Mork & Mindy. On the show Blansky’s Beauties, Marshall had several characters cross over from Happy Days to make guest appearances to boost ratings. The only problem was that Happy Days took place in 1962, and Blansky’s took place in 1978. And there were several actors from Happy Days (Scott Baio, Lynda Goodfriend) playing different characters. But that was ok. Garry’s shows made us laugh so much that we forgave Time Travelin’ Pinky Tuscadero.

Of course, Garry went on to have an amazing feature film career as a director. But my favorites of all of his work were his acting roles. He was perfect as the micro-managing network president Stan Lansing on Murphy Brown. And sublime as the incredulous casino owner in Albert Brooks’ feature “Lost in America.” Garry had a beautiful sense of Borscht Belt comedic timing, and could turn a phrase better than anyone.

Garry Marshall was one of the last of a dying breed: the network television maverick, creating hits, spinning off shows, and creating national catchphrases and cultural icons on a regular basis. We will not see his like again. Rest in Peace, Garry Marshall. Ya done good!

- by John Dalton

 

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Bringing Back Bradys

July 21st, 2016
Florence Henderson

“You can’t reheat a soufflé” was Paul McCartney’s wise answer in the ‘70s when people would ask him about the possibility of a Beatles reunion. Sir Paul was exactly right. When any popular band reunites for an album, it’s almost never as good as the work that came before. The same principle holds true for television shows.

I’ve been fooled countless times. No matter how many times they disappointed me, television reunion shows (and we’re not talking about reboots here, we’re talking about bringing back original cast members) would always get me excited. The Odd Couple: Together Again with Jack Klugman, Tony Randall, AND Penny Marshall in 1993? How could it be bad with those people in it? The Return of the Beverly Hillbillies in 1981? Yes please, they got creator Paul Henning to write a script! Mary and Rhoda in 2000? I was so excited for that one I nearly burst! None of these turned out to be any good. At all. Who the heck decided to replace Irene Ryan as Granny with Imogene Coca anyway?

The king of the television reunion has got to be producer Sherwood Schwartz. By my count, he did three Gilligan’s Island reunion movies. Each more insipid than the last, until it finally devolved into (I kid you not) The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island, which starred not only the original castaways, but a pre-Oscar-for-Ed-Wood Martin Landau. I shudder to think of it. The highlight was Mr. Scatman Crothers scatting “Sweet Georgia Brown” while the Globetrotters practiced for their game against a team of evil robots (again, I kid you not.) It was downhill from there. Sherwood Schwartz talked about how all the Gilligan’s Island reunions came about.

Schwartz’s other series of reunions involved what was certainly his most successful show, The Brady Bunch. For those who don’t know (I can’t imagine you’ve read this far if you don’t) The Brady Bunch was a half-hour sitcom that ran from 1968 to 1974 about a large, blended family. Only, it didn’t really end in 1974. For the next twenty-five years it kept coming back, again and again in different ways to suit each era.

As a kid, I loved the Bradys. I was completely mesmerized by them from a very early age. I actually remember them from their network run (yeah I’m pretty old) but when they went into syndication on WNEW channel 5 out of New York, that was it. I must have seen each episode 50 times from ages five to twelve. It got to the point where I would say the dialogue along with the characters. Not just the famous “Don’t play ball in the house” type lines either. Entire scripts. There was something about the show. The colors, the lighting, the music- I can’t even tell you. Thing is, I don’t believe I ever once laughed at anything on the show other than the brilliant Ann B. Davis as Alice, who I still laugh at to this day. I was a Brady addict.

When it was announced in 1976 that the Brady family would be doing a variety show, my little head exploded. “Variety show? Like Donny & Marie, only with THE BRADYS?” was my thought. As far as I was concerned, there was no way this would not be the best thing that had ever or would ever be on television. The show was to be produced by Sid and Marty Krofft, the guys who brought us H.R. Pufnstuf and Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. It was actually produced over the strenuous objections of Sherwood Schwartz, who eventually relented because he didn’t want to deprive any of the cast of jobs.

Sherwood’s first instinct was right. The show was really terrible. First off, none of the Bradys could sing or dance, save for Barry Williams and Florence Henderson. This left us with six out-of-tune and out-of-step performers. Well, five, actually. Eve Plumb, who’d turned in a critically-lauded performance in Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway earlier that year, declined to participate. They hired Geri Reischl, who could sing and dance somewhat, and from that day forward would be known the world over as “Fake Jan.” Increasingly in that era, variety shows felt the need to have a central gimmick for their chorus girls. Donny & Marie had an ice rink, which worked nicely. The Brady Bunch Variety Hour  had a full-length pool on stage, with an all-female dance troupe called The Krofftettes, who performed water ballet. But what worked for Esther Williams in the ‘40s in big, splashy MGM musicals did NOT work in a videotaped, ‘70s variety show. The one good thing about The Brady Bunch Variety Hour was that it inspired the brilliant parody on The Simpsons, “The Simpson Family Smile Time Variety Hour.” They even had a “Fake Lisa.” 

The show included sketches, including a recurring sketch where we saw the Bradys at home. But not the San Fernando Valley home we remember. For some reason, Mr. Brady moved them to a beach house in Malibu, where they had to contend with their irascible neighbor, played by Mr. Rip Taylor. In those sketches, they would talk about how they were doing a variety show for ABC. It was very hard to get a handle on exactly what was going on in those segments. None of the kids acted as they’d done on The Brady Bunch. Their personalities were all written as jerky and unpleasant. The show lasted nine episodes, before getting a mercy killing from ABC. I don’t remember being too upset over the cancellation, but I did enjoy the What’s Happening? crossover episode.

By the way, nothing that happened on The Brady Bunch Variety Hour was considered canonical. In subsequent reunions, they were back in their original house, and no one ever said anything like, “Hey, remember that time we did a variety show for ABC and moved to Malibu?” It was all stricken from the record, like George Lucas has tried to do with The Star Wars Holiday Special. In our interview with them, Sid and Marty Krofft described The Brady Bunch Variety Hour as, “the worst television series ever produced in the history of television.” 

Next there was to be a made-for-television movie called The Brady Girls Get Married in 1981. Again, the anticipation leading up to the airing was killing me. “Two hours of older Bradys!” But, for some reason, when it aired, they only aired a half hour of it! What the hell?? The network at the last minute had decided to chop the movie up into 3 half-hour episodes to air over 3 weeks. It must have been very last minute because the TV and newspaper had it as a two-hour movie event. I can’t recall anything like this ever happening before or since. As I recall, none of the boys appeared in the first half-hour segment, so it was very disappointing. It should be noted that this was the only Brady reunion project (other than a later clip special) in which every original cast member participated. Though, it seemed to me that the Brady boys (Barry Williams, Christopher Knight, and Mike Lookinland) were only present for one day of filming. They weren’t in it very much.

It eventually became clear that the show had been broken into half-hour segments in order to launch the next Brady incarnation: The Brady Brides. Marcia and Jan and their new husbands moved in together. Carol Brady and Alice made occasional appearances. The show was just terrible. It was a hybrid of the original Brady Bunch and Three’s Company. Awkward, uncomfortable sexual innuendo and canned laughter abound. None of the Brady men, including Robert Reed as Mike, were anywhere to be found. This one lasted six episodes.

The most successful, by many measures, of the Brady reunions was 1988’s A Very Brady Christmas movie on CBS. Sherwood and his son Lloyd Schwartz wrote a script that was the closest they ever came to capturing the spirit of the original series. Unfortunately, the original Cindy Brady (Susan Olsen) declined to appear. By the time that one aired I was older, and had lost interest in all things Brady. But I watched, and enjoyed it. The biggest disappointment was they’d recast Alice’s beau, Sam the Butcher, who’d been originally played by the great Allan Melvin, with some unknown actor in a Santa suit. Well, you can’t have everything. But what we did get was the budding political career of Mike Brady, who rushed into a crumbling building to save two security guards, while Florence Henderson raised her lovely voice in song. How could he lose the election after that? It turned out to be the second-highest rated made-for-television movie of the year. An honest-to-God blockbuster.

 

Not content to leave well enough alone and go out on a Brady high note, CBS commissioned a new series on the strength of the Brady Christmas ratings. The Bradys premiered on March 9, 1990. I got though 20 minutes of it, and it cured me of my seemingly endless Brady fascination. This time, Maureen McCormick declined to participate. Which means you could actually do a Brady reunion with three girl replacements! Leah Ayres, Geri Reischl, and Jennifer Runyon could be Fake Marcia, Fake Jan, and Fake Cindy. THAT I would watch. 

With The Bradys they tried something different: a one-hour, family drama, replete with early ‘90’s style truth bombs. Bobby Brady became a paraplegic, and Marcia Brady battled alcoholism. Spinning off a half-hour comedy into an hour drama had been done before with Lou Grant and Trapper John, M.D. and it worked for those two shows. Not so with The Bradys. The first episodes had no laugh track (one was added in later episodes to try to boost ratings.) It was not fun watching the Bradys struggle with real life issues. What had made the original so great was it was pure fantasy of a perfect family. With that gone, there wasn’t much left. And, to be honest, while all the adults were great (Florence Henderson, Robert Reed, and Ann B. Davis), some of the children had grown up to be not the best actors in the world. True to Brady reunion form, this one lasted but six episodes.

The Bradys slammed the lid on any further scripted Brady reunion shows, as did the tragic death of Robert Reed two years after the run of The Bradys ended. But the culture was far from done with them. In 1992, Jill Soloway, who would later create the groundbreaking Amazon show Transparent, developed “The Real Live Brady Bunch,” in which actors recreated original Brady Bunch scripts on stage. Whatever that elusive element was that so mesmerized me as a child, Soloway was able to capture and deconstruct brilliantly. It was a smash, running for months on end in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Original cast members included Jane Lynch, Andy Richter, and Christine Taylor, who would recreate her eerily perfect characterization of Marcia Brady for 1995’s wonderful “The Brady Bunch Movie.” Both these projects captured, parodied, and deconstructed what Generation-X loved about The Brady Bunch. The Bradys became as cool and relevant as Nirvana or Candlebox. I was back in the cult of Brady, and thought the movie and stage show were hysterical. Sherwood Schwartz was ambivalent about the postmodern nature of the movie, but I’m sure was glad it was a smashing success.

That is the story of how The Brady Bunch surfed the wave of cultural zeitgeist for almost thirty years. For more stories about revivals, reunions, and reinventions, search our site

- by John Dalton

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Remembering Garry Marshall

July 20th, 2016
blog post image

We’re sad to learn that show creator/director/producer Garry Marshall has passed away at the age of 81. Marshall began his career as a journalist, before moving into comedy writing for The Joey Bishop Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and The Lucy Show, among others. In the 1970s, Marshall created some of the most beloved and iconic sitcoms of all time, including The Odd Couple, Happy Days, Mork & Mindy, and Laverne & Shirley, which starred Cindy Williams and Marshall’s sister, Penny. Marshall’s series were often spun-off from each other, creating a big, wacky world of hilarious characters all airing on television at the same time. They were also hugely popular: four of the top five shows on the air in 1979 were his. Marshall’s film work included the hit films “Pretty Woman” and “Beaches.”

Below are some selections from his 2000 interview:

On creating Mork & Mindy:

On the physical comedy of Laverne & Shirley:

On his favorite Happy Days episodes:

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

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