News from the Archive

Why We Love An Underdog: Stephen J. Cannell

November 21st, 2014
Stephen J. Cannell

Stephen J. Cannell: writer, show creator (The Rockford Files, The A-Team, 21 Jump Street, The Greatest American Hero), and dyslexic. School was always rough for him, but that didn't stop him from a career as a scribe:

And as for how his dyslexia affected his writing:

"I always kind of viewed myself as a underdog because of my learning difficulties. I always viewed myself as somebody who had to try a little harder and go the extra mile to even be average because of my learning disability. So that kind of character always appealed to me. And as a dramatist, I’d much rather write David than Goliath - it’s much more fun to write the guy with the slingshot than the Giant. I always felt the flaws in a character were more interesting than the strengths. When I would work on characters I would always start with his flaws… so I ended up writing a lot of underdogs and loners and iconoclasts, and people who were basically taking on the system that was bigger and stronger than them and trying to prevail despite it."

Think Jim Rockford, B.A. Baracus and Murdock, Tom Hanson, Ralph Hinkley… It's their flaws that make these characters human, relatable, and memorable decades after their TV shows were canceled.

Thanks for all the "Davids," Stephen.

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Remembering Glen Larson

November 17th, 2014
Glen Larson

Prolific writer/producer Glen Larson passed away on Friday, November 14, 2014 at the age of 77. In his early years, Larson was a member of the popular musical act The Four Preps. He served as an NBC page, and soon worked his way up to story editor and producer on It Takes a Thief. He wrote for McCloud and created several memorable and beloved series, including Alias Smith and JonesThe Six Million Dollar Man, B.J. and the Bear, Lobo, Battlestar Galactica, Quincy, M.E., Magnum P.I., and Knight Rider. He wrote many of the theme songs for his shows, and also worked on Manimal and Trauma Center

Below are some selections from his 2009 Archive interview:

On performing with The Four Preps on American Bandstand:

We developed a great relationship with Dick [Clark]. I had my first solo in the group and the audience is laughing and I don’t know why. Dick Clark is on his hands and knees and he’s - you’ve seen that kind of plastic stuff that’s supposed to resemble something unmentionable on the air if you’re either ill or you have a dog or whatever - he pushed this stuff out in front right underneath me. I’m convinced that my fly’s open because the audience is screaming… But anyway, things like that went on all the time. 

On creating The Six Million Dollar Man:

The Six Million Dollar Man was a failed pilot. It was called Cyborg. One day I’m sitting with Michael and Frank Price calls me in and he says, "You have a new show." And I said, "Oh." He says, "But you can’t say anything yet because the people who did the pilot don’t know that we’re going to go off in another direction." So I sat down with Frank and in like a page or two, just re-examined where we were going, and what went wrong with the other one. I went off to a cabin I had next door to Dennis Weaver and wrote the pilot for The Six Million Dollar Man and added in a lot of the other things that he could do with eye, and found ways to do the running so that it would look fast. So that started a whole new adventure and started a relationship with Lee Majors.

On coming up with the name "Battlestar Galactica:"

We actually put together probably 200 names from almost everybody on the lot. We were sending them around to see what people liked. “Galactica” is now so common for science fiction and throughout it. And I’ve been doing a lot of reading recently. The nickname of the show is really "Galactica." That’s what everyone uses. But it's about a battleship, a surviving battleship and you could say starship, you could say battle star… we came up with that title to sort of give it a spin that was both commercial and told the story. It's the last surviving war ship that could help guide this wagon train.  

On creating Magnum, P.I.:

Robin Masters was the name of our character in the show, but it's based on Harold Robbins who had houses everywhere, but he was always traveling so he was never at them. So that’s where I got Robin Masters from.  And the Ferrari and everything - I was always a little annoyed because I picked this Ferrari 308G, ZT. So Ferrari gives Tom the car. How is that fair? Could have picked anything. Tom is one of the sweethearts of all time. He was just really a good guy and loved the show and he really became Mr. Hawaii. It affected the tourist business like crazy, because we knew a young couple who owned a restaurant there that saw Hawaii on television and moved there and opened a restaurant. So sometimes the work you do has repercussions you don’t know about. Hawaii’s still due for a good show. Anyway, that’s the basics of it. It was Don [Bellisario] who picked Mike Post to come and do the theme, which I thought was a great theme. And that’s the story of Magnum P.I.

On advice to aspiring writers:

Write. I have a couple of kids of my own and they have the same problems any other kid will have starting out. They’re not sure what they should write, and boy I have fits talking to them about my notes or whatever else. The most important thing is to write. You just have to get in there and do it. And don’t be afraid to submit stuff on spec or try to get that meeting. To be relentless is the number one thing - to have drive. It ain’t going to come to you, except rarely. You really have to push, and I’m not cynical about people trying to steal your ideas. We all know that there are people who are victims of very poor memory and they go from your meeting to another meeting and come up with something you just pitched them. That’s happened to me, but I don’t think that’s the rule, I think that’s the exception. It is tough sometimes when you’re dealing with people that you think maybe really don’t have a grasp on your point of view or what’s really good, etc., but you win if you’re there. Frank Price used to say, "You can’t win if you’re not there." I used to love that advice. He also had a great one, he said, "Don’t get mad, get even," and he used it throughout his career.

Watch Glen Larson's full Archive interview and read his obituary in The Hollywood Reporter.

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Remembering Ernest Kinoy

November 17th, 2014
Ernest Kinoy

We're sad to hear of the passing of writer Ernest Kinoy, who died on Monday, November 10, 2014 at the age of 89. Kinoy started his career writing for NBC radio and went on to write for many live dramatic television shows including: Studio One, Philco-Goodyear Playhouse, Playhouse 90, and DuPont Show of the Week. He won his first Emmy in 1964 for an episode of The Defenders entitled "Blacklist," and won his second Emmy for the groundbreaking miniseries Roots.

Below are some selections from his 1998 Archive interview:

On writing "The Blacklist" episode of The Defenders:

[The Blacklist] existed, it was still there. The networks were still enforcing it, in a way. We - Herb [Brodkin] and must have been Buzz [Berger] at the time - we sat around and we said, "let’s do one on that. Let’s do one." Now we chickened out only in one way. We didn’t make the villain a network; we made it a movie company. Because we said, "we want to get the damn thing on. The principle will be the same." But we didn’t make CBS itself the villain. I think we would have had a little trouble if we had done that. So it was a movie company.

On his involvement writing the miniseries Roots:

Stan [Marguiles] sent me the first material. He had Bill Blinn sort of overseeing the first part of Roots. And Bill was doing the very first thing, which was the Africa part before. Stan asked me to start with the capture - when he was held in captivity through the slave ship and the first year in America. So I said, "fine." They sent me the material and it’s interesting because Alex had not finished the book by then. He was still working on it and only the beginning part was actually completed. I remember seeing in the material something about the first year in the country and then I called Stan up right away. I said, "Stan we have a problem here. The material I have explains how in 1774, Kunta Kinte is in a wagon and he’s going out to put up fences around the cotton field. We’ve got the barbed wire there. He’s going to put the fences up around the cotton field." I said, "there are two problems. Barbed wired was invented in 1885 or something like that, and in that time there was no cotton." Cotton wasn’t raised as a crop until about 1810 when Eli Whitney invented the Cotton Gin. So I said, "I think you’d better get somebody from UCLA or something like that in the history department to be a consultant..." Our experience is that I think, in a way, facts in the television show may have been more reliable than they were actually in Alex’s book. But those were minor things, because after all it was his grandmother’s stories that were the important thing. 

On advice to aspiring writers:

I would say the same thing that some science fiction writer told people. The first thing you have to know is to write. That’s not as silly as it sounds. You got to do something. Write it down. The second thing is finish it. And the third is send it to somebody. The fourth is when they send it back, send it to somebody else. And then you have to think about the next thing you’re going to write. Essentially, it’s not getting caught up in the poetry, the mysticism. If you’re going to do something, do it. See what happens. If it fails, it fails. But you’ve done it. You’ve tried, and do what you like to do the best and see what happens. When people say to me how do I get things to sell, I don’t know the answer to that. As you can see from my history, I sort of stumbled into it, and then by that time you’ve got something of a record and you can go to the next. I know there are people who are tortured because they cannot overcome that first thing. I think it’s become harder than it was in my time when I started. But indeed the only thing you can do is try it and see. One of the advantages the writers have over actors and directors is you can sit home and write. They can’t sit home and act. They can’t sit home and direct. You can do it. You can produce something and even if it’s just for the neighborhood players or something you can have fun with it and do it. Go somewhere else that’s great.

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

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Garry Marshall Turns 80!

November 13th, 2014
Garry Marshall

“On November 13th, Felix Unger was asked to remove himself from his place of residence…” So goes the opening for the TV series The Odd Couple. November 13th also happens to be the birthday of the creator of that show, Garry Marshall. Today is his 80th, and we at the Archive celebrate Marshall’s fantastic life and career.

He began as a writer for Make Room for Daddy in 1963. Soon after, he was penning episodes of Gomer Pyle: USMC, I Spy, and The Lucy Show. Marshall hit his stride on The Dick Van Dyke Show - under the guidance of Carl Reiner, he learned an important lesson on how to draw inspiration for scripts. “You don’t need to think of anything. Just tell me about your life!”

He went on to create some of the biggest shows of the ‘70s: The Odd Couple, Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, and Mork & Mindy. Marshall’s shows are responsible for more catchphrases and iconic characters than any other. From Fonzie’s “Sit on it” to Mork from Ork’s “Nanu nunu,” there was a time when the sayings were nearly impossible to escape. One iconic symbol, Fonzie’s leather jacket on Happy Days, would never have seen the light of day if the network had its way.

Marshall went on to an amazingly successful career as a feature film director (“Pretty Woman,” among many others), and currently has a play running Off-Broadway (“Billy & Ray”). We wish him many happy returns today, and we can’t wait to see what he does next.

Watch Garry Marshall’s full Archive interview.

- by John Dalton

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Happy 100th Birthday, Norman Lloyd!

November 8th, 2014
Norman Lloyd

Acting, directing, producing - longevity in any one of these endeavors is impressive. Norman Lloyd has flourished in all three. The sheer number of credits to his name are staggering by any measure, even for someone turning 100 years old. He has worked extensively with such luminaries as Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles and in such varied mediums as theater, radio, film, and, of course, television.

His very first television role was back in 1939 in a live production of Anthony Mann’s The Streets of New York. His latest television acting credit was as “Donald” on Modern Family in 2010. In between, he appeared on dozens of classic shows including The Twilight Zone, The Paper Chase, Wiseguy, Murder, She Wrote and The Practice. Perhaps he is currently best known for playing “Dr. Daniel Auschlander” on the classic series St. Elsewhere.

He's also produced numerous made-for-television movies. In 1957 Norman started as executive producer on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and remained with the show for over 200 episodes.

Norman’s first directing job was for the series The Adventures of Kit Carson in 1951. Throughout his career he directed 21 TV series and made-for-television movies. In 1952 he directed the Omnibus production of “Mr. Lincoln” with a then-young, unknown filmmaker named Stanley Kubrick as his second unit director.

Please join the Archive in wishing the talented, prolific, and engaging Mr. Norman Lloyd a very happy 100th birthday.

Celebrate Norman Lloyd’s life by watching his full Archive interview.

- by John Dalton

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