News from the Archive

By Ken Levine and David Isaacs

March 30th, 2015
Ken Levine and David Isaacs

M*A*S*H, Cheers, The Simpsons, Frasier. Sounds like part of a top ten list of the greatest television comedies of all time. And it may be, but astoundingly, it’s also just a partial list of the writing credits for Ken Levine and David Isaacs. In a joint venture with The Archive of American Television and The Writers Guild Foundation, they discussed all of the above shows, and much more.

Levine and Isaacs met while in the Army. They began collaborating on spec scripts for various shows, and got a stroke of luck due to a chance meeting on a golf course, which led to selling their first script for The Jeffersons. Shortly after, they joined the writing staff of M*A*S*H, eventually becoming head writers.

The highlight of their stint on M*A*S*H was writing the groundbreaking episode, “Point of View”, in which the entire episode is seen though the eyes of a wounded soldier. They received their very first Emmy nomination for that episode.

After a short stint on After MASH, Levine and Isaacs, along with Glen and Les Charles and James Burrows, were part of the team that developed Cheers in 1982. When the show began, the focus was scattered on the various characters in the bar, until Burrows advised, “Sam and Diane are your money.” From then on, each script, even if Sam and Diane weren’t the focus, somehow moved their relationship along. Additionally, in the below clip, Levine and Isaacs talk about Shelley Long’s invaluable and sometimes overlooked contributions to the show.

In 1983, Levine and Isaacs received their first Emmy Award as part of the creative team for Cheers - a much-needed boost that helped keep the show on the air after one season of dismal ratings. 

Having written both After MASH and the ill-fated Cheers spin-off The Tortellis, one can imagine that Levine and Isaacs may have had some trepidation about Frasier. Such was not the case. They knew they had a great lead in Kelsey Grammer, and a wonderful supporting cast. They wrote on and off for the show, and specialized in writing episodes where other members of the Cheers cast returned.

There is much more to be seen in Ken Levine and David Isaacs' Archive/Writers Guild Foundation interviews: their stint at The Simpsons, Levine’s solo work as a director and play-by-play baseball announcer, and Isaacs' work as a consultant on Mad Men and as a teacher at USC. Two remarkable careers, both together and separately. This one is a “must view” for any aspiring comedy writer or any fan of television comedy.

Watch Ken Levine and David Isaacs' full Archive/Writers Guild interviews.

- by John Dalton

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Remembering Walter Grauman

March 24th, 2015
Walter Grauman

We're sad to hear that director Walter E. Grauman passed away on Friday, March 20, 2015 at the age of 93. Grauman began his career in the television industry as a co-producer (with Alan A. Armer) of the talent-search series Lights, Camera, Action. He broke into network television directing for producer Albert McCleery on the live anthology series Cameo Theatre, and was subsequently hired to direct Matinee Theater. He soon accepted a job as a producer-director on The Untouchables. Throughout his career he worked with notables Charles Bronson (Colt .45), Robert Stack (The Untouchables), Peter Falk (Columbo), Buddy Ebsen (Barnaby Jones), and Natalie Wood (The Memory of Eva Ryker). He also directed Murder, She Wrote, the television movie The Forgotten Man, and the series Peter Gunn

Below are some excerpts from his 2009 Archive interview:

On The Untouchables:

On directing Murder, She Wrote:

I would shoot totally out of sequence. I’d had years of experience and I could shoot half of a scene with Angela [Lansbury] and I’d complete the scene later in the day after she’d gone home. She’d be on camera, lit and everything, as soon as I could get it done. She’d leave and then I’d shoot the rest of the scene. I could juxtapose them like that and that helped her a lot.

On advice to an aspiring director:

Stick with what he visualizes. Make what he sees in a script come to life on the screen and don’t let the production manager or the producer or any of the bean counters dissuade you. As a matter of fact, I’ll tell you one true story. Blake Edwards hired me very early on in my film career. He said, "I’ve seen your work and I want you to direct Peter Gunn." We were having lunch. And I said, "Well gee, that’s great, I would love to," and so on and so on and I was thrilled. He said, "Now I want to tell you, there is a production manager on this show who is a mean SOB, and he’s going to give you a lot of trouble. And I want you to remember it's your name on your film and you tell him to go straight to hell." I said, "Who is this guy?" He said, "He’s my father, Jack McEdward." It was his father. And he was tough.

On how he'd like to be remembered:

As a decent human being and a caring man.  

Watch Walter Grauman's full Archive interview and read his obituary in Variety.

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Happy Birthday, Carl Reiner!

March 20th, 2015
Carl Reiner

He starred in Your Show of Shows and Caesar's Hour, created The Dick Van Dyke Show, and interviewed the 2000 Year Old Man. And today, he turns 93! Happy birthday, Carl Reiner!

Reiner has 9 Emmy wins under his belt, the most recent of which was earned for a rather unique performance. In 1995, Reiner reprised his Dick Van Dyke Show​ role of "Alan Brady" on Mad About You. He deserved that Emmy.

Happy birthday, Carl! Here's to many, many more!

Watch Carl Reiner's full Archive interview.

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Happy Birthday to Mister Rogers' King Friday XIII!

March 13th, 2015

A very special someone celebrates a birthday today. The honorable King Friday XIII, ruler of Calendarland in Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, is the birthday boy not only today, but every Friday the 13th! King Friday paid us a visit during our 1999 interview with Mr. Rogers and we learned how the King got his name:

 

 

Happy birthday, King Friday!!

Watch Fred Rogers' full Archive interview for more in-depth looks at some of your favorite childhood puppets.

- by Adrienne Faillace

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Remembering Sam Simon

March 9th, 2015
Sam Simon

We're sad to hear that writer/producer Sam Simon passed away from colon cancer on Sunday, March 8, 2015 at the age of 59. Simon started his career in animation, drawing for Bill Cosby's Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids and other Filmation series. He broke into sitcoms with a spec script for Taxi, which got produced and led to a job on the show's writing staff. Simon was a writer and showrunner on Cheers, and served as a consultant for It's Garry Shandling's Show, The Tracey Ullman Show, and The Drew Carey Show. He's best known for his role as writer, producer, and showrunner for The Simpsons in its early years, but also created a poker show, Sam's Game, and worked with the animal rights organization, PETA. He was a noted philanthropist, giving millions of dollars to charities and foundations close to his heart.

Below are some selections from his 2013 Archive interview:

On becoming a cartoonist:

On creating characters for The Simpsons:

On advice to aspiring writers:

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

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