News from the Archive

Happy Birthday to Mister Rogers' King Friday XIII!

April 13th, 2018
King Friday XIII

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 Steven Bochco

April 2nd, 2018
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We’re sad to learn that show creator/producer Steven Bochco has passed away at the age of 74. He attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) before moving to Los Angeles and writing for shows including Columbo and Ironside. He went on to create some of the most iconic and groundbreaking dramatic series of all time, including L.A. Law, Hill Street Blues, Doogie Howser, M.D., and NYPD Blue (with David Milch).

Below are some selections from our 2002 interview:

On how Hill Street Blues changed the rules of TV:

On the genesis of LA Law:

On the genesis of NYPD Blue:

Watch Steven Bochco’s full interview and read his obituary in The Hollywood Reporter.

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Wink’s World - DJ, Hit Maker, and Consummate Game Show Host

March 26th, 2018
Wink Martindale

In the winter of 1996, I was doing odd jobs in Hollywood. Some of them very odd, including being a paid studio audience member. Eight bucks an hour. Sounds like an easy gig, but having to sit through four hours of George & Alana was somewhat trying on my buttocks, and my soul. One morning I got the call to go sit in on a taping of a new Disney Television-produced game show called Debt.

I was excited to find that Wink Martindale would be hosting. They only needed to have paid audience members because the show hadn’t started airing yet. I’d been a huge fan of Wink’s when I was a kid, watching Tic Tac Dough every day, and, for a long period, rooting for Guinness Book of World Records-recognized contestant, Thom McKee. As I sat in the audience of Debt, it began to dawn on me: “I could be on this show. I could WIN this show.” It was mostly trivia questions that Gen-Xers would know, and I believe I knew the answer to every single question I saw Wink ask over the three episodes taped that day.

Several months later, I find myself on the set of Debt – not as an audience member this time, but as a contestant. Having handily vanquished my two opponents, I’m now in the bonus, double-or-nothing round. During commercial break, Wink leans over to me and says, “Ya know, John, I gotta tell ya. I just love givin’ away some of the mouse’s money.” “And I love taking it Wink,” I reply. The bonus double-or-nothing question is a complete gift to me. “Name the street that Archie and Edith Bunker lived on in All in the Family.” The two simple words “Hauser Street” increase my winnings to $10,000. It is by far the most surreal experience of my life.

Earlier this year, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to once again meet with Wink Martindale, and discuss his long and varied career. His wife, Sandy, was lovely, and Wink, himself, a complete gentleman. Let’s look at some highlights.

Wink and The King

Wink played a very important role in the rise of Elvis Presley. As a DJ in Memphis, he was the first to give “That’s All Right (Mama)” airplay.  Later on, he gave Elvis his very first television interview.

Wink Tops the Charts

Later, Wink got into the music business, himself. He recorded the classic “Deck of Cards.” The song reached number seven on the Billboard charts and went multi-platinum. It got so big that Wink was asked to perform it on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Wink and the Record Breaker

In 1978, Wink began hosting the show that made him go down in history as a legendary game show host. Tic Tac Dough was a syndicated show, and did pretty well in the ratings. The ratings increased greatly when contestant Thom McKee won 89 games in a row, defeating 43 other contestants. McKee won eight cars, three sailboats, sixteen vacations, and $312,700 dollars. He held the record for most prizes won on a television game show until Ken Jennings came along on Jeopardy! in 2004 and cleaned up.

It was a privilege getting to sit down with Wink Martindale and hear his story. What impressed me most was his great longevity and adaptability. He started as a DJ, became a television host of local, American Bandstand-type dance shows, was a successful game show host, and later morphed into a Gen-X pop culture icon.

And, of course, he was instrumental in me getting some of the mouse’s money! Thanks, Wink!

- John Dalton

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March 22nd, 2018
David Chase

The Sopranos - “College” Airdate: February 7, 1999

There’s little agreement as to when television’s “Second Golden Age” began. There are those who claim it doesn’t exist at all, while others actually refer to it as television’s “Third Golden Age.” The way I see it, the Second Golden Age of Television exists, continues to flourish, and has a definite beginning date: February 7, 1999, the date when “College,” the fifth episode of The Sopranos, aired -- my choice for the most influential television episode of the ‘90s.

The mob family drama The Sopranos had originally been conceived as a network show. FOX showed interest in the mid-’90s, but eventually passed when they read the pilot script (ooops!). Creator David Chase seems to have had the idea in his head for quite some time. His 1979 feature-length script for The Rockford Files episode “The Man Who Saw the Alligators” features a New Jersey mobster, named Tony, with mother issues, a right-hand man named Syl, and a love interest named Adrianna. With its roots still firmly in network, The Sopranos premiered on HBO in January of 1999. Though airing on a premium cable channel, much of season one played out as it might have on FOX, with one very notable exception. I believe that exception would eventually come to shake the very foundations of television itself.

In our interview with him, Chase discussed the rule of “network morality,” which basically said that a main character doing an awful thing on a television show must be punished for it, and see the error of his ways before the episode was over – e.g. when Lucy Ricardo stole John Wayne’s footprints from the forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, she had to face the wrath of the Duke himself in The I Love Lucy episode, “Lucy Visits Grauman’s.” The protagonist always gets her comeuppance.

After a battle with HBO executives, David Chase shattered this convention in “College.” Because Chase had written for network dramas for the better part of 38 years at that point, he understood the rules, and also knew the audience well enough to understand when he could break those rules.

In the episode, Tony Soprano, in Maine with daughter Meadow to show her colleges, spots a man who turned state’s evidence against the “family,” and was now in the Witness Protection Program. Tony very graphically murders the man with a piano wire, and suffers not at all for having done so. Well, not in the short run, anyway. The next day Tony is back on the road being grilled by Meadow, who has become curious about her father’s mob ties. Tony is struck by a quote on display at the admissions office, "No man can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which one may be true" – hinting that in the long run, Tony might not always get away with murder.

With Tony’s actions, David Chase was clearing the way for Don Draper to be an often-unrepentant cheater, for Walter White to make very morally questionable choices when it was in the best interest of his business, and for Frank Underwood to lie at will and, like Tony Soprano, get away with murder. Chase going outside the bounds of what was acceptable in a television script (and the great success The Sopranos had because of it) led to writers taking more chances, and led to networks airing more daring programming. That freedom to take risks is a central component of the second resurgence of quality writing on television. And it all began with The Sopranos’ “College.”

- John Dalton

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He's Catching Up to the 2000 Year-Old Man!

March 20th, 2018
Carl Reiner

On the occasion of Carl Reiner's 96th birthday, we're re-upping our celebration of all things Reiner from his 95th birthday last year!

He's a boy from the Bronx who's had a hand in some of film and television's most memorable moments. Carl Reiner turns 95 years young today, and he's spent over 80 of those years entertaining people in one medium or another, from stage plays, to radio, to the small screen and the large.

Born Carl Reiner on March 20, 1922, Reiner caught the acting bug early in life. After performing in school plays throughout his elementary and high school years, Reiner's older brother encouraged him to take an acting class sponsored by the Public Works Administration during the Depression years. He enjoyed honing the craft and began acting in off-Broadway plays straight out of high school; performed in summer theater in Rochester, NY; toured with a Shakespeare company; and wrote and performed plays as part of the Special Services Unit during World War II.

After his discharge from the Army in 1946, Reiner performed in the famed Borscht Belt circuit, and began his career in television in 1948 with a spot on Maggi McNellis Crystal Room, and appearances on The Fashion Story and The Fifty-fourth Street Revue. Reiner continued to do stage work, when producer Max Liebman caught one of his performances and approached Reiner about joining the cast of a new sketch variety show he was putting together with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca, Your Show of Shows. Reiner became a cast member in the 1950-51 season, memorably starring in the recurring "Professor" sketch with Caesar, and often displaying his double talk skills, mimicking foreign languages or delivering Shakespeare-esque dialogue. In his 1998 Archive Interview, Reiner discusses working with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca:

Reiner soon began writing for Your Show of Shows, alongside writers Neil Simon, Mel Tolkin, Lucille Kallen, and Mel Brooks, and stayed on to become a part of Sid Caesar's next show, Caesar's Hour, where he won his first Emmy:

Reiner and Brooks struck up an immediate friendship, which in turn led to the creation of some fantastic comedy. The pair dreamed up the now infamous "2000 Year Old Man" (which became both a record/radio and TV hit) in Max Liebman's office in the early 1950s:

After Caesar's Hour Reiner hosted the game show Celebrity Game, and secured dramatic parts in several Golden Age dramas including Playhouse 90, and Kraft Television Theatre. He tried his hand at writing novels and penned Enter Laughing, and even took a stab at writing a television series. He wrote what he knew, and in 1958 created thirteen episodes of Head of the Family, a show about a family man who commutes into the big city to write for a television show. Reiner starred in the pilot, which failed to get picked up, until Sheldon Leonard saw it, convinced Reiner to step out of the spotlight, re-cast Dick Van Dyke in the lead and Mary Tyler Moore as his wife, and renamed the program The Dick Van Dyke Show:

The Dick Van Dyke Show enjoyed five seasons on air (1961-66), with Reiner as creator, producer, writer, and actor on the show -- on-screen he stepped out of the lead role and into that of the star's boss, "Alan Brady". Reiner's movie career revved up in the 1960's, as he starred in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, and The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming. He soon began directing, too - he directed the film version of Enter Laughing in 1967, and wrote the pilot for and directed several episodes of 1971's The New Dick Van Dyke Show. He directed Steve Martin in four films, including 1979's The Jerk and 1984's All of Me, and also directed 1987's Summer School.

Reiner won several Emmys for The Dick Van Dyke Show, and added another to his mantle when he revisited his Dick Van Dyke Show character, "Alan Brady", for a memorable guest appearance on a 1995 episode of Mad About You. Throughout the '90s and 2000s Reiner continued to stay active in both film and television, with roles on the 1999 series Family Law, 2002's Life With Bonnie, and as the voice of "Sarmoti" in 2004's Father of the Pride. He also starred alongside George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon in the 2001 hit film, Ocean's Eleven, and reprised his role of "Saul Bloom" for 2004's Ocean's Twelve and 2007's Ocean's Thirteen. He also had recurring roles on TVLand's Hot in Cleveland and FOX's The Cleveland Show.

A few additional Carl Reiner trivia tidbits: he has appeared on all major versions of The Tonight Show - with hosts Steve Allen, Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien, and Jimmy Fallon; he's the father of another quite famous actor/writer/producer/director - Rob Reiner; and much like Carol Burnett, when he was starring on a variety show, he used a secret signal to communicate with family members. Son Rob shared what that signal was in his 2004 Archive Interview:

Happy 95th birthday, Carl! Here's to many, many more!

- by Adrienne Faillace

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