News from the Archive

I'm So Glad We Had This Time with Carol

October 11th, 2016
Carol Burnett

Growing up, I never saw The Carol Burnett Show on CBS because it aired at 10pm, which was past my bedtime. Then, suddenly, when I was about 7, Carol Burnett and Friends, a truncated, half-hour version of the show began to air daily in syndication. It was love at first sight for me. Carol and each of her co-stars were so brilliantly funny, and the writing so perfect. The show inspired many a performer to get into show business. Including recent interviewee Geri Jewell.

As a 7 year old, I hadn’t seen any classic movies. But I adored The Carol Burnett Show’s movie parodies. To this day, I will start watching an old movie and about twenty minutes in suddenly realize, “Wait a minute! I know this movie from Carol Burnett!” They did as many obscure, Late-Late Show type movies as they did classics. Examples of movies I saw parodied on Carol Burnett before I ever actually watched them were “Mildred Pierce” (“Mildred Fierce”), “All About Eve,” and “Rebecca” (“Rebecky”). Carol Burnett made me love old movies before I ever even saw one!

The all-time classic Carol Burnett Show movie parody was their version of “Gone with the Wind” (“Went with the Wind!”), yes another case where I saw the parody before I ever saw the movie.  It wasn’t until I saw the actual movie that I fully appreciated how wonderful Harvey Korman’s imitation of Clark Gable or Vicki Lawrence’s take on Butterfly McQueen were. And I also couldn’t fully get the central joke of the sketch, “Starlet’s” curtain rod dress, created by interviewee Bob Mackie. The dress is funny, and Burnett’s line, “I saw it in the window and I just couldn’t resist it,” is sublimely hilarious.

Beyond the movie parodies, my favorite part of the show was the myriad of characters. Examples include Mrs. Wiggins, Nora Desmond, and Marion, the lead character on the recurring soap opera parody “As the Stomach Turns.” The best of them all was Eunice Higgins in “The Family” sketches. Eunice and her family became to The Carol Burnett Show what Ralph and Alice Kramden were to The Jackie Gleason Show: breakout characters that became as popular in their own right as the show they originated from. There was so much pathos, so much yelling, and it was so very funny. Like “The Honeymooners” sketches, Eunice’s family would eventually get their own series, Mama’s Family.

When you talk about The Carol Burnett Show, you have to talk about the guest stars. There were many who shined brightest with Carol on Stage 33 at Television City in Hollywood. Among them were Steve Lawrence, Bernadette Peters, Jim Nabors and Alan Alda. The greatest of these was so good that they eventually had to make him a member of the cast, Tim Conway. Another man who could do it all (sing, dance, comedy), and used the show to display these talents was the amazing Mr. Ken Berry

The Carol Burnett Show’s popularity persists. A November, 2001 reunion show, aired nearly thirty-five years after the show debuted, was number 1 for the week with a whopping thirty million viewers. Recent DVD sets are selling well, and various sketches and performances from the show have had millions of hits on YouTube. When we talked to Carol, she was hopeful about a return of the variety show format. I think if the genre ever does make a comeback, it won’t be like The Carol Burnett Show. To me, Carol, Lyle Waggoner, Vicki Lawrence, Harvey Korman, and Tim Conway captured lightning in a bottle for eleven years.

I’ve only begun to scratch the surface! For more information about the lives and careers of The Carol Burnett Show cast, search the collection. We’ve got it very well covered!

- by John Dalton

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National Coming Out Day

October 10th, 2016

In honor of National Coming Out Day, the Archive has once again partnered with the Google Cultural Institute to create a brand new exhibit. Check it out below!

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Anderson Cooper: Journalist. Moderator. Press-pass Forger.

October 9th, 2016
Anderson Cooper

Anderson Cooper is a name familiar to nearly all of us today as the host of CNN’s AC360, a frequent contributor to 60 Minutes, and moderator of the second Presidential Debate between Hillary and Donald, airing Sunday, October 9. We have watched him cover major news events for years - from war zones and natural disasters, to U.S Presidential elections and celebrity interviews.

But many may not know of Cooper’s beginnings and early losses. Although he was born into fame and privilege as the son of Gloria Vanderbilt, Cooper made his name his own. The death of his father, Wyatt Cooper, created a drive to be self-sufficient. And so he went on his own to Africa at age 17 to learn survival skills. Later, the tragic death of his brother motivated him to go out and earn his colleagues' respect as a journalist -- even faking a press-pass to get him into Burma to cover a student rebellion with his own camera (a Hi-8, which he still has), the Rwandan genocide, and the famine in Somalia. He submitted those self-produced reports to Channel One, which was his first entree into news reporting. He explained his work ethic in his interview, "You work harder than anyone else around you, you out-hustle everyone else around you, you show up first and you leave last, and you volunteer for all the stuff that nobody else wants to do and you put yourself in positions where when things happen-- you’re the one who’s on camera."

There are pivotal moments in history, now part of our collective consciousness, that Cooper was there to cover and inject his own perspective on. In his interview he talked about that struggle -- maintaining neutrality when facing a real life tragedy -- and how sometimes the response is so visceral that it's difficult to maintain an objective point of view. We watched as he confronted Senator Mary Landrieu on-air during Hurricane Katrina when she was thanking Congress for their aid -- pointing out to her that there were still dead bodies in the streets of Mississippi. We watched as he put down his camera to help a local boy, caught in the midst of chaos in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and carried him to safety.

On witnessing tragedies first-hand, Cooper said, "This isn’t about me. This is about these people who are suffering and I’m privileged to be here and bear witness to their suffering. There is no magic way to deal [with it]. I think it should keep you up at night. It should make you cry and it should change who you are. And it should always do that. It does that now [to me] just as much as it did 20 years ago."

In the clip below, he explains the moment when he realized he had becomed desensitized to what he was reporting, causing him to leave news altogether and take a job as the host of ABC's The Mole. He keeps that memory close.

But 9/11 was the event that made him return to hard news. "The world has just changed and here I am on a reality show... it's been a nice year off, but I’d like to get back to what I really love."

As our interview wrapped, Cooper shook every member of our crew by hand and thanked us by name. He had spent almost four hours talking to us that day. He got up, walked straight to the newsroom outside his office, and within minutes was back on-air, covering the stories of the day. Of his career he said, "I can’t believe that this has all happened. From when I started out with this idea of going to wars by myself, building a little fake press-pass and a hand-held camera, that I’ve actually able to kind of forge a life out of it. And I’m very, very lucky."

Cooper has said he finds elections "fascinating" -- he covered the 2007 Presidential race and the 2012 Presidential election for CNN, and moderated Presidential debates for both. This weekend, he will put his moderator's hat on once again, to cover the second Presidential Debate in the 2016 election.

He told us what he thinks makes a good interview - listening is key. Think these qualities he names also make for a good debate? Given the media maelstrom that erupted in the past 48 hours over both candidates, we expect it will be a memorable night on television. Tune in Sunday to see if Debate #2 meets your expectations.

- by Jenni Matz

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Remembering Rocky Kalish

October 7th, 2016
Rocky Kalish

We’re sad to learn that writer Austin “Rocky” Kalish has passed away at the age of 95. Kalish grew up in the Bronx and began writing while serving in World War II. His first professional writing jobs were in radio, including writing for Rowan & Martin with his wife/writing partner Irma. The pair went on to write for early television shows including The Colgate Comedy Hour. They co-wrote the pilot for Gilligan’s Island with Elroy Schwartz, and wrote on many other series of the 1960s and 1970s including I Dream of Jeannie, F-Troop, Good Times, and Family Affair. The duo also wrote groundbreaking episodes of Norman Lear series including the All in the Family episode “Edith’s Christmas Story,” which tackled a breast cancer scare and the Maude episode “Maude’s Dilemma,” which dealt with the subject of abortion. They continued writing for a variety of series through the 1980s. 

Below are some selections from Rocky and Irma’s joint 2012 interview:

On the All in the Family episode "Edith's Christmas Story":

On their legacy in television:

Watch Rocky Kalish's full Archive interview and read his obituary in The Hollywood Reporter.

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Archive in the Clubhouse - Watch What Happened!

October 5th, 2016
Andy Cohen

After conducting nearly 100 interviews with television writers, producers, journalists, and legends - many who had been working in the industry on shows that originated on radio -- my friends were curious why I was so excited to interview the creator of “Bravolebrities." 

Reality TV certainly gets its share of hard knocks. After all, it’s given a platform to people famous for nothing more than being famous and the entire genre has been blamed for bullying scripted television out of existence. And yet I had more people pepper me with questions about my interview with Andy Cohen than I did for interviews with Vince GilliganBetty White, and (Cohen's touring-pal) Anderson Cooper, combined. The Emmys have only recognized reality television programming since 2001, but “unscripted” television has been around long before Terese flipped tables on RHONJ. Before “Gym-Tan-Laundry”, “Make it work!”, “Please pack your knives and GO”... there was MTV’s The Real World, there was An American Family, and before all that, there was Candid Camera. But there is a decidedly different flavor to the genre of shows that Cohen has made a source of public-bonding. But how real is this Reality?

Stepping into the pop-culture Narnia that is the Bravo Clubhouse is pretty unreal itself. Yes, the booze is real. Yes, the skyline image of St. Louis that frames the host of Watch What Happens Live IS made out of Lite Brite. I "plead the 5th" over whether or not I did a shotski. But I did freak out over the ‘Giggy’ photo. The entire set is a shrine to the freakishly exquisite world of characters that Andy Cohen has promulgated. But as soon as we sat down to talk, what you immediately sense is how real these characters, these actual people and their stories are to Andy Cohen. He knows his audience. He knows that they identify with the characters on his shows -- and also judge them, love/hate them, feel empathy for them, but mostly, want to TALK about them. And he bet on the fact that if he finds these characters interesting, that audience will, too.

Like The Real World’s creator, Jonathan Murray, Cohen cut his chops in TV News. Some may be surprised to learn the person responsible for Being Bobbi Brown and The Kardashians was a senior producer for Dan Rather on 48 Hours, and won a Peabody Award for The N Word. Cohen readily admits that the “Bravo wink” comes directly from what he learned at 48 Hours: A typical edit shows a Real Housewife talking about being healthy, then the camera cuts to a shot of her smoking. But Cohen insists they are not making fun -- “it’s just about letting the reality tell the story. We were winking at the audience from the edit room.”

Cohen’s current mantra is that if it happens on-camera, it’s in the show. He did have a moment that gave him pause early in his career, while interviewing the writer Nicholas Sparks: “While the crew was there (Sparks) got a call from home saying that his father had died. And he called me up and said, ‘this is the most personal moment of my life. I beg you not to use it.’” And Cohen not only didn’t use it -- he didn’t tell anyone the tape even existed. But by contrast, his attitude towards Real Housewives is more fly-on-the-wall. And that fly catches everything. Cohen said, “I’ve had countless calls from people, ‘please don’t use the fight between my sister Kim and I in the back of the limo.’” Sorry -- you signed up for a show about your life and we’re going to air everything. We aired Vicki Gunvalson getting a phone call from her daughter telling her that her mother died. And it was the most real moment I think in Real Housewives of Orange County. Would I air Nicholas Sparks getting the call if it happened now? It would certainly be a discussion.”

One thing that is undeniable about meeting Andy Cohen in person is that he is exactly the same off-camera as he portrays as the host of Watch What Happens Live or refereeing the Housewives reunions. When our crew was wrapping up on set, Cohen immediately ducked into the adjacent edit room, and began giving notes on that night’s episode. You get the sense he’s still watching as a viewer, completely captivated by what is unfolding. And that captivation is clearly infectious. So, enjoy. We know you’re watching.

On his mentors and lessons learned from a disastrous interview he conducted with Robin Williams:

On learning it was “all about the characters” at 48 Hours:

On "Bravolebrities" and coining that term:

On the success of The Real Housewives Franchise as "Theater of the Absurd":

- by Jenni Matz

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