News from the Archive

Remembering Garry Marshall

July 20th, 2016
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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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And The 2016 Emmy Nominees Are ...

July 14th, 2016
68th Emmy Awards

The 2016 Primetime Emmy Award season began today with the official nomination announcement at 8:30 AM PST! Congratulations to all the nominees for the 68th Primetime and Creative Arts Emmy Awards and a special congratulations to our interviewees who were nominated this year:

Hank Azaria for Outstanding Guest Actor In A Drama Series (Ray Donovan

Tom Bergeron for Outstanding Host For A Reality Or Reality-Competition Program (Dancing with the Stars)

Anthony Bourdain for Outstanding Informational Series Or Special (Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown) and Outstanding Writing For A Nonfiction Program (Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown "Borneo")

Mark Burnett for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program (The Voice) and Outstanding Structured Reality Program (Shark Tank)

LeVar Burton for Outstanding Limited Series (Roots)

Robert Dickinson for Outstanding Lighting Design/Lighting Direction For A Variety Special (The Oscars)

Kelley Dixon for Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing For A Drama Series (Better Call Saul - "Rebecca" and "Nailed")

Elise Doganieri for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program (The Amazing Race

Linda Ellerbee for Outstanding Children's Program (Nick News with Linda Ellerbee: Hello, I Must Be Going! 25 Years Of Nick News With Linda Ellerbee)

Julian Fellowes for Outstanding Drama Series (Downton Abbey) and Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series (Downton Abbey

Michael J. Fox for Outstanding Guest Actor In A Drama Series (The Good Wife)

Vince Gilligan for Outstanding Drama Series (Better Call Saul)

Louis J. Horvitz for Outstanding Directing For A Variety Special (58th Grammy Awards)

Felicity Huffman for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie (American Crime)

Allison Janney for Outstanding Guest Actress In A Drama Series (Masters of Sex) and Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series (Mom)

Steven Levitan for Outstanding Comedy Series (Modern Family)

Judith Light for Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series (Transparent)

James Lipton for Outstanding Informational Series Or Special (Inside the Actors Studio)

Christopher Lloyd for Outstanding Comedy Series (Modern Family)

Julia Louis-Dreyfus for Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series (Veep)

William H. Macy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (Shameless)

Beth McCarthy-Milller for Outstanding Directing For A Variety Special (Adele Live In New York City)

Lee Mendelson for Outstanding Children’s Program (It’s Your 50th Christmas, Charlie Brown!)

Jonathan Murray for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program (Project Runway) and Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program (Born This Way)

Gareth Neame for Outstanding Drama Series (Downton Abbey)

Sheila Nevins for Exceptional Merit In Documentary Filmmaking (Jim: The James Foley Story) and Outstanding Documentary Or Nonfiction Special (Becoming Mike Nichols, Everything Is Copy - Nora Ephron: Scripted & UnscriptedMapplethorpe: Look At The Pictures)

Bob Newhart for Outstanding Guest Actor In A Comedy Series (The Big Bang Theory)

Hector Ramirez for Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video Control For A Series (Dancing with the Stars

Paul Shaffer for Outstanding Music Direction (A Very Murray Christmas)

John Shaffner for Outstanding Production Design For A Narrative Program (Half-Hour Or Less) (The Big Bang Theory)

Jeffrey Tambor for Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series (Transparent)

Betram Van Munster for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program (The Amazing Race

The full list of nominees can be found here.

The Creative Arts Emmys will be held on September 10th and 11th and the Primetime Emmys Telecast will be on September 18th on ABC - be sure to tune in!

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US Presidential Elections and a New Partnership

July 11th, 2016

We're excited to announce our partnership with the Google Cultural Institute! As part of the American Democracy collection, we have collected dozens of stories from our interviewees: journalists, producers, correspondents, and news anchors who have worked for, covered, or consulted on nearly every Presidential election since 1936. Bill Moyers tells the story of LBJ accepting JFK’s offer to be his vice president. Steve Kroft gives the behind-the-scenes scoop on his 1992 60 Minutes interview with the Clintons. Walter Cronkite tells the tale of how the term “news anchor” was coined during the 1952 conventions. George Schlatter describes Richard Nixon’s many attempts to get “Sock it to me” just right on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.

You can scroll through one of our exhibits, "United States Presidential Elections: 1936 to the Present" below. Visit our page on the Google Cultural Institute for more exhibits and videos.

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Notes on Shark Jumping

June 21st, 2016
Henry Winkler

In 1985 at The University of Michigan, a term was quietly coined that would one day enter the lexicon and forever change the way we talked about television. Sean Connolly, Jon Hein’s roommate, invented the phrase “jump the shark” to describe that heretofore undefined moment when a television show you love starts going downhill. Twelve years later, Hein created the website where users voted on and described in comments that defining moment in their favorite shows.

The term, of course, refers to Fonzie jumping over a shark on waterskis on Happy Days. This storyline was apparently inspired by a highly publicized television event that never wound up happening. On January 31, 1977, Evel Knievel was going to jump on his motorcycle over a tank full of sharks, and it was to be hosted by Mr. Telly Savalas and Miss Jill St. John. Not to be missed. I still remember the excitement I felt as a little kid seeing the newspaper ad for the broadcast. Picture a full-page ad in TV Guide, the shark from the Jaws poster, and Evel sailing over it on his bike wearing his boss bicentennial jumpsuit and cape. 8:30 on CBS, baby! I was so there. I also still remember my bitter disappointment when my Uncle Ricky gleefully informed me that afternoon that the stunt had been cancelled due to a Knievel accident earlier in the day. How could something that was supposed to be on TELEVISION not happen?? It made no sense to me.

Eight months later, Fonzie would have his crack at it. Not on his own trusty motorcycle, no, but on a pair of jet skis. We asked both Ron Howard and Henry Winkler (full disclosure: I worked for Henry on Hollywood Squares and he’s literally the nicest guy in show business or any business) about the episode, and both say they get a kick out of the phrase it spawned, but both point out that the show thrived in the ratings for several more seasons after that episode. Of course, that isn’t the point. Jumping the shark has precious little to do with ratings. It’s all about quality.

But for me “jump the shark” is something of a misnomer. Happy Days’ best years were long over by the time that particular episode was broadcast. The first two seasons were very different from subsequent years of the series. It started out as a low-key, coming-of-age, single-camera, shot-on-a-soundstage-without-the-benefit-of-a-live-studio-audience kind of show. It had a lot in common with another series that came along much later, The Wonder Years. In season three, a live audience was put in place, as were four cameras to capture the action. Fonzie went from being a misunderstood hood to being basically a superhero who taught kids that getting a library card was “cool.” For me, the show was never as good, but I suppose “jumped the shark” has a better ring than “transitioned from single camera to four camera.” I should also note that the ratings took off in season three, so no one agrees with me on this.

The clearest instance I can remember of a show turning from good to bad on a dime was the original “Red Wedding,” Dynasty’s “Moldavian Massacre.” The shark actually jumped DURING the broadcast! It was the season five finale, and it was chugging along just fine. Steven Carrington (finally) decided to commit to Luke Fuller - good. Adam and Claudia decide they’re meant for each other - yes yes, very nice. Sammy Jo continues to plot against her aunt Krystle with an evil look-alike - well, not so great but we didn’t realize it then. And Amanda Carrington was walking down the aisle looking more like Lady Diana than ever (and that’s saying something). Then suddenly, this ridiculous development happens. A poorly staged, absurdly costumed, wholly unbelievable terrorist attack, guns ablazin’, on Amanda’s wedding. It was an awful scene. In the season six opener, we found that only the “guest stars” (Rock Hudson, Ali McGraw) had been killed. The regular cast was no worse for wear, including those we’d SEEN get shot. Oh, and of course Luke Fuller was killed. TV wasn’t quite ready for THAT duo. As John Forsythe said in our interview with him, the writing on the show was never the same. They never recovered. From that moment on, Dynasty was virtually unwatchable.

I have a theory that “shark jumping” may be on its way out. Very often I think the culprit in the decline of a series is the number of episodes they’re compelled to do. At the dawn of television, a show like My Little Margie was forced to do 36 episodes per year. Over a thousand pages of scripts, with at least two jokes per page. Advertisers demanded it, and it was important to reach 100 episodes as quickly as possible for syndication. I think 36 episodes in a year of a comedy is nearly impossible. A large order of episodes like that breeds creative burnout. Take The Honeymooners. For the 1955-56 season, Jackie Gleason decided to turn the recurring sketch into a full-fledged series. 39 episodes were produced in one year. Suddenly, Gleason called it quits. He realized that it would be impossible to keep the quality of the show up for 39 episodes a year, so he cancelled the classic series after only one season. The show was later brought back in the ‘60s, and if you ever see those episodes, you’ll understand that Gleason made the right call back in ‘56.

As a kid I remember getting into reruns of the classic Britcom Fawlty Towers. After two weeks, I noticed they were running an episode I’d just seen two weeks before. I figured the local station had messed up. My cousin disabused me of this notion. “There are only twelve episodes. The Brits do it differently.” They certainly did and Fawlty Towers is twelve half hours of perfection with nary a shark jump in sight. I believe that the basic cable (having taken a page from the BBC) phenomenon of ten to thirteen episodes a year helps keep a series fresh. I was a fan of Smallville, but only twelve episodes a year were any good. Those were the episodes that advanced the overall story arc. The other twelve episodes were just filler. Time wasters. They dragged the show down. 

Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park have navigated it perfectly. When the show began, they did eighteen episodes per year. As time went on that number was reduced to fourteen. Last year, they went to ten episodes. And in year nineteen of the show, they had their best season ever, creatively speaking. I believe that if Seinfeld had been allowed to ten episodes a year, Larry David never would’ve left and it might even still be on. 

Major networks are still holding on to the 22 episodes per year model, but I think cable channels, with their critical acclaim, ratings success, and Emmy Awards, will soon win out. Ladies and gentlemen, I believe we may see the eradication of shark jumping in our lifetimes. 

For more fun tales of creative peaks and valleys, search the collection.

- by John Dalton
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Remembering Michael Dann

June 1st, 2016
Michael Dann

We’re sad to learn that executive/producer Michael Dann passed away on Friday, May 27, 2016 at the age of 94. Dann began his television career at NBC before moving on to CBS. As CBS's head of programming he oversaw classic shows including The Defenders, 60 Minutes, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, which was taken off the air over Dann’s protests. After his time at CBS, he went on to do consulting work for the Children’s Television Workshop and the BBC.

Below are some selections from his 1998 interview:

On the cancellation of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour:

On working with Pat Weaver:

On his legacy at CBS:

Watch Michael Dann’s full Archive interview and read his obituary in The New York Times.

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