News from the Archive

Feel Good Friday: How Kermit's "Bein' Green" Came To Be

March 17th, 2017
Bein' Green

When Kermit the Frog sings, magic happens. Part of that magic stems from the genius of Sesame Street's music director Joe Raposo. Many of those songs you love from your childhood - "One Of These Things [Is Not Like The Others]," "Sing," "C Is For Cookie" - were his creations. Raposo passed away before the Archive was founded, but we've been lucky enough to interview many of his Sesame Street colleagues. Here's the tale of how "Bein' Green" came to be, according to Bob McGrath, Joan Ganz Cooney, and music director Danny Epstein:

 

Now you want to hear the song again, right? Here's Kermit and Ray Charles' duet :

Magic.

- by Adrienne Faillace

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Mary, Rhoda, and Phyllis: TV's First Realistic Female Friends

March 10th, 2017
Mary Tyler Moore, Valerie Harper, Cloris Leachman

Hearing the news of Mary Tyler Moore’s passing in January really stung. Her contributions to the art forms of television and comedy are incalculable. The characters from The Mary Tyler Moore Show (and The Dick Van Dyke Show, for that matter) are as familiar as family. Mary Richards and her friends and co-workers were three-dimensional and fallible, perhaps more so than any television characters that had come before. Co-creator James L. Brooks’ more realistic style on The Mary Tyler Moore Show would help bring about a revolution in television writing in the ‘70s.

My first exposure to The Mary Tyler Moore Show came when it ran in syndication on New York station WNBC at 4:00pm each weekday. At some point, it was moved to a 2am timeslot, where they would run four back-to-back episodes each morning. This went on for several years, until it suddenly stopped. Author Fran Lebowitz was incensed at the cancellation, and I was glad to hear her complain about it one evening on Late Night with David Letterman. She later stated:

I happened to be in the forefront of the fight to keep The Mary Tyler Moore Show reruns on the air in New York. One night when Mary Tyler Moore was supposed to come on, The Toni Tennille Show appeared in her time slot. I called up NBC and asked them what happened. They said they didn’t know. The next day a friend of mine from the New York Post called the vice president of NBC and said they had taken it off the air because they didn’t think anybody was watching it. We managed to get it back on in two days.

I completely understand Lebowitz’s passion and activism here. At the cold, dark hour of 2am in New York City, those reruns allowed her to visit with friends for two hours. There’s a warm comfort in watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show that you get from no other series, due to the outstanding writing and to the cast. 

There was a lot of talk in January about the legacy of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Much of it rightly focused on the show helping to shape modern feminism with its portrayal of a happily unmarried career woman in her thirties. For me, the other important legacy is the show’s portrayal of friendship. Female relationships like the ones between Mary, Rhoda (Valerie Harper) and Phyllis (Cloris Leachman) hadn’t been seen on television before. These three women had a supportive and complex closeness. They fought sometimes (particularly Rhoda and Phyllis), but it only served to strengthen their bonds, and to make it all the more believable to viewers. No matter what, in the end, you knew they were always there for each other.

In the episode “Some of My Best Friends are Rhoda,” Mary can’t see her new friend Joanne’s (Mary Frann) efforts to shut Rhoda out. Both Rhoda and the viewing audience feel frustration at Mary’s obliviousness. Rhoda makes her anger at being sidelined known, and storms out of Mary’s apartment. When Mary realizes that Joanne is a bigot who has an issue with Rhoda’s Jewishness, Mary angrily ends her association with Joanne on the spot. 

The exquisitely written and performed resolution happens in the tag. After telling Joanne to get lost, Mary sheepishly goes upstairs to invite Rhoda to a movie. Rhoda accepts, and doesn’t ask for an explanation of Mary’s previous distant behavior toward her, because sometimes you just give friends an unspoken pass when they’ve transgressed. Nor does Mary tell Rhoda about what went down with Joanne, because she knows friendship should never be about getting points for doing the right thing. They’re friends again, but it’s what’s not said in the scene that makes it so poignant. Lucy and Ethel were always funny, but never this deep.

Episodes like “Some of My Best Friends are Rhoda” brought out the depth and humanity of those characters. James L. Brooks and the writing staff deserve much of the credit, but I don’t think the show could have worked as well as it did without those actors. The chemistry between Mary, Phyllis, and Rhoda is unmatched. When Valerie Harper and Cloris Leachman left the show to star in their spin-offs, the producers had reason to worry. But, as it turned out, by that time in the series, Mary’s co-workers at WJM had become as close to her as the two ladies had been. Ed Asner, Ted Knight, Gavin MacLeod, and late addition MVP Betty White easily picked up the slack.

There will never be another television show like The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and there will never be another television icon like Mary Tyler Moore. 

- by John Dalton

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Women in Broadcast Journalism

March 8th, 2017

We're celebrating International Women's Day with our latest Google Cultural Institute Exhibit: Women in Broadcast Journalism. Hear stories from Barbara Walters, Connie Chung, Katie Couric, and more!

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Remembering Joseph A. Wapner

February 27th, 2017
Joseph A. Wapner

We’re sad to learn that Judge Joseph A. Wapner passed away on Sunday, February 26, 2017 at the age of 97. Wapner attended USC Law School and is best known as the presiding judge on the landmark syndicated series The People's Court, a post he held for twelve years. He also served as a lawyer and a judge for the Los Angeles Municipal and Superior Court. After The People’s Court ended, Wapner also presided over another courtroom series, Animal Court, (for the Animal Planet cable network), and made other television appearances,(including a memorable case he judged between David Letterman and Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson). 

Below are some excerpts from his 2005 Archive interview: 

On the origins of The People's Court:

On his proudest achievement:

On how he'd like to be remembered:

Watch Joseph A. Wapner's full Archive interview and read his obituary in The New York Times.

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Sammy Smooches Archie: All in the Family's "Sammy's Visit" Turns 45

February 19th, 2017
Sammy's Visit

It's been called "the kiss of infamy." Sure, there have been many great on-screen kisses over the years -- Scarlett and Rhett in Gone with the Wind, Milton and Karen in From Here to Eternity, Winnie and Kevin on The Wonder Years ... but the most unexpected and down-right hilarious kiss of all time, at least on the small-screen, has to be that between Sammy Davis Jr. and Archie Bunker on the "Sammy's Visit" episode of All in the Family.

The February 19, 1972 show featured Archie Bunker moonlighting as a cab driver who had Sammy Davis Jr. as a passenger in his cab one night. Davis left his briefcase in the car and Archie arranges for Davis to come to the Hauser Street house to retrieve the case. The two discuss how Archie's daughter and son-in-law think he's prejudiced, and the exchange ends with Davis wanting a picture with Archie. On the count of three, Davis kisses Archie on the cheek, garnering one of the biggest laughs and most memorable moments in TV history:

According to director John Rich, Davis' appearance on the show stems from Davis' guest spot on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson - where Davis expressed an interest in coming on All in the Family. Writer Bill Dana pitched to All in the Family co-creator Norman Lear a plausible way for Davis to end up in Archie Bunker's house, but Lear was originally wary, not wanting a big-name entertainer to shift the emphasis of the show. Dana's premise was believable, though, and his script ultimately highlighted both Archie's bigotry and the show's clever sense of sarcasm:

Davis was worried about having to memorize the dialogue for his part and wanted to use cue cards, but Rich wanted Davis to act under the same conditions as the other cast members:

Thanks to all involved with the episode for bringing Sammy and Archie together for a truly genius Kodak moment. 

Read more about the famous episode, which placed 13th on TV Guide’s list of "The 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time," at our "Sammy's Visit" show page.

- by Adrienne Faillace

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