Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Archival Survival

Am very slowly trying to work my way through some of the interviews from the Archive of American Television, now available on Google Video. The interviews are long, unedited and rambling, but if you're patient, they can provide the TV geek with plenty of stories, insights, and combinations thereof. Also, Google Video allows for keyword searches, so you can, with trial and error, locate the part of the interview that discusses the subject you're interested in.

I've been working my way through the interview with TV directing legend Jay Sandrich, chief director for "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "Soap," "The Cosby Show," and many pilots.

One of the pilots he did was the great but not-frequently-discussed "WKRP In Cincinnati," and fortunately the interviewer asks him about it. He doesn't have a lot to say about the show -- as he says, when he does a pilot he's only there for a week -- but he does talk about how "WKRP" was cast in a hurry. The original actor playing the part of Andy Travis was fired a week before taping started (unfortunately he doesn't name the original actor; he only states that he was let go because the creator, Hugh Wilson, didn't like his line readings). Gary Sandy got the part after a reading for MTM executives. Richard Libertini was supposed to play Dr. Johnny Fever, but pulled out, and Roddy McDowall proved unavailable for the part of station manager Mr. Carlson. Sandrich pulled two semi-regular actors off the cast of his show "Soap" to fill the roles: Howard Hesseman and Gordon Jump.

The interview with Sandrich's successor as sitcom directing king, James Burrows, has some good information on "Taxi," including confirming something that various "Simpsons" writers have said about James L. Brooks: he's able to pitch entire scenes, complete and perfect, off the top of his head. Burrows also mentions that he was impressed with the Charles Brothers on "Taxi" because they had the nerve to tell Brooks when he was wrong about something.

And so on. If you like trivia like that, welcome to the Archive. If you don't... I dunno, go enjoy the shows and don't think about behind-the-scenes trivia, you Philistine, you.

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