November 20, 2009
Just in case you were wondering, the invaluable, exhaustive series of Italian neorealist films currently playing at New York’s Lincoln Center is the primary culprit behind the dearth of posts here lately. Unfortunately, the drought may continue until after Thanksgiving. A few long pieces have encountered last-minute delays, but I’m confident that I’ll get those untangled and have plenty of new content to offer in December.
In the meantime, if you’re starved for a classic TV fix, allow me to point you in the direction of Ralph’s Trek. That may sound like a trip to the supermarket. But Ralph is actually Ralph Senensky, one of the top episodic television directors working between the early sixties and the late eighties, and his “trek” is a lovingly crafted new blog that chronicles his adventures in Hollywood, one episode at a time.
Ralph has been a personal friend for over a decade. He is also the rarest of treasures for a journalist: an impeccable source with an eye for detail and an encyclopedic memory. There’s really no way I can exaggerate the extent of Ralph’s recall; out of hundreds of interviews with his contemporaries, I’ve only spoken with one other person who could come close to matching the depth of his recollections. The first time I interviewed Ralph, it was by phone for a 1998 story about Arrest and Trial. Ralph began an anecdote by telling me the exact date, in May of 1963, on which a particular scene from one of his episodes was filmed. Usually I’m skeptical about details that specific when they emerge in the context of an oral history. But, as it happened, I had copies of Arrest and Trial’s daily production reports piled on my desk that afternoon. I thumbed through them as we were talking and, of course, Ralph had the date right. That taught me to never question the factual accuracy of anything Ralph told me, unless I had overwhelmingly contradictory evidence at hand.
Ralph is now eighty-six years old and yet for the last couple of months he’s been outpacing me in his blog output by a sizeable margin. Ralph’s Trek now contains a solid afternoon’s reading about series including Dr. Kildare, Route 66, Breaking Point, The Twilight Zone, 12 O’Clock High, and The Waltons, plus clips and even the occasional document from Ralph’s archives. Enjoy.