This week The A.V. Club has my interview with Mrs. Peel herself, Diana Rigg, as well as my take on the all-too-short-lived series The Senator.  All of the alternating segments of the “wheel” series The Bold Ones are worthwhile to some degree, but The Senator was the jewel in the crown: a frank, serious-minded throwback to the liberal dramas of the early sixties.

The Senator was a satisfying show to research, because – atypically for television at the time – it was made by young people, and nearly all of them are still with us.  Because the show’s creative team recalled it so vividly, I’ll be back in a few days with some additional material from those interviews that I couldn’t fit into the piece.

Return to Mayberry

July 10, 2014


The Andy Griffith Show was a formative text for me, in ways that I only begin to touch on in yesterday’s piece for The A.V. Club – my tenth for that publication in just over a year, not counting some capsules.

After an exhausting (if welcome) run of paid assignments, I’ve finally carved out a bit of a hiatus for the next couple of months, so hopefully some long-planned or half-finished pieces will at last emerge here during that window.  Stay tuned….

Does Not Compute

May 27, 2014


Recently the Classic TV History Archives were transported at considerable expense and effort to their new home in a different borough of New York City.  The Archives were instructed to unpack themselves but as yet have not complied.  As a result, there hasn’t been anything new here to read in a while, a condition that will persist for the near future.

In the meantime, you can read my take on Mannix for The A.V. Club.  It’s a show that would qualify as one of my favorite guilty pleasures, if I didn’t consider the term bogus.  (If something is pleasurable, the guilt is misplaced.)  I also had a larger hand than usual in yesterday’s “Inventory” feature on supercomputers in ’60s pop culture, which is pegged to events in the current season of Mad Men . . . but probably wouldn’t have happened if Joe Mannix’s losing battle with the Intertect machine hadn’t been on my mind.

Fate Moves Its Huge Finger

September 11, 2013


And now Barry Morse is flipping me off, too!

Next week marks the fiftieth (!) anniversary of The Fugitive, one of the four or five TV shows that got me into this racket.  Here’s my new piece about it for The A.V. Club.  Let’s hope you like it more than Lt. Gerard seems to.

The Bird Is the Word

August 23, 2013


Delays, delays, delays, but as promised there are some good interviews and Ben Casey leftovers coming in the next week or so.  In the meantime, if you haven’t, check out one of the reasons for those delays: my take on Breaking Bad for The A.V. Club, which ran last week.  William Daniels (seen here on Quincy, M.E.) looks like he just read it.


My 2,500-word overview of Ben Casey went up today at The A.V. Club.  It’s one of two one and one-eleventh bylines I’ll have there this week (which is one reason things have been a little sparse here lately).

The A.V. Club’s commitment to vintage TV is not new — my editor, Todd VanDerWerff, wrote about The Defenders and Route 66 under this “100 Episodes” umbrella last year.  But, still, I remain impressed and somewhat astonished that they’re introducing their vast readership to shows like Ben Casey, which are not just old but, in this case, not especially easy to see at present.  So please give it a read, and leave a comment there if you’re inclined, because I think the number and quality of comments are sort of like the A.V. Club version of Nielsen ratings.

(And the Ben Casey piece was originally meant to include some rare clips from the Classic TV History Archives — otherwise known as some boxes in my closet — but largely due to a snafu on my part it’s looking like that won’t happen.  Sorry.)

If you’re wondering, last month’s epic study of Vince Edwards, Director, was actually in the works before the A.V. Club piece materialized.  But, let’s go with it anyway and declare this The Summer of Ben Casey at the Classic TV History blog!  There are a couple of time-sensitive things in the pipeline first, but over the next few weeks I’ll loop back to Ben Casey and run a few “sidebars” here, comprised of odds and ends from my research that were too tangential to make it into the A.V. Club piece.  Also, if you haven’t already, now would be a good time to read my old interviews with the last surviving star of Ben Casey, the wonderfully irascible Harry Landers, and my favorite Ben Casey writer, Norman Katkov.

As long as I’m in plugging mode, I’ll also point out that a documentary on which I worked as the primary archival researcher, Casting By, premieres tonight at 9PM on HBO.  (I believe it’s also available on HBO on Demand.)  The director, Tom Donahue, was also foolish enough to put me on camera as a “talking head,” but if you keep your hand poised over the fast-forward button during the first fifteen minutes or so, you may be able to dodge that particular bullet.

Seriously though: Casting By focuses on two important early casting directors, Marion Dougherty and Lynn Stalmaster, both of whom got their start in television . . . so there’s enough material in there about shows like Kraft Television Theatre, Route 66, Naked City, and Gunsmoke that the film will be of interest to anyone who reads this blog regularly.  I’ve also gotten to know the filmmakers — particularly Tom, with whom I spent two icy days plundering the archives of the Wisconsin Center for Film and Television Research, but also the producers, Kate Lacey and Ilan Arboleda, and the cinematographer, Peter Bolte — and have had the privilege of tagging along on parts of their journey through the festival circuit to this impressive pickup.  (Said journey culminating in a premiere party last week where, appropriately, we all geeked out over the presence of favorite character actors like The Good Wife‘s Zach Grenier and Sledge Hammer himself, David Rasche.)  I think the results are very impressive.  So check it out.

Old TV