This sounds like a worthy undertaking. PBS and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation have teamed to produce what is described as a mammoth "History of Television" project targeted to bow on the pubcaster in spring 2009.
Plan, as unveiled by Acad Foundation prexy Steve Mosko (aka prexy of Sony Pictures TV) and PBS' Washington, D.C. outlet WETA-TV, is to kick off the series with a four-hour chronicle of the history of scripted TV and the characters we've come to know and love in our living rooms -- and between our toes, as Jack Paar used to describe people watching TV while lying in bed. (Pictured at left, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in the production offices at Desilu, romping through an "I Love Lucy" rehearsal. Below, Art Carney and Jackie Gleason at work on "The Honeymooners.")
Acad Foundation's formidable Archive of American Television oral history project, which has been doing the good work of collecting video interviews with TV pioneers and legends for more than a decade, will contribute plenty of interview footage. PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting have kicked in a $2 million "challenge" grant, but for sure Acad Foundation will be knocking on the doors of every network, studio and well-heeled producer in town during the next few years in their bid to raise the rest of the coin to fund the production.
The timing of the project is just right, in Mosko's view.
"Television is a medium in transition, and there is no better time to step back and appreciate where it has been and where it is going," Mosko observed. Dalton Delan, exec veep and chief programming officer of WETA promises the series will "take a smart and entertaining look at the characters and cultural iconography that have made scripted television America's communal campfire."
PBS already has a good start on the research for this mega-mini through its ongoing "Pioneers of Television" series, and the Acad's archive will provide a bevy of great material from heavyweights who are no longer with us, but one person producers ought to get in touch with today is Miss Edie Adams.
Edie is 80 years young this year, and always a great interview. Ernie Kovacs, her late husband (both pictured at left), remains high on the list of TV icons, but I gotta believe that the he'd be the first to say that on virtually all of his influential shows, he didn't do it alone. Edie was usually right there at his elbow, given their height differential, warbling a show tune, sometimes straight, sometimes vamping a la Marilyn Monroe or some other parody target of the moment; performing in various skits; jamming with the Nairobi Trio, assisting world's worst magician, Matzoh Hepplewhite, etc. etc. (And if that weren't enough, after Ernie's untimely death in a nasty car accident in 1962, Edie worked non-stop in cabarets, on stage and in film and TV in order to protect Kovacs' name and pay off his considerable debts.) She's an overlooked hero of television who should get her due in a project of this scope.