How “South Park” Made It Onto TV

Trey Parker and Matt Stone were film school buddies at University of Colorado-Boulder and they thought they would do something “Christmassy” for the end-of-the-year student review. They had been cracking each other up with foul-mouthed little kid voices while sitting around film sets, and so they put those characters on screen using construction paper and crude animation. The audience loved it, and after a winding road, they convinced some adults at Comedy Central to approve the pilot. The rest is television history. Entertainment Weekly looks back at “The Spirit of Christmas.”

How ‘South Park’ was born: An oral history of ‘The Spirit of Christmas’

Microsites.EW.com, 3.18.15

MTV’s One-of-a-Kind “Rock N’ Jock”

What was this pitch meeting like? “Let’s get a bunch of random celebrities together and have them play carnival versions of sports?” In the 90’s, when celeb culture really took off, it worked. Did people want to see 80-pound Leo DiCaprio dribble circles around Tone Loc and launch 25-point baskets? Yes, they did. Don’t judge. Do you remember Dan Cortese? Well, you can read about his career highlight in this oral history by Complex.

The Oral History of MTV’s Rock N’ Jock

Complex.com, 2.26.15

“Happy Endings”: Smart Comedy Finishes Last

Happy Endings was another of those quick-witted, fast-paced ensemble comedies that was criminally under-promoted and cut loose after three seasons, only for it to continue to live on as a cult and streaming favorite. The cast of 30-somethings had the instant chemistry that casting directors dream of, and seemingly all of them are still in regular touch years after the show. Casey Wilson also married series creator David Caspe, so they probably see each other regularly. Complex takes a fond look back at the series.

The Oral History of ‘Happy Endings’

Complex.com, 4.5.16

The First Modern Cop Show: “Hill Street Blues”

Hill Street Blues changed television forever when it debuted in 1981. A gritty, dark cop series that humanized cops with in-depth storylines was something that hadn’t been done before and now they’re a dime a dozen. Created by Steven Bochco, who would go on to also create L.A. Law and NYPD Blue, the series won eight Emmy Awards in its first season and was essentially prestige television 20 years before that became a thing. The series also broke boundaries in subject matter, covering PTSD, suicide, and rape. IndieWire rounds up the cast and crew for an insightful look back at a groundbreaking show.

‘I Just Got My Ass Broke All the Time’: An Oral History of ‘Hill Street Blues’

IndieWire.com, 5.9.14

“Scandal”: Shonda Rhimes Does D.C.

Shonda Rhimes, now television royalty, had to be talked into creating Scandal. She met with vaunted D.C. “fixer” Judy Smith, and after ten minutes could see how the series would percolate and progress at the intersection of power and greed. Actress Kerry Washington, who got the lead by blowing everyone away with the depth of her political knowledge, would be the first black women to head an American drama in 37 years (what?!?!). The show would be one of the first social media darlings and was a true trendsetter (cavernous wine goblets, anyone?). The Hollywood Reporter provides a typically awesome oral history of one of the great television dramas of the 21st century.

‘Scandal’ Hits 100 Episodes: Casting Secrets, Trump and a Battle Over Abortion Revealed in Dishy Oral History

HollywoodReporter.com, 4.11.17

Texas Heat on TV: “Friday Night Lights”

Friday Night Lights, first a book, then a movie, then a TV series, was on the surface about the communal passion of Texas high school football. A critical darling regardless of media format the television show failed to capture a huge audience partially because lots of people don’t care about high school football. It’s a shame since the core of this story is intense interpersonal relationships, in particular between coach Eric Taylor and his wife Tami, played with natural chemistry by Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton. Even though the audience was small, it was passionate. Grantland‘s Robert Mays was one of those fans and he provided a fitting farewell on the eve of the last episode in 2011.

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Couldn’t Lose

Grantland.com, 7.28.11

The Shockingly Authentic “My So-Called Life”

My So-Called Life lasted for just one season of 19 episodes, but stands as Generation X’s version of Freaks and Geeks: A beautifully authentic depiction of adolescence created by an unknown but talented cast that would go onto great things. The show introduced the world to the magnetic Claire Danes and Jared Leto, whose awkward courtship formed the emotional crux of the series. Marie Claire provides a touching retrospective of a show that ended too soon.

The Agony and the Angst: An Oral History of ‘My So-Called Life’

MarieClaire.com, 11.17.16

Redman and his Staten Island Duplex on MTV’s “Cribs”

MTV’s Cribs was famous for chronicling the outragous material excess of music’s superstars, from Master P’s gold Louisiana mansion to Richard Branson’s private island resort. And then there was the Redman episode. He had bought a rundown duplex on the outskirts of Staten Island as a rehab project but he ended up liking the space and not doing much/any rehab. When MTV called he said come on out. They showed up early one morning, woke his ass up, and he proceeded to give a sleepily hilarious tour of a confirmed bachelor pad, complete with pizza boxes, shoeboxes full of money, and passed-out houseguests. Never change, Redman. Never change.

An Oral History of Redman’s Notorious MTV Cribs Episode

Thrillist.com, 9.10.15

The Misbegotten “Star Wars Holiday Special” of 1978

Star Wars was not just a cultural phenomenon but a major moneymaker for 20th-Century Fox. The Empire Strikes Back sequel would not be ready until 1980 so the studio had the brilliant idea to do a holiday special at the end of 1978 to keep the franchise in the public eye. The kitchsy, extremely 70s variety show would instead enter Thou Shall Not Speak Of It territory for everyone involved. Come hear the backstory of how the creators thought it was a good idea to explore the family dynamics of Chewbacca’s non-verbal Wookie family, how Bea Arthur didn’t even know the show was about Star Wars, and, of course, stories about Harrison Ford’s salty ass.

An Oral History of The Star Wars Holiday Special

mentalfloss.com, 12.21.16

Best Show Ever? “The Wire”

Showrunner David Chase knew Baltimore. As a crime reporter he embedded with Baltimore cops, befriended commissioners, wrote multiple books on Baltimore crime. And he was ready when HBO gave him the green light to create his gritty masterpiece on the subject, The Wire. Often called the best television show ever, The Wire created memorable storylines with memorable characters. Maxim celebrates the tenth anniversary of the show by talking to all the principals about a project they clearly still adore.

Maxim Interrogates the Makers and Stars of The Wire

Maxim.com, 6.4.12

The Many Great Guest Stars of “Broad City”

Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer’s infectious enthusiasm extends to their many guest stars, as can be seen in this piece they wrote for Marie Claire. It’s quite an eclectic bunch, too, with guest appearances from Seth Rogen, Kelly Ripa, Bob Balaban and more. The ladies don’t hold back (of course) so there’s many laughs to be had.

Exclusive: An Oral History of ‘Broad City’s Epic/Amazing/Hilarious Guest Stars, Straight from Abbi and Ilana Themselves

MarieClaire.com, 3.18.15

 

The “Jackass” Boys Blow Up

Jackass grew out of the daredevil ethos of the skater community of the early 90s, prior to the internet the boys tried to one-up each other with gnarly tricks and stunts. A group of L.A. skater punks (Wee Man, Steve-O, Chris Pontius) hooked up with some insane dudes from West Chester, PA (Bam Margera, Ryan Dunn) to create a sketch show centered on outrageous stunts and pranks. They found their ringleader in the charismatic and fearless Johnny Knoxville. Maxim revisits this pop-culture rocket ship, and touches on some of the bad vibes that followed due to alcohol and drug abuse.

Jackass: An Oral History

Maxim.com, 10.26.10

Aaron Sorkin’s Lamented Swing and Miss: “Sports Night”

It’s safe to say that Aaron Sorkin recovered from Sports Night ending prematurely after two seasons in 2000. His next creation, The West Wing, was already on the air and would make his career. Sorkin has devoted fans unlike most television writers because of his distinctively engaging dialog, and that has led many to revisit Sports Night, a well-written show with a talented cast that was lauded by critics, but didn’t find enough of an audience to stay on the air. Entertainment Weekly revisits the show.

‘Sports Night’: An oral history, starring Aaron Sorkin and his cast

EW.com, 11.6.14

“Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?” (1996)

Mother, May I Sleep With Danger? has become pop-culture shorthand for low-budget but over-the-top Lifetime-esque movies. What’s hilarious is that this movie originally aired on NBC before being rerun on Lifetime a billion times. The campy film had the prerequisite young attractive woman in danger (Tori Spelling) and delivered its unintentional humor with a looming urgency. In honor of James Franco’s 20th anniversary “reimagination” of MMISWD Thrillist talks with all the proud people behind one of pop culture’s favorite horrible movies.

The Oral History of the Camp Classic ‘Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?’

Thrillist.com, 6.17.16

“Spaced”: The UK’s Slacker Cult Fave

Simon Pegg noted there had been a few Friends knockoffs in the UK in the late 90s but they were too uppity and didn’t reflect his crew’s life. So he worked with Jessica Hynes to write and star in a show that would have the appropriate amount of bongs, video games, and drunken clubbing. It ran for just two seasons but reigns as the UK’s Reality Bites, an ode to slacker twenty-somethings living communally on their way to true adulthood.

An Oral History of ‘Spaced’

Vice.com, 11.18.16

The One and Only Joan Rivers

Joan Rivers was a brutally honest but surprisingly loving and humble comedienne who repeatedly revived her career by working harder than everyone else. She burst on the scene in a 1965 Tonight Show appearance where Johnny Carson proclaimed that she would be a star. She made female standup a thing. A million nightclub acts later, a thousand red carpets, and then Rivers would win Celebrity Apprentice at age 76. She kept working until her tragic death at 81, and there will never be anyone else like her. 24 associates gave endearing/funny/interesting anecdotes to The Hollywood Reporter.

The Story of Joan Rivers: 24 Famous Friends From Dick Cavett to Donald Trump Construct Stunning Oral History for THR

HollywoodReporter.com, 9.10.14

The Rebirth of “Wet Hot American Summer”

Netflix has often shown a skilled eye in choosing which “properties” to reboot. Arrested Development, Gilmore Girls, Full House have all been resurrected to popular acclaim. Wet Hot American Summer, first released in a couple cities in 2001 and grossing under $300K, was a different animal. Was it possible to resurrect something that was barely alive to begin with? When the film starred beloved American talent like Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, and Paul Rudd, whose profiles have skyrocketed since 2001, it certainly was. Triumphantly returning as an eight-episode TV prequel, the raunchy summer camp comedy brings the gang back for more fun.

‘Wet Hot American Summer’: Oral History Details False Starts, Faking Camp Firewood

Variety.com, 7.28.15

“West Wing”: Aaron Sorkin’s White House Masterpiece

Before West Wing the TV industry’s conventional thinking was that political dramas didn’t work. 26 Emmy’s later that adage was long forgotten. Aaron Sorkin’s smart dialogue, Martin Sheen’s President Josiah Bartlet, and a top-quality supporting cast including Allison Janney and Rob Lowe, all combined to create a riveting (if idealized) portrait of a White House team working tirelessly to keep the ball moving forward. Empire provides a beautiful five-part retrospective full of images, sidebars, and video clips.

The Definitive History of “The West Wing”

Empire.com, 10.3.14

“The Sopranos”

The Sopranos practically invented “prestige television,” and the God-like showrunner production process, and along the way won a billion Emmys. Creator David Chase pitched the show as “a mobster in therapy,” and the perfect casting of James Gandolfini as family head Tony Soprano, along with Edie Falco as his wife Carmela, formed the bedrock on which greatness was built. Most of the cast and crew stayed quiet after the controversial series finale, preferring to try to move past the roles of their life, but Vanity Fair gathered nearly everybody five years later for a very worthwhile oral history.

The Family Hour: An Oral History of The Sopranos

VanityFair.com, 3.15.12

The NHL Glowing Puck Experiment Recalled

Fox Sports president David Hill wanted to make a splash as part of their new five-year NHL deal in the mid-90s. He said the casual viewer couldn’t follow the puck (pre-HD) and the broadcast should make it glow. Thus began one of the early attempts at augmented reality in sports programming, and like with many pioneering inventions, the old school grumbled from the start. The invention ended up only lasting two seasons, but the controversy lasts until today, with backers saying the increased ratings proved the glowing puck worked as intended. Purists deride it as silly sizzle for idiots. Relive the magic!

One glowing moment

SportsBusinessDaily.com, 1.23.17