A TV Tribute With No Middle


The Museum of Television & Radio's latest program, "Hello, Good-Bye," is a three-month series showcasing pilots, premieres and final programs from its vast archive. The screenings include such famous finales as "The Fugitive" and "The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson," as well as the premiere episodes of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "The Twilight Zone" and "The Monkees."

The series offers the original pilot of "Leave It to Beaver," titled "It's a Small World," as well as the never-aired pilots of such popular series as "Lost in Space," "That Girl" and "All in the Family." Also included are the screen tests for the comedy "Welcome Back, Kotter," which feature John Travolta and Farrah Fawcett, who was auditioning for the role of star Gabe Kaplan's wife.

There are also such rarities as the unaired Ben Stiller-created 1999 action spoof "Heat Vision and Jack" and the 1961 Jackie Gleason game show, "You're in the Picture," which only lasted two episodes.

"Hello, Good-Bye" curator David Bushman recently talked about the series by phone from his office at the Museum of Television & Radio in New York.


Question: Is this the first time the museum has showcased pilot episodes and finales?

Answer: Yes. A few years ago we did this survey to look at what people were watching most frequently in the [viewing] library portion of our museum. Almost all of the top programs were either premieres or pilots or final episodes. That was kind of the seed of the idea.

Q: When watching premieres and finales you remember why you got so involved in a series and why you miss the series and its characters.

A: I think they remind people of certain times in their life. You really can get invested in the characters of the show. I know personally for me, whenever someone mentions the last episode of "St. Elsewhere," that was on the Wednesday before I got married. The next morning I left California to get married. Finales are sad in a lot of ways, but they are usually eventful.

Q: You are showing the pilot for "Leave It to Beaver." How different is that from the series?

A: It's partially different. They did it as a pilot and aired it on an umbrella show, and the reaction was good so they picked it up as a series. Harry Shearer is an Eddie Haskell-like character, but he's actually Beaver's friend and his name is Frankie. There is also a different Ward and a different Wally.

Q: Where did you get the screen tests for "Welcome Back, Kotter"?

A: It was something we had in our collection for a while. About the time we opened the museum in L.A., [the series' creator] James Komack came to us and said he had a lot of stuff in his episodes. There were episodes of "Kotter" and "Chico and the Man" and they also included screen tests. Until that time I didn't know that Farrah Fawcett had tested for the role of Gabe's wife, so it was a great thing he put in our lap. We had always been looking for a way to get them into a screening series.

Q: How did you choose which finales to air?

A: There are certain ones that you know off the top of your head you want to use like "The Fugitive" and "Newhart"--that was the groundbreaking finale where they actually referred back to the previous show ["The Bob Newhart Show"]. It was fairly easy to decide. It is somewhat personal in tastes, but there are plenty of obvious candidates.

Q: You are also showing the only two episodes of the flop Jackie Gleason game show, "You're in the Picture."

A: The show got these horrible reviews. He went on stage the next week and he just sat down and sort of said the show sounded like a good idea. It is just him sitting there with a cigarette making jokes at the expense of the show. It is a well-known thing in TV history but people don't get the chance to see it very much.

Q: You are screening a pilot called "The TV Show." What is it?

A: That is sort of an "SCTV"-ish thing with Billy Crystal, Rob Reiner, Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest. It's just a parody of TV. There are different segments. You have Rob Reiner playing Hitler [whose trial] is on television and you have Harry Shearer playing Tom Snyder and Billy Crystal playing Muhammad Ali, who has just converted to Judaism.

* "Hello, Good-Bye" screens Wednesdays through Sundays at 12:30 p.m. and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. through Sept. 15 at the Museum of Television & Radio, 465 N. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills. Admission is free but a contribution of $6 is suggested for adults; $4 for seniors and students; and $3 for children under 13. First segment, Friday-June 24, features "It's a Small World" (the pilot for "Leave It to Beaver"). "Make Room for Daddy"--"Danny Meets Andy Griffith," "The Monkees" and "Welcome Back, Kotter" (premiere and screen tests). Information (310) 786-1000 or http://www.mtr.org .

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