PBS and Boettcher Trinklein Productions have begun production on Pioneers of Television, a four-part documentary series featuring the talents that launched television and left their imprint on sitcoms, late-night, variety and game shows in the early days of the medium. These landmark one-hour specials, which debut in winter/spring 2008, tell great stories, reveal never-before-seen images and showcase timeless clips that still entertain decades later. Pioneers of Television comes in the wake of Steve Boettcher's Pioneers of Primetime special -- one of the top-rated television shows for PBS in 2005 -- which chronicled a select few of television's comedic trailblazers from vaudeville to the golden age of television.
Pioneers of Television continues the tradition, featuring new interviews with nearly 100 entertainers from television's rich heritage. Nearly every living star from television's early days has been interviewed, including: Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, Art Linkletter, Andy Griffith, Betty White, Phyllis Diller, Jim Nabors, Marlo Thomas, Jonathan Winters, Andy Williams, Ed McMahon, Merv Griffin, Bob Barker, Tommy Smothers and many more.
"These legends continue to entertain generations of television viewers," said John F. Wilson, PBS Sr. Vice President and Chief TV Programming Executive. "As America's preeminent storyteller, PBS is honored to have them share their memories of their earliest work, their most successful projects and the people who helped them along the way."
"We've captured some amazing stories," said Executive Producer Steve Boettcher. "It's especially fascinating to hear the behind-the-scenes stories of how these pioneers influenced each other. For example, Mary Tyler Moore talked about how Lucille Ball hid in the studio catwalk to watch rehearsals of the The Dick Van Dyke Show. One day Lucy laughed so hard she blew her cover -- and then came down to offer Mary life-changing advice."
Each of the four specials specifically focuses on sitcoms, late-night, variety and game shows - which features an interview with Bob Barker on the set of The Price Is Right the exact day he announced his retirement from 50 years on television.
In addition to capturing the series' interviews, the production crew is sifting through archives across the country in search of the rare clips that define these pioneers. "It's amazing how much 'lost' footage we've unearthed from the early days." said writer/producer Mike Trinklein. "For example, we found some vintage footage of Johnny Carson that's just fascinating. He's in his early 20s, doing a program in the studio basement but all the style and mannerisms are already firmly in place."
All the interviews are being photographed in high definition. For many stars, this is the first time they've performed in this new format. In addition, many program clips are being re-mastered for HD. "It's the golden age as you've never seen it before," Boettcher adds.