interviews

Norman Lear Seminars at the Museum of Broadcasting The Mark Goodson Seminar Series June 1986

Bill Moyers

Introduction

June 1986

SEVERAL years ago, the Museum of Broadcasting determined that in addition to collecting and making accessible the finest in radio and television programming, it would be of great benefit to also examine the creative processes underlying this programming.  A series of seminars was thus created so that those who had distinguished them­selves in the broadcast medium could share their expertise and experi­ences with the public, as well as with those working or aspiring to work in radio and television.

One of the first to recognize the value of such a service was Mark Goodson, through whose generous endowment the annual Producers Seminar Series at the Museum of Broadcasting was made possible.  For the first presentation in this series, the Museum chose to focus on the creation of television comedy and turned to Norman Lear, a man who in great measure has defined what we understand by “television comedy.”

Norman Lear began his television career at the age of twenty-eight, writing the first Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis shows.  By the mid-seventies, more than half the population of the country-120 million—watched one or another of his weekly programs.  But more importantly, particularly through All in the Family, Lear brought a new sophistica­tion to television.  His characters had real problems and discussed them like real people, no matter that the issues—bigotry, homosexuality, and abortion—had never before been so openly discussed on television.  Through his soap opera epic Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and his surreal send-up of a talk show, Fernwood 2-Night, Lear also brought to television some of the most inspired and off-beat humor ever seen on a weekly series.

In four special seminars held at the Museum of Broadcasting in June of 1986, Norman Lear provided audiences with a rare glimpse of the process of creating television comedy.  The topics of the four semi­nars were: Writing for Early Live Television; Writing and Producing Adult Television Comedy; The Independent Producer in Television; and Television: Its Culture, Its Impact, Its Ethics, Its Future, in which Lear shared some of his personal hopes and fears for tomorrow’s television.
The Museum of Broadcasting is very pleased to be able to make the valuable information imparted in these four special seminars available through the publication of this monograph.