The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Dick Cavett

Dick Cavett steps out of the elevator, hangs a right, and strolls into the lobby of the Beverly Hilton, a man on a mission: to participate in the promotion of a PBS documentary which premieres on August 8 at 9 PM EST/PST: Dick Cavett’s Watergate, an examination of the Watergate scandal and its effects on Richard Nixon’s presidency that’s structured around archival clips from Cavett’s late night talk show.

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After introducing himself, Cavett can’t resist making an observation about the familiarity of his surroundings: “You know, this is the same lobby where I stood when I was out here for two weeks auditioning to be a writer on The Jack Paar Show.” As has been the case for Cavett on more than few occasions during the course of his half-century (and then some) in the TV business, this observation proves to be only the first sentence of an anecdote.

“I came into the hotel one night and I heard singing,” continued Cavett, glancing and vaguely gesturing at the entrance to a nearby ballroom. “I opened a big door, and Judy Garland was onstage. The lights came on, and there were George Burns, Jack Benny, Edward G. Robinson, Barbara Stanwyck, Kirk Douglas, and about a hundred more. It was a huge charity thing. You couldn’t see any face that you didn’t know!”

With this brief recollection, Cavett immediately confirms that at least one of his lines during his memorable appearance on The Simpsons was absolutely spot-on: he really does have some wonderful stories about famous people that involve him in some way.

Who came up with the idea of viewing the Watergate scandal through the prism of your show?

You know, I think (executive producer Robert S.) Bader did. I’m almost certain he did. Yeah, he’s the one who’s most up on tapes that I had and stuff like that, so I don’t think it could’ve been anyone else. He just went through the stuff. I think initially he looked at 350 Cavett shows to make the (Shout Factory) DVDs, and then he just finally had to stop looking at them and start making them! But I was stunned to find how much stuff we have. It’s going to be a strain to make it only an hour. There’s so much good stuff. That’s a luxury, because there are so many shows that are a strain to make even an hour.

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The Light from the TV Shows: The Many Influencees of Dobie Gillis

Next week, the ever-awesome Shout Factory is going to be releasing The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis: The Complete Series. While this is an announcement which will be greeted by shrugs and blank stares from just about anyone under the age of 30—oh, hell, we could practically make it 40 or 50 and still not be too far off base—I’ve been revisiting the adventures of Dobie (Dwayne Hickman) and his beatnik buddy Maynard G. Krebs (a pre-”Gilligan’s Island” Bob Denver), and the more I delve into the series, the more I realize just how well it holds up. Heck, many of its elements continue to be staples of teen-themed comedies to this day!

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First of all, look at these two gentlemen here. Have you ever seen a picture that so desperately screamed to be captioned “Freak and Geek”?

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The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with John Altschuler (“The Goode Family,” “King of the Hill”)

Hey, kids, remember “The Goode Family”? You don’t…? Boy, that’s funny. You’d think you’d remember an animated series created under the watchful eye of Mike Judge, the man behind “Beavis & Butthead” and “King of the Hill,” not to mention such cult-classic films as “Office Space,” “Idiocracy,” and “Extract.”

Oh, wait, I know why you don’t remember it: because it only ran for 13 episodes in the summer of 2009 before ABC axed it.

Thankfully, however, the fine folks at Shout Factory have come through for “Goode Family” fans in the same way they’ve come through for fans of so many other too-quickly-canceled series over the years, offering up a complete-series set which features all of the episodes, including audio commentary from executive producers John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky on several of them, as well as deleted scenes and premises for unproduced episodes. Even better, the aforementioned Mr. Altschuler was kind enough to spend a few minutes on the phone with Bullz-Eye to discuss the series, not to mention some of the other projects he’s worked on over the course of his career.

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John Altschuler: So, Will, what can I do you for?

Bullz-Eye: Well, sir, I do this TV column for Bullz-Eye, I’ve more or less got carte blanche to cover what I want, and, dammit, I want to cover the DVD release of The Goode Family: The Complete Series.

JA: [Laughs.] Well, great…I hope!

BE: It is absolutely great. I was a fan for the all-too-few episodes that aired, so it’s been nice not only to revisit the series as a whole but also to listen to the commentaries that you and Dave recorded for the set.

JA: Excellent, excellent. Well, I can’t stand the sound of my own voice, personally, but I hope it wasn’t too bad for you.

BE: No, no, not painful at all.

JA: Well, good!

BE: So to begin at the beginning, as it were, you and Dave actually knew each other well before you first met up with Mike Judge on “King of the Hill.”

JA: That’s right. Dave Krinsky and I go back to…we went to the University of North Carolina together and moved out to L.A…wow, back in ’87! And we just did movies and TV for, y’know, forever, and got hired on “King of the Hill” in its first season, and that’s how we met Mike Judge.

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