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One in a series of evenings and special screenings presented as part of The Museum of Television & Radio's William S. Paley Television Festival in Los Angeles. Held this year at the Directors Guild of America Theatre Complex, the festival celebrates the excellence and diversity of American television, and is dedicated to television's creative community. This evening honors "Fernwood 2 Night," a satirical, mock talk show set in Fernwood, Ohio, hosted by the smarmy Barth Gimble and his dim-witted sidekick Jerry Hubbard.

Museum television curator Ron Simon introduces the following members of the show's creative team: creative supervisor Al Burton; director Jim Drake; executive producer and creator Norman Lear; program consultant Harry Shearer; producer and writer Alan Thicke; and cast members Frank De Vol (Happy Kyne), Bill Kirchenbauer (Tony Rolletti), Kenneth Mars (William W.D. 'Bud' Prize), Martin Mull (Barth Gimble), Craig Richard Nelson (Dr. Richard Osgood), and Fred Willard (Jerry Hubbard).

Next, Lear introduces a clip reel of "Fernwood 2 Night" and its follow-up series, "America 2 Night." The clips include guest appearances by Carol Burnett, Billy Crystal, Phyllis Diller, Charlton Heston, Vincent Price, Tom Waits, and Robin Williams. Also included are the following excerpts, among others: Barth gives an emotional eulogy for talk show host Mike Douglas, despite the fact that he is still alive; Jerry discusses his new sex education book for children, which does away with traditional euphemisms for parts of the human body and uses the terms "faucet," "oven," and "milk bottles" to explain the miracle of procreation; Barth is blindsided when a member of his fan club delivers a singing subpoena regarding his indiscretions committed in the Miami area; in the show's "Bury the Hatchet" segment, Barth mediates a dispute between a Catholic and his non-Catholic parents who want to "de-program" their son from his cult. Also featured are Baby Irene and performances by Howie Palmer, the pianist with the iron lung, and lounge singer Tony Roletti.

After the screening, the panelists discuss topics which include: the current trend in talk shows, which "Fernwood 2 Night" foreshadowed; the series's low budget and hectic filming schedule, which led to its largely improvisational nature; the way Bill Kirchenbauer developed the character of Tony Roletti and brought him to the show; Frank De Vol's other credits, including composer of the themes for "The Brady Bunch" and "My Three Sons"; the introduction of Dr. Osgood's character, which was originally created for "Mary Hartman"; anecdotes about Gary Coleman's appearances on the show; the show's carefully edited combination of written script and additional outtakes of Mull and Willard's improvisations; the way Harry Shearer became involved with "Fernwood 2 Night" as a writer; the new theme of abusing celebrity guests that grew with the transition to "America 2 Night"; the way both programs served as substitute shows, filling in for "Mary Hartman" during the summer season to hold the serial's audience; updates on the recent work of members of the creative team; surprising responses via viewers' letters; Mull's inspiration for the "Fernwood 2 Night" set; and the inability of a satirical show like "Fernwood 2 Night" to survive in a television landscape of real talk shows that feature outrageous stories and behavior.


  • NETWORK: Paley
  • DATE: March 11, 1998
  • RUNNING TIME: 2:05:07
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: T:93750
  • GENRE: Seminars


  • Ron Simon … Moderator
  • Frank De Vol … Panelist
  • Jim Drake … Panelist
  • Bill Kirchenbauer … Panelist
  • Norman Lear … Panelist
  • Kenneth Mars … Panelist
  • Martin Mull … Panelist
  • Craig Richard Nelson … Panelist
  • Harry Shearer … Panelist
  • Alan Thicke … Panelist
  • Fred Willard … Panelist
  • Carol Burnett
  • Billy Crystal
  • Phyllis Diller
  • Charlton Heston
  • Vincent Price
  • Tom Waits
  • Robin Williams
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