Pioneers of Television "Crime Dramas" on WXXI-TV

Pioneers of Television "Crime Dramas" on WXXI-TV

Tue, 02/01/2011 - 8:00pm

Caption: Angie Dickinson as Sgt. "Pepper" Anderson in the award-winning series "Police Woman."

Credit: Courtesy of PBS "Pioneers of Television."

These ground-breaking shows paved the way for our favorite contemporary crime dramas.

Nearly 100 stars from TV’s formative years bring their stories to WXXI-TV/HD in season two of the Emmy-nominated documentary series Pioneers of Television. Narrated by Kelsey Grammer, each episode melds compelling new HD interviews with irresistible archival clips to offer a fresh take on TV’s founding celebrities. Featured stars include James Garner, William Shatner, Angie Dickinson, Fess Parker, Linda Evans, Robert Conrad, Mike Connors, Leonard Nimoy, Bill Cosby, and nearly 100 others. Pioneers of Television airs Tuesdays, February 1, 8, 15 and 22 at 8 p.m. on WXXI-TV/HD (DT21.1/cable 1011 and 11).

These landmark one-hour specials tell fascinating stories, reveal never-before-seen images and showcase timeless clips that still entertain decades later. Episodes in February include:

Crime Dramas, airing Tuesday, February 1 at 8 p.m., traces many groundbreaking firsts in television: Bill Cosby (I Spy) talks about his role as the first African American in a lead role on TV. Angie Dickinson—the first female star of a popular TV crime drama (Police Woman)—explains her conflict with the feminist movement.  Viewers will learn about the paradigm-shifting technology that Jack Webb adopted, making it possible to shoot an episode of Dragnet in just one or two days. And Mike Connors talks about the innovate touches in Mannix. Three stars of Mission Impossible (Peter Graves, Martin Landau, and Barbara Bain) independently reveal the eerie connection between their series and actual cold war events. This episode also includes the final interviews with Steven J. Cannell, Robert Culp, and Peter Graves. (All passed away in 2010.)

Local Kids’ TV, airing Tuesday, February 8 at 8 p.m., reveals the fascinating back stories of the locally-produced kids’ shows that shaped the boomer generation. Willard Scott explains the surprising physical challenges of playing Bozo (“...I nearly expired.”). Mary Ann King documents the chain of events that led to a lion escaping on the set of Romper Room in Los Angeles. And Dan Castellaneta reveals the local kids’ show that inspired The Simpsons’ Krusty the Clown. Viewers will see the prototypes of Jim Henson’s muppets, learn which kids’ show Albert Einstein enjoyed, and watch Steven Spielberg as he recounts the Arizona kids’ show that shaped his career.

Late Night, airing Tuesday, February 15 at 8 p.m., looks at the formative years of late-night television with Steve Allen, Jack Paar and Johnny Carson. Merv Griffin also emerges as a key player on the late-night scene. (His interview for Pioneers was his last before passing away.) Regis Philbin offers revelations about his years as a late-night sidekick (to Joey Bishop). Dick Cavett and Arsenio Hall also discuss their years in the mix, and Sigourney Weaver offers personal details about her father, Pat - the inventor of "Tonight." The episode is peppered with dozens of never-before-seen clips, including Johnny Carson performing in his early 20s. 

Sitcoms, airing Tuesday, February 22 at 8 p.m., focuses on five key sitcoms: "I Love Lucy," "The Honeymooners," "Make Room for Daddy," "The Andy Griffith Show" and "The Dick Van Dyke Show." The last remaining Honeymooner, Joyce Randolph, offers surprising insights into the mind of Jackie Gleason. Similarly, Marlo Thomas speaks candidly about her father, Danny. Andy Griffith offers forceful opinions about the people and techniques that made his show work. In a rare occurrence, both Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke recount their years on "The Dick Van Dyke Show." Hundreds of episodes were culled for the most entertaining clips - including one particularly side-splitting bit by Don Knotts.