WNET Seminar; The Great American Dream Machine, Part I
three years. I mean I just basically what is in my country that I would dream. What would you do. I would like the chance to have a high metabolism. Nothing like a turd to get everything you want freedom of religion freedom of speech freedom of press. The word dream brings the
with the A. People say green is nonsense. I think you think I might find out tomorrow as it was very important to me to come here and we did. I was 15 and I wanted to get in the business I started then and this is kind of the big first step or is it just you and for your right
that you're about to join the highly specialized you like well when I started work on the block Mr. Goodman said that the certain amount of money in fact every week so I did and I thought you know this year that over the years I sort of I just didn't sell anything. And over the years that Amanda granted and I mean there's the support of Bentley Sachs has an opportunity a month one month for that thank you very possibly. Well they're going for these rooms and I drive a Corvette and I had a me an hour ago and I may have to ride a week would say. Is there sex after death.
No actually in their history. But it's no coincidence that Malcolm X and Martin Luther King died when they did. Malcolm X said just put it together two and two. I seriously believe we knew all along but was holding out and presenting the truth in such a way that it would affect the most people situationally without giving them damage by gunfire. You remember what was on his lips when he died. We had namin economics political economy the professional killers could have murdered him long before they did. They lead now on raids on Muslim nationalism for a number of years because they knew it wasn't the ideal but the second he got his feet on the ground they murdered him. Seems to me that the White family structure is falling apart. His children know that they're hippies that go his woman as rebel and his servants are rebelling. So he's paranoid now we cannot. We see
that recent events quite inadequate. It's going to get worse for us. We struck so much here for your years as her first ascends the first time she shut down part of herself or a catastrophic experience of her as a person goes back and feels tremendous pain the connection is made because the connection is pain. For instance my parents don't like me they don't want me around and testing feeling for the 4 5 or 6 year old to feel. Therefore he doesn't see that he buries it you know and sets about in life pleasing his parents so he doesn't have to feel they don't like primal therapy you get down to the real feeling and when you make that connection wow you know like me that's pain and all those people who say that you're predictable and you die in the same way everyone else dies there right. I resented that at first I resented them saying Oh you're a two week stage you feeling is you're
free or you're at the or the angry stage I understand that oh you're depressed or you're lost and it was three and a half weeks after you get it you find this out you always feel lost. Well they're right. It works that way with me. I'm following patterns. I'm following the guidelines for dying of terminal cancer patients down below letter is fiendishly matter what I say this is this Are we thought you'd say OK when you're gets you you can read that one line you can we tell you that that means that you don't know yourself. That means you can't do nothing. You know there's nothing that you can do about it. Dear god why is dying. Dear
God he's dead for ever. We called the society to come in to have a frozen they made all the preparations and to also last block a religious service. I said if it were possible I would if they could just forget about the longest needs of those. This was more important to me and but they didn't arrange it. We had a rabbi there every panel very loyal to the service who would not think that there was anything unusual in dry ice and we were to move to the castle later long after the service is very long because the procedure. You may wonder what kind of a pile we've made here. I'll show you exactly what kind of a party there it is a modern limited green part of the Bronx.
Take the paper of factory fresh factory approved no women's no eggs no crane just park his Harley. Professor television calling me off for this three day road for the catalog. We just read. Thank you Karen. It's my privilege to hear his platform for the most creative people I have ever known for work work work with by joining in whatever you
want to someone for something. Technology to record one of these on our introducing people in just a moment if I may I'd like to say one or two words of my favorite television program for you. That's my version of how it came about. I promised them I would give them the opportunity of giving their version which I prefer Felice the crew version. I hope mine more interesting however when I first assumed responsibilities as President of what was national television public television network and I asked for the privilege of meeting with these people their colleagues you know kind of a rap session. I didn't have any particular agenda. I was curious to know how they felt about what it was they were doing and what kind of television network. Right.
I discovered from some of the one kind of television and what a different kind of television I thought might be a bit softer for Rush. I've watched the program and in the course of conversation are not of the same educational television in those days flat. Why did we do so because we didn't think 13 weeks equal sources would get stuck with the 12 weeks working with a rather rigid reference book that was for one hour. Our documentary one hour of reform into our consumer affairs science came up with the idea of a magazine program at one of the virtues of the magazine program so they convinced we
could try out different talent each week in fact. We're going to have a different host and that way you can discover new talent and a particular comedic talent. And so I want to work on it. And after they had two executive producers was on my left and the other problem are on the right who are signing the task of putting the show together and in effect there came to me some time later and we got this idea for a magazine program and I sort of find who was the host. And there's a problem or have no host. I thought that was the purpose of the magazine I like to record with the creative genius of Sheila Nevins on my right that we're currently creative in using graphics instead. And while the program didn't develop stars as hosts could do however devote one star nothing more for you for all you know from watching the couple of the excerpts from going
nuclear. Prosecutors must know what you do you know him. Yes I believe so I thought. Clearly it was probably a good first formal dialogue and people I can't answer your question recently. If you do have questions I thought you might be interested in a couple of things One is that when you show the cost of the persecution others often refer to it as a wacky wonderful conglomeration of extravagant creations. Actually stimulation of the screen is so obvious that personal shame to the brain was probably affected by watching too much television. We were quite prepared to agree with his assessment of the program. The Washington Post of the American dream machine here comes
close to what television has that I think was one of the major political judgments are made about the green issue was it was truly television and television doing something from another. The terms of the sun Francisco Chronicle said it's almost too good to be true and too cruel to people. Which I thought was a very interesting comment. The program which took a rather harsh view of the American dream. The two executive producers on the hook them sort of course. I suspect that some of the world. He's been around for a number of years. I got some cards here so I can read them and I think I could do just as well as has had an extensive career among other places. He was vice president of programming and producer saw a series of articles spectrums
was important documentaries including gangs and a number of other documentaries. A ritual at Paul and the others that I have got written down here. He was the creator because an executive producer of running series The first thing on Channel 13 was an eye for the new show that kept all of us in hot water and could American dream machine and has recently produced a human and or primetime documentary mini series that I don't hear. Jack was also the vice president to prove I'm your superior when you're the right album promoter. Cue cards were forgotten has produced a series dispersal versus what was previous and you're wondering when you put your association with the other one. Keep going back to the very earliest days of he was response for many of us report for sure it was ringing from a hat he sure going
back to 1963 and the upcoming jobs council. He has his own production company which produces this money world and he's also a producer to understand that original First Division last too long because for reasons that I can help I can tell you. So these are the first I'd buy for as long as you get here. She created the memorable Formula One cars as I indicated to you. She was the one who came up with the idea of how to do the show without a host of documentaries and family programming for each of your and six and under supervision. So I'm sure HBO was 1 3 5. It's wonderful that the first people I was in the group. People for
martial arts run on Broadway and films and the boys were orders for cartoons and commercials and presently as a screenwriter he burst on to the television work on the good American Dream Machine and perseveres was sure he turned over adult hood to a jacket to get their version of help others here came up with how the philosophy to help him in terms of I think what's really important is the ticket for the dream machine to exist in a vacuum. We came out of it with a certain kind of institution I think it doesn't exist today. It was unique in television not just in public television but in commercial television. It was an organization called ne t which was later merged with w o t t it was in the days before money came to public television with strings on either corporate or governmental The NE D was funded by the Ford
Foundation. Who gave you 10 million dollars a year and any charter was to produce the national programming for what was then the public television system and it was just being called Public Television in those areas because it was all public television was actually coming from education the public television and as such it was attracting a lot of people who from the networks who had a vision of what television could be that would be an alternative that would offer diversity would offer ideas who would offer great drama would offer art would experiment and in fact in many ways in its short live seven year life I think any team did that. I'm checking to be sure it was seven years it was longer rather than about 72 and we all remember this. Over a period of years what was created by Jack White and the two programming executives done some just on with the public affairs I know Don Dixon and Bill Cohen and then later when Jim came in to take over the institution was created was an atmosphere of creative atmosphere where
producers felt that their producers had the leeway to try things to experiment to come up with ideas so that over a period time just a couple of examples was that there was a crisis in the city school system here and you know in the late 60s where blacks and Jews were having each other as they do over the public school system and the question was well how can we bring something additional to the SA can we create and help heal but also we came up with an idea the producer of the idea to do a seven hour group therapy marathon session with blacks and Jews and edit it down to an hour and a half television program Well it turned out that it was an innovative way to approach the subject it turned out to be revealing way to be very helpful to create a dialogue within the city. During the Newark riots. Again the question was well what can we do that will help illuminate this subject in an Alan I'm Barbara Gordon. We went out to Newark and we rented a gymnasium and we put up bleachers. This was during the riots. We put up bleachers and we we invited people from the city council the people in the mayor's
office people from the Board of Education and other institutions. Sociologist urban ologist and then we open up the doors to the people of Newark and we shot a town meeting live and in effect what we had where they were were the people of Newark speaking to the country without any mediator without without us getting in the way it was a revelation for lots of people. It was in that kind of context that green machine came about. There was a series of meetings among the producers who were looking to find new ways innovative ways humorous ways to pass on information. And one of the ideas that we came up with was an idea that did hearken back to radio which was the old monitor radio which was in the 50s which was 48 hours of of constant programming with music and humor and news in Consumer Reports and that sort of thing. What it had going for it was that it had
some constant shows Joe Garagiola was on it Bobby Ray was on it so the viewer the listener could tune in for that. But it also had lots of surprises in between and out of that idea. Right. They were approaching bill and Don with that sort of thought and said we had to do a whole evening. And they said no we like the concept and so we went back and wrote up a paper Barbara Gordon contribute some ideas to the paper what is. What was terrific about it was that at that period time didn't say bring us a script bring us a pilot. Can you do it will you do it. They said go ahead and do it. Here is the money they took a great deal of money from the public affairs budget. We didn't have a format and they said you figure out what to do. Let me start with that. OK. I think what Jack was saying is completely correct. You know I used to think that the origins of the Green Machine came about because of a marvelous and rare collaboration among Management and Budget some very
talented producers and a founder of the Ford Foundation that was willing to put money into a really unknown program. And then as the years pass and I began to think about it and especially thinking of it for tonight I thought that really one of the. In addition to that that was true. But in addition to that came about because of the blessings of it which meant that it had the blessings of an experience and gave nuance and immaturity it hadn't had a chance yet to face the realities as we know them or so-called realities of the television medium as we know it. We didn't know what our limitations were supposed to be and we dared to dream a little bit because Jim and Bill Cohen and Don Dickson encouraged us to dream a bit and I was reminded that. Robert Bly the poet in one of his conversations with Gilmore is on the air a few years ago made a remark that human beings don't really become awake until they're about 35 years of age. And I
thought that how true with public television but it became awake a lot and a lot shorter period and much less than 25 years on the air and had to become awake to the realities of politics and funding and public television. When I was going through a rather strained and difficult adulthood but boy it had a hell of a youth. And I'm glad that we were part of it. Getting back to what Jim and Jack were saying about the the origins of the dream machine Jim and Bill Cohan and Don Dixon did invite us as producers to come up with ideas that we as producers wanted to do and that was unusual in itself. Nobody had experienced that kind of thing. We came in with a proposal for a a magazine show and it wasn't long after that we found that we had some money to do it. Not all the money we wanted. The original proposal was for a three hour weekly show and our marvelous title was really an original one it was called Wednesday night right here on Tuesday.
At one point we had the idea called the great Atlantic and Pacific Jaeger center a great American scene magazine and so on but we had enough to barely do 90 minutes so we decided to dive in and just do it. And it was interesting to underscore a point that Jack has made very well I think that we were not asked to give long treatments or scripts I think we had a five page proposal and we were not asked to go out and raise funds for it which we gotta do today because Ford was the life blood of the of the operation at that time. I'm going to interrupt me interrupt for one moment to tell you what you may or may not know what is with the Ford Foundation money we had to have more or less approval of the Ford Foundation on our annual budget. And in those days the man with whom we dealt the Ford Foundation was Fred Friendly name will be familiar to some of you who had been the president of CBS News before he came to the Ford Foundation and he looked us over and looked over the great American dream machine and I told him what it was and he said Well it sounds like a good
idea but I don't think you guys can pull it off. So I think we can hit it OK. That's as much resistance as we had. And I as a producer never met for a year after the show going on here. You know nowadays it's quite different with with underwriters. In any case we didn't know exactly what the show was going to be our five pages were relatively incomplete unsophisticated. Not any great detail but we felt that if we were given the chance we could carve a show out of that block of time. And you gave us the chance. So we we went ahead and and worked on it. It never occurred to us it wouldn't occur to me today to come up with an idea like that or even a proposal like that because it would be considered too wild and and too costly. So one of the curious things and I think it needs to be underscored is that today we could have a choice of going to the public television stations with a totally untried idea and have them vote upon it and this was too far out to get the approval of one hundred fifty stations to
try to work to find a corporate underwriter. And because it was satirical the chances of that would probably be almost nonexistent. So everybody comes down to an environment that was created at the time and was a factor of view of beginnings of finding our way or a public television finding its way. And it was an environment that said to producers What do you want to do. And once we came up with an idea there was some funding to get it going. They gave us the opportunity to do it without trying to prove on paper that it would work because there are some things that you can only prove through actual production and that was the case here because we did flip flops. We made a lot of mistakes and gave us the opportunity to make mistakes. We made a lot of mistakes in the course of the first few months of pre-production on that before the show came into actual being and I got to say Schiller Marshall and Jack and all of us remember that the first show of the great American dream machine wasn't completed until about midnight on Tuesday the night
before it aired and that's how much flip flopping we were doing and I think that it's significant that if anybody asks you know you could have been in today's environment. Could there be a green machine today. I think that it's interesting you know that you know people seem to be asking that question you face when you were on the show. No one else says that there was a sophisticated proposal. The show turned out to be quite sophisticated. What happened in those years the early early days and weeks of change there. It's interesting to listen to you all talk because I realize how I don't know about you my show but how protected I was from the politics and in what was happening at the time. All I knew was that we and they were a bunch of producers had to move fast and make a show. We didn't want to be boring. It was going to be young and we were going to fight each other to sort of get what we wanted out of it. It was the most combative and at the same time exciting and imaginative experience I think I've ever
had in television. Partly that was due to the people that I work for and partly it was due I think to the total energy of this staff because we didn't really know what we were doing. I don't think you have that incredible excitement ever. We didn't know what the subject was. We didn't know. Anything about the politics about what we had to deliver we knew that we had to satisfy a certain interest in ourselves and in the audience that was different. I mean I think different was the word that we held onto. We did not have a title the great American dream machine I really don't know how it happened I just remembered that one day it happened. It was a dream and then someone said well what do we do what about a host now. The thing about a host of to realize is that we were additional hosts up until almost zero hour. People came in and they were never right. No one made a decision I would like to be able to say that I walked in one day and I said I've got the answer I know we don't need a host that isn't what happened. We had a bunch of pieces we put them together and we looked at them we thought oh my god they're so interesting together. They're
like you know they just seem to work. We don't need a hoax why do we need. We need pictures we need a thought we sort of had a title about green so I said well I'll go out you know ask people what their dreams are and then we'll you know mix them all together. That's what we did. And up until midnight of that night we were just throwing things in. It doesn't happen like that anymore it's too costly nobody has the confidence in their producers to let them go. Up until that zero hour I think the other really interesting thing was that there was no separation between hard and soft news between entertainment and politics. It was as if we had compressed an entire day of interest into this 90 minutes. And I think that was the most extraordinary gift of the dream machine because we were not working for a news department or in the entertainment department. We could have you know blaze Starr and Paul Jacobs and death on the same show. That is extraordinary that kind of crazy quilt of interest. So it was
almost like a dinner party conversation in this segmented and then put together by Hope which was the people talking about their great American dream. As the show progressed the interesting thing was we weaned out a lot of the dreams a lot of the bridges and the pieces as they had originally seemed to work without very much glue the glue was interest. The glue was no rules the glue was no division. The glue is the things you think would be not glue at all. But the glue of the dream machine was total artistic freedom from and for whatever reason. The other thing that I thought was very interesting is you read the reviews. I never heard of you. I think you don't and I I don't think we really knew. I don't know Mao Do you remember that I don't think we ever really know that it was successful or not successful we only knew we had a week to find something that interests us too busy to find them too busy to know about the politics to behind it only busy enough to say I want to do this. Can we do this. Jack can we
do this and that was doing that work. But one other thing in my last thing is about the youth factor. I was very proud of the dream team because of the nature of the of the show and because of the faith that the executives had in the foot soldiers and we were able to go from researcher to associate producer to producer in maybe six or seven shows. I mean it was extraordinary fluidity. If they had confidence in you they actually pushed you to do the next thing. That was extraordinary. That has never happened again. I mean I must say that I'm guilty of it not happen again I look to see that someone has done what they did before. I am possibly the villain. But my favorite story is that my grandmother was very ill at the time and I wanted her desperately to see the green machine and so I brought her to the machine I was particularly proud of the montage and you could actually bring something to your grandmother in those days she had to watch it on television and so she watched the show on television and afterwards she called me up on the phone and she said yes it was good I liked the story. I said What didn't you like. She said I didn't like those things in between those facts.
I'm didn't know what they were about. Anyway we had somehow tapped into something now and modern. Not consciously as we do now in television not trying to psych out the market in some sort of marketing scheme but because it represented what we were interested in and we were all very young. And I think that that was the secret and you know the success of The Green Machine. Could it happen again. I don't know an environment where that can happen again. I don't know where the mixture of all that interesting you know dinner party conversation can become stagnant and where a host isn't linked up beforehand or in ideas and cornered and written to death before it gets a chance to be funded. So I don't know but it was a good time. Marshall tell us how you became attached to the green machine switched on and became a tax exemption which when I heard about it I said Michael Britten which would be in gray or June of 1917 he said I said What are you doing. That was actress closely I said What are
you doing as I'm working on this new show it's called Wednesday night. I said what's in it for me. He said. So that was it. And then in August I went to Spain and I was in three movies I was in Frank Perry's Dark I had and then I was free for a while and I did a picture with Brigitte Bardot in Molokai and then did another film with Maria Shell as a Western. Also now Marie has been getting less and then went back to Madrid and finished up with dark and hung out a while in Spain and then came back to New York and I was raring to go looking for employment so I called up Michael and he said oh we were looking for you last week. Well that's good. Let me see what's happening so I dragged him to the office I met Penny Bernstein. Now you said you were insulated from the political stuff since pennies a total political animal. I was never insulated. I knew everything that was happening to him. So there will be and he was producing this consumer piece and she wanted to know if I could do the consumer version I said sure
I'd say shoot anything you know. As a matter of three movies to Westerns and the twenty twenties prohibition movie so it could be a consumer God. Then we had to convince Al and I done a tabletop film earlier in 69 the Yippies the AP film. They don't plant trees they give the answer to Mayor Daley and I remember the morning that happen there was a knock on my door the 16 year old kid and I went over to global village we did the thing in the 60 year old kid now was the president of Unison Universal Pictures. Shawn Daniel was just coming out of high school so when I ran around with the liberation new service we found the film the pilot shouted to him he saw the tabletop what I was doing with the Ubi helmet stuff then they said OK we'll come up with some ideas so that's when Tony and I went into a supermarket and just got to reading labels and looking around and then we came up with the first one was the Morton's lemon cream pie. So we just do the
label we just read the ingredients. So when we tested it with well we use Styrofoam cups and flour and water I believe in a bowl or any of the M&M and doing the ingredients they thought that was all right so that's where the words we did it again and then and then after that we got on tape use the word again now the question is do you want to. Do it with the actual product. Or do you want to use a mass product that is a made up name I said no no no it's not a mass product and it doesn't mean anything. And this is my IT IS MY was the first time I got a chance to make a real decision. And I said let's do the real thing because it doesn't count otherwise why am I here if it's going to jeopardize my commercial career or not didn't matter because it was really worth while doing this. That's what some of the lawyers incidentally Mortons was not happy with the president of the company fired the president of the of the Mortons Mortons which is a division of of our continental bakeries which is the vision of TNT. He was called to cast because of the artificial flavor that was on the on the label
because there was no mention of lemon and they still threaten the source remember though. Well I think remember right after that first broadcast the growers from working sent us a letter saying cease and desist. We checked our facts once again and we repeated the couple months later and then they changed the label and they put artificial They put the concentrated lemon juice in the scent of artificial flavor. And then we went on over there and the other piece that I did that's mostly memorable I guess is the olive piece which was about language it was not all those. I can't tell you how many times people companies said oh I saw your piece on olives and I'll never eat another all over again. Great that it was on the greatest of all the stories all of which was the size of a house had nothing do with the quality had nothing to do with the with the salutary or the underside Terry properties of all this had nothing to do with with diet or anything it just was the fact that the smallest the smallest can do all of this call large and then it goes up into the names that you can figure out whether colossal is
larger than the Super Bowl. Oh that was great in that piece we can we can the eggplant are all made up all if they haven't been called Super gargantuan. We just we found a nice medium sized eggplant that would fit inside and I said to the guy I was going to can I say make sure you put all of oil in here too so when I open it and I'll show it to the camera this will be great and you can see it looks like a big olive $1 to the can. So we did the piece and it was really good. The segment was really working nicely and I knew I had a real good take on it and then I and I can and the can opener is one of those butterfly can open as my text and I started turning around and I notice that the label went around once and I continued to talk and went around another time and digging into the metal. So what I did was I decided to ad lib a little bit and then had it with all of this and I took the can and I knew what my cue like was and I slid it right in the camera and it was my act of retribution and it will flash and put it down and then we did it over again and this time the butterfly can opener was sent right
into the can I hope that my show thing better without it now was Al's decision to run with the with the flawed ending which is the better ending and it was great. I should say something about Marshall segments were done. We really didn't have any writers as such on the entire green machine it was another unusual aspect of it the only written portions were of course the rumors and the commentary you might want to surmise people who worked on the base of Michigan where the marshals mentioned Buddy Bernstein but there are others that you know what was interesting about it was also that a lot of one of our first conversations we had to do a consumer is try to make it funny and she's sort of working on that from the from the very beginning Barbara Gordon came up with the Studs Terkel sequences were all part of this mix because everybody had it. After John slowly and Bob Shanks every 200 How many what you say really. Also we were commissioned we also started looking for talent right immediately and we looked at looking for new
filmmakers and out of that came Tony Gans is now a Hollywood producer Jomana satirical looks at America. Anybody wanna how we turned into a film director Ron Howard. You probably saw in the early screening to realize it was kind of one of the two faces but he was not allowed to say a word on the entire show. Alice played marry her and came down with some people from Yale. Henry went on and then when I was on the show Bob Klein here turned it on and we thought was a college town and he was under the shadow of James not how did anybody happen to come with a grim story and he called one day saying that he had tried this is another really good story about how public television worked in a way that commercial television and he called one day I did not know him but he said I have a piece that I did for 16 for 60 Minutes I think it was it was called an essay on war and I did it and the gang at 60 Minutes doesn't want to use it. It was written for Mike Wallace
and it's 20 minutes long and I'd like to show it to you and sell it. And I said and then we have a time limit 10 12 minutes maximum on the green machine segment but let me look at it he said By the way I brought it back from down here with him from the from CBS from 60 Minutes. So I went over and we went to the screening room and Andy in his prescreening monologue said by the way since Mike Wallace wasn't on it couldn't do it they wouldn't allow him to do it. I put myself on camera behind a desk just to give you an idea working aeration would be an on camera stuff. You can replace me with anybody. I just want to give you an idea of how it how it went. So when I looked at it and it was 20 minutes and it was a marvelous marvelous typically Rooney piece on the war and it was poignant. It was serious it was. It had its own little satirical edge to it. But you couldn't help but feel something at the end of it and I said Andy we're going to break our will. We're going to put on 20 minutes
and would you do it on the air. And he did and the next year he joined us on staff and work with us both time. He wrote one of my pieces to call letters. It was good but I just want to make a point before about Marshall's pieces I remember Penny and Marshall used to put together an outline of what Marshall was going to say and then we went into a small conference room that we had in Marshall without cameras but just a tape recorder. He would add live this piece. We were supposed to be four minutes long so it went eight or nine minutes long and we've been transcribed his lives and then edited the script from that one time that I wrote a piece in the second season and we thought because we always have to turn into Alan how do you hear these comments. And one time we try to you know and we thought it's some heaven on earth there was Alan written on top of that. Make it stranger. We all fabulous going down there and a way to look at it not to make it stronger. I'm good.
We're going to open it up now to your questions I'm going to let them talk if you have no questions but I suspect some of you probably do have questions and if you want to direct it to any one of the power was so lonely I wonder what they have said thus far as yes what was your dream was true for this lady and her very good memories are really who are you sir. Because really you sure it was a political situation that changes with. Never before have been this route to the thing that's going on at 13 or 14. That's right. Well we're going to take a crack at two things two things really happened one was at the Ford Foundation phased out of public television it was taken over by the government and not the Ford Foundation but public public television was one of them by the government
and we had a producer's committee at the time now and I went down to Washington to testify on the hearings and we did a lot of lobbying at that time we were against the public television television bill as it stood because it was for only one year funding which meant that in effect sent to Congress was a review would probably tell as we do every year in the decide upon the money which naturally would have some kind of a cooling effect on the producers and public television of the station managers. We lost that we were asking for long term funding we lost that battle. So that was the institutional framework of what happened it still goes on today. What happened politically after that war is that a lot of the program including dream machine and some of the stuff that we were doing to Channel 13 in those days plus other programming. It was basically I think had some had a liberal bias to some extent it was against the war in Vietnam we were all young we were all part of the 60s and early 70s. And a lot of that struck over the next administration the Nixon administration basically broke up public television in a way so that made it impossible for
direct funding to go to a national organization the way any TV used to be. It's later became it's almost like a committee not to get a program done you have to go to the stations you have to put together the money you have to go to a corporation to put it into the dresser. You know what I tell you about a time dream machine was going to most always are. Oh she did I should mention the last thing I made I think is between funding a program service which is what Ford Foundation did we got a lump sum of money roughly 10 million dollars a year to provide X number of hours actually five hours a week of program and funding a program which is the way for the most part it is done today and that allows for less freedom when you fund programs rather than funding a program service and what these people have described is a situation where we had money in the hand that we could spend it any way we wish
to spend and that was the source of the Freedom Now you can't do that because you can program is what flowers are producers we all have to go out and look for funding for the individual program. As Jack mentioned before and as I was doing other remarks that at the time we were at any t. we didn't care about funding because it was there. Now we want to get something on public television we have to make a proposal a detail proposal and sell it in the same way literally that you sell the commercial showed a commercial network and heaven help you if you're doing a show like The Green Machine today with morsels unlimited cream pie or all of us or something even to get a corporate sponsor to come in for that. On the IBM show problems with a sketch. As a matter of fact I think another element here and that's the political side as well. I was told by the Hartford gun who was then president of PBS that the dream machine was not supposed to return for a second season for two seasons and that he personally he served fought for it among the
stations to get it back on because it was such a groundswell of support for him in the stations. I do know for example to be specific that in one case and he did a piece for us which was called In Defense of politicians it was a priceless piece. And in it he said in effect we really shouldn't criticize our politicians it's not easy to go out there day after day and appear on one side of the city for a group and say one thing and then go on the other side of the city and say something completely different a week later the Congressional Record carried every comment from a congressman saying our public television public phone should not be used for programs that criticize our politicians and that was the environment that we were in you really also did a piece on the army as I recall which is that they were more noncommissioned officer than private in the Army and I think that while in Washington can't state speak it could now be very long years ago. Yeah you know. There was a reason although there is something else because I don't want to guess the cooling effect over a period
of years and so that finally I think public television executives get worn down by all of that and so now people don't even try are going to find that to go and talk to people. It's very difficult to try and sell a show because so PBS now that it might all be controversial because they'll basically say to me I just did just make a film on Cuba for example and the public doesn't exactly basically say gee it's terrific but we'll never get on the air. Now you know we say well why don't you try it let's at least let people see it you know. Well I'm sure we still won't get it on the air. But you see what I'm saying there is a wearing effect on it. Jack I think there's something else that needs to be said also when the dream machine was born and that era and then the years preceding it. And he was the sole producer of programming for the public television system and the stations public television stations around the country had a choice of any TV or not and he tv so to speak that is they could run the show or not run the show and not every station was
wild about the great American great machine the Minneapolis station refused to run it saying that their local programs were more important for example. But in the early stages one PBS was first organized in about 19 or 70 69 or 70 70 because it was organized. It took over the network and PBS was a cooperative It still is of stations the stations own the network and they decide or and nationally did they did not decide what would go on the network the way it was set up originally was that we would bear the responsibility and they had to distribute the program if we would bear the responsibility. Well one day the dream machine did want to Jacqueline's his pieces on Paul Jacobs using Paul Jacobs Paul among other things it was look radical. I mean he was at all. He was bald which means I want to have radical but it was a bad like you described it because I'm not going to describe it but when it got down to Washington PBS said
in effect We can't run this. We're going to take it out. And we said we stand behind it run it and they arbitrarily took it out even though they were not permitted to do so by their own bylaws. And after taking it out the station board membership of PBS got together and the president of PBS said did we do the right thing and they said yes from now on you have the power to decide what goes on and what does not go on the air and it was the Paul japes piece that turned that now you have to in effect get the stations to agree on whatever it is you're going to do. You want to talk about the problem of the piece the problem was the piece was a story about FBI informants and Paul found a number of people who had been FBI infiltrators into peace groups and radical groups and had actually been agent provocateurs that had encouraged these groups to plant bombs to do destructive illegal acts and and these he got them on camera to tell the stories and tell what they had done. He did not know it when he
approached the FBI for confirmation of the story. The FBI stonewalled refused to come on the program. When PBS got the program they used what they what they still do with certain kinds of programs saying that it's not objective since you don't have the FBI point of view. Well it was impossible because the FBI was not there or invited you know we invited Jagger Hoover a letter from him refusing saying I won't honor this by my coming on your show and this was a time when Hoover was clean as a hound's tooth that these sort of things were just not suspected at the FBI. I got a letter after al got one from Jud Cooper saying he was turning it over to the. The attorney general of the Justice Department I think it was but I thought that's where he worked so I didn't pay what we had to the fact that I'm one of the interesting side bar was by that time I had left three machine and was running the program you know over Channel 13 and when I heard of this I called Allen said I want to he let us take the piece we will run it and we'll run it on channel 13 and then what we invite you on and other people
on to discuss the journalistic merits and to expose PBS his stand on what turned into a big to do it got to be such a big to do they ran the piece nationally on a special hour and we had eight Rosenthal from the New York Times and Bill Cohen from any team in Hartford going from PBS Norman Cousins Mormon husbands Paul was Jake was on the show. And they basically it basically came down to the fact that a lot of the people on the show thought that it was not a very good piece of journalism that especially Abe Rosenthal from the times. A week later two weeks later at the exact analogy a Rosenthal on the front page of the times it was the exact same story with the exact same people with no comment from the FBI and it was later proven that everything that Paul had in that piece was absolutely correct. So in fact it was as we had said from the very beginning a very good piece of journalism. But Jim is correct that gave PBS the authority and since then they've actually now what they do is if you've got a film I later did a documentary on Jacobs that PBS was very worried about six seven years later
about the government cover up a little over radiation and the exposure of populations to it from the testing and PBS decided to run it but they flagged all the stations around the country and said This thing is coming. Look out for it. And a number of them didn't run the Chicago station the Boston station we finally got the show on the air but not without a great deal of pressure from Congress station also refused to run one of your pieces that would lend a laugh and to people in the band. Oh it wasn't you know that when you train people in a tearing up for a minute. They refused to run out it was too sexy and they finally got so many protests from their columnists that they ran that segment and had the audience vote on whether we should be running the price of the face of thought he would get up enough to do a vote it was quite pulled on that world it's interesting the station managers who were frightened and chose not to run some shows not just the green machine but other things Jack and Bill and I had done were sometimes caught
- WNET Seminar
- Producing Organization
- Thirteen WNET
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- Thirteen WNET (New York, New York)
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- A panel discussion about the WNET weekly comedy series, The Great American Dream Machine, given by the show's creators. The discussion is preceded by a montage of clips from the show. Panelists include James Day, president of NET and later WNET/Channel 13 and moderator of the discussion, producers Jack Willis, Sheila Nevins, and Alvin Perlmutter, and recurring cast member Marshall Efron. Each offers perspective on the development of The Great American Dream Machine and share notable anecdotes. Topics include the show's precedents, its context of creation, and decisions over how it was made. Panelists also answer audience questions, including questions about the current state of public television and the government's relationship to public television. Part 1 of a two-part program.
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Panelist: Day, James
Panelist: Efron, Marshall
Panelist: Nevins, Sheila
Panelist: Perlmutter, Alvin H.
Panelist: Willis, Jack (Film producer)
Producing Organization: Thirteen WNET
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Thirteen - New York Public Media (WNET)
Identifier: wnet_aacip_992 (WNET Archive)
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- Chicago: “WNET Seminar; The Great American Dream Machine, Part I,” Thirteen WNET, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 18, 2020, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-75-79h44rz7.
- MLA: “WNET Seminar; The Great American Dream Machine, Part I.” Thirteen WNET, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 18, 2020. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-75-79h44rz7>.
- APA: WNET Seminar; The Great American Dream Machine, Part I. Boston, MA: Thirteen WNET, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-75-79h44rz7