This story first appeared in the March 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter.
On March 11, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences will have its second-most-important night of the year behind the Emmys. The organization will induct director-producer Ron Howard, sportscaster Al Michaels, CBS president and CEO Leslie Moonves, CBS News journalist Bob Schieffer, writer-producer Dick Wolf and the late Philo Farnsworth (the scientist who gets much of the credit for inventing TV during the 1920s) into its 22nd Hall of Fame class. “This is a good class to be getting in with,” says Wolf. “Everyone’s still active except Philo, and he already has his epitaph.”
Moonves echoes that sentiment: “When you read the list of who’s in the Hall of Fame, you see what a great honor it is. Al Michaels and I joke that not only are we getting in, we’re getting in without using steroids.”
The induction dinner for those joining the 120 already in the Hall will take place at the Beverly Hilton; The Big Bang Theory’s Kaley Cuoco will host. For the first time, the gala will benefit the Television Academy Foundation’s Archive of American Television, which consists of 750 in-depth interviews with stars, producers, executives and below-the-line talent. About 50 are added each year, and all are viewable at Emmytvlegends.org. “We’re capturing our industry’s oral history,” says foundation executive director Norma Pichardo. “The videos are unedited and quite addictive once you start watching them.”
Adds TV Academy COO Alan Perris: “People always ask what we do between Emmy shows, figuring we sleep for nine months. But we have so many programs. What we find people are most interested in is our archive. It’s got the most important people in television history telling their life story in person.”
Wolf sat for his archive interview about 10 years ago, and it took six hours over the course of a few days. The Law & Order creator says it wasn’t a strain because “my mouth is my job.” He adds that the best definition of his occupation came from his then-8-year-old daughter, who was asked what her father did for a living. She replied that he was a producer. Asked what that was, she said, “He talks on the phone and yells at people.”
But “at the dinner, I’ll be the soul of brevity,” promises Wolf. “My horror is being the last speaker when everybody is wondering where the nearest exit to the valet is.”