Huell Howser, offbeat and beloved host of 'California's Gold,' has died

Claudine Zap
Yahoo! TV

Huell Howser, the man famous for loving California on his popular show "California's Gold," has died, according to public television station KCET. He was 67.

The public TV host celebrated the odd and the oddly wonderful on his many shows, which also included "Videolog, "Road Trip," and "California's Green." The folksy host could get excited over an artichoke festival, gleefully explore the "upside-down house," and watch in amazement at an avocado-eating dog.

With the news of Howser's death, his name soon become a trending topic on Twitter, bringing forth a flurry of comments. Comic Andy Richter posted, "Really sad about Huell Howser's death. Seriously, he was one of my all-time favorite TV people."

Another fan, "Simpsons" creator Matt Groening, created a character in Howser's honor named Howell Huser, who dubbed Springfield the "worst town ever." The real-life Howser liked it so much that he appeared on the show in 2009. Said Groening, "He's beloved. And people like to say that: 'Yeah, he's beloved.' But he's even more beloved than that."

The formula for the success of his quirky shows were simple, according to Howser, who noted on his website, "We operate on the premise that TV isn't brain surgery. People's stories are what it's all about." He added, "If you have a good story, it doesn't have to be overproduced. I want our stories to reveal the wonders of the human spirit and the richness of life in California, including its history, people, culture, and natural wonders."

[Photos: TV Stars We Lost in 2012]

But the true secret of his shows was Howser himself: The down-home host with the trademark phrase "That's amazing" spoken in his Tennessee twang, the thick white hair, sunglasses, and big grin -- not to mention bulging biceps -- was at the center of them.

Before quietly retiring in November, the most adored documentarian of the out of the way and the little known had completed 18 seasons and more than 440 episodes of "California's Gold."

"Huell was able to brilliantly capture the wonder in obscurity," said Al Jerome, president and chief executive of KCET. "From pastrami sandwiches and scarves loomed from lint to the exoticism of cactus gardens and the splendor of Yosemite, he brought us the magic, the humor, and poignancy of our region. We will miss him very much."

Watch Homer Simpson congratulate Huell Howser for his 25 years at KCET: