Oct 12, 2018
This week’s episode is a minicast, an interview with Paula Finn, author of Sitcom Writers Talk Shop: Behind the Scenes with Carl Reiner, Norman Lear, and Other Geniuses of TV Comedy. It’s a collection of interviews with some of the finest writers in television history, including big names like Reiner, Lear, James L. Brooks, Larry Charles, Phil Rosenthal, Mike Reiss, and Al Jean, and some important figures lesser-known outside of TV nerd fandom like Treva Silverman, Leonard Stern, and husband and wife team Austin and Irma Kalish.
These people contributed foundational work in the art of television. Reiner wrote on Your Show of Shows and Caesar’s Hour and created The Dick Van Dyke Show. Lear is responsible for more great sitcoms than you can count, including All In the Family, The Jeffersons, Sanford and Son, Maude, and One Day At A Time. Brooks co-created Mary Tyler Moore, Taxi, Rhoda, and The Simpsons. Silverman wrote for Mary Tyler Moore and The Monkees, Stern for Get Smart, The Honeymooners, and The Phil Silvers Show. Austin and Irma Kalish had a wide-ranging career writing on everything from F Troop to All In the Family.
I could spend this entire introduction giving you credits, and it would read like a list of every show you’ve ever loved. Luckily, I don’t have to do that because Finn has written the book, and you can pick that up on Amazon or wherever fine books about comedy are sold. And Finn has a particularly interesting vantage point from which to write about television. Her father, Herb Finn, was a sitcom writer who worked on The Honeymooners, The Flintstones, Gilligan’s Island, and others. I caught up with Finn by phone to talk about the book, television, and growing up with a funny father.