Bernie Orenstein

Writer / Producer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

Tab

About
About this interview

In his two-hour interview, Bernie Orenstein talks about his early life in Canada and moving to New York City to write for Candid Camera. He discusses writing for The Hollywood Palace and the first project he worked on with his writing/producing partner Saul Turteltaub: the pilot of The Pat Boone Show. Orenstein then details the shows that he and Turteltaub wrote and produced: That Girl, The New Dick Van Dyke Show, and The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show before discussing Sanford and Son, which he and Turteltaub wrote and produced from 1974 to 1977. He goes on to talk about creating What’s Happening!! and his and Turteltaub’s later work, producing and consulting on Kate & Allie and Cosby. He concludes by giving advice to aspiring writers and producers, discussing his connection with the Writers Guild, and sharing how he would like to be remembered. Adrienne Faillace conducted the interview in a joint venture with the Writers Guild Foundation on June 2, 2016 in New York, NY.

“As a writer there’s a great advantage: you’re never out of work. You can always sit down at the typewriter or computer.”

Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his childhood and early influences; on moving to the United States from Canada and writing for Candid Camera and The Les Crane Show
On writing for The Hollywood Palace; on writing the pilot of The Pat Boone Show with Saul Turteltaub
On producing That Girl with Saul Turteltaub; on producing The New Dick Van Dyke Show
On writing for The Monkees; on producing The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show
On producing Sanford and Son with Saul Turteltaub; on specific Sanford and Son episodes; on the popularity of the show and its legacy

Chapter 2

On forming Toy Productions and creating What's Happening!!; on One of the Boys
On creating E/R; on Kate & Allie and Cosby; on Chicken Soup starring Jackie Mason
On his decision to leave American television; on teaching writing and the history of television; on his opinion of then-current television
On his writing process; on the Writers Guild
On his admiration for his writing/producing partner Saul Turteltaub; on advice to aspiring writers and producers; on how he would like to be remembered
Shows

Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show, The

View Show Page
Bernie Orenstein on producing The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show with Saul Turteltaub
04:38

Candid Camera

View Show Page
Bernie Orenstein on his first writing job in the United States, on Candid Camera, and being paired up with Joan Rivers, who was also on the writing staff
01:22

Cosby

View Show Page
Bernie Orenstein on consulting on Cosby
03:27
Bernie Orenstein on Cosby being the last American television show he worked on
01:11

E/R

View Show Page
Bernie Orenstein on creating E/R
02:10

Foley Square

View Show Page
Bernie Orenstein on producing Foley Square with Saul Turteltaub, which was created by Diane English
01:22

Hey Landlord!

View Show Page
Bernie Orenstein on writing Hey Landlord! with Saul Turteltaub and the contributions of Garry Marshall
00:53

Hollywood Palace, The

View Show Page
Bernie Orenstein on getting a job writing on The Hollywood Palace after The Les Crane Show was cancelled
02:43

Kate & Allie

View Show Page
Bernie Orenstein on he and Saul Turteltaub deciding that Marlo Thomas' That Girl character should get married, and his regrets over this because it led to the end of the show and how this same thing happened later on when they produced Kate & Allie
01:22
Bernie Orenstein on producing Kate & Allie, and his regret over having the character of "Allie" get married, which led to the demise of the series
01:14
Bernie Orenstein on working with Susan Saint James on Kate & Allie
00:51
Bernie Orenstein on working with writers and directors on Kate & Allie
01:05

Les Crane Show, The

View Show Page
Bernie Orenstein on writing for The Les Crane Show
02:15

Monkees, The

View Show Page
Bernie Orenstein on writing for The Monkees
02:51

New Dick Van Dyke Show, The

View Show Page
Bernie Orenstein on producing The New Dick Van Dyke Show with Saul Turteltaub
04:40

Pat Boone Show, The

View Show Page
Bernie Orenstein on writing the pilot for The Pat Boone Show with Saul Turteltaub
01:30

Sanford and Son

View Show Page
Bernie Orenstein on producing Sanford and Son with Saul Turteltaub and working with Redd Foxx
03:51
Bernie Orenstein on hiring writers on Sanford and Son and working with the cast
01:50
Bernie Orenstein on the dynamic between Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson as "Fred Sanford" and "Lamont Sanford" on Sanford and Son
03:05
Bernie Orenstein on issues with Standards and Practices on Sanford and Son
00:43
Bernie Orenstein on the Sanford and Son episodes, "Steinberg and Son" and "Fred Meets Redd" and working with Redd Foxx
04:15
Bernie Orenstein on why he thinks Sanford and Son was so successful (his answer: Redd Foxx) and Foxx's input on the show's scripts
00:58
Bernie Orenstein on why Sanford and Son ended
00:47
Bernie Orenstein on the legacy of Sanford and Son
01:02

That Girl

View Show Page
Bernie Orenstein on he and Saul Turteltaub becoming the producers of That Girl
01:00
Bernie Orenstein on he and Saul Turteltaub's responsibilities as producers of That Girl and what they looked for in staff writers
03:43
Bernie Orenstein on he and Saul Turteltaub deciding that Marlo Thomas' That Girl character should get married, and his regrets over this because it led to the end of the show and how this same thing happened later on when they produced Kate & Allie
01:22
Bernie Orenstein on working with Marlo Thomas on That Girl
02:55
Bernie Orenstein on working with Ted Bessell on That Girl and another story about Bessell
03:20
Bernie Orenstein on the lack of network interference on That Girl and the show's theme song
01:32
Bernie Orenstein on the legacy of That Girl: representing feminism on television
02:44

What's Happening!!

View Show Page
Bernie Orenstein on creating What's Happening!! with Saul Turteltaub, which was based on the film "Cooley High"
02:06
Bernie Orenstein on casting What's Happening!!
02:24
Bernie Orenstein on Mabel King leaving What's Happening!!, and issues he and co-creator Saul Turteltaub had with her and other cast members on the show
02:07
Bernie Orenstein on the end of What's Happening!! and trouble with the writer of the screenplay of "Cooley High" (the movie upon which the show was based)
03:21
Topics

Advice

View Topic
Bernie Orenstein on advice for aspiring writers
00:26
Bernie Orenstein on advice for aspiring producers
00:44

Censorship / Standards & Practices

View Topic
Bernie Orenstein on issues with Standards and Practices on Sanford and Son
00:43

Diversity in Television

View Topic
Bernie Orenstein on the legacy of That Girl: representing feminism on television
02:14
Bernie Orenstein on lectures he gives on the influence of African Americans in television
02:09

First Big Break

View Topic
Bernie Orenstein on how he got his start in show business: he dropped out of college after appearing in a University of Toronto show called "The All Varsity Revue"
01:06
Bernie Orenstein on how his first writing job on a Canadian variety show produced by Norman Jewison led to his moving to New York City and writing for Candid Camera
02:31

Minorities

View Topic
Bernie Orenstein on lectures he gives on the influence of African Americans in television
02:09

Pivotal Career Moments

View Topic
Bernie Orenstein on how he got his start in show business: he dropped out of college after appearing in a University of Toronto show called "The All Varsity Revue"
01:06
Bernie Orenstein on how his first writing job on a Canadian variety show produced by Norman Jewison led to his moving to New York City and writing for Candid Camera
02:31

Television Industry

View Topic
Bernie Orenstein on issues with Standards and Practices on Sanford and Son
00:43
Bernie Orenstein on his opinion of then-current television
03:51
Bernie Orenstein on advice for aspiring writers
00:26
Bernie Orenstein on advice for aspiring producers
00:44

Women

View Topic
Bernie Orenstein on the legacy of That Girl: representing feminism on television
02:14
Professions

Editor

View Profession
Bernie Orenstein on editing his television shows over the years
01:11

Post-Production Professionals

View Profession
Bernie Orenstein on editing his television shows over the years
01:11

Producers

View Profession
Bernie Orenstein on he and Saul Turteltaub's responsibilities as producers of That Girl and what they looked for in staff writers
03:43
Bernie Orenstein on advice for aspiring producers
00:44

Writers

View Profession
Bernie Orenstein on he and Saul Turteltaub's responsibilities as producers of That Girl and what they looked for in staff writers
03:43
Bernie Orenstein on collaborating with his writing/producing partner Saul Turteltaub
00:54
Bernie Orenstein on his writing process when writing a novel or play
01:50
Bernie Orenstein on the process of writing for television
02:10
Bernie Orenstein on the process of writing for television
02:10
Bernie Orenstein on his writing process when writing a novel or play
01:50
Bernie Orenstein on advice for aspiring writers
00:26
Genres

Comedy Series

View Genre
Bernie Orenstein on his first writing job in the United States, on Candid Camera and being paired up with Joan Rivers, who was also on the writing staff
01:22
Bernie Orenstein on writing Hey Landlord! with Saul Turteltaub and the contributions of Garry Marshall
00:53
Bernie Orenstein on producing That Girl with Saul Turteltaub
17:22
Bernie Orenstein on producing The New Dick Van Dyke Show with Saul Turteltaub
04:40
Bernie Orenstein on writing for The Monkees
02:51
Bernie Orenstein on producing Sanford and Son with Saul Turteltaub
16:38
Bernie Orenstein on creating What's Happening!! with Saul Turteltaub
10:05
Bernie Orenstein on creating E/R
02:10
Bernie Orenstein on producing Foley Square with Saul Turteltaub, which was created by Diane English
01:22
Bernie Orenstein on producing Kate & Allie
05:02
Bernie Orenstein on consulting on Cosby
03:27
Bernie Orenstein on Cosby being the last American television show he worked on
01:11
Bernie Orenstein on other shows he and Saul Turteltaub created: Condo, This Week in Nemtin, A Touch of Grace, and The Super Comedy Bowl
03:11

Late Night

View Genre
Bernie Orenstein on writing for The Les Crane Show
02:15

Music Shows & Variety Shows/Specials

View Genre
Bernie Orenstein on getting a job writing on The Hollywood Palace after The Les Crane Show was cancelled
02:43
Bernie Orenstein on producing The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show with Saul Turteltaub
04:38

Reality TV

View Genre
Bernie Orenstein on his first writing job in the United States, on Candid Camera and being paired up with Joan Rivers, who was also on the writing staff
01:22

Talk Shows

View Genre
Bernie Orenstein on writing the pilot for The Pat Boone Show with Saul Turteltaub
01:30
People

Ted Bessell

View Person Page
Bernie Orenstein on working with Ted Bessell on That Girl and another story about Bessell
03:20

Marcy Carsey

View Interview Page
Bernie Orenstein on working with producers Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner on Chicken Soup, starring Jackie Mason
03:58

Dana Carvey

View Person Page
Bernie Orenstein on One of the Boys, starring Mickey Rooney, Nathan Lane, and Dana Carvey
04:01

Bing Crosby

View Person Page
Bernie Orenstein on writing a song for Bing Crosby when he appeared on The Hollywood Palace
01:17

Phyllis Diller

View Interview Page
Bernie Orenstein on producing The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show with Saul Turteltaub and working with Phyllis Diller
00:59

Dick Van Dyke

View Interview Page
Bernie Orenstein on working with Dick Van Dyke on The New Dick Van Dyke Show
01:28

Diane English

View Interview Page
Bernie Orenstein on producing Foley Square, which was created by Diane English
01:22

Redd Foxx

View Person Page
Bernie Orenstein on he and Saul Turteltaub being hired to produce Sanford and Son by Norman Lear, and Redd Foxx almost dropping out of the show before they started
02:33
Bernie Orenstein on how much he and Saul Turteltaub enjoyed working with Redd Foxx on Sanford and Son, and how Foxx protected them when people criticized them for being white writers on an African American show
01:16
Bernie Orenstein on the dynamic between Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson as "Fred Sanford" and "Lamont Sanford" on Sanford and Son
03:04
Bernie Orenstein on why he thinks Sanford and Son was so successful (his answer: Redd Foxx) and Foxx's input on the show's scripts
00:58

Allen Funt

View Person Page
Bernie Orenstein on his first writing job in the United States, on Candid Camera and being paired up with Joan Rivers, who was also on the writing staff and who was eventually fired by Allen Funt
00:58

Susan Saint James

View Person Page
Bernie Orenstein on working with Susan Saint James on Kate & Allie
00:51

Norman Jewison

View Person Page
Bernie Orenstein on his first television writing job, which was on an early Canadian variety show produced by Norman Jewison called The Barris Beat
01:21

Hope Lange

View Person Page
Bernie Orenstein on working with Hope Lange on The New Dick Van Dyke Show and meeting her then-boyfriend, Frank Sinatra
01:14

Norman Lear

View Interview Page
Bernie Orenstein on he and Saul Turteltaub being hired to produce Sanford and Son by Norman Lear, and Redd Foxx almost dropping out of the show before they started
02:33

Garry Marshall

View Interview Page
Bernie Orenstein on writing Hey Landlord! with Saul Turteltaub and the contributions of Garry Marshall
00:53

Jackie Mason

View Person Page
Bernie Orenstein on working with producers Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner on Chicken Soup, starring Jackie Mason
03:58

Lorne Michaels

View Person Page
Bernie Orenstein on hiring Lorne Michaels as a writer on The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show
02:33

Bill Persky

View Interview Page
Bernie Orenstein on Jane Curtain and Susan Saint James missing Bill Persky, who had helmed Kate & Allie before Orenstein and Saul Turteltaub came on
00:34

Carl Reiner

View Interview Page
Bernie Orenstein on working with Carl Reiner on The New Dick Van Dyke Show
01:45

Joan Rivers

View Interview Page
Bernie Orenstein on his first writing job in the United States, on Candid Camera and being paired up with Joan Rivers, who was also on the writing staff and who was eventually fired by Allen Funt
00:58

Mickey Rooney

View Interview Page
Bernie Orenstein on One of the Boys, starring Mickey Rooney, Nathan Lane, and Dana Carvey
04:01

Garry Shandling

View Interview Page
Bernie Orenstein on Garry Shandling writing for Sanford and Son
00:25

Frank Sinatra

View Person Page
Bernie Orenstein on working with Hope Lange on The New Dick Van Dyke Show and meeting her then-boyfriend, Frank Sinatra
01:14

Marlo Thomas

View Interview Page
Bernie Orenstein on working with Marlo Thomas on That Girl, and his discomfort at the time with having a woman as his boss (a feeling which he now regrets)
02:55

Saul Turteltaub

View Interview Page
Bernie Orenstein on writing the pilot for The Pat Boone Show with Saul Turteltaub and writing sitcom pilots together at night
01:30
Bernie Orenstein on writing Hey Landlord! with Saul Turteltaub and the contributions of Garry Marshall
00:53
Bernie Orenstein on collaborating with his writing/producing partner Saul Turteltaub
00:55
Bernie Orenstein on his admiration for his writing/producing partner Saul Turteltaub
00:45

Tom Werner

View Interview Page
Bernie Orenstein on working with producers Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner on Chicken Soup, starring Jackie Mason
03:58

Demond Wilson

View Person Page
Bernie Orenstein on the dynamic between Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson as "Fred Sanford" and "Lamont Sanford" on Sanford and Son
03:04

All Interviews

Q
S