Bill Persky

Writer/ Producer / Director


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his four-hour Archive interview, Bill Persky discusses his early years in advertising and radio, before teaming up with longtime partner, Sam Denoff. He describes how after writing for The Steve Allen Show and The Andy Williams Show, he and Denoff were hired to write for The Dick Van Dyke Show, where they eventually became producers. He reveals the genesis of the series' most well-known episodes including "That's My Boy" and "Coast to Coast Bigmouth." Persky outlines the creation of their next show, That Girl and its role in promoting women's liberation. He speaks of his continuing interest in directing and his eventual transition to directing, following the end of his partnership with Denoff. Lastly, he describes the creation of Kate and Allie and his five-year association with the series. He concludes the interview by describing some of his current projects with Nick at Nite and TV Land. Karen Herman conducted the interview in New York, NY on November 12, 2005.

"The Dick Van Dyke Show" gave writers something to aspire to. There was a purity about humanity... nobody was vicious. Funny is when we are brought down from being too pompous about being human beings."

People Talking About ...
Highlights
Bill Persky on his first job in television coming up with a storyline for Howdy Doody
Bill Persky on working with The Dick Van Dyke Show executive producer Sheldon Leonard
Bill Persky on how he and partner San Denoff came to write for The Dick Van Dyke Show, on on writing the classic episode "That's My Boy??" with Sheldon Leonard
Bill Persky on casting That Girl, and on the network wanting to get rid of Ted Bessell as "Donald Hollinger"
Bill Persky on directing Welcome Back, Kotter produced by James Komack and starring John Travolta
Bill Persky on his favorite episode of Kate & Allie "Brother Can You Spare a Dime"
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early childhood and influences
On getting started as a writer for radio; on meeting Sam Denoff and George Shapiro; on writing a pilot
On getting his break writing for television on The Steve Allen Show through Bill Dana; on Steve Allen and Tim Conway

Chapter 2

On writing for Gene Kelly on The Julie Andrews Show, and on Gene teaching him a dance step; on writing for The Andy Williams Show with Harry Crane; on Jack Palance and on being fired from The Andy Williams Show
On how he and partner San Denoff came to write for The Dick Van Dyke Show, on on writing the classic episode "That's My Boy??" with Sheldon Leonard; on he and Sam Denoff becoming producers of The Dick Van Dyke Show
On working with show creator Carl Reiner on The Dick Van Dyke Show; on working with The Dick Van Dyke Show executive producer Sheldon Leonard; on writing, along with San Denoff, The Dick Van Dyke Show episode "Big Max Calvada" which guest-stars executive producer Sheldon Leonard

Chapter 3

On working with Dick Van Dyke as "Rob Petrie" on The Dick Van Dyke Show, and on Van Dyke's great talents; on working with Mary Tyler Moore as "Laura Petrie" on The Dick Van Dyke Show; on co-writing with Sam Denoff the special Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman which featured Mary Tyler Moore, and on his friendship with Moore
on working with Mary Tyler Moore on The Dick Van Dyke Show reunion special in 2004; on writing with Sam Denoff the Emmy winning The Dick Van Dyke Show episodes "Coast to Coast Big Mouth" and "The Gunslinger"; on his favorite episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show

Chapter 4

On how The Dick Van Dyke Show reflected its era; on shooting The Dick Van Dyke Show on the week of the John F. Kennedy assassination; on the legacy of The Dick Van Dyke Show and on what comedy is
On creating That Girl starring Marlo Thomas with San Denoff; on casting That Girl, and on the network wanting to get rid of Ted Bessell as "Donald Hollinger"; on Marlo Thomas' involvement in the production of That Girl

Chapter 5

On how That Girl reflected its time, and on the show's feminist undertones; on writing for and directing Kate & Allie starring Susan Saint James and Jane Curtin; on the relationship between the two leads on Kate & Allie
On how Susan Saint James and Jane Curtin worked together on Kate & Allie; on the kids from Kate & Allie Frederick Koehler, Allison Smith, and Ari Meyers; on the Kate & Allie episode "Landlady" which dealt with LGBTQ issues

Chapter 6

On his favorite episode of Kate & Allie "Brother Can You Spare a Dime"; on the Kate & Allie episode "The Very Loud Family" which he won an Emmy Award for directing; on the addition of Sam Freed as "Bob Barsky" on Kate & Allie and on the episode "The Cakes"
On his failed series Working it Out; on his relationship with the networks, and on working with Brandon Tartikoff and Grant Tinker
On making the transition from writer to director with The Montefuscos; on splitting up with Sam Denoff as a result of the series Big Eddie

Chapter 7

On his collaboration with writing partner San Denoff; on writing, with Sam Denoff, The Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris Special; on writing Good Morning World starring Goldie Hawn with Sam Denoff
On directing Orson Welles in the Hallmark Hall of Fame production of "The Man Who Came to Dinner"; on what attracted him to directing and on directing Welcome Back. Kotter; on getting work as a director

Chapter 8

On making a deal with CBS to direct pilots; on then-current projects; on career highlights
On his career highlights; on advice to aspiring writers and directors; on how he'd like to be remembered and the "watermelon story"
Shows

Andy Williams Show, The

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Bill Persky on writing for The Andy Williams Show with Harry Crane
Bill Persky on Jack Palance and on being fired from The Andy Williams Show

Big Eddie

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Bill Persky on splitting up with Sam Denoff as a result of the series Big Eddie

Dick Van Dyke Show, The

View Show Page
Bill Persky on how he and partner San Denoff came to write for The Dick Van Dyke Show, on on writing the classic episode "That's My Boy??" with Sheldon Leonard
Bill Persky on he and Sam Denoff becoming producers of The Dick Van Dyke Show
Bill Persky on working with show creator Carl Reiner on The Dick Van Dyke Show
Bill Persky on working with The Dick Van Dyke Show executive producer Sheldon Leonard
Bill Persky on writing, along with San Denoff, The Dick Van Dyke Show episode "Big Max Calvada" which guest-stars executive producer Sheldon Leonard
Bill Persky on working with Dick Van Dyke as "Rob Petrie" on The Dick Van Dyke Show, and on Van Dyke's great talents
Bill Persky on working with Mary Tyler Moore as "Laura Petrie" on The Dick Van Dyke Show
Bill Persky on working with Mary Tyler Moore on The Dick Van Dyke Show reunion special in 2004
Bill Persky on writing with Sam Denoff the Emmy winning The Dick Van Dyke Show episode "Coast to Coast Big Mouth"
Bill Persky on writing with Sam Denoff The Dick Van Dyke Show episode "The Gunslinger"
Bill Persky on his favorite Dick Van Dyke Show episodes including "100 Terrible Hours" and "The Lady and the Babysitter"
Bill Persky on how The Dick Van Dyke Show reflected its era
Bill Persky on shooting The Dick Van Dyke Show on the week of the John F. Kennedy assassination
Bill Persky on the legacy of The Dick Van Dyke Show

Dick Van Dyke Show, The: "Coast to Coast Big Mouth"

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Bill Persky on writing with Sam Denoff the Emmy winning The Dick Van Dyke Show episode "Coast to Coast Big Mouth"

Dick Van Dyke Show, The: "The Gunslinger"

View Show Page
Bill Persky on writing with Sam Denoff The Dick Van Dyke Show episode "The Gunslinger"

Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman

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Bill Persky on co-writing with Sam Denoff the special Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman which featured Mary Tyler Moore, and on his friendship with Moore

Emmy Awards, The (Primetime and Daytime)

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Bill Persky on writing, with Sam Denoff, the Emmy-winning The Dick Van Dyke Show episode "Coast to Coast Big Mouth"
Bill Persky on the Kate & Allie episode "The Very Loud Family" which he won an Emmy for directing

Good Morning World

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Bill Persky on writing Good Morning World starring Goldie Hawn with Sam Denoff

Hallmark Hall of Fame

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Bill Persky on directing Orson Welles in the Hallmark Hall of Fame production of "The Man Who Came to Dinner"

Hallmark Hall of Fame: "The Man Who Came to Dinner"

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Bill Persky on directing Orson Welles in the Hallmark Hall of Fame production of "The Man Who Came to Dinner"

Howdy Doody

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Bill Persky on his first job in television coming up with a storyline for Howdy Doody

Julie Andrews Show, The

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Bill Persky on writing for Gene Kelly on The Julie Andrews Show, and on Gene teaching him a dance step

Kate & Allie

View Show Page
Bill Persky on writing for and directing Kate & Allie starring Susan Saint James and Jane Curtin
Bill Persky on the relationship between "Kate McArdle" played by Susan Saint James and "Allie Lowell" played by Jane Curtin on Kate & Allie
Bill Persky on how Susan Saint James and Jane Curtin worked together on Kate & Allie
Bill Persky on the kids from Kate & Allie Frederick Koehler, Allison Smith, and Ari Meyers
Bill Persky on the Kate & Allie episode "Landlady" which dealt with LGBTQ issues
Bill Persky on his favorite episode of Kate & Allie "Brother Can You Spare a Dime"
Bill Persky on the Kate & Allie episode "The Very Loud Family" which he won an Emmy Award for directing
Bill Persky on the addition of Sam Freed as "Bob Barsky" on Kate & Allie and on the episode "The Cakes"

Montefuscos, The

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Bill Persky on making the transition from writer to director with The Montefuscos

New Steve Allen Show, The (1961)

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Bill Persky on Bill Dana, who hired him and partner Sam Denoff to be writers on The New Steve Allen Show, and the story about their 10 pound spec script

Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris Special, The

View Show Page
Bill Persky on writing, with Sam Denoff, The Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris Special

That Girl

View Show Page
Bill Persky on creating That Girl starring Marlo Thomas with San Denoff
Bill Persky on casting That Girl, and on the network wanting to get rid of Ted Bessell as "Donald Hollinger"
Bill Persky on Marlo Thomas' involvement in the production of That Girl
Bill Persky on how That Girl reflected its time, and on the show's feminist undertones

Welcome Back, Kotter

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Bill Persky on directing Welcome Back, Kotter produced by James Komack and starring John Travolta

Working it Out

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Bill Persky on his failed series Working it Out
Topics

Advice

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Bill Persky on advice to aspiring television writers
Bill Persky on advice to aspiring television directors

Classic TV series episodes

View Topic
Bill Persky on how he and partner San Denoff came to write for The Dick Van Dyke Show, on on writing the classic episode "That's My Boy??" with Sheldon Leonard

Comedy

View Topic
Bill Persky on how he and partner San Denoff came to write for The Dick Van Dyke Show, on on writing the classic episode "That's My Boy??" with Sheldon Leonard
Bill Persky on writing with Sam Denoff the Emmy winning The Dick Van Dyke Show episode "Coast to Coast Big Mouth"

Diversity in Television

View Topic
Bill Persky on how he and partner San Denoff came to write for The Dick Van Dyke Show, on on writing the classic episode "That's My Boy??" with Sheldon Leonard
Bill Persky on how That Girl reflected its time, and on the show's feminist undertones
Bill Persky on the Kate & Allie episode "Landlady" which dealt with LGBTQ issues

Emmy Awards

View Topic
Bill Persky on writing (with Sam Denoff) the Emmy-winning The Dick Van Dyke Show episode "Coast to Coast Big Mouth"
Bill Persky on the Kate & Allie episode "The Very Loud Family" which he won an Emmy for directing

Historic Events and Social Change

View Topic
Bill Persky on how he and partner San Denoff came to write for The Dick Van Dyke Show, on on writing the classic episode "That's My Boy??" with Sheldon Leonard
Bill Persky on shooting The Dick Van Dyke Show on the week of the John F. Kennedy assassination
Bill Persky on how That Girl reflected its time, and on the show's feminist undertones
Bill Persky on the Kate & Allie episode "Landlady" which dealt with LGBTQ issues

JFK Assassination and Funeral

View Topic
Bill Persky on shooting The Dick Van Dyke Show on the week of the John F. Kennedy assassination

LGBTQ

View Topic
Bill Persky on the Kate & Allie episode "Landlady" which dealt with LGBTQ issues

Pop Culture

View Topic
Bill Persky on how he and partner San Denoff came to write for The Dick Van Dyke Show, on on writing the classic episode "That's My Boy??" with Sheldon Leonard
Bill Persky on writing with Sam Denoff the Emmy winning The Dick Van Dyke Show episode "Coast to Coast Big Mouth"

Television Industry

View Topic
Bill Persky on casting That Girl, and on the network wanting to get rid of Ted Bessell as "Donald Hollinger"
Bill Persky on his relationship with the networks, and on working with Brandon Tartikoff and Grant Tinker
Bill Persky on making a deal with CBS to direct pilots
Bill Persky on advice to aspiring television writers
Bill Persky on advice to aspiring television directors

Underrepresented Voices

View Topic
Bill Persky on how he and partner San Denoff came to write for The Dick Van Dyke Show, on on writing the classic episode "That's My Boy??" with Sheldon Leonard

Women

View Topic
Bill Persky on how That Girl reflected its time, and on the show's feminist undertones
Professions

Directors

View Profession
Bill Persky on making the transition from writer to director with The Montefuscos
Bill Persky on what attracted him to directing
Bill Persky on getting work as a director
Bill Persky on advice to aspiring television directors

Writers

View Profession
Bill Persky on getting started as a writer for television, and the story of the 10 pounds of comedy material
Bill Persky on his favorite comedy joke, which he wrote for The Steve Allen Show, about Ben Casey
Bill Persky on what comedy is, "a positive look at negative things"
Bill Persky on his collaboration with writing partner San Denoff
Bill Persky on advice to aspiring television writers
Genres

Comedy Series

View Genre
Bill Persky on his favorite comedy joke, which he wrote for The Steve Allen Show, about Ben Casey, about Ben Casey
Bill Persky on writing and producing, with Sam Denoff, The Dick Van Dyke Show
Bill Persky on writing, with Sam Denoff, The Dick Van Dyke Show
Bill Persky on creating That Girl with Marlo Thomas
Bill Persky on how That Girl reflected its time, and on the show's feminist undertones
Bill Persky on writing and directing Kate & Allie
Bill Persky on writing and directing Kate & Allie
Bill Persky on his failed series Working it Out
Bill Persky on making the transition from writer to director with The Montefuscos
Bill Persky on splitting up with Sam Denoff as a result of the series Big Eddie
Bill Persky on writing Good Morning World starring Goldie Hawn with Sam Denoff
Bill Persky on directing Welcome Back, Kotter produced by James Komack and starring John Travolta

Music Shows & Variety Shows/Specials

View Genre
Bill Persky on writing for The Julie Andrews Show and The Andy Williams Show
Bill Persky on writing, with Sam Denoff, The Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris Special

TV Movies/Miniseries/Dramatic Specials

View Genre
Bill Persky on directing Orson Welles in the Hallmark Hall of Fame production of "The Man Who Came to Dinner"
People

Steve Allen

View Interview Page
Bill Persky on Bill Dana, who hired him and partner Sam Denoff to be writers on The New Steve Allen Show and how they got him their 10 pound spec script

Ted Bessell

View Person Page
Bill Persky on casting That Girl, and on the network wanting to get rid of Ted Bessell as "Donald Hollinger"

Sid Caesar

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Bill Persky on writing, with Sam Denoff, The Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris Special

George Carlin

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Bill Persky on casting That Girl, and on George Carlin playing "Ann Marie's" first agent

Harry Crane

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Bill Persky on writing for The Andy Williams Show with Harry Crane

Jane Curtin

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Bill Persky on writing for and directing Kate & Allie starring Susan Saint James and Jane Curtin
Bill Persky on the relationship between "Kate McArdle" played by Susan Saint James and "Allie Lowell" played by Jane Curtin on Kate & Allie
Bill Persky on how Susan Saint James and Jane Curtin worked together on Kate & Allie

Bill Dana

View Interview Page
Bill Persky on Bill Dana, who hired him and partner Sam Denoff to be writers on The New Steve Allen Show and how they got him their 10 pound spec script

Sam Denoff

View Interview Page
Bill Persky on Sam Denoff who became his longtime writing partner
Bill Persky on how he and partner San Denoff came to write for The Dick Van Dyke Show, on on writing the classic episode "That's My Boy??" with Sheldon Leonard
Bill Persky on writing, along with San Denoff, The Dick Van Dyke Show episode "Big Max Calvada" which guest-stars executive producer Sheldon Leonard
Bill Persky on writing with Sam Denoff the Emmy winning The Dick Van Dyke Show episode "Coast to Coast Big Mouth"
Bill Persky on writing with Sam Denoff The Dick Van Dyke Show episode "The Gunslinger"
Bill Persky on creating That Girl starring Marlo Thomas with San Denoff
Bill Persky on splitting up with Sam Denoff as a result of the series Big Eddie
Bill Persky on his collaboration with writing partner San Denoff

Dick Van Dyke

View Interview Page
Bill Persky on how he and partner San Denoff came to write for The Dick Van Dyke Show, on on writing the classic episode "That's My Boy??" with Sheldon Leonard
Bill Persky on working with Dick Van Dyke as "Rob Petrie" on The Dick Van Dyke Show, and on Van Dyke's great talents
Bill Persky on co-writing with Sam Denoff the special Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman which featured Mary Tyler Moore, and on his friendship with Moore
Bill Persky on working with Mary Tyler Moore on The Dick Van Dyke Show reunion special in 2004
Bill Persky on his favorite Dick Van Dyke Show episodes including "100 Terrible Hours" and "The Lady and the Babysitter"

Goldie Hawn

View Person Page
Bill Persky on writing Good Morning World starring Goldie Hawn with Sam Denoff

Susan Saint James

View Person Page
Bill Persky on writing for and directing Kate & Allie starring Susan Saint James and Jane Curtin
Bill Persky on the relationship between "Kate McArdle" played by Susan Saint James and "Allie Lowell" played by Jane Curtin on Kate & Allie
Bill Persky on working with Susan Saint James and Jane Curtin worked together on Kate & Allie

Gene Kelly

View Person Page
Bill Persky on writing for Gene Kelly on The Julie Andrews Show, and on Gene teaching him a dance step

John F. Kennedy

View Person Page
Bill Persky on shooting The Dick Van Dyke Show on the week of the John F. Kennedy assassination

James Komack

View Person Page
Bill Persky on directing Welcome Back, Kotter produced by James Komack and starring John Travolta

Sheldon Leonard

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Bill Persky on how he and partner San Denoff came to write for The Dick Van Dyke Show, on on writing the classic episode "That's My Boy??" with Sheldon Leonard
Bill Persky on working with The Dick Van Dyke Show executive producer Sheldon Leonard
Bill Persky on writing, along with San Denoff, The Dick Van Dyke Show episode "Big Max Calvada" which guest-stars executive producer Sheldon Leonard

Mary Tyler Moore

View Interview Page
Bill Persky on working with Mary Tyler Moore as "Laura Petrie" on The Dick Van Dyke Show
Bill Persky on co-writing with Sam Denoff the special Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman which featured Mary Tyler Moore, and on his friendship with Moore

Jack Palance

View Person Page
Bill Persky on Jack Palance and on being fired from The Andy Williams Show

Carl Reiner

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Bill Persky on working with show creator Carl Reiner on The Dick Van Dyke Show
Bill Persky on writing, with Sam Denoff, The Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris Special

George Shapiro

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Bill Persky on meeting George Shapiro while just starting out as a writer with partner Sam Denoff

Brandon Tartikoff

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Bill Persky on his relationship with the networks, and on working with Brandon Tartikoff and Grant Tinker

Marlo Thomas

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Bill Persky on creating That Girl starring Marlo Thomas with San Denoff

Grant Tinker

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Bill Persky on his relationship with the networks, and on working with Brandon Tartikoff and Grant Tinker

John Travolta

View Person Page
Bill Persky on directing Welcome Back, Kotter produced by James Komack and starring John Travolta

Orson Welles

View Person Page
Bill Persky on directing Orson Welles in the Hallmark Hall of Fame production of "The Man Who Came to Dinner"

Andy Williams

View Interview Page
Bill Persky on Jack Palance and on being fired from The Andy Williams Show

All Interviews

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