James L. Brooks

Show Creator/Producer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his five-and-a-half-hour Archive interview, James L. Brooks recalls his early days as a page at CBS - working his way up to the newsroom - and speaks about his transition from researching documentaries to writing comedy. He tells of writing scripts for Hey Landlord, The Andy Griffith Show and My Three Sons before co-creating (with Gene Reynolds) Room 222. Brooks describes being teamed with Allan Burns to create and produce The Mary Tyler Moore Show and discusses his work on the program's spin-off series: Rhoda, Phyllis and Lou Grant. He recounts his work after he left MTM - producing Taxi, The Associates, and The Tracey Ullman Show, as well as several feature films including the Oscar-winning "Terms of Endearment." Brooks also talks about the craft of writing and producing for television and his continuing work as executive producer on The Simpsons. Karen Herman conducted the two-part interview on January 17 and February 12, 2003 in Bel-Air, CA.

"One of the amazing things about writing, is that you know in comedy that it works if they laugh. It keeps everybody honest in comedy and it's why people develop strange personalities. It's just a brutal fact that if they don't laugh, you die; if they laugh, you live." 

Highlights
On how comedy works: it's good if you get a laugh 
02:00
On never thinking he could make a living as a writer
00:54
On his mother and aunt laughing at a funeral and becoming the inspiration for the "Chuckles Bites the Dust" episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
00:43
James L. Brooks on The Simpsons' audience, the hidden jokes that appeal to different audiences, and catchphrases
02:21
On how much he learned from the cast of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
00:37
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his childhood and early influences; on devouring published television scripts as a youngster; on interviewing celebrities for his high school newspaper; on becoming a CBS page
On his one year at NYU; on his experiences as a CBS page at CBS News

Chapter 2

On CBS News and operating in the public interest; on leaving the news and moving to Los Angeles to work on David Wolper documentaries
On working for National Geographic as a writer and his fear of insects; on his first television comedy job on My Mother The Car
On his comedic influences; on writing for The Andy Griffith Show, My Three Sons, My Friend Tony and Room 222

Chapter 3

On working on Room 222 with Gene Reynolds; on teaming with Allan Burns to develop The Mary Tyler Moore Show; on tweaking the first script of The Mary Tyler Moore Show after it received a poor response from the audience
On creating, writing and casting The Mary Tyler Moore Show

Chapter 4

On the cast and crew of The Mary Tyler Moore Show; on becoming a producer on the show
On boss Grant Tinker and leaving MTM; on the writing staff of The Mary Tyler Moore Show; on his inspiration for show ideas

Chapter 5

On writer Ed. Weinberger; on specific episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
On the legacy of The Mary Tyler Moore Show

Chapter 6

On the wrap party for The Mary Tyler Moore Show; on Phyllis and Rhoda
On co-creating Lou Grant and staying with the series for a short time; on forming John Charles Walters Productions; on the creation of and ensemble cast of Taxi

Chapter 7

On the cast and genesis of Taxi
On story ideas for Taxi; on working with director Jim Burrows; on writing scripts for Taxi

Chapter 8

On the making of some of the best-known episodes of Taxi; on the last season of Taxi on NBC after being cancelled by ABC
On the theme song to Taxi; on co-creating The Associates
On writing and producing his first feature, Starting Over; On writing and directing Terms of Endearment

Chapter 9

On Terms of Endearment, Broadcast News, The Tracey Ullman Show and The Simpsons
On working for the nascent 4th network, FOX; On the characters of The Simpsons

Chapter 10

On the creation of The Simpsons and its cultural relevancy
On The Critic; On As Good As It Gets; On What About Joan
On his work-life balance

Chapter 11

On Gracie Films; on winning Emmy, Academy, and Golden Globe awards
On his writing process; on advice to aspiring writers and show creators; on his greatest achievement; on mentoring
Shows

All in the Family

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James L. Brooks on his Mary Tyler Moore Show being in the Saturday night CBS lineup with All in the Family; on comparisons between the two shows
04:44

Andy Griffith Show, The

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James L. Brooks on writing episodes of The Andy Griffith Show and My Three Sons
00:28

Associates, The

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James L. Brooks on co-creating and producing The Associates
04:39

Critic, The

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James L. Brooks on executive producing The Critic
01:20

Hey Landlord!

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Show co-creator/writer James L. Brooks on the first time he saw something that he had written for television on Hey Landlord
02:36

Lou Grant

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James L. Brooks on basing the editor for Lou Grant on CBS News editor John Merriman and using experiences with Merriman as fodder for The Mary Tyler Moore Show
02:08
James L. Brooks on co-creating Lou Grant
04:02

Mary Tyler Moore Show, The

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James L. Brooks on basing the editor for Lou Grant on CBS News editor John Merriman and using experiences with Merriman as fodder for The Mary Tyler Moore Show
02:08
James L. Brooks on wanting Walter Cronkite on The Mary Tyler Moore Show
00:48
James L. Brooks on the initial development of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
08:49
James L. Brooks on the Mary Richards character on The Mary Tyler Moore Show
04:12
James L. Brooks on the setting for and characters of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
04:30
Show co-creator/writer James L. Brooks on the story seed for The Mary Tyler Moore Show episode: "Chuckles Bites the Dust"
00:43
Show co-creator/writer James L. Brooks on Grant Tinker supporting taping of an episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show that the network was against
01:16
James L. Brooks on the "Put on a Happy Face" episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
01:33
James L. Brooks on the "Will Mary Richards Go to Jail?" episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
01:12
James L. Brooks on the "Lou Dates Mary" episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
01:02
James L. Brooks on the "Once I Had a Secret Love" episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
00:55
James L. Brooks on the "The Last Show" episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
03:26
James L. Brooks on the "Mary's Big Party" episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
00:41

Mary Tyler Moore Show, The: "Chuckles Bites the Dust"

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Show co-creator/writer James L. Brooks on the story seed for The Mary Tyler Moore Show episode: "Chuckles Bites the Dust"
00:43
Show co-creator/writer James L. Brooks on how he and the writers on The Mary Tyler Moore Show actually took the "Chuckles, the Clown" 'credo' to heart as a writing philosophy
00:28

Mary Tyler Moore Show, The: "Lou Dates Mary"

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James L. Brooks on the "Lou Dates Mary" episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
01:02

Mary Tyler Moore Show, The: "Mary's Big Party"

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James L. Brooks on the "Mary's Big Party" episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
00:41

Mary Tyler Moore Show, The: "Once I Had a Secret Love"

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James L. Brooks on the "Once I Had a Secret Love" episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
00:55

Mary Tyler Moore Show, The: "Put on a Happy Face"

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James L. Brooks on the "Put on a Happy Face" episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
01:33

Mary Tyler Moore Show, The: "Support Your Local Mother"

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Show co-creator/writer James L. Brooks on Grant Tinker supporting taping of an episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show that the network was against
01:16

Mary Tyler Moore Show, The: "The Last Show"

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James L. Brooks on the "The Last Show" episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
03:26

Mary Tyler Moore Show, The: "Will Mary Richards Go to Jail?"

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James L. Brooks on the "Will Mary Richards Go to Jail?" episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
01:12

My Friend Tony

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James L. Brooks on working for Sheldon Leonard on My Friend Tony
01:50

My Mother the Car

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James L. Brooks on his big break: getting a rewrite job on My Mother The Car
03:54

My Three Sons

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James L. Brooks on writing episodes of The Andy Griffith Show and My Three Sons
00:28

New Lorenzo Music Show, The

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James L. Brooks on The New Lorenzo Music Show
02:16

Paul Sand in Friends & Lovers

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James L. Brooks on Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers
01:38

Phyllis

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James L. Brooks on helping to pitch Phyllis
00:20

Rhoda

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James L. Brooks on the inspiration for Rhoda
00:40
James L. Brooks on Rhoda
09:13

Room 222

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James L. Brooks on writing for Room 222
05:03

See It Now

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James L. Brooks on the elegant writing of See It Now
02:29

Simpsons, The

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James L. Brooks on the development of The Tracey Ullman Show and the genesis of The Simpsons
02:46
James L. Brooks on the development and specific characters of The Simpsons
13:58
James L. Brooks on how much he enjoys The Simpsons
00:31
James L. Brooks on the format of The Tracey Ullman Show and the genesis of The Simpsons
01:20
James L. Brooks on how stories were written on The Simpsons
01:28
James L. Brooks on working with Matt Groening and Sam Simon on The Simpsons
02:47
James L. Brooks on working with Matt Groening and Al Jean on The Simpsons
02:56
James L. Brooks on The Simpsons' audience, the hidden jokes that appeal to different audiences, and catchphrases
02:21
James L. Brooks on the cultural aspects of The Simpsons  and how the quality of the series is kept up
05:53
James L. Brooks on his favorite Simpsons episodes and the show's legacy
02:48

Taxi

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James L. Brooks on the cast of Taxi
03:32
James L. Brooks on the genesis, development and casting of Taxi
26:59
James L. Brooks on the making of some of the best-known episodes of Taxi
14:53
James L. Brooks on the first episode of Taxi: "Like Father, Like Daughter"
01:41
James L. Brooks on the episode of Taxi: "Love Un-American Style" featuring the Schloogle
05:26
James L. Brooks on the two part episode of Taxi: "Scenskees From a Marriage" - Latka's affair
03:08
James L. Brooks on the final season of Taxi on NBC after ABC cancelled the show
03:05

Taxi: "Like Father, Like Daughter"

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James L. Brooks on the first episode of Taxi: "Like Father, Like Daughter"
01:41

Taxi: "Love Un-American Style"

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James L. Brooks on the episode of Taxi: "Love Un-American Style" featuring the Schloogle
05:26

Taxi: "Scenskees From a Marriage"

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James L. Brooks on the two part episode of Taxi: "Scenskees From a Marriage" - Latka's affair
03:08

Thursday's Game

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James L. Brooks on writing the ABC TV movie Thursday's Game and learning about movie-length writing
00:54

Tracey Ullman Show, The

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James L. Brooks on the development of The Tracey Ullman Show and the genesis of The Simpsons
02:46
James L. Brooks on the format of The Tracey Ullman Show
01:20

What About Joan

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James L. Brooks on the difficulties of producing What About Joan
01:38
Topics

Characters & Catchphrases

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James L. Brooks on the character of "Rhoda Morgenstern"
00:20
James L. Brooks on the inspiration for "Louie De Palma" on Taxi
01:04
James L. Brooks on the inspiration for "Alex Reiger" on Taxi
02:18
James L. Brooks on the character of "Elaine Nardo" on Taxi
00:42
James L. Brooks on the character of "Bobby Wheeler" on Taxi
James L. Brooks on the popularity of "Bart Simpson"
00:47
James L. Brooks on "Homer Simpson"
01:23
James L. Brooks on "Marge Simpson"
01:14
James L. Brooks on "Bart Simpson"
01:23
James L. Brooks on "Lisa Simpson"
01:23
James L. Brooks on "Maggie Simpson"
00:13
James L. Brooks on "Ned Flanders"
00:32
James L. Brooks on "Mr. Burns"
00:24
James L. Brooks on "Smithers"
00:10
James L. Brooks on "Principal Skinner"
00:24
James L. Brooks on "Mo"
00:31
James L. Brooks on "Apu"
00:38
James L. Brooks on "Krusty the Clown"
01:45
James L. Brooks on "Itchy and Scratchy"
00:28
James L. Brooks on "Sideshow Bob"
00:20
James L. Brooks on "Nelson"
00:27
James L. Brooks on catchphrases of The Simpsons
00:34

Emmy Awards

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James L. Brooks on Room 222 beating Sesame Street as best new show
00:22
Show co-creator/writer James L. Brooks on Grant Tinker supporting taping of an episode of  The Mary Tyler Moore Show that the network was against, and winning an Emmy for it
01:16
James L. Brooks on the two part episode of Taxi: "Scenskees From a Marriage" - Latka's affair, for which Carol Kane won an Emmy
03:08
James L. Brooks on winning Emmys for multiple genres
00:34

Hollywood Blacklist

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James L. Brooks on McCarthyism, the Hollywood Blacklist and Edward R. Murrow's influence
03:14

JFK Assassination and Funeral

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James L. Brooks on trying to write news copy about JFK's assassination
01:35

Minorities

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James L. Brooks on writing for Room 222 - the second show on television starring a person of color
05:03

Pop Culture

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James L. Brooks on the character of "Bobby Wheeler" on Taxi
James L. Brooks on the character of "Elaine Nardo" on Taxi
00:42
James L. Brooks on the inspiration for "Alex Reiger" on Taxi
02:18
James L. Brooks on the inspiration for "Louie De Palma" on Taxi
01:04

Studio and Network Management

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James L. Brooks on dealing with CBS executives during the development of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
05:41

TV Theme Songs

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James L. Brooks on the Taxi theme instrumental
00:37

Women

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James L. Brooks on the feminist revolution and The Mary Tyler Moore Show
03:27
Professions

Directors

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James L. Brooks on the best advice he got about directing - bring extra socks
01:26

Writers

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James L. Brooks on never thinking he could make a living as a writer
00:54
James L. Brooks on the best job in the world
00:19
James L. Brooks on writing
07:10
Genres

Comedy Series

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James L. Brooks on his Mary Tyler Moore Show being in the Saturday night CBS lineup with All in the Family
04:44
Show co-creator/writer James L. Brooks on The Mary Tyler Moore Show
27:56
James L. Brooks on specific episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
14:07
James L. Brooks on Rhoda
09:13
James L. Brooks on the genesis, development and casting of Taxi
26:59
James L. Brooks on the making of some of the best-known episodes of Taxi
14:53
James L. Brooks on the characters of The Simpsons
13:58
James L. Brooks on The Simpsons
18:12

Drama Series

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James L. Brooks on Lou Grant
04:02

News and Documentary

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James L. Brooks on being a page for CBS News
11:35
People

Gracie Allen

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James L. Brooks on naming his company after Gracie Allen
00:51

Rod Amateau

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James L. Brooks on Rod Amateau, producer for My Mother The Car
01:00

Louis Armstrong

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James L. Brooks on interviewing Louis Armstrong 
00:44

Edward Asner

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James L. Brooks on the ensemble cast of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
01:31
James L. Brooks on Ed Asner getting his own show, Lou Grant
01:52

Allan Burns

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James L. Brooks on meeting show creator Alllan Burns
03:28
James L. Brooks on bringing in Allan Burns to produce Room 222
00:26
James L. Brooks on Grant Tinker pairing him with Allan Burns to develop The Mary Tyler Moore Show
03:08
James L. Brooks on dealing with CBS executives during the development of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
03:59
James L. Brooks on Allan Burns understanding the soul of "Mary Richards"
04:12
Show co-creator/writer James L. Brooks on his contract negotiations with Allan Burns and boss Grant Tinker
00:38
Show co-creator/writer James L. Brooks on leaving MTM to start a new company with MTM colleagues, but Allan Burns stayed at MTM
01:59
James L. Brooks on co-creator of Rhoda, Allan Burns
03:06
James L. Brooks on difficulties with the "Support Your Local Mother" episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
01:26

James Burrows

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James L. Brooks on Taxi director James Burrows
00:26
James L. Brooks on working with director James Burrows and how Burrows flowered on Taxi
01:26

Johnny Carson

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James L. Brooks on the "Mary's Big Party" episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, guest starring Johnny Carson
00:41

Dan Castellaneta

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James L. Brooks on "Homer Simpson" aka Dan Castellaneta
00:51

Glen Charles

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James L. Brooks on working with Les Charles and Glen Charles, creators of Cheers
00:37

Les Charles

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James L. Brooks on working with Les Charles and Glen Charles, creators of Cheers
00:37

Paddy Chayefsky

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James L. Brooks on his awe of writer Paddy Chayefsky's prescience
02:51
James L. Brooks on writer Paddy Chayefsky's ear
00:40
James L. Brooks on his admiration of writer Paddy Chayefsky
00:21

Jeff Conaway

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James L. Brooks on Taxi actor Jeff Conaway
02:49

Walter Cronkite

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James L. Brooks on wanting Walter Cronkite on The Mary Tyler Moore Show
00:48

Joan Cusack

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James L. Brooks on the difficulties of producing What About Joan
01:38

Stan Daniels

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Show co-creator/writer James L. Brooks on leaving MTM to start a new company with MTM colleagues
01:59
Show co-creator/writer James L. Brooks on the writing staff of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
01:33

Michael Dann

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James L. Brooks on dealing with CBS executives during the development of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
05:41

Ted Danson

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James L. Brooks on Ted Danson guest starring on Taxi as a gay hairdresser
00:59

Tony Danza

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James L. Brooks on Taxi actor Tony Danza
00:20
James L. Brooks on Taxi actor Tony Danza
01:02

Dave Davis

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Show co-creator/writer James L. Brooks on the writing staff of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
00:27
James L. Brooks on fellow principal of John Charles Walters, Dave Davis
00:46

Danny DeVito

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James L. Brooks on Danny DeVito in Taxi 
01:20
James L. Brooks on Taxi actor Danny Devito 
00:10
James L. Brooks on Taxi actor Danny DeVito
01:01

Barry Diller

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James L. Brooks on Barry Diller's optimism 
00:55

Michael Eisner

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James L. Brooks on trying to get Terms of Endearment made
01:23

Georgia Engel

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James L. Brooks on Georgia Engel joining the cast of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
00:28

Fred Friendly

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James L. Brooks on See It Now producer, Fred Friendly
00:38

Steve Gordon

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Show co-creator/writer James L. Brooks on writer Steve Gordon of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
01:34

Matt Groening

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James L. Brooks on the development of The Tracey Ullman Show and the genesis of The Simpsons
02:46
James L. Brooks on the creation of The Simpsons as a series 
01:34
James L. Brooks on working with Matt Groening and Sam Simon on The Simpsons
02:48
James L. Brooks on working with Matt Groening on The Simpsons
05:08

Valerie Harper

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James L. Brooks on the ensemble cast of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
00:16

Marilu Henner

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James L. Brooks on Taxi actress Marilu Henner
01:32

Judd Hirsch

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James L. Brooks on Judd Hirsch almost not getting hired for Taxi
01:01

Al Jean

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James L. Brooks on working with Matt Groening and Al Jean on The Simpsons
01:28

Carol Kane

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James L. Brooks on the two part episode of Taxi: "Scenskees From a Marriage" - Latka's affair, for which Carol Kane won an Emmy
03:08

Andy Kaufman

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James L. Brooks on Taxi actor Andy Kaufman and the beginning of performance art
01:13
James L. Brooks on Taxi actor Andy Kaufman
00:57
James L. Brooks on Andy Kaufman anf Tony Clifton getting hired on Taxi
02:55

Julie Kavner

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James L. Brooks on "Marge Simpson" aka Julie Kavner
01:14

Ted Knight

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James L. Brooks on the ensemble cast of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
00:18
Show co-creator/writer James L. Brooks on Ted Knight of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
00:37

Cloris Leachman

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James L. Brooks on the ensemble cast of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
00:10
James L. Brooks on Cloris Leachman leaving The Mary Tyler Moore Show to do Phyllis
00:25

Sheldon Leonard

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James L. Brooks on working for Sheldon Leonard on My Friend Tony
01:50

David Lloyd

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Show co-creator/writer James L. Brooks on the writing staff of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
00:27

Christopher Lloyd (actor)

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James L. Brooks on Taxi actor Christopher Lloyd
00:06
James L. Brooks on Taxi actor Christopher Lloyd
00:59

Penny Marshall

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James L. Brooks on Penny Marshall in Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers
01:04

John Merriman

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James L. Brooks on basing the editor for Lou Grant on CBS News editor John Merriman and using experiences with Merriman as fodder for The Mary Tyler Moore Show
02:08

Mary Tyler Moore

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James L. Brooks on Mary Tyler Moore and her "Mary Richards" character on The Mary Tyler Moore Show
04:12
James L. Brooks on the ensemble cast of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
01:31
Show co-creator/writer James L. Brooks on having a female boss, Mary Tyler Moore
00:30

Edward R. Murrow

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James L. Brooks on being in a bar with legendary journalist Edward R. Murrow - "God was in the bar"
01:13
James L. Brooks on Edward R. Murrow
02:29

Lorenzo Music

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James L. Brooks on The New Lorenzo Music Show, and the voice of "Carlton the doorman" on Rhoda
02:23

Jack Nicholson

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James L. Brooks on working with Jack Nicholson on As Good As It Gets
01:38

Alan Pakula

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James L. Brooks on his mentor Alan Pakula
01:26

Gene Reynolds

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James L. Brooks on writing for Room 222 with Gene Reynolds
02:25
James L. Brooks on working with Gene Reynolds on Room 222
01:03
James L. Brooks on Gene Reynolds running, Lou Grant
01:52

Paul Sand

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James L. Brooks on Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers
01:38

Jay Sandrich

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Show co-creator/writer James L. Brooks on The Mary Tyler Moore Show director, Jay Sandrich
01:38

Treva Silverman

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Show co-creator/writer James L. Brooks on the writing staff of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
01:37

Sam Simon

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James L. Brooks on the creation of The Simpsons as a series 
01:34
James L. Brooks on working with Matt Groening and Sam Simon on The Simpsons
02:48

Yeardley Smith

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James L. Brooks on "Lisa Simpson" aka Yeardley Smith
00:15

Gloria Steinem

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James L. Brooks on Gloria Steinem at a feminist conference attacking "Mary Richards" for calling "Lou Grant," "Mr. Grant"
01:58

Grant Tinker

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James L. Brooks on meeting Grant Tinker
00:07
James L. Brooks on Grant Tinker pairing him with Allan Burns to develop The Mary Tyler Moore Show
03:08
Show co-creator/writer James L. Brooks on Grant Tinker supporting taping of an episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show that the network was against
14:58
Show co-creator/writer James L. Brooks on boss Grant Tinker - "the father you dreamed of"
06:11
James L. Brooks on difficulties with the "Support Your Local Mother" episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
01:26
James L. Brooks on Grant Tinker's generosity in the development of Taxi
01:25
James L. Brooks on telling Grant Tinker that Taxi was cancelled by ABC, and Tinker offering him a slot on NBC
00:53
James L. Brooks on trying to get Terms of Endearment made
00:28

Leon Tokatyan

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James L. Brooks on dramatic writer for Lou Grant, Leon Tokatyan
01:52

Tracey Ullman

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James L. Brooks on the development of The Tracey Ullman Show and the genesis of The Simpsons
02:46
James L. Brooks on the format of The Tracey Ullman Show
01:20

Nancy Walker

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James L. Brooks on Rhoda's Jewish mother, Nancy Walker
02:55

Richard Wechsler

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James L. Brooks on working with Associate Producer Richard Wechsler, who took Brooks under his wing
01:50

Ed. Weinberger

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Show co-creator/writer James L. Brooks on leaving MTM to start a new company with MTM colleagues
01:59
Show co-creator/writer James L. Brooks on the writing staff of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
01:33
James L. Brooks on writer Ed. Weinberger
01:17
James L. Brooks on fellow principal of John Charles Walters, Ed. Weinberger
00:37
James L. Brooks on firing Tony Clifton from Taxi
01:01

Betty White

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James L. Brooks on Betty White, "Sue Ann Nivens" on The Mary Tyler Moore Show
00:59

Bud Wiser

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James L. Brooks on Bud Wiser
02:14

David L. Wolper

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James L. Brooks on David Wolper documentaries
05:59

Robert D. Wood

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James L. Brooks on dealing with CBS executives during the development of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
05:41

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