Mary V. Ahern

Producer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In her two-hour interview, Mary V. Ahern talks about her early years and her experience during World War II, which led her to work for the ABC radio public affairs department. She describes early public affairs television programming she was involved with, including shows like On Trial, United or Not, and Horizons. She recounts in detail producing the classic series Omnibus along with executive producer Robert Saudek, recalling several aspects of the production of the show including host Alistair Cooke, conductor Leonard Bernstein’s involvement and his “Musical Lectures” series, and historical plays the show presented. Ahern speaks of the reasons for the end of the series, its legacy, and Robert Saudek’s contribution to television. She discusses being involved with the series Profiles in Courage, as well as being the first curator of the Paley Center for Media (originally the Museum of Broadcasting), and her involvement with the Library of Congress. She concludes with advice to aspiring television producers, and her career achievements and regrets. Ron Simon conducted the interview on May 22, 2017 in Peabody, MA.

“Broadcasting brought people together. There’s not that kind of unity in the country now, and they’ve dropped down to a third of what their audience was. Thank heavens for Public Broadcasting. If Newton Minow saw the ‘vast wasteland’ today, he wouldn’t have words to describe it!”

Interviewee(s)
Highlights
Mary V. Ahern on Omnibus producer Robert Saudek
Mary V. Ahern on the process of producing an episode of Omnibus
Mary V. Ahern on how she came to work in the public affairs department at ABC
Mary V. Ahern on the importance of television preservation, and on the founding of the Paley Center (originally the Museum of Broadcasting)
Mary V. Ahern on working with composer Leonard Bernstein on several episode of Omnibus
Mary V. Ahern on career achievements and regrets
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On her early life and influences; on how she came to work in the public affairs department at ABC; on radio programs she listened to growing up, and on her early role at ABC
On early television shows she worked on, including On Trial and United or Not, and on the founding of the Ford Foundation; on producing Horizons
On producing Omnibus with Robert Saudek, and on how it was funded; on the process of producing an episode of Omnibus, and on her role; on working with associate producer Paul Feigay on the show
On working with composer Leonard Bernstein and director Andrew McCullough on Omnibus; on the time slot and on the orchestras of Omnibus
On host Alistair Cooke's other contributions to Omnibus, and on drama critic Walter Kerr's involvement with the show; on various historical plays produced for Omnibus; on various creative pairings of the show

Chapter 2

On various personalities who appeared on Omnibus; on Joseph N. Welch (who stood up to Senator Joseph McCarthy at the Army-McCarthy hearings) being involved with the Omnibus series on the Constitution; on Omnibus producer Robert Saudek
On the reasons for the cancellation of Omnibus; on her experience as a female television producer in the 1950s; on the importance of television preservation, and on the founding of the Museum of Broadcasting (now the Paley Center)
On the legacy of Omnibus; on her involvement with the Library of Congress (Ed. note: Ms. Ahern would like to clarify that when she referred to CDs in this segment, she meant DVDs); on working on Profiles in Courage
On how television, and opportunities for women in television have changed since her time in the business; on the contribution of Robert Saudek to television; on advice to an aspiring television producer
On career achievements and regrets; on how she would like to be remembered (Ed. note: Ms. Ahern would like to clarify that the Librarian of Congress at the time of this interview was James Billington)
On b-roll pictures and memorabilia from her career - Leonard Bernstein lecturing for Omnibus ; with Robert Saudek at the Museum of Broadcasting in New York City; with Paul Feigay and Leonard Bernstein; with Joseph N. Welch on the set of Omnibus; folder with the Omnibus sunburst logo; her typed original 5-year plan for The Museum of Broadcasting; Robert Saudek's original, typed-out vision for Omnibus ; the original Omnibus show logs; Al Hirschfeld drawing of Omnibus crew
Shows

Omnibus

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Mary V. Ahern on producing Omnibus with Robert Saudek
Mary V. Ahern on how Omnibus was funded
Mary V. Ahern on the process of producing an episode of Omnibus
Mary V. Ahern on her role in the production of Omnibus
Mary V. Ahern on working with associate producer Paul Feigay on Omnibus
Mary V. Ahern on working with composer Leonard Bernstein on several episode of Omnibus
Mary V. Ahern on working with Omnibus director Andrew McCullough
Mary V. Ahern on the time slot and on the orchestras of Omnibus
Mary V. Ahern on host Alistair Cooke's other contributions to Omnibus, and on drama critic Walter Kerr's involvement with the show
Mary V. Ahern on various historical plays produced for Omnibus
Mary V. Ahern on various creative pairings on Omnibus
Mary V. Ahern on various personalities who appeared on Omnibus, including Orson Welles, Mike Nichols and Elaine May, and Carol Burnett
Mary V. Ahern on Joseph N. Welch (who stood up to Senator Joseph McCarthy at the Army-McCarthy hearings) being involved with the Omnibus series on the Constitution
Mary V. Ahern on Omnibus producer Robert Saudek
Mary V. Ahern on the reasons for the cancellation of Omnibus
Mary V. Ahern on the legacy of Omnibus

Profiles in Courage

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Mary V. Ahern on working on Profiles in Courage
Topics

Advice

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Mary V. Ahern on advice to an aspiring television producer, and on then-current shows she admires

Diversity in Television

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Mary V. Ahern on how opportunities for women in television have changed over the years
Mary V. Ahern on her experience as a female television producer in the 1950s

Historic Events and Social Change

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Mary V. Ahern on her experience during World War II
Mary V. Ahern on how opportunities for women in television have changed over the years
Mary V. Ahern on her experience as a female television producer in the 1950s

Hollywood Blacklist

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Mary V. Ahern on Joseph N. Welch (who stood up to Senator Joseph McCarthy at the Army-McCarthy hearings) being involved with the Omnibus series on the Constitution

Industry Crossroads

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Mary V. Ahern on Joseph N. Welch (who stood up to Senator Joseph McCarthy at the Army-McCarthy hearings) being involved with the Omnibus series on the Constitution

Television Industry

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Mary V. Ahern on how television has changed since her time in the industry
Mary V. Ahern on advice to an aspiring television producer, and on then-current shows she admires
Mary V. Ahern on Joseph N. Welch (who stood up to Senator Joseph McCarthy at the Army-McCarthy hearings) being involved with the Omnibus series on the Constitution

War

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Mary V. Ahern on her experience during World War II

Women

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Mary V. Ahern on her experience as a female television producer in the 1950s
Mary V. Ahern on how opportunities for women in television have changed over the years

World War II

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Mary V. Ahern on her experience during World War II
Professions

Producers

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Mary V. Ahern on advice to an aspiring television producer, and on then-current shows she admires
Genres

Classic Anthology Series

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Mary V. Ahern on producing Omnibus
Mary V. Ahern on producing Omnibus
Mary V. Ahern on working on Profiles in Courage

Service Shows

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Mary V. Ahern on early television shows she worked on, including On Trial and United or Not, and on the founding of the Ford Foundation
Mary V. Ahern on producing Horizons
People

Leonard Bernstein

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Mary V. Ahern on working with composer Leonard Bernstein on several episode of Omnibus

Carol Burnett

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Mary V. Ahern on various personalities who appeared on Omnibus including Orson Welles, Mike Nichols and Elaine May, and Carol Burnett

Alistair Cooke

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Mary V. Ahern on host Alistair Cooke's other contributions to Omnibus, and on drama critic Walter Kerr's involvement with the show

Elaine May

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Mary V. Ahern on various personalities who appeared on Omnibus including Orson Welles, Mike Nichols and Elaine May, and Carol Burnett

Mike Nichols

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Mary V. Ahern on various personalities who appeared on Omnibus including Orson Welles, Mike Nichols and Elaine May, and Carol Burnett

Robert Saudek

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Mary V. Ahern on producing Omnibus with Robert Saudek
Mary V. Ahern on the contribution of Robert Saudek to television
Mary V. Ahern on Omnibus producer Robert Saudek

Orson Welles

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Mary V. Ahern on various personalities who appeared on Omnibus including Orson Welles, Mike Nichols and Elaine May, and Carol Burnett

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