Saul Turteltaub

Writer/Producer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his nearly two-and-a-half-hour interview, Saul Turteltaub tells the story of his first big break into television, which came through his former summer camp girlfriend, Shari Lewis. He discusses writing on various variety and talk shows, including On Broadway Tonight, The Pat Boone Show, and The Carol Burnett Show, before he and partner Bernie Orenstein became producers on The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show. Turteltaub then details two major series that he and Orenstein wrote and produced: That Girl (the end of which he blames on his push to have Marlo Thomas’ character get married) and Sanford and Son. For Sanford and Son, he discusses working with Redd Foxx, the legacy of the show, and its spin-offs. He tells the story of creating What’s Happening!! with Orenstein, including working with Fred Berry as “Rerun” and his regrets over not casting Gary Coleman on the show. Turteltaub then talks about his work on Kate & Allie and Cosby, and concludes by discussing career highlights and giving advice to aspiring writers and producers. Adrienne Faillace conducted the interview on May 12, 2016 in Beverly Hills, CA.

“I used to admire [comedians]…because they would say something and 200 people in the audience would laugh. It was my job when I was doing ‘Sanford’ to make 20 million people all over the country laugh at the same time."

Highlights
Saul Turteltaub on dating Shari Lewis (then Phyllis Hurwitz) at summer camp as a kid and calling her up for a writing job when he saw her on television in 1957
02:31
Saul Turteltaub on working with Redd Foxx on Sanford and Son
01:38
Saul Turteltaub on Richard Pryor's appearance at a live show called "Calm L.A.," which was meant to calm tensions following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
01:44
Saul Turteltaub on Marlo Thomas' input on That Girl, and how his and Bernie Orenstein's push for Thomas' character to get married led to the end of the show
02:14
Saul Turteltaub on advice to aspiring writers
00:44
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his childhood and early influences; on forming a comedy team while in college and working at resorts in the Catskills and Sun Valley, Idaho
16:34
On breaking into television through his summer camp girlfriend, Shari Lewis; on writing for Candid Camera and That Was the Week that Was
13:19
On writing for On Broadway Tonight and his friendship with Richard Pryor; on writing for various talk shows and for Jackie Gleason
11:26
On writing for The Pat Boone Show; on working with his writing partner Bernie Orenstein
07:18
On writing for The Carol Burnett Show; on becoming a producer on The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show
09:50

Chapter 2

On producing The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show; on producing That Girl
17:17
On being the co-producer of The New Dick Van Dyke Show; on producing Sanford and Son
11:07
On the Sanford and Son writers room; on specific Sanford and Son episodes; on the cast of the show
09:58
On the legacy of Sanford and Son; on Sanford and Son's spin-offs; on creating What's Happening!!
14:35
On creating Carter Country with Bernie Orenstein and Bud Yorkin; on E/R and Foley Square
06:07

Chapter 3

On executive producing and writing Kate & Allie; on executive consulting on Cosby
11:46
On his writing process; on his then-current relationship with Bernie Orenstein; on advice to aspiring writers and producers; on how he would like to be remembered
12:48
Shows

Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show, The

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Saul Turteltaub on leaving The Carol Burnett Show to be a producer for The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show
01:29
Saul Turteltaub on producing The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show and decisions he regrets making on the show
06:21

Candid Camera

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Saul Turteltaub on writing for and performing on Candid Camera
01:53
Saul Turteltaub on working with Allen Funt, host of Candid Camera
01:11

Carol Burnett Show, The (1967-78)

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Saul Turteltaub on writing for The Carol Burnett Show
08:15

Carter Country

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Saul Turteltaub on creating Carter Country with Bernie Orenstein
01:38

Cosby

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Saul Turteltaub on serving as an executive consultant on Cosby with Bernie Orenstein
05:15

E/R

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Saul Turteltaub on writing the sitcom E/R with Bernie Orenstein

Foley Square

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Saul Turteltaub on co-executive producing Foley Square, which was written and produced by Diane English
01:39

Kate & Allie

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Saul Turteltaub on executive producing and writing Kate & Allie with Bernie Orenstein
06:13

New Dick Van Dyke Show, The

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Saul Turteltaub on being the co-producer of The New Dick Van Dyke Show
02:39

Pat Boone Show, The

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Saul Turteltaub on writing for The Pat Boone Show with Bernie Orenstein
01:49

Sanford and Son

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Saul Turteltaub on Norman Lear asking him and his partner Bernie Orenstein to produce Sanford and Son and Redd Foxx almost not coming back to the show for its third season
04:10
Saul Turteltaub on working with Redd Foxx on Sanford and Son
01:38
Saul Turteltaub on the end of Sanford and Son, which was the result of ABC poaching Redd Foxx
00:43
Saul Turteltaub on the Sanford and Son writers room
03:38
Saul Turteltaub on the popularity of Sanford and Son, which he attributes to Redd Foxx
01:11
Saul Turteltaub on the Sanford and Son episode, "Steinberg and Son"
00:55
Saul Turteltaub on the ensemble cast of Sanford and Son
02:43
Saul Turteltaub on Redd Foxx's input (or lack thereof) on Sanford and Son scripts
00:41
Saul Turteltaub on the legacy of Sanford and Son
00:59
Saul Turteltaub on producers Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin being hands-off on the production of Sanford and Son
01:32
Saul Turteltaub on the Sanford and Son spin-offs, The Sanford Arms and Grady
02:11

That Girl

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Saul Turteltaub on how producing a special for Cass Elliot led to he and his partner Bernie Orenstein becoming producers for That Girl
01:57
Saul Turteltaub on how he and his partner Bernie Orenstein divided the responsiblities of producing That Girl
02:35
Saul Turteltaub on Marlo Thomas' input on That Girl, and how his and Bernie Orenstein's push for Thomas' character to get married led to the end of the show
02:14
Saul Turteltaub on directing episodes of That Girl and getting to meet St. Louis Cardinal's player, Stan Musial
02:45
Saul Turteltaub on That Girl co-star Ted Bessell
00:35
Saul Turteltaub on the legacy of That Girl
00:42

That Was the Week that Was

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Saul Turteltaub on writing for That Was the Week that Was
04:50

What's Happening!!

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Saul Turteltaub on creating What's Happening!! with partner Bernie Orenstein and Bud Yorkin
02:48
Saul Turteltaub on casting Fred Berry as "Rerun" on What's Happening!!
01:45
Saul Turteltaub on Fred Berry missing a day of rehearsal for What's Happening!!
00:53
Saul Turteltaub on the cast of What's Happening!!: Haywood Nelson, Danielle Spencer, and Shirley Hemphill
02:44
Saul Turteltaub on how What's Happening!! was adjusted after Mabel King left the show
00:25
Topics

Advice

View Topic
Saul Turteltaub on advice to aspiring writers
00:44
Saul Turteltaub on advice to aspiring producers
00:49

Civil Rights Movement

View Topic
Saul Turteltaub on his friendship with Richard Pryor and Pryor's appearance at a live show called "Calm L.A.," which was meant to calm tensions following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
02:39

Creative Influences and Inspiration

View Topic
Saul Turteltaub on Carl Reiner as his mentor
00:36

Diversity in Television

View Topic
Saul Turteltaub on Marlo Thomas' input on That Girl, and how his and Bernie Orenstein's push for Thomas' character to get married led to the end of the show
02:14

First Big Break

View Topic
Saul Turteltaub on forming a comedy team with a college friend and getting hired to perform at Catskills resorts
02:24
Saul Turteltaub on dating Shari Lewis (then Phyllis Hurwitz) at summer camp as a kid and calling her up for a writing job when he saw her on television in 1957
02:31

Historic Events and Social Change

View Topic
Saul Turteltaub on his friendship with Richard Pryor and Pryor's appearance at a live show called "Calm L.A.," which was meant to calm tensions following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
02:39

Pivotal Career Moments

View Topic
Saul Turteltaub on forming a comedy team with a college friend and getting hired to perform at Catskills resorts
02:24
Saul Turteltaub on dating Shari Lewis (then Phyllis Hurwitz) at summer camp as a kid and calling her up for a writing job when he saw her on television in 1957
02:31
Saul Turteltaub on Carl Reiner as his mentor
00:36

Television Industry

View Topic
Saul Turteltaub on his opinion of then-current television shows
01:04
Saul Turteltaub on advice to aspiring writers
00:44
Saul Turteltaub on advice to aspiring producers
00:49

Women

View Topic
Saul Turteltaub on Marlo Thomas' input on That Girl, and how his and Bernie Orenstein's push for Thomas' character to get married led to the end of the show
02:14
Professions

Producers

View Profession
Saul Turteltaub on how he and his partner Bernie Orenstein divided the responsiblities of producing That Girl
02:35
Saul Turteltaub on advice to aspiring producers
00:49

Writers

View Profession
Saul Turteltaub on working with his writing partner Bernie Orenstein
02:38
Saul Turteltaub on the craft of writing: "You don't write the first page unless you know the last page"
01:47
Saul Turteltaub on writing on a typewriter, and his partner Bernie Orenstein getting a computer long before he did
01:20
Saul Turteltaub on what he likes about writing
01:55
Saul Turteltaub on advice to aspiring writers
00:44
Genres

Children's Programming

View Genre
Saul Turteltaub on writing for Shari Lewis's first network show The Shari Lewis Show
01:14

Comedy Series

View Genre
Saul Turteltaub on writing for and performing on Candid Camera
03:05
Saul Turteltaub on writing for That Was the Week that Was
04:50
Saul Turteltaub on producing That Girl with his partner Bernie Orenstein
04:50
Saul Turteltaub on producing Sanford and Son and it spin-offs with his partner Bernie Orenstein
21:41
Saul Turteltaub on creating What's Happening!! with Bernie Orenstein and Bud Yorkin
09:05
Saul Turteltaub on creating Carter Country with Bernie Orenstein
01:38
Saul Turteltaub on writing the sitcom E/R with Bernie Orenstein
02:40
Saul Turteltaub on co-executive producing Foley Square, which was written and produced by Diane English
01:39
Saul Turteltaub on executive producing and writing Kate & Alley with Bernie Orenstein
06:13
Saul Turteltaub on serving as an executive consultant on Cosby with Bernie Orenstein
05:15

Music Shows & Variety Shows/Specials

View Genre
Saul Turteltaub on writing The Super Comedy Bowl with writing partner Bernie Orenstein
02:25
Saul Turteltaub on writing for The Carol Burnett Show
08:15
Saul Turteltaub on leaving The Carol Burnett Show to be a producer for The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show
01:29
Saul Turteltaub on producing The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show and decisions he regrets making on the show
06:21
Saul Turteltaub on writing a special for Cass Elliot and how that led to Marlo Thomas asking he and his partner Bernie Orenstein to produce That Girl
01:52

Reality TV

View Genre
Saul Turteltaub on writing for and performing on Candid Camera
03:05

Talk Shows

View Genre
Saul Turteltaub on writing for various talk shows, including The Les Crane Show and The Merv Griffin Show
07:02
Saul Turteltaub on writing for The Pat Boone Show with Bernie Orenstein
01:49
People

Ted Bessell

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Saul Turteltaub on That Girl co-star Ted Bessell
00:35

Pat Boone

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Saul Turteltaub on writing for The Pat Boone Show with Bernie Orenstein
01:49

Carol Burnett

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Saul Turteltaub on working with Carol Burnett on her show
02:14

Gary Coleman

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Saul Turteltaub on not casting Gary Coleman on What's Happening!!
01:02

Bill Cosby

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Saul Turteltaub on working with Bill Cosby on Cosby
05:15

Jane Curtin

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Saul Turteltaub on working with Jane Curtin and Susan Saint James on Kate & Allie
01:09

Phyllis Diller

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Saul Turteltaub on producing The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show and decisions he regrets making on the show
06:21

Dick Van Dyke

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Saul Turteltaub on being the co-producer of The New Dick Van Dyke Show, which was shot in a remote part of Arizona near where Dick Van Dyke was living at the time
02:39

Diane English

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Saul Turteltaub on co-executive producing Foley Square, which was written and produced by Diane English
01:39

Redd Foxx

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Saul Turteltaub on Redd Foxx holding out for a higher salary on Sanford and Son and almost not appearing on the show when Turteltaub and Bernie Orenstein became producers, and how Eydie Gorme convinced him to come back to the show
03:09
Saul Turteltaub on working with Redd Foxx on Sanford and Son
01:38
Saul Turteltaub on the popularity of Sanford and Son, which he attributes to Redd Foxx
01:12
Saul Turteltaub on Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson's chemistry on Sanford and Son and Foxx's skills as an actor
01:08

Allen Funt

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Saul Turteltaub on working with Allen Funt, host of Candid Camera
01:11

Jackie Gleason

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Saul Turteltaub on writing for Jackie Gleason
03:51

Eydie Gorme

View Person Page
Saul Turteltaub on Redd Foxx holding out for a higher salary on Sanford and Son and almost not appearing on the show when Turteltaub and Bernie Orenstein became producers, and how Eydie Gorme convinced him to come back to the show
03:09

Susan Saint James

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Saul Turteltaub on working with Jane Curtin and Susan Saint James on Kate & Allie
01:09

Harvey Korman

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Saul Turteltaub on working with Harvey Korman on The Carol Burnett Show
01:15

Norman Lear

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Saul Turteltaub on Norman Lear asking him and his partner Bernie Orenstein to produce Sanford and Son
01:01
Saul Turteltaub on producers Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin being hands-off on the production of Sanford and Son
01:32

Shari Lewis

View Person Page
Saul Turteltaub on dating Shari Lewis (then Phyllis Hurwitz) at summer camp as a kid and calling her up for a writing job when he saw her on television in 1957
02:31
Saul Turteltaub on writing for Shari Lewis's first network show The Shari Lewis Show
01:14

Lorne Michaels

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Saul Turteltaub on hiring Lorne Michaels as a writer on The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show
01:36

Bernie Orenstein

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Saul Turteltaub on writing for The Pat Boone Show with Bernie Orenstein
01:49
Saul Turteltaub on working with his writing partner Bernie Orenstein
02:38
Saul Turteltaub on writing The Super Comedy Bowl with writing partner Bernie Orenstein
02:25
Saul Turteltaub on how he and his partner Bernie Orenstein divided the responsiblities of producing That Girl
02:35
Saul Turteltaub on writing on a typewriter, and his partner Bernie Orenstein getting a computer long before he did
01:20
Saul Turteltaub on his then-current relationship with producing/writing partner Bernie Orenstein
01:21

Richard Pryor

View Person Page
Saul Turteltaub on his friendship with Richard Pryor and Pryor's appearance at a live show called "Calm L.A.," which was meant to calm tensions following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
02:39

Carl Reiner

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Saul Turteltaub on working with Carl Reiner
01:10

Garry Shandling

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Saul Turteltaub on Garry Shandling writing for Sanford and Son and the last time he saw Shandling
01:16

Marlo Thomas

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Saul Turteltaub on Marlo Thomas' input on That Girl, and how his and Bernie Orenstein's push for Thomas' character to get married led to the end of the show
02:14

Demond Wilson

View Person Page
Saul Turteltaub on working with Demond Wilson on Sanford and Son
00:22
Saul Turteltaub on Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson's chemistry on Sanford and Son and Foxx's skills as an actor
01:08

Bud Yorkin

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Saul Turteltaub on producers Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin being hands-off on the production of Sanford and Son
01:32

All Interviews

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