Finding Aid for The Interviews: An Oral History of Television

Summary Information

Title: The Interviews: An Oral History of Television

Creator: The Television Academy Foundation’s The Interviews

Date Range: 1996-[ongoing]

Extent: 931 interviews (557 standard definition, 374 high definition); approximately 3,700 hours of video footage; 88 TB of data

Language: The material is in English. 

Repository Code: CaNhAAT


The Interviews: An Oral History of Television

The Television Academy Foundation

5220 Lankershim Blvd.

North Hollywood, CA 91601


Abstract: Founded in 1997, with its first interviews recorded in 1996, the Television Academy Foundation’s The Interviews: An Oral History of Television (previously the Archive of American Television) consists of over 900 videotaped oral history interviews with the legends of television, including Milton Berle, Carol Burnett, Walter Cronkite, Norman Lear, Mary Tyler Moore, Betty White, and many others. Interviewees hail from professions across the television industry, from actors and writers to executives, editors, publicists, composers, and more. Major topics discussed in interviews include Advice to Aspiring Professionals, TV’s Golden Age, Censorship, and Technological Innovation, as well as important events in American and television history, such as the Hollywood Blacklist, the Quiz Show Scandals, 9/11, and the Kennedy Assassination. The Interviews conducts up to twenty-five new interviews each year. The vast majority of the collection is available to the public through the Interviews' website (full versions) and YouTube (shorter clips). Excerpts may be available for licensing.

Controlled Access Terms: 

Personal Names:

Berle, Milton

Burnett, Carol

Burrows, James, 1940-

Caesar, Sid, 1922-2014

Cronkite, Walter

Eisner, Michael, 1942-

Farnsworth, Philo Taylor, 1906-1971

Fox, Michael J., 1961-

Goldenson, Leonard H.

Hamm, Jon, 1971-

Howard, Ron, 1954-

Jones, Quincy, 1933-

Lear, Norman

Leonard, Sheldon, 1907-1997

Louis-Dreyfus, Julia

Moore, Mary Tyler, 1936-2017

Sarnoff, Tom

Smith, Dick, 1922-2014

Tinker, Grant

Van Dyke, Dick

Wayans, Keenen Ivory

White, Betty, 1922-

Winant, Ethel

Wolper, David L.

Corporate Names:

ABC Television Network

Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation

Archive of American Television

CBS Television Network

Du Mont Broadcasting Corporation

NBC Television Network


Advertising—Television programs

African Americans in television broadcasting

African Americans on television


Biographical television programs

Broadcast journalism


Civil rights movement

Detective and mystery television programs

Emmy Awards


Historical television programs

History on television

Hollywood blacklist


Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963—Assassination

Mass media

Morning news talk shows

New York World’s Fair (1939-1940 :  New York, N.Y.)


Oral history


Presidents—United States—Election

Producers and directors

Reality television programs

September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001

Situation comedies (Television programs)

Super Bowl


Television acting

Television actors and actresses

Television adaptations

Television advertising

Television broadcasting


Television commercials

Television composers

Television and culture 

Television directors


Television and history

Television journalists

Television mini-series

Television and politics

Television in politics

Television and popular culture

Television—Production and direction

Television programs

Television quiz shows

Television series

Television soap operas

Television talk show hosts

Television talk shows

Television—Technological innovations

Television writers

Variety shows (Television programs)

Vietnam War, 1961-1975

Voice actors and actresses

Western television programs

World series (Baseball)

Administrative Information

Accruals: The Interviews conducts up to twenty-five new interviews each year, which are then digitized, cataloged, and made available to the public through the Interviews' website.

Administrative History: The Television Academy Foundation was founded in 1959 as the charitable arm of the Television Academy with the goal of shaping the art of creating television by engaging and educating the next generation of television professionals. Today, the Foundation pursues this goal through scholarships, internships, career development programs, outreach to university faculty, and the in-depth oral history of television housed in The Interviews. 

The Archive of American Television (rebranded in 2017 as The Interviews: An Oral History of Television) was first conceived of by television executive Dean Valentine in 1996. Inspired by Steven Spielberg's Shoah Foundation, which documents stories of the Holocaust through oral history interviews, Valentine set out to establish a similar project for television. Mr. Valentine was soon joined by Thomas W. Sarnoff, Chairman of the Television Academy Foundation for 17 years, Producer David Wolper and Executive Grant Tinker. The result was the Archive of American Television, established under the aegis of the Television Academy Foundation with the mission to preserve, celebrate, and share the history of the Television industry. The first interviews conducted for the Archive were with Leonard H. Goldenson (founder of ABC Television), Dick Smith (television’s first makeup artist), Milton Berle (comedian and performer known as “Mr Television”), Elma Farnsworth (widow of Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of electronic television), Sheldon Leonard (producer), and Ethel Winant (casting director). Since then, the Interviews has recorded over 900 interviews, and, since 2008, has made its interviews available for viewing to the public through its website.

Conditions Governing Access: The vast majority of the Interviews' holdings have been digitized and are available to the public for viewing through the Interviews' website (full) and on YouTube (shorter clips).

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use: The Interviews' footage is available to all film, television, broadband and documentary producers, and has been digitized for easy access and delivery. Licensing fees apply, but vary depending on the usage rights and territory required. Transcripts for research purposes only are available for a fee.

Copyright Status: The Interviews owns copyright on all of its interviews, with the exception of special cases where the copyright or permission to rebroadcast must be obtained from the interviewee or their estate. The Interviews may then make this request on the researcher’s behalf.

Preferred Citation: Quoting from the interviews is allowed, but please contact the Interviews for exact phrasing and credit.

Scope and Content: The Interviews: An Oral History of Television contains over 900 videotaped oral history interviews with television industry professionals, chronicling the birth and growth of television from its earliest days in the Farnsworth labs to current stars and visionaries. The first interviews were taped in 1996, and since then up to twenty-five new interviews have been recorded each year. The interviews are available online.

Interviewees are professionals who work in front of the camera, including actors, comedians, hosts, journalists, meteorologists, and news anchors, as well as behind-the-scenes professionals, including agents, animators, directors, editors, executives, makeup artists, producers, puppeteers, writers, and more. Just a few of the notable names in the collection are: Milton Berle, James Burrows, Carol Burnett, Sid Caesar, Walter Cronkite, Michael Eisner, Michael J. Fox, Jon Hamm, Ron Howard, Quincy Jones, Norman Lear, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Mary Tyler Moore, Dick Van Dyke, Keenen Ivory Wayans, and Betty White. 

Each interview follows a life-history format, starting with the interviewee’s childhood and early influences, then moving on to major television work and concluding with advice to aspiring professionals. The interviews range in length from one-hour to up to eight-hours and touch on a multitude of topics, many of historical significance, including the Quiz Show Scandals, the Hollywood Blacklist, the Kennedy Assassination, the Civil Rights Movement, and 9/11. The range of time periods discussed by interviewees stretch from the time of television’s invention in the 1920s to the present day. The Interviews contains transcripts of each interview.

The Interviews also contains two additional oral history collections: The Living Television Collection and the Jeff Kisseloff Audio Interview Collection. Living Television was a special initiative of the Archive of American Television, which collaborated with broadcast organizations, colleges, and universities across the country to videotape in-depth interviews of local television pioneers. The Living Television Collection is partially digitized, and a few of the interviews have been absorbed into The Interviews. Journalist Jeff Kisseloff conducted over 300 interviews with people involved in all aspects of early television as research for his book, The Box: An Oral History of Television, 1929-1961. These audio taped interviews are housed in The Interviews' collection and are not digitized.

The Interviews does not contain episodes of television shows or television ephemera.

Related Archival Collections:

The Academy Oral History Projects

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Oral History Collections

Margaret Herrick Library

Fairbanks Center for Motion Picture Study

333 S. La Cienega Boulevard

Beverly Hills, CA 90211

The American Comedy Archives at Emerson College

Iwasaki Library

120 Boylston Street 

Boston, MA 02116

Directors Guild of America Visual History Program

7920 Sunset Boulevard

Los Angeles, CA 90046

UCLA Film and Television Archive 

Archive Research and Study Center 

Powell Library (Room 46)

Los Angeles, CA 90095-1517

The Writer Speaks: Oral Histories of Film and Television Writers

Writers Guild Foundation

7000 West Third Street

Los Angeles, CA 90048


The Interviews' website is searchable by keyword, phrase, post type, and category (genre, television show, topic, personal name, profession). Each interview that is available on the website has been cataloged and time-stamped, allowing users to access specific sections of interviews without scrolling through hours of tape. Additionally, the interviews are indexed within the following categories, providing multiple time-based access points:



    Creative Influences and Inspiration

    Emmy Awards

    Historic Events and Social Change

        1939-40 World’s Fair


        Civil Rights Movement

        Diversity in Television


            People with Disabilities

            Underrepresented Voices


        Fall of the Berlin Wall

        Health and Medicine

        Iran Hostage Crisis

        JFK Assassination and Funeral

        Kennedy-Nixon Debates

        MeToo Movement

        Moon Landing

        Natural Disasters

        Queen Elizabeth Coronation


            Cold War

            Gulf War

            Iraq War

            Korean Conflict

            Vietnam War

            War on Terror

            World War II

    Memorable Moments on Television

        We Celebrated

        We Considered

        We Cried

        We Laughed

    Pivotal Career Moments

        First Break

        Overcoming Adversity

    Pop Culture

        Celebrities in the News

        Characters & Catchphrases

        Classic TV Series Episodes

        Fame and Celebrity

        Rock’n’Roll on TV (1950s & ‘60s)

        TV Theme Songs



        Olympic Games

        Super Bowl

        World Series

    TV’s Golden Age (1940s & ‘50s)

    Technological Innovation

    Television Industry

        Advertising and Sponsorship


        Censorship/Standards & Practices

        Criticism of TV
            ‘The Idiot Box’

            Media Bias

            Sex & Violence

            Trash TV

        Fame & Celebrity

        Industry Crossroads

            Hollywood Blacklist (ca. 1950s)

            Industry Strikes

            Quiz Show Scandals

            Runaway Productions

        Interactive Technology

        Media Consolidation

        Network Creation

        New Media

        Public Television

        Studio Management

    Television and the Presidency



    Animation Professionals




    Film & Video Post-Production Professionals

    Film & Video Production Professionals


    Journalist & News Producers

    Music Professionals


    On-Set/Location Personnel




    Sound Professionals


    Talent Professionals

    Technology Innovators

    Writers & Show Creators



    Adventure/Espionage Series


    Awards Shows

    Children’s Programming

    Classic Anthology Series

    Comedy Series


    Cop/Detective/Mystery Series

    Daytime/Primetime Serials

    Drama Series

    Game Shows

    Late Night

    Legal Dramas

    Medical Dramas

    Music Shows & Variety Shows/Specials

    News and Documentary

    Reality TV

    Religious Programming

    Sci-Fi/Supernatural Series

    Service Shows


    Talk Shows

    TV Movies/Miniseries/Dramatic Specials

    Western Series