The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame Committee has selected a groundbreaking production team, an iconic executive, an internationally renowned TV variety show host, a leading actor, an award-winning lighting designer, a multiple Emmy®-winning producer, and one of television’s most beloved comedy couples as the newest inductees into the Hall of Fame, announced Television Academy Chairman and CEO John Shaffner.
Producers Mary-Ellis Bunim & Jonathan Murray, network executive Michael Eisner, game show host Don Francisco, actor Sherman Hemsley, lighting designer Bill Klages, producer Chuck Lorre and the beloved comedy duo of Vivian Vance & William Frawley will be honored in the 21st Annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony held at The Beverly Hills Hotel on March 1st, 2012. Mary-Ellis Bunim, Vivian Vance and William Frawley will be inducted posthumously.
The 2012 celebrants join more than 120 individuals previously inducted into the Hall of Fame since its inception in 1984. Recognized for their extraordinary contributions to the television medium, candidates are submitted by the Television Academy's membership and the industry at large to the Hall of Fame selection committee, chaired for the past four years by Mark Itkin, member of the board at WME Entertainment. In addition to Itkin, this year’s committee includes Mike Darnell, President of Alternative Entertainment at FOX; Peter Roth, President of Warner Brothers Television; Fred Silverman, founder of the Fred Silverman Company and former executive at ABC, CBS and NBC; Nina Tassler, President of CBS Entertainment; and Steve Venezia, Director, Content Services at Dolby Laboratories, Inc.
“The group of inductees for this year’s Hall of Fame has had a remarkable impact in all areas of the television industry, from performers and hosts to producers and executives,” said Itkin. “It is a tremendous privilege to chair this committee and be able to honor this group with the recognition that they so greatly deserve.”
Following is background information on this year's Hall of Fame inductees:
Mary-Ellis Bunim (1946-2004) and Jonathan Murray, Bunim/Murray Productions — Widely credited with inventing the modern reality television genre, Mary-Ellis Bunim’s unique talents in producing daytime soap operas combined with Jonathan Murray’s experience in news and documentaries proved to be the perfect ingredients to develop The Real World. This groundbreaking MTV show quickly became part of the cultural DNA, and it has now endured for almost 20 years, having been renewed through its 28th season. During their 14-year partnership, Bunim and Murray broke the boundaries of conventional television to create more than just a show. Instead they pioneered a whole new genre known as “reality television.” Beyond The Real World, the duo infused their finely tuned sense of dramatic story structure, transforming the ordinary tales of real people into extraordinary television programming with hit series including the first reality game show, Road Rules (MTV) followed by The Real World/Road Rules Challenge (MTV), now in its 21st season; the first reality soap opera, Emmy Award-winning Starting Over (syndicated); the first reality sitcom, The Simple Life (E!), and the first-ever reality feature film, The Real Cancun. Since Bunim’s passing in 2004, Murray has continued the pair’s unscripted tradition overseeing Bunim/Murray Productions’ programming including Keeping up with the Kardashians, Kourtney and Kim Take New York and Khloe and Lamar (E!), The Bad Girls Club, Love Games and upcoming Best Ink (Oxygen), Project Runway and Project Runway All Stars (Lifetime); Autism: The Musical (HBO); and, of course, The Real World and The Challenge (MTV).
Michael Eisner — Michael Eisner has been a leader in the American entertainment industry for four decades. He began his career at ABC, where he helped take the network to number one in primetime, daytime and children’s television. In 1976, he became president of Paramount Pictures, turning out a string of critically acclaimed, blockbuster films and positioning the studio as the most profitable in both theatrical movies and network television production. In 1984 Eisner assumed the position of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company and, in the ensuing 21 years, transformed it from a film and theme park company with $1.8 billion in enterprise value into a global media empire valued at $80 billion. In 2005, Eisner began the “next act” of his career, by founding the Tornante Company; a privately held company that makes investments in and incubates companies and opportunities in the media and entertainment space. Through the Tornante Company, Eisner also founded Vuguru, an independent studio that develops and finances scripted, story-driven content for digital and international platforms. In October 2007, the Tornante Company and Madison Dearborn Partners, LLC. acquired The Topps Company, Inc., a leading creator and marketer of sports and related cards, entertainment products, and distinctive confectionery items. Eisner is also an accomplished writer, having published his third book, WORKING TOGETHER: Why Great Partnerships Succeed, in 2010.
Bill Klages — The winner of seven Primetime Emmy Awards, Bill Klages has been associated with some of the most outstanding productions in television history. After establishing his reputation at NBC with the dramatic series Playwrights ’56, Klages lighted landmark shows of early television starring entertainment legends Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Ernie Kovacs and Perry Como. In the decades that followed, Klages lighted an array of acclaimed entertainment specials and award shows including The Kraft Music Hall, My Name Is Barbra, Night of 100 Stars, Sills and Burnett at the Met, Baryshnikov by Tharp, The Tony Awards, The Emmy Awards, The Kennedy Center Honors, Sweeney Todd, The Grammy Awards and many others. Major events he has designed include the 1984 Olympics Closing Ceremonies and the “Liberty Weekend” Statue of Liberty celebration, as well as four Republican National Conventions. Klages has provided television lighting-facility design for the 16,000-seat Lakewood Church in Houston, the 21,000-seat Latter Day Saints Convention Center in Salt Lake City, the George W. Bush Presidential Library in Dallas and numerous other studios and venues. He has also conducted seminars throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. In 2004, he received the “Distinguished Achievement Award in Lighting Design” from the United States Institute of Theatre Technology and was named “Lighting Designer of the Year” at the 2002 LDI Convention. Along with his seven Primetime Emmy wins, Klages has received twenty-one Emmy nominations, as well as Monitor and Ace Awards.
Mario Kreutzberger, aka “Don Francisco” — Emmy Award winner Mario Kreutzberger is the host of Sábado Gigante (Giant Saturday), one of the most popular programs in the history of Spanish-language television. He is also host of Don Francisco Presenta (Don Francisco Presents), another variety show featuring interviews with the biggest artists of the moment. Better known as “Don Francisco,” Kreutzberger was born in southern Chile, the son of German Jewish immigrants who escaped Germany during turbulent times preceding World War II. Although he enjoyed taking singing and drama lessons as a child, his father hoped he would follow in his footsteps by working in the garment industry and sent him to apprentice in New York City. Upon his return to Chile, Kreutzberger began working in his newly acquired profession, but his fascination with television and his staunch perseverance eventually led him into his country’s fledgling broadcasting industry. And, on August 8, 1962, the show that went on to make television history was born. In August 2003, Chile’s Universidad del Pacífico bestowed upon Kreutzberger its highest academic honor, the “Honoris Causa en Comunicación Social,” an honorary degree in communication. In December of that same year, the Chilean government decorated him with the “Gabriela Mistral Order of Merit,” its highest grade of Grand Officer for his contribution to culture and solidarity in the country. In September 2008, Chilean President Michelle Bechelet awarded Kreutzberger with the highest honor in the country, the “Condecoración Por Servicios Meritorios” (Decoration for Exemplary Service) in recognition for his humanitarian efforts. In his homeland Chile, Kreutzberger created the Chilean Telethon which today has resulted in the construction of eleven hospitals where more than 80,000 disabled children are treated. His idea inspired 13 countries of Latin America to create telethons of their own. He is president of the International Telethon Organization, ORITEL. Kreutzberger has also been honored with a Hollywood Walk of Fame Star in 2001 and with an Emmy in 2005 for “Leader of Spanish-Language Television.” In 2010, Kreutzberger received the Hispanic Heritage Award as a Legend. The Guinness Book of World Records recognized Sabado Gigante as the “ ...longest-running TV show in the Americas.”
Chuck Lorre — One of the most accomplished television comedy writer/producers of the past 20 years, Chuck Lorre co-created and serves as executive producer of TV’s most-watched program Two and a Half Men and the award-winning comedy, The Big Bang Theory. Lorre is also executive producer of Mike & Molly, the #1 new comedy of the 2010-2011 season. Previously, Lorre created hits such as Dharma & Greg, Grace Under Fire and Cybill, and served as co-executive producer on Roseanne. The Long Island native got his start in the entertainment business as a guitarist/singer touring the country and writing pop songs, including Debbie Harry’s Top 40 hit “French Kissin’ in the USA.” After more than a decade on the road, Lorre turned his attention to television. He began writing animation scripts for DIC and Marvel Productions, and wrote and produced the themes and scores for animated series such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He won the BMI Crystal Award for co-writing the Two and a Half Men theme song, was named an honorary member of the Royal Canadian Institute for the Advancement of Science, and received the David Angell Humanitarian Award on behalf of the American Screenwriters Association for demonstrating charitable efforts at the Venice Family Clinic. In 2009, Lorre received the NATPE Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Award, was named Television Showman of the Year at the 46th Annual ICG Publicists Awards Ceremony and was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Vivian Vance (1909-1979) — Born Vivian Roberta Jones, Vance is probably the single most recognizable female sidekick in the history of television. Although her first love was the stage, her role as Ethel Mertz would forever endear her to television fans around the world. Vance’s talent took her from her birthplace of Cherryvale, Kansas, to a small theatre company in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and on to New York and Broadway in the early 1930s. She became a regular on Broadway after being cast in the hit musical Anything Goes as a chorus member and understudy to the show’s star, Ethel Merman. Several years later she won her first major Broadway role opposite comedian Ed Wynn, in the production of Hooray for What! One of her most successful stage roles was in the musical Let’s Face It!, in which she starred alongside Danny Kaye and Eve Arden for over 500 performances. In 1951, TV director Marc Daniels took Desi Arnaz and writer Jess Oppenheimer to see Vance star in the play Voice of the Turtle at the La Jolla Playhouse in California. By the end of the first act, Arnaz and Oppenheimer both agreed that they had found their “Ethel” for their new television sitcom, I Love Lucy. Vance remained with the beloved CBS series until it ended its run in 1957, playing best friend, neighbor, and partner-in-crime to Lucille Ball’s “Lucy Ricardo.” She was the first actress to win an Emmy Award for “Outstanding Supporting Actress” in 1954, and was nominated an additional three times for her role as Ethel Mertz. Vance returned to television a few years later to play Lucille Ball’s sidekick once again on The Lucy Show.
William “Bill” Frawley (1887-1966) — An American stage, screen, and television entertainer, Frawley is best known for his role as Fred Mertz on I Love Lucy, but appeared in more than 110 films and over a dozen major plays in his lifetime. Frawley’s career started on the road in vaudeville with his brother, and later with his then wife, fellow vaudevillian Edna Louise Broedt. Playing the prestigious Orpheum circuit, Frawley honed his craft and developed the comedic talent and timing that would be his trademark. His first major hit was in the musical comedy Merry, Merry in 1925, and he continued to act on and off Broadway until 1933. Frawley’s movie career lasted over 50 years, starting with the silent film Lord Loveland in 1916. Although he played mostly supporting roles, he appeared in major films such as Ziegfeld Follies, Miracle on 34th Street and The Lemon Drop Kid. In 1951, Frawley was cast as “Fred Mertz” in I Love Lucy opposite Vivian Vance. During the run of the series, he was often called upon to display his musical and dancing talents. His other true love, sports, was often incorporated into the show’s scripts. Frawley was nominated for five Emmy Awards for his supporting role as the penny-pinching best friend and landlord of the Ricardos. After I Love Lucy went off the air, Frawley debuted as live-in grandfather/housekeeper “Bub O’Casey” in My Three Sons and remained on the show from 1960 until 1965, until poor health forced him into retirement. Frawley passed away in 1966.
Full historical audio interviews with Michael Eisner, Sherman Hemsley, Bill Klages and Mario Kreutzberger are available online through the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation's Archive of American Television.
For links to the interviews, visit www.EmmyTVLegends.org.