Hollywood calling

Paulist Productions sets docu 'Insight' series

“Insight” was a staple of Sunday morning TV for decades. The half-hour anthology series, which often featured notable actors, offered feel-good morality tales.

The syndicated skein, which ran from 1961-83, is now the subject of a TV docu in the works from Paulist Prods., the shingle behind the original series.

The story of “Insight” is also the story of Father Ellwood “Bud” Kieser, a Roman Catholic priest who was skilled in the art of Hollywood networking and schmoozing. His pulpit at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Westwood afforded him connections in the entertainment industry, which spurred him to establish Paulist Prods. as a vehicle for producing uplifting movies and TV shows.

Kieser, who died in 2000, was the host of “Insight,” and he also founded the Humanitas Prize to honor film and TV scribes. Through Kieser’s connections, “Insight” was able to draw such thesps as Martin Sheen, Patty Duke, Paul Sorvino, Bob Newhart, Cicely Tyson, Louis Gossett Jr. and Ron Howard, as well as established writers, producers and directors.

“God put him in the right place at the right time,” says Father Eric Andrews, who now runs Paulist Prods., of Kieser’s legacy.

The “Insight” docu is part of a renewed effort at Paulist to ramp up production activity. In the 1970s and ’80s, Paulist produced numerous TV movies and the 1989 feature “Romero,” starring Raul Julia as the slain archbishop of El Salvador.

Revisiting the history of “Insight” for the docu has been inspirational for the contempo Paulist team, given the wide range of issues and topics — everything from mental illness to alcoholism to the Cold War — that the show tackled over more than 250 episodes. The company is also exploring ways to distribute the vintage segs, possibly on DVD or via Web streaming.

Andrews says they’re also thinking about remakes and other ways to “gather young actors and actresses and writers to do a half-hour on a topic of interest,” he says. “The documentary raises awareness and hopefully opens our minds to what we can do now.”

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