“America’s communal campfire” — PBS greenlights TV history series

LucyofficescropThis sounds like a worthy undertaking. PBS and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation have teamed to produce what is described as a mammoth “History of Television” project targeted to bow on the pubcaster in spring 2009.

Plan, as unveiled by Acad Foundation prexy Steve Mosko (aka prexy of Sony Pictures TV) and PBS’ Washington, D.C. outlet WETA-TV, is to kick off the series with a four-hour chronicle of the history of scripted TV and the characters we’ve come to know and love in our living rooms — and between our toes, as Jack Paar used to describe people watching TV while lying in bed. (Pictured at left, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in the production offices at Desilu, romping through an “I Love Lucy” rehearsal. Below, Art Carney and Jackie Gleason at work on “The Honeymooners.”)

Acad Foundation’s formidable Archive of American Television oral history project, which has been doing the good work of collecting video interviews with TV pioneers and legends for more than a decade, will contribute plenty of interview footage. PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting have kicked in a $2 million “challenge” grant, but for sure Acad Foundation will be knocking on the doors of every network, studio and well-heeled producer in town during the next few years in their bid to raise the rest of the coin to fund the production.