I love this article from today’s New York Times on how a first crush can impact a person’s career choice. My first crush, at least as far as I remember, was on David Cassidy from “The Partridge Family.” Like a lot of us, I had the dark blue patent leather purse that had a white silhouette of David Partridge on its front flap and the message, “I Love You, David.” I didn’t wind up a singer but I was one of five kids and did wind up on television.
The original cast of “Charlie’s Angels,” with, from left, Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and Jaclyn Smith.
By THE NEW YORK TIMES
This summer, a number of New York Times critics are writing about their cultural first crushes — the moments or works that prompted them to write about the arts. A new essay will arrive each week, paired with stories from readers who work within the given discipline about their own cultural epiphanies. This week, stories from five readers who work in the television industry were selected from a broad range of submissions. In the coming weeks, we will hear from critics — and readers — in the worlds of classical and pop music, dance, video games and more.
Teresa Bruce, a writer and former PBS station news director
I can thank “Charlie’s Angels” and apartheid for wanting to write for television. It was 1976 and TV was finally coming to South Africa. The Minister for Posts and Telegraphs called TV “the devil’s own box for disseminating communism and immorality.” Since all the programming would have to come from places like America, it would depict “racial mixing” and make (nonwhite) Africans “dissatisfied with their lot.”
To a little girl in rural South Africa, Charlie’s Angels were brave and independent women. In the stories I created with my paper dolls, they could do and solve anything. Maybe the Minister was right; TV did make me dissatisfied with my lot.
Later I became the youngest female news director of a PBS station in America’s rural South, but the responsibility didn’t sink in until I took part in a culturally diverse programming initiative. I had written “God’s Gonna Trouble the Water,” a documentary about Gullah culture. It won lots of awards; I felt pretty special.
But suddenly I was working with talented people writing from poverty, religious persecution, undocumented immigration status, medical barriers, even life assigned to the wrong gender. Guess what? In discovering our own voices and documenting what made us different, TV illuminated the values, hopes and fears we have in common. It is a universal medium, capable of moving huge audiences along a continuum of understanding from fear and ignorance to tolerance, acceptance and ultimately equality.
Ben Joseph, a screenwriter at the Walt Disney Company
When I was a child, I only wanted to watch cartoons. I remember being extremely disappointed when the animated opening of “Bewitched” gave way to boring, live-action actors on a boring, live-action set. Around the age of 9, though, this predilection caused me problems: Everything animated suddenly seemed too easy, too obvious, too childish.
Then, one night at a friend’s house (as it had to be, my mildly puritanical parents kept me on a strict diet of Disney, PBS, and 2 percent milk), I found my new favorite show.
I remember the exact joke. Lost in the woods, father Homer sets a snare trap for a rabbit, confidently describing his process to his son, Bart, as he does. The rabbit approaches the trap, sniffs the bait, the rope tightens … and immediately launches the rabbit far into the distance. Perfect setup, perfect reversal of expectations, perfect visuals, a joke that was simultaneously smart enough for an adult but completely accessible to a much stupider adult and/or child. I wanted to create moments like that. If I could trick people into giving me money to do it, even better.
Sixteen years later, I had the opportunity to freelance a script for my favorite show. It ran as part of Season 23 and was titled “Beware My Cheating Bart.” Currently, I write cartoons full-time for the Walt Disney Corporation. I’m still trying to create a moment as sublimely funny and perfect as that one.
ABC, via Associated Press
Van Williams as “The Green Hornet.”
Anthony Mason, co-host of “CBS This Morning: Saturday”
I began “working” in TV when I was about 8 years old. I created an imaginary network. I mapped out the programming in a school notebook and named my flagship station (WGHB) after my favorite super hero (Green Hornet Broadcasting). My newscasts were delivered from an anchor desk that was in fact my parents folding card table, and I looked into a cardboard camera that I fashioned from a Saks Fifth Avenue gift box. (The lens was the center tube of a role of paper towels.)
It was the mid-1960s, before video cameras and cellphones, of course, and all I had was my imagination. But almost everything I played at as a child, I was mentally broadcasting.
<nyt_headline version=”1.0″ type=” “>Your First Crush
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At school I found a kindred spirit who taught me how to carve rubber erasers into mini TV cameras. (We cut up paper clips to make the tripods.) Toy soldiers manned the cameras whenever we played with our miniature cars. That all became a TV show in our minds, too.
First Crush: Black-and-White Cravings to High-Def Career (July 11, 2013)
I’m not sure why my friend and I were so drawn to television. It was not any one show or broadcaster. (We loved the behind the scenes action as much as what was happening in front of the camera.)
Today he is the entertainment reporter for WABC-TV in New York. (Yes, the Sandy Kenyon you see in the back of NYC taxicabs.) And I have spent 30 years at CBS, where I now host “CBS This Morning: Saturday.”
But every time I get in a cab and see Sandy, I have to pinch myself and remember how we really started.
Rachel Wilke, a marketing manager for a cable television network
As I was finishing my freshman year of high school, the most fearless girl on TV was dead. Buffy was a social outcast to her peers, but her quick-wit, vulnerability and expertise in killing vampires made her a champion for us underdogs.
Buffy, who got me through the awkwardness of middle school, was abandoning me just as I was getting my footing in high school. As I read her gravestone (“BUFFY ANNE SUMMERS; 1981-2001; BELOVED SISTER; DEVOTED FRIEND; SHE SAVED THE WORLD; A LOT”) the last shot in the episode I called my friends freaking out about the seemingly-morbid fate of Buffy.
Buffy was supposedly moving from the WB to UPN as a result of a bizarre dispute between Fox and the WB. To mislead us naïve teenagers, the WB was dubbing “The Gift” as the show’s “series finale.” Angry and confused, I began my descent into learning more about this crazy industry that was threatening to simultaneously cancel yet revive my weekly escape.
Twelve years later, I’m now managing experiential and partnership marketing for a top cable network. Although I’m not directly deciding the fates of television series, I am championing programming to consumers, trying to make them as devoted to it as I was to Buffy Anne Summers.
Sean Hetherington, a reality television producer
I was inspired to work in television by watching WWE as a kid. The superstars of professional wrestling had it all: drama, athleticism, improv comedy and real characters who are not afraid to live out loud. As a reality TV producer, I find myself tapping into all of those aspects of entertaining TV when I’m producing docu-series, game shows and talk.
What TV can do for a young person is often overlooked. I grew up feeling lonely. I wasn’t athletic. I was kind of weird, and no one understood my Hulk Hogan humor. Weekly WWE programming, magazines and pay-per-view were like phone calls with a friend.
The pageantry of “Wrestlemania” fireworks and the ornate costumes would inspire me to move to Hollywood to work with bigger-than-life talent to take them to the next level. Meanwhile, watching the up-and-comers grow from their two-minute enhancement matches into, say, the Rock built a sense of the importance of nurturing young casts on shows who could go on to become household names with their own brands of perfume.
My dream is still to one day work for WWE to create the excitement I loved as a kid. But until then, I live the thrill of pro wrestling every day by making meaningful, interesting TV for the next generation of people who look to feel less alone in front of their Samsungs.