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He knows wry
Airdate: Wednesday - October 25, 1978

Show Description
Jean Shepherd-once told of a kid who got his first job in a steel mill and learned to dream the American dream -- of the beautiful future, the glorious past, and the crummy now." That was in ".Phantom of the Open Hearth," the wryly funny PBS television drama he wrote and narrated. Aired in 1976, it hailed blue-collar life in "the great inverted bowl of darkness" -- the Midwest. Now the Chicago-born maestro of Americana is at it again with a new version of "Phantom" he's making at 20th Century-Fox Television as a movie for ABC. It could become a weekly series. He readily credits his public TV "Phantom," made for KCET's acclaimed "Visions" series of original dramas, as the reason he's now able to do a new one on commercial TV. "That's basically why I did it for PBS in the first place," said Shepherd, who draws both versions from his best-selling "Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories and Other Disasters." He said there'd been previous talk of dramatizing his sardonic tales of yesteryear, published in book and Playboy magazine form. Those tales studied pimpled youth, the Army, even the time a high school drum major's baton soared up in a parade, landed on trolley wires and, amid glorious sparks, shorted out an entire town. "But there'd been a feeling, the staff couldn't translate from the printed page," said Jean, who told many of the tales on a fabled late-night radio monologue he ran from 1959 to 1976 at WOR in New York. But no such feelings existed at "Visions." Its "Phantom" was seen by vet eran comedy director John Rich. Talks ensued, an ABC contract was signed, and work on the 1978-model is now in progress. It's not a remake of the first one, which was set in the late 1940's and concerned the junior prom and such lesser matters as Dish Night at the Orpheum, site of a "vast sonata of entertainment." The 49-year-old author says it's set in "the undefined American past," and concerns (a) a kid's blind date and (b) his old man's quest for a new car, "his search for the ultimate cream puff." To work on the film and six more scripts he says ABC has ordered, Jean has temporarily left the New York he's called home the past 21 years. He's leased a canyon pad near Hollywood. The expatriate New Yorker, who nearly a decade ago made a fine PBS series about his impressions of odd corners of America, chortled when asked for his impressions of life in Hollywood, sometimes known as Rona Barrettsville. Shepherd on fellow expatriates: "All the ones I meet here have become intense New Yorkers. It usually turns out they lived there just a year after Cleveland, but they're very patriotic New Yorkers. Back East, they say, 'This censored, censored, and censored armpit of the world.' Here, they talk of wonderful New York. They forget the constant strikes, the muffled shots in the dark." On commercial TV compared to public TV production: "Everything looks so slick and polished. Lord, nobody can come to a scene with his hair mussed; three guys jump up and comb it."
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October 25,1978
Newark Star Leger - He knows wry

Airdate History ' - Original' date is earliest known broadcast)
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