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Jean Shepherd Returns
Airdate: Thursday - July 10, 1975

Last Update: 05-29-2017

Show Description
NEW YORK (AP) - Charles Kuralt and his "On the Road" pieces for CBS are okay, I guess. But for my dough, the guy who best catches the flavor and humor of genuine Americana is Jean Shepherd. He did it brilliantly for public TV in a 1971 series called "Gene Shepherd's America." Now, perhaps as a bicentennial goodie, the Public Broadcasting Service will rerun the 13-part series this summer. The first show aired July 8, with Shepherd holding forth on the virtues of fishing, while casting about in a Maine river and recalling the joys of crappie fishing in a fetid Indiana pond when he was young. Other editions feature studies and memories of working in a steel mill, flying and his Old Man's first flight, train travel and his Army train ride with K Company in World War II, and what it feels like to get in a car and just keep going and get away from it all. It's hard to describe his approach, other than to say he brings into uncommon relief the odd, sad and funny common experiences of life in the United States, doing it like a gabby, funny tourist from Middle America. He'll arrive to inspect our 49th s t ate and report: "Alaska, it just isn't like Cleveland.'' Or, while celebrating food as an art form, he'll warn "there's a lot more to life than a Hostess Twinkie." The Chicago-bord Shepherd, a pilot, author of humorous essays on 'Back When' and a long-distance monologist on radio station WOR here since 1958, did "America" for Boston's WGBH-TV. The series was taped with the portable "mini-cam" many stations now are just starting to use. He had a small crew - producer-director Fred Barzyk and coproducers Leigh Brown and Olivia Tappan. The Idea of the show, he says , was to take the audiences to corners of America they rarely see on TV, and also get into what the philosophically inclined call the American experience. "For example - beer," he said. "I said beer is truly the life blood of most Americans. So I did a show saluting beer. Not how they make it, just 'hooray for beer!'" Fans of the 46-year-old Shepherd - and there are many, thanks to both his TV show and his stories in Playboy magazine - will be happy to know he has other public TV projects afoot these days. One Is "The Great Inverted Bowl of Darkness," a 90-minute drama he says he's sold to "Visions," a new PBS dramatic anthology series. He says he'll play the lead role. The plot is, ah, unique. "It's about a guy killed in a car crash," he said. "He goes to heaven and finds a vast film library with billions of films about everybody's life. And everyone who goes to heaven has to find his own film and look at it." And, he says, there's talk at PBS about getting a grant for another series on Americana, but this one would be about ''totally unsung American nonheroes, like a Class D relief pitcher.
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