This Hollywood museum is experiencing an identity crisis, of sorts.
of Television and Radio had been open in New York City for almost 20
years before they finally opened this west coast branch in Beverly
Hills in 1996.
That was back at a time when it was almost
impossible for the general public to get their hands on old television
programming. The Internet was just starting to catch on.
Movies were available on video tape, and DVDs were just beeing born,
but when it came to television, if you wasn't being broadcast
somewhere, chances are you had no way to watch it. And it was the
same with most historic radio broadcasts.
So, if you felt like watching the final episode of "The
Fugitive", or Neil
Armstrong's first steps on the moon, or the
Beatles debut on the "Ed Sullivan
Show", you were out of luck. Likewise, if you wanted to hear Orson
Welles' infamous "War of the Worlds"
broadcast of 1938, listen to FDR's first fireside chat,
or if your kids prefered to see the very first
episode of "Rocky & Bullwinkle", it just wasn't possible. Most of those historic videos were locked away in studio vaults.
The Museum of Television steped in and
filled that need. It preserved these historic moments on
television and radio, and gave the general access instant access
Visitors could sit down before one of fifty TV consoles and call up their favorite television programs from days gone by, or don earphones to listen to historic radio broadcasts at the push of a button.
Located in a sparkling, new three-level building within walking distance of Rodeo Drive, the Museum pays tribute to two media which helped shape our modern culture. This isn't just some private enclave for scholars. The Museum has collected over 90,000 television and radio programs, and it's all available to the general public. (Robert Redford did his research for "Quiz Show" at the museum).
Carol Burnett ("The Carol Burnett Show"), Alan Alda ("M*A*S*H"), Candice Bergen ("Murphy Brown"), Lea Thompson ("Caroline in the City "), Sid Caesar ("Your Show of Shows"), Tori Spelling ("Beverly Hills 90210"), and John Lithgow ("Third Rock from the Sun") all turned out in person for the ribbon-cutting on opening day.
You may also notice that the various rooms have been named in honor of their celebrity sponsors: the Danny Thomas lobby, Aaron Spelling reception area, the Gary Marshall pool...
The museum's collection allowed you to select from among 160,000 television and radio programs and advertisements, which run the
gamut from comedy to drama, from news to game shows, from children's programs
to political conventions; the shows include concerts, sporting events,
science fiction, even TV movies and miniseries.
However, in today's world, most of that
same video is now instantly available over the internet, and or on disc
or via Netflix streaming. So, to at least some extent, the museum
has outlived its original purpose.
That's a good thing, insofar as its mission
(of giving the public & scholars access to the history of
television) has now been fulfilled, but it poses a bit of a dillema for
the museum's future.
In response to the changing times, in
2007, the Museum of Television and Radio changed
their name to "The Paley Center for Media". Although its fabled
collection is still intact and available, they now put more of an
emphasis on seminars often featuring live appearances by the stars of
the shows being discussed.
They've found particular success with their annual Television Festival, now known as PaleyFest,
which hosts live panels made up of the entire casts and creative crews
of popular TV shows, where not only are episodes screened, but the
audience can ask questions and get answers from their favorite
celebs. It's a rare chance for the public to see TV stars in
person, and for the stars to interact with their fans. The
festival is usually held at a larger venue, such as at the Dolby
But they also host "PaleyLive" events at
the museum, smaller seminars which also feature stars from the show
being highlighted, in a more intimate setting.
(Contact the museum for details about future events, or call their hotline
for recorded information about their schedule, at (310) 786-1091.)
Inside the Museum you'll find:
The museum also offers general temporary exhibits, such as "Star Trek: The Tradition Continues" (with life-size mannequins modeling the original uniforms and props from the "Trek" shows) and a collection of Al Hirschfeld sketches of Hollywood celebritie.
$10.00 for adults
Wednesday through Sunday: 12 noon to 5 PM.
Two hours of free parking in the Museums parking lot. After two hours, the charge for the lot is $1 per additional half hour.
Getting there: the museum is located in a distinctive white building on the west side of Beverly Drive, at Santa Monica Blvd. / From Rodeo Drive, go north to Little Santa Monica Blvd., and turn right (northeast). Go one block to Beverly Drive and turn right. The Museum will be on your right side, at the southwest corner of Beverly and Little Santa Monica.
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