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PIONEERS OF TELEVISION: Acting Funny

Airs Friday, August 1, 2014 at 10:30 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Cloris Leachman. She has won more Emmy awards than any other actor.

More than 200 breakthrough stars bring their stories to life in season four of this Emmy-nominated documentary series. Each episode melds compelling new interviews with irresistible clips to offer a fresh take on TV’s biggest celebrities. Featured stars in this season’s four new episodes: “Standup to Sitcom” (July 11) “Doctors and Nurses” (July 18) “Breaking Barriers” (July 25) and “Acting Funny” (August 1), include Jerry Seinfeld, Robin Williams, Roseanne Barr, Bill Cosby, Tim Allen, Ray Romano, Noah Wyle, Anthony Edwards, Diahann Carroll, Howie Mandel, Bob Newhart and many more.

Courtesy of PIONEERS OF TELEVISION archives

Robin Williams in MORK AND MINDY.

"Acting Funny" - This episode peeks behind the curtain to reveal the techniques of America’s favorite comedic actors. The program features the manic improvisational style of Robin Williams and his comic predecessor, Jonathan Winters. Their style is a fascinating contrast to Tina Fey, who explains her measured, highly prepared approach.

The episode also highlights the all-time #1 Emmy Award winner for comedy acting: Cloris Leachman, and the physical comedic style of Dick Van Dyke.

“We are thrilled to bring another season of PIONEERS OF TELEVISION to PBS,” said executive producer Steve Boettcher, who, along with producing partner Mike Trinklein, has helmed numerous specials and series on television’s breakthrough performers. “From stars that had Americans howling with laughter in front of their television screens, to the ones who broke barriers — and maybe even some who saved lives — this season’s line-up features legends who paved the way for contemporary television.”

“The fourth season of PIONEERS OF TELEVISION continues the series’ winning formula of bringing television’s most well-known stars and their lesser-known stories to PBS,” says Donald Thoms, PBS Vice President of General Audience Programming. “The show does a masterful job of serving us the history of the medium while telling us the backstage tales of America’s favorite shows.”

Past episodes are available for online viewing.

Cloris Leachman Talks Comedy

In this clip, Emmy-award winning comedic actress Cloris Leachman discusses her theatrical training and shares her acting philosophy.

Jonathan Winters "Mentors" Robin Williams

Improv master Jonathan Winters paved the way for younger comedians like Robin Williams. During the filming of "Mork and Mindy," the two actors shared a special relationship.

Robin Williams Hones his Craft

"Mork and Mindy" star Robin Williams developed his signature style of improvisational comedy as a young comic.

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Dick Van Dyke's Knack for Physical Comedy

Above: Classic comic actor Dick Van Dyke loved to perform physical comedy, even if the script didn't call for it.

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Jimmie Walker on "Taking the Pie"

Above: Though producer Norman Lear intended his hit GOOD TIMES to be a family show with tender, sentimental moments, young actor Jimmie Walker was there to be funny. According to Jimmie, every sitcom needed a goofy, comedic player to "take the pie."

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PIONEERS OF TELEVISION: Acting Funny Preview

Above: This episode peeks behind the curtain to reveal the backstage techniques of America’s favorite comedic actors—ranging from Robin Williams’ manic improvisational style to Tina Fey’s measured, highly-prepared approach.

Video

PIONEERS OF TELEVISION: Season Four Preview

Above: More than 200 breakthrough stars bring their stories to life in season four of this Emmy-nominated documentary series. Each episode melds compelling new interviews with irresistible clips to offer a fresh take on TV’s biggest celebrities.