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TV pioneers Newhart, Romano, Takei, Uggams and Walker have ‘Dy-no-mite’ tales to tell

Television » Newhart, Romano, Takei, Uggams, Walker are funny, poignant.

By Scott D. Pierce

| The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published Apr 11 2014 09:14 am • Last Updated Apr 11 2014 05:52 pm

"Pioneers of Television" returns for a fourth season on PBS, and it’s a blast from the past not just for the viewers but for the "pioneers" who appear in the episodes.

And a bit of a shock when they look back at themselves.

At a glance


Season 4 of “Pioneers of Television” airs on four consecutive Tuesdays at 7 p.m. on PBS/Ch. 7. The episodes are:

April 15 » “Standup to Sitcom”

April 22 » “Doctors and Nurses”

April 29 » “Breaking Barriers”

May 6 » “Acting Funny”

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"You just think — well, gee, we were younger," said Jimmie Walker ("Good Times").

"We were heartbreakingly young," said George Takei of "Star Trek" fame.

"I like my hair," said Leslie Uggams ("Roots"). "A lot of different hairdos."

"When I saw myself," added Ray Romano ("Everybody Loves Raymond"), "I just thought — that was before I had to color it to look like that."

Even Bob Newhart had some (fake) hairy memories. Because he used to wear a hairpiece on TV.

"It was a divot," he said. "It was like a bad golfer would leave a clump of grass like that. And they called it a divot and it fit over my head.

"And now I realize it’s been a number of years since I’ve had to put on the divot with the double-faced tape. It was quite an operation."

As is "Pioneers of Television," which continues to not just take us down memory lane with some of our favorite TV stars but put their work in historical context.

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And provide us with some great anecdotes.

Ray Romano » "Everybody Loves Raymond" was a hugely successful sitcom, but the show’s star didn’t go into it with great expectations. Ray Romano had pretty much no acting experience, so the studio offered to provide him with an acting coach.

"And I said, ‘Sure,’ " Romano said.

In addition to the formal acting coach, he got some informal help from his co-star/TV dad, Peter Boyle.

"He comes over to me in the middle of rehearsal, and he just grabs my hand," Romano said. "And he says, ‘It’s just like water. Just let it flow.’

"And I had no idea what it meant. I knew it wasn’t an actory thing, but just the gesture — just the fact that he would take me in like that and calm me down and he was one of my best friends."

He also learned from his TV mom, Doris Roberts.

"So you just watched these pros, and you would just aspire to be like them," Romano said. "They took me under their wing."

But he said it’s "hard to watch" himself in the series’ first episodes. "I cringe a little when I watch some of those first-year episodes."

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