US Townhall RealStories presents: Television Producer KENNETH JOHNSON
Written by Scott Katz
Tuesday, 25 January 2011 08:20
On Wednesday, January 19, 2011, we had a very special edition of our interview series, USTownhall RealStories. We had the pleasure of having a one-on-one in-depth chat with legendary television producer/writer/director, Kenneth Johnson. Fans of classic television, particularly in the scifi genre, will no doubt know his many influential works. Mr. Johnson first made a splash on television after some years in Hollywood for his creation of Jaime Sommers, the Bionic Woman in a special two-part episode of The Six Million Dollar Man on ABC that shot the series to the top of the ratings where it remained for its next two seasons. The fan reaction to Jaime and to the performance of actress Lindsay Wagner was so strong that, although the character was killed off at the end of the story, the network ordered that she be brought back for a return appearance. Subsequently, the character was spun off into her own series that catapulted Lindsay Wagner to international superstardom.
Mr. Johnson was also responsible for bringing the long-running Marvel Comics superhero strip, The Incredible Hulk to the small screen for CBS. This series ran for five successful seasons and remains probably the most widely-known and well-liked version of the Hulk. Mr. Johnson's trademark in his writing is to incorporate the human element into his stories and put it front and center. This certainly was true with Bill Bixby's melancholy performance as the tormented Dr. Banner that allowed the series to be taken seriously by adults rather than dismissed as a kids' show.
One of Mr. Johnson's biggest ratings successes was the television miniseries, V, which was broadcast on NBC in 1983. This four hour event was followed the next season by another miniseries and, finally, a weekly series. However, Johnson left the franchise during the production of the second miniseries, V: The Final Battle. Imagery from the original V miniseries, which included gigantic spaceships hovering over major cities across the globe was paid homage to in the feature film, Independence Day.
Mr. Johnson has done numerous other television and feature film projects including Alien Nation, Short Circuit 2, and Steel.
Mr. Johnson spends an eventful hour with us to talk about all of that and more in this exclusive interview. He relives the full behind-the-scenes stories of some of his more memorable television moments, and reveals some information that hasn't been as widely discussed and may just surprise you.
How did Mr. Johnson feel when Warner Bros. tried to take his "Created by" credit off the new V series currently airing on ABC? Which other actresses were considered for the part of the Bionic Woman that eventually went to Lindsay Wagner? Was Lee Majors' then-wife, Farrah Fawcett, ever a contender for Jaime Sommers? Given Bill Bixby's background in comedy as the star of My Favorite Martian, what made Johnson decide that Bixby was the right person to play Dr. Banner in his adaptation of the Incredible Hulk? What did Johnson say when he met Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin, the men behind the blockbuster film, Independence Day?
The answers to those and other questions await in what promises to be a most memorable interview that no fan of classic television or scifi would want to miss!