Bust of Philo T. Farnsworth in TV Academy Hall of Fame Garden

Revisiting “Philo In The Hall”

I just made some minor updates to the page I created back in 2013 for the occasion when Philo T. Farnsworth was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in Los Angeles.

I also wrote about that event in the new Afterword added to the 2023 edition of The Boy Who Invented Television:

2013 – Philo In The Hall

On March 11, 2013, at another glittering, star-studded event in Hollywood, Philo Farnsworth was inducted into the Television Academy’s Hall of Fame.

Prior to the induction, three generations of Farnsworths assembled in the West Los Angeles home of television producer Phil Savenick, whose living room is a museum of antique televisions – and something of a Farnsworth shrine.

Present for the occasion were: Russell ‘Skee’ Farnsworth, Phil and Pem’s oldest surviving son (born 1936) and his brother Kent, the youngest (born 1948).  The next generation was represented by Philo Krishna Farnsworth, the oldest son of Phil and Pem’s first born, Philo III.  The great-grand generation was represented by Kent’s grandson and granddaughter, Jonathan and Jessica Moulton.

Also present along with me was my first-ex-wife Georja Skinner, who has been along on this odyssey since it started in the mid 1970s. Georja served as Pem’s personal representative in the last years of her life and was instrumental in orchestrating all the Academy’s new interest in Farnsworth.

At the banquet at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, Farnsworth was honored along with Law and Order creator Dick Wolf, CBS News correspondent Bob Schieffer, CBS executive Les Moonves, sportscaster Al Michaels and Opie Taylor himself, actor and director Ron Howard – all of whom were present to accept their induction plaques.

At Phil’s house the day before the banquet, we deliberated on who should accept the posthumous award on Philo’s behalf.  We settled on a triumvirate, starting with Skee and cascading down the generations through Krishna and Jessica.

In retrospect, I still wish they’d asked me to make the acceptance speech.  Since this is my account of the occasion, here’s what I have always wished I could have said:

Addressing an audience that included George Lucas, Ron Howard, Big Bang Theory creator Chuck Lorre and who knows what other luminous gatekeepers from Tinseltown, all I wanted to say was:

Esteemed Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let us pause for a moment to ponder the curiosity that television – the most powerful story telling medium ever devised by man – has yet to tell the story of its own remarkable origins.

Then I fall just silent. And take a beat.  Or two… three…four…and then, deadpan:

Thank you all for listening to my pitch.

I can only imagine the outburst of laughter – and the rush to the stage by producers and writers anxious to get on with it.  I can only imagine it because of course it did not happen.

There was plenty more to say.  I wanted to convince this handsome crowd who earn their handsome livings from Farnsworth’s invention just why he deserved the attention he’d never gotten.  I kept wanting to use the phrase “breakthrough of epic proportions.”

Alas, the moment passed as first Skee and then Krishna rambled through the family’s expressions of gratitude.  By the time they got to Jessica, who had prepared the best speech of the three, the “walk off music” started playing. Another spotlight dimmed.

I did get a chance during the evening to talk with Chuck Lorre.  I figured, given all the science that goes into a typical episode of Big Bang Theory, that he might be intrigued by the Farnsworth story.  I handed him a copy of my book.  All he could say was “this is Aaron Sorkin’s project, isn’t it?”

And so it goes…



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