Watch Huell Howser’s Decades of Television Travels Online. It’s California Gold!

When tele­vi­sion broad­cast­er Huell Hows­er passed away last month, we South­ern Cal­i­for­ni­ans real­ized just how far his per­sona reached. The cliché “larg­er than life” seems, in this light, almost apt; it describes his famous­ly vol­u­ble enthu­si­asm, larg­er than the broad­ly local life he explored on cam­era. Though fol­low­ers iden­ti­fy Cal­i­for­ni­a’s Gold as Howser’s flag­ship series, he host­ed spe­cial­ized ones as well, such as Down­town, focus­ing on Los Ange­les’ his­toric core, Cal­i­for­ni­a’s Mis­sions (sub­ject obvi­ous), and Road Trip, which took him far­ther afield. Above, you’ll find an episode of Cal­i­for­ni­a’s Gold shot in Palm Springs. Hows­er hap­pened to own a home out there, but more to the point, so did Frank Sina­tra; it’s the Chair­man of the Board­’s house that Hows­er devotes his con­sid­er­able curios­i­ty to walk­ing through and find­ing out every­thing about. Below, you can join him for a look at Vin­cent Price’s art col­lec­tion on a Vis­it­ing… broad­cast that con­tains an inter­view Hows­er record­ed with Price back in the eight­ies.

“I don’t have an agent,” said Hows­er in a 2009 Los Ange­les Times pro­file. “I don’t have a man­ag­er, I don’t have a press agent, I don’t have a wardrobe guy, a make­up guy, a park­ing space, a dress­ing room. It’s basi­cal­ly me and a cam­era­man and an edi­tor and a cou­ple of guys in the office. I can go out between now and noon and do a full 30-minute show just talk­ing to peo­ple on the street and have it on the air tonight.” You can watch all these shows on Chap­man Uni­ver­si­ty’s new Huell Hows­er Archive; just click on a series title under the “Shows” col­umn, then through to each episode’s indi­vid­ual post. For a pub­lic tele­vi­sion icon, Hows­er had a pro­duc­tion sen­si­bil­i­ty ide­al­ly suit­ed for the inter­net, domain of the cheap and cheer­ful — well, domain of the cheap, any­way. “We have shrugged our way into a world where every­one is sup­posed to be a crit­ic of every­thing, all the time,” actor Thomas Lennon wrote in a remem­brance titled “Why Huell Hows­er Was the Oppo­site of the Inter­net.” “Huell, on the oth­er hand, would get into his car, dri­ve for hours, and show us things… just so he could tell us how won­der­ful they were.”

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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