Remembering the Simple Pleasures of Skip E. Lowe

When Harry Shearer wrote about Public Access talk show host Skip E. Lowe in 1998 for The New York Times Magazine, he got just one thing wrong. That wasn’t Lowe in the show’s opening credits; it was Mickey Rooney from A Midsummer Night’s Dream (as Lowe later corrected on his website).

Otherwise, Shearer’s piece is absolutely the best way to remember – or, acquaint yourself – with Lowe, who passed away this week after a three-and-half-decades bi-coastal TV run. From Shearer’s September 1998 essay:

Skip E. Lowe Looks at Hollywood doesn’t so much re-invent television as de-invent it, returning it to those glorious days before focus groups, when the tube was safe for eccentricity and obsession. Regular TV could allow for such vagaries when the commercial formulas had not yet been ascertained and codified.

Today, we’re damn lucky that a quirky FCC rule has made a modicum of room on the cable box for a show so much a product of individual passion, so lacking in the otherwise predominant reek of calculation. A fey fixation with show business would work in mainstream TV only if the character in question was a widower with two troublesome but charming teenagers.

Shearer also mentioned at the time that a number of his Hollywood pals liked to watch the program, largely because former child actor Lowe (real name: Sammy Labella) stayed away from the topics of TV ratings and movie box office in favor of “the big breaks and comebacks and wonderful evenings in the theater.” RIP.

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