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January 1977 - Steve Allen's 'Meeting of Minds' Premieres

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Meeting of the Minds
Jayne Meadows (right), as Catherine The Great, is one of the guests on KCET's 'Meeting of Minds.' | Photo: KCET Archives

In January 1977, "Meeting of Minds," the educational history "talk show" featuring actors portraying historical figures interacting with one another, and hosted by former "Tonight Show" host and TV legend Steve Allen, made its debut.

The Emmy and Peabody award-winning program featured Allen moderating a fictional roundtable discussion of major historical figures, from Plato to Karl Marx, and from Cleopatra to Marie Antoinette, all portrayed by actors, such as Allen's wife, Jayne Meadows, who performed many of the female historical figures. Scripts were written to include the figures' actual words and quotes, and many of the figures, engaged in lively debates ranging from topics such as politics, religion, and philosophy.

Though "Meeting of Minds" bore many similarities to the 1974 Canadian series, "Witness to Yesterday," Allen originally conceived of the idea in the 1950s as a segment of his "Steve Allen Show," but dropped the plan when the show's sponsor, the Chrysler Corporation, objected to the segment. Allen did appear on "Witness To Yesterday," portraying composer George Gershwin in a 1976 episode, prior to the premiere of "Meeting of Minds."

The KCET-produced program, was taped at the Sunset Boulevard studios and aired nationally on PBS from 1977 to 1982.

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