It's only fitting that the television premiere of the Huell Howser documentary falls on Thanksgiving Day. As the film -- aptly titled "A Golden State of Mind: The Storytelling Genius of Huell Howser" -- demonstrates, Howser was thankful for the little things in life. His wide-eyed fascination (often accompanied by the drawn-out phrase "that's amAzing") about California history, geography, topography, food, and culture, and everyman approach to reporting and storytelling was unrivaled.
Before watching the touching movie (we dare you not to shed a tear during the conclusion), which airs back to back Thursday at 8:03 p.m. and 9:31 p.m., for a behind-the-scenes look at "California's Gold," "Visiting," and "Road Trip," catch up on the episodes of his iconic TV series featured in the film.
Visiting with Huell Howser
Pink's Hot Dogs
Family owned and operated since 1939, this L.A. institution has been serving up some of the best chili cheese hot dogs this side of Coney Island. Huell get the lowdown from Mrs. Pink and a handful of enthusiastic patrons, many of whom have been eating at Pink's since their childhood.
Huell interviewed Tony Danza in the original 1981 episode. Danza, who was only two years into the run of "Taxi" at the time, showed off his '57 Porsche Speedster and reminisced about his old New York stomping grounds in the episode.
READ MORE: When Huell Howser Met Tony Danza
Huell indulges in a summer treat at Fosselman's Ice Cream Co. in Alhambra -- a 95-year-old family-owned business that still uses an original family recipe.
READ MORE: On Location: Alhambra
Watch episode here.Galco's
Huell first met John Nese -- aka the "King of Pop" -- back in 2000 when he did a program about the 250-plus vintage soda pops he sold in the store. In this special update, we discover that the store's inventory of vintage sodas has not only doubled in size, but now also includes classic candy bars. The real joy of the story, however, is finding out how his family has changed and grown since the first visit.
READ MORE: Galco's Soda Pop Stop
Have you ever wondered how news crews get such great shots from a helicopter? How they can zoom in on a backyard while flying in a machine that rattles your teeth? Well, Huell goes in the air with Helinet to see the latest in cutting edge helicopter-mounted cameras. You'll be amazed at how close they really can get and you may never walk around in your underwear in the backyard again.
Huell visits world famous artist David Hockney in his Los Angeles studio and we get a first-hand look at some of his newest work. He first interviewed Hockney for his "Videolog" series in the late 1980s.
READ MORE: When Huell Howser Met David Hockney
The Donut Man
At Donut Man, people aren't salivating over just jelly donuts and crullers, but owner Jim Nakano's specialty -- the strawberry donut. Only available for a few months in the spring, these sweets are piled high with fresh, locally grown strawberries and Jim's signature glaze. Costumers come in and out of the Donut Man in Glendora 24 hours a day.
Join Huell as he hops over to the Pasadena home of Candace Frazee and Steve Lubanski, who have turned their house into The Bunny Museum. The space is filled with over 21,000 rabbit collectibles: furniture, light fixtures, kitchenware, toiletries, books, and games. The icing on the cake? There are seven real (litter box-trained) bunnies lounging around their house.
Huell spends the day at the RAQS L.A. Carnival of Belly Dance held at the Glendale Civic Auditorium. Belly dancing has grown to be one of the most popular forms of exercise in the country, with gyms and schools offering classes all over the nation. This two-day celebration is jam packed with workshops, performances, and vendors selling all kinds of belly dance related items.
In this special one-hour episode, Huell revisits one of the oldest and most colorful restaurants in Los Angeles: Philippe's, the home of the French dip sandwich. Family-owned, Philippe's is a true L.A. institution and was one of Huell's favorites.
Hot Dog on a Stick
It's off to Santa Monica Beach to the site of the very first Hot Dog on a Stick stand. It all started in 1946 when Dave Barham opened his first stand by Muscle Beach. The company has become a California tradition with Dave's daughter at the helm. We get a behind-the-scenes look at Hot Dog on a Stick.
Huell visits his artist friend Slater Barron to witness the beauty of art made from lint. Yes, lint. This is a full 30-minute update from the 20-year-old "Videolog."
It's creepy crawly day on "Visiting." Huell stops by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County during the 22nd Annual Bug Fair -- the largest event of its kind in North America. We explore the world of insects and get close-up looks at spiders and scorpions, butterflies and bats. Over 60 vendors were on hand with entomological equipment and supplies, artwork, toys, and more.
Huell and actress Shelley Morrison (Rosario, Karen's maid on "Will & Grace") visit Animal Acres, a facility in Acton that cares for neglected and abused farm animals.
Huell heads to the Soap Kitchen in Pasadena to learn all about soap-making, from the early history of mixing animal tallow with wood ashes to the mass-market bars of Ivory soap. This adventure will leave you clean all over.
Huell visits the iconic Crossroads of the World on Sunset Boulevard. With its beautiful globe-topped tower, Los Angeles' first outdoor shopping mall was originally designed as an international shopping center. Now used as office space, this is one L.A. gem that's still alive and well. As a bonus, Huell spends the last 10 minutes of the show learning about the history of the "landscaped" billboards.
In one of the final and most emotional episodes that Huell filmed before his untimely death, he learns about the history of jacaranda trees in California, which date back to the 1890s when horticulturalist Kate Sessions first planted the seeds in Balboa Park. The blooming purple trees can now be seen all across the state. Huell interviews people who consider the jacarandas a mess and those who call them a miracle.
The hour-long "California's Gold" special looks at the history of In-N-Out Burger. This was the first time TV cameras were allowed to shoot inside the restaurant. The episode also includes an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the In-N-Out headquarters in Baldwin Park, where it all started back in 1948.
READ MORE: Why Does In-N-Out Pay So Well?
Huell heads to Fallbrook in San Diego County to find out about the rich history of avocados in our state. This episode brought us the now-famous line, "now that's an avocado-eating dog."
Golden Gate Bridge
California's most recognized landmark takes center stage in an episode that focuses on its history (including rare footage of its construction), its beauty, and the incredible maintenance work that goes on daily to keep this towering structure in mint condition.
Huell had the adventure of a lifetime when he climbed Yosemite's formidable Half Dome. This one-hour special documents his 17-mile round trip trek, along with other avid hikers, to conquer this 4,800-foot landmark.
After his visit to the Musicians Institute, Huell was so inspired that he grabbed the mic and recorded his own version of "California, Here I Come," accompanied by the students who also produced the rock video.
Huell goes in search of the crookedest street in the world. A small section of Vermont Street in the Potrero Hill section of San Francisco is just miles away from the more famous Lombard Street. Which street is more crooked? Huell grabs a gang of experts and finally solves this mystery.
Huell meets Joe Rinaudo, whose passion is a 1926 Fotoplayer that uses music rolls like those for player pianos to provide music and sound effects to silent films. Joe spent thousands of hours restoring his Fotoplayer and although the "talkies" made them obsolete in the late 1920s, Huell discovers there is no better way to enjoy a silent movie than with Joe, his hand cranked projector, and his Fotoplayer.
Huell goes straight to the top! Finished in 1874, California's Capitol Building is a stunning neoclassical gem. With all great buildings of this size, there are lots of steps. Some steps are very obvious, like the set that leads up to the front entrance, but this building has lots of "step" stories and even a few that are very scary to climb.
Huell spends the day at Otow Orchard in Granite Bay to learn the ancient art of Hoshigaki: the drying of persimmons.
READ MORE: U-Pick Persimmon Farms in California
Masumoto Family Farm
Huell travels to Central California to visit the 80-acre Masumoto Family Farm. Huell's host is David "Mas" Masumoto and his family, who have a deep connection to the land. Mas is an award-winning author of such books as "Epitaph for a Peach" and "Wisdom of the Last Farmer, Harvesting Legacies from the Land."
Huell's off to Amador County and the town of Volcano. It was once a thriving gold mining town in the 1850s and 1860s, but Huell has set off to discover the mysterious cave in this mountain community that served as a Masonic Lodge.
After finding a website devoted to all the great cultural and historic sites to view along the original Route 66 in the Newberry Springs area, Huell prints out the map and hops in his car, eager to start his next "Road Trip." He doesn't find the Buffalo Ranch, Big Al's Pistachio Plant, or the Ostrich Farm he was looking for, but Huell does meet a group of warm, interesting, and generous Newberry Springs locals. And, after spending a day there, Huell discovers firsthand that the beauty and strength of a town, any town, is not in the number of its attractions or tourist stops, but in the friendliness and character of the people who call it home.
California's Golden Parks
Huell takes the Zzyzx off-ramp from the I-15 freeway and sees what this iconic exit is all about: from its early history as a Mineral Springs & Health Spa to its current incarnation as the Desert Studies Center.
Huell looks back at 60-plus years of film history when he visits the Paramount Ranch. It has posed as Tombstone, Ariz. and Dodge City, Kans., and has stood in for the rolling hills of Montana and the dusty streets of Laredo. Producers have even passed it off as 13th century China, colonial Salem, and the island of Java.