The Sacramento Bee is quoting a staffer at Huell Howser's production company saying that the folksy aficionado of all things California won't be making new episodes of "California's Gold" or other shows. Re-runs will continue, of course. The email, from Ryan Morris, says that "Huell is retiring from making new shows but does not want to make any formal announcements about it." Well fat chance of that going unnoticed. In fact, if he were to just stop making television and not expect everyone to talk about it a little bit — that would be amazing.
Robert Lloyd at the LA Times has already weighed in with a quick appreciation.
With his happy public face, his amazing sense of amazement and his wide Tennessee drawl, Howser is easy enough to lampoon. You quite possibly have a Huell Howser imitation up your own sleeve, or wherever it is that imitations are kept. But I am an unabashed fan of his work — his unpretentious attention to small things and ordinary people, his celebration of his adopted city and state, the local nature of his reports. He's been part of what makes L.A. L.A.
* 11-27 update: Howser last year donated "all current, past and future episodes" of his public television shows to Chapman University. "The university is currently organizing the massive digitization process, and will announce at a later time when the shows will be available online," the Orange County school said then. "Howser is also donating to Chapman between 250 to 300 boxes of material directly related to the series – papers, ephemera and memorabilia – as well as 1,800 books about California, all of which will be housed in the university’s Leatherby Libraries."
Also, this past spring Howser gave Chapman his desert home in Newberry Springs. The unusual hilltop "volcano" home designed by architect Harold J. Bissner, Jr. reportedly sits on 60 acres.
Howser recently turned 67 years old. The native of Gallatin, Tennessee arrived in Los Angeles in 1981 as a news reporter for Channel 2, then did a stint on "Entertainment Tonight" and by 1985 was hooked up with KCET.
* 11-28 update: The LA Times' Scott Collins addresses rumors of ill health:
Speculation that the 67-year-old Howser is seriously ill has been circulating among local TV industry veterans in recent weeks, and insiders reported that he has not been seen for months at his Los Angeles office. On Tuesday the Sacramento Bee reported that Howser was retiring but added that he doesn't wish to make an official announcement.
"Huell is retiring from filming new shows or making appearances (or interviews) but the show will continue to air in reruns for awhile," Ryan Morris, Howser's assistant, wrote in an email to The Times. "We have been gradually winding down all year but Huell has decided to stop, come December 31st."
As for the talk about Howser's ill health, Morris added: "I have heard the rumors and while Huell does not always tell me everything, he seems to be doing fine. He is just trying to get away from television and enjoy some free time."
Here are a few vintage Huell Howser moments. First, Huell sings:
And a bonus: Huell as a young Republican.
Next, the day Jacob Soboroff (with Howser in the photo above) ran into his TV hero north of downtown.
And because we all love him, a tribute of sorts — Huell tripping: