Tony Kahn
Tony Kahn
Award-winning producer, writer, and storyteller on public radio and TV
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Boston is home to WGBH-TV—legendary producer of “Masterpiece,” “The French Chef with Julia Child,” “This Old House,” “NOVA,” “ZOOM,” “The American Experience,” and” Frontline”—and WCVB-TV, an ABC affiliate that was winning national attention in the ‘80s and ‘90s for its news, documentaries, and entertainment specials.

I worked at both stations as a producer, director, writer, host, and story teller on over fifty shows. Here are a few of those programs that mean the most to me.



The Day The Cold War Came Home

In “Blacklisted, “ Tony Kahn presents a child’s-eye view of the effects of political repression, including a precipitate slide from affluence to near-poverty, being shunned and denounced by neighbors, living with parents whose whispered conversations would stop whenever a child entered the room.
— Andy Meisler, The New York Times, 1997

The Day the Cold War Came Home tells the story of the fifteen years my family spent under FBI surveillance from 1947 ‘till my father’s death in 1962. He was a Hollywood screenwriter and one of the first victims of the American Red Scare and reign of fear that deprived thousands of people of their reputations and careers.

(I owe special thanks to Cinematographer David Skilikorn for his invaluable contributions not only in shooting all my TV specials but in creating ways early analog video could look like film.)



Here In My Arms

We'd been expecting to find a white child from the US. Instead, we'd found a baby of another country, another culture, another race. A chill went down my spine. Was it the fear of the unknown, or after three years of looking had I finally felt the touch of my child?

When our son Andrew was three days old, his birth mother in Guadalajara, Mexico, parted with him and offered him up for adoption. Five days later my wife Harriet Reisen and I flew to Mexico to adopt him and bring him to the United States. I wrote and directed this story as a birthday gift to Andrew and to show how the power of family can overcome the boundaries of place, nationality, and race.

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Learning to drive: Three teenage tales

“Stop jumping the clutch!” he yelled at me, as the car lurched forward and stalled for the third time. He got out, slammed the door, and planted himself directly in front of me. “Do it again,” he said, “and this time get — it — right!”

When I was fifteen years old my father decided he’d teach me to drive. It took me twenty-five years before I was ready to tell the story. It’s included as the last part of a half-hour TV trilogy of true tales about growing up in Manchester, New Hampshire in the 1950s, produced for WCVB-TV and the A&E Cable Network.



Mother's Little Network

Arnie Reisman as “François, the Fly-Catching Frenchman”

Mother’s Little Network was a collaboration of twenty-somethings, including Arnie Reisman, Ernie Fosselius, director Dick Bartlet and animator Derek Lamb, and me on a comedy series for PBS.

At the time, public television was under the influence of English programming on the BBC. We wanted to do something with a distinctly American flavor. We never got funding for the series, but the pilot for WGBH-TV held up pretty well.

MOTHER’S LITTLE NEWORK! The only show on PBS with no English host!

Feature Reporting



Click the image above for a Chronicle video sampler.

In the early 1980s, CHRONICLE, a popular daily magazine show on Boston’s WCVB-TV, hired me to do satire and social commentaries on any subject I wanted. It was my first taste of local celebrity. It was also my first experience with the impact of television on the human imagination. People would sometimes stop me on the street after one of my pieces had aired and congratulate or criticize me for things I had never said or done. One major sponsor of the program was so upset by a comment they thought I had made they threatened to pull all their advertising from the station. I’ll never forget how the General Manager defended me. “If you ever pull your advertising from my station,” he yelled at the sponsor, “I’m never going to let you advertise on my station again!”