Greetings again from the darkness. We tend to pay little attention to historians and archivists until we need them. By then, their importance cannot be overstated. If you know the name Stuart Shostak, it’s likely you assume this documentary from CJ Wallis will be about Stu’s internet talk show and his commitment to preserving ‘classic’ TV shows. If that’s your assumption, you will be partially correct, but also in for quite a surprise. Much of the film is dedicated to Stu’s personal life … a life that sets a strong example on how to hustle and how to care for loved ones in need.
“Stu’s Show” serves as both the title of this documentary and the title of Mr. Shostak’s internet talk show where the format involves interviewing those who were involved in television during the 1950s through the 1980s. Stu is a staunch believer that these folks (many of whom the industry has long ago forgotten) deserve to tell their stories, and we benefit from hearing them. Stu himself takes us on the tour of his studio and warehouse, both of which are located in his home. He points out shelf after shelf of archival footage in a variety of formats – from film to digital. This is no casual collection. Rather it’s 50-plus years of work from the man who served as the personal archivist for none other than Lucille Ball over the last 10 years of her life.
Stu walks us through the early days of how he started working as a ticket hawker/procurer for TV shows – the guy responsible for making sure the audience seats were filled (this was in the days when many shows were filmed in front of a live studio audience). He then worked as the warm-up act ahead of filming episodes for shows like “Diff’rent Strokes” and “Silver Spoons”, prior to his affiliation with the legendary Lucy on her final TV series. All of this is documented through clips and interviews from those that were there. Many of the recollections focus on Stu’s personality. “Exuberant” and “enthusiastic” are often used to describe him, and it seems what appealed to Lucy was his willingness to hustle after what he wanted (a trait they shared).
Classic TV lovers will appreciate Stu’s dedication to keeping the past alive; however, it’s the second half of the film that gives us the real reason to respect him as a person. After Lucy died in 1989, Stu co-founded a “Loving Lucy” convention, and one of the most loyal attendees was Jeanine Kasun. Stu and Jeanine shared a love of classic TV and would quote dialogue back and forth, thus establishing a bond that was quite special. For many years, the two were very close, though choosing to live apart in recognition of their individual quirks. But things changed quickly when Jeanine suffered a brain aneurism and was rushed to the hospital with her life in danger. Despite an extended coma and being written off as soon-to-die, Jeanine hung in. Equally impressive is how Stu became her advocate. He turned his penchant for excitable talking into ensuring that his beloved Jeanine received the treatment she needed, in spite of the challenges faced by her situation and the state of the healthcare system.
Most of us have experienced some frustration and a swell of emotion when visiting a loved one in the hospital. But Stu rallied friends and the stream of visiting celebrities surely did not go unnoticed by hospital personnel. Jeanine’s recovery was a slow process involving multiple hospitals and caregivers, and Stu spent as much time with her as possible. Bookending the film is video from their wedding … a ceremony with the look of a classic TV reunion attended by many of the celebrities Stu had interviewed over the years, including Tony Dow (Wally in “Leave it to Beaver”) as the Best Man. You may recognize many of the faces interviewed here, but you’ll surely recognize the love Stu showed for Jeanine.
Available On Demand beginning May 2, 2022