'Lost' Episode Of Huell Howser's 'California's Gold' To Air Monday

Good news has come at last for all the Californians looking to fill the Huell Howser-sized hole in their hearts.

The folksy television star and impassioned California booster may have passed away in 2013, but a "new" episode of his iconic California's Gold series will be airing next Monday on KCET. NBC reports that lost footage from the Howser-helmed show was recently discovered. KCET worked with the Huell Howser Archives at Chapman University in Orange to prep the lost footage for broadcast, and the episode will air at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 9 with an encore at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 10.

The episode will focus on El Alisal, the former residence of author and historian Charles F. Lummis. The concrete-and-rock Highland Park house was the "epicenter of cultural activity" in early twentieth century L.A. The home was built almost entirely by Lummis himself and completed in 1904, replete with a 30-foot tower, a 28-by-16-foot "museo," and legendary parties.

Howser was a much-beloved face on public television for three decades, and his shows highlighted familiar and obscure sites across the state with a signature sense of awe. "He kept alive a sense of the drama, beauty and poetry of California," as former state librarian Kevin Starr once so eloquently put it. His decision to donate his archives to Orange County's Chapman University was spurred by—what else?—an episode of California's Gold.

John Carlo Encarnacion, an archive technician at Chapman's Leatherby Libraries, tells LAist that years ago Howser devoted an episode to exploring the City of Orange, but neglected to visit the neighboring school. The school's president contacted Howser and invited him to come back for a personal tour. Howser "fell in love with the campus," and the tour spurred a long friendship between the two men that culminated in Howser donating his entire estate to the school, which included not just his archive but also several properties. Chapman worked to digitize all episodes of California's Gold, making the entire series freely available for online viewing.

The university library also houses a permanent Huell Howser exhibit that visually showcases various elements of Howser's life and work across two rooms. There is a wall-size timeline of the broadcaster's life, a replica of his office at KCET and a Huell Howser reading room where visitors can browse through his personal library. As one would expect, almost all the books are about California, or specific locations within the state, according to Encarnacion.

And come Monday night, NBC reports that KCET viewers will be in for some classic Howser action:

If you're hoping that Huell will stroll the abode, microphone in hand with a single cameraperson in tow, as was his classic style, get excited: That's how the interview-centered episode will roll.

"We have two agendas," Howser told the L.A. Times in 2009. "One is to specifically show someone China Camp State Park or to talk to the guys who paint the Golden Gate Bridge. But the broader purpose is to open up the door for people to have their own adventures. Let's explore our neighborhood; let's look in our own backyard, let's go down to Koreatown and buy some kimchee. We won't do a story on what it's like to spend the night in a $10,000 hotel suite. We do things to put the spotlight on the fact that every single person we meet potentially has a great story to share. Can I repair a car? No. Can I cook a meal? No. Can I paint a picture? No. Can I talk with people? Can I help them tell their stories? Absolutely."


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