You make an excellent point, however, I still don't agree with it, because I was absolutely enchanted with THE ORSON WELLES SHOW. So as Christopher Lee once told me, let us "agree to disagree."
Frankly, before I saw THE ORSON WELLES SHOW I also didn't think it would be very good. I recently spoke with Frank Oz and asked him about what he thought about working with Welles. To my great surprise, Mr. Oz was the first person I've ever talked to about Orson Welles who did not indicate to me he thought Welles work as a director was inspired.
He told me he thought the show was "pedestrian" and when I asked him if he learned anything from Welles, as a director, he seemed to think the question was absurd, saying, "you can't direct a TV show like that."
In any case, it appears that my opinion about THE ORSON WELLES SHOW is very much in the minority. Besides your own opinion, the Wellesnet posts above, along with Jeff Wilson's review of the show, really don't have much good to say about THE ORSON WELLES SHOW, either!
Also, my own friend here in San Francisco, Glenn Anders told me he also thought that the THE ORSON WELLES SHOW was not very good.
Since I know all of these people know Welles' work quite well, I'm wondering what other Welles experts, who read the board may think?
Specifically, any Welles scholars like Joe McBride, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Francois Thomas and Stefan want to help me here? Isn't there anybody out there?
Seriously, do you think THE ORSON WELLES SHOW is really, really that bad, and would be such a drag on Welles reputation if it should be widely seen?
Of course, the key question here is "seen." I mean, I myself until last week had never even seen it! Perhaps back in 1978 if the show had aired on national TV most people would indeed, think is was bad. But the question is, shouldn't it have at least been seen?
And let's look at what Welles was obviously attempting to do. That is, make a TV talk show that would appeal NOT to the audience of under 5 million people that would see a movie, but to a mass TV audience. So who does Welles get for his show? A very big movie star (at the time) Burt Reynolds. The very family friendly and very popular Muppets. And a beautiful lady, Ms. Angie Dickinson. Clearly Welles was dumbing himself down as much as he could. This wasn't about being an "intellectual" TV show, but about appealing to a mass public of 30 million people or more.
The problem it appears, is Welles couldn't dumb himself down to that low level that would appeal to a mass public. It certainly didn't appeal to any of the major networks!
Now, I happen to like the show, and think it was a brilliant piece of television work. All the more so, since the main subject, Burt Reynolds is not exactly a big star anymore. But I doubt he's ever given a more intelligent interview. Just look at his comments on the recent DVD of DELIVERANCE. Clearly Welles coached him and fed him his "answers." I think it was also far and away better than 100 % of the crap that is seen on TV talk shows, or TV in general these days.
So, I think you must consider what Welles intentions were. He wasn't making a movie. He was making a TV talk show, back in 1978. In that context, the show has to be considered BRILLIANT! Honestly, watch whatever crap is on TV tonight, and then tell me you would rather watch that for 90 minutes then THE ORSON WELLES SHOW! What's even more appalling, is that if in 1978 the show had been given a green light, we might have had Orson Welles doing many additional nights of late night TV, just as he used to do in those happy bygone days when he had a radio show every week, until he left America in 1948!
Now, obviously, if Welles did have a late night TV show in 1978, they wouldn't all be great, but I'm sure that they would always be of some interest, especially when you compare them to what you can watch on late night TV currently.
If nothing else, nobody can say Welles was not a good conversationalist, and if his TV pilot was approved, it's certain he would have brought many interesting guests onto his show. Just imagine - Welles might have talked to: Gore Vidal, Charlton Heston, Frank Sinatra, Tennessee Williams, Eartha Kitt, Peter Bogdanovich, Cab Calloway, Arthur Miller, Jimmy Carter, Mike Nichols, Steven Spielberg, Marlene Dietrich, etc., etc. And of course, this was right before Ronald Reagan was elected president!
The major point I'm trying to make is that most critics thought MR. ARKADIN and TOUCH OF EVIL were very bad when they came out. So do you think we should suppress a Welles project because it may not be popular or even if you think it is bad?
Aye, there's the rub. In my view, whatever Welles directed and finished should indeed be brought out into the cold light of critical view. Maybe THE ORSON WELLES SHOW would have been totally crucified by the critics, but there's no doubt it should have at least been seen!
On the other hand, many make the point that Jess Franco's version of DON QUIXOTE should be shown, just because it contains Welles footage. Of course, I'd like to see all that Welles footage myself, but when it has been taken so much out of context, and re-ordered, re-cut, re-scored, re-dubbed, and so generally screwed-up, I'm afraid I could never agree to that idea.
To sum up:
I'd take the worse version of any Orson Welles project he had control over you can think of (such at THE ORSON WELLES SHOW) rather than a however well-intentioned disaster such as Jess Franco's version of DON QUIXOTE.