Rest in Peace, Huell Howser (1945 - 2013). His Adventures Continue...
From left to right: Huell Howser, Grace Yuan & Eddie Lin.
The late and amazing Huell Howser always called his shows "adventures". Whatever the story was he'd just insert the word adventure right after it. If the subject was donuts, it'd be a donut adventure. If it was tulips, it'd be a tulip adventure. Sometimes, though, he'd have real, indisputable adventures like the time he visited Cuba.
I was lucky enough to go on not only one but two adventures with Huell. My first one was about halal food (a prescribed way of eating according to Islamic law). The next adventure was about eating pig ears. Both shows were transformed into adventures simply because Huell Howser treated them as such. His talent was finding the fascinating in the everyday, the common, the unnoticed.
Huell Howser passed away on Sunday, January 6, 2013 of undisclosed natural causes. For those of you who don't know, Huell Howser was a California television mainstay for decades. He was a Mister Rogers for grown-ups and the biggest booster of the Golden State. His show was and still is broadcast all over California on public television stations. He was originally from Tennessee and, when he got into broadcast television, he never lost his native accent like many do when getting into the business. In fact, he embraced it and used it to his advantage. His twang put people's guards down and made them curious about the man speaking to them with the big microphone. His style was folksy, some say country bumpkin-ish. In fact, Huell was featured a couple of times on The Simpsons animated series (creator Matt Groening is a huge fan of his) as a character named Howell Huser; one time as a guy who literally falls off a turnip truck. Huell knew very well of the ridicule but took it in stride for the most part. His biggest strength was that he was so singularly pluralistic - everyone had a story and nobody was better than anyone else.
Recently, I wrote a tribute piece to Huell Howser for Los Angeles Magazine's Digest Blog (where I review Asian restaurants twice a week on Mondays & Wednesdays). His sudden retirement and his unexpected death has stunned many in California. I too am deeply saddened. However I am honored to be a part of his legacy but wish that I could've gone on more adventures with him.
Huell has many catch phrases like "that's amazing", "wow", "are you telling me?", etc. But the one phrase he'd use that drove me crazy was "It doesn't get any better than this." It was infuriating because he'd say that at the end of practically every show, therefore, logically, it didn't make sense because it always did get better, right?
Well, Huell, you're finally right. You're gone now and it's not going to get better. You were that one sincere spark on our flatscreens. But we're lucky to have the hundreds of shows you've left for us to enjoy and to relive your joy, curiosity, and humanity.
Here's to Huell and his greatest adventure yet...