After 21 seasons, “The New Yankee Workshop” is closing its doors, and its much-beloved host, Norm Abram, is going to focus on his personal projects and PBS’s “This Old House,” according to Russ Morash, executive producer and director of “The New Yankee Workshop.”
“Norm has done this for 20 years, and he thought it time to step back and do a little less,” Morash said in a phone interview. “And because the show was so tied to him, we didn’t want to replace him.”
There has been lots of speculation among fans of the show and the woodworking press that the show was looking for someone to take the reins when Abram left. But Morash said he didn’t think that would be a good idea.
“Comparisons would be inevitable (between Abram and a new host),” Morash said.
The decision to stop production of new episodes of “The New Yankee Workshop” was a mutual decision between Morash Associates Inc. and WGBH Boston, Morash said. But that doesn’t mean that “The New Yankee Workshop” is gone forever.
A spokesman from WGBH declined on Tuesday to comment on the matter.
The show’s web site, newyankee.com, will continue to operate. And Morash foresees putting shows or segments from the show on the Internet in a “You Tube-like situation” so future generations could enjoy and learn from Abram.
Morash also noted that Abram may some day change his mind and want to crank up “The New Yankee Workshop” again.
“Who can predict the future?” Morash said. “He may want to do this again.”
In the meantime, Abram will continue to work on “This Old House,” and his own personal projects, both building furniture and improving his house.
When asked why Abram chose to stop working on “The New Yankee Workshop” instead of “This Old House,” Morash laughed.
“‘This Old House’ is a much easier deal,” he said. “Norm actually had to work on ‘The New Yankee Workshop.’ It was a lot of work. And I certainly respect his decision to step back.”
With the loss of new woodworking programming from “The New Yankee Workshop,” many bloggers and woodworking writers are wondering if the craft itself is on the decline or if TV woodworking shows are no longer viable.
“My own view is that broadcast is dead,” Morash said. “That’s my personal take on it. Newspapers are dead. And print is dying. The only hope is the Internet. And it’s my hope that you’ll see lots of Norm on the Internet in the future.”
And what about the craft itself? Is that swirling around the drain?
“No. There is a fundamental human need to build,” Morash said. “People will always want to polish their craftsmanship.”
The other question is what’s going to happen to the shop itself, which is stocked with all manner of machines and hand tools. Morash said he’s personally looking forward to some free time so he can build a few things in the shop. As for the long-term plans for the shop, Morash suggested that the shop could be put on display at the Smithsonian.
“It could be like Julia Child’s kitchen,” Morash said, “which I’m told is one of the most popular exhibits there. Who wouldn’t want to visit Norm’s shop?”
– Christopher Schwarz
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