Wednesday, March 11, 2015

TV History Profile: Fred Silverman

TV executive Fred Silverman worked for all of the major broadcast networks in the 1970s and made his mark on the history of television.

As the head of the programming department at CBS, in 1971 he called for the purge of all of the rural shows. These included Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, Hee Haw and Mayberry RFD. He was behind many spin-off shows such as Maude and The Jeffersons, which were based on characters from All in the Family.

At ABC, Silverman developed The Love Boat, Eight is Enough, Three's Company, Fantasy Island and the groundbreaking miniseries, Roots, based on the Alex Haley novel.

In 1978 he became the president of NBC. He discovered the talents of David Letterman and gave him his own morning show in 1980. The show was critically acclaimed and won an Emmy. But the ratings were poor and the morning was not a good time slot for Dave's quirky humor. In 1982, Letterman moved his show to 12:35 am, following Johnny Carson. he hosted his Late Night show until 1993, when he left for CBS. Silverman was not a fan of Tom Snyder's Tomorrow show, which followed Carson for many years. Silverman and Carson had a rocky relationship, and at one point, Johnny came close to leaving the network. Fred wanted the original host of the Tonight Show to return to the network. His desire was to have Steve Allen follow Johnny Carson's show, but that never happened. At NBC, Silverman developed memorable sitcoms such as Diff'rent Strokes, The Facts of Life and Gimme a Break. He had some failures at the peacock network as well, with the development of flops like Hello Larry, The Big Show, Pink Lady and Jeff, and Supertrain. He was also in charge during the period where Lorne Michaels left as the executive producer of Saturday Night Live.

Click here for an interview with Fred Silverman as he looks back on the accomplishments during his career.

* Information from and
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