Fred Silverman

Executive / Producer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

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About
About this interview

Fred Silverman served as the programming head at all three major broadcast networks— ABC, CBS, and NBC. Fred Silverman attests to the quirks of inspiration in developing television programs: "I had always thought that kids in a haunted house would be a big hit, played for laughs, in animation.  And [I] developed a show with Hanna-Barbera. And there was a dog in there, but the dog was in the background; it was much more serious….  And [CBS President] Frank Stanton says, we can't put that on the air, that's just too frightening. I booked a red-eye and I couldn't sleep. I'm listening to music and as we're landing, Frank Sinatra comes on, and I hear him say 'Scooby-do-be-do.' It's at that point I said that's it, we'll take the dog— we'll call it Scooby-Doo. "

In his six-hour Archive interview, Silverman talks about his first job in television, at WGN in Chicago, where he repackaged existing programming and created originals, including Zim-Bomba and Bozo's Circus. He tells of his move to CBS in New York, where he quickly worked his way up the corporate ladder, first as head of daytime programming (where he made his mark revitalizing the Saturday morning lineup) and later as the Vice President of Programming. He enumerates and comments on the programs he oversaw during this time including: All in the Family, Kojak, M*A*S*H, The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour and The Waltons. On The Waltons , Silverman recounts its amazing success: "Flip Wilson was hot as a pistol, and we were… putting in The Waltons [against it].  When we had the affiliates meeting we got to this time period, they actually laughed out loud-- this sweet little show, about a bunch of destitute people in Appalachia….  We destroyed Flip Wilson and it was the number one show in the country." He describes the corporate culture at CBS and how he came to leave CBS to join ABC, where he was appointed President of ABC Entertainment, overseeing such programs as Donny and Marie, Eight is Enough, The Love Boat and Three's Company. He also touches on the development and scheduling of the miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man and Roots.

In part two of his interview, Silverman talks about his next move, to NBC, as President and CEO, overseeing the development of Diff'rent Strokes, The Facts of Life and Hill Street Blues. He explains the basic tenets of working as a network executive and discusses his methods for development, scheduling and promotions. Finally, he talks about his work as an independent producer for such programs as the Perry Mason television movies, Matlock, In the Heat of the Night  and Diagnosis Murder. Dan Pasternack conducted the two-part interview in Westwood, CA on March 16, 2001 and May 29, 2001.

"There are a lot of things that I can point to that I think are proud achievements…. Most importantly, I had the opportunity to kind of stretch the medium a little bit.  To do some things that had never been done before."

Interviewee(s)
Highlights
Fred Silverman on his proudest achievements
Fred Silverman on being "The Man with the Golden Gut"
Fred Silverman on "the turnaround" at CBS, how All in the Family played a part in that, and how Robert D. Wood convinced William Paley to get it on the air
Fred Silverman on the "family hour" rule, which drove shows like Maude out of the 8:00 PM hour, and on its disruptive effect on network scheduling
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On Background/ family/ early years
On Early Influences (radio, tv)
On Master's Thesis on ABC network
On WGN (Chicago)/ first job/ live programming

Chapter 2

On Children's programming (WGN)
On WPIX (New York City)
On moving to CBS- daytime
On Saturday morning lineup/ development
On the development of Scooby-Doo

Chapter 3

On CBS, game shows and serials
On his strategy behind the serial lineup at CBS
On developing game shows at CBS
On developing then losing The Hollywood Squares
On CBS, head of programming; network organization

Chapter 4

On the atmosphere at CBS, corporate culture
On picking up All in the Family / CBS Saturday night lineup
On TV Spinoffs of AITF : The Jeffersons, Maude, Good Times
On developing other shows:  Kojak, M*A*S*H, The Waltons, Sonny & Cher

Chapter 5

On M*A*S*H ; working with the creative team 
On The Waltons; Sonny and Cher
On other CBS network executives
On "the Family Hour" policy and Primetime Access Rule
On transition from CBS to ABC

Chapter 6

On developing ABC's Primetime lineup: Donny & Marie, Charlie's Angels, Family, Bionic Woman, Soap
On the corporate culture at ABC, Leonard Goldenson, Losing Michael Eisner; ABC Specials and Daytime programming

Chapter 7

On developing Good Morning America; daytime serials at ABC; "love in the afternoon"
On his moniker "Man with the Golden Gut"
On ABC producers: Spelling, Marshall, Arnold
On popularity of certain shows; Three's Company
On mini-series: Rich Man, Poor Man; Roots

Chapter 8

On developing Welcome Back Kotter , The Love Boat and Fantasy Island
On the various producers who developed shows at ABC
On the advertising and promotional tools pioneered by ABC

Chapter 9

On his difficult departure from ABC      
On his overarching philosophy of successful network programming
On scheduling and demographics

Chapter 10

On promotion
On talent, actors and stars
On his management style
On his move to NBC

Chapter 11

On his tenure at NBC
On his major accomplishments at NBC: discovering David Letterman and developing Hill Street Blues
On some of his lesser accomplishments at NBC: Supertrain and Pink Lady

Chapter 12

On his final days at NBC
On forming his own production company, and on specific shows such as Thicke of the Night, Matlock, and Diagnosis Murder
On his legacy, looking back and looking forward

Chapter 13

On some people he has met over the course of his career, including Barry Diller and Bob Newhart
Shows

All in the Family

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Fred Silverman on his role in the development of All In the Family at CBS (which began life at ABC), his recognition of its quality, and determining where to place it in the schedule so it found its audience
Fred Silverman on getting All In The Family and Mary Tyler Moore in the coveted Saturday night time slot, and on the subsequent ratings boost
Fred Silverman on the autonomy given to Norman Lear to create All In The Family

As the World Turns

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Fred Silverman on working with Irna Phillips, the writer of one of CBS's serials As the Worlds Turns , on creating the new serial for CBS Love is a Many Spendored Thing

BJ and the Bear

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Fred Silverman on B.J. and the Bear

Bionic Woman, The

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Fred Silverman on developing the The Bionic Woman as a series on ABC

Charlie's Angels

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Fred Silverman on bringing projects in development at ABC to pilot stage and beyond, including Charlie's Angels

Diagnosis Murder

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Fred Silverman on Diagnosis Murder

Diff'rent Strokes

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Fred Silverman on his first success at NBC: Diff'rent Strokes

Donny & Marie

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Fred Silverman on helping develop Donny & Marie, first as a special later a series, as one of his first tasks when joining ABC

Facts of Life, The

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Fred Silverman on The Facts of Life

Family

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Fred Silverman on pushing to go beyond pilot stage with Family, one of his favorite programs at ABC

Fantasy Island

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Fred Silverman on developing Fantasy Island as a companion to The Love Boat at ABC, and on beating out the CBS Saturday night lineup which included The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Bob Newhart Show, and on critical reaction to the programs

Father Dowling Mysteries

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Fred Silverman on Father Dowling Mysteries

General Hospital

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Fred Silverman on making programming executive Jacqueline Smith head of daytime at ABC, who helped turn ABC's daytime schedule into the successful "love in the afternoon" all-serial format

Good Morning America

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Fred Silverman on the origins of ABC's Good Morning America, on the warm accessible tone of the program, and on eventually surpassing The Today Show in the ratings

Good Times

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Fred Silverman on All In The Family spinoff Good Times

Gunsmoke

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Fred Silverman on how CBS Chair William S. Paley insisted on keeping his favorite show, Gunsmoke, on the air

Happy Days

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Fred Silverman on highlighting the Fonzie character on Happy Days during his first year as President of ABC Entertainment in 1975

Hill Street Blues

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Fred Silverman on the birth of Hill Street Blues

Hollywood Squares, The

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Fred Silverman on creating The Hollywood Squares with Heatter-Quigley and Bob Stewart while head of daytime CBS, and on making the "one of [his] worst calls" by giving it up to Larry Phillips, head of daytime at NBC

In the Heat of the Night

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Fred Silverman on In the Heat of the Night

Jake and the Fatman

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Fred Silverman on Jake and the Fatman

Jeffersons, The

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Fred Silverman on All In The Family spinoff The Jeffersons, the casting of the show, and its ratings success

Kojak

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Fred Silverman on the development of Kojak, its origin as a television movie called The Marcus Nelson Murders, and on getting Telly Savalas to play the lead in the series

Laverne & Shirley

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Fred Silverman on guest appearances by Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on Happy Days leading to the development of the series Laverne & Shirley

Love Boat, The

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Fred Silverman on developing The Love Boat for ABC, how it started as a series of television movies, and on Love Boat guest stars from other ABC programs serving as vehicles for promoting the rest of the network's programming
Fred Silverman on developing Fantasy Island as a companion to The Love Boat at ABC, and on beating out the CBS Saturday night lineup which included The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Bob Newhart Show, and on critical reaction to the programs

Love Is a Many Splendored Thing

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Fred Silverman on working with Irna Phillips on creating a new serial for CBS Love is a Many Spendored Thing

M*A*S*H

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Fred Silverman on the relatively straightforward development of M*A*S*H and on the pilot being the "best" Silverman had ever seen, and on making good scheduling decisions with the assistance of CBS-TV President Robert D. Wood
Fred Silverman on M*A*S*H writer and producer Larry Gelbart, and Silverman's push for a subtle laugh track, a "chuckle track," for the show
Fred Silverman on M*A*S*H  and how Standards and Practices reacted to the show
Fred Silverman on the lasting appeal of M*A*S*H 

Marcus-Nelson Murders, The

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Fred Silverman on the development of Kojak, its origin as a television movie The Marcus Nelson Murders, and on getting Telly Savalas to play the lead in the series

Mary Tyler Moore Show, The

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Fred Silverman on getting All In The Family and Mary Tyler Moore in the coveted Saturday night time slot, and on the subsequent ratings boost
Fred Silverman on the creative team of James L. Brooks and Allan Burns, creators of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and their contributions to comedy and CBS

Matlock

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Fred Silverman on Matlock

Maude

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Fred Silverman on recognizing the talent of Bea Arthur and convincing Norman Lear to create a spinoff episode from All in the Family which ultimately became Maude

Newlywed Game, The

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Fred Silverman on CBS's daytime programming just before competitor ABC started airing The Newlywed Game, and on CBS's programming response which included expanding and developing daytime serials

One Life to Live

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Fred Silverman on making programming executive Jacqueline Smith head of daytime at ABC, who helped turn ABC's daytime schedule into the successful "love in the afternoon" all-serial format

Real People

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Fred Silverman on NBC's proto-reality show Real People which debuted in 1979

Roots

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Fred Silverman on developing specials, mini-series such as Roots , and television movies for ABC
Fred Silverman on the development, scheduling and audience reception of Roots

Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!

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Fred Silverman on developing the long-running Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! and on solving initial network resistance to the "scary" concept of kids in a haunted house by centering on a goofy dog

Shogun

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Fred Silverman on promoting Shogun at NBC and the different "sells" associated with it

Soap

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Fred Silverman on how Soap caused as much controversy at ABC as All in the Family had caused at CBS
Fred Silverman on Soap, which pushed the boundaries "in its way" as All in the Family had done at CBS

Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour

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Fred Silverman on the development of the variety show The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, Silverman's favorite program at the time
Fred Silverman on promoting The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour at ABC

Space Ghost and Dino Boy

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Fred Silverman on his association with Joesph Barbera of Hanna-Barbera and developing the shows Space Ghost and Frankenstein Jr. and the Impossibles for CBS

Supertrain

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Fred Silverman on the expensive failure Supertrain

Thicke of the Night

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Fred Silverman on Alan Thicke and Thicke of the Night, the ambitions of the show, and lessons learned

Three's Company

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Fred Silverman on Three's Company, his involvement in casting Suzanne Somers as "Chrissy," how the show evolved from a Bristish sitcom, and the public's love and critics' disdain for the show

Waltons, The

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Fred Silverman on the development of The Waltons, the unexpected success of this "sweet" well-crafted show, and how it beat out the number one program on NBC The Flip Wilson Show on Thursday night
Fred Silverman on how the advertising campaign that promoted The Waltons, and its Emmy wins, helped the show's success early on
Topics

Censorship / Standards & Practices

View Topic
Fred Silverman on M*A*S*H  and how Standards and Practices reacted to the show, and how the concerns differed from those directed at All In The Family
Fred Silverman on the "family hour" rule, which drove shows like Maude out of the 8:00 PM hour, and on its disruptive effect on the networks' scheduling
Fred Silverman on Soap causing as much controversy at ABC as All in the Family had caused at CBS

Criticism of TV

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Fred Silverman on the reaction of television critics to ABC programs The Love Boat and Fantasy Island

Sex & Violence

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Fred Silverman on the "anti-violence crusades" of the late 1970s affecting CBS and NBC more than ABC, which was more family, comedy and fantasy-oriented

Studio and Network Management

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Fred Silverman on becoming head of daytime programming at CBS in New York and changing and fine-tuning the Saturday morning schedule to "superhero adventure" programs which included Underdog, the animated Superman, Space Ghost, and Mighty Mouse.  He describes in detail developing the long-running Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! and other comedy-adventure and "pure-comedy" programs, and touches on developing spin-off concept during this time
Fred Silverman on getting promoted at CBS to Vice President of Planning and Development, and then Vice President of Programming
Fred Silverman on the corporate culture of CBS when he became Vice President of Programming
Fred Silverman on the success of The Waltons, and on "going out in style" if the show hadn't worked, and on how The Waltons and All In The Family were, each in their own way, both about the "sanctity of the family"
Fred Silverman on why he left CBS in 1975, and a brief recap of what had been accomplished during his tenure there
Fred Silverman on "seizing the moment" during his time at President of ABC Entertainment, working with existing shows and developing new ones, on the basis of ABC's appeal, and on Les Moonves
Professions

Executives

View Profession
Fred Silverman on CBS president Frank Stanton's initial resistance to the first incarnation of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!
Fred Silverman on the success of The Waltons, and on "going out in style" if the show hadn't worked, and on how The Waltons and All In The Family were, each in their own way, both about the "sanctity of the family"
Fred Silverman on keeping tabs on the other networks as president of ABC Entertainment, and on staying true the tastes of the audience tuning in to ABC

Television Executive

View Profession
Fred Silverman on program development
Fred Silverman on scheduling and counterprogramming
Fred Silverman on becoming President and CEO of NBC in 1978
Genres

Children's Programming

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Fred Silverman on developing the successful afternoon "kid's block" on WGN in Chicago including the popular Bozo's Circus, and the prime time Family Classics family-oriented film series which included Lassie and David O. Selznick's Tom Sawyer  
Fred Silverman on becoming head of daytime programming at CBS in New York and changing and fine-tuning the Saturday morning schedule starting with "superhero adventure" programs which included Underdog, the animated Superman, Space Ghost, and Mighty Mouse.  He describes in detail developing the long-running Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! and other comedy-adventure and "pure-comedy" programs, and touches on developing spin-off concept at during this time

Daytime/Primetime Serials

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Fred Silverman on making CBS the "serial network."

Game Shows

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Fred Silverman on going up against NBC's game shows starting with scheduling Joker's Wild , Gambit and bringing back The Price is Right
Fred Silverman on Goodson-Todd, Heatter-Quigley, Monty Hall, and Chuck Barris.

Music Shows & Variety Shows/Specials

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Fred Silverman on promoting variety shows like The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour

TV Movies/Miniseries/Dramatic Specials

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Fred Silverman on developing specials, mini-series, and television movies for ABC
People

Danny Arnold

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Fred Silverman on the talent of producer Danny Arnold, creator of Barney Miller and Fish

Beatrice Arthur

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Fred Silverman on recognizing the talent of Bea Arthur and convincing Norman Lear to create a spinoff episode from All in the Family which ultimately became Maude

Joseph Barbera

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Fred Silverman on his association with Joesph Barbera of Hanna-Barbera and developing the shows Space Ghost and Frankenstein Jr. and the Impossibles for CBS

Jack Barry

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Fred Silverman on bringing Jack Barry game show host and producer "out of the wilderness" in developing the game shows The Joker's Wild and Gambit at CBS.  He also describes an incident in which Barry was attempting to fix equipment on the set.

David Begelman

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Fred Silverman on finding a partner in David Begelman at Intermedia Productions, later the Fred Silverman Company

Harve Bennett

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Fred Silverman on Six Million Dollar Man and Star Trek producer Harve Bennett

James L. Brooks

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Fred Silverman on the creative team of James L. Brooks and Allan Burns, creators of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and their contributions to comedy and CBS

Allan Burns

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Fred Silverman on the creative team of James L. Brooks and Allan Burns, creators of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and their contributions to comedy and CBS

Stan Daniels

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Fred Silverman on former MTM producer Stan Daniels developing shows for ABC, as part of the producing team (which included Ed. Weinberger) that led to Taxi

Michael Dann

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Fred Silverman on Mike Dann's career at NBC and CBS, on his influence over the move from single program sponsorship to selling parts of programs on a participating basis, and on his role in Silverman's career

Barry Diller

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Fred Silverman on Barry Diller

Michael Eisner

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Fred Silverman on working with Michael Eisner at ABC when Silverman first took the job as President of ABC Entertainment in 1975
Fred Silverman on losing Michael Eisner from ABC and on the difficulty replacing him

Larry Gelbart

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Fred Silverman on the relatively straightforward development, of M*A*S*H, which included getting Larry Gelbart to write and produce the show, and on the pilot being the "best" Silverman had ever seen
Fred Silverman on M*A*S*H writer and producer Larry Gelbart
Fred Silverman on M*A*S*H creator Larry Gelbart writing the pilot script for Three's Company, and on the All in the Family producing team of Nicholl-Ross-West's involvement with Three's Company

Leonard Goldberg

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Fred Silverman on ABC producer Leonard Goldberg, who partnered with Aaron Spelling on Charlie's Angels and Family

Leonard H. Goldenson

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Fred Silverman on Leonard H. Goldenson's tenure as president of ABC and his collaboration with Walt Disney, Warner Bros., and MGM to develop programming.  This resulted in shows like The Mickey Mouse Club and a series of dramatic programs such as the western Cheyenne
Fred Silverman on Leonard. H. Goldenson

Mark Goodson

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Fred Silverman on Mark Goodson of Goodson-Todd, the hugely successful game show production company, and on Heatter-Quigley and Chuck Barris.

James Komack

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Fred Silverman on producer James Komack who developed Welcome Back, Kotter and Chico and the Man

Perry Lafferty

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Fred Silverman on producer, director, and CBS and later NBC network executive Perry Lafferty

Norman Lear

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Fred Silverman on the autonomy given to Norman Lear to create All In The Family

David Letterman

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Fred Silverman on David Letterman, on his short-lived morning show, and on finding a home in late night

Garry Marshall

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Fred Silverman on Garry Marshall, creator of The Odd Couple, Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley and other hits for ABC

Bob Newhart

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Fred Silverman on Bob Newhart

William S. Paley

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Fred Silverman on the management style of CBS president, later board chair, William S. Paley including an anecdote about keeping Paley's favorite show, Gunsmoke, on the air

Irna Phillips

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Fred Silverman on working with Irna Phillips, the writer of one of CBS's serials As the Worlds Turns, on creating the serial for CBS Love is a Many Spendored Thing
Fred Silverman on Irna Phillips and her background in radio, and her ability to survive and thrive creating and writing television serials, and her influence on her fellow serial creators and writers, like All My Children creator Agnes Nixon

John Ritter

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Fred Silverman on casting John Ritter and Suzanne Somers in Three's Company

Richard S. Salant

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Fred Silverman on Richard Salant

Isabel Sanford

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Fred Silverman on Isabel Sanford

George Schlatter

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Fred Silverman on George Schlatter creating the proto-reality show Real People

Jacqueline Smith

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Fred Silverman on ABC daytime programming head Jacqueline Smith, who helped turn ABC's daytime schedule into the successful "love in the afternoon" all-serial format

Suzanne Somers

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Fred Silverman on casting John Ritter and Suzanne Somers in Three's Company

Aaron Spelling

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Fred Silverman on ABC's "underappreciated" hit-maker Aaron Spelling
Fred Silverman on producer Aaron Spelling and his love of his craft, and on Spelling's prolific nature

Frank Stanton

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Fred Silverman on his impressions of CBS president Frank Stanton

Bob Stewart

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Fred Silverman on creating two shows with Bob Stewart at CBS, Face is Familiar and The Hollywood Squares.

Brandon Tartikoff

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Fred Silverman on the early career of Brandon Tartikoff whom Silverman later appointed President of NBC Entertainment

Alan Thicke

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Fred Silverman on Alan Thicke and Thicke of the Night, the ambitions of the show, and lessons learned

Ethel Winant

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Fred Silverman on the "grand old dame of the television business" Ethel Winant, whose positions included head of casting and talent at CBS in the 1970s

Paul Junger Witt

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Fred Silverman on Soap producer Paul Witt, a show that pushed the boundaries "in its way" as All in the Family had done at CBS

Robert D. Wood

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Fred Silverman on CBS-TV President Robert D. Wood
Fred Silverman on CBS-TV President Robert D. Wood, and Wood's struggle with William Paley to get All in the Family on the air

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