Warren Littlefield

Executive


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his two-hour-and-forty-five-minute Archive interview, Warren Littlefield discusses his early life and his big break working for Warner Brothers Television. He recalls his early days at NBC working under the legendary Brandon Tartikoff, and their attempts to get NBC out of third place with "sophisticated adult" programming like Cheers. He discusses the break-through on Thursdays nights with The Cosby Show, which would anchor what became one of the most famous line-ups in television history: The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Cheers, Night Court and L.A. Law. He also shares the inception of the mega-hit, The Golden Girls, on Saturday nights. Littlefield recounts his efforts to maintain the powerhouse line-up while dealing with cast departures from Cheers and Brandon Tartikoff's exit from NBC. He talks about being named President of NBC Entertainment, and rebuilding NBC's Thursday night with Friends, Seinfeld, Frasier and ER. He speaks of the challenge of Johnny Carson announcing his retirement from The Tonight Show and his desperate efforts to keep both Jay Leno and David Letterman at the network. Finally, he discusses leaving NBC, his later efforts as a producer, and what he sees as the future of television. Dan Harrison conducted the interview on December 12, 2011 in Burbank, CA.

"'The Cosby Show' changed the face of NBC. 'Cosby' leading off the night, 'Family Ties,' 'Cheers,' 'Night Court' behind it, with 'L.A. Law' at ten o'clock. Thursday night became a night of bests for NBC - the finest comedy and drama that we had as a network. Thursday became the destination for the best television had to offer."  

Interviewee(s)
Highlights
Warren Littlefield on replacing Shelley Long as "Diane" with Kirstie Alley as "Rebecca" on Cheers
Warren Littlefield on the creation of The Golden Girls
Warren Littlefield on replacing Nicholas Colasanto ("Coach" on Cheers) with Woody Harrelson 
Warren Littlefield on General Electric acquiring NBC in 1986
Warren Littlefield on "Must-See-TV"
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his  early life and influences; on working for Warner Brothers Television; on how he came to work for NBC
On becoming a Vice President at NBC; on Hill Street Blues and The Cosby Show
On Family Ties and Cheers
On dealing with cast departures from Cheers; on the legacy of Cheers and The Cosby Show

Chapter 2

On The Cosby Show; on A Different Word; on The Golden Girls
On the appeal of The Golden Girls; on General Electric acquiring NBC in 1986; on Bob Wright
On NBC's transition from the Tartikoff era to the Littlefield era; on Frasier
On The Tonight Show' s transition from host Johnny Carson to Jay Leno; on the development of Seinfeld

Chapter 3

On the development of Seinfeld and Frasier; on "Must-See-TV"
On the development of Mad About You, Friends, and ER
On Law & Order; on leaving NBC and his legacy there; on then-current projects and advice to network programmers
Shows

Barney Miller

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Warren Littlefield on Hill Street Blues starting out as "an hour-long Barney Miller"

Cheers

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Warren Littlefield on the state of NBC when he started at the network
Warren Littlefield on Cheers becoming a hit series
Warren Littlefield on the development of Cheers
Warren Littlefield on replacing Nicholas Colasanto ("Coach" on Cheers) with Woody Harrelson 
Warren Littlefield on replacing Shelley Long as "Diane" with Kirstie Alley as "Rebecca" on Cheers
Warren Littlefield on the legacy of Cheers
Warren Littlefield on NBC's transition from the Tartikoff era to the Littlefield era, which coincided with the end of Cheers and the beginning of Seinfeld

Cosby Show, The

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Warren Littlefield on The Cosby Show
Warren Littlefield on The Cosby Show anchoring NBC's Thursday night line-up
Warren Littlefield on the legacy of The Cosby Show
Warren Littlefield on The Cosby Show's collaborative team
Warren Littlefield on NBC's relationship with Bill Cosby
Warren Littlefield on ending The Cosby Show

Different World, A

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Warren Littlefield on the The Cosby Show spin-off A Different World

ER

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Warren Littlefield on the development of ER

Family Ties

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Warren Littlefield on Family Ties

Frasier

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Warren Littlefield on the development and success of Frasier
Warren Littlefield on moving Frasier to Tuesday night

Friends

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Warren Littlefield on the development of Friends

Golden Girls, The

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Warren Littlefield on the creation of The Golden Girls
Warren Littlefield on the appeal of The Golden Girls

Hill Street Blues

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Warren Littlefield on the state of NBC when he started at the network
Warren Littlefield on Hill Street Blues starting out as "an hour-long Barney Miller"

Homicide: Life on the Street

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Warren Littlefield on becoming President of NBC Entertainment and his approach to dramas

Law & Order

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Warren Littlefield on the development of Law & Order

Mad About You

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Warren Littlefield on the development of Mad About You

Seinfeld

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Warren Littlefield on NBC's transition from the Tartikoff era to the Littlefield era, which coincided with the end of Cheers and the beginning of Seinfeld
Warren Littlefield on the development of Seinfeld
Warren Littlefield on the development of Seinfeld 
Warren Littlefield on the nurturing of Seinfeld
Warren Littlefield on keeping Seinfeld on the air

Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The

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Warren Littlefield on The Tonight Show's transition from host Johnny Carson to Jay Leno

Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The

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Warren Littlefield on The Tonight Show's transition from host Johnny Carson to Jay Leno

Will & Grace

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Warren Littlefield on the development of Will & Grace
Topics

Characters & Catchphrases

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Warren Littlefield on replacing Nicholas Colasanto as "Coach" with Woody Harrelson on Cheers
Warren Littlefield on replacing Shelly Long as "Diane" with Kirstie Alley as "Rebecca" on Cheers

Media Consolidation

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Warren Littlefield on General Electric acquiring NBC in 1986

Pop Culture

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Warren Littlefield on replacing Nicholas Colasanto as "Coach" with Woody Harrelson on Cheers
Warren Littlefield on replacing Shelly Long as "Diane" with Kirstie Alley as "Rebecca" on Cheers

Television Industry

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Warren Littlefield on General Electric acquiring NBC in 1986
Professions

Executives

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Warren Littlefield on becoming President of NBC Entertainment
Warren Littlefield on advice to network programmers 

Television Executive

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Warren Littlefield on becoming President of NBC Entertainment
Warren Littlefield on advice to network programmers
Genres

Comedy Series

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Warren Littlefield on Cheers
Warren Littlefield on Family Ties
Warren Littlefield on The Cosby Show
Warren Littlefield on The Cosby Show
Warren Littlefield on the development and success of Frasier
Warren Littlefield on Seinfeld 
Warren Littlefield on Friends

Drama Series

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Warren Littlefield on ER
People

Kirstie Alley

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Warren Littlefield on replacing Shelley Long as "Diane" with Kirstie Alley as "Rebecca" on Cheers

David Angell

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Warren Littlefield on the development and success of Frasier

James Burrows

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Warren Littlefield on the development of Cheers

Marcy Carsey

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Warren Littlefield on The Cosby Show's collaborative team

Johnny Carson

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Warren Littlefield on The Tonight Show's transition from Johnny Carson to Jay Leno

Peter Casey

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Warren Littlefield on the development and success of Frasier

Glen Charles

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Warren Littlefield on the development of Cheers

Les Charles

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Warren Littlefield on the development of Cheers

Nicholas Colasanto

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Warren Littlefield on replacing Nicholas Colasanto as "Coach" with Woody Harrelson on Cheers

Bill Cosby

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Warren Littlefield on The Cosby Show
Warren Littlefield on The Cosby Show's collaborative team
Warren Littlefield on NBC's relationship with Bill Cosby

Michael Crichton

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Warren Littlefield on developing ER

Larry David

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Warren Littlefield on the development of Seinfeld

Selma Diamond

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Warren Littlefield on the creation of The Golden Girls

Michael J. Fox

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Warren Littlefield on Family Ties

Gary David Goldberg

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Warren Littlefield on Family Ties

Helen Hunt

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Warren Littlefield on Mad About You

David Lee

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Warren Littlefield on the development and success of Frasier

Jay Leno

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Warren Littlefield on The Tonight Show's transition from Johnny Carson to Jay Leno

David Letterman

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Warren Littlefield on The Tonight Show's transition from Johnny Carson to Jay Leno

Shelley Long

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Warren Littlefield on replacing Shelley Long as "Diane" with Kirstie Alley as "Rebecca" on Cheers

Julia Louis-Dreyfus

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Warren Littlefield on the development of Seinfeld

Don Ohlmeyer

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Warren Littlefield on Don Ohlmeyer

Paul Reiser

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Warren Littlefield on Mad About You

Doris Roberts

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Warren Littlefield on the creation of The Golden Girls

Jerry Seinfeld

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Warren Littlefield on the development of Seinfeld

Fred Silverman

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Warren Littlefield on how he first came to work for NBC

Brandon Tartikoff

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Warren Littlefield on how he first came to work for NBC
Warren Littlefield on Hill Street Blues starting out as "an hour long Barney Miller"
Warren Littlefield on The Cosby Show
Warren Littlefield on Cheers becoming a hit series
Warren Littlefield on Grant Tinker's exit from NBC and Bob Wright's philosophy for NBC
Warren Littlefield on his professional relationship with Brandon Tartikoff

Grant Tinker

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Warren Littlefield on Cheers becoming a hit series
Warren Littlefield on Grant Tinker's exit from NBC and Bob Wright's philosophy for NBC

John Wells

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Warren Littlefield on developing ER

Tom Werner

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Warren Littlefield on The Cosby Show's collaborative team

Bob Wright

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Warren Littlefield on General Electric acquiring NBC in 1986
Warren Littlefield on Grant Tinker's exit from NBC and Bob Wright's philosophy for NBC

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