DONALD WINFRED "DON" OHLMEYER JR. (born February 3, 1945) is a former
American television producer and president of the
NBC network's west
coast division. He is best known for firing
Norm Macdonald from
Saturday Night Live ’s "
Weekend Update ", after Macdonald made a
series of jokes centered on
O.J. Simpson 's murder acquittal .
Ohlmeyer was good friends with Simpson, and publicly proclaimed his
belief that Simpson was innocent.
Currently, he is a professor of television communications at
Pepperdine University in
Malibu, California . He served as ombudsman
for ESPN.com for 18 months; that term ended in January 2011.
* 1 Early life
* 2 Career
* 2.1 ABC Sports
* 2.3 Ohlmeyer Communications Company
* 2.4 Return to
* 2.4.1 The
Norm Macdonald controversy
* 2.5 Return to
Monday Night Football
* 3 Awards and honors
* 3.1 Credits (partial)
* 3.1.1 Television series
* 3.1.2 Made-for-television movies
* 3.1.3 Television specials
* 4 References
* 5 External links
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans, Louisiana , Ohlmeyer grew up in the
Glenbrook North High School .
Ohlmeyer began his career with ABC Sports . A disciple of Roone
Arledge , he worked on Wide World of Sports , was the first hired
Monday Night Football , created "
The Superstars ", and
also produced and directed three
Olympics broadcasts (including the
He later moved to
NBC as executive producer of the network's sports
division , a position he held from 1977 to 1982. Over those five
years, he created the popular sports anthology series
served as Executive Producer of
NBC coverage of the
Super Bowl , World
Series . He also earned notoriety for the prime-time series 'Games
People Play' and the made-for-television movie 'The Golden Moment: An
Olympic Love Story.' Ohlmeyer became well known for expanding the
network's sports coverage as well as introducing innovative production
techniques. He launched 'NFL Updates,' NCAA Basketball 'Whip-arounds,'
and instituted NBC's live coverage of 'Breakfast at Wimbledon .'
Ohlmeyer is credited with conceiving the one-time experiment of airing
a 1980 NFL telecast without announcers .
OHLMEYER COMMUNICATIONS COMPANY
Ohlmeyer formed his own production company, Ohlmeyer Communications
Company (OCC), in 1982. While there he produced several
made-for-television movies, network series, and specials. He won an
Special Bulletin , a harrowing 1983 depiction of nuclear
terrorism. His company was also responsible for producing CART IndyCar
World Series race telecasts, and golf, including PGA TOUR events, "The
Skins Game ", and Senior PGA TOUR broadcasts. While at OCC, Ohlmeyer
also oversaw Nabisco's 20% stake in ESPN. Ohlmeyer also gained a 49%
controlling interest in
Hockey Night in Canada
Hockey Night in Canada starting in 1986,
taking over the Canadian Sports Network that ran the program under the
MacLaren Advertising agency. He later sold his interest to Molstar
Communications, the company that already possessed the other 51%.
RETURN TO NBC
Ohlmeyer returned to
NBC in 1993 to become president of its West
Coast division at a time when the network was in third place in the
ratings, following the departure of
The Cosby Show from its
lineup. During his tenure,
NBC returned to first place with such hits
Friends , ER ,
Frasier , Providence , Will ">
Instances of this included Ohlmeyer's belief that "ER" would get
killed in ratings by CBS's "
Chicago Hope" and his angry approach to
working with that show's movie-based superstars like Steven Spielberg
and Michael Crichton (both of whom ignored Ohlmeyer and worked closely
with Littlefield), and his extreme reluctance to greenlight "Will ">
During the 1997
World Series , Ohlmeyer caused a stir when he
publicly wished that the
World Series would end in a four game sweep
so that its low ratings wouldn't derail NBC's primetime leading
Thursday "Must See TV" entertainment schedule. The series went the
full seven games.
Norm Macdonald Controversy
In early 1998, Ohlmeyer had
Norm Macdonald removed from his role as
Saturday Night Live 's popular "
Weekend Update " segment,
citing declining ratings and a drop-off in quality. Macdonald and
others believed that the real reason for his dismissal was the
inclusion of a series of jokes calling
O. J. Simpson a murderer during
and after the trial (Ohlmeyer was good friends with Simpson). The
jokes were written primarily by Macdonald and longtime SNL writer Jim
Downey , who was fired from SNL outright at the same time (he was
rehired in 2000). Downey pointed out in an interview that Ohlmeyer had
thrown a party for the jurors that had acquitted Simpson.
The tension between Macdonald and Ohlmeyer continued when Ohlmeyer
banned ads for the actor's first feature film, Dirty Work , from NBC's
schedule. He reportedly told the
New York Daily News
New York Daily News , "'I just don't
think it would be appropriate for us to turn around and take a check
for a movie that's promoting somebody who has badmouthed Saturday
Night Live and NBC.'" The edict was later overruled by Ohlmeyer's
Shortly after Macdonald was taken off the "Weekend Update" desk,
David Letterman , during a taping of his
CBS network television
program the Late Show , called Don an "idiot" and referred to Ohlmeyer
as "Happy Hour Don" (a reference to Ohlmeyer's problems with alcohol
). After the taping, Letterman decided that his comment was
inappropriate and had the reference edited out of the broadcast, but
the comment (which was heard by the entire live studio audience) was
publicized shortly thereafter in a report in the
New York Post
New York Post .
During a later interview with Macdonald, Letterman stated that
Ohlmeyer "fancies himself creative", and disputed this notion, saying
"Here's a man who could not create gas after a bean dinner".
RETURN TO MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
After his time at NBC, Ohlmeyer was lured out of retirement in 2000
to spark interest and provide some vigor to the MNF broadcast. Besides
the on-air talent, Ohlmeyer's changes included clips of players
introducing themselves, new graphics, use of a sideline
and music. In another temporary change, the score bug used nicknames
of teams, such as "Skins" and "Fins", instead of the teams' actual
names or cities (Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins, in this
case). He also made the controversial decision to hire comedian Dennis
Miller to join
Al Michaels and
Dan Fouts in the broadcast booth, an
experiment widely regarded, in hindsight, as a failure.
Monday Night Football after one season. Ratings for
the program had dropped 7% compared to the previous year.
AWARDS AND HONORS
He has been honored with 16