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Fred Silverman (September 13, 1937 – January 30, 2020) was an American television executive and producer. He worked as an executive at all of the Big Three television networks, and was responsible for bringing to television such programs as '' Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!'' (the original incarnation of the '' Scooby-Doo'' franchise, 1969–1970), '' All in the Family'' (1971–1979), ''
The Waltons ''The Waltons'' is an American historical drama television series about a family in rural Virginia Virginia (), officially the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a U.S. state, state in the Mid-Atlantic (United States), Mid-Atlantic and Southea ...

The Waltons
'' (1972–1981), and ''
Charlie's Angels ''Charlie's Angels'' is an American crime In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state or other authority. The term ''crime'' does not, in modern criminal law, have any simple and universally accepted definition, ...
'' (1976–1981), as well as the miniseries '' Rich Man, Poor Man'' (1976), '' Roots'' (1977), and ''
Shōgun was the title of the military dictatorship, military dictators of Japan during most of the period spanning from 1185 to 1868. Nominally appointed by the Emperor of Japan, Emperor, shoguns were usually the ''de facto'' rulers of the country, thou ...
'' (1980). For his success in programming such successful shows, ''
Time Time is the indefinite continued sequence, progress of existence and event (philosophy), events that occur in an apparently irreversible process, irreversible succession from the past, through the present, into the future. It is a component qua ...
'' magazine declared him "The Man with the Golden Gut" in 1977.


Biography


Early life and career

Fred Silverman was born in
New York City New York City (NYC), often simply called New York, is the List of United States cities by population, most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 2019 population of 8,336,817 distributed over about , New York City is also the L ...

New York City
, the son of Mildred, a homemaker, and William Silverman, a radio and television service repairman. His father was
Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 , Israeli pronunciation ) or Jewish people are members of an ethnoreligious group and a nation originating from the Israelites Israelite origins and kingdom: "The first act in the long drama of Jewish ...
and his mother was
Roman Catholic Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *Roman people, the people of ancient Rome *''Epistle to the Romans'', shortened to ''Romans'', a letter in ...
. He grew up in
Rego Park, Queens Rego Park is a neighborhood in the borough A borough is an administrative division in various English language, English-speaking countries. In principle, the term ''borough'' designates a self-governing walled town, although in practice, officia ...
, and attended Forest Hills High School. He graduated with a bachelor's degree from Syracuse University, where he was a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity, and then earned a master's degree from Ohio State University. His 406-page masters thesis analyzed ten years worth of American Broadcasting Company, ABC programming and led to his hiring at WGN-TV in Chicago, which was followed by positions at WPIX in New York, and then at CBS. His first job at CBS was to oversee the network's daytime programming. Silverman married his assistant, Cathy Kihn, and they had a daughter, Melissa, and son, William.


CBS

In 1970, Silverman was promoted from vice-president of program planning and development to Vice President, Programs, heading the entire program department at CBS. Silverman was promoted to bring a change in perspective for the network, as it had just forced out the previous executive in that position, Michael Dann; Dann's philosophy was to draw as many viewers as possible without regard to key demographics, which the network found to be unacceptable, as advertisers were becoming more specific about what kind of audience they were aiming for. To boost viewership in demographics that were believed to be more willing to respond to commercials, Silverman orchestrated the "rural purge" of 1971, which eventually eliminated many popular country-oriented shows, such as ''Green Acres'', ''Mayberry R.F.D.'', ''Hee Haw'', and ''The Beverly Hillbillies'' from the CBS schedule. In their place, however, came a new wave of classics aimed at the upscale baby boomer generation, such as '' All in the Family'', ''The Mary Tyler Moore Show'', ''M*A*S*H (TV series), M*A*S*H'', ''
The Waltons ''The Waltons'' is an American historical drama television series about a family in rural Virginia Virginia (), officially the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a U.S. state, state in the Mid-Atlantic (United States), Mid-Atlantic and Southea ...

The Waltons
'', ''Cannon (TV series), Cannon'', ''Barnaby Jones'', ''Kojak'', and ''The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour''. Silverman had an uncanny ability to spot burgeoning hit material, especially in the form of spin-off (media), spin-offs, new television series developed with characters that appeared on an existing series. For example, he spun off ''Maude (TV series), Maude'' and ''The Jeffersons'' from '' All in the Family'', and ''Rhoda'' from ''The Mary Tyler Moore Show'' (as well as ''The Bob Newhart Show'' from ''The Mary Tyler Moore Show, MTM's'' writers). In early 1974, Silverman ordered a ''Maude'' spin-off titled ''Good Times''; that series success led Silverman to schedule it against ABC's new hit, ''Happy Days'', the following fall. In other dayparts, Silverman also reintroduced game shows to the network's daytime lineups in 1972 after a four-year absence; among the shows Silverman introduced was an updated version of the 1950s game show ''The Price Is Right (American game show), The Price Is Right'', which remains on the air over four decades later. After the success of ''The Price Is Right'', Silverman established a working relationship with Mark Goodson and Bill Todman and most of their game shows appeared on CBS, including a revival of ''Match Game''. On Saturday mornings, Silverman commissioned Hanna-Barbera to produce the series '' Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!'', and the character Fred Jones (Scooby-Doo), Fred Jones is named after Silverman. The success of ''Scooby-Doo'' led to several other Hanna-Barbera series airing on CBS in the early 1970s.


Move to ABC

Silverman was named president of ABC Entertainment in 1975, putting him in the awkward position of saving ''Happy Days'', the very show that ''Good Times'' had brought to the brink of cancellation. Silverman succeeded in bringing ''Happy Days'' to the top of the ratings and generating a hit spin-off from that show, ''Laverne & Shirley''. At ABC, Silverman also Greenlight, greenlit other popular series such as ''The Bionic Woman'' (a ''The Six Million Dollar Man, Six Million Dollar Man'' spin-off), ''Family (1976 TV series), Family'', ''
Charlie's Angels ''Charlie's Angels'' is an American crime In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state or other authority. The term ''crime'' does not, in modern criminal law, have any simple and universally accepted definition, ...
'', ''Donny & Marie (1976 TV series), Donny & Marie'', ''Three's Company'', ''Eight Is Enough'', ''The Love Boat'', ''Soap (TV series), Soap'', ''Fantasy Island'', ''Good Morning America'', long-form pioneer '' Rich Man, Poor Man'', and the award-winning miniseries, '' Roots''. These moves brought ABC's long-dormant ratings from third place to first place. However, Silverman was criticized during this period for relying heavily on escapist fare (it was Silverman who conceived the infamous ''The Brady Bunch Hour'' with Sid and Marty Krofft in late 1976) and for bringing T&A or "jiggle TV" to the small screen with numerous ABC shows featuring buxom, attractive, and often scantily-clad young women (such as the popular ''Battle of the Network Stars''). ABC Daytime had mediocre ratings, so in order to increase them, Silverman hired Gloria Monty to produce the ailing ''General Hospital''. He gave Monty thirteen weeks to increase the serial's ratings or it would be cancelled. He later expanded ''General Hospital'' and ''One Life to Live'' to a full hour, and created a 3 hour afternoon serial block. Among game shows, Silverman introduced Goodson and Todman's ''Family Feud'' to the network. During Silverman's time at ABC, he overhauled the network's Saturday-morning cartoon output, dumping Filmation (which had produced the failed ''Uncle Croc's Block'') and replacing it with content from Hanna-Barbera, including a continuation of ''Scooby-Doo''. He also oversaw the creation of Ruby-Spears Productions, poaching two of Hanna-Barbera's lead writers, Joe Ruby and Ken Spears, to produce their own content in hopes of keeping Hanna-Barbera from becoming complacent.Shostak, Stu (05-02-2012).
Interview with Joe Ruby and Ken Spears
. ''Stu's Show.'' Retrieved 03-18-2013.
ABC abandoned the wiping of video-taped programs under Silverman's tenure in 1978, as CBS had done while he was at that network.


Move to NBC

Although Silverman's tenure at ABC was very successful, he left to become President and CEO of NBC in 1978. In stark contrast with his tenures at CBS and ABC, his three-year tenure at the network proved to be a difficult period, marked by several high-profile failures such as the sitcom ''Hello, Larry'', the variety shows ''The Big Show (TV series), The Big Show'' and ''Pink Lady (TV series), Pink Lady'', the drama ''Supertrain'' (which also was, at the time, the most expensive TV series produced; its high production costs and poor ratings nearly bankrupted NBC), and the Jean Doumanian era of ''Saturday Night Live''. (Silverman hired Doumanian after Al Franken, the planned successor for outgoing Lorne Michaels, A Limo for a Lame-O, castigated Silverman's failures on-air in a way that Silverman took very personally.) Despite these failures, there were high points in Silverman's tenure at NBC, including the launch of the critically lauded ''Hill Street Blues'' (1981), the epic mini-series ''
Shōgun was the title of the military dictatorship, military dictators of Japan during most of the period spanning from 1185 to 1868. Nominally appointed by the Emperor of Japan, Emperor, shoguns were usually the ''de facto'' rulers of the country, thou ...
'', and ''The David Letterman Show'' (daytime, 1980), which would lead to Letterman's successful ''Late Night with David Letterman'' in 1982. Silverman had Letterman in a holding deal after the morning show which kept the unemployed Letterman from going to another network (NBC gave Letterman a $20,000 per week [$1,000,000 for a year] to sit out a year). However, Silverman nearly lost his then-current late night host, market leader Johnny Carson, after Carson sued NBC in a contract dispute; the case was settled out of court and Carson remained with NBC in exchange for the rights to his show and a reduction in time on air. Silverman also developed successful comedies such as ''Diff'rent Strokes'', ''The Facts of Life (TV series), The Facts of Life'', and ''Gimme a Break!'', and made the series commitments that led to ''Cheers'' and ''St. Elsewhere''. Silverman also pioneered entertainment reality programming with the 1979 launch of ''Real People''. His contributions to the network's game show output included Goodson and Todman's ''Card Sharks'' and ''Password Plus'', both of which enjoyed great success in the morning schedule, although he also canceled several other relatively popular series, including ''The Hollywood Squares'' and ''High Rollers'', to make way for ''The David Letterman Show'' (those cancellations also threatened ''Wheel of Fortune (American game show), Wheel of Fortune'', whose host, Chuck Woolery, departed the show in a payment dispute during Silverman's tenure, although the show survived). Silverman also oversaw the hiring of Pat Sajak as the new host of ''Wheel of Fortune'' in 1981, a position Sajak holds to this day on the syndicated version that started in 1983, although Silverman himself objected to Sajak's hiring. On Saturday mornings, in a time when most of the cartoon output of the three networks was similar, Silverman oversaw the development of an animated series based on The Smurfs; the animated series ''The Smurfs (TV series), The Smurfs'' ran from 1981 to 1989, well after Silverman's departure, making it one of his longest-lasting contributions to the network. He also oversaw The Flintstone Comedy Show, a revival of ''The Flintstones''. In other areas of NBC, Silverman revitalized the NBC News, news division, which resulted in ''Today (American TV program), Today'' and ''NBC Nightly News'' achieving parity with their competition for the first time in years. He created a new FM broadcasting, FM Radio Division, with competitive full-service stations in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Washington. During his NBC tenure, Silverman also brought in an entirely new divisional and corporate management, a team that stayed in place long after Silverman's departure. (Among this group was a new Entertainment President, Brandon Tartikoff, who would help get NBC back on top by 1985.) Silverman also reintroduced the Logo of NBC, peacock as NBC's corporate logo in the form of the proud 'N' (which combined the peacock with the 1975 trapezoid 'N' logo) in 1979; the logo was used until 1986.


Foundation of The Fred Silverman Company

In 1981, Silverman left NBC and formed The Fred Silverman Company (formerly Intermedia Entertainment) to produce shows to sell to television. The company would generate several hits including the Perry Mason#TV movies, ''Perry Mason'' TV movie series (1985–1994), ''Matlock (TV series), Matlock'' (1986–1995), ''Jake and the Fatman'' (1987–1992), ''In the Heat of the Night (TV series), In the Heat of the Night'' (1988–1995), ''Father Dowling Mysteries'' (1987–1991), and ''Diagnosis: Murder'' (1993–2001). Most of these continue to run in broadcast syndication, syndication. Most of these series were co-produced with Dean Hargrove and Viacom Productions. During the game-show revival that followed the success of ''Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (American game show), Who Wants to Be a Millionaire'', Silverman resurrected the 1950s game show ''Twenty One (game show), Twenty One'' for NBC in 2000. A few years later, he returned to ABC in an advisory capacity. In 1995, he was awarded the Women in Film Crystal + Lucy Awards, Women in Film Women in Film Crystal + Lucy Awards#Lucy award, Lucy Award in recognition of excellence and innovation in creative works that have enhanced the perception of women through the medium of television. In 1999, Silverman was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame.


Death

Silverman died from cancer on January 30, 2020, at his home in the Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles, Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles. He was 82.


References


Further reading

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External links

* * * * {{DEFAULTSORT:Silverman, Fred 1937 births 2020 deaths 20th-century American businesspeople American Broadcasting Company executives American people of Jewish descent American television executives Burials at Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery CBS Vice Presidents of Programs CBS executives Deaths from cancer in California Forest Hills High School (New York) alumni NBC Daytime executives NBC chief executive officers NBC executives Ohio State University alumni People from Pacific Palisades, California People from Rego Park, Queens Presidents of American Broadcasting Company Entertainment Presidents of NBC Entertainment S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications alumni Television producers from New York City