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Legendary TV executive Fred Silverman’s impact on popular culture and the business practices of the entertainment industry is subject of April 8 symposium at Syracuse University
Legendary TV executive Fred Silverman’s impact on popular culture and the business practices of the entertainment industry is subject of April 8 symposium at Syracuse UniversityMarch 27, 2009Wendy S. Loughlinwsloughl@syr.edu
The pioneering work of executive producer and network television executive Fred Silverman ’58 will be explored during a special daylong event hosted by Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. “From Test Patterns to Pixels: Envisioning the Future of Television” will take place on Wednesday, April 8, from 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. in the Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium in Newhouse 3, with a reception to follow. Guests will also examine the future of television and programming in a landscape complicated by cable, the Internet and an increasingly fragmented audience.
The event, which will be webcast live at http://silverman.syr.edu, is free and open to the public. Free parking for those interested in attending the Silverman symposium is available in the Waverly lot (at the corner of Waverly and South Crouse avenues) and in the University Avenue Garage; attendees must tell the parking attendant that they are there for the Silverman symposium.
Working journalists who wish to submit questions to Silverman in advance of the event may do so by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting http://silverman.syr.edu. A selection of these questions will be posed at the event, and others will be answered online.
“Fred Silverman is an icon and one of the true pioneers of the television industry. He introduced America to many of its most favorite programs, but most importantly he used the medium to bring critical societal issues to the forefront,” says SU Chancellor and President Nancy Cantor. “We are so very proud that Fred is a member of the Syracuse University family and are pleased that he is coming back to campus for what we know will be an engaging day of conversation.”
“Television has always been such an integral part of the American landscape, and it’s almost impossible to have an in-depth discussion about the impact of television without mentioning a show or series connected to Fred Silverman,” says Lorraine Branham, dean of the Newhouse School. “Silverman had the uncanny ability to unearth, develop and nurture programming that met the needs of an ever-changing audience while at the same time exploring important social issues. He entertained and educated us, and some of the best moments in television can be found in shows that bear his imprint. From him, our students can learn the importance of taking creative risks, especially in this emerging era of Web-based entertainment.”
“Perhaps more than any other network executive, Fred Silverman took the job of running a network and acquiring its programming and elevated it to an art form,” says Robert Thompson, professor of television-radio-film and founding director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at the Newhouse School. “While we often celebrate the writers, producers and directors that made important television, we often forget how it got on the air in the first place.”
The event will open with welcoming remarks by Thompson, who will host the event. Thompson will be introduced by Edward Bleier ’51, media consultant and retired network television executive with ABC and Warner Brothers.
The first session, “The Silverman Years: Setting New Standards for Programming,” will begin at 9:30 a.m. Thompson will moderate. Participants include: Kal Alston, professor of cultural foundations of education and women’s and gender studies at Syracuse University; William Boddy, professor in Baruch College’s Department of Communication Studies at the City University of New York; Jane Feuer, professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh; Horace Newcomb, Lambdin Kay Chair for the Peabodys, director of the George Foster Peabody Awards Program and professor of Telecommunications at the University of Georgia; Rob Owen ’93, TV editor with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; and Mary Ann Watson, professor of electronic media and film studies at Eastern Michigan University.
At 11 a.m., in the session “Breaking Barriers and Pushing Boundaries,” industry luminaries who played central roles in Silverman’s career will answer questions via satellite uplink. Virtual participants include: Allan Burns, executive producer whose work includes the “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “M*A*S*H”; Larry Gelbart, executive producer and writer whose work includes “M*A*S*H” and “Tootsie”; Norman Lear, producer and writer whose work includes “All in the Family,” “Maude,” “Good Times,” “The Jeffersons,” “Fried Green Tomatoes” and “Stand By Me”; and John Rich, producer and director whose work includes “All in the Family.”
After a break for lunch, Branham will offer welcoming remarks at 1:30 p.m.
The session “Profit and Progress: The Legacy of Fred Silverman” will begin at 1:30 p.m. Owen will moderate. On-campus participants include Marcy Carsey, network executive and executive producer whose work includes “The Cosby Show,” “Happy Days,” “Soap,” “Roseanne,” “That ’70s Show,” “Laverne and Shirley” and “Mork & Mindy”; George Schlatter, executive producer whose work includes “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In” and “Real People”; Bill Small, former television news executive with NBC News and CBS News; and Thompson. Virtual participants include Brandon Stoddard, network executive whose work includes “Roots,” “Rich Man, Poor Man” and “The Thorn Birds”; and Steven Bochco, executive producer whose work includes “Hill Street Blues,” “L.A. Law” and “NYPD Blue.”
At 3 p.m., “Fred Silverman: In His Own Words” will feature a conversation between Silverman and “60 Minutes” correspondent Steve Kroft ’67, focusing on Silverman’s career and the future of the television industry. Relevant TV footage will be interspersed throughout the session.
The session “The Future of Programming and Television Networks” will begin at 4:15 p.m. Bill Carter, national media reporter with The New York Times, will moderate. Participants include Larry Barron ’87, senior vice president of programming and development with Fremantle Media; Walter Sabo, president of Sabo Media and former radio executive with ABC and NBC; and Silverman.
A reception will follow the event.
Silverman’s life and work
Silverman is the only individual to have run the programming of all three of the original television networks-ABC, CBS and NBC. He is president of The Fred Silverman Co., a multifaceted production and program consulting firm, which he formed in 1982. Most recently, he concluded a two-year arrangement with ABC Entertainment, where he consulted on program planning and scheduling.
Silverman is renowned as the executive producer of such popular network television series as “Diagnosis Murder,” “In the Heat of the Night,” “Father Dowling Mysteries,” “Matlock,” “Jake and the Fat Man” and “The Perry Mason Mystery Movies.” He also served as executive producer of “Bedtime,” an adult comedy serial that aired on Showtime; “Bone Chillers,” a comedy/horror show that was seen on ABC; and the classic game show “Twenty One” for NBC.
Before forming his company, Silverman was president and CEO of NBC. During his three-year tenure, he brought to the air a number of notable programs, including the Emmy-winning miniseries “Shogun” and such weekly series as “Hill Street Blues,” “St. Elsewhere,” “Facts of Life,” “Diff’rent Strokes,” “Gimme a Break,” “Fame” and “Smurfs.” He made the series commitment that led to “Cheers,” pioneered entertainment reality programming with the 1979 launch of “Real People,” introduced David Letterman in his own network television series, and created many cultural television events, including “Live from Studio 8H” and “NBC Live Theatre.”
Silverman also revitalized the NBC News division, which resulted in “Today” and “NBC Nightly News” achieving parity with their competition for the first time in years. He created a new FM radio division, with competitive full-service stations in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Silverman also reintroduced the peacock as NBC’s corporate logo.
Before becoming president of NBC, Silverman was the president of ABC Entertainment and was responsible for programming such landmark productions as “Roots” and “Rich Man, Poor Man.” He approved such long-running series as “Three’s Company,” “Eight is Enough,” “Laverne & Shirley,” “What’s Happening,” “Vegas,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “Love Boat,” “Fantasy Island,” “Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries,” “Bionic Woman,” “Battlestar Gallactica,” “Donnie & Marie,” “Soap” and “Family Feud.” He brought ABC’s ratings from third to first place.
Before joining ABC, Silverman served as vice president of programs at CBS for five years. During his tenure at CBS, he brought to the small screen such programs as “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “All in the Family,” “M*A*S*H,” “The Waltons,” “Kojak,” “Maude,” “Bob Newhart,” “The Jeffersons,” “Sonny and Cher,” “Cannon,” “Barnaby Jones,” “Rhoda,” “One Day at a Time,” “Good Times,” Charlie Brown and Dr. Seuss animated specials, “Scooby-Doo,” “The Young and the Restless,” “The Joker’s Wild” and “The Price is Right.”
Silverman earned a bachelor’s degree at Syracuse University in 1958; he is a former member of the University’s Board of Trustees and a recipient of the Chancellor’s Medal. Upon his graduation from The Ohio State University with a master’s degree in television and theater arts, Silverman joined WGN-TV, an independent station in Chicago. After three years, he moved to WPIX-TV in New York as a program executive. Shortly thereafter, he was hired by CBS.
Silverman has received numerous honors, including induction into the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame; the Man of the Year Award from the National Association of Television Program Executives; the Man of the Year Achievement Award from the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith; and the Richard Rogers Award from the Professional Children’s School of New York for “skilled leadership in raising the level of commercial television entertainment.”
A former trustee of the American Film Institute, he also has a lifetime membership in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for his part in the programming of “Roots” on ABC-TV and “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pitman” on CBS-TV.