LOS ANGELES (AP) – Fred Silverman, the only TV executive who steered programming for each of the Big Three broadcast networks and who brought â€œAll in the Family,â€ â€œRoots,â€ â€œHawaii Five-Oâ€ and other hit series and miniseries to television during his more than three-decade career, died Thursday. He was 82.
Silverman, who had been battling cancer, died at his home in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles, family spokesperson Julia Rosen said Thursday. Family members were with him, Rosen said.
Silvermanâ€™s gift for picking shows that resonated with viewers – if not always TV critics – prompted Time magazine to dub him â€œThe Man with the Golden Gutâ€ in a 1977 profile. As ABCâ€™s entertainment chief, Silverman had turned the networkâ€™s fortunes around with shows including â€œRoots,â€ â€œRich Man, Poor Manâ€ and â€œCharlieâ€™s Angels.â€
He had already brought success to CBS with an overhaul that included the end of country-themed series including â€œPetticoat Junctionâ€ and â€œGreen Acresâ€ and a pivot to what advertisers considered more upscale and urban fare, including â€œThe Mary Tyler Moore Show,â€ â€œThe Bob Newhart Showâ€ and â€œMannix.â€
Silverman failed to demonstrate his ratings muscle when he moved to NBC as network CEO and president, with â€œDiffâ€™rent Strokesâ€ among the exceptions.
A native of New York City, Silverman started his post-college career in local television in Chicago and New York. He joined CBS in 1963 and became vice president for programming in 1970, building a schedule that eventually counted â€œAll in the Family,â€ â€œM-A-S-H,â€ â€œKojakâ€ and, uncharacteristically, â€œThe Waltons,â€ about a family in Virginiaâ€™s Blue Ridge Mountains circa the 1930s.
He mastered the art of the spin-off at CBS: â€œAll in the Familyâ€ begat â€œMaudeâ€ and â€œThe Jeffersons,â€ â€œMaude” begat â€œGood Times,â€ and â€œThe Mary Tyler Moore Showâ€ begat â€œRhoda,â€
When he became ABC Entertainment president in the mid-1970s, Silverman introduced the â€œHappy Daysâ€ spin-off â€œLaverne & Shirleyâ€ and the â€œSix Million Dollar Manâ€ derivative â€œThe Bionic Womanâ€ to the schedule. His original hits ranged from the groundbreaking miniseries â€œRootsâ€ to â€œCharlieâ€™s Angels.â€ The latter, grouped with other ABC shows featuring women with relatively revealing outfits, earned the derogatory moniker â€œjiggle TV.â€
Moving to NBC in the late 1970s, Silverman fielded a mix of flops (â€œPink Lady,â€ â€œHello, Larryâ€) and successes (â€œHill Street Blues,â€ the miniseries â€œShogun,â€ â€œThe Facts of Lifeâ€) and proved unable to fulfill his vow to make it the top-rated network.
His struggles at NBC were famously mocked in a 1980 â€œWeekend Updateâ€ segment on the networkâ€™s own â€œSaturday Night Liveâ€ when Al Franken, the former U.S. senator who was then one of the showâ€™s writers, declared Silverman a â€œlame-o with a limoâ€ who commuted to NBCâ€™s New York headquarters by limousine despite the network not having a single hit show.
Franken asked viewers to send postcards to Silvermanâ€™s office declaring that it was Franken who deserved the limo. Thousands did so and the executive, who reportedly did not know the segment was airing, was said to be furious.
After leaving NBC in 1981, Silverman formed his own company whose productions and co-productions included the â€œPerry Masonâ€ TV movies, â€œMatlock,â€ â€œJake and the Fatmanâ€ and â€œDiagnosis: Murder.â€
Silverman had a son and daughter with his wife, Catherine Kihn.
AP researcher Jennifer Farrar and AP Writer John Rogers contributed to this report.