Controversial ABC, CBS and NBC head Fred Silverman dies at 82

Written by on February 1, 2020

Taylor Hill/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) — Fred Silverman, the legendary executive behind All in the FamilyThe Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Happy Days, and the only person in TV history to head all Big Three broadcast networks, died on Thursday at his home in the Pacific Palisades, California, according to Variety.  He was 82.

Over his career, Silverman was both lauded for his ability to predict what TV viewers around the country wanted to see, and criticized for appealing to the lowest common denominator.

Silverman began career at CBS, where he became VP of programming in 1970.  Under his tenure, the network moved away from popular rural-oriented series like Petticoat Junction and Green Acres, to more sophisticated programming such as MaudeThe Bob Newhart ShowMannix and Hawaii Five-0.

Silverman, jumped to ABC in 1975, where he headed the network’s entertainment division.  In addition to being responsible for launching the miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man and Roots, as well as fan favorites Charlie’s Angels and Starsky & Hutch, he’s also credited with urging producers of Happy Days to make Henry Winkler’s “Fonzie” character be the focal point of the show, jacking up the show’s ratings.

Silverman was eventually lured to NBC, where he seemed to lose his magic touch, leading the network to its lowest ratings ever.  He was eventually replaced as president and CEO by MTM productions head Grant Tinker.

Silverman went on to form his own production company, where he helped launch a series of popular mysteries, including MatlockJake and the FatmanIn the Heat of the Night and Diagnosis Murder.

Tributes to the late TV executive poured in on Thursday, including Norman Lear, who tweeted, “There would be no ALL IN THE FAMILY or MAUDE without Fred Silverman. Bless his every memory.”

“Television lost a giant today with the death of Fred Silverman. He was a great visionary and to me a big supporter when he put @SOAP on the air in ‘77,” wrote Billy Crystal.  “We remained friends and I will miss him.”

“Fred gave me my first ‘shot’ in TV,” added Jimmy Kimmel.  “He saw something that even I didn’t. He was a great character, very kind to me and I am grateful to him always – Rest In Peace Fred Silverman.”

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