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How Dick Clark Saved the Golden Globes

Golden Moments
Dick Clark with Martin Sheen and Salma Hayek

The awards special was mired in scandal and dumped by its network when the TV icon took it on, making it into one of NBC's most successful deals.

This story originally appeared in the May 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter.

In 1982, the Golden Globes had been dropped by CBS after questions were raised about voting credibility and honoree selection, especially with actress Pia Zadora, who had been named Best New Star of the Year even though her film, Butterfly, had yet to come out. ABC and NBC declined to pick up the show, and a few months later, a producer who was to work on the next telecast with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the Globes' owner, departed. The show was in danger of never being seen on television again.

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But in January 1983, Dick Clark Productions stepped in.

As producer, Dick Clark took a hands-on role in making the show more professional and arranged for the Globes to be syndicated nationwide. Making the show better proved challenging, Clark recalled in a legal deposition for the recent lawsuit between the HFPA and DCP over the broadcast rights to the telecast. "The organization was made up of many different minds with different backgrounds and cultures," said Clark. "They often didn't agree with themselves, and we would have conversations." Says Mirjana Van Blaricom, a former HFPA president: "If not for Dick Clark, I doubt the show would be so successful. At the beginning, he helped in getting the actors to be presenters."

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In 1988, DCP made a deal to move the telecast to cable network TBS for a higher fee. Then, in 1993, Clark saw an opportunity to take the Globes to NBC. Van Blaricom says the awards show also had interest from Fox, but NBC was offering more money. In the deposition, Clark said CBS still wasn't interested because of the Zadora incident, ABC had the Oscars and "at the time, Fox [which launched in 1987] was so small as to not be considered." NBC had become receptive after watching the Globes grow in syndication and on cable. Recalls Warren Littlefield, who was then NBC's head of programming: "Who knew what the HFPA was, but Dick was our comfort zone. We had been in business for so many music specials and series, we trusted him. That's who we moved forward with."

NBC began airing the show in 1995. "That first year, we had more than a 400 percent increase in viewership" over the cable broadcast, says Littlefield. The HFPA has worked closely with DCP and NBC ever since. Says HFPA president Aida Takla-O'Reilly, "There were no hitches when Clark was there," adding that he played a big role until selling DCP in 2002. Says Littlefield: "Dick's vision was an annual special that together we could build. It is one of the all-time great deals for NBC."