Jones' magic touch on TV


It's difficult to overplay the sheer breadth and eclecticism of Quincy Jones' career as a producer of television, which had found the ever-versatile Jones putting his creative stamp on everything from TV specials to acclaimed made-for-TV movies to long-running primetime and late-night comedies, plus a couple of ambitious musical documentaries and even a few syndicated talk shows.

Jones' TV resume dates back to 1973, when he was tapped to produce the star-studded tribute special "Duke Ellington ... We Love You Madly," which featured the likes of Count Basie, Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin and the great Ellington himself.

Then in 1985, Jones was at the center of plans -- as producer -- for the iconic African famine relief TV project/recording/video "We Are the World," which was put together in one memorable night at the old A&M Studios in Hollywood. It would be one of numerous specials featuring his involvement, which over the years has run the gamut from executive producing the 1993 presidential inauguration concert special (called "An American Reunion"), to the 68th Annual Academy Awards in 1996, to CBS' "America's Millennium" extravaganza, which rang in the new year on Dec. 31, 1999.

Also, there's the 1990 syndicated chatfest "The Jesse Jackson Show," the short-lived but spirited talk/variety series "Vibe" (1997) and the multipart 1995 docu series "The History of Rock 'n' Roll," as well as the 2001 docu miniseries "Say It Loud: A Celebration of Black Music in America," which was featured on VH1. Jones served as exec producer on all.

And lest Jones be pigeonholed as merely a music-and-talk guy in TV, he also had an executive producing role on the popular 1990s Will Smith sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," as well as the mid-1990s comedy series "In the House," which had a brief introduction on NBC before moving over to UPN to complete a five-season run.

Jones further supplied a guiding hand in launching the long-running Fox late-night sketch-comedy series "Mad TV" through his thriving association with producer David Salzman, a partnership that was also instrumental in the Oscar telecast, "History of Rock 'n' Roll," "Vibe," "In the House" and the 1993 CBS special "Celebration of a Life: Steven J. Ross, Chairman of Time Warner."

The Jones-Salzman collaboration also led to the 1999 civil-rights-themed sports film "Passing Glory," starring Andre Braugher, Rip Torn and Ruby Dee. Along those same lines, Jones worked as exec producer with Oprah Winfrey and her Harpo Prods. on the much-praised 2005 telepic "Their Eyes Were Watching God" -- which starred Halle Berry, along with Dee.

Jeff Margolis, a distinguished producer and director of numerous awards and music specials (including the past two SAG Awards telecasts), has worked with Jones on several TV projects, including the '96 Oscars (he directed), and also produced and directed the '98 "Quincy Jones ... The First 50 Years" tribute special.

"It turns out that Quincy and I have very similar ideas about how to approach musical productions and comedy," Margolis says. "From the time we met years and years ago, we just clicked. The man is as creatively driven and passionate about TV as he is about music. He gives everything 500%. That's why working with him is such a thrill and an honor. He just gets so into it."

As a bonus, Margolis adds, Jones also happens to be "a special human being, a really wonderful man whom I've been privileged to become close friends with. Truly, I wish I could find something negative to say about Quincy, but there's nothing. He loves his kids and his grandchildren. He's even still very friendly with his ex-wives. I just love the guy so much, and being able to work with him on TV has been one of the highlights of my career life."