TV Legends: Fred Silverman and Robert Greenblatt

58 FEA Fred Silverman & Robert Greenblatt
Marc Royce

Photographed by Marc Royce on Dec. 13 outside Silverman’s office in Brentwood

OLD GUARD, NEW GUARD: When Fred Silverman was a child, there was no television. “I listened to radio,” he says. His first career plan was to become a director, but when his grad-school adviser told him, “You’ll never be Elia Kazan,” Silverman got a job at WGN-TV in Chicago, where he initially worked on children’s programming. “The first show I wrote and produced was Breakfast With Bugs Bunny,” he says. Then he adds: “Why am I talking about this? I should be talking about Roots!” Lots of seminal programming got on the air during Silverman’s tenures at CBS (1970-75; All in the Family, M*A*S*H), ABC (1975-78; Charlie’s Angels, Roots) and NBC (1978-81; Hill Street Blues, Diff’rent Strokes). His advice to incoming NBC chief Robert Greenblatt: Don’t pay too much attention to research from focus groups. “Don’t get talked out of things,” says Silverman, 73. “If you want to do something, do it.” Greenblatt, 50,  is receptive. “You have to do stuff that’s extraordinary and different,” he says. “I can’t just keep doing cable shows” — though he did pretty well by Showtime (Dexter, Nurse Jackie). Unlike some, Greenblatt — who doesn’t start his new gig until the government approves the merger of NBC Universal and Comcast — is confident that there’s a strong future for broadcast. And he’s not even daunted by trying to program the 10 p.m. slot. “Anything is programmable if you have good shows,” he says. “It’s all still up for grabs.” ­