When I was growing up, there weren’t too many household names in this business. Fred Silverman was one of them. The thing that made him so famous was that he ran all three networks — and there were only three networks then, so he ran the entire business. And he turned two of those networks around. It was incredible. He was the guy you aspired to be if you were heading into the business.
It was The Hollywood Reporter that came up with the idea of interviewing him and me together [in 2010]. He was one of the legends, and I was just about to move to NBC. I went out to his house, and I remember he had an old-fashioned scheduling board on the wall in his den. There was a killer lineup — Mary Tyler Moore and all those shows — frozen [in time]. It was so charming. He gave me advice that day, too, which was, “Just do what you think you should do. Don’t listen to research.”
After that, he’d call me occasionally to give me advice or tell me, “I like this show” or “I don’t like that show.” Probably a year into my job there, so 2011, he reached out and we had lunch in the commissary at NBC. By this point, we’d announced all of our pilots, and he pulls a piece of paper out of an envelope and says, “From what I know of your pilots” — and mind you, they hadn’t even been delivered — “I want to give you my idea of what your schedule should be next fall.”
I wish I still had it. It was hilarious. I mean, it was maybe 40?percent right, but what I loved about it is that he lived for the business. He was sitting around thinking about what pilots we were making, and I’m sure he was doing this for other people, too. He really loved the game. He was also one of the first network executives to then become a hugely successful producer, which gave us all a little hope that there was life after whenever we got fired.