Former NBC exec dishes on the story of “Must See TV”

May 4, 2012

Top of the Rock

“Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV” by Warren Littlefield Credit: Random House, Inc.

There was a period in the 1990s when NBC’s Thursday night primetime lineup was so dominant that it earned the name “Must See TV.” Millions tuned in every week, and the watercooler talk on Friday mornings was a litany of “Seinfeld” quotes, the shenanigans of the twentysomethings on “Friends” and the latest drama from the incisive hospital program, ‘ER.” And that’s not to mention other hits like “Frasier,” “Law & Order,” “Cheers,” “Will & Grace,” “Mad About You” and “Third Rock From the Sun.”

Some television critics call the period a golden age of television, but the windfall of popularity didn’t come easy. The pilot for “Seinfeld” was one of the lowest-tested debuts of all time, actor Kelsey Grammer was living in his car when he first played Dr. Frasier Crane on “Cheers,” and “ER” star Noah Wyle couldn’t afford a plane ticket to Los Angeles when he was cast on the show.

Former NBC President of Entertainment Warren Littlefield was there for all of it and he’s written a new book called “Top of the Rock – Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV that is full of his behind-the-scenes observations and insights from many of the stars of era. Littlefield developed hit shows like “The Cosby Show” and “Golden Girls” before shepherding the network through NBC’s boom years… and the bust that followed.

Warren Littlefield will be at the Paley Center for Media tonight from 7:00 to 8:30pm for a discussion, Q&A and signing with actor Noah Wyle, Marta Kauffman (Friends Creator), Jimmy Burrows (legendary TV director); and David Nevins (President of Entertainment at Showtime).


What were your favorite Must See TV shows? How did NBC manage to produce so many hit shows in such a short period of time? Has NBC lost its momentum?


Warren Littlefield, author, “Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV,” former Executive Vice President of NBC Entertainment

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