The last heyday of network TV was the reign of NBC in primetime, which is chronicled in Warren Littlefield’s new book, Top of the Rock. Littlefield was the guy at NBC behind a few shows you may have heard of, things like Cheers, Seinfeld, Friends, The Cosby Show, Law & Order… no big deal, really.
I used to go to NBC events and listen to Littlefield tout the shows and encourage us to do our part to make the network successful. This was when NBC was raking in money, so they’d spare no expense during several days of presentations to the promotion and marketing people from their affiliates. The highlight, of course, were the parties. They’d fly in talent for these events, and it was not unusual to turn around and literally bump into someone like Kelsey Grammar or Kramer.
After we’d been wined and dined within an inch of our lives, they sent us back to places like Terre Haute, Spokane, and Albany to promote Must See TV. Great primetime ratings helped boost the numbers for everything on a local station, so it was a great time to have your wagon hitched to NBC.
Like everything, it’s all different now. Viewership is more fragmented, profits are a fraction of what they once were, and even though network shows still outperform anything on cable, things ain’t what they used to be. But what is like it used to be?