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"On ER, George Clooney laid down the law" reveals new book about NBC

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"On ER, George Clooney laid down the law" reveals new book about NBC

Post by Katiedot on Fri Apr 06 2012, 11:46

I love these inside stories! Sounds like a good read. Also sounds like George was a driving force on the ER set.

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Warren Littlefield's New NBC Memoir Excoriates Jeff Zucker, Don Ohlmeyer

BOOK REVIEW: The former NBC president decries the "Zuckerization" of TV and calls Ohlmeyer a "bully" in "Top of the Rock," his new oral history of NBC's golden age in the '80s and '90s.

10:46 AM PDT 4/5/2012 by Andy Lewis

This story first appeared in the April 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter

One night, before she made Friends, before Brad Pitt and before her hair became a national topic of conversation, Jennifer Aniston ran into Warren Littlefield, then the president of NBC Entertainment, at a gas station on Sunset Boulevard. "Jennifer had been in our weak attempt to do [a show based on] Ferris Bueller," says Littlefield. "We cast her in a few more pilots, but none was very good." As he gassed up his car, Aniston asked, "Will it ever happen for me?" Littlefield remembers thinking, "God, I wanted it to."

This is just one of many behind-the-scenes stories told by Littlefield and a huge cast of stars, writers and executives he recruited for his first book, Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV. A chronicle of the last golden age of network television, it is the literary equivalent of a former NBC Thursday night lineup: a little humor, a little drama, a little dreck (but not enough to ruin the fun), plus a surprising dose of smarts and a bit more self-congratulation than necessary.

"Working at NBC in the Must See era was like playing for the 1927 Yankees," recalls programming executive Dan Harrison. Like the 2011 best-seller about ESPN,Those Guys Have All the Fun, Littlefield's book is structured as a group oral history, with chapters arranged in rough chronological order around the hit shows he helped develop in the '80s and '90s, including Cheers, Seinfeld, Frasier, Friends, ER, Will & Graceand The West Wing. But unlike the ESPN book, which was compiled by two outsiders, Littlefield -- as Brandon Tartikoff's lieutenant for a decade then head of NBC Entertainment from 1993 to 1998 -- is the ultimate Must See insider.

The mini-histories are a blast. Some of the tales (Seinfeld's unlikely rise) are well worn, but others are full of fresh detail, including how Friends creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane nailed their pitch meeting. "Kauffman and Crane were magnetic," recalls Littlefield. "They owned it."

Particularly poignant is a candid recollection about the disorienting effects of sudden fame from Friends star David Schwimmer: "I don't think I responded very well … to the loss of privacy. There were several moments that were quite traumatic for me. An actor is an observer of life and people. … But I suddenly found myself with a baseball cap, with my head down."

On ER, George Clooney laid down the law. As co-star Noah Wyle tells it: "George pulled us all into the trailer … 'I've done a lot of shows, and what's killed all of them is a lack of cohesion. This show is going to be different. We're going to be nice to everybody. We're going to know our lines. We're going to be on time.' … and we were young enough and green enough to fall in lockstep behind him."

If the book engagingly details the hits, it does neglect the failures. A chapter on the flops (Union Square), the near-misses (Single Guy) and the prematurely canceled (Madman of the People) would have been fun and illuminating.

That also might have helped Littlefield's underlying goal of explaining the role of network executives in the creative process. This is probably the first book dedicated to TV's unsung heroes: development executives. "Behind every successful television series," writes Littlefield, "is a development executive who, at some point in the insanity, puts his ass on the line so that the show might live." Still, with a few exceptions about casting or giving a poorly performing show a chance to grow, their influence remains opaque in the book.

What's clear are the book's villains, Don Ohlmeyer and Jeff Zucker (who, unsurprisingly, are not interviewed). Ohlmeyer, brought in to oversee Littlefield, gets the harshest treatment with cheap shots about his drinking. (How to tell if Ohlmeyer had a hangover and was in a bad mood? Check how neatly he parked his car.) Worse, he comes across as a bully with bad taste. Among the shows Littlefield was reluctant to air, he thought Friends was too slow, West Wing too elitist and that ER was "star f--ing" producers Michael Crichton and Steven Spielberg.

Zucker, who took over as president of NBC Entertainment in 2000 on his way to becoming CEO of NBCUniversal, embodies for Littlefield the creative anti-thesis of Must See TV's heyday. "If you're a network president, you'd better believe in what you're doing," observes Frasier producer and Modern Family co-creator Steve Levitan. "You'd better believe broadcast television is relevant. Jeff just wanted to go back to New York from day one. ... 'Why am I at the kids' table?' "

Development executives might not be creators, but in Littlefield's view, they have to be creative to succeed. If networks are run solely by bean counters, you get -- well, you get Zucker's schedule filled with endless hours of Dateline and The Biggest Loser.


Last edited by Katiedot on Fri Apr 06 2012, 18:15; edited 1 time in total

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Re: "On ER, George Clooney laid down the law" reveals new book about NBC

Post by Joanna on Fri Apr 06 2012, 12:23

Good for GTC I say ! Thumbs up!

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Re: "On ER, George Clooney laid down the law" reveals new book about NBC

Post by silly girl on Fri Apr 06 2012, 13:23

I think one of the reasons ER was such a success was due to all the players really working together....although in the beginning I used to watch for the "Mark Green" character and storyline vs "Doug Ross"....I didn't start to like him until just before he left....go figure....


Last edited by silly girl on Fri Apr 06 2012, 13:33; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : grammar...)

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Re: "On ER, George Clooney laid down the law" reveals new book about NBC

Post by lucy on Fri Apr 06 2012, 13:31

Didn't follow ER, but George does seem the leader type.

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Re: "On ER, George Clooney laid down the law" reveals new book about NBC

Post by adgran on Fri Apr 06 2012, 13:43

This book DOES sound like a fun read. Behind the scenes stuff is always so interesting. One of the reasons I like dvd's is all the extras on them - love when the directors/actors talk about making the film while the scenes are playing in the background.

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Re: "On ER, George Clooney laid down the law" reveals new book about NBC

Post by Joanna on Fri Apr 06 2012, 17:26

I agree adgran. I love all the extras on disc's and just seeing the film at the cinema isn't enough for me !
I like to know about how it was made and yes the directors commentary is great, only when it's George
though for me Thumbs up!

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Re: "On ER, George Clooney laid down the law" reveals new book about NBC

Post by it's me on Fri Apr 06 2012, 23:39

sounds like George was a driving force on the ER set

obviously!!! cheers

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Re: "On ER, George Clooney laid down the law" reveals new book about NBC

Post by Astras on Sat Apr 07 2012, 01:57

silly girl wrote:I think one of the reasons ER was such a success was due to all the players really working together....although in the beginning I used to watch for the "Mark Green" character and storyline vs "Doug Ross"....I didn't start to like him until just before he left....go figure....

I was the same way with ER. I loved, loved, loved the show back in the day, but at the time Doug was just another character - one I found too good looking and too rebellious for my idealized Dr. fantasies. Laughing

I didn't appreciate his more noble qualities until years later. It doesn't surprise me that George set the tone though. He's a natural leader. Thankfully his leadership skills include kindness and respect towards others... OT, but as a counterpoint, I was just reading an article today detailing the *assholery of Chevy Chase. No


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Re: "On ER, George Clooney laid down the law" reveals new book about NBC

Post by melbert on Sat Apr 07 2012, 15:25

I love all the "behind the scenes" videos we've seen, especially from ER and the book does sound interesting. I bet they could write a whole book detailing some of the antics of ER only!

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Re: "On ER, George Clooney laid down the law" reveals new book about NBC

Post by cindigirl on Sat Apr 07 2012, 15:46

Video of George returning to ER a couple of years ago

Part 1
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Re: "On ER, George Clooney laid down the law" reveals new book about NBC

Post by cindigirl on Sat Apr 07 2012, 15:50

Part 2 - my favorite.


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Re: "On ER, George Clooney laid down the law" reveals new book about NBC

Post by melbert on Sat Apr 07 2012, 15:56

Oh CindiGirl, you made my morning! I had forgotten too, when they were introducing themselves in the beginning, the one guy says his name "...St.Luke's, Boise, liver". That's where my grandbabies were born!!!!!!!!!!

Then I cry with the second video! Got all my emotions this morning, didn't ya CindiGirl!?

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Re: "On ER, George Clooney laid down the law" reveals new book about NBC

Post by Joanna on Sat Apr 07 2012, 16:44

Here's a tissue or two mel.... Drink 2 ....well I couldn't find any...
so have a drink on me instead Give Flowers

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Re: "On ER, George Clooney laid down the law" reveals new book about NBC

Post by cindigirl on Sat Apr 07 2012, 16:47

Really Mel, the second video was a tear jerker. Sadder to think it really happens.

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Re: "On ER, George Clooney laid down the law" reveals new book about NBC

Post by Astras on Sat Apr 07 2012, 20:36

Carol and Doug - best ship ever! I thank ER, George and Julianna for giving them a happy ending. Very classy of both of them to come back and help send the last season off in style. I love you

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