(Television History and Trivia)




Victor Edward Swanson,


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- - - T.H.A.T., Edition No. 12 - - -

    In the edition of Variety for September 12, 1973, you can find an article entitled "Where the Money Goes for 100G Half Hour"; Variety is an entertainment trade newspaper or magazine that has been published weekly since the early 1900s.  The article entitled "Where the Money Goes for 100G Half Hour" was put together after I had written to the management of Variety to see whether or not they could pass along information about what it costs to produce a television show.  Since 1973, I have not seen a similar-type article in any trade magazine.  Although the article of Variety for 1973 is old, it yet has useful information.  Let me explain what you will see if you look at the article today, maybe by seeing it in an original paper edition of Variety or in a microfiche edition, which can be found in bigger libraries.

    The article notes some general information that is pertinent today, and that general information is about how the budgets for shows are broken down into two main sections.  One section is the "above-the-line" costs, and such costs will be for the story, the producers (such as anyone called an executive producer or a co-producer) and aides to the producers, the main performers, the director, and union benefits.  The other section is the "below-the-line" costs, and, as a rule, this section covers costs for everything else, and some of the other costs are the costs for sets, special effects, camera equipment and facilities, wardrobe, makeup, sound, editing, and transportation.

    The article of 1973 looks at a half-hour show, and, for this edition of T.H.A.T., I felt I should pass along what I have observed over the years about how the number of people who can get paid from the above-the-line section of a budget has increased greatly over the years.  I could argue well the above-the-line costs for the half-hour network television series of today are "bloated" when compared with series that were produced in years past.  Look at some examples.

    The Bernie Mac Show is a series that is airing on the Fox TV network this season, and look at the number of people who were listed in the credits as the main members of the production team for one episode this season:

    Executive producer: Peter B. Aronson
    Executive producer: Warren B. Hutcherson
    Co-executive producer: Bernie Mac
    Co-executive producer: Saladin K. Patterson
    Co-executive producer: Teri Schaffer
    Co-executive producer: Richard Appel
    Co-executive producer: John Riggi
    Co-executive producer: Marc Abrams & Michael Benson
    Producer: Kate Angelo
    Producer: Steven Greener
    Producer: Michael Petok
    Co-producer: Jerry Collins
    Co-producer: Marshall Wilmore
    Associate producer: Robert Boles
    Executive consultant: Larry Wilmore (who is credited as having created the series)

    You should see I did not list the performers, the writer, and the director, because, usually, each episode of an series will be directed by one person, and, usually, there will be one person or two persons credited as the writer or writers, and there will some number of performers.  You should see I did not list any assistants for the persons listed above.

    Now look at the credits for an episode of The Kings of Queens, which is a series being carried by CBS-TV this season:

    Executive producer: Tom Hertiz
    Executive producer: Kevin James
    Executive producer: Tony Sheehan
    Executive producer: Jeff Sussman
    Co-executive producer: David Bickel
    Co-executive producer: Chris Fowney
    Co-executive producer: Michelle Nader
    Co-executive producer: Ilana Wernick
    Co-executive producer: Rob Schiller
    Supervising producer: Liz Astrof
    Supervising producer: Rock Reuben
    Consulting producer: Nick Bakay
    Co-producer: Erin Braun
    Associate producer: Jim Kukucka

    (I hope Owen Ellickson and Mike Soccio will not feel left out, because I did not note that they were listed as the story editors for the episode.)

    Given what I have written so far, you should understand how many individuals can be given credit for working on an episode of a series today.  Now, it is time to go bank in time and look at the credits of several old series, which were good series and are yet popular today.  And, maybe, when you see what I list, you will have a few questions come to your mind.

    Here is a look at the credits for an episode of "I Love Lucy" for the 1955-1956 season:

    Executive producer: Desi Arnaz
    Producer: Jess Oppenheimer

    (By the way, the main writers were Bob Weiskopf, Bob Schiller, Jess Oppenheimer, Bob Carroll Jr., and Madelyn Pugh, who would later be known as Madelyn Davis.)

    Here is a look at the credits for an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show for the 1965-1966 season:

    Executive producer: Sheldon Leonard
    Producers: Sam Denoff & Bill Persky
    Associate producer: Ron Jacobs

    Here is a look at the credits for an episode of The Bob Newhart Show for the 1975-1976 season:

    Executive producer: David Davis
    Executive producer: Lorenzo Music
    Producers: Tom Patchett & Jay Tarses
    Associate producer: Michael Zinberg

    (By the way, the story consultants for the episode were Gordon and Lynne Farr.)

    Note: Sam Denoff and Bill Persky worked as a team for many years, and Tom Patchett and Jay Tarses worked as a team for many years.

    Here is a look at the credits for an episode of Cheers for the 1985-1986 season:

    Executive producers: Les Charles and Glen Charles
    Producers: Peter Casey & David Lee
    Producer: Heide Perlman
    Producer: David Angell
    Co-producer: Tim Berry

    (By the way, David Lloyd was the executive script consultant for the episode.)

    And here is a look at the credits for an episode of Seinfeld for the 1995-1996 season:

    Executive producer: Larry David
    Executive producer: George Shapiro
    Executive producer: Howard West
    Supervising producers: Max Pross and Tom Gammill
    Producer: Marjorie Gross
    Producer: Tim Kaiser
    Producer: Suzy Mamann Greenberg
    Producer: Jerry Seinfeld
    Producer: Peter Mehlman
    Co-producer: Carol Leifer

    (By the way, Jeff Schaffer and Alec Berg were the executive story editors, and Andy Robin, Greg Kavet, and David Mandel were the story editors)

    That should give you enough examples, and, remember, all the examples noted were "hits" and half-hour weekly comedy series.  I will say that, since the 1980s, the number of people noted in the credits has increased--when I talk about the main members of the production teams of series--but I will not show any more information to back up my statement.  What you deduce or infer from the information that I have provided is up to you.

    Now, I had better take care of some business that is a follow-up to questions that were asked in the previous edition of T.H.A.T.  In the previous edition, I talked about "couches."  In the fall of 1988, Couch Potatoes was launched as a weekday syndicated game show, and the host for the show was Marc Summers, and Joe Alaskey was the announcer or played the "neighbor."  By the way, Haim Saban was the executive producer of the series; Bob Unkel was the co-executive producer of the series; and Allen Koss was the producer.  The Big Comfy Couch was a series for children, and the main character was a girl named Loonette, and Loonette was played by Alyson Court.  By the way, for an episode that I caught one day after the show premiered, Annabel Slaight was the executive producer, and Cheryl Wagner and Robert Mills were the producers, and Charles Zamaria was the line producer.

    Since I began publishing T.H.A.T., I have reported a number of instances in which a newly produced made-for-TV movie has had the same title as a made-for-TV movie of the past, and this edition of T.H.A.T. has more same-title information to pass along "for the record."  Tori Spelling and Greg Germann appeared in a movie entitled Family Plan on the Hallmark Channel on February 12, 2005; Leslie Nielsen and Judge Reinhold had appeared in a movie entitled Family Plan on the Fox Family Channel on May 30, 1999.  The next edition of T.H.A.T. will have information about another set of movies with the same title, and the reason I cannot report the set to you now is one of the movies has not aired (at least not by the date this edition of T.H.A.T. was posted).

    Since the last edition of T.H.A.T. was published, The One Day at a Time Reunion was aired (on CBS-TV on February 22, 2005), and it was a reunion show featuring the cast members of the series One Day at a Time (the late 1970s and early 1980s).  Nanette Fabray was on the series and the reunion show, and by being on the reunion show, Nanette Fabray continued to set a record.  On September 10, 1951, Nanette Fabray took part in a test of RCA's compatible color television system (the federal government would choose a color television standard in 1953), and the test involved an experimental station called KE2XJV Channel 4 (New York), and that means Nanette Fabray holds the record for having the longest stretch of time related to the first time being seen in compatible color and the last time.

    And I bring this edition of T.H.A.T. to a Happy Endings conclusion with A Commercial BreakHappy Endings was the umbrella title for a set of four "busted" pilots (pilots that did not sell) that was shown on ABC-TV on April 10, 1975, and A Commercial Break was one of the busted pilots.  Who were the main performers in A Commercial Break?  Their initials were "L.B." and "R.P."  The edition of T.H.A.T. for April 10, 2005, will have their full names.

Stay well!


copyright c. 2005
Date: March 10, 2005

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