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Friday, July 6, 2012

Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV by Warren Littlefield with T. R. Pearson

   Published by Doubleday in 2012

If you remember the giant television shows of NBC's heyday in the 1980s and 1990s this book will be fascinating. Shows like Cheers, Cosby, Law & Order, ER, Will &  Grace, Friends, Frazier, 3rd Rock From the Sun, Mad About You and Seinfeld ruled the airwaves. Thursday nights were dominated by NBC and NBC usually made more money on that night than the other six nights combined - literally billions of dollars.

Warren Littlefield was directly involved in the creation of these shows or the in the decision to put them on the air. Littlefield tells the story of "Must See TV" through the voices of the participants themselves. The book is literally a series of quotes with very little in the way of narration from Littlefield himself. Littlefield calls it "oral history" format. If this book were a movie, it would be one of those "talking head" documentaries full of people talking.

But, what a documentary it would be!

I had my reservations about this book, especially when I saw its format. But, once I started it I blazed right through it. The stories behind the creation of these beloved television shows are interesting and told very well. Some stories are more interesting than others, of course, but the book zips along and is full of interesting tidbits like this one - Fred Dryer was the frontrunner for the part of Sam Malone of Cheers, instead of Ted Danson.

The inside story of what was going on in corporate NBC is interesting and, I suspect, a little self-serving on Littlefield's part. He is especially tough on Don Ohlmeyer (who does sound like a difficult person to work with) and makes it sound like NBC has not broadcast much in the way of quality programming since he left.

Nonetheless, this is an interesting book and I rate it 5 stars out of 5.

Reviewed on July 6, 2012.

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