Fred Silverman, the television-industry giant who was the only person to ever lead programming at ABC, NBC and CBS, died Thursday, leaving behind a legacy of shows including "Hill Street Blues," "All in the Family" and "M*A*S*H."
Silverman died at his home in Pacific Palisades at age 82, his publicist told The Hollywood Reporter.
His knack for championing programs that often shot to success once prompted Time magazine to dub him "The Man With the Golden Gut," a moniker Silverman actually despised, saying his success had more to do with experience than instinct.
The New York native began his career as an editor at WGN in Chicago, where he worked on kids' programs including "Bozo's Circus." At just 25 years old, he became director of daytime programming at CBS, where he came up with the idea of a mystery-solving group of teens and their snack loving dog — Scooby-Doo — a name he came up with by listening to Frank Sinatra's "Strangers in the Night."
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The success of the animated show helped Silverman move up in 1970 to head of programming at CBS, where he wound up championing the boundary-pushing comedy "All in the Family," "M*A*S*H," "Kojak," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "The Bob Newhart Show." He also backed a series of spinoff from the popular shows, such as "The Jeffersons," "Rhoda" and "Good Times."
Silverman moved to ABC in 1975, where he generated the "Happy Days" spinoff — "Laverne & Shirley," and oversaw shows such as "Charlie's Angels," Three's Company," "The Love Boat," "Fantasy Island" and "Eight is Enough."
Three years later, he became president and CEO of NBC, where he struggled to find the level of success he enjoyed at the other networks. The network enjoyed some ratings success with shows such as "Hill Street Blues," "Diff'rent Strokes" and the spinoff "The Facts of Life," the animated
series "The Smurfs" and the pioneering magazine-type show "Real People." Silverman also signed a comedian named David Letterman to a contract.
Silverman left the network in 1981 to form his own production house, The Fred Silverman Co., which resulted in shows including "Matlock," "In the Heat of the Night" and a series of "Perry Mason" made-for-TV movies.
He is survived by his wife, Catherine, and their children, Melissa and Billy.