"My contribution to Saturday Night Live was to say: 'One, let's do a show at 11:30, live sketch comedy, with young people. Two, literally ordering that such a show go on. And three, backing it. That was it. Creatively, it was their show to do."
About This Interview
In his three-and-a-half hour Archive interview, Herbert S. Schlosser speaks about growing up in Atlantic City, his early interest in television, his experiences during World War II and his education. He describes his entrée into television through his work as a lawyer at the firm of Phillips, Nizer, Benjamin, & Krim that led to his hiring as general counsel and later COO for California National Productions, an NBC subsidiary that was engaged in the production and syndication of filmed television series (including Bonanza). He talks about how the company was dissolved when the government put an end to network ownership of programming. He describes his work as Vice President in charge of business affairs, where he negotiated the deals for all of the network entertainment, sports and news programming. He speaks about the beginnings of made-for-TV movies that were produced by Universal, under the auspices of Jennings Lang, the first of which were aired on NBC. He describes the deal he made for getting TV movies shown on the network and also for using them as vehicles for series pilots. He discusses his tenure as Vice President of Programs, West Coast, for which he served from the late '60s to the early '70s and speaks of his strengths and interest in developing long-form dramas and variety series. He looks back on the creation of such series as Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, Emergency!, Sanford and Son, and particularly, Saturday Night Live (a show he launched). Schlosser discusses the period in which NBC began to show color programming completely. He outlines his promotions at NBC culminating in his position as President & COO from 1974-77 and President & CEO from 1977-78. He gives his impressions of NBC notables including stars Bob Hope and Johnny Carson as well as executives General David Sarnoff and Robert Kintner. He then talks about his later work as Executive Vice President of RCA Corporation (NBC's parent company) including home entertainment technology. Other subjects he discusses include: outbidding Roone Arledge for the 1964 Summer Olympics, putting African-Americans on television in lead roles and hiring Henry Kissinger as a consultant for NBC News. Lastly, Schlosser speaks about his hand in the creation of the A&E television network. Karen Herman conducted the interview in Santa Monica, CA on May 10, 2007.