Dick Ebersol Displays on Classes Realized in TV in New Autobiography
Dick Ebersol is without doubt one of the seminal figures previously 50 years of broadcast tv. He helped create “Saturday Night Live”; he employed Brandon Tartikoff, genius programmer and innovator, to revive NBC’s primetime fortunes. As president of NBC Sports activities, he oversaw the community’s Olympic technique for a few years. “Sunday Evening Soccer” was his concept.
Ebersol recounts the excessive (and generally low) factors of his profession in tv in a brand new autobiography, “From Saturday Evening to Sunday Evening: My Forty Years of Laughter, Tears and Touchdowns in TV,” revealed this week by Simon & Schuster.
Whereas all the nice moments in his profession had been at NBC, Ebersol, now 75, began as a researcher at ABC Sports activities in 1967. Legendary ABC Sports activities chief Roone Arledge, Ebersol tells Selection, “was an important determine in my life,” and the chief who finally took on Ebersol as a trusted affiliate.
It was additionally at ABC that he met sportscaster Jim McKay. “I miss him a lot,” Ebersol says of McKay, who died in 2008 on the age of 86. “He actually taught me an important factor about storytelling – how vital it’s to maintain paring it down to only the essence. And that’s what I attempted to coach all these individuals who labored for me during the last 4 decades-plus, notably at NBC, to do.”
Ebersol was in Munich through the 1972 bloodbath of Israeli Olympic athletes, simply one in every of a number of world information tales that occurred throughout Olympic competitions. He has particularly vivid reminiscences of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta.
“We had been fortunate as a result of [then-‘NBC Nightly News’ anchor] Tom Brokaw was not solely a hell of a man, he was a first-rate reporter,” Ebersol mentioned. “And Jeff Zucker [then “Today” show producer, later president of CNN] was within the management room with me as we determined who to plug in and plug out.”
The intersection of stories and sports activities, and the function of tv as a unifying nationwide drive, is a recurring theme of the guide. Requested if that is nonetheless doable given at this time’s fragmented TV universe, Ebersol says: “I consider it could actually. However you’ve received to have on-air personalities that individuals belief. It’s the belief that the viewers has in these figures. I used to be fortunate that, at NBC, we had any individual like Brokaw.”
In later years he added NBC Information anchor Lester Holt to the group. “For the final 4 Olympics, I requested Lester as a favor to me. Despite the fact that he was a information character. He was the man who would oftentimes sit with me, at all times able to go on the air. I by no means needed to be caught and not using a skilled to leap in and begin telling the story.”
Ebersol’s leap to NBC in 1974 and his discovery of each Lorne Michaels (quickly to be co-creator and producer of “Saturday Evening Reside”) and Tartikoff, who finally grew to become president of NBC, are recounted within the first half of the guide.
He calls Tartikoff (whose reign at NBC included such classics as “Hill Avenue Blues,” “Cheers,” “Miami Vice,” “The Cosby Present” and “Seinfeld”) “an important determine within the historical past of contemporary community tv leisure.” The chief who died in 1997 at age 48 had a streak is unmatched at this time. “I don’t suppose anyone introduced extra high quality programming in a brief time frame than Brandon did,” Ebersol mentioned.
“I met Brandon inside per week of the time I took the job as head of comedy. And I noticed inside lower than 10 days that he was undoubtedly the man,” he mentioned. “It wasn’t lengthy earlier than he grew to become my boss. We remained greatest buddies till the top of his life. He’s essentially the most heroic determine that I’ve ever had in my life, in the way in which that he battled his most cancers repeatedly, decade after decade. I liked him a lot.”
Ebersol additionally seems again fondly on his creation of NBC’s “Later With Bob Costas,” which took the sportscaster in a brand new path in 1988, conducting one-on-one conversations with celebrities and newsmakers. “I do suppose these exhibits are gems and Bob had a beautiful means [of interviewing]. Whether or not it was Springsteen or a Beatle or Mike Wallace, it was sensational TV when these folks would actually open up about life.”
The guide’s most transferring chapter issues the dying of Ebersol’s 14-year-old son Teddy in a 2004 Colorado airplane crash that badly injured the producer and one other of his sons along with his spouse, actor Susan St. James. “As I write and speak about typically, Teddy by no means did not proceed to be a part of our life,” he says. “Susan was a giant believer that by speaking concerning the folks you liked and the shared reminiscences you had, their spirit continues to be alive. And my youngsters felt the identical means.”
Certainly, Ebersol affords his expertise for instance of find out how to course of a heartbreaking loss.
“I’ve seven grandchildren, and 5 of these speak about Uncle Teddy, who they by no means met,” Ebersol mentioned. “The perfect factor you are able to do is speak about, not in a tragic method, however a joyous method, how fortunate you had been to have them be a part of your life and share tales of what these moments had been like.”