Fred Silverman, Longtime TV Exec Behind Hill Street Blues and Mary Tyler Moore Show, Dies at 82

Fred Silverman, the television producer and executive behind All in the Family, Soap and Hill Street Blues, has died. He was 82.

Fred Silverman wearing a suit and tie: He was the first and sole TV exec to creatively run the three major networks: CBS, ABC and NBC © Fred Silverman He was the first and sole TV exec to creatively run the three major networks: CBS, ABC and NBC

He was surrounded by his family at his home in Pacific Palisades, California, on Thursday when he took his last breath, according to his publicist.

Silverman had a decades-long career in the entertainment industry, and was the first and sole TV exec to creatively run the three major networks: ABC, CBS and NBC.

“That an employee in the industry should treat his job, not just as a means of earning a living, but as a challenge, always looking to better that which has been done in the past; most important of all, such an individual must have a sincere interest and love for the profession,” Silverman stated when he applied for his first job in TV at age 21.

After the New York native graduated Syracuse University, he went on to earn his master’s from Ohio State University, where his thesis examined ABC’s TV programming.

Fred Silverman sitting on a table: CBS via Getty Fred Silverman © Provided by People CBS via Getty Fred Silverman

Though his career began at WGN-TV in Chicago, followed by WPIX in N.Y.C., he made his mark at age of 25 when he was appointed head of CBS daytime programming by top CBS executives.

During his time at CBS, he was responsible for numerous shows, including The Mary Tyler Moore Show, M*A*S*H, The Waltons, Good Times, The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, Kojak, Cannon, The Jeffersons, and Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! He also reintroduced game show’s to the daytime slate, namely The Price Is Right.

Following his time at CBS, he was appointed president of ABC Entertainment, a role in which he greenlit The Love Boat, Laverne & Shirley, Family, Donny & Marie, Three’s Company, Eight is Enough, The Bionic Woman and Good Morning America. 

Silverman then went on to NBC in 1978, when he became the network’s president. While there, he greenlit Hill Street Blues, gave David Letterman his first hosting job, and scheduled series including The Facts of Life, Diff’rent Strokes, Gimme a Break! and Real People.

Upon working as a TV exec for decades, Silverman moved to Los Angeles, where he began his own production company, which produced the revival of Perry Mason as a TV movie series, Matlock, Diagnosis: Murder, Jake and the Fatman and In the Heat of the Night.

a black and white photo of Fred Silverman: Bettmann/Getty Fred Silverman © Provided by People Bettmann/Getty Fred Silverman

In 1999, he was recognized for his contribution to the TV world and was inducted by The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences into its Hall of Fame.

He is survived by his wife, Cathy; their two children, daughter Melissa and son Billy; and his daughter-in-law, Anna.

While a private service will be held for immediate family, a celebration of his life will follow at a later date. The family requests that contributions be made in his Silverman’s to the Motion Picture & Television Fund for emergency medical assistance in lieu of flowers.

Related slideshow: In Memoriam 2020: Remembering the stars we lost (via Photo Services)

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