Dick Ebersol is without doubt one of the seminal figures up to now 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 Night time Soccer” was his concept.
Ebersol recounts the excessive (and typically low) factors of his profession in tv in a brand new autobiography, “From Saturday Night time to Sunday Night time: My Forty Years of Laughter, Tears and Touchdowns in TV,” printed this week by Simon & Schuster.
Whereas all the nice moments in his profession have 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 crucial determine in my life,” and the manager who ultimately 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 crucial factor about storytelling – how essential 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 over the past 4 decades-plus, significantly at NBC, to do.”
Ebersol was in Munich throughout the 1972 bloodbath of Israeli Olympic athletes, simply certainly one of a number of international information tales that occurred throughout Olympic competitions. He has particularly vivid recollections of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta.
“We have 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 e-book. Requested if that is nonetheless potential given right this moment’s fragmented TV universe, Ebersol says: “I imagine it may well. However you’ve obtained 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 someone like Brokaw.”
In later years he added NBC Information anchor Lester Holt to the workforce. “For the final 4 Olympics, I requested Lester as a favor to me. Although he was a information character. He was the man who would oftentimes sit with me, all the time able to go on the air. I by no means wished to be caught with out a skilled to leap in and begin telling the story.”
Ebersol’s bounce to NBC in 1974 and his discovery of each Lorne Michaels (quickly to be co-creator and producer of “Saturday Night time Dwell”) and Tartikoff, who ultimately grew to become president of NBC, are recounted within the first half of the e-book.
He calls Tartikoff (whose reign at NBC included such classics as “Hill Avenue Blues,” “Cheers,” “Miami Vice,” “The Cosby Present” and “Seinfeld”) “crucial determine within the historical past of contemporary community tv leisure.” The manager who died in 1997 at age 48 had a streak is unmatched right this moment. “I don’t assume 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 spotted inside lower than 10 days that he was positively the man,” he mentioned. “It wasn’t lengthy earlier than he grew to become my boss. We remained finest mates till the tip of his life. He’s essentially the most heroic determine that I’ve ever had in my life, in the best way that he battled his most cancers repeatedly, decade after decade. I cherished 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 assume these exhibits are gems and Bob had an exquisite approach [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 e-book’s most shifting chapter considerations the demise 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 in regards to the folks you liked and the shared recollections you had, their spirit remains to be alive. And my children felt the identical approach.”
Certainly, Ebersol presents his expertise for example of the right way 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 have been to have them be a part of your life and share tales of what these moments have been like.”