The Biz: A TV Producer for All Seasons
Viewers of the CBS hit Blue Bloods may feel like they've gone through a time warp when they see executive producer Leonard Goldberg's credit on the screen. One of network TV's most successful execs, he oversaw programming at ABC in the 1960s, produced such hits as Charlie's Angels and Starsky & Hutch with Aaron Spelling in the 1970s and was responsible for some of the most memorable made-for-TV movies of the '80s before heading into film. Goldberg, who turns 77 this month, told us what it's like to be back on the front lines of prime time.
TV Guide Magazine: Is it still exciting to get something on the air?
Goldberg: It never gets old. Of course the world of television has changed quite a bit.
TV Guide Magazine: What's the biggest difference?
Goldberg: When I was an independent producer, you made a deal with the network and you were responsible financially and creatively. Nowadays there are no real independent producers. Blue Bloods is produced by CBS Studios for the CBS network. I don't quite have the financial responsibility for the show so I don't have the creative freedom I used to have.
TV Guide Magazine: On Blue Bloods, CBS was said to prefer a police procedural while you and Tom Selleck wanted more emphasis on character development. I heard that you and Tom had to fight to get your way on this.
Goldberg: Your information is very accurate. I wasn't going to be as involved as I have become. CBS was more comfortable with the procedural elements. That's what they've had their hits with. By the third episode, Tom and I wrested control. We, along with [creators] Robin Green and Mitch Burgess, always saw it as more of a character show. We're now doing the show I thought we were going to.
TV Guide Magazine: There seems to have always been debate about how much serialization you can have in a series. Weren't there people at ABC in the '60s who didn't want a finale for The Fugitive because it would hurt the ratings for the reruns?
Goldberg: I said we have to have one original show that wraps up the story. I met a lot of resistance in the company. I said, "Why do you think they've been watching this?" They said you can do an extra hour if you can find an advertiser to pay for it. I was dumbfounded that they thought people didn't care.
TV Guide Magazine: You helped launch the careers of such stars as John Travolta and Farrah Fawcett. How does it feel when someone like that walks in the door to read for the first time?
Goldberg: When I was at Screen Gems, Farrah was in the talent-development program. When I moved to Spelling, we used her in TV-movies, in small parts because she was still learning. She had that stardust. Then we put her in Charlie's Angels and she exploded. One of the joys of doing Blue Bloods is sitting in the casting room looking at guest actors and someone comes in and you go, "Wow." I am still getting a charge out of it.
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