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Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV
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Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV [Kindle Edition]

Warren Littlefield
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Sold by: Random House Canada, Incorp.
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Product Description


"To detail the exuberant 1990s’ events in the Peacock Network’s ascendancy (with such shows as Frasier, Friends, Seinfeld, Will & Grace, and ER) Littlefield and novelist Pearson interviewed more than 50 actors, writers, producers, agents and executives...Littlefield unleashed a ‘financial geyser’ at NBC, and these revelatory glimpses of those glory days make this one of the more entertaining books published about the television industry.”
--Publishers Weekly
"Littlefield's compulsively readable saga, Top of the Rock, is a great tale of folly."
--Dick Donahue for PW

"A fascinating oral history of shows like Seinfeld that defined an era."
--New York Daily News

“A chronicle of the last golden age of network television, [Top of the Rock] is the literary equivalent of a former NBC Thursday night lineup…Littlefield is the ultimate Must See insider. The mini-histories are a blast…full of fresh detail.”
--The Hollywood Reporter

"The former president of entertainment at NBC chronicles his tenure with the peacock with a little help from his friends, including Jerry Seinfeld, Kelsey Grammar, Sean Hayes, and a few assorted suits who helped him schedule and nuture some of the most memorable shows on the tube, including Cheers, Friends, and Seinfeld. And as entertained as audiences were by those programs, the real show was happening behind the scenes, where larger-than-life egos clashed over details large and small. Readers interested in the history of the network or simply wanting to hear the dish, as well as others interested in breaking into the TV biz, will find much to enjoy in this charming reliving of Littlefield's glory days."

"With entertaning insider's perspective, Littlefield transports readers back to a seemingly magical time when half the country would watch the same show."

Product Description

Seinfeld, Friends, Frasier, ER, Cheers, Law & Order, Will & Grace…Here is the funny, splashy, irresistible insiders’ account of the greatest era in television history -- told by the actors, writers, directors, producers, and the network executives who made it happen…and watched it all fall apart.

Warren Littlefield was the NBC President of Entertainment who oversaw the Peacock Network’s rise from also-ran to a division that generated a billion dollars in profitsIn this fast-paced and exceptionally entertaining oral history, Littlefield and NBC luminaries including Jerry Seinfeld, Jason Alexander, Kelsey Grammer, Matt LeBlanc, Lisa Kudrow, Julianna Marguiles, Anthony Edwards, Noah Wylie, Debra Messing, Jack Welch, Jimmy Burrows, Helen Hunt, and Dick Wolf vividly recapture the incredible era of Must See TV.

From 1993 through 1998, NBC exploded every conventional notion of what a broadcast network could accomplish with the greatest prime-time line-up in television history. On Thursday nights, a cavalcade of groundbreaking comedies and dramas streamed into homes, attracting a staggering 75 million viewers and generating more revenue than all other six nights of programming combined. The road to success, however, was a rocky one. How do you turn a show like Seinfeld, one of the lowest testing pilots of all time, into a hit when the network overlords are constantly warring, or worse, drowning in a bottle of vodka?   

Top of the Rock
is an addictively readable account of the risky business decisions, creative passion, and leaps of faith that made Must See TV possible. Chock full of delicious behind-the-scenes anecdotes that run the gamut from hilarious casting and programming ploys to petty jealousies and drug interventions, you’re in for a juicy, unputdownable read.

Product Details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 9520 KB
  • Print Length: 338 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0385533748
  • Publisher: Anchor (May 1 2012)
  • Sold by: Random House Canada, Incorp.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005X0JG8O
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #78,462 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Now I'm going to watch CBS May 21 2012
By Chris
I thought this would be Littlefield using prose to tell his non-fiction story, like most books of this type, right? But the book went another route with interviews and once I got used to that and accepting that I couldn't keep all the executives straight, I focused on the information I was obtaining. I learned stuff about "Seinfeld", "Friends", "Will & Grace", and that a lot of people don't like Jeff Zucker. I was hoping for a lot of details about NBC's decline - the book does have "... rise and fall ..." in the title - but books like these encourage me to read more non-fiction.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.8 out of 5 stars  112 reviews
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Hit-Or-Miss Accounting Of The Glory Days Of Network TV: Some Great Stuff, Some Lost Opportunities May 10 2012
By K. Harris - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
If ever there was a book I was looking forward to, it was Warren Littlefield's account of his days as NBC President of Entertainment. "Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV," however, ends up getting somewhat of a mixed reaction. Littlefield ushered in and supported a new era of quality network programming that raised NBC to the level of appointment television. The book has fascinating nuggets of information about a myriad of shows that I grew up with including Seinfeld, Cheers, ER, Mad About You, Frasier, Will and Grace, and Friends among others. It seemed a simple recipe for success, and one that's gone out of fashion with contemporary network TV. Bring in talent and let them do what they're good at. While sometimes this tale can seem self-serving or boastful, the talent and executives that make up the primary text seem to support Littlefield's pivotal role (and I certainly have no need or wish to question that assertion). Indeed, it was a time of TV that I'll always remember.

And yet, with such a terrific and broad topic, "Top of the Rock" sometimes feels stronger in parts than it does as a whole. Maybe there was simply too much material. Far from a comprehensive accounting of anything in particular, this is snapshots of history. There is a certain randomness to what is covered and at what length. When the book is digging deep, it can be absolutely riveting. Most of the time, however, topics are introduced and dismissed with little development. Chapters can spend 20 pages talking about a show's premiere and 1 page on the following decade when it aired. It is so hit or miss in its presentation, I became absolutely frustrated in the telling. But still, if you love entertainment stories--this would be hard for me not to recommend. There is great stuff, but many missed opportunities as well.

The book is structured as a series of interviews. There are lots of prominent names in the cast of characters (an opening chapter has a "player's guide" with 8 pages of introductions that I mistakenly tried to read. It was downright painful). They are broken into three segments that include talent (Seinfeld, Grammar, and tons of celebrities), creative types (writers, directors), and network executives. By using this structure, it gives the reader a chance to look at various developments from different sides. You'd think that this might give the book an unexpected openness or unpredictability, but the flow of material is heavily orchestrated to support exactly what Littlefield wishes to present.

In the end, I neither loved or hated "Top of the Rock" after fully expecting to love it. I'm glad I read it and if you have a personal interest in the subject, you simply must read it as well. But it is hardly a home run. It's like mining for gold, sometimes you strike it rich and sometimes not. Too episodic, at times too superficial--this is a great topic that is fun in the moment, but offers too little to become an essential addition to your entertainment library. KGHarris, 5/12.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some Interesting Anecdotes, But Ultimately Unsatisfying May 28 2012
By Lee Goldberg - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The book isn't so much written as it is transcribed... a collection of raw excerpts, snippets really, from interviews conducted with the key actors, writers, producers, agents, schedulers, and lawyers behind NBC's 1990s hits... and, of course, quotes from Littlefield himself. He and co-author T.R. Pearson are going for the feel of an oral history, but it comes off as disjointed and scattershot.

There are some interesting facts and anecdotes revealed along the way, but much of the book felt like an excuse for Littlefield to settle a couple of old scores. Way too much of the book involves Littlefield and his former subordinates trashing Kelsey Grammer (described as a difficult actor with bad judgment and a substance abuse problem) and NBC president Don Ohlmeyer (depicting him as a boorish drunk with no creative instincts who contributed nothing to the success of the network's schedule) and touting his creative brilliance. It may all be true, but it still felt like sour grapes and became very tiresome.

All in all, it's worth reading if you're student of TV history, but it's not a very good book... not nearly as fascinating, revealing or well written as Season Finale: The Unexpected Rise and Fall of the WB and UPN, Susanne Daniels' recent memoir of programming the WB, which later merged with its rival UPN to create the CW, a book I highly recommend.
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Most confusing book I've ever read March 28 2012
By Dave Edmiston - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I work in the entertainment industry (although not TV) and this topic really interests me. However, this book was the most confusing publication I've ever read. Picture yourself channel surfing, talking on the phone, answering an email, and trying to listen to your kids all at the same time. That's exactly how this book read.

My problem with this book is its format. The book is organized by chapters (so far, so good), and each chapter covers a topic or show, like Cheers or Seinfeld. That makes sense, so far. Then the chapter starts with a blurb from the author, former NBC President of Entertainment Warren Littlefield. The blurb is set off with the author's name in bold so we know he's the one doing the "talking". Then it's followed by paragraph after paragraph of quotes from other contributors, some of whom you know and some you don't. This pattern keeps going, round-robin style, as the topic meanders along.

Some of the quotes pertain to the topic, and some of them seem completely irrelevant. And since they are just set up with the contributor's name, you have to wrack your brain to remember who that person was. Is this somebody I'm supposed to know? If it's a celebrity's name, then it's usually pretty simple. But if it's someone's manager or publicist or an exec from NBC, maybe the name doesn't ring a bell.

There's nothing to stitch these quotes together at all. The pages present the quotes as if they're all part of a conversation, but it's clear that all of these contributors weren't sitting around in a room talking with each other. I think they were interviewed and then the contents of their interviews were parsed and patched back up into these pseudo conversations. They completely lack continuity though.

Once I got to the end, I had no sense of what I'd just read. I felt like a bunch of presenters had just taken their powerpoint decks and shuffled them together into a collage of name droppings and free associations. As a long time fan of many of these shows, I don't feel like I've gained any deeper insights into the shows and I don't certainly don't feel like my fan urge has been fed at all. I don't care about salacious details or inside dirt; but I would hope to have a more clear understanding of the show. On the other hand, if you're a fan of Warren Littlefield, then you might just get your fan urge fed after all.

EDIT (5/21/12): I heard the author, Warren Littlefield, interviewed on Adam Carolla's podcast last week. It was an interesting conversation--nothing earth shattering, but interesting. They discussed the book very briefly, not quite as deeply as you would expect for an author plugging his book. The thing that really jumped out at me from this conversation was that every time the discussion turned back to the book, Littlefield seemed to speak mostly in terms of his days at NBC, but he never really discussed the process of writing the book. The more he and Carolla spoke, the less convinced I was that he actually sat down and "wrote" this book. He was very animated about his years at NBC, but not so enthusiastic about his book.

It was also very interesting when they discussed the strategy for the audio book. Littlefield was concerned about how the publisher would have someone read this book, since it largely consists of a bunch of different personalities who weren't in the same room who were quoted about various topics. He was concerned that it would be confusing to the listener. (No kidding!) His final suggestion was to have Bob Balaban (who had played Littlefield on various shows) read the audio book as Littlefield. It sounded very close to an admission that the printed book's contents are already confusing enough without confusing them even more in the audio book.

This interview supported my original opinion, that this book is really no more than a collection of bodies of text from various personalities and that the quotes from those personalities were diced and parsed into a dish that left me with horrible mental indigestion. It would have been much more interesting had the conversations from each of the individuals been left intact so that you could read each one from start to finish and draw your own connections between them all.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed Bag May 27 2012
By Timothy Haugh - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The 1990's were the decade of my 20's. When I think back on that time, among my many happy memories is Thursday nights. Nearly every Thursday night for close to a decade anywhere from three to more than a dozen of my friends would gather in my living room, order pizza, and watch Must See TV. It really all started with Friends, which was our biggest passion, but included other shows that would move in and out of the Thursday night line-up.

I had read an excerpt from this book on Friends in Vanity Fair. It was fun getting taken back to that time of a shared television passion so, when the book came out, I decided to give it a try. Reading the entire book, however, was a mixed experience.

To be frank, the TV programs I feel really passionate about can be counted on the fingers of one hand and 4 of the 5 have been off the air for a decade or more. I liked shows like Cosby, Cheers, Mad About You, Law & Order, and ER, but the only one I felt deeply about was Friends. That gave me only a peripheral interest in many of the stories that were related here.

As someone who is passionately interested in books, however, I found much to be critical about in this collection of interviews "authored" by Warren Littlefield (and T. R. Pearson). Many of the chapters were quite light on real information and heavy on being critical of people, most of whom I didn't know or care about. Among the many disturbing things, the most disturbing to me was the constant bashing of Don Ohlmeyer--who may have deserved all the trash talk for all I know but, as we don't get his side of the story here, it came off as undeserved and unfair.

Still, as someone who has been extensively involved in the creative process of the theatre, I can sympathize with the volatile emotions of the people here. The fact remains that these teams put together some of the greatest and most successful TV shows ever made, and that can be an ugly situation sometimes behind the scenes. One thing I did like as I read the book was the appreciation for talent that many of these people had, which seems to be missing often in TV today. They knew to let good people take the reins and it paid off. I just wish more of that positive attitude came through in this book.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't Feel Like a Book June 2 2012
By Mark Henderson - Published on
While there were many stories that I enjoyed reading in this book, it's hard to call it a "book." Like others have said, it reads as a bunch of snippets from interviews. There's nothing wrong with including these, but there should be a narrative told by the author to connect them together. I was inspired to read this book after the author appeared on Adam Carolla's podcast and talked frankly about his time at NBC. I only wish he would have been as open and honest in the book. If this were a move, you would think he was holding the good stuff for the sequel.
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