Having helped create the ABC Novel for Television phenomenon, Brandon Stoddard, who became the network’s president in 1985, harks back to the glory days of the miniseries, when “Roots,” “The Winds of War” and “The Thorn Birds” became the three most watched long-form dramas in TV history. During his tenure, the network was also home to such major hits as “The Wonder Years,” “Full House” and “Roseanne.” Even though Stoddard departed ABC in 1989 because, he said at the time, “It’s just no fun anymore,” he remained connected to the medium during a 10-year tenure as a professor at USC’s School for Cinema and Television, where he taught graduate students.
— Francesca Bacardi
Kelley: TV Series Creator as Rock Star
To many TV observers, 1999 may have been the year David E. Kelley peaked, having won Emmys for “Ally McBeal” and “The Practice.” But the lawyer-turned-showrunner’s latest offering, “The Crazy Ones,” provides evidence that the prolific producer hasn’t slowed down. “Kelley is no stranger to writing comedy … and between his gifts as a wordsmith and (Robin) Williams’ frenetic energy, ‘The Crazy Ones’ has potential beyond what the pilot demonstrates,” Variety critic Brian Lowry wrote in his review of the CBS show. Having achieved institutional status, Kelley is one of few writers to have had a show he created run on all four of the top commercial U.S. television networks.
— Francesca Bacardi
Leno Magic: Laffs With a Dollop of Civility
When his 22-year tenure as host of “The Tonight Show” came to a close Feb. 6, Jay Leno’s heartfelt goodbye was testament to the latenight stalwart’s ability to connect with his viewers. Since taking over for previous “Tonight Show” host Johnny Carson in 1992, Leno not only has gained the support of fellow celebs — including many who feted him during his final show — but he also generated laughs without sacrificing civility (nobody ever felt blindsided on his show). Leno called his hosting gig “the greatest 22 years of my life” and, with Jimmy Fallon as his successor, future “Tonight Show” guests can rest assured that they’ll find safe harbor in the house that Leno rebuilt.
— Andrea Seikaly
Louis-Dreyfus Is a ‘Veep’ for the Ages
Julia Louis-Dreyfus has earned 14 Emmy nominations throughout her career on “Seinfeld,” “The New Adventures of Old Christine” and “Veep.” She is the only actor to win comedy-acting Emmys for three different shows. Last year, she told Variety, “I’m honored, and yet at the same time, I haven’t really digested any of that. … I’m really just thinking forward about what the next project is or frankly, what the next scene is.” She began her career on “Saturday Night Live” and gained critical acclaim as Elaine Benes as she entertained fans through nine seasons on “Seinfeld.” Now, she is U.S. Vice President Selina Meyer and producer on HBO’s “Veep,” and has won back-to-back Emmys for lead actress.
— Nikara Johns
Dolby Tech Advances Ring Loud and Clear
The late Ray Dolby changed the way we listened to TV shows, movies and music by establishing worldwide standards for sound. The engineer-inventor founded Dolby Laboratories in 1965 and his innovations raised the bar for filmed entertainment. He pioneered noise-reducing and surround-sound technology and holds more than 50 U.S. patents. “I was never a gold-digger, or an Oscar-digger, or anything like that,” he once said. “I just had an instinct about the right sort of things that should be done in my business. So all these things just fell into place.” Dolby Laboratories has received 13 Emmys, and Dolby himself received the National Medal of Technology from President Clinton.
— Nikara Johns
Murdoch’s Influence on Media Is Seismic
The closest media baron to the late William Randolph Hearst as this generation is likely to see, 21st Century Fox chairman/CEO Rupert Murdoch is as revered as he is reviled. After establishing an unprecedented fourth broadcast network, he created a mouthpiece (Fox News) for his conservative views that garners the highest ratings in cable news. Despite recent challenges like the 2011 phone hacking scandal, Murdoch is as powerful as ever. His group of companies owns 28 TV stations across the U.S., produces hit shows like “American Idol” and “The Simpsons,” acquired the rights to NFL games and launched Fox Sports, the world’s leading sports network.