Most of TV’s legendary programming execs earned their reps by building one network. Silverman’s spot in TV history was cemented by the fact that he headed up the entertainment divisions of each of the Big Three nets during the 1960s and ’70s.
It’s hard to overstate the influence of “the man with the golden gut,” as Time magazine described him in 1977. Under his watch, CBS ditched the hicks and became home to classy comedies such as “All in the Family” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” He led ABC to ratings dominance for the first time in that net’s history with a populist mix of high- (“Roots”) and lowbrow (“Charlie’s Angels”). He stumbled at NBC (one word: “Supertrain”), but came roaring back as an indie producer with 1980s smashes such as “Matlock” and the “Perry Mason” movies. While critics howled about the sex and violence in some Silverman skeins, there’s no denying he almost always knew what audiences wanted to see.