×

Reflecting on Harold Robbins’ Big Mip Experience in 1969

Fifty years ago, 1,500 individuals from 53 countries attended the fifth edition of MipTV at Cannes. It’s a small fraction of the estimated 10,500 expected this year, but organizers in 1969 were ecstatic at the turnout. They were also ecstatic to welcome celebs such as Harold Robbins, plugging “The Survivors,” starring Lana Turner.

On April 30, 1969, Variety reported that the hour-long drama was budgeted at “a new all-time high of $300,000 per episode.” Robbins was hot stuff in the 1960s as he virtually invented sex-and-wealth blockbuster novels with “The Carpetbaggers” and “Where Love Has Gone.” In addition to his Mip-promoted “Survivors,” various companies were planning adaptations of four Robbins works, including big-screen projects “The Adventurers,” “The Inheritors” and “Stiletto,” plus the TV-targeted “79 Park Avenue.” That quartet represented a total investment of $36 million.

“I am the only writer able to make three major companies go broke in one year,” he joked at Cannes.

“The Survivors,” which also starred George Hamilton, was a Universal production for ABC. Variety described it as a story about “the power elite” adding that “Robbins is writing the series as he would a regular novel.” There would be a through line, but each hour-long segment worked as a stand-alone and each episode was labeled a “chapter.”

Though Robbins personally had a two-year guarantee for $20,000 for each “chapter,” the series tanked after only 15 episodes. A decade before “Dallas” and “Dynasty” popularized the genre of rich and glamorous agonies, audiences weren’t interested: “The Survivors” consistently trailed in the TV ratings to “Mayberry RFD” and “The Doris Day Show.”

Robbins didn’t bankrupt the three companies, as he’d joked at Cannes, but most of them were bad investments. “Adventurers” and “Stiletto” barely registered at the box-office; “Inheritors” was never made, after years of development. Only “79 Park Avenue” was a success, earning big ratings as a 1977 miniseries.

And while “Survivors” didn’t survive, it paved the way for the boom in primetime TV miniseries (a term that was coined in the early 1970s), such as adaptations of Leon Uris’ “QB VII” (1974) and Irwin Shaw’s “Rich Man, Poor Man” (1976). The following year, the breakthrough “Roots,” which took the miniseries in a very different direction.

Also available at the 1969 Mip were variety series “The Jerry Lewis Show” plus French-dubbed versions of “I Spy” and “Bonanza.”

More TV

  • Brazilian President Jair Bolosnaro attends the

    Bolsonaro Threatens Brazil’s Central Film Fund with Censorship or Closure

    In typical shoot-from-the-hip remarks, Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro has declared that Ancine, Brazil’s powerful state-backed federal film agency, should accept “filters”or face closure. “If it can’t have a filter, we’ll close Ancine, or privatize it,” Bolsonaro added, attacking Ancine, which plows some $300 million a year into Brazil’s film and TV industries, for supporting [...]

  • Variety Cord Cutting Placeholder Cable

    CBS Stations Go Dark on AT&T's DirecTV, U-verse Platforms Amid Contract Battle

    CBS’ 28 O&O stations are going dark for about 6.6 million subscribers of AT&T’s DirecTV and U-verse platforms as the Eye and AT&T battle over a new retransmission consent contract. The blackout affects CBS and CW-affiliated stations in 14 major markets including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Also off the air are the CBS [...]

  • Orlando Bloom Comic Con Immigrant San

    Orlando Bloom Claims San Diego Mayor Ran From Comic-Con Exhibit Featuring Immigrant Characters

    Did an immigration storyline cause Republican San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer to run out of Amazon Prime Video’s Comic-Con activation this week? According to “Carnival Row” star Orlando Bloom, that’s exactly what happened. At Amazon’s “Carnival Row” panel, Bloom told the audience that Faulconer stopped by the Prime Video activation and chose the “Carnival Row” [...]

  • 'Game of Thrones' Cast Calls Final

    'Game of Thrones' Cast Calls Final Season Backlash 'Media-Led Hate Campaign'

    What is life like now after “Game of Thrones?” That’s the question that fans have been asking themselves and that cast members had to answer at the show’s final Comic-Con panel. But first, Conleth Hill, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and several others cleared the air and addressed the perceived negative response to the final season. Related ZDF [...]

  • SDCC Roundup: AMC Drops 'The Walking

    SDCC TV News Roundup: AMC Releases 'The Walking Dead' Season 10 Trailer (Watch)

    San Diego Comic-Con has become a hotbed of entertainment news in recent years, especially for the television industry. In today’s SDCC TV news roundup, AMC dropped a trailer for the 10th season of “The Walking Dead” and FX released a first look at “Mayans MC” Season 2. Related ZDF Enterprises' Kid Content Stirs International Interest [...]

  • ARCHER: 1999 -- "Cubert" -- Season

    'Archer' Renewed for Season 11 at FXX

    “Archer” has been picked up for an eleventh season. The announcement was made Friday at San Diego Comic-Con. The news comes less than a week ahead of the Season 10 finale. Season 11 is slated to debut on FXX in 2020. Related ZDF Enterprises' Kid Content Stirs International Interest Heading to MipTV Media Giant ZDF [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content