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Transcript of Television Programming
The $64,000 Question
Movie: The Quiz Show
Lou Cowan: president of the television network.
Early days television needed credibility.
James T. Aubrey
Aubrey took over as president of television programming December, 1959.
CBS profits were about $25.2 million.
When Aubrey was fired by Paley in 1964, CBS profits were about $48.6 million
Aubrey had a “killer instinct for the lowest common denominator.”
Master of the “least objectionable programming concept.”
Aubrey's Formula for Success
Detective stories: Gunsmoke, Have Gun Will Travel, Perry Mason, Wanted Dead or Alive, Wild, Wild West.
Lots of Action, no sad endings, no old people acting old, no physical infirmities.
NO SOCIAL ISSUES!
The 3 Bs (Broads, Boobs, Busts) FCC hearings in 1962 on network control of TV
Demanded HAPPY endings
Programs that required as little thinking as possible.
Beverly Hillbillies, Mr. Ed, Green Acres, The Munsters, Red Skelton, Father Knows Best, Barbara Streisand, Danny Kaye’s Variety Hour, Lucy, What’s My Line, Perry Mason, Gomer Pyle, Petticoat Junction, Jackie Gleason, Danny Thomas, Gilligan’s Island.
Before coming to CBS. 77 Sunset Strip, The Rifleman, The Donna Reed Show, The Real McCoys, Maverick (ABC)
Life Magazine article after Aubrey was fired: “No man in history ever had such a lock on such enormous audiences.”
L.A. Times Calendar Section
April 27, 1986
Aubrey’s nicknamed the “
” by actor/director John Houseman
Aubrey was the most press shy (if not the most written about) of modern show business executives
Cool relationship with his boss Bill Paley
Times on Aubrey contd.
Aubrey was the man, the monarch, on the 20th floor of CBS at a time in the early ’60s when CBS could be compared to J.F.K.’s Camelot. (It was Paley’s company but Aubrey’s network, the saying went.)
The bottom line: In 1963 CBS under Aubrey had 12 of the top 15 nighttime series and all 12 of the top 12 daytime series.
“Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine,” Aubrey mused late on a recent Saturday. “We used to talk about this whole thing of being ‘ladies men’. People thought we got away with a lot more than we really did.. I’m certainly no example of clean living. But as I always said, ‘ If a man can be indicted for liking pretty girls. I’m guilty.”
1964 only 8 pilots compared to ABC 27, CBS 25
Outraged by expense and attention paid to the presidential campaign. “That costing us 10 million bucks.”
Articles appear gossip publications published stories of cronyism, conflict of interest and hidden partnerships. FCC investigates.
Kickbacks from producers
Problems with the IRS
“The thing that separates the men from the boys, in my opinion, the one thing in terms of leadership that stands out, is not intelligence or ability. Those who operate most effectively, those I respect most, simply are not afraid. And most people are afraid of decisions.” cont.
Aubrey on Aubrey
“Bill Paley could be ruthless,” said Aubrey.“But he was not afraid of decisions. Everybody has a fear level, when you’ve gone as far as you can go, but you do have to go that far. Your modus operandi can’t be, ‘What if it doesn’t work?’ I never really analyzed this, but maybe it’s why I’ve taken the blame for many things. I was willing to take that blame.”
Dies Sept. 3, 1994, heart attack (age 75)
Attended Princeton. (played end on the football team)
The oldest of four sons of a prosperous Midwestern advertising man
President of CBS 1959-1965
President of MGM 1969-1973
After that he was an independent producer.