Recommended: Desperate Networks
I first read Desperate Networks by Bill Carter (affiliate link) when it came out in 2006. It’s a portrait of the network TV biz during the 2004-2005 season, and of all the personalities and projects factoring in. It traces the origins of “Survivor,” “Lost,” “Desperate Housewives,” “CSI,” “American Idol” and countless other hits and misses of that time. The end of “Friends,” the death of Peter Jennings, the transformation of Katie Couric from fluffy daytime host to evening news anchor… it’s all here written in up-to-the-minute language that gets you turning pages and hanging on every word.
I had thought when I picked up Desperate Networks to reread it, it might feel dated, and not be as compelling. I was wrong. Reading about the so-so ratings and tenuous status of “The Office” in the days before Steve Carell’s box office smash, The Forty Year Old Virgin, came out, knowing what became of the show (a hit), or about the origins of the Martha Stewart version of “The Apprentice” knowing what became of that (does anyone remember it?) only makes the read better.
I was following the network upfronts this year, the meetings where the individual TV networks reveal their fall line-ups to advertisers. And what was noteable was that the same players, for the most part, are still in the game, albeit some of them in different positions. And the agendas put down in the 2004-2005 TV season are still impacting programming choices today.
If you are considering going into the television business- or are already in it- this book will provide an excellent primer on who the major figures are, and some of the more notable minor figures as well, how and where they made a name for themselves and what some of their successes and failures were. I highly recommend it. It’s a textbook on the TV biz, and makes for a great read, too.
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