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Herbert Schlosser dies: The longtime NBC exec who launched Saturday Night Live and oversaw Johnny Carson's Tonight Show and Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In was 95

  • "Mr. Schlosser was president of NBC in 1974 when he faced a late-night predicament: Carson no longer wanted the network to carry repeats of Tonight on weekends," explains Richard Sandomir in Schlosser's New York Times obituary. "But pleasing Carson, the network’s most important star, led to an inevitable question: What would NBC televise at 11:30 on Saturday nights? Mr. Schlosser wrote a memo in early 1975 that laid out the fundamentals of an original program that would be televised from NBC’s headquarters at Rockefeller Center; would be carried live, or at least taped on the same day, to maintain its topicality; would be 'young and bright,' with a 'distinctive look, a distinctive set and a distinctive sound'; would 'seek to develop new television personalities”; and would have a different host each week.'" Schlosser wrote in his memo: “Saturday night is an ideal time to launch a show like this. Those who now take the Saturday/Sunday Tonight Show repeats should welcome this, and I would imagine we would get much greater clearance with a new show.” The result was Saturday Night Live, which premiered in October 1975 with the title NBC's Saturday Night. “We wouldn’t have been on the air without him,” said SNL creator Lorne Michaels. "Live was his idea, not mine. He just believed in the show. He protected it.” Before becoming NBC president, Schlosser worked in NBC's business affairs department and was NBC’s vice president for programs on the West Coast, based in Burbank. He led the negotiations to bring Carson to NBC to replace Jack Paar as Tonight Show host in 1962. He also championed Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In and help develop the groundbreaking sitcom Julia, the first weekly series to star an African-American woman in a non-stereotypical role. He also hired the first woman and the first Black person to be vice presidents in the department. “Every Tuesday morning there was a parade into his office — censors, lawyers, bookkeepers,” said Laugh-In creator George Schlatter. “They’d say, ‘Herb, talk to him.’ Then he’d say to me, ‘I promised them I’d talk to you.’ And he’d say, ‘Just keep doing what you’re doing.’” Read NBC's statement on Schlosser's passing.

    TOPICS: Saturday Night Live, NBC, Julia, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, George Schlatter, Herbert Schlosser, Lorne Michaels, Obits