Television producers are typically in charge of all aspects of their shows, and they can have a huge impact on directors, writers and actors. Throughout TV history, some producers have risen to the top of their craft and helped to shape the programming that fans love for years or even decades. Here, then, are some of the most influential television producers of all time.
Oppenheimer, the lead writer and producer of “I Love Lucy,” has to be ranked high on any list of television luminaries, and he certainly qualifies as one of the most influential producers in history. His work with series stars Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz helped to make “I Love Lucy” the original must-see television show and helped carve out the sitcom formula that is still so popular today.
Lear was arguably the king of sitcoms in the 1970s, churning out such classics as “Goodtimes” and “Sanford and Son.” Lear’s series often played on the racial tensions of the psychedelic decade, and he also explored the growing women’s liberation movement with “Maude” and “One Day at a Time.” His work on “All in the Family” brought a new gravitas to sitcoms and helped make stars of Carroll O’Connor, Jean Stapleton, Sally Struthers and Rob Reiner. Using Archie Bunker’s insecurities as a foil, Lear made it OK to tackle many of society’s taboos.
Matt Groening and James L. Brooks
From the moment that “The Simpsons” debuted in December of 1989, the American television landscape has been an edgier, and funnier, frontier than it ever was before. Groening and Brooks are the creative minds behind this animated heavyweight that brought adult humor to primetime network television in cartoon format for the first time. The public almost immediately embraced Bart and his family, and the success of Fox’s classic has spawned countless other “adult swim” animated series in the two decades since.
Starting with “Hill Street Blues,” Steven Bochco has helped to revolutionize the modern police drama series. No longer are TV cops the button-down, suit-wearing stiffs that viewers saw so often in the 1950s or the bumbling Barney Fifes of 1960s sitcoms. Bochco specializes in gritty, on-the-streets drama backed up by painstaking research and compelling storylines. He has made crime fighting a serious business.
Marcy Carsey is an absolute heavyweight in the land of family sitcoms, having guided the genre through the creation and production of such classics as “Happy Days” and “The Cosby Show,” setting the stage for her later work on “Roseanne” and “That 70s Show.” All along the way, Carsey had the vision and strength to push the boundaries that primetime sitcoms could explore, and she managed to accurately reflect many of the day-to-day concerns that we all face in our own lives. Her creations gave us a way to laugh at ourselves and see the humor in the absurdities of our world.
Burnett is the king of American reality television programming, and his “Survivor,” which debuted in the summer of 2000, set the stage for what has become a full-blown TV revolution in the early part of the 21st century. Burnett and his team have devised and refined the formula for successful reality competition series that has been copied all across the dial in the last ten years.
The best producers have a vision of what constitutes great TV and the ability to bring that concept to life on the screen. There are certainly other big names who have helped shape modern entertainment, but the producers listed here were some of the most influential television forces ever.