The Sweeps

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

For anyone who has ever wondered how programs get on TV, particularly certain programs, this book describes the processes involved in the creation of a new television program, focusing on the preparations for NBC’s fall season for 1983.

Every few years, it seems, the infallible oracle of TV programming changes--Fred Silverman is replaced by Grant Tinker and Brandon Tartikoff, on the principle that a television executive is only as good as his or her last flop. THE SWEEPS makes it all too obvious that no one has the never-fail secret to successful TV programming. It is almost a joy to read about how high-level network executives thrash around with no more real idea of what program pilots and ideas will work than the average television viewer.

The authors explore the world of television through the people caught up in it. Actors, producers, directors, writers--everyone from Harry Anderson of “Night Court” to Corky Hubbert, the self-proclaimed “midget John Belushi,” to Grant Tinker, chairman of the board of NBC--all have their say. Although it is sometimes difficult to keep up with all the personalities introduced, the focus on people does make for exciting reading.

The exploding growth of cable television is also depicted, again mainly through some of the people involved. Many of them have tried to make the most of the new opportunities offered by cable, some with more success than others.

NBC’s fall season was a total failure, yet 1983-1984 was the beginning of the turnaround in the network’s fortunes. Who can explain it? No one can, but the authors of THE SWEEPS help the reader to understand the crazy world of television a bit better.