Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV
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Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV

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3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  1,428 ratings  ·  258 reviews
Seinfeld, Friends, Frasier, ER, Cheers, Law & Order, Will & Grace…Here is the funny, splashy, irresistible insiders’ account of the greatest era in television history -- told by the actors, writers, directors, producers, and the network executives who made it happen…and watched it all fall apart.

Warren Littlefield was the NBC President of Entertainment who oversaw...more
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Published May 1st 2012 by Random House Audio (first published January 1st 2012)
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RandomAnthony
This oral history literary format interests me. The first book I remember reading in the “brief bits of interviews cut together to tell a story” format was Please Kill Me. Next came the west coast version of the same, We Got The Neutron Bomb. A while back I read The Replacements history, all interviews, if my memory serves me well, then earlier this spring the extensive ESPN history. Last week I read another oral history, this one from the “Must See TV” era.

Okay, first, background knowledge. If...more
Evan Leach
From 1982 through 2002 or so, NBC had a primetime lineup that was the envy of its rival networks. “Must See TV” produced hit after hit: Cheers, The Cosby Show, Seinfeld, Frasier, Law & Order, Friends, ER, and Will & Grace (which was less of a hit than its predecessors, but pushed the network TV envelope in significant ways).

img: Cheers

Top of the Rock tells the story of Must See TV from the perspective of Warren Littlefield. Littlefield was president of NBC for most of this era and oversaw the crea...more
Lee Goldberg
Although I've spent a lot of years as TV writer/producer, I'm still a TV nut who buys just about any behind-the-scenes book written about an individual series or about a network or studio. So I was eager to read Top of The Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV, NBC entertainment president Warren Littlefield's memoir of his days building the network's iconic 1990s Thursday night schedule, which included hits like Seinfeld, Frasier, and ER. Unfortunately, the book was a disappointment.

The...more
Patrick Book
I don't know who this book is for. This pseudo-oral history is populated by too many suits and business types and few of the creative people Littlefield keeps saying are so important. It purports to explain the business side of the equation but glosses over details in favour of broad allusions to the importance of scheduling. The entire way along Littlefield praises himself and condemns execs like Don Ohlmeyer, never giving those he maligns a chance for rebuttals. Even worse is the album's closi...more
Jessica Jeffers
An oral history of NBC's prime years in the mid-late 90s, told by various execs and creative folk. I'd give it three and a half stars, if I could. It's interesting for sure -- I am a huge television nerd with a mean nostalgic streak, so this is right up my alley. It read quickly and I definitely enjoyed it, though the oral history format doesn't offer any form of critical analysis to place the events in a larger framework. Something like that probably would have required an additional couple hun...more
Rob Jansing
There are certainly lots of fun tidbits throughout the book, but it read like a really long magazine article. Just a personal preference but I just didn't care for the style it was written in. It was like reading a transcript of a group interview, or a made for t.v. retrospective. There were times where Mr. Littlefield was a little full of himself, but considering what his story was and to see where he came from and where he ultimately made it to, I guess it's ok. Considering how many of the "pl...more
Dale
Published by Doubleday in 2012

If you remember the giant television shows of NBC's heyday in the 1980s and 1990s this book will be fascinating. Shows like Cheers, Cosby, Law & Order, ER, Will & Grace, Friends, Frazier, 3rd Rock From the Sun, Mad About You and Seinfeld ruled the airwaves. Thursday nights were dominated by NBC and NBC usually made more money on that night than the other six nights combined - literally billions of dollars.

Warren Littlefield was directly involved in the creat...more
Dachokie
Skeletal Reminiscence of NBC's Haughty Heyday ...

This book was reviewed as part of Amazon's Vine program which included a free advance copy of the book.

It's hard to deny that NBC `s primetime shows dominated television from the late 1980s through the 1990s as diverse programs like "Seinfeld", "The Cosby Show", "Will and Grace", "Cheers", "Friends" and "ER" seemed to offer a little something to almost anyone in America. So lucrative was this wave of success, the network justifiably and arrogantly...more
Rebecca
I love me a good tv anthology book. Give me a tomb about any time in TV history (in my lifetime) and I'll gobble it up. This one was about the height of Must-See-TV on NBC back in the 90's. Even though "technically" it was written by Warren Littlefield, it was definitely more like the SNL and Second City anthologies that came out a while back, but Warren probably wrote the most and it was about his time on the network, but there were loads of peoples opinions in it.

It was an okay read. Like some...more
Kathleen
If you experienced the joy of “Must See TV” on NBC (and I’m pretty sure if you had a TV in the 90s, you did), you must read this book.

Warren Littlefield succeeded Brandon Tartikoff in the chief programming role at NBC, and ushered in the unparalleled era of Friends, Seinfeld, Frasier, ER, Will & Grace, and the list goes on. These were my teenage years, and these were shows that we all watched along with our parents, our teachers, everyone. That lineup is what prompted me to start paying att...more
Mark Schlatter
This is really two books in one. On the one hand, you have a fascinating oral history of the "Must See TV" era on NBC. It's a bit jumpy, and you don't get all the voices (only half the cast of Friends, no George Clooney talking about ER), but it's still chock full of insights on casting, development, and filming of the shows. One of those behind-the-scenes books that I pick up, can't put down, and incessantly tell my wife stories from. I would like to see a more in-depth work covering these show...more
Trevor
Pretty good quick read, if you're into the history of television and/or any of the shows that made up the Must See TV era of NBC. Even though I'd argue that television as a whole is better right now, I was surprised how nostalgic this book made me for that era, when it felt like everyone in America was watching the same shows as you, at the same time. There's some truth to that, too - as this book points out, even the #1 shows today only have about a third or less of the audience that shows like...more
El_kiablo
I like oral histories, but this was pretty disappointing because most of the commentators were NBC executives patting themselves on the back for how great they were at their job. Business types are fine in small doses, but they tend to be a little more restrained when they talk, more used to trying to guard their own back, so this book feels a lot more controlled and PC than say the Saturday Night Live oral history. For example, there wasn't any discussion of shows they tried that didn't work, w...more
Amy
I wasn't sure about this. I only watched a few of the shows in the "Must See TV" era and most of those were from the early years. Still, this was an interesting read. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the development and production of many of the shows, especially Cheers and Frasier, Mad About You, Friends, ER and Will and Grace.

As far as ER went, when they were getting ready to air the pilot, NBC advertised via a 60-second snippet on LA Law. The same was true for LA Law on Hill Street Blues -...more
Martha
Mowed through this 'oral history' of MUST SEE TV .... And if you don't know what that is, this isn't the book for you. Backstories about casting and controversies sent me to you tube to see the original opening of 'Friends Like Us' when it had an REM theme song, and before it became just Friends..... While a lot of the stories were entertaining, the author (former NBC big wig Warren Littlefield) is patently confident in his contributions to NBC, which apparently went straight to heck when he was...more
Joel
Multiple chapters on the genius of Will & Grace.

...

kay.
Heather
Fascinating read. As a producer in media, it was interesting to learn about the power plays, office politics and talent drama.

Littlefield was not shy about his praise for the highly talented around him and gave examples of how he led the success of must-see TV by using good judgment, not micromanaging but letting creativity to flow and only intervening when necessary. He let shows have a chance to blossom and he believed in them -- qualities that seem rare in programming executives today.

The bo...more
CB
Disclaimer: I was a baby assistant in TV distribution during the Must See TV era, and it was a lot of fun revisiting that era - and realizing how much the TV business has changed, for better and for worse, since then. So while the book may be too "inside baseball" for some, I was in the bleacher seats at the time. That probably colors my perception of the book on the positive side, so take that as you will.

This is a fun, light, breezy read that won't really add to the knowledge of anyone working...more
David Rusk
I'm a sucker for oral history books (I believe that's what they're called). Books that tell the story one quote after another by the various participants. Nonetheless, the subject matter still has to be interesting. Reading about "Must See TV" might seem frivolous, but then again we can all use some frivolity in our lives.

Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV is a fun read, taking us from the creation of Cheers back in the day when NBC couldn't seem to get anyone to create sho...more
Erik M
3.5/5. It's entertaining for sure, and there are plenty of tidbits. The exec side was actually very engrossing. What this reads like to me is the pitch book for a massive history of the sitcom. That aside, I recommend it.

The only reason why it didn't get that fourth star is the short shrift given to Frasier and the other successful, but lesser shows. The latter kept the brand and managed to hold audiences beyond Thursday. The former, Frasier, was a titan that deserved more space. Will & Gra...more
Elizabeth
Fun, frothy reading. This is an oral history of a couple decades of NBC's Thursday night lineup, setting the stage with a brief look at the Cheers/Cosby years, but focusing primarily on the Seinfeld/ER era. This is not a typical collection of backstage stories from the actors' point of view. It's from the "suits'" perspective: a look at the process of creating, green lighting and developing these landmark series, ultimately filtered through the pov of head honcho Warren Littlefield. Littlefield...more
Lauren Thorne
Listening to this book on my commute was, to be honest, pure joy. Many people think, or at least it seems to me that they do, either that television is just altogether a bad thing and a waste of time, or that it is a lesser art form than film, let alone theatre. I have always disagreed with both of these views (but of course respect them as opinions that differ from my own), but have seemed to lack the vocabulary and concrete understanding of the business to explain why I believe in the importan...more
Anna
Easy reading for fans of shows like Seinfeld, Cheers, Friends, etc. I thought I might have overdosed on NBC insider info because I recently read "The War for Late Night," but no, my hunger for behind-the-scenes tv network books remains strong.
Martin Kilkenny
"by" Warren Littlefield is a really pushing it. It is mostly typed transcripts of interviews. The cast of "friends" really think they invented television. Never liked them in the past...really don't like them now.
Phil Melcher
In the 1990's Thursday Nights meant one of 2 things. You watched NBC's "Must See TV" lineup or you watched "The Simpsons" before it moved back to Sunday Nights. Well, if you're like me you watched Bart and Homer but I'll bet even if you can quote every "Seinfeld" episode or tell me what the gang on "Friends" drinks at Central Perk you don't know the stories behind this powerhouse lineup which may be the last time Americans made scripted TV blocks appointment television on the big 3 networks. War...more
Amanda
Interesting behind the scenes look at many of my favorite shows.
Jennifer
3.5/5 stars.

As someone who started paying attention to TV right at the heyday of Must See TV, I was expecting this book to be a lot of fun. And it is fun, although very flawed. I think it's flaws are so apparent from my having enjoyed other excellent oral histories by Tom Shales. This is not written by someone as skilled as Tom Shales - and in fact one of the authors (and, it is revealed at the end of the book that he was also the interviewer) has a vested interest in the portrayal of this histo...more
Chris Ruggeri
A lot of other reviews have already covered many of the problems I have with this book--the lazy structure, Littlefield's lack of humility, the absence of drama or tension throughout most of the story. I will say that while I was immediately disappointed with almost every aspect of this book and hate read the first few chapters, ultimately, it just felt like Littlefield was in over his head. He had no idea how to write a book. He attempted an oral history style, but even to accomplish that much...more
Larry Zieminski
This book felt like it was written just for me. I used to watch entirely too many hours of TV, especially back in the 90s. Must See TV on NBC was a staple in my house. I was hooked on Friends, Seinfeld, and ER. So for me, this book hit exactly the right spot.

The book is a history of NBC’s hit shows, particularly in the Warren Littlefield (the former NBC president of entertainment) era. What this means is that shows like Cheers, The Cosby Show, Friends, Seinfeld, Will & Grace, and ER (among o...more
Anne
From 1993 through 1998, NBC exploded every conventional notion of what a broadcast network could accomplish with the greatest prime-time line-up in television history. Here is the funny, splashy, irresistible insiders' account of the greatest era in television history -- told by the actors, writers, directors, producers, and the network executives who made it happen ... and watched it all fall apart.

Told entirely in interviews, this was one of the most engaging non-fiction books I've read in yea...more
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