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

3.64  ·  Rating Details ·  2,013 Ratings  ·  299 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
Audio CD, 0 pages
Published May 1st 2012 by Random House Audio (first published January 1st 2012)
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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
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.

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
Patrick Book
Dec 02, 2013 Patrick Book rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013-reads
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
May 11, 2016 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Amy S
May 29, 2015 Amy S rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book at the dollar store. Yep, the dollar store! Went there for teacher supplies and bam! Came out w a book as well.

Anyway, so if you know me well you know my son is a wee bit in the industry. He is in a minute maid commercial airing currently. So I am a bit familiar w audition processes and legalities and snobberies etc. I enjoyed this book for the sheer nerdiness of all the behind the scenes info. I find the casting process fascinating. The business of getting a show on the air,
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
Jul 06, 2012 Dale rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jul 19, 2012 Rebecca rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tv
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
Jun 08, 2012 Kathleen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jun 13, 2012 Trevor rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Sep 10, 2012 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 -
Jul 08, 2012 Martha rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Feb 20, 2014 j rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks, 2014
Multiple chapters on the genius of Will & Grace.


Warren Littlefield presided over an incredible era in TV – NBC from the last 80’s to the late 90’s. During that time NBC had a schedule filled with smart, well done TV and I became very “brand loyal”. Their comedies were usually a step up from the other networks, and many of the drama programs were top notch. In a lot of ways, it was the last gasp of the Big Networks before they had to start cutting costs with game shows and drama moved to cable.

I SO wanted to like this book. Littlefield’s inter
Karen Kinsella
Aug 11, 2014 Karen Kinsella rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I listened to this as an audiobook, and as a result found it somewhat confusing as to who was "talking." The book is composed of a series of interview snippets about the creation and execution of the key TV series that made NBC the top network for so long, an unusual writing technique that worked surprisingly well. Now, I watched little TV during the "Must See TV" era, and even had to look up some of the stars... I did recognize the faces, if not the names. Even so, I rather enjoyed Littlefield' ...more
Jul 04, 2014 Heather rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 21, 2014 CS rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 13, 2016 Ashley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I grew up in the time of "Must See TV". I was a preschooler when it started and high schooler when the last show of the era ended. I watched most of these shows and loved all of them at one time or another. This book is great in giving you a look into how it all happened. Warren Littlefield took risks on shows and they turned into shows people still love to watch and talk about.

I found the ending chapter "You're Fired" a little distasteful. I get that Jeff Zucker wasn't a great leader for NBC an
Rob Trainor
May 04, 2016 Rob Trainor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business, tv-movies
This is a very interesting book about Warren Littlefield's tenure as NBC President of Entertainment. However, the book is far more than that. It also explores the rise and decline of NBC's much heralded Must See TV, Thursday night lineup.

The book has a group format to the way it was written. Instead of it being Warren Littlefield telling you the story, it is written as if it was a group interview. It features quotes from many of the major players of Must See TV from Jerry Seinfeld to Dick Wolf.
Day Rusk
Jun 18, 2014 Day Rusk rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Stephen Perlstein
Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV
by Warren Littlefield

"Top of the Rock" is an oral history of the years that was the NBC Thursday night line up known as Must See TV. "Top of the Rock" is a collection of thoughts from the talent, writers, producers, directors, and suits of the shows, Cheers, The Cosby Show, Seinfeld, Mad About You, Friends, ER, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Will & Grace, Law & Order, and Frasier.

The sources and quotes have been culled into a book by then N
Steve Odenthal
Jun 22, 2015 Steve Odenthal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book quite a bit. I had always had watched the portrayal of the NBC top exec who falls for Elaine in Seinfeld and thought it was dead on with Warren Littlefield - nice to know that he agrees. This is an easy and intriguing read as each important player in a decision or show is interviewed and spliced in to Warren's narrative, so it reads most like a script to a documentary. I was surprised that with almost all the major decisions in making "Must See TV", from casting to terminatio ...more
Suzan Christine
Recommended to me by a friend who knows I am a big lover of television writing, specifically comedic writing. While I thought many glimpses of behind the scenes elements were fascinating, and at times the interviews contributed richly to the narrative, other times the composite quotations and anecdotes (Mr. Littlefield mentions in his acknowledgments he conducted more than 50 interviews) leads to a disjointed and redundant narrative. My favorite component for each show was the development phase ...more
Erik M
Apr 24, 2014 Erik M rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 13, 2014 Elizabeth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
Mar 27, 2014 Lauren Thorne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: great-audiobooks
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
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