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

3.64  ·  Rating Details ·  2,042 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
Hardcover, 325 pages
Published May 1st 2012 by Doubleday (first published January 1st 2012)
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Jun 18, 2012 RandomAnthony rated it it was ok
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
Evan Leach
Jan 13, 2013 Evan Leach rated it it was ok
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
Lee Goldberg
May 28, 2012 Lee Goldberg rated it liked it
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.

May 11, 2016 Jessica rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Patrick Book
Dec 02, 2013 Patrick Book rated it it was ok
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 ...more
Sep 03, 2013 Dachokie rated it it was ok
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
Sep 10, 2012 Amy rated it really liked it
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 -
Mark Schlatter
Aug 05, 2012 Mark Schlatter rated it liked it
Shelves: shreve, new_book_area
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 ...more
Jul 06, 2012 Dale rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 08, 2012 Kathleen rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 26, 2012 El_kiablo rated it it was ok
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, ...more
Jun 13, 2012 Trevor rated it liked it
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
Jul 19, 2012 Rebecca rated it liked it
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
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 ...more
Amy S
May 29, 2015 Amy S rated it liked it
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,
Jul 08, 2012 Martha rated it it was ok
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
Jul 02, 2012 Anna rated it really liked it
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
Jul 04, 2012 Martin Kilkenny rated it it was ok
"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.
Feb 20, 2014 j rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobooks, 2014
Multiple chapters on the genius of Will & Grace.


Jun 23, 2013 Amanda rated it liked it
Interesting behind the scenes look at many of my favorite shows.
Aug 27, 2012 NyiNya rated it it was amazing
***Nothing is really real unless it happens on television.
Daniel J. Boorstin***

Warren Littlefield was in charge of programming during NBC's Golden Years. Even non-televisin watchers know "Seinfeld," "Friends" and "ER" -- which gave us George Clooney, Julianna Margulies and Denzel Washington and a plethora of stars who went on to become major Bold Face Names. This book is a compendium of self-congratulations to, for and by the people who made it happen. (Added note, 5/2/12: Oops, as pointed out b
Bryant Troupe
Oct 10, 2016 Bryant Troupe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting look back at the history of some of my favorite shows from the 80's and 90's. Also makes it obvious how much the TV programming business has changed.
So I've been having this fifteen year affair that just came to end last Thursday night. Maybe you've heard of my paramour, Must See TV. I didn't discover my love obsession hobby of watching TV like it was my job until I discovered Must See TV in the spring of 1998, when I accidentally caught a Friends episode while I was doing my math homework. Pre-algebra, I believe. (Ugh, yuck, horrible.) I'd had television obsessions before, but only with a couple of shows I watched religiously, namely Lois & ...more
May 11, 2013 Heather rated it liked it
Shelves: tv
This book was really uneven. It starts out with network executives and producers talking about some pretty dry stuff in a really choppy format that really made it hard to get sucked in. When they actually started talking about the shows, things picked up a little, but it wasn't until they got to the chapters on Friends that I really started enjoying the book - presumably since that was the first NBC show I was old enough to have watched from the beginning. The ER chapters were good, too, and the ...more
Sep 25, 2014 Solitairerose rated it it was ok
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
Jul 05, 2012 Chris rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2012
An interesting, somewhat lacking book in the vein of oral histories like Please Kill Me or Live from New York. I've always felt one of the most interesting things about using that format to retell a story is how, occasionally, there will be conflict in the way people remember events occurring. No such thing happens here- all parties interviewed are effusive in their praise of NBC's long-lived "Must See TV" era and by extension, Littlefield himself.

I thought this was a shame, as Top of the Rock d
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
Larry Zieminski
Apr 21, 2012 Larry Zieminski rated it really liked it
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
Laura Beth
Jul 07, 2013 Laura Beth rated it really liked it
Shelves: bio-autobio
Fascinating insider views of what went on at the Peacock Network when it ruled (and during my coming of age). Loved hearing the behind the scenes info about what went in to making NBC so powerful. Basically, surround yourself with people that are perfect for the roles you put them in, step back and let them/trust them to do their jobs. Lots of respect to the creative forces, and not just the number crunchers, that helped build up the network after The Cosby Show and Cheers, along with Golden ...more
Jun 29, 2015 Thomas rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir-autobio
This book is a series of interviews with various executives and creative types who helmed NBC through broadcast television's last hurrah, before cable and the web lessened the impact of the big networks -- and before the advent of cheap-o "reality" TV. Basically, the story is this: In 1980, NBC was consistently in last place, the idiot cousin of the broadcast family. Then Cheers became a phenomenon, along with The Cosby Show and (to some degree) The Golden Girls. After that, NBC went on to ...more
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