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Desperate Networks

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  402 ratings  ·  30 reviews
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Hardcover, 404 pages
Published May 2nd 2006 by Doubleday (first published 2006)
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Debra Komar
An interesting story, although its a little dated now. What worked so well with Carter's previous books like "Late Shift" was that the subjects were famous - Letterman, Leno etc. Here, the story revolves around behind the scenes players like Moonves and Zucker and its hard to work up the same enthusiasm for faceless suits. Many of the shows mentioned - such as Desperate Housewives or Lost - may have been huge when the book was written but they faded out the same way all hot series inevitably do. ...more
Mostly interesting because I was working in TV at the time and knew many of the players mentioned. Not a bad book, but so quickly out of date...
Kym Taborn
Desperate Networks by Bill Carter

I finished another book. Anyone out there read it as well?

My primary memory of Bill Carter was when he appeared on Space Ghost Coast 2 Coast. SGC2C was brilliant. I miss it deeply. Bill Carter is best known for his two books about the “late night” wars on TV (specifically Letterman vs. Leno and Leno vs. O'Brien).

Desperate Networks came out in 2006 and covers the 2004-2005 TV season, and deals mostly with how Desperate Housewives and Lost got on air, how reality
Jun 18, 2011 Rebecca rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: tv
Ohmigod, I freakin’ loved this book. You know it’s a good book for me when I want to read it with a pencil and highlight passages I like or find interesting in it. And this book I read with post-its! Don’t know why, I took them out before I returned it, but that is still a good sign that I really enjoyed it. It was about the change in the US Networks over the past 10 years, their heads of programming and the shows that they air. It was equally about CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox and how shows start at o ...more
A random tape I picked up for my commute. It turned out to be suitable for sometimes distracted listening.

384.55 Recorded account of the goings on at the major TV networks in the early years of the 21st century. What shows made it big, which executives profited, the rise of reality shows and what part dumb luck played in the fortunes and misfortunes of TV's movers and shakers. Interesting but forgettable.
This book was suggested to me by a media CEO who was trying to help me in my new career. I can usually tell that non-fiction is good when I feel like recommending it to my dad... and he loved it, too. If you work or have ever wanted to work in the television industry, this is an essential read. I understand so much more about network television now than I did a month ago due to Carter's book. It's an adrenaline rush because you know most of the outcome and anticipate the big hits becoming big hi ...more
Jan 24, 2008 David rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who love the entertainment industry
A very interesting book that provides an overview of the state of major networks from about 2003 through 2006. Mostly it's the story of the fall of NBC from its place of long dominance and the resurrection of ABC with Lost, Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy. Great mini-bios of people like Marc Cherry, Teri Hatcher and Jeff Zucker. The writing style is fast-paced but a little "inside baseball." It assumes a fair amount of knowledge about the structure of a network and its relationship to it ...more
This is a classic business tale of an industry leader that fails to plan for a day when the competition will emerge from behind and clean its clock. I loved the author's description of NBC's hubris during its post-Seinfeld, Friends halycon days and how reality television (yuch!) and programs like Desperate Housewives (yuch again!) stole the ratings rug from underneath its decade-long ratings reign. For non-entertainment-industry readers the book also offers a glimpse into how shows are pitched a ...more
Kurt Zisa
Inside look into the cut throat industry of network television and the big personalities involved.
David Akeroyd
Now I know what I always expected, Networks are run by idiots.
It's no secret I love television and I find it totally fascinating how the shows I watch came to be. This book is extremely readable with a flow of story, characters, and suspense, surely a byproduct of the author's reporting background. If anything, it made me feel like for the most part, I am way smarter than half the network execs out there! For someone who remembers the 2004-2005 TV season-the tumble of NBC, the rise of CBS, the smart shows of ABC, and American Idol domination-this is a grea ...more
Perhaps not quite as juicy as The Late Shift, but still extremely entertaining. Carter's tales of the dirtiest, most intimate details of TV sausage-making leave you feeling like a true Hollywood insider. Fun stuff for media aficionados.
Nathan Willard
It's a nice look at the process by which a few television shows followed unlikely paths to wind up on the air (Survivor, Lost, American Idol and Desperate Housewives), using those stories to describe the various bits of function and disfunction at the four main networks. A lot of the stories and character sketches are nice, but it's not a compelling story in the end, just vaguely interesting.
Have you ever wondered how some shows ever made it to the air?

Desperate Networks is an inside look at the brilliant/boneheaded choices top executives at the big 4 networks made in the past few years.

Most surprising to me was that Lost was not entirely a JJ Abbrams creation, but rather started as idea an executive had on vacation and couldn't let go of.
Carter is the master of this genre. This book was riveting even though I can admit there isn't much point to the whole thing. It's basically just a blow-by-blow of how your TV sausage gets made, and the peculiar Hollywood way in which a mixture of cleverness, happy accident, and blunder produce what goes on the air each year in the dominant American medium.
Jul 10, 2007 Zel rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: any fan of behind the scenes hollywood
This book is very similar to that of the late shift and informs you of what happened to get a lot of the shows that are on the air now there. All of the behind the scenes happenings of the latest reality craze, the fall of NBC from it's Friends glory, the story of both Lost and Desperate Housewives getting on the air, etc.
Jen Kelly
Much more interesting to me because I work in TV, probably, but I suspect that other people might find this to be a really good read. It's quick and fun and all about how some of your favorite shows from the early 00's got on the air.
Not a book one would save from a burning building, but a fast read and an excellent primer for what is currently happening at the networks. What ever happened to NBC? It's in here.
After reading this book, you start to wonder how anything good, interesting, or innovative ever makes it on TV. Great behind-the-scenes look at how TV really works.
Good book about the onset of reality TV and the changing landscape of television amidst the rise of CBS on the back of CSI and Survivor and the subsequent fall of NBC
The dish and the personalities - egos? - give the narrative some momentum, but the cliches do make you cringe. Read it before they all lose their jobs.
Excellent look at how television works--because nobody knows what they're doing!

But it will always be entertaining because nobody will ever admit it--!
Lawrence Dortch
I read this book in grad school. It was not a bad read but it was a forced read. Maybe if I read it again on my own I will enjoy it.
Andy Hunt
Such a great look into the television industry. Bill Carter's other books on the late night talkshow scene are great as well.
Mar 30, 2007 Betsy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: television lovers
i love this book. if you want to know what i do all day its listen to phone call about this stuff. very interesting stuff.
Jun 28, 2008 Ruth added it
Fascinating. The author might be a little too enamored of certain of his subjects (Les Moonves, for one?).
Learn why you watch a lot of crap on tv.
Surprisingly entertaining- reads like fiction.
really interesting, fast read
Jan 06, 2012 Genemar added it
Shelves: non-fiction
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William J. Carter joined The New York Times as a national media reporter in 1989. In addition to his work for the newspaper, Mr. Carter has written numerous articles for The New York Times Magazine, including four cover stories.

Mr. Carter has covered the television industry for over 25 years. From 1975 until 1989, he was a television critic for The Baltimore Sun, writing four to six columns, repor
More about Bill Carter...
The War for Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy The Late Shift: Letterman, Leno & the Network Battle for the Night Monday Night Mayhem: The Inside Story of ABC's Monday Night Football

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