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21 Reviews
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 4 stars to the author, 0 stars for the actual networks/executives
In a fairly entertaining behind-the-scenes account of the major US networks' programming decisions, the author provides a glimpse of the inner workings of TV executives (and intentionally or not, doesn't necessarily show them to be geniuses). The initial discussions surrounding Survivor's introduction is perhaps the better written part of the book. Past blunders (always...
Published on June 22, 2006 by Jijnasu Forever

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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Carter's Network Programming Snapshot Proves as Difficult as Putting Lightning in a Bottle
New York Times reporter Bill Carter certainly knows the ins and outs of network television, as the depth of his research is quite impressive in this intriguing, often dishy chronicle of a year in the life of the big four networks. While the concept is worthy, the challenge with writing a book on such a lightning-in-a-bottle medium is to build an in-depth chronicle of how...
Published on May 5, 2006 by Ed Uyeshima


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 4 stars to the author, 0 stars for the actual networks/executives, June 22, 2006
By 
This review is from: Desperate Networks (Hardcover)
In a fairly entertaining behind-the-scenes account of the major US networks' programming decisions, the author provides a glimpse of the inner workings of TV executives (and intentionally or not, doesn't necessarily show them to be geniuses). The initial discussions surrounding Survivor's introduction is perhaps the better written part of the book. Past blunders (always in hindsight, though) by all the major networks as discussed by the author is an interesting read as well. The "characters" themselves seem particularly myopic and is very difficult to believe these people shape what the rest of the world gets to watch on television. The book itself is well-written in an easy-going narrative style. A good read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really good look at behind the scenes happenings :-), July 22, 2006
By 
Little Miss Cutey (Melbourne, Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Desperate Networks (Hardcover)
If you are like me and love almost all things television, this is an interesting look at what it takes to get shows on the screen and how networks battle for a particular show. Once you can get behind the long title, you'll learn so much that you probably didn't know before.

Apparently, Desperate Housewives was passed by NBC, CBS etc until finally someone at ABC gave it a go and look at what happend. Nobody at NBC or CBS would give Mark Cherry a go because he didn't have a reputation anymore.

He talks about how the people who 'green light' Lost, Grey's Anatomy were on their way out the door and almost fired when they stumbled across these now hits. How Friends' producers never wanted the show to be set around a coffee shop. They wanted them to be around a diner. How Jeff Zucker founded a show's supersizing.

This is a great eye-opening look at the behind the scenes moves that go on all the time that we are mostly unaware of. I really loved it and though it's a bit heavy at times, it's mostly really enjoyable and fun.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bill Carter is the best reporter there is about the business of television, January 17, 2007
This review is from: Desperate Networks (Hardcover)
I loved this book. Bill Carter is the best in the world when it comes to reporting the behind-the-scenes machinations of network television. He obviously had the extensive cooperation of Les Moonves, Jeff Zucker and other important players. As a result, you get rich, turn-by-turn accountings of such thrilling events as how 'Survivor' was born and how 'Desperate Housewives' made it to the screen. Carter captures the seminal moments when 'Survivor' and 'Housewives' creators Mark Burnett and Marc Cherry (respectively) finally break through, each overcoming very long odds. It's spine-tingling stuff.

'Desperate Housewives' is simply superb reporting from Bill Carter. Anyone with an interest in finding out how creative product goes from vision to reality will devour this book. It clocks in at a little under 400 pages...I'd be willing to read 800 pages of material like this from Mr. Carter.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Politics and luck, October 20, 2006
This review is from: Desperate Networks (Hardcover)
This was a really fascinating book. It started off slowly (the first pages were tedious) and the writing is disjointed. The author jumps from time period to time period and network to network almost convulsively. You'll be reading about NBC in 2004 and then next thing you know it's ABC in 2000 and then back to CBS in 2005.

That said, the story is compelling: networks passing on shows like Desperate Housewives, Simon Cowell doing American Idol in the hope of discovering talent for his record company. Careers depend on the ability to predict what the public will watch, and what they will and won't watch isn't as obvious as one might think, even to people in the business with years of experience.

If you have any interest in television, personal politics, or the fallibilities of corporate execs, this is an interesting read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How did THAT get on TV??!!, July 30, 2013
By 
Amazon Customer (Indianapolis, IN) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Desperate Networks (Hardcover)
Ever wonder why certain shows get on TV, stay on TV, and last behind their prime but stay on the air anyway? This book is your answer. The author goes behind the scenes of the 4 major networks to determine how they try to stay on top of their ratings, and also keep their advertisers happy. I particularly enjoyed the section that discussed why and how 'Friends" was kept on the air for despite reluctance from the actors (And some stale storylines). You also see the leadership styles of the different network presidents; Jeff Zucker seemed to have no original vision for NBC, he was just content to keep stretching out its past successful formulas, vs the FOX leadership that was willing to put almost anything on the air for ratings! A wonderful look behind the business of show business and an answer to anyone who wants to know how 'such garbage' or this 'great new show' ends up their screens.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An in-depth look @ network TV in the 21st century!, January 6, 2008
This review is from: Desperate Networks (Hardcover)
Having devoured Carter's 1994 book The Late Shift (a fascinating story of the Leno-Letterman late night TV battle) when it was released, I can safely say he's done it again w/this fascinating glimpse inside the 4 networks and the decisions that helped shape primetime TV in recent years...especially fascinating are some surprising facts revealed along the way, such as how:

- CSI was nearly passed up by CBS in favor of a detecive dramedy called "Homewood PI", which was to star Tony Danza
- The "results show" on American Idol was created out of necessity so all viewers could vote (its UK equivalent, Pop Idol, is able to tabulate all votes immediately after the show airs b/c the country's entirely contained within one time zone, unlike the States)
- Julia Louis-Dreyfus was considered for the role of Susan on Desperate Housewives
- Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire, had it not turned out to be one of Fox's biggest fiascos, would've become a franchise that included a sequel, a "reverse" version that had a wealthy bride picking from a series of prospective grooms, etc.

All told, a great read for anyone who wants to know more about the ever-changing face of primetime TV and the backstories of current hit shows!
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5.0 out of 5 stars surprised me, June 28, 2008
This review is from: Desperate Networks (Hardcover)
Since I don't watch a lot of TV and have only watched one of the shows the book focuses on (heard of most of the rest of them though), I didn't expect to enjoy it nearly as much as I did. However, it was a fascinating read of the inner workings of the television business.

It's written very well though one must question how the author obtained the information to say "so-and-so thought X" since he describes rather minute details of people's reactions and inner thoughts. I'm not sure he he did numerous interviews and then wrote them all up in a narrative or what but regardless, I took some of it with a grain of salt but enjoyed it all nonetheless.

It gives a good portrait of the minds of TV executives: they seem to be a hard hearted, shamelessly greedy, and self-absorbed bunch. When I watch TV now, I feel like a pawn in their game as what you're seeing on TV is not so much the idea of a writer as it is a pandering to advertisers.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great look into the television industry, June 10, 2008
By 
D. Franks (Dallas, TX USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Desperate Networks (Hardcover)
This book is a great insight into not only the network television industry as a whole, but also provides a very interesting look at the history of your favorite television networks and shows from the past few decades.

This book focuses on the lives of the heads of the four respective networks. Even though they were names that most have never heard of, they are the ones responsible for deciding what we are going to watch on television.

A great read for people like myself who have no knowledge of the behind the scenes workings of network television.
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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Carter's Network Programming Snapshot Proves as Difficult as Putting Lightning in a Bottle, May 5, 2006
This review is from: Desperate Networks (Hardcover)
New York Times reporter Bill Carter certainly knows the ins and outs of network television, as the depth of his research is quite impressive in this intriguing, often dishy chronicle of a year in the life of the big four networks. While the concept is worthy, the challenge with writing a book on such a lightning-in-a-bottle medium is to build an in-depth chronicle of how network decisions are made and how those decisions resonate beyond the ephemeral nature of television programming. This is where he flails because we really don't get a sense of timeless applicability to what he is writing here. What he does instead is show how the heads of each of the networks devised their primetime schedules during the 2004-2005 season.

Carter paints the inner workings of the industry as if setting Ken Kesey's "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" in various executive suites. Why else would people gamble their careers on a company that only has a 20% chance of success season after season? There is plenty of interesting insight into current unexpected hits - "Survivor", "American Idol", "CSI", and "Desperate Housewives" among them - found their genesis in a pile of rejections from executives who didn't have the foresight to ascertain the public's appetite for them. If there is anyone that Carter deifies for his savvy, it is CBS' CEO Les Moonves who was responsible for the Eye Network's turnaround to ratings dominance despite the upstart performances of ABC and Fox of late. Most fascinating is his methodical role in merging of CBS-owned UPN with The WB to form the youth-oriented CW Network which according to Carter, is turning into a de facto CBS takeover.

For all his intensive research and rather dramatic prose, the author cannot do anything to make the book feel less dated given the transient nature of the business. He does not spend as much time in his 384-page book examining the more macro-level waves of changes affecting television such as the increasing erosion caused by cable and how the networks are now selling TV shows on the Internet and thereby altering the way people watch the programs that the networks so carefully schedule for traditional consumption now. Instead, the bulk of the book is spent on the corporate in-fighting and all the lucky breaks and myopic decisions that make the networks subsist in a cocoon of insular thinking. One can think of Carter's readable book as the prophetic vision of Paddy Chayefsky's "Network" come to true life.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Only the strong..., December 12, 2013
By 
Daniel Estes (Kansas City, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Desperate Networks (Hardcover)
The world of TV is cutthroat no matter how you look at it. Desperate Networks by Bill Carter explores the industry at a time when it's being upended by the ceaseless internet revolution. It's more than cutthroat, it's a disruptive madness. And only the strong and lucky will survive.

This is a satisfying book if you're looking for a business insider's take on the world of prime time TV. And while I discovered it nearly 10 years after the topic season in question, 2004-05, I still found it relevant. I'm reminded of the quote from screenwriter William Goldman for any time the pundits try to predict the next big hit: "Nobody knows anything."
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Desperate Networks
Desperate Networks by Bill Carter (Hardcover - May 2, 2006)
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