Herbert Schlosser was one of the most influential television executives responsible for much of the late-night TV space. He died recently at the age of 95.
“The passing of Herb Schlosser deeply saddens us. His ingenuity, creativity, and integrity as president and CEO of NBC during the ’70s made an indelible mark on the network and its legacy, including bringing Johnny Carson to ‘The Tonight Show’ and helping to shape what ultimately became ‘Saturday Night Live,'” said NBC in a statement.
Herbert Schlosser, a former head of NBC, came up with an idea in the mid-1970s that would become “Saturday Night Live,” heading into its 47th season this fall. In 1974, “Tonight Show” Johnny Carson wanted NBC to stop using repeats of his show on weekends, a request that was granted since he was their most important star at the time.
In early 1975, Schlosser wrote a memo for a potential replacement program hosted by a different celebrity each week that would also “seek to develop new television personalities,” which would air Saturday’s at 11:30 p.m.
“Saturday Night is an ideal time to launch a show like this,” Mr. Schlosser wrote (via The New York Times). “Those who now take the Saturday/Sunday ‘Tonight Show’ repeats should welcome this, and I would imagine we would get much greater clearance with a new show.”
Herbert Schlosser, who first came to NBC in its business affairs department, also led the talks to bring in Carson to replace Jack Paar as the “Tonight Show” host, where he would enjoy a 30-year tenure as the most celebrated host in the genre.
He was named executive vice president of the network in 1972, promoted to the president a year later, and named president of the National Broadcasting Company, the network’s corporate parent, in 1974 and chief executive in 1977.