Warner Bros. Television

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Warner Bros. Television
Subsidiary of Time Warner
Industry Television production
Founded March 21, 1955; 60 years ago (March 21, 1955)[1]
Founder William T. Orr
Headquarters Burbank, California, United States
Key people
Peter Roth (President and Chief Content Officer, Warner Bros. Television Group)
Products Television programs
Revenue IncreaseUS$110.7 million (2007)[2]
IncreaseUS$845 million (2007)
Owner Warner Bros. Entertainment
Parent Time Warner
Website www.warnertv.com

Warner Bros. Television (WBTV) is the television production arm of Warner Bros. Entertainment, itself part of Time Warner. Alongside CBS Television Studios, it serves as a television production arm of The CW Television Network (in which Time Warner has a 50% ownership stake), though it also produces shows for other networks, such as Shameless on Showtime and The Leftovers on HBO (though Time Warner owns HBO).

History and Production[edit]

Beginning and saturation[edit]

The division was started on March 21, 1955[1] with its first and most successful head being Jack Warner's son-in-law William T. Orr. ABC had major success against its competition with Walt Disney's Disneyland TV series and approached Warner Bros. initially with the idea of purchasing the studio's film library (WB eventually sold the rights to the negatives of 750 films and over 1500 shorts to Associated Artists Productions, or a.a.p., in 1956[3]). WB formally entered television production with the premiere of its self-titled anthology series Warner Bros. Presents on ABC. The one hour weekly show featured rotating episodes of television series based on the WB films, Casablanca and King's Row, as well as an original series titled Cheyenne with Clint Walker. The first one hour television western, Cheyenne became a big hit for the network and the studio with the added advantage of featuring promotions for upcoming Warner Bros. cinema releases in the show's last ten minutes. One such segment for Rebel Without a Cause featured Gig Young notably talking about road safety with James Dean.

With only Cheyenne being a success, Warner Bros. ended the ten minute promotions of new films and replaced Warner Bros. Presents with an anthology series titled Conflict. It was felt that "Conflict" was what the previous series lacked. Conflict showed the pilots for Maverick and 77 Sunset Strip[citation needed].

The success of Cheyenne led WBTV to produce many series for ABC such as Westerns (Maverick, Lawman, Colt .45, Bronco that was a spin off of Cheyenne, Sugarfoot, and The Alaskans), crime dramas (77 Sunset Strip, Hawaiian Eye, Bourbon Street Beat, and Surfside 6), and other shows such as The Gallant Men and The Roaring Twenties using stock footage from WB war films and gangster films respectively. The company also produced Jack Webb's Red Nightmare for the U.S. Department of Defense that was later shown on American television on Jack Webb's General Electric True.

All shows were made in the manner of WB's B pictures in the '30s and '40s;[4] fast paced, lots of stock footage from other films, stock music from the Warners music library and contracted stars working long hours for comparatively small salaries with restrictions on their career.

During a Hollywood television writers strike, Warner Bros. reused many plots from its films and other television shows under the nom de plume of "W. Hermanos".[5] This was another example of imitating Warner Bros' B Pictures who would remake an "A" film and switch the setting.[6]

Two of the most popular stars, James Garner and Clint Walker quit over their conditions. Garner never returned to the Warner's fold. Successful Warner's television stars found themselves in leading roles of many of the studio's films with no increase in salary. Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. was simultaneously the lead of 77 Sunset Strip, in a recurring role on Maverick, and also headlined several films until exhaustion forced the studio to give him a rest. Many other actors under contract to Warner's at the time, who despite their work conditions, did see their stars rise over time, albeit for most only briefly, included Jack Kelly, Will Hutchins, Peter Brown, Ty Hardin, Wayde Preston, John Russell, Donald May, Rex Reason, Richard Long, Van Williams, Roger Smith, Mike Road, Anthony Eisley, Robert Conrad, Robert McQueeney, Dorothy Provine, Diane McBain, and Connie Stevens. Edd Byrnes and Troy Donahue would go on to become teen heartthrobs. Another contract player, Englishman Roger Moore (Maverick and The Alaskans), was growing displeased with Warner as his contract was expiring and would relocate to Europe from Hollywood, becoming an international star on TV, and eventually, in films. Warners also contracted established stars such as Ray Danton, Peter Breck, Jeanne Cooper and Grant Williams. These stars often appeared as guest stars, sometimes reprising their series role in another TV series.

The stars appeared in Warner Bros. cinema releases with no additional salary, with some such as Zimbalist, Walker, Garner (replacing Charlton Heston in Darby's Rangers), and Danton (replacing Robert Evans in The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond[7]) playing the lead roles; many of the stars appeared in ensemble casts in such films as The Chapman Report and Merill's Marauders. Some stars such as Connie Stevens, Edd Byrnes, Robert Conrad and Roger Smith made albums for Warner Bros. Records.

It was during this period, that shows, particularly Westerns like Cheyenne and Maverick; and the crime dramas like 77 Sunset Strip, Hawaiian Eye and Surfside 6 featured catchy theme songs, that became just as much a part of the American pop culture landscape, as the shows themselves. Depending on the particular show (in this case, the Westerns), William Lava or David Buttolph would compose the music, with lyrics by Stan Jones or Paul Francis Webster, among others. For the crime shows, it was up to the songwriting team of Jerry Livingston and Mack David, who also scored the themes for the sitcom Room for One More, and The Bugs Bunny Show.

In 1960, WBTV turned its attentions to the younger viewer, for one program, anyway, as they brought Bugs Bunny and the other WB cartoon characters to prime-time, with The Bugs Bunny Show, which featured cartoons released after July 31, 1948 (which had not been sold to a.a.p.), combined with newly animated introductory material. Also, that year saw the debut of The Roaring Twenties (which was thought to be a more benign alternative to Desilu's The Untouchables. Whether or not that was the actual case, it was, in fact, much less successful).

WBTV expanded on its existing genre of Westerns and crime dramas, and in January, 1962, produced its first sitcom, Room For One More. Based on the memoirs of Anna Rose, which in 1952 WB made into a movie starring Cary Grant and his then wife Betsy Drake (the only movie that they worked together in) about a married couple with two children of their own, who went on to adopt at least two more, the TV series starred Andrew Duggan and Peggy McKay as George and Anna Rose. Acting legend Mickey Rooney's son Tim, and Ahna Capri, who would continue to do episodic TV roles and feature films (arguably, her best-known movie was Enter the Dragon starring Bruce Lee) were cast as the Rose's natural children. The show only lasted for half a season. In the fall of that year, a WWII drama The Gallant Men debuted, but lasted for only one season.

WBTV exclusively produced shows for the ABC network until 1963, when Temple Houston premiered on NBC.

In 1964, WBTV once again tried to turn a classic film comedy of its own into a sitcom, with No Time for Sergeants. Both the sitcom and the 1958 movie were based on the 1955 Broadway play, which starred Andy Griffith (TV's U.S. Steel Hour also adapted the stage play for TV in 1956). The sitcom starred Sammy Jackson as Will Stockdale, a naive Georgia farm boy drafted into the military. 1965 saw the debut of F-Troop, a Western spoof taking place at a U.S. Army post after the Civil War. Despite lasting two seasons, it is still considered a classic. Forrest Tucker, Larry Storch, and Ken Berry led an ensemble cast featuring military misfits, and an Indian tribe, who, among other things, forgot how to do a rain dance.

The streak of identifiable series subsided in 1963 with a halt of using stock company (acting) contract players and Jack Webb taking over WBTV and not being particularly successful. However, many series were still filmed at Warner Bros. such as F-Troop and The F.B.I..[8]

Later years[edit]

In 1976, the company acquired The Wolper Organization, most notably for Chico and the Man and Welcome Back, Kotter. In 1989, it acquired Lorimar-Telepictures. Telepictures was later folded into WBTV's distribution unit, and in 1990, came back as a television production company. In 1993, Lorimar Television was folded into WBTV.

In 2006, WBTV made its vast library of programs available for free viewing on the Internet (through sister company AOL's IN2TV service), with Welcome Back, Kotter as its marquee offering. Some of these programs have not been seen publicly since their last syndicated release in the 1980s.

WBTV has had a number of affiliated production houses that have co-produced many of their shows with WBTV. These include but are not limited to: Bruce Helford's Mohawk Productions (The Drew Carey Show, The Norm Show, The Oblongs, George Lopez), John Wells Productions (ER, The West Wing, Third Watch), Jerry Bruckheimer Television (Without a Trace, Cold Case), Bad Robot Productions (Fringe, Person of Interest, Revolution), Rockne S. O'Bannon Television, Miller-Boyett Productions - which was inherited from Lorimar (Full House, Family Matters) and in 2010, Conan O'Brien's production company Conaco switched its affiliation to WBTV from Universal Media Studios, coinciding with O'Brien's move to his new talk show, Conan at Time Warner-owned TBS.[9]

In August 2009 in Australia, The Nine Network and Warner Bros. Television launched digital free-to-air channel GO! with Warner Bros. Television holding a 33% stake in the new joint venture with Sony Pictures (titles were later picked up by rival Seven in 2011). During that, the network signed 4 more years with the output between 2011 and 2015.

On June 11, 2012, Warner Bros. Television acquired Alloy Entertainment.[10][11] On June 2, 2014, Warner Bros. Television Group purchased all of Eyeworks' companies outside of the United States. Eyeworks USA however, will remain independent.[12]

Partial list of programs produced by WBTV[13][edit]

Warner Bros. Television[edit]

Title Years Network Notes
Warner Bros. Presents 1955–1956 ABC
Cheyenne 1955–1963 ABC
Conflict 1956–1957 ABC
Sugarfoot 1957–1960 ABC
Maverick 1957–1962 ABC
Colt .45 1957–1960 ABC
Lawman 1958–1962 ABC
77 Sunset Strip 1958–1964 ABC
The Alaskans 1959–1960 ABC
Bourbon Street Beat 1959–1960 ABC
Hawaiian Eye 1959–1963 ABC
Surfside 6 1960–1962 ABC
The Roaring Twenties 1960–1962 ABC
Room for One More 1962 ABC
The Gallant Men 1962–1963 ABC
No Time For Sergeants 1964–1965 ABC
F Troop 1965–1967 ABC
The F.B.I. 1965–1974 ABC
Kung Fu 1972–1975 ABC
Wonder Woman 1975–1979 ABC/CBS
Alice 1976–1985 CBS based on the 1974 film Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore
The Dukes of Hazzard 1979–1985 CBS
This Old House 1979–present PBS
Love, Sidney 1981–1983 NBC
Scarecrow and Mrs. King 1983–1987 CBS
Night Court 1984–1992 NBC
V 1984–1985 NBC
Spenser: For Hire 1985–1988 ABC
Growing Pains 1985–1992 ABC
Head of the Class 1986–1991 ABC
My Sister Sam 1986–1988 CBS
Full House 1987-1995 ABC 1987–1988 episodes from Lorimar-Telepictures; 1988–1993 episodes from Lorimar Television
Just the Ten of Us 1988–1990 ABC
Murphy Brown 1988–1998 CBS
Life Goes On 1989–1993 ABC
Family Matters 1989–1998 ABC/CBS 1989–1993 episodes from Lorimar Television
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air 1990-1996 NBC
The Flash 1990–1991 CBS
Sisters 1991–1996 NBC 1991–1993 episodes from Lorimar Television
Step By Step 1991–1998 ABC/CBS 1991-1993 episodes from Lorimar Television
Hangin' with Mr. Cooper 1992–1997 ABC 1992–1993 episodes from Lorimar Television
Kung Fu: The Legend Continues 1993–1997 PTEN
Living Single 1993–1998 FOX
Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman 1993–1997 ABC
Babylon 5 1994–1998 PTEN/TNT
ER 1994–2009 NBC co-produced with Amblin Entertainment, John Wells Productions and Constant c Productions
Friends 1994–2004 NBC co-produced with Bright/Kauffman/Crane Productions
The Wayans Bros. 1995–1999 The WB
The Parent 'Hood 1995–1999 The WB
Muscle 1995 The WB co-produced with Witt/Thomas Productions and Boone County Productions
Kirk 1995–1997 The WB co-produced with Bickley-Warren Productions and Jeff Franklin Productions
Bless This House 1995-1996 CBS co-produced with Mohawk Productions
The Drew Carey Show 1995-2004 ABC co-produced with Mohawk Productions
MADtv 1995–2009 FOX
The Jamie Foxx Show 1996-2001 The WB
Nick Freno: Licensed Teacher 1996-1998 The WB co-produced with Warren-Rinsler Productions
Life with Roger 1996-1997 The WB
Lush Life 1996 FOX co-produced with SisterLee Productions
For Your Love 1998-2002 NBC/The WB co-produced with SisterLee Productions
Kelly Kelly 1998 The WB
Whose Line Is It Anyway? 1998-2007
The CW
co-produced with Hat Trick Productions
Hyperion Bay 1998-1999 The WB
Will & Grace 1998-2006 NBC
Jesse 1998–2000 NBC
Two of a Kind 1998–2000 ABC co-produced with Griffard/Adler Productions, Dualstar Productions, and Miller-Boyett-Warren Productions
The Norm Show 1999-2001 ABC co-produced with Mohawk Productions
The West Wing 1999–2006 NBC co-produced with John Wells Productions
Third Watch 1999-2005 NBC co-produced with John Wells Productions
Jack & Jill 1999-2001 The WB co-produced with The Canton Company

Warner Horizon Television[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Warner Bros. Enters Tv Field With Pact for ABC-TV Shows". Broadcasting: p. 112. 1955-03-21. 
  2. ^ "Time Warner Inc. Reports Results for 2007 Full Year and Fourth Quarter". 
  3. ^ Sperling, Cass Warner, Warner Jr, Jack, Millner Cork Hollywood Be They Name
  4. ^ p.88 Baughman, James L The Republic of Mass Culture" Journalism, Filmmaking, and Broadcasting in Amereica since 1941 JHU Press 2006
  5. ^ p.54 Weaver, Tom I Talked With a Zombie Robert Colbert Interview 2008 McFarland
  6. ^ pp.86–87 Davis, Ronald L. Just Making Movies: Company Directors on the Studio System Vincent Sherman interview 2005 University Press of Mississippi
  7. ^ p.81 Evans, Robert The Kid Stays in the Picture 1994 Phoenix Books
  8. ^ Woolley, Lynn, Malsbar, Robert, Strange Jr, Robert G Warner Bros. Television: Every Show of the Fifties and Sixties Episode-By-Episode McFarland Company (1985)
  9. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (2010-04-24). "EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros TV Signing Conan O'Brien's Company To Big Production Deal". Deadline.com. Retrieved 2010-04-24. 
  10. ^ "Hollywood Deadline" Warner Bros TV Group Acquires Alloy Entertainment deadline.com, Retrieved on June 12, 2012
  11. ^ "Hollywood Reporter" Warner Bros. TV Group Acquires 'Gossip Girl' Producer Alloy Entertainment hollywoodreporter.com, Retrieved on June 12, 2012
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^ Woolley, Lynn, Malsbar, Robert, Strange Jr, Robert G. Warner Brothers Television: Every Show of the Fifties and Sixties Episode-By-Episode McFarland Company (1985)