Paramount Television (original)
Paramount Television was the television production division of Paramount Pictures, operating from 1967 to 2006.
|Fate||Merged with CBS Productions to form CBS Paramount Television.|
|Successor||CBS Paramount Television|
|Divisions||Paramount Domestic Television|
Paramount International Television (until 2004)
Wilshire Court Productions (1989–2003)
|Subsidiaries||Viacom Productions (1995–2004)|
Spelling Television (1999–2006)
Big Ticket Entertainment (1999–2006)
Desilu Productions was an American production company founded and co-owned by husband and wife Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, best known for shows such as I Love Lucy, Star Trek, and The Untouchables. Until 1962, Desilu was the second-largest independent television production company in the U.S. behind MCA's Revue Productions until MCA bought Universal Pictures, and Desilu became and remained the number-one independent production company until it was sold in 1967. Ball and Arnaz jointly owned the majority stake in Desilu from its inception until 1962, when Ball bought out Arnaz and ran the company by herself for several years. Ball had succeeded in making Desilu profitable again by 1967, when she sold her shares of Desilu to Gulf+Western for $17 million ($128 million in 2018 dollars). Gulf+Western then transformed Desilu into the television production arm of Paramount Pictures, rebranding the company as Paramount Television.
Paramount's early involvement in television
The Paramount Television Network was a venture by American film corporation Paramount Pictures to organize a television network in the late 1940s. The company built television stations KTLA in Los Angeles and WBKB in Chicago; it also invested US$400,000 in the DuMont Television Network, which operated stations WABD in New York City, WTTG in Washington, D.C., and WDTV in Pittsburgh. Escalating disputes between Paramount and DuMont concerning breaches of contract, company control, and network competition erupted regularly between 1940 and 1956, and culminated in the dismantling of the DuMont Network. Television historian Timothy White called the clash between the two companies "one of the most unfortunate and dramatic episodes in the early history of the television industry."
The Paramount Television Network aired several programs, including the Emmy Award-winning children's series Time for Beany. Filmed in Hollywood, the programs were distributed to an ad-hoc network of stations across the United States. The network signed affiliation agreements with more than 50 television stations in 1950; despite this, most of Paramount's series were not widely viewed outside the West Coast. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which filed suit against Paramount for anti-trust violations, prevented the studio from acquiring additional television stations. Paramount executives eventually gave up on the idea of a television network, and continued to produce series for other networks.
In 1966, Paramount was on the verge of bankruptcy, when the studio was bought out by Gulf+Western. By that point, Paramount had pretty much distanced itself from television, having stopped production of its early shows, closed down its networks, and sold off the stations It owned. It also sold most of the early half of its sound-era theatrical library (before 1950, for the most part) to the Music Corporation of America in early 1958.
Sale and re-incorporation
In 1967, Charles Bluhdorn's Gulf+Western brought Desilu, which was merged with Paramount, who had been Desilu's next door neighbor since the closure of RKO Pictures. The sale resulted in Desilu's re-incorporation as Paramount Television in December of that year. The three Desilu lots – the original RKO Studios and two Culver City locations – were included in the sale, but the Justice Department forced Bluhdorn to sell the Culver Studios to avoid a monopoly. The old RKO globe is still in place at the corner of Gower and Melrose in the Paramount lot.
The first PTV production to premiere after the re-incorporation was Here's Lucy. Paramount only produced the first season however, selling their stake in the show to Ball after the season finale. Gulf+Western had plans to launch a television network in the late 1970s, the Paramount Television Service, with a new Star Trek series as the cornerstone of the network. But these plans were scrapped, and Star Trek: Phase II was reworked into Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
Ownership changes and library expansion
In 1989, Gulf+Western was re-incorporated as Paramount Communications, named after the company's prime asset, Paramount Pictures (the name of which was also used for the company as a whole). That firm was sold to Viacom in 1994. The Viacom merger gave Paramount a larger television library as well, since Viacom had television production and distribution units as well prior to the Paramount acquisition. The distribution company, Viacom Enterprises (which syndicated the classic CBS library among other shows), was merged into Paramount Domestic Television while the production company, Viacom Productions (known at the time for its co-productions with Fred Silverman and Dean Hargrove), continued as a PTV division until 2004.
The first major hit from Viacom Productions to debut after becoming a PTV division was Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, based on the Archie Comic of the same name. Starring Melissa Joan Hart as the title character, the series lasted four seasons on ABC (in contrast to the lack of success from the parent company on the network in this period) and three on The WB between 1996 and 2003.
Paramount continued to build its TV library. In 1999, Viacom acquired full interest in Spelling Entertainment Group (which included Spelling Television, Big Ticket Entertainment, Worldvision Enterprises, and Republic Pictures, among other companies), and the rights to Rysher Entertainment's TV holdings.
Launch of UPN and co-ownership with CBS
In January 1995, Paramount finally launched a TV network, the United Paramount Network, or UPN for short, which later merged with Time Warner's WB Network to form The CW. PTV produced the bulk of the series airing on UPN, including the first program ever shown on the network, Star Trek: Voyager. UPN became 100% owned by Viacom in 2000 after Chris-Craft sold its share (its TV stations were sold to News Corporation). Along with Voyager, the most successful PTV shows on UPN were One on One, Star Trek: Enterprise and Girlfriends.
In 2000, Viacom acquired its founding parent CBS, which had actually spun off Viacom in 1971. PTV began producing more shows airing on CBS (it already produced JAG a former NBC production, Becker starring Cheers veteran Ted Danson, and Nash Bridges, having acquired the latter from Rysher). Most of the new PTV series that debuted on CBS after the merger were not very successful, including Bram & Alice and Out of Practice (starring Happy Days veteran Henry Winkler). However, four of these series would become hits: JAG spin-off NCIS, Numb3rs, Criminal Minds, and Ghost Whisperer (the latter two were co-productions with Touchstone Television, which later became ABC Studios). All four of these series would continue under CBS Paramount Television and later CBS Television Studios, with only NCIS and Criminal Minds still airing (both also had spin-offs of their own, with varied success).
Acquisition by CBS
At the end of 2005, Viacom split into two completely separate companies, one of which was called CBS Corporation, the other retaining the Viacom name. Despite Paramount Pictures being owned by the new Viacom, CBS inherited Paramount Television, as well as the right to retain the Paramount name. On January 16, 2006, CBS renamed the unit CBS Paramount Television. Paramount's final series was Courting Alex (co-produced with Touchstone Television) for CBS. Because National Amusements retains majority control of both CBS Corporation and the new Viacom, CBS programs (both before and after the split) are still distributed by Paramount Home Entertainment.
The company survived as CBS Paramount Television for three years. However, CBS began phasing out the Paramount name as early as 2007, when the American distribution arm was merged with King World Productions (bought by CBS just prior to the Viacom merger) to form CBS Television Distribution. The international arm of PTV was merged with CBS Broadcast International in 2004 (two years before the CBS/Viacom split) to form CBS Paramount International Television.
In 2009, CBS quietly announced that the Paramount name would be stripped from: the main company (CBS Paramount Television), its production arm (CBS Paramount Network Television), and its international arm, with the latter two being renamed CBS Television Studios and CBS Studios International, respectively. With these transactions, Paramount's involvement in television – at least in name only since 2006 – came to an end after 70 years (when the experimental TV stations that later became KTLA and WBBM were founded). Paramount had been the first major Hollywood studio to be involved in television. When CBS Paramount Television was renamed to CBS Television Studios, Paramount Pictures joined forces with Trifecta Entertainment & Media in distributing the Paramount and Republic film libraries on television.
Companies and individuals associated with Paramount Television
In addition to its various subdivisions, Paramount often co-produced multiple series with different companies, and had several people work on multiple series for the studio. Some examples are:
- Grub Street Productions (Wings, Frasier, The Pursuit of Happiness, Encore! Encore!)
- Garry Marshall/Henderson Productions (The Odd Couple, the Happy Days franchise, Me and the Chimp, Who's Watching the Kids)
- Miller-Milkis(-Boyett) Productions (the Happy Days franchise, Angie, Petrocelli, Bosom Buddies)
- Ubu Productions (Making the Grade, Family Ties, The Bronx Zoo, Day by Day, Duet, Open House, Brooklyn Bridge)
- Hometown Films (Friday the 13th: The Series, War of the Worlds)
- Ken Levine and David Isaacs (Cheers, Big Wave Dave's, Almost Perfect)
- Ted Danson (guest appearances on Laverne & Shirley, Taxi, and Frasier, and starring roles on Cheers (Sam Malone) and Becker)
- Henry Winkler (starring roles on Happy Days (Fonzie) and Out of Practice, guest appearance on Big Apple, executive producer of MacGyver, Mr. Sunshine, and Sightings)
- Judd Hirsch (starring roles on Taxi, Dear John, George & Leo, and Numb3rs, as well as guest appearance on Philly)
- Kelsey Grammer (starring role on Cheers and Frasier, guest appearances on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Wings, executive producer of Fired Up)
- "Quote By Lucille Ball". Retrieved November 10, 2017.
- "RADICALS & VISIONARIES Desi Arnaz & Lucille Ball". Retrieved June 10, 2016.
- White, Timothy R. (1992). Hollywood's Attempt to Appropriate Television: The Case of Paramount Pictures. Ann Arbor, Michigan: UMI. pp. 107–131.
- Dick, Bernard F. (2015). City of Dreams: The Making and Remaking of Universal Pictures. University Press of Kentucky. p. 160. ISBN 0813158893.
- Dick, Bernard F. "Engulfed: the death of Paramount Pictures and the birth of corporate Hollywood" (pp. 118–119). The University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY (2001). ISBN 0-8131-2202-3.
- The RKO globe – Los Angeles, California. Wikimapia.org (March 19, 1966). Retrieved 18 August 2013.
- Friedlander, Whitney. (January 16, 2006) Eye lift for Par TV. Variety. Retrieved 18 August 2013.