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Warner Bros. Television is the television production and distribution 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 Chuck on NBC and Fringe on FOX.

History and production

Beginning and saturation

The division was started in 1955 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 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 in 1956). 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, Casablancamarker and King's Row, as well as an original series titled Cheyenne. The last with Clint Walker was the first one hour television western and became a big hit for the network and the studio. The last ten minutes of the show featured promotions for upcoming Warner Bros. cinema releasaes. One of the segments promoting Rebel Without a Cause featured Gig Young 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.

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 Follow the Sun, 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.marker Department of Defensemarker 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; 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.

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, 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, Dorothy Provine, Diane McBain, and Connie Stevens. Edd Byrnes and Troy Donahue would go on to become teen heartthrobs. Another contract player, an Englishman who was growing displeased with Warner as his contract was expiring, would relocate to Europe from Hollywood, only to wind up an international star on TV, and eventually, in films. His name:Roger Moore. 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)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.

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".

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

In 1960, WBTV turned its attentions to the much younger viewer, for one program, anyway, as they brought "that Oscar-winning rabbit" Bugs Bunny and all the other WB cartoon characters to prime-time, with The Bugs Bunny Show, which featured newer cartoons, many made for television. All were overseen by legendary cartoon artist and animator Chuck Jones, and featured the voice characterizations of "the man of 1,000 voices," Mel Blanc. 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).

By 1961, WBTV expanded on its existing genre of Westerns and crime dramas, with Follow the Sun an adventure series which followed the exploits of a trio of magazine writers. The show starred Barry Coe, Brett Halsey, and Gary Lockwood. In January, 1962, WBTV 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 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 and 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. 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 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. .

Later years

In 1989, it acquired Lorimar-Telepictures. Telepictures was later absorbed into WBTV's distribution unit, and in the late 1990s, came back as a secondary syndication arm. In 1993, Lorimar Television was absorbed 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), Miller-Boyett Productions - which was inherited from Lorimar (Full House, Family Matters) and others.

Partial list of programs produced by WBTV

Live action

See also


Woolley, Lynn, Malsbar, Robert, Strange Jr, Robert G Warner Brothers Television: Every Show of the Fifties and Sixties Episode-By-Episode McFarland Company (1985)

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