At the tail end of tonight’s Saturday Night Live premiere, the NBC show chose to pay tribute to Herbert Schlosser. So who was he, and what did he mean to the show?
It’s hard to put Schlosser’s impact on the late-night institution into perspective, mostly because it was so vast. He was the president of NBC in the 1970’s and at the time, the network was facing a real predicament as to what to air overnight on Saturdays. He effectively wrote the memo that someday became SNL; he is one of the reasons why the show is on the air. It obviously has changed substantially over the years, he he had the belief that something like this could work and that speaks volumes. He understood its value.
Schlosser died at the age of 95 this past August, when the show was still in repeats. At the time of his passing, NBC released the following statement:
“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Herb Schlosser … 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.’”
There were of course a number of early pioneers for Saturday Night Live, whether it be Lorne Michaels or a number of the cast members who took a chance on a show with no proven audience. Since that time, it has launched more careers than almost any other comedy show ever.
(We know that this article is mostly about SNL, but it’s hard to forget that Carson is the person who made The Tonight Show the institution it now is — he is still regarded by many as the greatest late-night host of all time. Schlosser’s legacy is important for that, as well.)
Title card tributes are one of the best ways that a show can honor someone important to its legacy; they live on in future airings, and they allow people to better understand the impact of those who came before. There are a new generation of SNL viewers who likely have not even heard of Herbert Schlosser. This is what makes this so important.
Our thoughts go out to all who knew Schlosser. May he rest in peace. (Photo: NBC.)