Family & Companions
Raised on New York's Upper East Side, Harvard-educated Tom Werner might not have thought he would have too much in common with his boss when he was transferred into ABC programming department from research in the mid-1970s. Marcy Carsey was a middle-class woman from Weymouth, MA, educated at The University of New Hampshire and by her own admission, "uncool." Yet, the duo became ABC's programming development and execution wizards, part of the team that brought the then-perennially third-place network to prominence in the late '70s behind such series as "Laverne & Shirley" and "Mork & Mindy." Carsey rose up the ABC executive ladder with Werner right behind her, and when Carsey left the network in 1980 to go into independent production, Werner took over her senior vice presidency of prime time programming. A year later, he, too, departed ABC, and the duo formed Carsey-Werner Productions with offices above a Westwood, California, 7-Eleven store.
Although they each had script commitments with ABC, it took Carsey-Werner until 1983 to launch their first series, "Oh, Madeline," starring Madeline Kahn. It lasted a mere season, but by the time it was canceled, Carsey-Werner were already on to their next project. In the spring of 1984, comedian-actor-commercial pitchman Bill Cosby decided he wanted to try another sitcom. Matched by the William Morris Agency with Carsey-Werner as producers, the concept they collectively came up with was turned down by their former boss at ABC because the network refused to give the show a firm on-air commitment. NBC, mired in third place, was willing. In September 1984, "The Cosby Show," about the trials and tribulations of a Brooklyn obstetrician, his attorney wife and their five children, premiered. Given only a fair chance of succeeding in its Thursday at 8 p.m. time period against CBS' "Magnum, P.I.," it astounded the ad agencies by skyrocketing to first place in its time period by its second week and becoming not only the most successful series of all time in terms of total audience, but the most lucrative sale to syndication, with an estimated $600 million in revenues when it was first sold to stations in 1988. Although producing "The Cosby Show" meant commuting back and forth to New York, Carsey and Werner had time to expand their company. "A Different World," a "Cosby" spin-off, was launched in 1987 with Lisa Bonet in the lead. When Bonet departed, the show was revamped and ran for an additional six seasons.
ABC lured Carsey-Werner back in 1988 with "Roseanne," a sitcom starring Roseanne Barr (later Arnold), and inspired by her act as a stand-up comic. Although it quickly became ABC's Number 1 show, backstage squabbles between Roseanne and members of the writing staff not to mention her frequent skirmishes with Carsey-Werner and ABC became tabloid fodder. Nevertheless, the hit status of the show made all work toward solutions. Carsey and Werner were less successful with "Chicken Soup," a 1989 vehicle for comic Jackie Mason on ABC. "Grand" (NBC, 1990) and "Davis Rules" (ABC, 1991; CBS, 1991-92) also failed. Even an attempt to team with Cosby on a new syndicated version of "You Bet Your Life" flopped in 1992, as did a CBS sitcom, "Fannie," that same year. The industry pundits were saying Carsey-Werner's time had passed and that their knack for putting stand-up comics into family-based sitcoms which demonstrated heart as well as an au courant edge had vanished.
Carsey and Werner were not yet ready to sit back and count the hundreds of millions of dollars in their personal fortunes from syndication revenues. Signing Brett Butler, who, like Roseanne, had a working-class woman-based nightclub act, the duo marched into ABC and sold "Grace Under Fire," which was launched in 1993 and became another top hit and syndication bonanza. Their magic seemed to be back for CBS in 1995 with "Cybill," a sitcom starring Cybill Shepherd as a sometime working actress. Acclaimed by the critics when it was launched in the spring of 1995, CBS moved the series to Sunday nights at 8 p.m. supplanting "Murder, She Wrote" in September 1995. Despite the network's hopes that "Cybill" would attract a new and younger audience to the network, the show's ratings faltered. It was moved to Mondays where it found its niche.
Carsey-Werner pressed on, successfully launching "3rd Rock From the Sun," an NBC series starring John Lithgow and Jane Curtin that debuted in January 1996. For the 1996-97 season, they placed a sitcom on each of the major networks: "Cosby" on CBS; "Men Behaving Badly" on NBC; and "Townies" on ABC.
Werner made the sports pages in 1990 when he plunged some of his "Cosby" revenues into buying the San Diego Padres baseball team and was named principal owner. A controversy erupted when, soon after the purchase, Werner asked Roseanne to sing the National Anthem at a Padres game. Chewing gum in an attempt to comically mimic players and umpires, Roseanne sang off-key and grabbed her crotch at the end of the song. A nationwide furor arose. Werner tenure as Padres owner did not get much better. Disliked by fans, who perceived that Werner and his partners were selling off the team's best players for cost efficiency, Werner sold his share within a few years after buying it. Werner and partner Carsey both have been relatively press shy, rarely granting interviews or offering quotes, even during Roseanne's most vocal moments. While their company dabbled a bit in TV-movies during the mid-80s with "Single Bars, Single Women" for ABC, they abandoned the genre. In the 90s, they gave indications of expanding their syndication business; creating their own division in 1992 having relied on Viacom prior to that. When Viacom merged with Paramount, Carsey and Werner bought back their properties. In 1995, they announced plans to syndicate a new version of "What's My Line," but retracted when it turned out that All American TV controlled the rights.
Producer (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Special)
Joined ABC Entertainment as researcher
Left ABC as senior vp, primetime programs; joined former colleague and boss, Marcy Carsey, to form Carsey-Werner Productions
Carsey Werner's first sitcom launched on ABC: "Oh, Madeline"
Co-executive producer of "The Cosby Show" (NBC),
Produced first TV-movie, "Single Bars, Single Women" (ABC)
Co-executive producer, "Chicken Soup" (ABC)
Co-executive producer, "Grand" (NBC), member of partnership that purchased the San Diego Padres baseball team; became principal owner
First first-run syndication effort launched, "You Bet Your Life"
Signed agreement to produce a sitcom for Bill Cosby to air on CBS
Co-executive produced "Townies" (ABC)
Was excutive producer of failed Fox sitcom "Damon"
With Carsey, returned to the winners' column as executive producers of Fox's "That '70s Show"