Michael Dann, an influential television executive who shaped the broadcast landscape of the 1950s and 1960s, has died. The New York Times reports that Dann died Friday at his home in Boca Raton, Fla. He was 94.
Dann was responsible for bringing shows including “The Defenders,” “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “60 Minutes,” “Hee Haw” and “The Beverly Hillbillies” to television.
At CBS, Dann became associated with a string of rural comedies — “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Green Acres,” “Petticoat Junction” — that helped earn the Tiffany Network a second nickname, the Hillbilly Network. He reportedly preferred higher-brow programs such as “CBS Playhouse,” but liked the ratings that the low-brow programming delivered.
Dann is quoted in Electronic Media, which later became TVWeek, saying in 2002: “By and large I operated under a principle I was trained in, and that was that there was no such thing as a good program executive with low-rated shows or a bad program executive with high-rated shows, and I never changed my position as long as I was working in the commercial networks.”
The Times notes: “Mr. Dann began his television career at NBC, where he worked alongside Pat Weaver as he transformed the network and created such innovative programs as ‘Today’ and ‘Tonight.’ At CBS, where he rose to become head of programming in 1963, he proved an astute judge of audience appeal, a master of scheduling and a shrewd marketer.”