"From Saturday Night to Sunday Night" a Nostalgia Fest
I had to chuckle as I read legendary television executive Dick Ebersol's "From Saturday Night to Sunday Night," a journey through Ebersol's 40 years of laughter, tears, and touchdowns in television.
It happened when I realized that Ebersol's Olympic work had included the Mexico City Olympics during the famous protest by John Carlos, the tragic 1972 Munich Olympics where Israeli athletes were held hostage and killed, and even the infamous Atlanta Olympics with its bombing.
So, basically. We need to keep Ebersol away from the Olympics.
Seriously, though. "From Saturday Night to Sunday Night" is a low-key, fascinating read about one of contemporary television's most familiar names. Ebersol dropped out of college to join the crew of ABC's Wide World of Sports. He never really looked back. He co-created "Saturday Night Live" with Lorne Michaels and produced the show for four years during the period that launched Eddie Murphy to stardom. He created "Friday Night Videos" and partnered with Vince McMahon to bring professional wrestling to network television before taking over NBC Sports and helping to turn basketball into a global phenomenon. He made history as the first broadcaster to host the World Series, Super Bowl, NBA Finals, and Summer Olympics all in one year. While he was there for the tragic bombing in Atlanta, he was also responsible for Muhammad Ali's poignant and powerful lighting of the Olympic Flame in that same Olympics.
"From Saturday Night to Sunday Night" is a fairly matter-of-fact journey through Ebersol's professional journey. While it's certainly autobiographical, there's little denying that Ebersol spends a good majority of his time taking us through his career with light-hearted stories along the way and honest observations about those situations, circumstances, and people with whom things didn't always end up so well.
"From Saturday Night to Sunday Night" is at its most powerful, however, when Ebersol recounts the story of the plane crash that claimed the life of his fourteen-year-old Son Teddy and nearly killed him. After months of recovery, Ebersol undertook what may very well be his greatest professional achievement - creating NBC's Sunday Night Football, a program that became the #1 primetime show in America and continues to be so.
Much of "From Saturday Night to Sunday Night" feels like we've sat down with a storyteller and given him the room needed to tell his stories. If there's a slight problem with "From Saturday Night to Sunday Night," it's that there's very little tonal variation throughout the book with the exception, unsurprisingly, of Ebersol's brief intro and the chapter about Ebersol's plane crash.
How you already feel about Ebersol and the projects he's led will likely determine your appreciation for "From Saturday Night to Sunday Night," a book with several chapters centered around Ebersol's extensive sports background and some truly engaging material around Ebersol's history with "Saturday Night Live." Not surprisingly, I found myself much more engaged with the "Saturday Night Live" material and less engaged with but still appreciating Ebersol's masterful work in professional sports and how to effectively broadcast it and make it more meaningful.
Ebersol shares a myriad of stories involving the likes of Billy Crystal, Michael Jordan, Bill Clinton, Jay Leno, Peyton Manning, Michael Phelps and Larry David and includes a delightful little tale about the day Eddie Murphy met the real-life Mister Rogers.
Informative and engaging, "From Saturday Night to Sunday Night" takes us behind the scenes with one of television's true icons and gives us insight into how he helped create some of television's most memorable moments and the relationships he built along the way. Fans of television history and/or Ebersol himself will find much to love inside the pages of "From Saturday Night to Sunday Night."
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic