has enjoyed a singular career in television because of his insistence
on quality, his uncompromising standards, and his longevity. Brodkin
served as executive producer or producer on some of television's
finest moments, began his television career producing live television
in its Golden Age, and has produced until his death in 1991.
to television with a background in theater and scenic design. He
began working as a set designer for CBS in 1950. After three years
he was handling the production chores for no less than three anthology
dramas. Brodkin continued to work in the anthology format during
what has been generally termed the "golden years of television."
These dramas, such as Playhouse 90 and Studio One,
were splendid vehicles for Brodkin's broad and varied theatrical
experience. One telecast in particular would prove fortuitous for
Brodkin and others. "The Defender," (28 February and 4 March 1957)
starring Ralph Bellamy and William Shatner would serve as a model
for one of Brodkin's cornerstone filmed series.
When the telefilm
began to flourish in the 1950s and most filmed production came from
Hollywood, Brodkin remained in New York although he, too, changed
from the live format to film. Brodkin brought a great deal of technical
expertise to telefilm production, for he had made dozens of films
for the Army Signal Corps. His first series, Brenner, focused
on a father/son team of cops and was scheduled sporadically by CBS.
But Brodkin's next series was the landmark, The Defenders.
The series was based on the Studio One show and featured
E.G. Marshall and Robert Reed as a father/son team of lawyers. The
"Brodkin approach" of treating controversial issues with intelligence
and dispassion, developed during the live years, translated well
to the filmed medium of television. Brodkin had always held the
script in the highest esteem and consistently used writers of excellence--Ernest
Kinoy, Robert Crean, and Reginald Rose. Though television was and
is a medium that appeals largely to the emotions, Brodkin's productions
consistently asked the viewer to think, to consider, and to weigh.
Issues considered taboo, issues such as abortion, euthanasia, racial
prejudice, and blacklisting, were familiar ground to Brodkin. CBS
constantly battled affiliates that refused to clear The Defenders
and the network endured some financial hardship due to advertiser
pull-out from the series. Nevertheless, the hallmark of every Herb
Brodkin production was a thoughtful and even-handed examination
of an issue in a dramatic context. The Defenders enjoyed
a four-year run in which it garnered every major award for television
series work often used the settings of the legal and medical profession
to explore a variety of very contemporary controversies. The series
also used the convention of the mentor/student relationship. In
The Defenders as well as Brenner the protagonists are
father and son. In the unsold pilot The Firm, written by
longtime Brodkin associate Ernest Kinoy, the protagonists are father
and daughter. Brodkin, and those who wrote for him, proved especially
adept at balancing the maturity of the mentor and the intellectual
enthusiasm of the student as a framework for examining the issues
of the day.
In 1965, Brodkin
shifted his attention from his Plautus Productions to his newly
created Titus Productions (formed with Robert Berger), under whose
banner some of his most memorable dramatic specials were produced.
1965 was also the year of one of Brodkin's more metaphorical productions.
Coronet Blue was a short series run by CBS in the summer
of 1967. It chronicled amnesiac Michael Alden's search for his identity
while being pursued by a shadowy band of assailants. The only clue
to Alden's identity was the cryptic phrase, "coronet blue." The
character of Alden can be seen as a metaphor for the angst-ridden
youth of the 1960s. His search mirrored the search of the "counterculture"
for its identity, its place in the world. The series was fairly
well-received but could not be revived for regular production because
Frank Converse, who played Michael Alden, was already signed for
courresy of Broadcasting and Cable
1981, Titus Productions was acquired by the Taft Entertainment Company.
Both Brodkin and Berger remained to produce dramatic specials for
Taft. Notable among those specials was Skokie, starring Danny
Kaye as a Holocaust survivor who fights to keep a group of neo-Nazis
from marching in Skokie, Illinois and the HBO special Sakharov,
which featured Jason Robards and Glenda Jackson as Soviet dissident
Andrei Sakharov and his wife Elena Bonner. In 1985, the Museum of
Broadcasting in New York mounted a retrospective of Herbert Brodkin's
career. In the words of Television Curator Ronald Simon, "the ouevre
of Herb Brodkin is an impressive collection of socially significant
dramas." Herb Brodkin died in 1990 leaving a legacy of creative
and intellectual integrity unparalleled in the annals of television.
1950-52 Charlie Wild, Private Detective
1953-55 ABC Album
1953-55 The TV Hour
1953-55 The Motorola TV Hour
1953-55 Center Stage
1953-55 The Elgin Hour
1955-56 The Alcoa Hour
1955-56 Goodyear Playhouse
1957 Studio One
1958-60 Playhouse 90
1961-64 The Defenders
1962-65 The Nurses
1967 Coronet Blue
The People Next Door
1982 My Body, My Child
1983 Ghost Dancing
1984 Sakharov 1985 Mandela
1988 Stones for Ibarra
1990 Murder Times Seven
Erik. Tube of Plenty, 2d Rev. New York:Oxford University
The Museum of Broadcasting. Produced by . . . Herb Brodkin.
New York:The Museum of Broadcasting, 1985.
Mary Ann. The Expanding Vista: Television in the Kennedy Years.
New York:Oxford University Press, 1990.