one of the most successful situation comedy producers of the 1980s
and l990s, is co-owner of The Carsey-Werner Company, an independent
television production company responsible for two of the most highly
rated and longest running sitcoms on TV, The Cosby Show and
Roseanne. Marcy Carsey has a number of notable accomplishments
in the television industry: she developed the concept of building
a sitcom around a single standup comedian, established one of the
first successful production companies to operate independently of
the networks and is frequently named one of the most powerful women
in show business.
her career in television in the 1960s as a tour guide at NBC, later
becoming a story editor for the Tomorrow Entertainment company.
In 1974 she joined ABC as a program executive concentrating on comedy
programming, rising, in 1978, to senior vice president of prime-time
series. While at ABC, she developed some of the most successful
shows of that era including Mork and Mindy, Soap, and
Happy Days. In 1980 she left ABC and in 1982 started Carsey
Productions, an independent production company. She was joined in
this venture a year later by Tom Werner who had worked with her
at ABC. They remain equal partners in The Carsey-Werner Company.
produced by Carsey-Werner have been notable for their innovation
in pushing the boundaries of traditional sitcom fare. The Cosby
Show, the first sitcom about an African American family to sustain
such wide, diverse and enduring popularity, consistently led in
the ratings for several years. It was Carsey--Women's first hit
show, employing the formula that helped to establish them as a television
production powerhouse: building a family-based situation comedy
around a popular, established standup comedian. Cosby aired
in prime time for eight seasons and is currently in worldwide syndication.
With virtually no track record when they sold Cosby to NBC,
the show's success firmly established Carsey-Werner's reputation
as a source of programming.
Carsey-Werner continued the concept of a show starring a well-known
comedian, in this case Roseanne (then Roseanne Barr). Roseanne has
been a centerpiece of the ABC programming schedule since it was
introduced in 1988. In contrast to Cosby, which was about
an upper middle class family, Roseanne featured a working
class woman with husband and children, a perspective not usually
found in prime time sitcoms. The character Roseanne is closely based
on the persona evident in Barr's stand-up performances, which she
derived from her personal experiences. Not only is the main character
relatively authentic, the program has received critical acclaim
for the topics it addresses and the quality of the writing. It has
gained a reputation for scathing dialogue and controversial plotlines,
while sustaining high ratings.
to Cosby and Roseanne, Carsey and Werner have a number
of other popular situation comedies to their credit including Grace
Under Fire, A Different World, and Cybill. Beginning
with The Cosby Show, Carsey Werner programs have emphasized
non-mainstream, non-traditional, and ethnic family groupings. This
can be seen in the flops as much as the hits--shows like Chicken
Soup starring Jewish comedian Jackie Mason and Frannie's
Turn based on the life of a single working class mom.
Carsey and Werner
have led the wave of independent production companies in the 1980s
that resist affiliation with a major network or distributor. Carsey-Werner
shows have appeared on all three major broadcast networks. They
retain (or have repurchased) control of syndication rights for re-runs
of their hit shows and have produced original programming for syndication,
for example a revival of the Groucho Marx quiz show, You Bet
Your Life hosted by Bill Cosby, which aired briefly in the early
1990s. In 1995, Carsey-Werner ventured into the feature film industry
by founding Carsey-Werner Moving Pictures. Carsey has been quoted
as saying that the secret of the success of Carsey-Werner's shows
has to do with their preference for thinking up "people and ideas
together" and for "atypical casting."
Carsey-Werner has become one of the major partners in a new cable
television venture, Oxygen, a channel for women. With partners Geraldine
Laybourne and Oprah Winfrey, Carsey has once again moved into a
position occupied by few women in the media industries. Marcy Carsey
has been touted as one of the most successful American business
women in or out of show business. She has been on the Board of Directors
of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and on the Board
of the Film School at the University of Southern California.
Marcy Carsey with Tom Werner
Photo courtesy of the Carsey-Werner Company
CARSEY (Marcia Lee Peterson). Born in South Weymouth, Maine,
U.S.A., 21 November, 1944. Attended the University of New Hampshire,
Durham, New Hampshire, B.A. in English Literature 1966. Married
John Carsey, 12 April 1969; children: Rebecca, John. Program Supervisor,
William Esty advertising agency, 1960s; story editor, Tomorrow Entertainment,
Los Angeles, 1971-74; senior vice-president for Prime Time Series,
ABC Television, 1974-80; founded Carsey Productions, Los Angeles,
1981; co-owner Carsey-Werner Productions, Los Angeles, from 1982;
producer of numerous prime time television series, including The
Cosby Show, A Different World, Roseanne from 1982.
1984-92 The Cosby Show
1987-93 A Different World
1989-90 Chicken Soup
1991 Davis Rules
1992-93 You Bet Your Life (Starring Bill Cosby)
1992 Frannie's Turn
Grace Under Fire
1996 Third Rock from the Sun
The Little Programming Engine That Did." Broadcasting (Washington,
D.C.), 18 July 1988.
Jeremy. "What Have They Done for Us Lately?" The New York Times
Magazine, 25 November 1990.
Ronald. "Can This TV Team Go Five for Five?" Business Week (New
York), 19 June 1989.
Wayne. "Carsey-Werner: Cosby's Co-Pilots Stay Small and Lean." Advertising
Age (New York), 16 June 1986.
also Cosby Show;