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Brandon Stoddard, ABC Exec Who Shepherded 'Roots,' Dies at 77

Monday, 22 December 2014 08:53 PM

Brandon Stoddard, the longtime ABC exec who shepherded such landmark longform productions as "Roots" and "The Winds of War," died Monday after a battle with cancer. He was 77.

Stoddard had a 25-year career at ABC, rising to entertainment president from 1985-89. He spent another six years as head of ABC Prods. before stepping down in 1995.

During his long run, Stoddard was an instrumental player in steering ABC's success with large-scale miniseries productions. None was a bigger gamble than "Roots," a gritty historical look at the journey of Africans into the slave trade in America that aired over eight consecutive nights in January 1977. The production and the impact it had as a cultural event remains a milestone for the medium.

Stoddard was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in March. After leaving ABC, Stoddard spent 10 years teaching graduate students at USC's School for Cinema and Television.

Stoddard was a mentor and friend to a generation of TV execs including producers Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner and Ted Harbert, now chairman of NBC Broadcasting.

"In many ways, I owe my career to Brandon. He taught me how to read a script, how to talk to writers and to above all, revere great characters and stories," Harbert told Variety. "And we laughed."

Stoddard grew up in Southport, Conn., and attended Yale University. He initially pursued a career as an actor, but got discouraged and veered in law, He wound up in advertising at BBDO, which eventually led him to join ABC in 1970 overseeing daytime and children's programming.

As he rose through the ranks at ABC, Stoddard moved into the longform arena where he helped bring "Roots" to the screen, as well as the WWII epic "The Winds of War" and its sequel, "War and Remembrance," and "The Thorn Birds." He also championed telepics that broke ground on controversial subjects, such as the nuclear drama "The Day After," "Something About Amelia," which tackled incest, and "Friendly Fire."

He also oversee ABC's feature film development efforts in the early 1980s, which yielded the Oscar-winner "Silkwood," which started out as an ABC TV movie project, and "The FlamingoKid."

Stoddard was name ABC Entertainment president in 1985, a post he held until 1989, when he was replaced by Bob Iger, now Disney chairman-CEO. While Stoddard was head of programming, ABC fielded such hits as "Roseanne," "The Wonder Years," "thirty something," "China Beach," "Max Headroom" and "Full House." He also greenlit the pilot for "Twin Peaks."

© 2018 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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Brandon Stoddard, the longtime ABC exec who shepherded such landmark longform productions as Roots and The Winds of War, died Monday after a battle with cancer. He was 77.
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Monday, 22 December 2014 08:53 PM
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