November 21, 2020 8:58am
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Herbert F. Solow
The Television Academy Foundation
Herbert F. “Herb” Solow, who as an executive at Desilu Productions took Gene Roddenberry’s original pitch for Star Trek and also held exec posts at several showbiz companies, has died. He was 88. His wife, Dr. Harrison Solow, confirmed the news to multiple sources.
Among the many Hollywood jobs in his long were exec posts at MGM, Paramount, Desilu, CBS, NBC and Hanna-Barbera. He also was an agent at William Morris, a TV creator-writer-producer and author. Along with the original Star Trek, Solow was instrumental in such 1960s and ’70s dramas as Mission: Impossible, Mannix, Medical Center, Courtship of Eddie’s Father, Then Came Bronson and Man From Atlantis.
He also served as Head of Programming and Production for the NBC Film Division and worked with such storied directors as David Lean, Robert Altman, Herb Ross, Blake Edwards, Paul Mazursky and Michelangelo Antonioni.
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Born on December14, 1931, Solow began his industry career in the William Morris Agency mailroom. He moved to NBC and worked in foreign sales before rising to become the network’s West Coast head of Daytime. He later became program director at Desilu, working with its co-founder Lucille Ball, and ultimately would be promoted to VP and Executive in Charge of Production. While serving as program director at Desilu when we began taking pitches for potential new TV shows.
“I sent out feelers to a bunch of agents,” he said in a 2008 sit-down for the Television Academy FOundation’s “The Interviews series. “They sent over various people to me. The first guy who came in was a big, awkward Texan, who mumbled his way into my office and said, ‘I’m Gene Roddenberry. … He had a piece of paper — all crumpled — and he said, ‘I have an idea.’ … It was like many other shows. It had a few things that I thought were very attractive. It was Buck Rogers. I mean, it was Flash Gordon.”
No, it was Star Trek, and a legend was born. Watch him talk about it here:
Solow would go on to guide Star Trek‘s development, though the final greenlight came from his boss: Lucille Ball. She championed the show even after its first pilot bombed.
He also talked in “The Interviews” about the legacy of his most famous series: “On jury duty, a woman shows up in her Star Trek uniform. The judge says, ‘What is this?’ And she says, ‘It symbolizes truth.’ Every once in a while, I look around and I say, ‘What have I done?’ Because people come up with the weirdest things. But again, [Star Trek] has helped a lot of people. There’s a balance to it. Many of the astronauts … are astronauts because of Star Trek. People have gone into science because of Star Trek. People have changed their lives and live a better life because of Star Trek.“
Along with Desilu and NBC Films, Solow’s myriad industry jobs during his long career included VP and Head of Worldwide Motion Pictures and Television Production at MGM, VP of Paramount Pictures Television, VP and Head of Desilu Studios, VP of toon studio Hanna-Barbara and Director of Daytime Programs for NBC and CBS.
He worked with Elvis Presley on the King’s 1970 feature documentary Elvis: That’s the Way It Is and later created and wrote Man from Atlantis — starring a pre-Dallas Patrick Duffy — which aired for one season in 1977-78 on NBC.
Solow also was an author who penned 1996’s Inside Star Trek: the Real Story, which is considered among the most definitive books about the franchise. He also published The Star Trek Sketchbook the following year.
In his later years., Solow worked as an independent producer, director, writer and consultant on films.
Survivors include his wife, Dr. Harrison Solow.