A former newspaper editor, Stoddard changed careers and became a network television executive for ABC. He was a bit of a misfit: he believed that quality mattered, and that studio executives needed to get out of the way of writers, directors, and producers so they could create quality work. “Networks and studios shouldn’t be in a position of exercising power over creative people,” he dared to say for the record in 1982. “They don’t respond to that.” He naturally practiced what he preached, and as sappy ABC fare like The Love Boat and Fantasy Island wound down their runs, shows Stoddard championed got amazing ratings: mini-series like Rich Man, Poor Man, Alex Haley’s Roots, The Thornbirds, and The Winds of War. Regular series like thirtysomething, The Wonder Years, China Beach, and Twin Peaks. The higher quality translated directly to higher ratings: 100 million people watched the final episode of Roots. After retiring from the network after 20 years, he changed careers again, taking his point of view to the University of Southern California, where he taught aspiring entertainment industry creative people. He died at home on December 22, from bladder cancer. He was 77.
From This is True for 28 December 2014