Don Ohlmeyer, the the NBC exec and former Monday Night Football producer who coined the phrase ‘Must See TV’, died Sunday at age 72.
‘It is with heavy hearts we share that Don Ohlmeyer, our beloved husband, father and grandfather, has passed away at age of 72 due to cancer,’ Ohlmeyer’s family said in a statement.
‘Surrounded by loved ones, he died peacefully at his home in Indian Wells.’
Ohlmeyer was known for being a tough boss but his competitive nature led NBC out of the ratings basement the network was in during the early 1990s.
He also famously fired Norm Macdonald from Saturday Night Live after the comedian made too many jokes about Ohlmeyer’s friend OJ Simpson during his trial.
Don Ohlmeyer, the Monday Night Football producer who coined the phrase ‘Must See TV’ in leading NBC to the Number One primetime spot, died Sunday at age 72 (Pictured, April 1978)
Ohlmeyer first worked for ABC Sports producing Monday Night Football and directing the network’s Olympic coverage before moving to NBC in 1977 (Pictured, Ohlmeyer, center, sits with colleagues Al Michaels, left, and Dennis Miller, right, in 2000)
Longtime friend Al Michaels announced Ohlmeyer’s death while broadcasting NBC’s Sunday Night Football game between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants.
‘Don [was] the original producer of Monday Night Football. He made NBC an entertainment powerhouse in the ’80s and ’90s…he was truly special and one of a kind,’ Michael said.
Ohlmeyer first worked for ABC Sports as a golfer while studying at the University of Notre Dame and became a full-time production assistant in 1967 under Roone Arledge, working on ABC’s Wide World of Sports.
Along with his Monday Night Football work, he directed the network’s Olympic coverage and created The Superstars. In 1977, he moved to NBC Sports and executive produced World Series and Super Bowl broadcasts.
He left NBC in 1982 to start his own production, Ohlmeyer Communications, which focused on made-for-television movies and sports specials.
Ohlmeyer returned to NBC in 1993, and became the West Coast division president.
His second run at the network cemented his legacy as he helped it to first place in primetime with a run of iconic shows including Seinfeld, ER, Friends, Frasier, and Will & Grace and came up with the phrase ‘Must See TV’.
Ohlmeyer (pictured, 2007) left NBC in 1982 to start his own production company before returning to the network in 1993. His second run at NBC cemented his legacy as he helped it to first place in primetime with a run of iconic shows including Seinfeld, ER, Friends, Frasier, and Will & Grace and came up with the phrase ‘Must See TV’
As well as the string of successes, Ohlmeyer’s second tenure at NBC was also caught up in a mild controversy over the firing of Norm Macdonald from Saturday Night Live in 1998 (above)
The reason was reportedly for the comedian’s off-color jokes about OJ Simpson, who was close friends with Ohlmeyer. The television executive defended his friend during his high-profile trial (Pictured, Simpson wears a blood-stained glove during his trial)
As well as the string of successes, Ohlmeyer’s second tenure at NBC was also caught up in a mild controversy over the firing of Norm MacDonald from Saturday Night Live in 1998, reportedly for the comedian’s off-color jokes about OJ Simpson.
Simpson and Ohlmeyer were close friends and the television executive defended his friend during the high-profile trial.
ESPN, now the home of Monday Night Football, said it planned to acknowledge Ohlmeyer on Monday night. Ohlmeyer Communications once was a part-owner of ESPN, and Ohlmeyer served as an ombudsman for the cable network from 2009 to 2011.
Ohlmeyer was the recipient of many accolades including two Peabody Awards, 16 Emmys as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2007 Sports Emmys.
He is survived by his wife, Linda Jonsson, as well as his sons Drew, Chris, Todd, Kemper, and nine grandchildren.