I started in game shows, writing and fact-checking questions, then creating formats and producing pilots and series. At ABC in NYC, I learned my craft on The Big ShowDown and The Moneymaze, then hired Bill Cullen to host the first interactive game show, How Do You Like Your Eggs? for Warner Communications’ QUBE, where Screen Test, a movie game, ran for five seasons. Next: early development of Double Dare for Scholastic and Nickelodeon, then Remote Control for MTV, which ran five seasons on cable and two in syndication. A decade later, as Glow in the Dark Productions, we created and produced two series for Food Network, Pressure Cooker and Taste Test, plus the very successful Great American History Quiz, seven specials with a hundred celebrities for History, followed by years of screenings on Cable in the Classroom. In-between, there was the Peabody and Emmy Award winning PBS series Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? Pilots and limited series for Cinemax, TV Land, TCI, Lifetime, and Westinghouse; development deals with WNET and WGBH.
It was a short step from studio-based game shows to more ambitious productions. For Showtime, as QM Productions East, we produced variety shows as international co-productions with the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), notably Spectacular Scandinavia featuring ABBA and Victor Borge at Tivoli, and several Broadway on Showtime award winners at the Ed Sullivan Theater and the Beacon Theater, including CableACE Award presentation of The Passion of Dracula. Two highlights: we produced Showtime’s first made-for-television movie, on location throughout Manhattan; and the now-legendary Ricciardi’s Chamber of Horror and Illusion, which featured astonishing Houdini-level stage magic.
Work in documentary and public affairs began with The Boys of Summer, the story of the Jackie Robinson Brooklyn Dodgers, which ran on HBO, ESPN, and in syndication, and won numerous awards. Also with VCA Programs, and also in co-production with EMI, we worked with Minolta, EMI and JVC to produce and distribute The World’s Greatest Photography Course. Years later, the documentary On the Other Side of the Fence won a special United Nations Public Service Award and the Gold Medal at the New York International Film Festivals for its story about friendship. Thanks for Playing Concentration! tells the story of my father, Norm Blumenthal, who produced one of the most successful and long-running TV series in NBC history.
Building on the success of the CDNow video operation, we created New Century Television, a short-form VOD business for subscribers and clients. Subscription channels included The Artist’s Channel, sponsored by leading retailer Dick Blick. Client channels included The Denmark Channel for the Visit Denmark, The Rutgers Channel, The La Salle University Channel, The Balanced Audio Technology Channel, The Swedenborg Channel, and more.
After leading the initial development team for MTV, and serving as Nickelodeon’s first head of production, the opportunity to create an entirely new public television channel resulted in MiND, or MiND-TV, which ran for a decade and reached, at its peak, over 25 million households. The first hybrid television + internet channel, MiND employed over 500 college interns, trained nearly 1,000 neighborhood storytellers, and produced/aired well over a thousand original short-form programs and imaginative promos/IDs. MiND was part of a movement toward public ownership of what is seen on TV. Special MiND series included State of MiND, which explored the linkages between poverty, affordable housing, mental illness, veteran’s affairs, prejudice, and tolerance; the Newark Peace Education Summit, featuring thirty progressive thinkers including Dalai Lama and Deepak Chopra; MiNDGames, a series of geography learning games about Africa and South America; and Outside Looking In, about international press responses to the U.S. election process at the Democratic National Convention; and one-shots about global population growth and other vital issues. MiND’s expansion into public events addressed volunteerism, veteran’s issues, food supply, river ecology, and community action to protect the lives of children.