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Frederick Ziv, R.I.P
By Marty Baumann

Pioneering television producer Frederick Ziv, known throughout the industry as "the father of syndication," died last week at his Cincinnati home. He was 96. With a University of Michigan law degree, Ziv landed a $10-a-week job with an advertising agency in 1929. The following year, he opened his own agency. He had a knack for concocting successful advertising slogans and campaigns and was soon applying his talents to the burgeoning radio market. Ziv traveled the country selling programs such as Boston Blackie and Bold Venture into radio syndication.

Lloyd Bridges and the cast of Sea Hunt.
Image Courtesy Ziv Productions
When the television era dawned, radio and movie producers thought TV was a fad with a short lifespan. Ziv thought otherwise. He staked his primetime claim before the major networks realized TV was here to stay. Among the now-classic programs Ziv brought to the small screen were The Cisco Kid, Sea Hunt, Bat Masterson, Whirlybirds and Highway Patrol. All were phenomenally popular and profitable. Ziv believed that a good script was the hallmark of any successful program, and on many occasions he personally hammered out first drafts. Seeing the sure-fire audience appeal of Ziv's action-adventure series, the networks soon followed suit. Many series, including the final two seasons of The Adventures of Superman, were filmed at the Ziv facilities.

Ziv forever endeared himself to sci-fi fans with the seminal series Science Fiction Theater. Hosted by radio vet Truman Bradley, the programs were earnest and intelligently scripted attempts to convey the wonders of science in a modestly budgeted, half-hour format. It featured top-flight actors and seasoned directors such as Jack Arnold and Herbert L. Strock. Strock, who recalls "directing two shows a week for five years" while working with Ziv, remembers Ziv as "charming, a very intelligent guy who knew his business."

Says Strock, "At the beginning, none of [the executives at ZIV] really knew much about TV; John Sinn, who was Zivís son-in-law, ran the ZIV film production unit, he was the president of the company. Besides me, there WERE a couple of other directors there who had SOME TV experience, but I had a LOT of it. So they gave me Highway Patrol, the pilot, to do, and things like that. And Highway Patrol 'sold' 10 minutes into the screening! Ziv had a great sales organization — they could sell anything to anybody [laughs]! They were wonderful!"

Ziv sold his company to Universal Artists in 1960 and turned to teaching at the University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music, which presents an annual broadcasting award in his honor.

This article originally appeared in designer/illustrator Marty Baumann's "The Astounding B Monster." Samples of Marty's work can be found at www.martybaumann.com.

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