Just five weeks after filing his last Letter from America for the BBC, Alistair Cooke died March 30  at his home in Manhattan. He was 95 and had heart disease. Cooke had delivered the Letter for 58 years, far exceeding his 26 years as a U.S. correspondent for Britain’s Guardian newspaper or the mere 22 years he hosted Masterpiece Theatre.
When producer Robert Saudek died in 1998, his New York Times obituary called him “the alchemist-in-chief of what is often called the golden age of television.” From 1952 to 1961, the product of Saudek’s alchemy was Omnibus, a weekly that did what public TV now aspires to do, but on commercial network TV. It turned out to be one of the last but finest gasps of the Cooperation Doctrine — the notion that commercial broadcasting could ignore the bottom line and the largest available audience. [More on the Cooperation Doctrine.]
For the December 1999 pledge drives, PBS distributed the first-ever TV retrospective on the famous series, “Omnibus: Television’s Golden Age,” from New River Media. The writers are William M. Jones, professor of political science at Virginia Wesleyan College and author of Omnibus: American Television’s Season in the Sun, from Wesleyan University Press, and Andrew Walworth, executive producer and president of New River Media.