Back in the early 1970s, there weren’t any options for seeing pop music performed live on TV. Lip syncing was king — until The Midnight Special came along in early 1973. Now that series’ creator/EP, Burt Sugarman, is teaming with Derik Murray’s Network Entertainment to produce a feature documentary about it.
During its eight-season run of 450 90-minute episodes, The Midnight Special offered live performances by such iconic acts as James Brown, Aretha Franklin, the Jackson 5, Van Morrison, Marvin Gaye, Rod Stewart, Ike & Tina Turner, David Bowie, Aerosmith, AC/DC, Linda Ronstadt, Billy Joel, Prince, Diana Ross and the Bee Gees. It also featured stand-up comedy from such masters as Richard Pryor, George Carlin and Steve Martin.
“I’m excited to be working with Network Entertainment’s award-winning team to produce this important retrospective on The Midnight Special,” Sugarman said. “In addition to appealing to those who were fans back in the day, this is a wonderful opportunity to introduce new generations to the remarkable artists whose music left an indelible mark that continues to influence the musical landscape of today.”
Sugarman and Mary Hart will executive produce the untitled documentary alongside Network Entertainment’s Murray, Anderson, Paul Gertz and Brian Gersh. Network Entertainment is repped by UTA.
“Burt Sugarman’s vision and legacy is an inspiration to us all,” Anderson said. “The opportunity to collaborate with Burt and Mary on presenting the history of this culturally transformative series is the first step in reintroducing The Midnight Special to a global audience of music lovers and pop culture enthusiasts.”
The influence of the Midnight Special series is unquestioned: Within seven months of its launch on NBC, rival show Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert brought more live music to TV, followed in 1975 by Saturday Night Live and its real performances by musical guests. Dick Ebersol, who developed SNL with Lorne Michaels, also had produced The Midnight Special.