December 01, 2010

Al Masini, Creator of Entertainment Tonight and Other Hit Series, Passes in Hawaii

A major force in first-run syndication, Masini broke new ground in the 1970s with the programming initiative known as Operation Prime Time, which included E.T., Star Search, Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous and more.

Al Masini, a producer who created some of the most successful syndicated television series of all time, including Entertainment Tonight, died November 29, 2010, in Honolulu, Hawaii. He was 80.

According to news reports, the cause was melanoma.

In a statement upon his passing, longtime friend Carol Burnett expressed her sadness and described Masini as “a talented producer and a fine man.”

Known for his inventive approach to the television business, Masini achieved great success with Operation Prime Time, a programming block launched in 1976. An initiative of MCA Television, Operation Prime Time sought to launch new television shows direct to first-run syndication, instead of the traditional method through a network.

In addition to Entertainment Tonight, Operation Prime Time included the popular series Solid Gold, Star Search and Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous.

Masini followed Operation Prime Time with another company, Television Program Enterprises.

A native of Jersey City, New Jersey, Masini was born January 5, 1930. In his youth he excelled as an athlete, and in college was a standout in three sports.

During the Korean War he served in the Air Force. Afterward, he broke into broadcasting in New York City.

In 1994 Masini moved to Hawaii, intending to semi-retire. Instead, he be came absorbed in a number of television projects, beginning with the Miss Universe Pageant, which he produced for the state in 1998.

In addition, he helped to change Hawaii state law in an effort to attract film and television productions to the islands. In so doing, he helped to bring Baywatch to the state and, later, the cable series Destination Stardom.

Over the course of his career, Masini crossed paths with some of the biggest names in show business, many of whom he helped to get their start. According to news reports, he helped to launch the careers of such stars as Sharon Stone, Britney Spears, Beyonce and Justin Timberlake.

He was also an important to John Shaffner, the Emmy-winning production designer who currently serves as chairman and CEO of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

"Al Masini was as special friend and mentor to me as well as to many others," said Shaffner. "His impact on the television business, and first-run syndication in particular, cannot be overestimated. He wanted the best and persevered until he had it.

"Most remarkable was his interest in connecting the audience with a product that he knew we wanted," Shaffner added. "He let me name Star Search and always included me as an important part of all aspects of production, though I officially served as production designer. He had remarkable loyalty and worked with Bob Banner and Sam Riddle on so many projects over more than 20 years."

He was survived by his wife, Charlyn Honda Masini, as well as a sister and two nieces.

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