Discovering hit TV shows is in Billy Campbell's blood. The entertainment industry powerhouse was a key player in getting popular TV dramas such as E.R.on the air. Billy has also played a big role in Dr. Oz's life, helping him develop his television series, Second Opinion on the Discovery Health Channel. However, years before the lights and cameras, Billy and Dr. Oz were college roommates at Harvard University. Dr. Oz talks with his old friend about the success of medical related television shows and the future of such programming.
Before there was Grey's Anatomy and House, the doctors of E.R. were America's favorite primetime medical staff. Few people may know that the show was initially rejected by many networks. Billy convinced executives at NBC to pick up the show and that it would be a hit. "[The reason] people loved it so much was they felt like for the first time, because of the camera movements, that you, as that viewer, were part of the doctor's lives," Billy says.
While E.R. and other medical related shows on TV are often part soap opera, Billy says they can pique people's interest in their own health. "If you can get people to understand it—if you can get people to appreciate their health, especially at an early age—I think that is half the battle," Billy says.
Dr. Oz says he turned to Billy when developing his educational TV series Second Opinion. "One of the biggest challenges for a health show is to be compelling enough that [viewers] will watch it over," Billy says. By using real human organs on the air to educate viewers about medical conditions and diseases, Dr. Oz's show became a success. Billy says the future of educational health programming on TV may need similar innovative and entertaining formats to survive. "When you have the message—if it is the right message, delivered the right way and done authentically with passion—there is no limit to what we can accomplish on television," Billy says.
Published on March 16, 2007