Lin Bolen, who was not only the first female VP of programming at a television network but also known for changing the face of NBC's daytime lineup in the 1970s, died this January after battling what she thought was the flu. She was 76.
Bolen was just the tender age of thirty-one when NBC named her director of daytime programming, where she inherited a lineup of game shows and soap operas that trailed behind both ABC and CBS in ratings. She immediately went to work whipping the tired lineup into shape, which included introducing the game show Wheel of Fortune and pushing for Days of Our Lives and the network's other soaps to span a full sixty minutes and include more daring plots that went beyond predictable romance storylines.
“People say I'm aggressive because I am aggressive," Bolen said in 1975. "These shows are my children. I have to make sure their report cards are good before the Nielsens [ratings] come out."
The TV executive was born March 23, 1941, in the small coal mining town of Benton, Illinois. She attended City College of New York but left before graduating and started producing commercials, instead. She moved to Los Angeles soon after and landed at NBC as a program producer, where she helped develop pilots and resuscitated the dying program McMillan and Wife. She was named the network's director of daytime television in 1972 and a year after that, she was promoted to vice president of daytime programming.
At the time, a male colleague reportedly remarked: "Thank God they've got a lady at last calling the shots of women's programming."
She had a similar thought, remarking in the Los Angeles Times: "Thank God they're finally taking a woman seriously -- at last."
Bolen left NBC in 1976 to form her own self-named production company. She was married to filmmaker and Gidget director Paul Wendkos, who died in 2009. She is survived by her brother, Tom.
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