The 2011 TIME 100
Rebecca Eaton, TV Producer
April 21, 2011
By Gillian Anderson
I was introduced to Rebecca Eaton while doing a PBS Masterpiece event for Dickens' Bleak House. First impression: shock of silver-white hair, brassy American gumption and a personality that enters the room before she does. You instantly know she means business, which in Rebecca's mind is what she enjoys most in the world.
Rebecca, 63, has been the executive producer of Masterpiece for 25 of its 40 years. She has a passion for great drama, for great stories, beautifully told, that showcase extraordinary actors. Under her watch, Masterpiece has brought the American public some of television's most popular and enduring dramas, including Prime Suspect, Bleak House, Sherlock and the new Upstairs Downstairs.
Things weren't always so rosy. Masterpiece Theatre, as it used to be called, went through a very tough patch, with public funding barely able to sustain its existence. Then, in 2008, Rebecca had a vision to revitalize and increase its appeal. The show Ñ now officially known as Masterpiece Ñ was split into three different sections aimed at a new and younger generation. This year Downton Abbey, which launched Masterpiece's 40th-anniversary season, was seen by about 13 million viewers over its four-week run. As Masterpiece, still on a publicly funded network, celebrates this remarkable anniversary, we Americans are fortunate to have Rebecca at the helm: someone committed to bringing great television drama to the widest possible audience, week after week.