William J. Lamb, 76, a public TV pioneer who oversaw production of such classics as American Playhouse, Nature and Cosmos, died June 17 at Hancock Park Rehabilitation Center in Los Angeles. He had had a stroke following heart surgery.
Lamb began his TV career at NBC in 1956 in posts ranging from business affairs to sales to production.
In 1962, he helped put noncommercial WNET New York on the air and stayed until 1971, leaving as VP and general manager and a member of the board of directors.
After taking a break to head Sterling Manhattan Cable and consult on the programing service that would become HBO, Lamb returned to PBS, heading production and operations for another anchor noncommercial producer, KCET Los Angeles, where programming flourished under his direction, including Cosmos and Cousteau's Odyssey. He also headed the KCET/WNET joint film company that morphed into American Playhouse.
Then it was back to WNET from 1981 to 1984 to head up productions, including Great Performances and Nature.
Lamb went on to produce independently for PBS, to head film/TV services company Varitel, and then work as an independent consultant for the last decade of his life.
Lamb's survivors include his companion, Marcie Setlow; former wife Marylou Lamb; a daughter and two sons.