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In Tune with TV

While beauty queens and rock stars bask in the limelight, Charlie Haykel is behind the scenes making his mark. The television producer has carved out his show biz career over the past two decades by coordinating everything from Super Bowl halftime performances to Miss America pageants. Now his most recent endeavor, with NBC’s game show The Singing Bee, has created a noteworthy buzz.

ICo-executive Producer Charlie Haykel, BA ’88, stands outside the soundstage for NBC’s game show The Singing Bee. Haykel is responsible for all the day-to-day operations on the karaoke-type program, which is hosted by Joey Fatone.

Haykel, BA ’88, is the co-executive producer of the karaoke-type program, which requires contestants to sing the correct, missing lyrics to songs played by a house band. Responsible for all the day-to-day operations, Haykel manages how the show is shot, edited, and delivered, while also helping to choose contestants and songs. When the musicians and “Honey Bee” dancers rock out on stage to a catchy tune, Haykel is manning the show’s frontlines, making sure it’s another smooth night of sing-along entertainment.

“Our goal is to keep it broad—to pick songs that are ingrained in pop culture or that you would hear at a bar. We want people at home to say, ‘I love that song!’” Haykel says about choosing the right tunes. But he admits he wouldn’t fare well if tested on stage: “I would be the guy five words into a seven-word answer, and then I’d get something wrong.”

Maybe he can’t recount the accurate lyrics to Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust,” but Haykel does know how to keep his career alive and bustling in an unpredictable field. As a freelance producer, his projects frequently change. Since 2000 Haykel has worked regularly with Don Mischer Productions, which focuses on producing television specials. His credits include such diverse assignments as the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, The Kennedy Center Honors, and 12 episodes of ABC’s series The Wayne Brady Show. He has worked with The Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney during Super Bowl halftime performances, rubbed elbows on productions with Quincy Jones, Madonna, and Will Smith, and even collaborated with renowned director Steven Spielberg on a short documentary, The Unfinished Journey, to celebrate America as it entered the new millennium.

Had he enjoyed calculus, Haykel may have never made it to Hollywood. At one time interested in business, Haykel says he wanted to skip calculus so badly that he switched his career path during his junior year at GW to radio and television production. Instead of taking over his father’s tractor trailer parts distribution business in Buffalo, N.Y., Haykel developed a new goal behind the television camera. He says his GW education, hard work, and a lot of networking helped him pursue his passion.

“I loved it from the get go,” Haykel says about producing, adding that GW Professor Joan Thiel, of the School of Media and Public Affairs, was a major influence in his career. “It always seemed to draw from all of my talents—you have to be creative, you have to have a business mind-set, and you don’t have to focus on anything too long. Every day is different.”

When he isn’t driving around L.A.’s labyrinth of highways to get to his next studio project, Haykel says he is happy hanging out at home with his wife, Michelle, his 8-year-old daughter, Sydney, and his 6-year-old son, Drew. He looks back fondly on his experience at GW, especially as a Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity brother and vice chair of the Program Board. Now, when old college buds ask what he’s up to, the answer is easy:

“I can just say something like, ‘Turn on CBS next Friday and you’ll see the fruits of my labor,’” Haykel says. “One of the nice things about this business is that there is pretty immediate gratification for all of your hard work.”

—Jaime Ciavarra