Monday, July 23, 2007

If you're on a new series don't buy a house

Production has begun on fall season shows. And so the upheaval begins. Networks and studios are firing cast members left and right on new series. This comes after they fired actors left and right during pilot season. One of the stars of CAVEMAN couldn’t make the grade.

There must be at least one actor who was hired, fired, hired on another show, and fired again all within the last two months. And actors from failed pilots are replacing actors on sold pilots. At some point it’s going to be like THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE, the Luis Bunuel movie where two actresses played the same role in the same film. You’ll be watching a show. There’s Kim Raver. Now there’s Gina Gershon. Now there’s Kim Raver again. One tests better in outdoor scenes. The other tests better in indoor scenes. WTF??!

Actors are also bailing from hits. Mandy Patinkin quit his fourth or fifth show. Why networks keep giving this maniac more series is beyond me. It reminds me of a few years ago when Savario Guerra quit BECKER because he felt hemmed in in a series. Great career move. He hasn’t been seen since.

LIPSTICK JUNGLE (pictured above) fired its show runners. This coming after one completed script. Of course that show had also fired three previous writers along the way and completely re-cast the show. There may be more LIPSTICK JUNGLE former employees than viewers.

And even if your series is running smoothly with no turnover there’s still a huge uncertainty. Networks are revamping their fall schedules. You could be off the air before you even get on the air. The network executive who championed your show could be fired. Or you took your pilot to Network “A”. They passed. Network “B” picked it up and you got on the schedule. You publicly ripped the executive at Network “A” for his short sightedness, saying “he couldn’t find water in a leaky boat with a paddle in the middle of the ocean”, and he’s now the head of Network “B”. Don't look now but a Bob Saget game show has your time slot.

What all this says is that there is a level of fear and anxiety at the network television level that is palpable. Yes, shows can be improved, and certain actors and writers don’t work out. But such widespread upheaval signals a clear lack of faith in the product, which sets off a vicious circle. It’s hard to create in that atmosphere. The writers are forever second-guessed. The actors are always looking over their shoulders. As a result the shows don’t turn out as well. Networks get more scared, and on and on and on…

It all comes back to this: hire the best people, let them do their best work, and take a chance. 90% of shows are going to fail anyway. But the ones that succeed might be the next SOPRANOS or SEINFELD and you won’t have to bring back THE APPRENTICE and ACCORDING TO JIM.
It all starts with believing…and if you have to fire someone, let it be Mandy Patinkin.

21 comments:

lump516 said...

If everything's being cancelled, why not LAW AND ORDER? Or do they see an opportunity to hire Mandy Patinkin?

Rob Spalding said...

My theory on what happened to Drive was that it was championed by one executive.
The guy next door hated him and the show but couldn't ourtight cancel it, instead he scheduled it in such a way that it would never get viewers and cancellation was almost certain.
Then he pulled the plug as soon as possible.

Is it possible that this rise in network politics interfering in the production of shows, I don't mean day to day notes but actively trying to wreck a rivals pet project, could do more damage to the networks than they are already?

The Crutnacker said...

As someone who long ago abandoned his dreams of Hollywood to take a job in the "real world", it's clear to me that all of the ridiculous decisions in Hollywood are actually no different than the majority of corporations in America. Projects that make no sense get championed and fail. Projects that should get attention don't and fail. Some things succeed without any real explanation. Employees who nobody likes keep getting new jobs and new responsibilities. Nice guys fail and assholes succeed. People everywhere get setup to fail, and rather than stick with something, you panic and change things around with reorganization hoping that it will magically make things better.

So none of this is any different than what your average working stiff faces, except you get to go through it with celebrities like Savario Guerra.

As for Mandy Patinkin, perhaps he's waiting for the perfect role to exploit his talents, like the one David Caruso........ has....... at............ CSI..... Miami. (Cue Roger Daltry scream)

VP81955 said...

This reminds of the way bad baseball organizations are run -- too much meddling, an inability to let skilled people do their work with a minimum of interference. Is it any wonder so many series end up as the TV equivalent of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays?

Anonymous said...

All of this stuff leaves my resume looking mighty thin. My most recent credits include 2 pilots that weren't picked up, 2 series canceled after less than two seasons, 1 feature (completely unreleasable), and another feature going straight to DVD.

I love working on crap.

Anonymous said...

I think if we went back to the days when you could drink and smoke at work, things would be a lot more relaxed. Now the only mood alterants you have for a meeting are coffee at your desk or coke in the bathroom. Makes everyone hyper and too quick to pull the trigger.

estiv said...

I think if we went back to the days when you could drink and smoke at work, things would be a lot more relaxed. Now the only mood alterants you have for a meeting are coffee at your desk or coke in the bathroom. Makes everyone hyper and too quick to pull the trigger.
Maybe, but I've never heard that Louis B. Mayer was known for his relaxed style of management.
Allowing for the fact that there are cycles, with things sometimes worse and sometimes better for creative types, I don't get the impression that Hollywood has ever at any time been a place where creativity was ordinarily allowed to flourish. The exceptions seem to be when some producer with both clout and good sense does hire and then not just leave alone but actively protect from interference--or even, God be praised, provide good advice to--genuine creative types. Think Irving Thalberg with the Marx Brothers, Robert Evans with Francis Ford Coppola, James L. Brooks with Matt Groening et. al.
The key seems to be an exec who clears a space for mad geniuses. And even then it's not fool-proof: all of the above-named had some clunkers in their resumes. But they also had some miracles.

addy said...

Mandy Patinkin? The Chicago Hope, Dead Like Me, Criminal Minds Mandy Patinkin?
Please. You could put him in According to Jim and I would probably watch that crappy show.
Perhaps you know more about him than I do personality wise but that's not a viewer's problem. My friends and I still love watching him. Even in commercials.

Anonymous said...

I remember when Drew Carey first got his ABC show. He lived in the same fairly crappy apartment in Hollywood for the first two seasons, waiting, he said, for the day "the network backs the money truck up to my house." That happened the third season and he got a mansion soon thereafter. Looks like that money truck is back in his driveway for "The Price Is Right." Smart guy, that Drew.

Anonymous said...

Drew Carey always stuck me as a smart guy, bet he saved all his extra cash those two years so he had enough to live on if he got canceled. I bet he still puts a big chunk in the bank.

cage free brown said...

KL, you need to get more Mandy Patinkin stories off your chest?

I'm here for you, man!

VP81955 said...

Sort of ironic Drew Carey gets "The Price Is Right" gig, as he resembles a stockier version of the show's original host, Bill Cullen, right down to the haircut and glasses. (Cullen hailed from Pittsburgh and was publicly known as a Pirates fan -- which in those days, it was socially acceptable to be -- while Drew devoutly follows his hometown Cleveland Indians.)

brad brickley said...

I just don't get these actors that are making good money on a hit series, leaving because of "artistic" differences. Wish somebody would put me on the drudgery of a hit like "Criminal Minds" for about $100,000 a week.
Good job on the M's broadcast! Enjoyed hearing you again.

Anonymous said...

hemmed in by a sitcom? last person I asked said that they only work three weeks out of 4. (were they right?)
If he was on an hour show, I might be able to see it, but...

Pam

Ralph said...

Yeah, Mandy.... but I'll forever honor him for his performance in The Princess Bride. I think what the crutnacker said was right, he's waiting for his very own CSI/M-equivalent.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that just last week I was commenting to my wife that it's the small cable networks that now have all the interesting shows while the big networks only have rehashed crap, season after season. I think it's all a matter of being willing to take a chance, which the networks don't seem to be willing to do anymore. More power to USA, The Comedy Channel, and The SciFi Channel.

Alaskaray

emily latella said...

He left Chicago Hope to "spend more time with his family." Now Mandy walks off a show due to "creative differences."

He thinks he's creative.
The producers feel differently.

Maybe he can find a show about paratroopers, since he's so good at bailing out.

Anonymous said...

"He thinks he's creative.
The producers feel differently."

I've seen Criminal Minds - I think 95% of people are more creative than that show.

Anonymous said...

Drew Carey looks nothing like Bill Cullen. They have the same glasses. That's it. You must be one of those people who was fooled into thinking that Clark Kent and Superman are different people

The Crutnacker said...

Damn it, Bill Cullen and Drew Carey are NOT the same person? Next you'll tell me that Kathy Kinney and Brett Sommers are different people!

Perhaps the reason the networks are afraid to take a chance is three little letters... FCC.

Kim Raver walks into a bar. Bartender says, why the long face?

Anonymous said...

Guerra's so obscure you spelled his name wrong. It's SavErio, not Savario.