Thursday, April 19, 2012
From the "meetings from hell" file...
Some of these meetings are awkward. And the longer you’ve been around, the more of them you amass. I’ve had more than my share of these train wrecks and recounting them seems to be a popular feature on this blog. (Readers especially seem to love this one.)
So here’s another.
This happened sometime in the early ‘00s. My partner, David Isaacs and I had a development deal at Paramount. We were mentoring two young writers who had a great idea for a pilot. So we set up meetings with networks.
Based on the idea, we concluded that the perfect place for it was The WB. So we lined up that meeting first.
David and I had never had a meeting at The WB. We didn’t know any of the executives personally and had never been to their offices.
An assistant popped his head in and invited us to “come on back.” We followed him through a maze of narrow hallways, passing the Xerox machine, coffee maker, etc. At one point he wanted us to turn left and go down another hall but we mistook his gesture and entered a large office instead.
There was some dude at a desk on the phone. Again, we had never met the VP of Comedy Development we were pitching. But we figured this must be him.
So we all flopped down on his couch and made ourselves at home. Slouching, crossing our legs, just stretching out.
The fellow looked a little shocked to see us. But he continued his call and we patiently waited – setting our water bottles on his coffee table, getting out the notes for our pitch, etc.
Finally, he finished his call, stood up, and said, “Who the fuck are you guys?”
I figured, “Swell. He forgot our meeting. Yet another reminder of how important we are in this business.” I introduced us.
Still confused, he said, “So what the hell are you doing in my office?”
Clearly, he was a little annoyed, but hey, it wasn’t my fault he forgot our damn meeting. Not only did we remember. We had to drive to the valley and find this place. TV networks are not usually down the street from strip malls.
But in awkward cases like this I find the best thing to do is lighten the mood. So I said, “Uh… pitching a pilot and maybe if it goes well, using your shower.”
Now he was really pissed. And we couldn’t understand why. All we had done was show up on time, prepared, for a pitch meeting.
The panicked assistant dashed in, mortified. There’d been a terrible mistake. That wasn’t the VP of Comedy Development. That was Jordan Levin, the president of The WB. Oops. No wonder he didn't find it funny that I wanted to use his shower.
We didn’t help matters by then laughing. We found it funny. Jordan Levin did not. I can’t blame him. He’s a major figure in the television industry and the Marx Brothers suddenly barge into his office. Thank goodness we didn't help ourselves to any of his liquor.
Needless to say we didn’t sell that pilot. Or any pilot. (We did, however, sell that pilot to NBC. President Warren Littlefield was out of the office that day.)
Ultimately, of course, The WB merged with UPN and disappeared. Looking back, all the signs were there. What network president doesn’t have an outer office? I’m surprised they lasted as long as they did.