Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Over my years in television I’ve worked with hundreds of TV executives – network and studio – and I’m amazed by how many of them have just disappeared. This isn’t a knock at executives. I’m very fond of many of them; see some socially. But I can’t count the number who once held pivotal influential positions in the industry and then just vanished.
Now granted, that side of the business is a revolving door. Always has been. My agent once said we don’t pitch a person, we pitch the chair. It’s Hollywood’s answer to Buckingham Palace – the orderly changing of the regimes. Unfortunately, some good people get caught in the fallout. Not everyone fired thought putting Jay Leno on in primetime was such a hot idea.
But other industries are just as precarious. Baseball is even worse than television. Managers and General Managers get fired so frequently they receive gold watches if they last in any one job for two seasons. But everyone stays in baseball. You may be a manager this year, a coach the next, and in the front office the following year. There are not too many dentists who were once the manager of the Houston Astros (although Casey Stengel did go to dental school). They stay in baseball. They’re lifers.
In television many get out of the game. Not all, of course. Some leave network positions, become producers, and enjoy much success in that field. Others walk away with fuck you money. Some go into teaching or explore new media opportunities. But I would venture that for every former executive who remains in TV there are ten who have gone away forever.
A lot of the women go off and raise families. And of those I know, most say they’re happier. One told me that working with writers was great training for handling toddlers.
Still, it’s curious. Executives have to pay dues, get breaks, claw and scratch for advancement like anyone else. They’ve obviously made a career commitment to pursue television. So why do so many of them sign up for the witness protection program after a few years?
I doubt it’s the lure of glamor that private sector insurance provides. Or the flights on corporate jets that come with produce middle management.
And I guess executive functions are similar in all fields, but it must be tough for headhunters to fill corporate positions at Dow Chemical with people whose only previous experience is giving notes on TGIF comedies.
Wherever these people are now, I hope they’re happier and more fulfilled than when they were developing WHO’S YOUR DADDY?
If you know of any of these lost executives, tell them to please call home. Their families miss them and the network wants the card key to the parking structure back.
By Ken Levine at 5:57 AM