Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Will Reilly and Silverman save Fox and NBC?

As I wing to Seattle, television critics from around the country are flying to Los Angeles for the annual Television Critics Association convention. For the next couple of weeks they will be subjected to endless press conferences from networks and creative teams hyping their new shows. By the time they get to the CW they should all be ready to hang themselves.

Not that it’s a bed of roses for the creative teams, sitting on the stage facing a room full of world-weary TV reporters who just spent an hour hearing how CAVEMAN will be the new savior of comedy.

Usually there are one or two themes that emerge each year. Last year it was Katie Couric and STUDIO 60. It’s always grins & giggles to predict what the themes will be.

My guess is Kevin Reilly and Ben Silverman will be the two hot topics this spin-fest.

Why did Kevin get fired from NBC? Is he bitter? Does he still believe in STUDIO 60? How much money is he making? Is Jeff Zucker really the Hannibal Lector of television? What does Kevin plan to do at Fox? Reunited with FX alum, Peter Ligouri does this mean more shows like THE SHIELD and reruns of SPIN CITY four times a day? Might STUDIO 60 now appear on Fox? Is it okay to pet on the first date? Would he have renewed PRISON BREAK? Is it true fifteen bloggers knew about his firing before he did? And one of them was a quilt club in Sweden? Can we expect more great fare like THANK GOD YOU’RE HERE and GREASE: YOU’RE THE ONE THAT I WANT from Kev? Is Jeff Zucker’s template for work conditions “Hostel”? Is Kevin trying to get Aaron Sorkin to take over TIL’ DEATH? Taking HEROES off the air for two months and killing NBC’s only breakout hit – was that his idea or Zucker’s? AMERICAN IDOL is slipping. How does Kevin plan to fix it? The World Series numbers are down. How does Kevin plan on fixing baseball? What was the name of the guy he replaced at Fox again?

And from Ben Silverman (right), they’ll want to know: Is he really the next Brandon Tartikoff (left)? What will he do differently from Kevin? Has he read Brandon Tartikoff’s book? When Ben says he’s going to “sexy up” NBC, does that mean LAW & ORDER: SORORITY CRACKDOWN? Had he ever met Brandon Tartikoff? Will he buy any show that wasn’t a hit first in Argentina or Norway? Does he know people who knew Brandon Tartikoff? Is it a conflict-of-interest to program against UGLY BETTY? What would Brandon Tartikoff program against UGLY BETTY? How much money is he making? Is he getting Brandon Tartikoff’s parking space? Can we expect him to reinvent network television by the February sweeps? Can he name Brandon Tartikoff’s kids? Is the one thing that can save sitcoms product placement? Does he have the same shirt size as Brandon Tartikoff? How much did Trump pay him to renew THE APPRENTICE? If he doesn’t know who Brandon Tartikoff is does he at least know who Warren Littlefield is?

Answers to all these questions will appear in your local morning papers along with in-depth interviews with the models from DEAL OR NO DEAL.


Anonymous said...

I love it when you talk politics and tv. And thanks for mentioning Brandon Tartikoff. If he were still 1) alive and 2) in charge of NBC, Studio 60 might have had a second season. And you'd have a gig writing great comedy. Since I read Brandon's book, does that mean I can run a network too?

Anonymous said...

deliciously funny ken

Rob said...

Although it is nothing new, the majority of TV execs, like execs in most other big businesses, are lazy, scared, risk averse, and quick to blame forces outside their control for their problems.

Of course, I suppose that's how we get not one, but two bad shows where people have to remember the words to songs to win.

Reality, and most likely the FCC is what's killing the network audience. I'd rather watch an entire season of Punky Brewster in Farsi than watch one minute of the next Survivor/Bachelor rip off or a game show based on a premise so weak it wouldn't have survived on Nickelodeon 20 years ago.

There is still good stuff on TV, but good character driven sitcoms (like the kind Ken tends to work on) are few and far between.

Anonymous said...

Boy, nothing more exciting than the midsummer madness of network executives playing musical chairs and making programming decisions that no one in the general public understands or cares about (and then complain about next season's schedule)... Time to go back to clipping my toenails (yawn)....

? said...

That was hilarious. You should get a pundit column, Ken.

Anonymous said...

Those pesky quilt clubs in Sweden are always tuned in to the latest show biz rumors. And great blogs they are, with all those patterns and stuff.

Anonymous said...

To follow up the success of "Ugly Betty" Silverman's going to move all of Telemundo's programming over to NBC and convert it to English, and maybe try to swipe "Sabato Gigante" from Univision (hey, Bob Barker's got some free time to host a show with babes fabuloso right now...)

VP81955 said...

fwanltmThe World Series numbers are down. How does Kevin plan on fixing baseball?

Don't be surprised if all AL contenders other than the Red Sox and all NL contenders other than the Mets, Cubs and Dodgers find themselves victims of food poisoning -- nothing lethal, mind you, just enough to knock them out of World Series participation. Sorry, Vlad, your "Q" rating isn't high enough.

Seriously, I'm crossing my fingers about "Back To You"; I don't know if it can be a monster hit, but with luck it could lead to a revival of the sitcom genre, or at least be the "Cheers" to some sitcom of the future's "The Cosby Show." Did Reilly have a good relationship with Kelsey while he was at NBC? Grammer produces "Medium," of course, but I also sense some people associated with "Frasier" thought NBC ignored their show in favor of promoting "Friends." (Then again, with Jennifer Aniston seemingly on the cover of every TimeWarner magazine at one time or another a few years ago -- does she own stock in the company? -- I could understand the resentment.)

Anonymous said...

I think I would have been more impressed with Ben Silverman's homework skills if he said he wanted to be the next Hubble Robinson.

Mark B.

Anonymous said...

[i]Of course, I suppose that's how we get not one, but two bad shows where people have to remember the words to songs to win. [/i]

On NBC and Fox. Coincidence?

Anonymous said...

Punky Brewster in Farsi! Ha! Good one Crutnacker. And, sadly, I agree.

Phil H. said...

Have fun in Seattle...You'll be covering the new start for the M's with Ichiro locked up long term and Adma Jones in right...I look forward to hearing the dulcet tones of Mr Levine this weekend...

Alto2 said...

I must be tired. I read your quip about Law & Order: Sorority Crackdown, as "Law & Order: Sorority Crack Whore." Truthfully, is there any difference??

Anonymous said...

For me, the best thing about the merciful cancellation of "Studio 60" is that I will no longer have to read any more scolding articles from condescending critics about how stupid the public is for not supporting such a brilliantly-written series. The critics were wrong, and the public got it exactly right. I don't care how much lingering nostalgia they had for "West Wing," the cold fact is that "Studio 60" was lousy, and the writing was the culprit. It was dull, dour, melodramatic, pretentious, completely out of touch with reality and totally lacking in humor or even any understanding of what humor is -- and it was about the making of a comedy show!

Apparently, no episode of the show-within-a-show ever made it to air without enduring at least five simultaneous, deadly-serious personal and geopolitical crises. What with having to save the world every week, I guess they can be forgiven for never writing one remotely funny sketch. Most writers I've known on sketch shows would fight to get their stuff in, but the "Studio 60" staff seemed appalled that anyone expected them to take time out of debating, say, the war on terrorism and actually write something funny. And before anyone accuses me of damning what I didn't see, let it be known that I forced myself to watch that dreck week after week, waiting for it to finally get good. That never happened. So just let it expire and go to DVD Heaven already.

Anonymous said...

The teevee critic for the San Francisco Chronicle blogs what he calls "Death March With Cocktails" aka gosees. Pretty amusing stuff:


and yes, he gave up on Studio 60 about the third show...

Rob said...

I don't understand why nobody liked Studio 60.

First off, the premise was totally believable. Hot female studio executive spends all of her time punching up a late night TV show that in its glory days got half the ratings of the number one show on the network.

Brilliant cast of writers and performers is given to long speechifying and witty banter without ever resorting to a dick joke.

Late night show manages to bring in more "very special" moments where we learn something than the entire Blossom DVD boxed set.

Show mocks Christians by naming a sketch with the scandalous name, "Crazy Christians"

Seriously, sign me up for a five season run of that.

I'm guessing that Ken could come up with 1,000 funny things that happen in the course of writing and producing a comedy show, and only two or three of them would involve having to fly out to bail a cast member from drug charges by a racist judge.

howie said...

The MOST merciful thing about the cancellation of Studio 60 is that I no longer will have to read snide comments about both the show and its creator in which the authors make the same points over and over again.

Studio 60 criticism is to 2007 what "Al Gore invented the internet" jokes were to 2000.

Was it great television?

Heck no.

Was it as bad as its smug, superior critics made it out to be?

A resounding heck no.

Anonymous said...

I, for one, am going to miss Studio 60, and particularly liked the last arc, after cancellation was a forgone conclusion. I laughed, I cried, etc, etc.

I guess Studio 60 will just have to go into that special file of shows I liked and everybody else trashed..."Cop Rock", "Hot-l Baltimore", "My So Called Life"

Go ahead, fire away. I can take it!

Anonymous said...

Ok, I'll be the one to say it. Like everyone else, you're quick to point to Reilly's "bad" calls (Studio 60)-sorry, mrfandi - and not his good ones. So I'm going to point them out, in the interest of fairness:

THE OFFICE (US) -- standing by the show in the beginning when the ratings didn't justify it AND when the critics were savaging it. Don't remember that? I do.
30 ROCK -- great show. Does NOT have the numbers to justify a second season renewal. Is it on the schedule next year? Why, yes. Good job, Kevin.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS -- see above. Times a million. Plus the promotion NBC put into this show to try and get people to watch it. It hasn't worked yet, but they haven't given up hope. CBS would've cancelled it long ago. Fox pre-Kevin, too. Again, well done Kev.

It's likely these programming decisions are what got him fired. I don't know what you watch, but these are some of my favorite shows. Still, he shouldn't have lost his job.

The standard for any network president is that he has one new hit show for every year he's been in charge. Reilly's done that. (Earl, Office, Heroes).

The problem with NBC is that Zucker thought Friends would last forever, ignored development, and now the network is paying the price. But Zucker is Zucker, and must look to someone else to blame for why NBC consistently places 4th.

I hope Reilly does daring, great things at Fox. It looks like he has the support there that he never fully had at NBC. But please don't let him kill FNL in the process.