Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Network love

If you have a show on a major broadcast network that is doing well, you can get lulled into thinking you have real relationships with them. And not just business. I mean, you are now part of the family.

You have a question about something? Bam! They take your call. If they have the Super Bowl that year or the Olympics – you want tickets? No problem.

You’re invited to New York for Upfronts parties. You play golf? Join a member of the higher-ups at his club. His treat. He insists.

Mention casually that you have a cold and an hour later a huge care package arrives at your home or office with chicken soup and muffins.

You get birthday cakes, and baby gifts, and invites to premiers. You get Super Girl mugs, and Grey’s Anatomy hoodies.

They ask if your kid got into that private school you wanted. They wonder if you had a good weekend. If you go on vacation a bottle of champagne shows up in your room.

It's like they... they really care.

And when you have another idea for a show, even if it’s a little bizarre, you just come right in that day, they greenlight, and you’re on the air faster than it takes for the chicken soup to get cold.

That’s what it must be like for Robert & Michelle King now. THE GOOD WIFE was a mainstay on the CBS schedule. Believe me, if I came in and pitched BRAIN DEAD it would not be rushed into production.

Life is good when you’re in that sweet spot. Steven Bochco got COP ROCK on the air. Diane English has been there. Linda Bloodworth-Thomason has been there. So has Aaron Sorkin, David E. Kelley, Witt-Thomas, and others.

Then your big hit runs its course. You receive a lavish send-off, and a few more chances to recapture the brass ring.

And then you start noticing – you’re not invited to the Final Four this year. You had your gall bladder removed and nothing arrived. The last hoodie you got from them was for BECKER. What’s going on here? These aren’t just business associates, these are BFF’s.

A few years go by. You have another idea. You call the network. They’re excited to hear from you. Can you come in and pitch it... in five weeks? You walk into the meeting and there are all new people. You don’t know them, and worse – they don’t know you. They’ve heard of you. And their parents are big fans.

For the first time in years the network passes on your idea. But please bring in anything else.

And so it goes. There is someone else in your Super Bowl seats. If you want a BLACKLIST shirt you’ll have to go to the NBC store. And if your visiting cousin wants tickets to THE VOICE, they’ll put them on a waiting list.

Such is the circle of life in network television. And here’s the thing – no one who has been fortunate enough to be in that sweet spot, is remotely surprised when it’s taken away. Sure we miss the love. But we miss the muffins more.


B.A. said...

George Lopez please heed! Is LOPEZ still on?

Stephen Marks said...

Clearly biographical which is why we love and respect Ken because he lays it out there, no easy thing to do folks when you have a popular blog.

Couple of things, there is a new book about the rise and fall of CAA and Micheal SonofOvitz and I was wondering if you will review it Ken. Or maybe not read it and review it like when you didn't watch but sill reviewed The Revenant. Maybe just judge the book by is cover.

Plus I have a Friday question, did Siskel and Ebert ever review any movies you and Mr. Issacs worked on and if so did their opinion mean anything to you guys. Do movie and TV critics have any influence in Hollywood?

Well today its going to top 40C here in Toronto, thats 100 in real American degrees, and my neighbour and I are going to attempt to fry an egg on the hood of my car after driving it for an hour in a kind of Bill Nye the Science Guy thing.

Anonymous said...

Hey Ken,

I'm a big sports fan and this reminds me of an article I read in MMQB by Peter King a few years ago. John Grisham wrote a book called "Playing for Pizza" about an old, veteran, American quarterback goes to Italy and plays football (American football- not their football) for basically nothing. Thus the title of the book. Any other less successful and well known author who pitches that book idea would be laughed out of the room, but, hey it's John Grisham so . . . . --LL

Paul B said...

Reminds me of your Real Don Steele quote when he wound up at a rinky dink station, paraphrasing: "because when it was good it was real good"

Steve Bailey said...

It happens on a smaller level, too. I used to review theater productions for a local publication years ago. When they needed positive reviews from me, they couldn't have been more cordial. After a few years, I had to wait in line to talk to anybody.

blinky said...

I hope that happened to David Milch after he dropped Deadwood and put his talent into John from Cincinnati. To have done something as stupid as that he must have been infected by those ants from Brain Dead.
Although I just read in Variety that he is slashing the price on his Marthas Vineyard compound to $7 Million due to gambling debts.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Ugh. I guess that's showbiz, but it must hurt. I think it was Jack Welch, the former head of G.E. who said that when shit happens, he'd try to forget about it and then look forward to the future with the word, "Next!"

Writing plays, musicals, blogs and always keep laughing are fine expressions of that advice, I bet.


By Ken Levine said...

It was Barry Diller who said "Next." And he's right.

funnyvault said...

it is great fun to watch the movies.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Speaking of BRAINDEAD, all of a sudden it got a lot better in episode 6, and episode 7 had one of those GOOD WIFE-style belly laughs. Things are looking up.


John Hammes said...

Apparently the rules of show business boil down to:

1. You are not popular, unless you are.

2. You are popular, unless you are not.

Some time ago, there was a book and web series based on the quote (the quote has been posted here before) that "Hollywood Is High School With Money". Disappointing that grown ups who should know better choose that route, but in fairness, these folks tend to show up in practically all walks of life. These people do tend to be victims of their own practices though (what goes around, comes around), and as Ken's personal stories and examples show, there ARE good people around and about, vocations are never hopeless systems. We just have to keep our "awares" up, around and about, regarding situations and systems. Knowledge is power, a person just has to know such stuff.

Gee, all that sounded slightly more dour than expected. Gonna listen to some Charley Douglass laugh tracks to perk things up.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Hey Ken, I remember several years ago you wrote a post about how anthology series are pretty much dead because they would be too expensive to produce (new sets, new cast, what have you), and audiences wouldn't tune it due to lack of continuity . . . but it's just been announced that Julianne Moore and Robert DeNiro (both of whom were once big A-listers in movies) will be headlining an anthology series that apparently all of the major networks are actually interested in. Any thoughts on this?

Mike Barer said...

But that is true of any business or relationship gone bad.

Wally said...

2012 VF article worth revisiting, on Diner, dialogue, and 1st chances


Doc Savage said...

No, it's just awful.