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The television boys are at it again. They raked in billions of bucks in upfront money, but they're worried because hardly anybody's making any real money in TV anymore. Seriously, Joseph Adalian writes in Variety that only NBC and CBS made money last year! One of their big solutions: Pay the writers less! Of course! (And when did UPN and the WB become one of "the big six?")
Here's a handful of quotes from Adalian's story, "Future of TV Biz Is a Fuzzy Picture."
" 'We're paying a third lead in a show the same amount of money we paid a series lead three years ago,' one TV vet lamented. 'It just doesn't make any sense.' " Allow me to translate: The actors are overpaid!
" 'We all quickly and blindly rushed into signing any (writer) who had an impressive screen credit,' Rosenblum said of the rash of overall deals that characterized much of the 1990s." Translation: We're paying the writers way too much money! (And, further: Writers aren't all that important to the whole process; find me some inexpensive writers who haven't had any success and pay them a tenth of what we pay Aaron Sorkin!)
" '...It's high time we change the pilot process... The most powerful weapon we have is the word 'no.' You cut the fees. We're just spending too much money.' " What ABC President Bob Iger means to say is, "We're painfully dumb when it comes to our business model. But we're helpless to figure out how to stop spending giant gobs of money in a system that's never worked! None of has the balls to do things differently!
Like clockwork, the TV execs tell anyone with a pen and a notebook that everyone in the TV business (except them) makes way too much money. They also say that their dismal track record is due to an antiquated business model that doesn't work. Then they do exactly what they've been doing for decades. Then we end up with Inside Schwarz. And has anyone noticed that it's virtually the same execs, in various positions at various networks making the same pronouncements? They have a 3 per cent success rate (if that!) and they fail upward, carving out 25-year careers, making major coin. Is America a great country, or what?!
Then, while surfing the WWW, I see this headline on
an E! Online TV item: "Wayans Miffed by
Mac Move" (Tue, Jun 18 By Bridget Byrne).
"As part of a continuous effort to outfox rivals, Fox
executives have moved the network's popular sitcom
The Bernie Mac Show an hour earlier to 8 PM,
where it will air opposite ABC's popular sitcom
My Wife and Kids, starring (Damon)Wayans."
The story details how Wayans is pissed "at the Fox execs
whose tactics, he believes, "undermine quality programming for
the African-American audience still struggling for full and fair
representation in prime-time."
"I was shocked when I learned what was going to happen,"
Wayans tells the Los Angeles Times. "The networks should not
be playing checkers with two shows about African-American
families that are working."
Is he serious? How is blowing out My Wife and Kids
somehow going to "undermine quality programming?"
And what's all this nonsense about "the African-American
audience still struggling for full and fair representation in
prime-time?" How is Damon Wayans starring in a crappy
sitcom suddenly the 21st century equivalent of the March on
Wayans knows that if his sitcom has to go up against a
well-written one like Mac's it's going to die an agonizing death.
That's the way the TV cookie crumbles. Cloaking his tirade
in some sort of new age, electronic civil rights struggle doublespeak
shouldn't obscure the fact that network execs are bottom-line
lunkheads who don't care about "undermining
quality programming." They do it all the time. And they
don't care what color the stars are. It's all about the color
of the money. To quote Michael Corleone: "It's nothing
personal, Damon. It's business." Now get in the car.
And here's another hot one for you Damon: TV being what it
is, there's no guarantee that Bernie's going to eat your lunch
anyway. You're thinking too much like a TV exec. They are
not a logical bunch, nor are they overly concerned about
quality, nor are they particularly trustworthy. Remember:
These are people who are disproportionately concerned with
the age of the scriptwriters! These are people who
brought us Baby Bob! These are people who claim that
two of the Big Six networks didn't turn a profit in 2001!
"This speaks to a responsibility that networks have,
particularly when there's a lack of diversity on prime-time,"
whines Wayans. Let it be noted that the words "responsibility"
and "networks" are in the same sentence. He goes on
to note "the difficultly of getting just one show like
this (emphasis mine) on air... Now there are two. You're putting
those against each other? It's divide and conquer. Then there will
be none." That's not a slam dunk, D.
Mac's show is great, Wayans's show sucks. Wayans' show ranked
fifth with African-Americans, Mac's was first among that same
group. Wayans' was 54th with white audiences, Mac's was 94th.
Why doesn't Wayans's think it's a tragedy that his show's
audience isn't more diverse? Why doesn't he applaud
Fox for, hmmm, let's see, how might he put it, "moving
the Mac show in a laudible effort to find more white viewers?"
Why doesn't Wayans have a problem with the viewers? They're
the ones who are dividing up according to skin color after all.
Am I making any sense? Certainly not. Neither do TV executives.
Neither do television viewers. And neither do people who think
that television has some sort of vague responsibility to
realize Rodney King's dream ("Can't we all just get along...
in front of the TV set... at 8 PM Eastern Time?")
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