Thursday, June 7, 2012

It's a Show About Nothing

I'm reading a book on my phone Tug told me about that I'm really enjoying.  It's Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV by Warren Littlefield who was head of entertainment at NBC when they had good shows.  That was when "Must See TV" was Thursday nights.  His book gives the scoop on "Cheers," "Seinfeld," "Friends," "Cosby," "ER," "Will and Grace," "Law & Order," "Mad About You," "3rd Rock from the Sun," and all the people involved through a series of interviews.  I'm a nosy TV fan, so this is great for me!

Littlefield  highlights many decisions that would have radically changed the shows America came to love.  For example, look at casting:
  • Imagine Fred Dryer and Julia Duffy, or William Devane and Lisa Eichhorn, instead of Ted Danson and Shelly, playing Sam and Diane on Cheers
  • Imagine Steve Vinovich as Kramer, Larry Miller as George, and Megan Mullally as Elaine, instead of Michael Richards, Jason Alexander, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus on Seinfeld
  • Imagine Teri Hatcher instead of Helen Hunt on Mad About You
  • Imagine Lisa Kudrow as Roz instead of Peri Gilpin on Frasier
  • Imagine Eric McCormack as Ross instead of David Schwimmer on Friends
  • Imagine Nicollette Sheridan as Grace instead of Debra Messing on Will & Grace
Similarly, would you have watched a show called Six of One, instead of Friends? How about The Paul Reiser Show instead of Mad About You?

Littlefield often called Thursday night, "the Night of Bests."  The phrase "Must See TV" was coined at random from a guy who worked at NBC named Dan Holm.  No research.  No focus groups.

Reading it, William Goldman's famous rule about Hollywood came to mind - NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING.  They definitely don't now.  It's run by MBAs and not the creative people.  I know they have to make a profit since networks are businesses, but couldn't they have better programs and keep some that don't appeal to the lowest common denominator?


Sam said...

Damn. I need to find out how to erase some storage or something. This is so depressing that you are zooming right through the book that I cant download and read. Anyways so glad you like it.
AWESOME POST!!! Maybe you and I can bring everyone back to blogging????

Bob said...

Nicollette Sheridan as Grace!