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Marianne Paskowski



Bochco Blasts Broadcast Nets

August 21, 2008 9:28 AM

In an interview Monday with Forbes.com, Emmy Award-winning producer Steven Bochco explains why he’s taking his latest drama, “Raising the Bar,” to cable net TNT instead of to one of the broadcast networks.

Bocho said the broadcast networks have “devolved,” and that they are overrun with programming that he has no interest in producing, namely reality shows. He also accused the broadcast networks of micromanaging every single aspect of production.

Clearly, Bochco, who produced “Hill Street Blues,” “L.A. Law” and “NYPD Blue,” has had it with the broadcast networks.

Honestly, what was the last prime-time program you watched on a broadcast network?

So kudos to Bochco for saying what the broadcast networks need to hear.

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Comments (40)

Arthur Greenwald:

You gotta be kidding.

While I hold Steven Bochco in high regard and his criticisms are valid, there are quite a few excellent broadcast shows in prime time. For example "House," "24," "Lost" and "Pushing Daisies."

Unfortunately it's true that broadcast networks have less patience (also more to lose) with shows that take a long time to hit their stride. I would have loved to have seen a second season of "Studio 60."

Cable networks rejoice over ratings that would result in cancellation on broadcast, and that provides some welcome creative freedom for great producers like Bochco. But even that is no guarantee of success, as we saw when FX dumped "Over There" after one uneven but very interesting season.

Marianne Paskowski:

Arthur,
Thanks for reminding me about "24." It's been off the air so long, I totally forgot about it. And that's a problem, others probably have, too.

M

The days of secure programmers at the broadcast networks are not a current phenomenom. It is strictly a faddy, fast numbers game, with a sparse few exceptions.

Too bad, for they could change it anytime they so choose.

So, Mr. Bochco is right. At this time in the business a solid producer such as he will go where he can spred his creative wings.

Perhaps once the Moonves' and others like him are purged from their positions, we will have a better, higher caliber group of fare from our trio of networks.

I'm not holding my breath. I have received those mindless "memos" from network brass suggesting rewrites, re-shoots and re-edits that would totally ruin, or waterdown quality material. I found them to be great trash can fillers.
Peter Bright

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Peter,

I like what Bocho is doing, even though for far less money per episode. He's getting around that by shooting more indoor scenes, and I think that's sensible. TNT is on a roll, and the addition of Steven's work will add to the cable net's impressive ratings.
m

Michael:

Interesting comment about forgetting about 24 - are you suggesting that the show will face its demise because of a writers strike?

Particularly interesting in the context of this article with Bochco going to cable when you think about how cable schedules it programs and the long waits between seasons.

How is 24 coming back in January any different then the delay of Sopranos or The Shield?

Jason:

The show looks absolutely phenomenal. I think it may actually debut as one of TNT's highest rated events ever. Mark Paul Grosselaar was great on NYPD Blue. The combination of him, Jane Kaczmarek, Currie Graham, and Gloria Reuben along with others could be dramatic gold. Too bad Boston Legal will be airing at the same time. Thank God for the DVD recorder and encore viewings on cable. I think Bochco is right about broadcast TV. I'm not sure there's a network that would support a high quality legal drama like the kind he's pushing here. All they want are either sex starved soaps or dull crime dramas (see anything on CBS).

-Jason

Marianne Paskowski:

Michael,
Maybe. "24" fans expected the series to come back this January. Then of course the strike, and Fox lost a producer, bla, bla, bla. If memory serves me right, it is coming back this Fall.

As much as I love agent Bauer, I think Fox, by its actions, committed "24: junkies in a detox wing at Betty Ford. I don't care about the show anymore.

Your comment about cable is interesting. But cable introduces new stuff all year round, especially in the summer when the broadcast nets are in snore mode. And with the strike, let's say it was more like hibernation for die-hard broadcast viewers.

Thanks for your thought-provoking response.
M

Marianne Paskowski:

Jason,
I really think Bochco hit the nail on the head here. He knows broadcast economics better than the heads of the nets.

He's adjusting, and producing according to the new economics, cutting production costs, but not quality. I think his new show will be very character and story driven, a welcome addition in this household.

Good to hear you chime in,
M

Eric Gronwaldt:

I have to agree with Bocho, the only network TV worth watching is Boston Legal, 24, 30 Rock and NFL on FOX (Fly Eagles, Fly). The smart audiences can now be found enjoying Mad Men, Burn Notice, Saving Grace & Monk on basic cable, and let's not forget Weeds, Entourage and Big Love on the pays. If fact, even cable does reality better with Deadliest Catch, Ice Road Truckers and Man vs. Wild (Wife Swap? somebody shoot me). It's a shame, competition is supposed to generate an improved marketplace, but the networks have tossed in the towel and are programming for the bottom of the gene pool, which is why ad dollars and profits are down at 30 Rock, Black Rock and alphabet network. It’s so sad, even the CW couldn’t even come up with bad programming, and had to sell off Sunday’s. Imitation is NOT always the best form of flattery, or programming.

Denny Crane!

Andy S.:

I think there's some validity to Bochco's complaint about the traditional broadcast nets, but by the same token, the opportunities to do quality programming on cable have more than taken up the slack. The past decade has seen a slate of great cable programming that would NEVER have been possible on the broadcast nets even during the golden years of Hill Street Blues or Homicide: Life on the Street! Yes, as a viewer you have to look harder and farther afield to find the good stuff, but it's definitely out there. I love shows like Weeds and Dexter on Showtime, Rescue Me and The Shield on FX, Generation Kill and The Wire (now demised) on HBO, and I've even taken a shine to Saving Grace and Burn Notice on USA and The Middleman on ABC Family, which are more like the shows that the "Old Europe" broadcasters used to do. I don't care much for TNT's The Closer; Kyra Sedgwick is way too forced and over-the-top, but good for them for coming up with a hit and giving Bochco a show.

Marianne Paskowski:

Eric,
Here's a thought about the broadcast networks. NBC is hamstrung from its parent company GE, too busy trying to sell industrial products worldwide.Can you say China?

ABC, is a pure entertainment play, but also shackled by trying to boost theme park attendance during a recession, and concentrating too much on merchandising Hannah Montana, and the ilk.

And well for CBS, well Les Moonves is just in over his head and probably hates Sumner Redstone's guts. All barbarians at the gate.

Thanks for the post,
M

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Andy,
You forgot to mention Lifetime's "Army Wives," and thanks for an earlier poster for reminding me to watch "Mad Men" on AMC. That's a TiVo time, both running at the same time.

Those are some of the shows people are talking about. Not much gym talk at the water cooler about broadcast offerings, it's all about cable.

Thanks for the post, glad I'm not the only person working today, kinda feeling like the Maytag repair man,

M

Cruiser:

Yo, Blondie --

Don't blame the wimpy nitwits at the broadcast networks. They bend over for the sponsors who really call the tune. And what do the sponsors care, as long as the zombie-like viewers controlling the audience survey responses keep buying deodorant. Every armpit counts, and it doesn't take programming from the like of Steven Bochco and other real talents to keep those armpits deodorized.

Reality programming is dirt cheap. Quality programming isn't. If you're an airhead as is typical among b'cast decision makers, you go for the short-term money and hope to get promoted to a new job before the dreck you approved hits the fan.

Cruisin not bruisin

Marianne Paskowski:

Cruiser,

You make an interesting point about advertisers, but broadcast programming is losing viewers, and hence advertisers to cable.

The broadcast networks are really screwing up here, and I'm happy it's hitting their bottom lines. Long time overdue, thank you Steven Bochco.
m

Dr. Foster K. Williamson, PhD:

Dear Ms. Paskowski --

At the Institute, we wish we had had Mr. Bochco as a client. His reaction to broadcast network prime time quality certainly matches trends we've observed in our longitudinal cluster analyses of detailed audience demographics.

For example, broadcast prime time viewers surprisingly hate the programs they watch, a little known statistic we've teased from the data using Pinski's Algorithm. The strength and directionality of such attitudes correlate significantly---at the three sigma level---with their fear of viewing anything they might enjoy on television. Given their concurrent agoraphobia---fear of the marketplace (which matches attitudinal distributions according to our Chi-Square studies)---those broadcast viewers have an intense interest in the commercials not the programming, to reinforce their commercial paranoia.

One might ask, however, why those viewers don't watch more cable TV with its endless commercial pods and, statistically off the charts, inane local interconnect spots. The fact is, as Pinski hypothesized (He devised his algorithm just before the revolutionary Bolsheviks beheaded him with his own slide rule) people drawn to disgusting pandering can only take so much before rejecting it. Hence, sort of a Golden Mean of Commercial Curiosity works to the networks' advantage. People want to see only so much pitchmanship, but not more.

Finally, is Mr. Bochco right to avoid the broadcasters? We don't know, but we're sure Pinski would have enjoyed a series such as Lubyanka Law.

Yours truly,

Dr. Foster K. Williamson, PhD

Marianne Paskowski:

Oh Doc,
Once again you leave us baffled, but you did make an excellent point about too many commercials on cable nets.

I guess that's why TNT can afford Bochco.

M

Jeff Mulligan:

Marianne --

Thankfully, an intelligent talent in the television business has called a spade a spade. And you entertainment industry pundits are finally paying attention. It's clear that cable has been trying innovative programming from the get-go.

Broadcasters and the sponsors who keep ponying up during the upfront are scared of deviating from the herd instinct, by and large. Afraid to reach for the stars, they come up--as the legendary ad man Leo Burnett put it--with a handful of mud.

Meanwhile, cable has endured years of ridicule as innovative spirits came up with many hits, and many more misses, attempting to break from the pack with programming that's genuinely worthy.

Thank goodness cable keeps innovating, and attracting talents like Mr. Bochco. Let the talent stampede begin, or should we say, continue. Broadcasters can continue to self-destruct, just like the airline industry is pushing passenger train traffic to record levels.

Jeff

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Jeff,
The broadcast networks don't care, as you point out, just like the airlines. I promote Steven Bochco's stand, and hope the rich jug heads at the broadcast networks know what a jab Bochco just delivered to them. Right to the jugular, defining the problem.

This is a milestone in a huge reversal long time overdue.

Thanks for your post Jeff, like you and others in Hollywood, they are all in Bochco's camp.
Yeah!
m

I think Bochco hit the issue right on the head. Now, I'm just hoping that it'll impact the industry, but considering how dense they are, his comments would barely make a scratch, which is a shame.

While cable does have a plethora of hits right now, that's not to say that broadcast television is dearth of quality right now. Sitcoms like 30 Rock, The Office, The Simpsons, and My Name Is Earl, pseudocoms like Pushing Daisies, Ugly Betty, and Dirty Sexy Money, and dramas like 24, Bones, Special Victims Unit, Lost, and House M.D. are proof that quality still exists. House is probably the most overlooked series on broadcast television in a TVscape full of CSIs and Law and Orders. It's already the most overlooked series on Fox. In a perfect world, House would be celebrated as being Fox's highest rated series if only they didn't have the karaoke glamfest that is American Idol, part of the problem in Mr. Bochco's eyes.

He is right that broadcast networks would rather air cheaply-made programming that show humanity at its greediest, most humiliating, craziest, most vile, cruelest, and most vulgar forms.

Where else would we see people embarrass their own parents to get a prize or a person down to their last $50 in a bank account turn down an offer of $325,000 in the razor-thin hopes of getting a million? Where else would we see folks with no singing skills or talent whatsoever get humiliated by folks not unlike themselves? Where else would we see vapid, privileged teens and young adults act like the world is an alright place and we're just worthy of looking into their world? Where else is would the concept of romance or making it big be trivialized and transformed into exercises of lust, ego, misogyny, racism, and arrogance all for 15 seconds of fame.

Oh, yeah. Cable. MTV, VH1, BET, TV Land, E!, A&E, Bravo, Fox Reality, Oxygen, WE, Lifetime, TLC, Discovery, TV Guide Network, truTV, Spike, G4, and others get off on this stuff. It's their lifeblood and they're just as guilty as (if not guiltier than) broadcast channels when it comes to the growth of reality television.

Otherwise, VH1 and MTV would still be showing wall-to-wall music videos instead of vomitous "celebreality" shows and showcases of no-talent airheads and so-called "pretty people". And E! would still be airing entertainment news. Bravo and A&E would still be arts channels. And people could actually learn on The Learning Channel and Discovery.

Broadcast isn't the problem, though they are to blame why repeats aren't so prevalent anymore (you know, you can forget a show is on when it's not there [didn't NBC learn anything from Heroes lackluster second season last year? Nope.])

To paraphrase an oft-quoted statement, "It's the television industry, stupid." They're ran and operated by people with a controlling, almost paranoid nature because the guy they're friends with will surely stab them in the back one day. And they're right to be paranoid.

The broadcast industry still believes this is 1985. They're blind to cable's dominance and still operates under the rules set up back in the 1950s of having "seasons" and "sweeps." They still believe that families leave their homes in the summer and nobody's watching when they're gone, and just in time for football and the return of school for a lot of the country, they'll return to their TV sets, like the glow of an old flame.

Meanwhile no "seasons" on cable. Cable premieres shows whenever they damned well pleases. Broadcast premieres shows at certain times, either in the fall, mid-season, or when something fails. That's why cable is perceived to be better.

See, it's long-winded rants like these that I don't post a lot on boards like this but glad to have an outlet of my own at times. Been doing that for over a decade now. Too bad I'm not getting paid for it.

Marianne Paskowski:

JH,
Thanks for your post. Yep, the broadcast networks are stuck in time. If you recall, their new fall seasons were timed to coincide as the auto makers rolled out their new models. And auto has historically been broadcasters largest ad base.

It will be interesting to see what the auto ad category looks like this year with the auto makers slashing ad budgets during this pseudo recession.
m

joe:

"Honestly, what was the last prime-time program you watched on a broadcast network? "

Let's see. The Office, Law & Order, Law & Order SVU, 2 1/2 Men, How I met your mother, 24, Family Guy - to name a few.

I'll admit that I haven't watched a thing on broadcast TV this summer, other than the Olympics.

Nothing against the cable shows. I love Mad Men on AMC and am really looking forward to It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia starting up again soon on FX.

Marianne Paskowski:

Joe,
That's the problem, if there were no Olympics would you be watching anything on broadcast this summer?
M

Marianne Paskowski:

JH,
Forgot to add this, Steven Bochco is not a lone voice in the woods. This article appeared in Forbes. My pals on the Street, tell me that Forbes, moves markets, far more so than other media outlet. Smart choice on Bochco's choice to be interviewed by Forbes that makes or breaks markets.

m

Bill Paley and Bob Sarnoff have worn out the satin in their respective coffins spinning in a constant state of agitation...If Paley could resurrect for one hour, Moonves would be headless AND on the pavement, under a Metro Bus at Fairfax & Beverly Boulevard.
Peter Bright

Chi-Town Mike:

It's definitely hard to gage the networks right now with NBC's stranglehold on the Olympics. Even NBC's network channels are doing double time with live coverage. Cable is where it's at. Rescue Me (Dennis Leary) for example would be a great show that could have been on the the majors. It has the grit of NYPD but is not afraid to show it's humorous side from as well. Network TV is dying and I'm not sure if we will see another Cheers, Miami Vice, All In The Family, Seinfeld, Spin City, Drew Carey, or Mash ever again. Then again with the writers strike, reality tv, and tons of other media outlets what's the networks motivation today to risk producing another cash cow unless the actors are holding a bag of Doritos, drinking a can of Coke, or maybe making an entire episode inside of a Walmart?

Marianne Paskowski:

Chi,
I have no problem with product placements, we've seen it in theatricals for eons. Stupid to have a can of soda marked Brand X when it could be Coke or Pepsi.

Most product placements are very subtle and don't interfere with the plot.

Anyhow, hope Bochco turns the business upside down with his decision to go to TNT. Long overdue, the kind of statement he made and many of us admire and endorse.
Thanks for your post,
M

Marianne Paskowski:

Peter,

Bochco drew a line in the sand, something I think Paley, etal, would appreciate, creative talent moving on for more freedom, and a sense of what people really want to see.

And Bochco took a huge cut per episode to make his point.

M

Oh, I know Steven took a pay cut and believes solidly in what he's doing. True cudos to him.

Moonves should take a pay cut...a 100% paycut and a pink slip stapled to his forehead, printed backwards so that during his ten thousands daily looks in the mirror, he will be able to read it again and again...(for added on-air relief, he can take his mediocre wife home with him).
Peter Bright

Marianne Paskowski:

Whoa Peter,
Looks like you woke up on the wrong side of the bed today, my friend. So my turn to say relax and let events play themselves out.

Did you see the Cablevision stock drop today, like 5 percent on a piece of useless paper?

Thank God somebody is holding Jimmy Dolan's feet to the fire and make him work for a living, instead of sailing his boat and playing in his lousy band.

See, marketplace factors can work, and Les will get his too, big time.
m

I agree Marianne.

Sometimes I just have to write an unabashed thought...I am perfectly willing to "Let go and let God"...it is how I live my life.

PB

Marianne Paskowski:

Peter,

Let's get your mind off of this topic, time to move on to the Democratic convention. I hated last night, I guess that's why Democrats are Democrats, amazing they can even plan a wedding, let alone a convention. I'll be watching, yawn, again, and ready to write tomorrow.

Be Well,
M

Marianne Paskowski:

Peter,

Let's get your mind off of this topic, time to move on to the Democratic convention. I hated last night, I guess that's why Democrats are Democrats, amazing they can even plan a wedding, let alone a convention. I'll be watching, yawn, again, and ready to write tomorrow.

Be Well,
M

What was to hate about last night? Michelle Obama was stunning. Her daughters stole the show. Caroline Kennedy was Caroline Kennedy in all her Kennedy beauty. Maria Shriver wiped tears from her eyes as we looked on. Uncle Teddy reminded us once again and perhaps for the last time that Royalty resides in America. There was no yawning in my home; I was spellbound.

Marianne Paskowski:

Cory,
Come on, tThe onset was a snore, all of the stuff you mentioned happened later, very disorganized staging. You would think with Obama's Hollywood backing, he could have managed this love in better.

I'm sure Uncle Teddy threw a monkey wrench into the planning, nobody was sure he would do it in his state of health. Glad he did.

Gotta love the Dems, like planning a party and you don't know who's gonna show up, until they do. Trust me, I'm in the middle of trying to plan the perfect party for mid September, and I sure wish I could just hire Martha Stewart to deal with the on the fence people. My hubs is a former Marine, and wants a snoot count:}
Woof,
M

M

Marianne,

You raise an interesting point. I watched the convention coverage on a broadcast network. They didn't show the messy democracy stuff, just the gloss and the high moments. Then the network (ABC) returned to its regularly-scheduled programming.

Cory

PS...Your ears must have been burning all day. They'll burn again Thursday. I started a new semester this morning with two sections of Internet Communications...48 students. I teach the class in the computer lab. All 48 of them are reading your April 2008 blog post and the accompanying comments about The Disney Channel and the Miley Cyrus pics in Vanity fair. The 48 of them are to answer three questions: 1.) Who is participating in your blog? 2.) What perspectives are being represented in your blog. 3.) What would you do about your blog if you were Patti McTeague at Disney? Discussion continues on these and other topics this Thursday. Come visit sometime. Meet them face to face. It'll be fun.

Marianne Paskowski:

Cory, Cory, Cory,
You have to watch the convention on a cable news net. Shame on you! Can't believe you watch ABC, you must have a great severance package from Disney:}

Now about your next class. I can tell you before hand, I don't rally know who most of the responders to my blog are, except to say they are in the TV biz or care about it or find it on some other site that aggregates TV Week content. Many of them use nicknames.

My blog, from what I can see, attracts a wide spectrum of liberals and conservatives, just the way I want it. And the only unique thing I do is stoke the fires of conversation.

These Democrats are driving me crazy, Hillary still isn't on. I plan to write about this tomorrow, can barely stay awake through this coverage.

M

Jason:

Marianne,
While I'm glad Bochco went to TNT for this drama, the sad reality is that despite the large viewership, this show was a snore. Of course, given its equally snorish lead in, the Closer, it will naturally be a hit. I'm giving it one more week and even then it will go to secondary viewing behind the final season of Boston Legal.
Here's to an improved week two,
Jason

Marianne Paskowski:

Yo Jason,

Give it a chance, first horse out of the gate is always the weakest,BTW, I hate The Closer, snore city.
M

Jason:

Hey M,
Good news to report. Episode two was miles better. Here's to continued improvement. It will remain on the late night DVD recorder list.
-Jason

Marianne Paskowski:

Excellent! May Bochco teach the broadcasters about quality, thanks for letting us know.
m

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