In the television business, you are where you eat as much as you are what you eat.

TelevisionWeek Managing Editor Melissa Grego is tapping into Hollywood's penchant for the working meal with her TVWeek.com feature, Mel's Diner. Ms. Grego sits down with television industry players at their favorite restaurants, giving readers a window into the minds -- and appetites -- of industry heavyweights.

As each Mel's Diner guest dishes about what they're working on, planning and thinking about, Ms. Grego provides a unique view of the television business from the insiders perspective.

TVWeek.com invites fans of Mel's Diner to report back in the comments section on the meals, deals, or anything at all that is eating them about what the featured players have to say.

Dig in!


Mel's Diner

January 2007 Archives

Mel's Diner: Phil Gurin

January 30, 2007 1:53 PM

Who: Phil Gurin, president and executive producer, the Gurin Company
When: Jan. 18, 2007, dinner
Where: Fleur De Lys, Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas

Dined On: While waiting in the lounge area for our table, we shared in one of Phil's favorite libations: Ricard pastis, an anise-flavored liqueur that we mixed with water.

“When you go to this restaurant, you can go to the bar and enjoy a Ricard and it puts you in the mood for France,” said Phil, a self-described Francophile. “You just put yourself in the hands of the waiter.”

One of Phil’s biggest missions in life is to bring a French show to the U.S. He has sold formats to companies for potential airing in France, but has yet to translate a French project stateside.

One of the challenges is that French TV, of course, “culturally is just different,” than U.S. television, he said. Many French shows tend to be two hours in prime time.

Fleur De Lys presents dinner in a choice of 3-, 4- or 5-course meals. Considering Phil and I both had eaten plenty by this, the last night of the National Association of Television Program Executives conference in Las Vegas, which is packed with fine dining options, we figured the minimum three courses of rich French food would do it.

Phil started with the chilled Maine lobster salad, followed by a main course of filet mignon with braised oxtail tortellini. He had a chocolate dessert.

I started with artisan foie gras, followed by braised beef ribs for the main course and that day’s special, crème brule, for dessert.

The Dish: Phil, whose credits include Fox’s New Year’s Eve telecast and TV Guide Channel’s red carpet shows, is very active selling versions of original American shows and what he calls “paper formats” overseas.

He was in Las Vegas to spend just a couple of days meeting with fellow NATPE attendees, particularly members of the international TV contingent.

NATPE has become a “mini-MIP,” he said, noting he spends most of his time at the conference meeting with colleagues from Latin America, Europe and Asia.

Most of Phil's American shows at this point have an international tie-in, too.

He, for example, produces the Miss USA pageant for NBC, but also the Miss Universe contest. Phil, who also produced the format “The Weakest Link” in the U.S., brought “Lingo,” GSN’s longest-running original series, to the game show outlet from the Netherlands.

Among his most recent international formatting deals, he sold the upcoming “Wanna Bet?” to ABC. The show is one of the longest-running, most popular shows in Germany.

We love comments at TVWeek.com. Let us know by posting a comment about what’s eating you: What do you think of this restaurant? Where did you have lunch this week? Who did you see having lunch together?

Mel's Diner: Kim Martin

January 29, 2007 4:22 PM

Who: Kim Martin, executive VP and general manager, WE TV
When: Jan. 11, 2007, breakfast
Where: The Gardens restaurant at Four Seasons Hotel, Los Angeles

Dined On: Kim skipped coffee at breakfast. The New York-based exec was still on East Coast time, and had two cups before our meeting at 9. She went for the skillet scramble, while Rainbow Media Holdings Corporate Communications VP Matthew Frankel, who arranged our introduction, ordered berries. (Rainbow owns WE.) My breakfast out, as usual, was the so-very-out-there two poached eggs, wheat toast, fruit and tea.

The Dish: Kim came to Los Angeles straight from her first trip to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. She was pretty bowled over by a lot of what she heard and saw, particularly by CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves’ keynote, she said.

In particular what impressed her is what Mr. Moonves had to say about “not being in the content business, but the audience-sharing business,” she said.

Kim is considering numerous new forays online. She and her team are working on collaborations with multiple system operators, which of course try to encourage networks’ online hubs since they can help the MSOs drive their lucrative high-speed Internet business.

In light of NBC’s success with the unedited version of “Saturday Night Live” skit “Dick in a Box” at NBC.com, Kim said she’s “looking at different fare on WE.tv versus on-air.” (Read: If sister network Fuse will remove the pixilation online from telecasts of “Dance Off Pants Off” strippers, just imagine the addictive train-wreck possibilities “Bridezillas” could bring on WE.tv.)

She also already has plans for broadband micro-sites based on popular WE topics such as pets, weddings and relationships. WE uses its Web hub to keep in touch with its viewers, particularly through regular e-mail polls. Kim also is eyeing the development of community areas where viewers can post and share stories, photos, even videos.

Kim was in L.A. primarily to attend the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour, where she scheduled a panel featuring former professional wrestler Sandra Scott, star of WE’s new show “Wife, Mom, Bounty Hunter.”

Under Kim's two-year tenure, series have become a larger part of the former movie-centric network’s lineup. She pushed series development at the network based on the notion that for the busy adult female viewers WE targets, half-hours and hours are more accessible than the two to three hours a theatrical takes to air on TV. The network also adopted a new tagline, We Have More Fun.

The moves apparently have paid off. Ratings are up by double-digit percentages in key female demos and up in households by some 8 percent, she said. The additional series also paved integrated sales opportunities, and ad revenue grew “substantially” from 2005 to 2006, Kim said.

We love comments at TVWeek.com. Let us know by posting a comment about what’s eating you: What do you think of this restaurant? Where did you have lunch this week? Who did you see having lunch together?

Mel's Diner: Andy Friendly

January 16, 2007 12:45 PM

Who: Andy Friendly, producer and consultant
When: Lunch, Jan. 8, 2007
Where: Café Med, Sunset Plaza in West Hollywood

Dined On: Although it was a rare 80 degree day in January, Andy and I both had soup—minestrone for him, lentil for me. He had the lobster salad and I opted for the tricolore. We shared Pellegrino and lime.

The Dish: With the National Association of Television Program Executives conference a week away, Andy reminisced over lunch about NATPE’s heyday.

Andy was president of programming and production for King World in 1998 when the distributor threw its legendary party at the Superdome in New Orleans. Elton John performed and Barbra Streisand attended the concert along with executives from many of King World’s competitors.

“People from the other companies cancelled their parties that night because everyone wanted to go the King World party,” Andy said. “Then they started calling trying to get tickets for themselves.”

King World announced that year that Whoopi Goldberg would sit in the center square of former syndicated game show “Hollywood Squares” and that the company was launching a talk show with Roseanne Barr.

“I’m not sure there will ever be a NATPE party like that,” he said. “If there is, King World will be the ones to do it.”

Andy will not attend the NATPE conference this year, so he is free of the frenetic company preparations he used to handle before the show. Instead he is busy working on various projects of his own creation.

He is developing a Monday-Friday show for syndication as part of a consulting and development deal he made a few months ago with NBC Universal Television Distribution. He just pitched the concept to NBC station executives and could have the show ready as early as this summer.

He also is consulting with Real Simple about continuing to expand the magazine’s brand in television, and developing a show featuring producer Gavin Polone. Andy said he is finalizing a deal with a cable network to carry the Polone show, which sprang from one of the Hollywood Radio & Television Society Newsmaker Luncheons. Mr. Polone’s candid approach to moderating the event impressed Andy, who is the immediate past president of HRTS.

In addition, Andy is collaborating with his brother David Friendly (“Little Miss Sunshine”) on a feature film set in the world of golf, and he continues to serve as a senior consultant for Sucherman Consulting Group.

We love comments at TVWeek.com. Let us know by posting a comment about what’s eating you: What do you think of this restaurant? Where did you have lunch this week? Who did you see having lunch together?

Mel's Diner: Steve Mosko

January 16, 2007 12:43 PM

Who: Steve Mosko, president, Sony Pictures Television
When: Oct. 2, 2006
Where: The Grille, Beverly Hills, corner booth

Dined On: Steve ordered liver and onions and a baked potato -- then he offered an explanation.

Steve said he had run into a friend who had lost weight and asked him how he did it.

The friend referred Steve to a service that provides lists of the best things to eat for your particular, um, blood.

So Steve mailed off a vial. In return he received laminated note cards in the mail that he keeps in his wallet. They list tips on the best foods for him to eat. He showed them to me, and indeed they recommended liver and onions.

The Dish: While many studio executives continue to fret about the threats and ambiguity associated with the promise of new media, Steve, a veteran executive and salesman, appears to take change in stride.

He has endured numerous corporate restructures and competed for years as a program supplier without a major co-owned network or station group.

“Do I look stressed out?” he said.

We love comments at TVWeek.com. Let us know by posting a comment about what’s eating you: What do you think of this restaurant? Where did you have lunch this week? Who did you see having lunch together?