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

Mel's Diner: Pat Mitchell

September 20, 2007 4:58 PM

Who: Pat Mitchell, president-CEO, the Paley Center for Media
Where: Cafe 440, Beverly Hills
When: Thursday, Sept. 6, lunch


Dined On: I knew Pat Mitchell and I were going to see eye-to-eye as soon as we started talking at Cafe 440.

“Food enhances a community experience,” she said as she walked me through her best bets on the menu.

You could say Mel’s Diner agrees with that.

The small patio dining area is adjacent to the Frederick Fekkai Salon, about a block down an alley from the Paley Media Center in Beverly Hills. Pat, who lives in New York, usually dines at this spa-tastic spot when she comes to L.A. That’s at least once a month.

Pat made the “community” comment to explain why she’s been talking to this restaurant about setting up a cafe at the media center, formerly known as the Museum of Television & Radio. The Paley doesn’t have a kitchen, but it still could offer coffee drinks and pre-made breakfast and lunch fare such as bagels, salads and wraps. They’d just need some sort of mobile cart like you see at lots of museums.

The idea is to encourage people to meet for a bite at the center, where they could access its collection of audio and video material over a secure data connection. Establishing that digital access is part of a bigger push for both of the center’s locations, in New York and L.A.

“We have these beautiful buildings,” Pat said. “We hope to give people a reason to visit them even if they’re not coming for a specific show or program. Maybe people are having lunch and say to each other, ‘Remember that ‘Bob Newhart’ scene?’ And then be able to pull it up on a screen right there.”

Sign me up.

Really, could there be a more appropriate place for a future Mel’s Diner than the Media Center itself, where we can view just about anything we’re talking about?

“Newhart” was top of mind for Pat. She was in town partly to attend the Paley’s special “The Bob Newhart Show” cast reunion event, co-hosted by TVLand. The program, which kicked off the Paley’s fall 2007 events schedule, was held the night before our lunch.

Pat started out talking to Starbucks about her cafe notion, but the coffee mega-chain already has a Beverly Hills location close by.

That is just as well. Cafe 440-level food would be well worth a trip to the Paley for the meal alone. Pat and I both had Frederic’s Favorite salad. She asked for hers with chicken; I ordered mine with tuna. It’s chopped and chockfull of some of my faves as well: broccoli, mozzarella, garbanzo beans and red cabbage.


The Dish: In addition to attending the “Newhart” event, Pat was in town for the Los Angeles board of governors meetings; she always tries to meet with Paley trustees and other media executives in the area as well.

She’s also always fundraising for the many plans she has for the Paley. The center launched a campaign earlier this year and is on its way to achieving its goal of raising $20 million by the end of 2007.

At this point about 2,000 hours of the center’s TV programs have been digitized (along with more than 1,500 radio hours). Some 10,000 hours are earmarked as priorities, and the center will do the whole 150,000 eventually, Pat said.

Processing the content would enable the center to make the library searchable and viewable to visitors using kiosks in the Paley locations in New York and L.A. Pat said she was just chatting with “Law & Order” creator Dick Wolf about her plans on the very morning of our lunch.

“I told him, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if someone comes in, wants to see all about you, and they can just plug in your name and bring up everything we have related to your career?’” she said. “He loved it.”

As I continue to refer to the former MT&R as the Paley, I realize it is coming more naturally than I expected when the organization changed its name this summer.

Pat said she had been thinking about a name change ever since she came on board in March 2006.

The switch took longer to execute than she thought it might, partly because of the difficulty of finding the right moniker. (The org’s name was changed once before, from the Museum of Broadcasting.)

Changing “TV & Radio” to “Media” was an easy sell to the group there, who worked with consultants Landor on the switch.

And “Museum” never quite fit, she said.

“We have a collection, but people who came in, particularly in New York, expected things on the walls and Archie Bunker’s chair,” she said.

“Center” seemed closest to “community,” and to how she sees the org.

The folks at Landor said institutions become familiar by associating them with people’s names. Think the Guggenheim, the Kennedy Center, the Getty. Landor suggested “Paley,” for the Center’s late founder William S. Paley.

Although a lot of the Center’s members who were polled didn’t know who he was, they liked that he was a real person. In addition, Paley was a visionary whose diverse media career represented the spirit of the center and where it was going, Pat said.

Pat’s career has been expansive as well. In addition to heading PBS prior to joining the Paley, she has worked for three broadcast networks and several cable channels, serving as reporter, news anchor, talk-show host, producer and executive, among other things.

“People look at my career, and often think I must have been so ambitious and known what I wanted to do,” she said. “Really, the thing that always guided me is what interested me.”

She signed on for two years with the Paley initially, but she told me she is sure she’ll be there for a while.

“I’m very energized by it,” she said.


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