One Net’s Trash …

Oct 27, 2003  •  Post A Comment

The idea of scrounging through television’s junkyard of failed TV series to come up with a few good ideas first came to Lauren Zalaznick when she was reading press coverage of the Emmy Awards shortly after becoming Trio’s president in 2002.
“There were two kinds of articles,” Ms. Zalaznick said. “There were ones equating reality shows to the decline of Western civilization, basically. And simultaneously there were others saying this was the best TV season ever”-with HBO’s scripted series, USA’s “Monk” and NBC’s “The West Wing” among those being applauded.
The idea of “celebrating the current state of television” with a documentary called “Brilliant, But Cancelled,” which was followed in September 2003 by the series of the same name, fit Ms. Zalaznick’s goal of recrafting Trio into a pop-culture network.
The Universal TV channel hasn’t grown large enough to receive ratings data, with just under 20 million subscribers so far. But Ms. Zalaznick said the feedback from viewers, TV critics and affiliates led her to believe the documentary really struck a chord and that it was worthwhile to expand it into a series.
Ms. Zalaznick said that because there is now an overabundance of digital TV channels, it only makes sense to give some noble failures of the past a second chance.
“Some of the shows were literally before their time-meaning television wasn’t a place for social issues or satire,” she said.
Clearly, the familiar names of some of the talent give the “Brilliant” selections a certain cachet. The list includes “Fargo,” a 1997 series that starred a pre-“Sopranos” Edie Falco and was based on Ethan and Joel Coen’s movie of the same name; the 1991 “Rewrite for Murder,” starring Pam Dawber and George Clooney; and the 1973 Steven Spielberg-directed pilot “Savage,” about a TV newsmagazine show.
“It’s not easy for them to find these shows,” said Gus Lucas, senior VP of sales for Warner Bros.’ domestic cable distribution unit.
Making sure that they secure all the proper rights clearances can be difficult, and Mr. Lucas said he isn’t exactly laughing all the way to the bank with the small change he’s pocketed for supplying Trio with such shows as 2000’s “L.A. Confidential,” starring Kiefer Sutherland and based on the movie of the same name.
“They’re very aggressive,” Mr. Lucas said of Trio’s acquisitions people. “Sometimes they’ll follow up and follow up and follow up. I give them credit for getting this thing done. … It’s created a buzz about Trio and is helping to build their identity.”
“A lot of the pie chart of our energy goes into `Brilliant, But Cancelled,’ and a lot of our marketing dollars,” Ms. Zalaznick said. “It’s good to know the marketing works.”
Brilliant, But Cancelled
Network: Trio
Premiere date: Original themed-month stint, December 2002. Regular series debut Sept. 8, 2003
Time slot: Monday through Friday, 8 p.m. (ET)
Studio/production company: Trio packages various failed shows from a variety of producers, including Universal TV and Warner Bros.
Credits: Curated by several Trio staffers. Other credits specific to individual acquired shows.