The Designated Talkers

Oct 30, 2006  •  Post A Comment

The Insider, speaking for no one but herself, thanks ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson for triggering a change in the breakfast program scheduled by the International Radio & Television Society for Nov. 15 at Manhattan’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

Until a couple of weeks ago, the program was to have been the annual summit where the networks’ top entertainment executives talk about the season and the general landscape as viewed from the top of the programmers’ world.

However, the date conflicted with Mr. McPherson’s required appearance at a corporate convocation scheduled by his boss, Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger.

Rather than reschedule the programming pooh-bahs, it was decided that a summit of the chief network schedulers should be substituted. The lineup: ABC’s Jeff Bader, CBS’s and The CW’s Kelly Kahl, Fox’s Preston Beckman and NBC’s Mitch Metcalf.

“When the appearance of one of the network entertainment presidents was pre-empted by a major corporate meeting and contractual obligations with the Waldorf made it hard to find another date that worked well in this calendar year, we realized that bringing in the executive vice presidents in charge of scheduling was the obvious solution,” IRTS Foundation President Joyce Tudryn said. “They’ve been extremely well received as a group when they’ve done such panels in L.A. We look forward to their inaugural IRTS appearance, as well as the return of the presidents in the future.”

The development is promising because the schedulers have become masterful soundbiters in recent years. Moreover, the schedulers are sure to address the same major topics- smart, smart, smart TV Guide critic Matt Roush is the moderator and will politely compel the network schedulers to address the important issues and trends of the moment-that were covered by the program chiefs just this month at a Hollywood Radio & Television Society lunch.

So The Insider dares to hope that the schedulers will make for a livelier breakfast than the programmers have in recent years, as the latter increasingly seemed to be attempting to one-up each other in saying-nothingness. There was a time, and not so long ago, when the programmers’ panel was a blood sport played full-out by executives trying to be judged the sharpest of the rapier wits. There was a time, also not so long ago, when the programmers’ panel was assembled in February in New York.

More recently, it follows close on the heels of the HRTS program. That means the entertainment chiefs are repeating themselves twice in nearly as many weeks about the same very, very young season.

The Insider hates for her fingers to get all cramped early in the morning taking notes while feeling dizzy with dej%E0; vu.

This year she’s excitedly planning to ask NBC’s Mr. Metcalf how long the Peacock Network can be expected to let “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” become a heavier and heavier weight on Monday nights. For Mr. Beckman the question is whether Gale Harold’s water-buffalo haircut, Ming Na’s inert presence and the jump-cut plotlines on “Vanished” might have played any better in another time slot. For Mr. Kahl: If we are going to strip men to the waist at 8 p.m. in scripted shows, wouldn’t “Jericho’s” Skeet Ulrich be a better candidate than “NCIS’s” Sean Murray? There’s no question “NCIS’s” Mark Harmon would be purtier than co-star Sean Murray. And last, but not least, the question for Mr. Bader: Should the title of the Alphabet Network’s engaging freshman hit be “Mighty Ugly Betty,” given its performance?


Check out “Big Brother, Big Business” at 9 p.m. and midnight Wednesday on CNBC. It’s the second of the two-hour documentaries produced by CNBC’s long-form VP Josh Howard and reported by CNBC correspondent David Faber. It’s about the surveillance and technological vulnerability of everyday Americans as they go about their everyday lives. If you saw “Inside American Airlines,” you know Mr. Howard knows how to tell an engaging story you enjoy watching.