Posts Tagged ‘Comedy Central’

Letter From New York 02 17 2016 A dose of our better angels…

February 18, 2016

Since being in the hospital, I have developed a taste for tea.  No coffee has passed my lips since my release from the hospital.  My fellow patient, Anthony, called what they served “jail coffee” and I think he spoke from experience.  It certainly tasted like the only place they would serve it was somewhere where you were for punishment.

I get up in the morning, brew a cup of tea and crawl back into bed to sip it and read the NY Times on my phone.  Very civilized, I think. 

Today, I taught.  Larry Divney, an old, old friend who was my boss for about forty- five minutes at A&E, gave a guest lecture today.  Almost as soon as I began reporting to him, he left for the Comedy Channel which then merged with Ha! and became Comedy Central.  The rest is history.  He became Comedy Central’s President and then retired.  That lasted four months.  The he “un-retired” and became President of Ad Sales for all of MTV Networks and after a few years of that, he actually did retire.

We reconnected when our mutual friend, Chuck Bachrach, told each of us one day we must be close to each other because, I mean, how big was Columbia County and we were both there?  That day, we ran into each other at Walmart and have celebrated most Thanksgivings and some Christmases together.

He spoke today about his career and how he dealt with people, with honesty and integrity, which he always has and he inspired some of the people in my class.  It was great to watch him do the Divney magic with my class.

Honesty and integrity – so important, no matter what you’re doing and occasionally not always in the forefront of people’s minds and actions.  They always were for Larry and I like to think for me, too, when I marched through the world of business.

This morning in something I read there was an exegesis of Hillary’s relationship with Kissinger which she has been touting recently.  It has made me think less of her.  Kissinger was/is a bad apple.  He didn’t, as far as I can tell, play honestly or with integrity.  He was an opportunist of the worst sort.

Once, in New Delhi, I was in a restaurant, Bukhara, then considered the best restaurant in the city.  Might still be.  He was there with Nancy, close enough I could almost touch him.  We were all laughing and enjoying ourselves but there was a heaviness to his part of the room.  It was darker than where we were.  I still remember thinking about that, even now, all these years later.

He is not a good man.  And Hillary hurts herself with her association of herself with him.  He has the blood of many from the Vietnam War era on his hands.  He could have forestalled their deaths but I don’t think that mattered to him.  It was all politics. 

My friend, Greg Harrigan, was one of those who died in Vietnam who might not have had to if Kissinger had not fiddled with the peace process.

Am I bitter about what I know about the past?  Yes, a little…

Things did not have to be the way they were if men like Kissinger and Nixon had been men of integrity and honesty. 

My friend, Bruce Braun, messaged me on Facebook; all politicians have been cut from the same cloth, all the way back to the Romans.  I responded:  further back.  There were Egyptian politicians, Babylonian ones.  All of them about what was “necessary.” And “necessary” did not always mean what was honest but what was expedient for those who held power.

I’m getting old now and there will be a moment when I pass away and I will think:  I made it through.  My god, but I made it through this interesting thing called life.

However, I am still here and will be for awhile longer and since I haven’t quite made it through yet, I will still write and think and postulate about life and the future.

Today, in the Times, there was a report about the fact that while it is all quite wretched out there what with IS and Syria and Iraq and everything else, it is still so much better than it has been.  We are rising from the darkness more than we have ever been despite the horrors of the world.  Fewer people are in abject poverty.  Technology is empowering us.  We have not had the nuclear destruction of the world we feared during the Cold War.

Our better angels seem to be speaking, despite all the horrors that surround us…

Letter From New York 08 14 15 The Way It Was Is The Way It Is…

August 14, 2015

A couple of generations ago, when I was a young man out of Minnesota, freshly burped up on the sunny shores of a foreign country called southern California, I found myself working at KMPC Radio in Los Angeles, then a powerhouse, now long gone, gobbled up by the Disney Empire.

I was Assistant Director of Advertising and Promotions and was well liked by the sales department, having done them a couple of good turns along the way.

One of the sales people, Al Gottfried, invited me out to his house one holiday season. His brother-in-law was a big muckety muck in television movies at the time. Over crudité he and I talked about how he got started in television movies.

He told me that when he was younger and had ideas for television movies, he thought he could go pitch the networks directly. Nope, not the case, he quickly learned. Because he had never done it, he therefore couldn’t do it. It was a Catch-22. He learned his ideas weren’t bad but he just couldn’t get access.

His solution was to marry himself to an established production company for TV movies. Eventually, people got to know him, trust him and he could launch his own company.

A few years later, I was lucky enough to open the West Coast office for A&E and I entered the world of cable, which I had wanted to find my way into for three years. I learned a lot during the six years I ran advertising sales for A&E on the West Coast, followed by a stint with Discovery.

Cable was the new technology. We were gnats to the broadcast networks, annoying but not to be taken seriously, even if their parent companies were big investors in cable networks. No one worried about us.

But it became a world in which creators found new canvases; producers shut out from the broadcast networks found homes in the world of cable. Movie channels like HBO and Showtime had time between movies that needed filling. There was a busy business in programming those empty spaces. Odd programming that would never have had a chance in “television” found homes on cable – and audiences.

An example of this is “Mystery Science Theater 3000”, a delirious hoot of a program that began on a local station in Minneapolis, moved to The Comedy Channel, which morphed into Comedy Central, ending its run on SciFi, now called SyFy.

Branded entertainment is the catchword of the day, when it’s not being called “native advertising.” Cable was doing that in the 1980’s and ‘90’s. Bob Bolte of Clorox’s Media Department had a program running on USA for years that was the harbinger of things to come. A&E was doing “promercials.”

When I said that cable would one day have as much viewing as the broadcast networks, I was laughed out of the room. Then the day happened, sooner than I thought. Cable grew up.

It began to need ratings to feed the financial expectations of their owners. Cable is part of the “television” business now, no longer derogatorily called “cable.”

It has major businesses to protect. Cable needs big hits. No more “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” Cable needs hits as much as broadcast networks. And in needing those hits, cable has followed the lead of its broadcast brothers. If you haven’t already done it, you can’t do it. So producers wanting to break into cable now have to partner with established producers until they make their own name. The lively, sometimes crazy kids, who produced for cable in the early days, became grown-ups but there are still wild, crazy kids who want to create content.

They turned to YouTube and Vimeo, Instagram and Vine. Suddenly you had Michelle Phan and PewDiePie, who have millions of viewers and helped spawn MCN’s [Multi Channel Networks]. Digital is the new cable and as companies who owned broadcast networks invested in the upstart cable networks, the established cable networks are investing in the upstart digital companies. A&E has put $250,000,000 into Vice, the upstart digital news service, and is giving them H2 to program.

The way it was is the way it is. We just have different upstarts this go round; as there will be other upstarts in the next go round.

Letter From New York 03 07 15 In a bit of a hurry…

March 7, 2015

This will be a bit of hurried letter as I am just back from lunch with my friend Larry Divney and shortly before I have to go to dinner at my friends, Lionel and Pierre.

It has been a lovely day. Coffee with the NY Times, the way I start most days, followed by a hair cut, followed by an invitation to join Larry for lunch, an invitation I was loathe to ignore.

Larry was my boss for a nanosecond when I worked at A&E before he went on to head Ad Sales for what became Comedy Central. He then became President of Comedy Central. He “retired” for about four months and then came back as President of Ad Sales for MTV Networks. He is a legend in the business. And I am grateful that we are friends, still, after all these years.

We met up one day, fourteen years ago, in our local Walmart. I had just moved to Columbia County and a mutual friend, Chuck Bachrach, said to me you can’t be far from Larry and Alicia, his wife. He gave me their phone number. I left a message and then went to Walmart where I ran into them.

We’ve been especially close ever since. We have had Thanksgivings together as well as Christmases. It is one of the great gifts of my life that they have re-entered my life as friends in Columbia County.

This is a special place, this little county. It collects people who don’t want to be part of the Hamptons scene or can’t, like me, afford that.

The world swirls around us and we acknowledge that, we discuss it and we are grateful we are far from it. I’m not sure it’s true but here we feel safe from the turmoil of the world.

Actually, I don’t think there is anyplace left that is free from what is going on. It’s just that we are less likely targets.

Apparently, IS is destroying yet another ancient city, one declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the ancient city of Hatra. It was the capital of the Parthian Empire that wrestled with Rome for centuries.

Tragedy upon archeological tragedy.

The world is losing its history and that is a tragedy. We are dealing with monsters here, who have no respect for what has come before them. I am enormously sad.

The light is good tonight; again everything seems cast in a shade of brown. Tonight is when we leap forward and lose an hour of sleep. I must begin to change the clocks. I’m not excited but it is the way the world works.