America’s Dumbest C-Suite Executives?

The last time I was actively involved in making decisions about which TV shows to buy was a brief period where I was advising a smaller, newer UPN affiliate in Orlando, Florida (for the younger among us, google UPN).  At the NATPE convention wheee I shephered the station’s owners, one of the surprisingly popular shows that emerged as buzzworthy among the attendees was a throwaway weekly show called AMERICA’S DUMBEST CRIMINALS. (for the younger among us, google NATPE).  It was a tongue-in-cheek parody of AMERICA’s MOST WANTED, where Wikipedia accurately recalls thusly:

The series features surveillance footage, news reports and dramatic reenactments of particularly foolish criminal behavior…The show’s disclaimer partially parodies the radio and TV series Dragnet by stating that each segment was a real-life occurrence, but that “only the names have been changed…to protect the ignorant”.

In a world where self-aggrandizement among producers and sellers reigned supreme, and where rarely full pilots were shown lest discriminating types like moi realize the flaws that were often apparent to otherwise desperate salespeople, ADC was a welcome change of pace: funny, on point, and because it was also based on a successful series of pre-existing books, eminently producable.  Even the deal terms were more than favorable even to a teensy little upstart like my client’s station was.  We snapped it up by offering a far superior time slot than anyone else in the market would, and were rewarded with the highest ratings of any shon the station’s schedule.  All relative, to be sure, but these days, the rating it achieved would be considered astronomical.  Such was life back in the days.

I can’t help but think of that show as I saw highlights of the desperate trolls and posers lined up in a row across the stage at Milwaukee’s Fiserv Center last night, arranged in a setup that all but looked like an episode of THE WEAKEST LINK was about to take place. (Which, if you think about it, indeed it was).  Posturing, false claims, piling on and name-calling, appropriately played out on the network that often ignores their candidacies were the order of the day, and in hindsight I was glad I found something else to watch when it unfolded live.  Because, in the end, most observers concluded none of them had the appeal of the current champion of the title America’s Dumbest Criminal, a “person” whose physical presence was not there but was nevertheless the strongest presence who holds a title which will be reinforced later today when he appears to be indicted for the fourth time.  If for no other reason than the anticipated weigh-in, I’d ignore that, too, but I’m as morbidly curious as he is morbidly obese (I’m betting the under on 273, but if he’s really still 238 pounds as he supposedly was when Ronny Jackson revealed that number, then I’m the g-ddamn Pope).

But as other headlines of the day scream out as to where our industry is today, I’m reminded you don’t necessarily need to be a criminal to be dumb.  Indeed, you could be one of the genuises among the AMPTP leadership that somehow believed that negotiating in the press in today’s climate would somehow prove to be effective as it was the last time writers were out this long, in 2007-08.  As GIZMODO’s Linda Codega reported, that “playbook”, the one that writers were chided not to reference before the studios went back tot he barganing table was just about what the WGA leadership had predicted it would be, and it was a move that did not go over quite as well as it did back then:

After a week of back-and-forth between the Writers Guild of America and the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the public got a look at the latest offer from the AMPTP. However, it was released yesterday to industry trades after about ten days of push and pull with the guild—who say the tactic was used in a blatant attempt to convince the public that the WGA is prolonging the strike unreasonably, which is not the case. 

While the counteroffer does offer some concessions, the WGA released a statement stating that after accepting an offer to meet in good faith on Monday, they were instead met with “a lecture about how good [the AMPTP’s] single and only counteroffer was.”

“But this wasn’t a meeting to make a deal. This was a meeting to get us to cave, which is why, not twenty minutes after we left the meeting, the AMPTP released its summary of their proposals [to the press],” the statement reads in part. “This was the companies’ plan from the beginning–not to bargain, but to jam us. It is their only strategy–to bet that we will turn on each other.”  The WGA stated that after receiving the offer and sitting through a lecture, “we explained all the ways in which their counter’s limitations and loopholes and omissions failed to sufficiently protect writers from the existential threats that caused us to strike in the first place.”

But while this is disappointing news, especially to many whose very lives are in balance amidst this tumult, it’s hardly surprising. Because, after all, a goodly number of the czars and billionaires who thought this was a good idea were the ones who made a majority of the decisions outlined in a recently published Andy Greene piece for ROLLING STONE called THE 50 WORST DECISIONS IN TV HISTORY: Reality TV disasters, boneheaded cancellations, cable news calamities, and more.

Frankly, it was an engaging and appealing to me as that ADC pilot, only these days these best impact I can make is to encourage you to read it.  I had a vested interest at the time in poring it over because I honestly needed to check how many of them I had anything at all to do with.  You see, I had just been publicly admonished as nothing more than a washed-up failure desperately trying to find a job, ironically by someone who made a pretty good career at one time buying and selling TV shows but who now spends his time, in his words, “trying to defend democracy”, most recently feeling compelled to remind people he rued his past involvement with people like Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes, a past I share but one I have put into context as a learning experience.   Still, given my bank account is now down to two digits at this writing, and I’m fairly sure this person’s is six or seven, his all-too-accurate assessment of where my life is today really, REALLY rubbed me the wrong way.

The link to the full article is below, and it’s a really good read.  For the record, my come-uppance is limited to entry #35, which reads as follows:

50 Worst TV Network Decisions Ever: Spinoffs, Cancellations, More – Rolling Stone

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