FX showrunners take turns tearing NBC a new one - TCA Report
by Joel Keller, posted Aug 8th 2009 7:01AM
FX held panels for Archer and Sons of Anarchy on Friday morning, but by then press tour fatigue had set in, and the energy in the room was low for both. It was especially low for Archer, a Adult Swim-esque spy cartoon by the creator of Sealab 2021 that most of the critics hadn't yet seen. The panel seemed to be more content with answering with wise-ass remarks that made themselves laugh but the just served to make us tired masses annoyed.
Things perked up, though, when the network presented five of its show-runners to talk about what it's like to develop edgy dramas for basic cable. But since the theme of the week has invariably been "Leno at 10," the questions often came back to the fact that NBC with one fell swoop wiped out five hours of scripted drama per week. And the show-runners took every opportunity to bash the Peacock for it.
And it got ugly: "I feel they should take the American flag down in front of the building and just put up a white one," said Rescue Me's Peter Tolan, "because they've clearly given up."
He continued: "They've clearly just said, 'Look, we can't develop. We can't develop anything that's going to stick. We have - clearly can't find anything with any traction, so we quit.'"
Tolan, who was understandably the funniest guy on the panel, also said that NBC's pedigree at 10 PM is in jeopardy because of the Leno move. "There was an elegance and a quality of work NBC was known for. I don't think (Leno's show) will approach that."
The other members of the panel were Shawn Ryan of The Shield, Todd A. Kessler of Damages, Kurt Sutter of Sons of Anarchy, and Graham Yost of the new FX show Lawman. Yost was the show-runner for the late, lamented drama Boomtown, so he knows how frustrating it is to deal with the folks at 30 Rock:
"And I was thinking about the first episode of the second year. When you start feeling good about yourself, think about the worst thing you've done, and it was a -- it was a bad episode, and I wrote it. And I was trying to appeal to or appease or whatever, and it was a big mistake. I think that we ended up finding our way back by the last episodes, but they were aired on a snowy Sunday night around Christmastime. And then I was told that after they aired and did okay, someone said, 'Do you have any more?' It's like, 'Well, no, because you canceled us.'"
Ryan cited the oft-mentioned fact that a frog won't jump out of a pot of boiling water if you raise the heat slowly. With the Leno move, though, "NBC just threw the frog into the boiling water, and everyone's reacting to it."
The Emmys and their much-criticized time-shifiing weren't spared either; Ryan called it an "awful idea," saying, "I just thought the Emmys were about rewarding what the membership has deemed to be the best in television that year. But when they start talking about finding ways to highlight and honor more successful shows, it starts sounding like The People's Choice Awards to me more than anything else."
It's part of a disrespect the networks have for the writerly craft, says Ryan. "There's an ongoing effort, in my opinion, within the industry to see if anyone besides writers can do this job." He tells the story of being in a room at ABC where a sign told the development people what to do to land a series. "And number one was 'find the story, locate a property, secure the rights.' Number six or seven on the list was 'hire a writer.' And I thought that was a strange room to stick us in. To me, isn't 'hire the writer' number one?"