Nobody Knows Anything…Including Me!

by Norman Horowitz

There are a few lines that I wish I had “created,” but none more so than William Goldman’s famous motto: “Nobody knows anything.”

In the process of selling TV content, I used to throw management into a tizzy when, asked if a particular program would succeed, I’d reply, “I don’t have a clue.” I expect that they never understood that, when I put millions of their dollars at risk, I couldn’t guarantee that the company would get their money back, never mind show a profit. All I could ever say was that I “sold at wholesale,” which translated from the ancient Hebraic meant that the broadcasters might buy said content or they might now. It was (and still is) the responsibility of the broadcaster to determine how many of their viewers would tune in to watch a particular program.

A brief example: When I acquired the distribution rights to Barney Miller, several of the studio intelligentsia claimed that Hal Lyndon couldn’t carry a comedy half-hour. It wasn’t that I was right about the program but rather that “the fates” were kind to me. The show grossed a couple hundred million dollars or more for Columbia.

So I found it amusing that, when a high-ranking show executive was asked about the new Anderson Cooper Show, he replied, “Think Donahue.”   Read more “Nobody Knows Anything…Including Me!”

Fred Silverman vs. Newton Minow

Today, Norman is addressing the 50th anniversary (May 9) of FCC Chairman Netwon Minow’s famous “vaste wasteland” speech:

When television is good, nothing — not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers — nothing is better.

But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite each of you to sit down in front of your own television set when your station goes on the air and stay there, for a day, without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or a rating book to distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.

You will see a procession of game shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western bad men, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons. And endlessly commercials — many screaming, cajoling, and offending. And most of all, boredom. True, you’ll see a few things you will enjoy. But they will be very, very few. And if you think I exaggerate, I only ask you to try it.

Now for the rebuttal by Norman Horowitz:   Read more “Fred Silverman vs. Newton Minow”

What Lionel Murphy Would Say About Donald Trump

by Norman Horowitz

It was sometime in the very early ’70s that I met and became friendly with Lionel Keith Murphy. He was an Australian politician and jurist who served as a Senator, and then as the Attorney-General in the government of Gough Whitlam and as a Justice of the High Court of Australia from 1975 until his death in 1986.

Lionel was one of the brightest and most charming men I’ve ever met. He had a ready smile and a twinkle in his eye. He was my kind of guy for a variety of reasons, but most important was how he adored women and had the ability to make the least attractive of them feel like Miss Australia when he spoke to them.

In ’73 or ’74, my office in Sydney sent me clippings of Lionel’s remarks in the Australian Senate decrying the pernicious effects on Australian culture by the telecast of American content. Boy, did he ever attack American television!   Read more “What Lionel Murphy Would Say About Donald Trump”

CNN: Hard News, Good Ratings

by Reese Schonfeld

For the second week in a row, CNN benefits from hard news. Last week was even better than the week before, with CNN topping all the other news networks in all the demographic ratings.

In raw audience, FoxNews still has a lead, but CNN has risen to the top ten in both total day (9th) and primetime (10th). In the key demo, 25-54s, CNN had 24,000 more viewers than FoxNews. Over the total day, CNN had 46,000 more viewers than FoxNews.  In primetime, CNN also edged FoxNews in 18-49 year olds and did even better with 18-34 year olds. This was equally true of total day ratings. MSNBC finished a rather distant third in total viewing, and in the demographics.   Read more “CNN: Hard News, Good Ratings”