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.”  

According to the New York Post:

It is a big gamble for Cooper, who will have to convince viewers they can fall in love again with a daytime TV star who is not talking about diets or dancing with his guests.

Even the great Phil Donahue himself doesn’t believe people want a new version of his show, which went off the air 15 years ago

Turning Cooper into a daytime idol — a GQ version of Regis Philbin — has even TV insiders asking what the new show is going to be like.

Neither the “pundits” nor the “creative executives” know if a large enough audience will tune in to watch Cooper for the show to be economically viable. I too am on that list. I have no clue.

Here’s how I explained it about 35 years ago:

Here I am, a forty-something Jewish electrical engineer from the Bronx with one wife, two kids, and a dog, who sells movies and television programs throughout the world, trying to determine what thirty-year-old Christian mothers want to watch during afternoons in Gary, Indiana.

Cooper will be an executive producer, and the show will be distributed by Warner Bros./Telepictures, who are as good as there is in handling this type of show. Yet, I will bet someone a dollar that the show won’t last a full season. But, as we all know, what the hell do I know?