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.”   Continue reading “Nobody Knows Anything…Including Me!”

When It’s Not Appropriate to Define “Appropriate”

by Norman Horowitz

When I was at Polygram in the ’80s, we produced a program with the RKO General stations called Eric Severeid’s Chronicle. Eric had been a journalist of note at CBS.

I screened the first program of the series, and I wasn’t thrilled with what I saw. It’s my belief, however, that comments and suggestions about entertainment content by people like me is absolutely what screws up the process.

I had lunch in New York with Eric, and I began the discussion by humbling myself. I told Eric that my news and journalistic experience was essentially meaningless, and that I held him and his career at CBS in the highest regard. I explained that we sold his show to individual stations throughout the country, and that there was to be no editorial control whatsoever. I wanted him to know that his “commentary” could be as outrageous and blunt as he chose to make it.

Eric told me that was never under any restrictions concerning his commentaries at CBS News. Eric continued to be Eric, the program lasted one season, and no one was ever upset by anything Eric said in any of his commentaries.

In my opinion, most broadcast network on-air “journalists” are latter-day versions of Severeid. They exist and report “within the same invisible box.” When they are reporters, they report, and when they are making commentary, it is so designated.

Stephen Colbert, Keith Olbermann, and Jon Stewart, on the other hand, are not journalists. You need not be a journalist to be the “teller of truth.” But what about Anderson Cooper and Nancy Grace? According to The Hollywood Reporter: Continue reading “When It’s Not Appropriate to Define “Appropriate””