Now, for those of you not in the TV biz. the basic concept of a pilot is that if it's good, and the network accepts it, the two parties move down the road together and make the show a reality. In other words, you've passed the audition, and what was a nice "date" is becoming a marriage.
However, networks are getting pickier with whom they choose to walk down the aisle.
One of the key clauses in the contract gave said network the right to move the show along with another producing team if they wanted to, combining a "thanks, but no thanks" with the reimbursement of our costs. They find another suitor, while we get to keep the ring.
My first thought was "That ain't the way it used to be when I produced TV shows a decade or so ago."
But after more reflection, I realized that indeed it was.
I remembered an encounter in 1990 with the late Jay Larkin, a friend and network executive at Showtime (who sadly died of a brain tumour in August). We had just delivered some great ratings and a star-studded special for the network (hosted by legend Bob Newhart and featuriung the breakthrough performance of Tim Allen, which led to the development of Home Improvement for him). It was the first year of a three-year contract, and we were meeting to discuss the 1991 show line-up.
"You'd better hit a home run with the show," he warned, "or else we may not be at the ballpark next year."
I looked at him both incredulously and smugly and said: "But Jay, we have a three-year contract!"
He raised his index finger and pointed upward.
"Look up. What do you see."
"The ceiling?" I replied, puzzled.
"Correct. And you know who's sitting above that ceiling? About 100 lawyers. They're waiting for me to give them something to do. If I say we have NO three-year contract, they're gonna back me up, not you, kapish?"
Gulp. And this was, as I said before, a friend.
So, cut back to this week's lesson. It's simple, and it applies to so much of our lives:
The only true guarantee is to deliver.
Nobody ever questions success. It puts you in the driver's seat.
But once your rock-solid position teeters even the slightest, your invulnerability fades. Everything you do is questioned.
And that's a big problem in business. Unfortunately, when things are going well, people let their guard down. They get looser with their cash. They take things for granted. They relax.
Actually, it's when things are going great that we should be the most worried, and start planning to kink the demand curve for the future. Nothing lasts forever, and if all you have to fall back on is a legal agreement, your power is waning.
Or, put another way, as I learned from that experience with Jay, in showbiz:
Breathe easy...and breathe your last breath.
It's tough as hell, but the optimum position in business is one of PULL (they want, and buy, you!) vs. PUSH (you need, and sell, them). Deliver the merchandise, they keep pulling, and you've got as good a guarantee as there is.
That is, until the time comes when the puling stops. Which is always way before you think it will stop.
To put a button on all this, the pilot went very well. On a shoestring set and lighting budget, the show looked like a million dollars. The concept was fun, the performers were funny and the host was magnificent (that's you, Critch!).
So, does it get made?
Don't know yet...but one thing that I'll guarantee:
If it does, I'll invite you to the wedding.
A NOTE FROM ME:
Due to a screw-up with Typepad and yours truly, comments on last week's post have been moved under this one, which is a tad irritating and confusing, but not as much as rescuing post below from its Google cache. All is well...and if you didn't catch the post below when first posted, here's a second chance.