Brady: Matt, what have you seen so far of the new series now in development?Matt Blank, chairman, Showtime Networks: I went down and watched them shooting Hate in New York, with Marcia Gay Harden, which looks terrific. We are very excited about Brotherhood and Hate, both of which just wrapped, and The Cell, which wrapped a while ago. We’re starting the Richard Pryor project, we are starting the Jonathan Ames project, and what I’ve seen is all very exciting and we hope it will all be an embarrassment of riches. We may have some tough choices to make. Certainly we’ve got a good deal more star power in front of and behind the camera than we’ve had before. When you have people like a Phil Noyce directing a pilot [Brotherhood] for you, not to mention the great people that we’ve got in front of the camera, we’re going to see work on a level that perhaps we’ve never seen before. We started shooting Fat Actress last month and some very exciting guests have shown up for cameos. Kirstie is feeling great and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. I think we have a hit on our hands there. Coming out of the box it seemed to make more noise than almost any series we’ve ever had before, so we have high hopes for it. Brady: And of course you have Huff coming up …Blank: We are incredibly excited about the Huff premiere in November. Everything is looking fabulous on the programming front. I think if anything, it may be an embarrassment of riches in terms of what we can put on the air next year and promote and give the attention that we’d like to. We have really tried to lock the programming and marketing together much more tightly than we have historically. We’re putting a significant effort behind Huff, and we have a cast, starting with Hank, who are really excited about the show and working hard on it, and the acting is wonderful and every single character is absolutely terrific. If we can get the sampling and get people to stay with it, we think they’re really going to get hooked on it. It’s very important to us that as the number of networks grows and the number of different types of products our affiliates are selling—VOD, high-speed Internet access—to keep [Showtime’s affiliates] excited about and focused on premium television. And nothing can do that better than a successful series. If our series are successful, they have a huge marketing impact from day one with our customers, because they engage them and get them interested and give all those tens of thousands of customers service reps out there something to sell that they can get excited about. So the affiliate marketing aspect of our programming is absolutely one of our objectives and critical to us. Brady: Showtime has won many awards over the years for programming that clearly targets underserved audiences: Latinos, African Americans, gays and lesbians. The new programming slate is not so focused on diversity… Blank: Diversity still is front and center for our programming. If you look at Hate, a show about a hate crimes unit in the New York City police department led by Marcia Gay Harden, her costar and director are African American, and the show deals with crimes of bias. It may not identify African Americans as directly as Soul Food did, but its foundation is absolutely planted in diversity. We’re doing a show that came to us from Richard Pryor; The Cell is directed by and stars an African American. It might be a more subtle way of thinking, but the other way of looking at is that the issue of diversity in our programming has become more mainstream rather than take a back seat. And more real in terms of what the market and the population around us looks like. Brady: How does having Showtime On Demand increase your growth?Blank: The great thing about a premium network is, for us, we just want to give people exposure to the product. That’s why on demand is so great. We don’t have to start making decisions about what changes do you have to make to your linear schedule if it’s not working or what does on demand mean for your advertising revenue? People are paying for premium television so the more we adapt to technology and the more we expose them to our product, the more they’re likely to keep subscribing in some form. Brady: [Viacom co-president] Tom Freston recently said one of his goals for Showtime is that it will help drive new technologies and new platforms. How?Blank: We are a content company, we think we’re the premiere content company. To the extent that we have more proprietary content that is more successful, helps brand us, and creates revenue opportunities in all these mediums. Tom knows the value of proprietary programming and strong brands. And he’ll be very helpful in helping us take advantage of all the technologies, both independently from a Showtime standpoint but also in terms of Viacom’s long-term strategies of using our content and resources to take advantage of new vehicles for distribution. Brady: These new platforms are also becoming more competitive: HBO and Starz both have On Demand offerings, for instance.Blank: Remember, Starz was a follower. Showtime created this and got in the market about when HBO did. So HBO and Starz have been very successful and Starz has lagged behind. Again, we think having an SVOD [subscription video on demand] capability won’t matter if you don’t have the programming people want to watch. Over the long term, proprietary programming is going to drive SVOD, not feature films from the studios that are available elsewhere beyond VOD. So that’s why we’re putting an awful lot of resources into our original programming strategy, of which Starz has zero. As HBO, obviously, agrees. Brady: Starz is first to market, however, with a subscription broadband service [Starz! Ticket] in partnership with RealNetworks.Blank: We don’t think there’s any business there yet. Let’s talk when there’s a business model, but I highly doubt you’ll see Starz with $30 million in revenues this year from their deal with RealNetworks. But when there’s a business there, then this might be a meaningful area. But for us, we’re very happy with the revenue streams we’re getting from our cable affiliates and DBS [satellite television providers]. Brady: By really focusing now on stepping up Showtime’s original programming, you’re taking a page from HBO’s playbook—and they’re a hard act to follow.Blank: To a certain extent they’re a victim of their own success. When you’re that successful and win that many awards, people will say, “OK: what’s next?” and that’s not fair to them. That said, we have an opportunity to grow into those HBO homes. If we do a better job of programming and marketing over the next year or two, there’s a huge universe of premium households that we can grow into. HBO has to grow the category in order for them to grow individually. They’ve been very successful with their programming and the DVD business. So I’m not worried about their business plan for the future. They’re doing extremely well, obviously. We’re focused on our business plan and growth, and there are real opportunities for us out there. There’s some work for us to do to get there, but we’ve been doing that hopefully. Brady: But changing programming strategies like this is not to say your model is broken…Blank: We’ve done a great job of turning this company around in the past decade, making it an important and profitable business entity at Viacom, reaching out to underserved audiences and doing a lot of things we’ve been very proud of the programming front. Now it’s really time for us to step up and make a bigger splash in the original programming area with more compelling, proprietary programming. We’re doing that now and viewers will see more of it come. Brady: Theatrical product is still important, obviously, for The Movie Channel [which Showtime owns and operates].Blank: We see The Movie Channel as being part of that whole household approach where we give you Showtime, TMC and all those digital feeds, and in some cases Sundance and Flix as part of that big Showtime Unlimited package, which we think again increases value. The Movie Channel is one of the great brand names in the business and it’s a great destination for movies. As HD, SVOD continue to roll out, it’s an opportunity to continue to get more value into each household and grow our revenue. Brady: Any plans to incubate new channels for Viacom, just as you did with Logo [the gay- and lesbian-targeted service MTV Networks is launching in February]?Blank: We are always looking for new channel opportunities and as we find them we’ll move ahead. Or not. But that’s certainly part of our plan to try and create new revenue streams. That’s not necessarily the easiest thing in the world. We have several ideas on the table, but there’s nothing imminent. Brady: Cable operators aren’t just thinking about video, they’re focused on new products and services, such as telephony and wireless—an area that you’ve been tapping into to promote Dead Like Me, for instance.Blank: Yes. This is all new ground for us. When I look back four or five years ago, Queer as Folk was one of the first times we’d ever done a broad Internet strategy to help launch a piece of programming. As technology expands, we want to take advantage of it. It’s another way to help get the product in front of the audience. We would hope that whatever technology comes along, that still allows us to operate within the program rights granted to us in a non-commercial subscription model, that we can take advantage of it. Some of them may be big businesses and some of them may be very small, but the question with any of these new technologies is when do they hit a critical mass and when do they have an application to your product, even if they do catch on pretty quickly. I don’t see anything in the next year that’s going to radically change our business. We’re interested in new technologies, we will experiment with some of them, but our revenue and income two years from now will still be generated primarily by our cable and satellite partners. Brady: So how does premium survive, and grow, in today’s tougher environment?Blank: People have always looked at the future of premium television ever since the VCR came along in the early 80s, and the
rental business came along. It really gets back to: there can be all the technological change in the world, but if you have programming that people want and you market it in a compelling way, you’ll find a way to adapt to the technology and consumers will find a way to access your programming. It’s very hard to cut through all the new technologies competing for eyeballs, it’s very hard to judge what the distribution environment will be like in five or ten years. But at the end of the day, Viacom is a company with extremely strong brands and programming and we’re part of that mix. * * * Bob Greenblatt, president of entertainment, ShowtimeBrady: Bob, the heat is really on for you to raise the bar at Showtime. Let’s start with your original series strategy.Greenblatt: It really is the centerpiece of everything, these series. It’s a really narrow needle to thread because we don’t have the luxury of putting on 10 or 12 shows here like I was used to when I was at Fox or at the networks where they roll out a whole bunch of new shows in the fall and a whole bunch more in mid-season and if one or two work, that’s a great ratio. We have to really be very focused and hope we’ve put all of our eggs in the right basket because it’s a couple of series that we’re going to roll out in a given year, along with specials and other things that go along with it. Series have become virtually the focal point now of every network, cable or otherwise. Cable used to be movies and repurposing series from the broadcast networks. Now you see A&E and Bravo and every little tiny network that comes along feels like it has to have its own signature series. That doesn’t surprise me because you spend all this time and money and energy launching something and so it’s smarter to launch something that’s going to hook an audience for many weeks as opposed to a one-off like a movie or an event, where you have to start over again and bring back the audience each time. Brady: But these channels can’t necessarily afford to do a scripted drama or comedy series with top-notch actors, like a Sopranos or Six Feet Under or a Huff, where they could afford to do a Queer Eye or a Growing Up Gotti to try to get some buzz and grow their audience…Greenblatt: You’re right, and in that sense I feel fortunate. A lot of networks can’t do the full scripted dramas or comedies. They’re really expensive and getting more expensive. FX started with one, after they got through Son of a Beach and all their experiments, and Bravo or an A&E won’t do them at all. TNT is trying to figure out how to do one and they’re doing some limited series and justify getting into that business. But we have the luxury of doing half a dozen at any given time, but that’s still so much fewer than the broadcast networks will do. And having lived in that world prior to being here, there’s a real comfort level to thinking, well, 80% of those shows I’m going to launch are going to fail and that’s the name of the game, so try a bunch of things and a couple of great things will bubble up to the surface. Here, we’re going to put one or two shows on the air in a given year, and they really have to be great because if they fail, you’ve got another year before you can put anything new on the air. So it’s a real challenge. On the other hand, being in premium cable is the greatest thing in the world for me personally because I love that kind of series best as a viewer. You don’t have to round off the edges and make it safe for Procter & Gamble and make it OK for broadcast standards and do all the things that I’ve done as a producer and as a previous network executive to make a show palatable and workable for all those constituencies. Brady: Meaning no compromises.Greenblatt: Yes. The trade-off is we’re not going for the largest audience in the world, like NBC or Fox is, we’re going for the most people that we can get within our small little premium universe. Of course we’d love to grow the universe but because by definition it’s smaller and more selective and people pay for service, we can be really specialized and that’s really great. Because some of the most interesting television is really rarefied instead of, let’s do a cop show that appeals to 25 million men. The minute you try to cast a net that wide, there’s a lot of differences of opinion within that group and to satisfy all of them means you have to take away things that all of them wouldn’t like. So it’s great. And having had the experience of producing a show [Six Feet Under] for HBO, which is in that realm of really specialized and five or six million people watch the show, it’s just a thrill to be doing that every day here. Brady: Your reputation and track record would naturally attract a lot of Hollywood creators and talent to want to work with you. But just because they bring you their dream project doesn’t make it Showtime’s dream project, or your dream project as the executive tapped to expand and step up the brand.Greenblatt: Yes, but it’s not just my sensibility that matters. People understand and have a good sense of what works in premium cable, given all the things that Showtime and HBO have done over the years. We do have a great luxury of a lot of people have been coming to us and wanting to do shows for us. But we can do things in a different way, which is a great selling point. Forget about all the creative freedom we have. We’re not doing 22, 26 episode series in a given season. So feature people who want to spend time doing other things or don’t want to spend the whole year doing a series will be attracted to our shows, and that’s a great selling point. People just know what premium cable is. So we automatically don’t get the run of the mill, mainstream ideas. And we don’t want them. Which isn’t to say we don’t want commercial ideas—we’re not trying to be the arthouse network either. But I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. So I think people automatically sift those ideas out and go to other places to sell them, and then have their one or two ideas they’ve always wanted to do, or think are perfect for us. Sometimes they’re not, but we get a lot of edgy, unusual risky things. Sometimes they’re edgy for the sake of being edgy, which is nothing I’m really interested in doing. And sometimes they’re just the right combination of elements. And Huff is a great example of that. It isn’t the most audacious concept in the world. It isn’t a family running a funeral home, or ancient Rome, or some of those more outrageous ideas. But it does have a number of things about it that a network would never do. It’s about psychiatry on one level, which is automatically scary to networks. They’ll explore it in a comedy but to do it in a drama makes a network audience nervous. There used to be an unwritten rule that you could never do a show about psychiatrists because people between New York and Los Angeles never went to psychiatrists. Of course they did, but nobody wanted to admit it. Now the world has changed, and everything from a 12-step program to full on psychiatry and mental illnesses are so much more exposed today and people get help more freely and talk about it, but it’s still a dangerous, scary thing to advertisers on broadcast networks. Also, all the characters on this show are all really uniquely drawn and they all have huge flaws. And networks don’t like characters with too many flaws. They feel like their audience wants the characters to be likeable, sympathetic and a really good mom or dad – unless they’re making a point about that. All Huff’s characters are really flawed: they say the wrong things and do the wrong things, and it’s a really dysfunctional family but not in a sitcom-y, breezy way. It’s a really complex world. I can’t see this show on any other network. Brady: Ironically, while you never worked as an executive at HBO, you were responsible for two of their biggest hits: Sopranos and Six Feet Under.Greenblatt: After we did Six Feet Under [for HBO] and it became a hit after its first season, all the networks said to us, “Why didn’t you bring us Six Feet Under? We would have done that!” And of course in a million years, they wouldn’t have done it. We used to joke, the first thing a network would have had us do is change the funeral home to an advertising agency. Once something becomes an accepted hit, there inevitably will be knockoffs, just like NBC did in the wake of The Sopranos. But we still are one of a couple places you can go if you want to do something audacious, outrageous and not just for the sake of doing that but because your characters are unique and the world is one that’s never been seen before on television. I’ve had that luxury, from Six Feet Under as a producer to when I was at Fox and it was the envelope-pushing network of the day. It’s now more in the mainstream, but when we were doing 90210, at the time there had never been an ensemble primetime drama aimed at teenagers or 18-to-34-year-olds, or about them. So we created a genre, and it’s hard to imagine that it never existed because it became so prevalent, from Melrose to Party of Five to Dawson’s Creek to Everwood and on and on. Even X Files was a show where there had not been a mainstream Sci Fi hit like that ever, except Star Trek 25 years before. Now there’s a whole Sci Fi network. I always try to do the thing that nobody’s ever done before. And now I’m in a place, Showtime, where there are no restrictions and that’s really liberating. Brady: But there’s no guarantee, ever, of creating the next huge hit series.Greenblatt: It’s hard to come up with something that has never been done. But we keep trying. And there are a lot of variations on things that have been done. For instance, we developed The Sopranos at Fox. We were trying to see if it was possible to do a show where the protagonist was an anti-hero. And ultimately there were a lot of people who didn’t see the wisdom of that at the time. And so it went on to hit big but in a smaller universe, at HBO. But that’s definitely the attraction for me being at Showtime. I still don’t see the broadcast networks even trying to go there. They say they are, and they promote their shows as if they are, but they are still doing cop shows in Hawaii and medical shows with irreverent doctors and ideas we’ve seen before. Sure, every now and then they’ll hit one out of the park, but it’s still a pretty safe universe. I don’t take anything away from the broadcast networks: they’re trying to rope in 20 million viewers and it’s amazing when a CSI or Law and Order can do that and run for 15 years. That’s really amazing, and difficult. But I’d rather find the next Simpsons, X Files or pushing out in an area that hasn’t been done recently, or has never been done before. Brady: So you just know it in your gut when you see the next great series idea?Greenblatt: I’ve had good luck over the years being really open to hearing ideas. I’m in the business of trying to find people who are much smarter than me and much more visionary than I am, and getting them to do shows for me. Whether it’s Alan Ball or Chris Carter or those people I’ve had the pleasure of working with early on in their careers. Occasionally we’ve said, ‘here’s an idea or genre that we should really try to find something in this area.’ And then you farm that out and see what comes back to you. One occasion I had great success with a show where we had the idea—this is Party of Five—and we said, ‘Let’s do a show where the young people are the stars of the show and empowered. Wouldn’t it be interesting if for some reason the parents were gone, and not in a hoaky or campy way, but find a realistic approach to that situation? So we found writers who really embraced that and actually improved it and made it better. But more often than not, it’s the thing that you didn’t expect from a writer you respect, and he has a vision no one could imagine. Like when Alan Ball said, “I’ve been thinking about this idea…” and it turned into Six Feet Under. I never would have come up with that. So I don’t have a predisposed list of ten things in my pocket, because invariably the one you thought was a surefire thing doesn’t turn out and it’s the surprise that catches you. I didn’t even want to develop The X Files. I’m not a sci fi person, I don’t gravitate towards that kind of programming and Fox wasn’t looking to do that type of show. In fact, Peter Chernin, who was then the president of Fox at that time, also didn’t really like sci fi and said, ‘Try it if you want but it’s a long shot.’ And the lesson was to just be open enough to somebody who really has a vision talk you into it. Chris Carter didn’t even have to do that much talking. Once we agreed to make the pilot, we were wowed. And of course casting and so many other factors come into play. But if you’d just heard the story being pitched, you need to really be open… Brady: Was that the case with a project like [upcoming Showtime series] Fat Actress?Greenblatt: Kirsty Alley came to see me, and at first I thought, I don’t know; is Fat Actress going to be really exploitative? Is it going to be funny to be people? And again, we saw the pilot episode and it was just hilarious and there was just no question. It was really funny and self-deprecating and outrageous and I couldn’t imagine any other network doing anything like that. So you just have to be open to hearing a good idea and recognizing it’s a good idea. Brady: What did you decide to keep that was already on Showtime’s original series docket, and why?Greenblatt: I’m a huge believer in serve the audience that’s not being served. I did it with the teenage audience, I did it with the sci fi audience, I’ve produced a number of black shows—comedies, dramas—and so I’m all for that. I just think if you’re going to do something that is a potentially narrow demographic, you have to give it as universally a wide appeal as possible. And some ideas can be that. Soul Food was a huge hit for us—the audience was predominantly black, but it was a huge black number. So there was no way that can be considered anything but a success. If you’re going to do a show that’s narrow in its demographic, it has be the best show that it can be. I produce a Latino show for PBS that’s called American Family. It wasn’t considered broad enough for CBS, which is who we developed it for and so it found its way to CBS. We did take it to HBO, though we didn’t take it to Showtime because Resurrection Boulevard was still in production. HBO thought about it but it ultimately didn’t strike them, and we were thrilled to have it find its way to PBS. Brady: Showtime has always been valued for its commitment to serving diverse audiences. Is that still top of the programming checklist?Greenblatt: When I came in here and found there was ‘the gay show’ [Queer as Folk and The L Word], ‘the black show’ [Soul Food], ‘the Latino show’ [Resurrection Blvd.] I’d be happy to still be doing all that if we could do 15 shows a year. But it’s really hard to only be in those narrow businesses when you’re doing half a dozen shows a year. That said, we’re developing Barbershop, we’re developing a pilot called The Cell where the lead character is black, we’re doing a pilot called Hate about the hate crimes unit in New York where of the lead characters, one is black, one is gay and the third is a woman, Marcia Gay Harden. It’s about the hate crimes division of the NYPD and it’s modeled after the fact that it has 18 detectives and by law they are a mix of ethnicities and sexual preferences so they can cover all these potential crimes, we didn’t make that up. If I had not known that was the case, I would have said, ‘that feels like a network cop show, trying to work through a checklist.’ So we’re just trying to cast as wide a net we can within our little universe. I think if you can do on-air diversity organically, why not try to mix it? Some networks make a mistake by doing a show and saying we need two blacks, an Asian, and go down a checklist. I think the audience sees it and thinks it’s artificial and forced. It has to be organic. Our goal is to reflect the world, and do it honestly. Any show can do it—HBO’s The Wire does it, any urban cop show tries to do it—and the hope is you attract white audiences, black audiences, Latino and Asian viewers. Brady: Why did you decide to scale back on shooting in Canada and do more Showtime original productions here in the U.S.?Greenblatt: I’ve had great success doing things in Canada. Fox did a lot of things in Canada, including X Files, until David Duchovny woke up one day and said ‘I can’t do this anymore, you’ve got to move the show to L.A.’ and he had the leverage to do that. If we’re truly going to do some of the greatest shows on television with some of the greatest talent, it really does get limiting to have to be in Vancouver or Toronto. Plus, for me it’s as important that the show feel creatively real as it is to get the right cast. Some shows are fine to do up there – we still do Queer as Folk up there [in Vancouver], which is supposed to look and feel like a Midwestern town, and it looks fine. I don’t think there’s any creative reason not to do that show up there. But if we’re doing a show about the New York City police dept, it’s kind of sad to do it in Toronto, as much as we love Toronto and all our Canadian friends. So if we pick that show up we’ll do it here with great assistance from the NY City Film Commission, the legislature, the mayor and everyone else who wants to bring work here, thank god. We’re doing a pilot [Brotherhood] in Providence, Rhode Island, right now. The show’s set in Providence, but at first we thought we’d have to shoot in Toronto. But we went to Providence and made our inquiries to the film commission there and they said, ‘you can’t go to Canada, we’re going to make it worth your while to come to Providence.’ So we’re there for the pilot and they’re trying to pass laws that will help us to do the series there, which is great and it will feel real. That architecture in Toronto is simply not the same as it is in Providence. So yes, I love to shoot things in the States. You just have to be prepared to pay the price. Brady: So let’s spell it out. What’s coming back and what’s not?Greenblatt:Queer as Folk has another year [season], and we’re going to see where that takes us. Five years with those characters may be the end of the road, and maybe not. The L Word is definitely coming back. Dead Like Me is in its second season and we don’t know yet about the future of that, although it’s doing really well (that’s also still shot in Canada, by the way.) Huff we’ve already ordered a second season of, so that will be around. Those are the big dramas coming back. Brady: And let’s walk through your development slate.Greenblatt: We’ve made half a dozen pilots. I’d love to get some comedy series on the air. We have Fat Actress coming in the spring, that one simply has to be shot in LA, that’s the backdrop to Kirsty’s story. Mario Cantone’s Laugh Whore is coming up, and we’re looking at the possibility of could we spin into a series? It’s really fun to be helping to put Mario’s show on Broadway, which is a first for Showtime as well. We’ve filmed a bunch of Broadway shows over the years, but never co-produced one. This is small, so it’s a nice way to stick our toe in the water. It opens Oct. 24th. We have the best director, Joe Mantello, who happens to be a high school friend of mine, so I’m thrilled to be working with him. So that will be a special for us and then we’ll see. I’d love to do something with Mario. Brady: Able to tap into Viacom and MTVN synergies to do more projects like the Dave Chappelle comedy special that ran over Labor Day?Greenblatt: We’re starting to talk about that more and more than certainly we have in the past year. Chappelle was one of those great things that just happened. He came to see me more than a year ago, he was one of the first meetings I had after getting this job. And he said ‘I want to do a comedy special for you,’ and I said ‘OK, great.’ The Dave Chappelle Show had at that point been on the air for one season on Comedy Central and wasn’t that big a hit, so it wasn’t like it is now, where he would be walking into my office as the hottest comedian, black or white, in town. I just thought, ‘he’s got a great voice, and I knew him because he’s done half a dozen comedy pilots over the years with various networks—including during his horrible experience at Fox, which I wasn’t there for, mercifully, where they did the cardinal sin of asking him to whiten the show, which is a terrible thing to say to anybody. Brady: So the Chappelle special didn’t come about through Showtime’s relationship to Comedy Central.Greenblatt: No, that wasn’t through any synergy with Comedy Central, it just so happened that in the months after I’d committed to making the special with him, his series took off in a huge way. But now we’re talking to Comedy Central about making a deal with them for a series of comedy specials that would be on Showtime first and then later on would air on Comedy Central. So it’s those kinds of things we’re looking to do. Showtime used to be the leader in comedy specials 10 or 15 years ago, not HBO, and then got out of that business. Everyone from Ellen Degeneres to Jon Stewart, Tim Allen, they all started on Showtime, and then Showtime got out of that business and HBO kept doing the Robin Williams and other superstar comedy specials. When I got here I thought wouldn’t it be interesting to add a few of those into our mix, but not just willy-nilly comedy specials, it’s got to be right people, and Dave [Chappelle] is at the bar. Brady: So what kind of comics are you looking to work with?Greenblatt: Comics who’ve really come into their own and are on the precipice of exploding. Like Mario, who will be a surprise to a lot of people who don’t know his standup side, but know him from Sex and the City, maybe as a Broadway actor or occasional guest spot. This is more of a variety show; it’s a one-man show. That’s why Showtime gave George Lopez his first solo special, and why we’re doing a special with Chris Titus. I developed his first comedy series, which never got made, when I was at Fox before The Chris Titus Show aired a few years later. He has been doing this show called Norman Rockwell is Bleeding for about 15 years, which is an absolutely riveting show that is completely scripted but feels like he’s improvising, and it’s just his life story of a very troubled childhood with an alcoholic father and a mentally ill mother who murdered her second husband and put in a mental institution. And as dark as all that is, he’s hilarious telling it all and he’s crazy, and yet you see why he’s crazy yet he’s married and has a baby now, and it’s riveting, much more riveting than just a guy telling jokes about Bush and the Iraq war. It’s an amazing story, and I’m interested in doing those kinds of unique things other than just a comic who’s on the road 20 weeks a year, because you can see those on Comedy Central and HBO. It’s got to be a little off-center for us, and I’m more interested in this other class of comedian who doesn’t get seen except live on stage. We’re going to do very few of those, but hopefully they’ll all stick out. Brady: OK, let’s move on to original movies.Greenblatt: We’re just going to do a handful because original series is our agenda and will take the lions’ share of the production budget, and also marketing of course. These series are so expensive to make, and so are original movies, that we had to make a trade-off. A one-off movie is so hard to drive an audience into, and takes so much in terms of resources just getting [viewers] there, and then they’re gone. However, we think a few movies a year for the right things can be great for us. There aren’t a lot of people making TV movies any more. The broadcast networks have gotten out of the business, except for CBS largely, but they’re going to do their Hallmark Hall of Fame Movies and Oprah Winfrey Presents and their typical kinds of movies. HBO is down to five or six a year, and they do them in a way where they spend so much money on them, they’re like features, which is not the business we’re in. Some cable networks still make them: TNT does them, USA will do a few, Sci Fi, Lifetime. There’s a market for them, you just have to blow them out and it’s not easy to find a TV movie that can get a lot of attention. There are so many ideas floating around, and many interesting stories that could be told, but we’re just trying to look for the ones that will be most attention getting. Brady: Such as?Greenblatt: Let’s talk about the first couple we’re doing. Reefer Madness is so unusual and a gamble, because it’s a musical, and I can’t remember the last time anyone made an original musical for television. There have been movies made of famous Broadway musicals for television, but this is something we’re making and it’s a full blown musical with huge numbers and choreography and 16 musical numbers. This is really subversive. It’s ostensibly about the dangers of smoking marijuana but it’s really satirical. It’s cool and unusual and has a great cast starting with Alan Cumming. That to me again is something nobody else would do, and if nobody else is doing it I’m interested in seeing if it’s right for us. And we’ve got Our Fathers, our movie about the Catholic Church and pedophile priests with Brian Dennehy, Christopher Plummer, Ted Danson and Ellen Burstyn. It’s a really scary, sad story but one that should be told because it’s so unbelievable. It’s really dangerous territory, something a [broadcast] network wouldn’t touch because it’s about religion, sex and things that would freak Procter & Gamble out. It’s not exploitative at all about the acts of pedophilia. There are a couple of tough scenes—some flashbacks to when these kids were young and some indications of these predatory priests—but it’s not graphic or uncomfortable on any level. It’s really the story about the adult victims of these crimes so it focuses on a few of these grown men in their 30s or 40s, and the harrowing tale of how they come to terms with what happened to them and their having the guts to bring this out into the open and have to go against the Catholic Church. It’s set in Boston, the heart of where this all happened, and it’s a groundbreaking explosive movie. Brady: How does it relate to—and depart from—the book it’s based on?Greenblatt: For instance, there’s an incredibly heartbreaking scene when you see a 45 year old man retelling his story and he’s weeping because his life has been ruined and he lives in his car because he can’t have a relationship. That’s the power of the movie, as opposed to showing a priest going into the backroom of a church with a little boy. We hope people will be really moved and that it will get a lot of attention for the right reasons, namely the victims that we profile claiming their stories. It’s all based on fact and we’d originally changed all their names to protect them and when they heard about the movie they said, ‘no, we want you to use our names. It’s time this all came out in the open.’ I met with a few of them recently and we’re going to use those guys to talk about the movie and talk about these issues and not just to publicize the movie, although they want to publicize the movie, but because they’ve all become crusaders and want to change what’s going on and deal with all this. They’ve been hired by the Catholic Church, ironically, to arbitrate some of these cases because there are so many pending lawsuits, and they now find themselves being advocates for this issue and now they’re more like politicians and spokesmen. They’re working class guys from Boston and so unassuming and so guy next door. That part in and of itself makes this such an interesting story—they’re all true heroes. So we’re going to work with them to bring attention to their movie and attention to their cause, hopefully, and I hope the media picks up on that. If it brings viewers to the movie, great; but it would be even better if it brought some attention to this issue which, sadly, from their point of view, even though it’s been out in the open now for a couple of years, the Catholic Church is still in denial, Rome will not get involved, the American priests have to solve it themselves but they don’t know how to solve it with their expertise, so it’s a really important story to tell. Once something gets exposed in the news people tend to think, oh it’s out in the open so it’s fixed. This is not fixed. Brady: The cast is certainly impressive.Greenblatt: Yes, starting with Christopher Plummer who plays Cardinal Law. This is the guy who moved all those priests around and let them go back into different dioceses. He’s been brought to Rome and he’s been made the guy who now settles these cases. So now the guy who was covering up and perpetuating the problem, who says he didn’t know and underestimated what was going on, is now making judgements about who to settle with. And ironically some of these victims are now being brought into these cases, and they’re smart enough to know that they need to work with him to help him and other priests around to see the light of what should be done as opposed to constantly fighting with him. So it’s a really complex problem and this is only the tip of the iceberg. We based it on the book, yes, this really brilliant book that’s 650 pages and impeccably researched so it’s not like a ‘ripped from the headlines’ thing that somebody just dashed off. There’s much in the book we don’t go into because we had to tell a section of the book, but it has great integrity and that’s why Christopher Plummer wanted to do this project. He’s playing the most villainous guy. And he’s brilliant. This movie totally fits my criteria of what will nobody else do—and that’s worth doing at Showtime. Brady: You dipped your toe into reality series with American Candidate this year. Is that something you’re interesting in doing more of?Greenblatt: I’d love to figure out how to do more reality, and the real trick is how to do reality in a truly unique way. It’s everywhere, it’s on every single network, broadcast and cable, because it’s so cheap to make and television is just filled with it. We’re already seeing three or four variations on the same idea. So I’d love to do it, but the question is how would we do it in a way that nobody else would or could do? It’s the same dilemma HBO has. You don’t see a lot of reality that they’re doing, or even FX. That said, there is a bunch of ideas we’re developing and seeing if we can figure out a way to do it that no one else would do. American Candidate was unusual in that it originated at HBO and then it went to FX and then we got it for Showtime. It’s the kind of show that no [broadcast] network would ever do because it’s actually about something as opposed to ‘how do I find a boyfriend or run the fastest race or what have you.’ I veer more towards documentary-style reality than contest reality. American Candidate had the best of both, because it’s a real journey of the political process and shows many things that even I didn’t know go on behind the scenes. It really brings you into the whole process: how do they make those commercials and so on. The finale will be live on October 10th and it will ultimately be a debate between the last two candidates and the viewers will vote. Brady: Let’s talk about documentaries. That’s an area that’s practically owned by Sheila Nivens [president, HBO Documentary and Family].Greenblatt: We want to introduce a few of those into our diet. There will never be a documentary unit here, although I’d love to have one, we don’t have the resources to do it and again, the focus is on series. But just like the audience has discovered docs like Spellbound, Fahrenheit 9/11, Bowling for Columbine, Supersize Me in the last few years, we’ll do a handful of those a year. It can’t just be a nice historical or political piece. It has to have some real controversial, attention-getting edge to it. We’re developing a whole bunch of things in that realm, and we did two docs in the past year called The Opposite Sex: one was a male-to-female transgender [story] and the other was female-to-male. They don’t have to all be serious or heavy. Smile, our documentary this fall with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, was about a project that nobody ever thought would happen. It’s a fun, entertaining piece about something—the greatest record never made, Smile, until now—that’s fascinated everyone for 35 years. Brady: What documentaries are in the pipeline?Greenblatt: We’re doing a documentary about the high school that underage kids have to attend on Rikers Island, the biggest prison in the U.S. There are teachers and events and activities and it’s a fascinating world. The teachers are dedicated and they kids graduate in that system and we follow some of the kids as they go out into the real world. Larry Aidem [president of the Showtime co-owned Sundance Channel] was the one who said to me at Sundance this year that Supersize Me, which was all but bought before it went to the festival and then something happened and the deal fell apart, and he called me and said you should get it, and we did, and that was before it was theatrically released. At the end of the day, it’s all about money. I’d love to spend $10 million a year to acquire and make documentaries; it’s such a great form. I think you’ll hear more about documentaries on Showtime in the future than less; we’re just trying to figure out how to spread the resources out. So many great documentaries get made and never see the light of day, and people make them for nothing. But every now and then one gets theatrical distribution and just makes a ton of money, like that political ones that have gone crazy this year. Everything in that vein is finding distribution, most of them from really politically minded theater owners who want to see a point of view exposed. Also the increase of DVD sales and home video has made a lot of these docs possible, where you can put a documentary straight to DVD and cover the cost of making the project. Brady: And of course there are shows that blur the line between reality and documentary.Greenblatt: With the rise of all these cable channels who can’t afford to do scripted dramas, they have to figure out what to put on the air. A lot of it’s low cost reality and a lot of it’s documentary, like Bravo’s Inside the Actors’ Studio is a documentary series, but really compelling and entertaining. Even E! True Hollywood Story is in that genre and people will watch it, whereas five years ago they might have said, ‘oh, is this PBS? Do I have to learn something about the history of jazz?’ So God bless Ken Burns and Martin Scorsese for bringing us these amazing, epic documentaries. People love these now. Brady: So getting back to original series then, what haven’t we talked about that’s on your development slate?Greenblatt: Let’s see. There’s Brotherhood; Hate; The Cell; Weeds, the Mary Louise Parker comedy; Pryor Offences, the Richard Pryor project with Eddie Griffin; and our Jonathan Ames project, What’s Not to Love is the title. To tell you a bit more about that, he’s a quirky, underground New Yorker who’s on Letterman occasionally and he’s this quiet guy who’s sort of a quieter Chris Elliott. He just lives a very odd life with a bunch of interesting friends and he wrote this pilot and will play himself in a quirky comedy. We’re developing Barbershop with MGM; we have the rights to those movies. I’m happy about this one because I know there’s a big Soul Food audience out there who’s jonesing about that series ending. Of all the pre-sold properties you could think of that are black, but yet really crossed over, Barbershop is the best of those. There’s so many of these urban films now but that’s the big title. So we’re being really faithful to it and yet it’s going to be a single camera half hour, just like the movie except shorter, and it’s on Showtime because we’re going to get into issues and things that will be controversial. The worst thing that could happen to Barbershop the series is if it becomes like a sitcom on a network. Because it would suddenly be Give Me A Break, when we want it to be Cheers in terms of quality, or what MASH the TV series was to the movie. We have a great writer, John Ridley developing it, who I worked with on a show called Platinum, which was great and unfortunately short-lived. So all that plus Fat Actress and a lot of movies we’re developing and a lot of stuff in the hopper. We just have to get it out of the hopper and get it on the air and figure out a way to make so much noise about it that people will come to it. It’s a crowded, crowded environment out there. Everybody’s spending more money marketing their shows and I see more tall walls and billboards and bus signs in LA than I’ve ever seen before: Bravo’s Celebrity Poker, there’s a huge outdoor campaign for that Lifetime reality series, How Clean is your House?, and it’s unfortunate that they sort of missed the target—‘This show stinks?’—but at least they put money into their campaign. You’ve got to give them credit for that. I’m surprised every day in LA, a town you drive around a lot, that you see these signs everywhere because everybody’s trying to break their show out. So it’s crowded and competitive. Just go to Times Square and look around. Everybody’s big signature show is up there somewhere. Nobody likes to spend marketing money because it’s intangible—you can’t really correlate the success of an outdoor campaign to viewers. Intuitively you can, but on paper you can’t. So corporations will cut the marketing budget because it’s intangible, and say ‘oh it’s a great show, they’ll find out.’ And that’s also why publicity is vital, and why we thank god for [Showtime EVP of corporate communications] Rich Licata and everybody in our publicity and marketing departments. It’s just really vital. But it only goes so far, and you only reach so many people on the entertainment pages. Brady: When you talk about all this competition, you’re also—in a way—competing with your own successes.Greenblatt: I say this to people and I say it with all humility. I don’t know that I’ll ever develop another Sopranos. It may be that one in a lifetime show that revolutionized a business. I’ve had that feeling before with X Files and 90210 and Six Feet Under on a smaller level, but that feeling and those kinds of projects that revolutionize television, they doesn’t come along every day. That’s why when we initially got the call from William Morris about Fat Actress, it didn’t even really register as the type of show that everybody would be talking about coming out of TCA [the Television Critics Association conference in July]. And yet it got on the cover of People magazine the following week, and now Dateline NBC is going to do something around the show and it’s already got a huge amount of buzz. And that was before we’d shot a single frame. That’s doesn’t mean you don’t spend any more money on it and say ‘thank god for that—our work is done.’ It just means you can get possibly get ever more attention and possibly launch something behind it. So God bless Kirsty Alley. May she be fat as long as she likes. Brady: It was perfect for People, of course, in that it dealt with the top concern on their readers’ minds: weight issues.Greenblatt: Struggling with weight is something that touches everybody’s lives, men and women, and when you can tap into something that people viscerally feel, that’s an amazing thing. When I was at the focus group for the 90210 pilot, and you stand behind the two-way mirror and the audience is watching the show in a darkened room and they’ve got the like/dislike dials and it forms that graph as the show unfolds, and the graph just kept going up and up and up, and the moderator turned to me three-quarters of the way through and said, this is a phenomenal test: they see these characters are real to them. And say what you want about the show, ‘it was a cheesy Aaron Spelling show or it was this or that,’ viewers tapped into that show like they never had before. If you can get into people’s lives, which is the great secret of television—as opposed to movies, which is supposed to be bigger than life experiences and one-time things—then they will want to live with TV characters and have them in their life as friends. Look at the Friends saga over the years. People saw them as their real friends, they cared about them or wanted to date them or otherwise saw them as almost real people, it was just a powerful thing. And it doesn’t happen that often in that big a way. But when it does, it’s an amazing thing. Brady: Does also being a producer make you a better television executive?Greenblatt: I’ve always felt like a producer. Even when I was at Fox, which was great training for me because it was my first job after the Lorimar movie studio—which is where I met [News Corp. president and COO] Peter Chernin and he brought me to Fox and gave me my first job in television—I didn’t know any better. I didn’t know what a network executive was so I always approached the job with the view that I’m a partner with these creative people. I don’t go into the editing room or sit on the set every day, but I’m very much with them as opposed to against them, which is what you feel at the networks. At the same time, I’m not trying to tell them how to do the show, because if I need to do that I’ve got the wrong people making the show. And I don’t have time to even do that. So the more they can just do it, the better off. And so I always felt like a producer. When I did produce for a long time, which was really great on every level, I got to see and really identify with how hard it is. There are so many aspects that can go wrong, not the least of which is a network doesn’t get your show or like your show or understand what you’re doing or all those horrible things, which I’ve experienced. But being a producer really gave me a sense for what the wardrobe people go through, or why the craft service people, because if the food isn’t good that affects the people on the set so it’s really important. And every aspect of production is really important. I just have great sensitivity for production, so I don’t approach things as an adversary, ever, and I think I just have an insight into what they’re doing and how hard it is to do it, and do it well. If you look at a rough cut of something and something isn’t there, it’s not suddenly their fault. Everyone’s doing this together. So I might say, ‘ok, here’s what I think is missing and do you agree? And if it has to be added, do we have to shoot something?’ And if we do, I should be helping to make that happen instead of sitting there and saying well you guys figure out how to pay for it. It has to be a partnership and I think that’s the most useful thing about having actually been in the trenches. Brady: And that’s still your philosophy in your role at Showtime?Greenblatt: One of the first things I did for Dead Like Me, [in] picking up the second season, I said to them, ‘I know it’s hard to shoot the show in seven days, because I’ve had to shoot shows in seven days before and I was never happy with them because you just cut corners and sacrifice things and ultimately it shows on the screen. So you have to shoot this as an eight-day show.’ Which they were thrilled to hear, but they said, ‘we can’t afford it.’ And I said, ‘well, I’ll give you the money to make it an eight-day show because it will be a better show for me and it will be worth it to me.’ So we did that and they stepped up to the plate more because they knew they were going to get a better show, and I don’t know that this happens very much. Brady: You made some news at TCA by giving an on-the-spot renewal to Huff.Greenblatt: It’s easier for a cable network to commit to a second season upfront because we have fewer shows and we know we can’t just throw a show on the air and then cancel it and throw another show on the air. We started talking about the second season of Huff because Hank [Azaria] is doing this big musical, Spamalot, the Monty Python project on Broadway, and we started to go through these scenarios and we just said, ‘we’ve seen a few of these episodes and we’ve seen the scripts and we love it, and there’s no way we would cancel it—how big a failure would it have to be for us to just walk away from a second season anyhow?’ And we all agreed, it’s such a great show, why don’t we just commit to it and Hank will know his dates so he can do the Broadway show for a limited time and then come back and shoot the second season of Huff and then go back to Broadway. HBO did that for us with Six Feet Under a little closer to the air of the first season, and the fact that they just believed in that show so much to renew it before it even aired, as a producer and as a creative person it was the biggest vote of confidence bar none. Even a huge marketing campaign—nothing comes close to being picked up. Brady: The Huff renewal certainly resonated with the TV critics.Greenblatt: Of course, there’s a potential backlash in that some cynics could say, ‘well I don’t know what they picked up a second season for.’ But that’s OK and cynicism is what it is. It’s just for us that we were planning 2005 and that’s an important piece of the pie we wanted locked in. We also picked up The L Word two weeks after it premiered. This was just after I started and with the rush of publicity and press and attention for the series, I said to Matt, ‘there’s no way we don’t bring this one back, right?’ And he said no. So I suggested ‘why not just renew it now?’ So we did. Showtime used to commit to a 22-episode series without even a pilot; now that’s crazy. You don’t know what you have. They did that with Queer as Folk, though there was a British show that preceded it, but they did it with Stargate, for instance, and that was a risky thing to do. This [Huff renewal] was not as risky. We had a pilot that we loved, six episodes that we loved, we had an amazing cast with busy careers, and we just wanted to commit. You see HBO pick up Entourage very quickly, FX picked up Rescue Me midseason, though you still don’t see the networks doing it. But then they have a lot of other stuff to throw at the wall, and if I ever saw a network with the true courage of its convictions I’d be shocked. Brady: You’ve also stepped up on the talent relations front since joining Showtime.Greenblatt: The most important assets for any network are your on-air talent, and you have to make them feel like they’re in a very special place. It’s not just ‘feed their egos.’ It’s about making them feel part of something because we demand a lot of them. Publicity is a chore and they’re the ones that everybody wants to talk to, that the talkshows and magazines and newspapers want. Not me, thank god. Sure they’re paid a lot and it’s there faces up on the billboard, but you’re going be asking them all the time to fly here, do this benefit, do this interview, do this radio tour or a satellite tour. So why not have them really happy and taken care of? We’re not showering them with ridiculous gifts and money, we’re just making them feel like there’s a reason we believe in them. Showtime did this before; I just wanted to step it up. And that’s why Richard Licata was brought on board. We were in the trenches together at Fox. It’s also how Showtime is trying to throw parties now that really make people feel like they’re part of something special, like we did at the Emmys and the Toronto Film Festival. That may sound superficial. But it really says to everybody, the talent and the public, that we really believe in what we’re doing, there’s a reason to celebrate what we’re doing, and you’re part of something that isn’t just yet another show on the air. I want people to say, ‘I want to work at Showtime and I want to work with Showtime.’ Not because we overpay, because we don’t, though I wish we could overpay like HBO does, but because there has to be other reasons to be here. We have a great creative advantage because of our freedom and shorter seasons, but it has to be everything. I don’t want us to be last, I don’t want people saying, ‘I’ll go everywhere else first and then Showtime if I have to.’ I want them to say, ‘I love what they’re doing at Showtime, let’s go there.’ Even if it’s the wrong idea and doesn’t make any sense for us, I still want them to come and think of us first and let us be the judge. It also helps reinvigorate the people who are already here. If the network is behind something and they show that to everybody, not just internally but externally, people subconsciously know that and it filters out. It’s in the quality of the promos; it’s in the breadth of the advertising. It’s like when a network has a fall premiere and they put out their 10 new shows and you can just tell the one or two they really believe in, you can see the ones they’re really pushing. And those are the ones that work. I think it’s really important to send those messages. I want Hank Azaria and Kirsty Alley and [The L Word’s] Jennifer Beals saying to their agents and their friends and the press and the critics that ‘We love working at Showtime,’ just as Dave Chappelle did— totally unsolicited—on the stage of the TCA. He said, ‘they’ve treated me so well, I was ignored and mistreated at HBO, why would I want to work there again? I want to work where I want to work and where I’m welcome.’ I want everyone we work with to have a great experience, even if the show ultimately doesn’t last as long as we would have wanted or if we don’t pick up a series from a pilot. I don’t want those actors to feel like ‘Well, that was a waste of my time.’ I want them to think, ‘That was such a great experience—what’s the next Showtime show I can do?’ Of course you can’t make everybody as happy as you want, but just like as I used to take pride at Fox, that even if we passed on something, I would still get notes from people saying, ‘I’m so sorry this project didn’t go the distance, but it was such a pleasure working with you or this team or your executives.’ When David Chase wakes up the morning after the final Sopranos episode, he might come back. We did a show with Alan Ball that preceded Six Feet Under called Oh Grow Up, which was a sitcom at ABC. It was so horribly mishandled at the network in every way, and the way they dealt with Alan—who, at the time, had American Beauty in the theaters and was winning the Golden Globe and on his way to the Academy Award and was being celebrated in every quarter—they gave him ridiculous creative notes and ground him down. Because that’s how they thought they should do their jobs. And he came away from that experience saying, ‘I will never work for ABC and I will never work for a broadcast network again.’ And directly out of that experience came his desire to do Six Feet Under for cable. We chose HBO at the time because The Sopranos was on the air and Sex and the City had just started so it felt like the place to be. But Alan Ball would not walk back into ABC today, and that’s tragic. And there are a lot of great people at ABC, and there were a lot of great people there then. They just didn’t see what they were doing, even though we kept telling them. And I’m sure we’re not the only people that that happened to. Those kinds of wounds run deep and writers are very sensitive people, as are producers and actors, and so they should be. Their whole job, their whole livelihood, depends on their ability to channel their emotions into things. And if we antagonize that and shut that down and make them feel nervous or scared or doubtful, first of all you get bad product. And they don’t want to beaten up again, which means they won’t work with you again. It’s not about being vindictive: it’s about being a creative person and wanting to work with that kind of creative person again. But you have to be sensitive to what you’re saying and doing and what kind of signals you’re sending. Brady: But being an executive means also making the tough decisions: to cancel a series, or change an actor, for instance. Greenblatt: Of course sometimes you have to be tough and really hard, but there’s a way to do it and still be constructive as opposed to destructive. I have been in more situations as a producer than I would have ever imagined, where it was just destructive. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to take a break from producing [and work for Showtime]. Because as a producer you need to be in the broadcast business and that’s really hard, primarily because there’s not a lot of people at these networks who are really creative constructive visionary people. There are a few, [Viacom co-president] Les Moonves being one of them. But at the risk of not naming other names, it’s a very harsh place to be unless you’re Aaron Sorkin or David Kelley and you’re earned the right to do whatever you want. The sad thing is that ABC didn’t see the wisdom of cultivating a relationship with a brilliant guy like Alan Ball, in spite of the fact that they loved his movie and knew that he was brilliant. And for me and David Janollari [Greenblatt’s producing partner], we just looked at each other and said, ‘Why are we banging our heads against the wall trying to convince them to do the right thing when they’re clearly preconditioned not to do the right thing?’ Brady: Where does Greenblatt-Janollari stand now that you’re at Showtime and David is president of entertainment for the WB?Greenblatt: The company for all intents and purposes doesn’t really exist as an entity any more, except with respect to the four shows that are still live and in production, and a couple of features that are still floating around out there and potentially will go into production in the next year. So we still have four shows, of which three will be in production again for next year and the fourth, American Family, may be brought back by PBS although we don’t know yet. So David and I are still involved on the periphery of those shows but not that extensively. The timing was right because those shows are all in a great place with really strong creative visionaries that we could extricate ourselves from them. Alan Ball doesn’t need us at this stage in his career how to fix an edit on Six Feet Under. One on One is going into another season, Eve is going into its second season and is doing beautifully, and American Family if it gets picked up again will be going into its third season. David and I do talk every day and he’s completely immersed at the WB, as I remember feeling a year ago here, but we talk all the time about ‘OK, in three years, when we start the company up again, what are we going to do?’ And it’s nice to have the luxury of thinking that way, whether it comes to pass or not. Because corporations have a way of once they get you in, they can be very seductive to keep you in. Brady: I can pretty much guarantee that Matt is not going to let you go.Greenblatt: You know I love Matt to death, I love Tom Freston and Les Moonves. Even though we’re under the Freston side of things, there’s some stuff that we’re going to want to do with UPN and CBS in sort of a synergistic way. I’ve known Les for years, and he’s the last great showman in the broadcast business. I think of him as from another era, as being in the Brandon Tartikoff mold. There’s a reason why he took CBS from being a pariah when he first got there, and a 50+ audience pariah at that, to being the most amazing success story, and same at UPN. Brady: What kind of synergies do you see between Showtime and your sister networks at Viacom?Greenblatt: We’re just starting to formulate some ideas, but it would be great for promotional reasons to be able to tap into those networks, although we have to see what’s possible because those networks have their own [station] affiliates and we have our cable affiliates and we have to be careful. It’s a little harder for us because Showtime is premium and you pay for us, unlike Bravo and NBO where it’s a little easier to share things and promote things. There are hopefully a lot of things we can do, because the benefit of being in a corporation like this is hopefully I can do something to help Comedy Central and they can do something to help me where we both don’t violate our respective businesses. Wouldn’t it be great if UPN could help promote a show just because we’re a tiny little universe and we have our 12 million households and they have 85 million households so wouldn’t it be great if they could help us expose something on their air and drive the audience back to us, which wouldn’t affect them negatively and could help us. So there has to be ways to do that, and look, Les and Tom have lots of fish to fry and they’re not spending their entire day thinking how can we help Showtime. But that’s part of it, and these companies are so vast. Look at the whole AIDS campaign that this company does across its networks on-air. We did it on One on One and Eve on the UPN network, and it was really clear that this is something that Sumner and Mel really believed in and we all have to contribute to it.
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