Panelists at Variety confab mull cable vs. broadcast
Michael Schur swore off of reading Internet reaction to “Parks and Recreation” as his New Year’s resolution. Emily Kapnek admits to being addicted to watching the Twitter messages unspool every Wednesday night as her ABC comedy “Suburgatory” airs.
The polarizing nature of social media as a feedback tool for showrunners was evident in the lively discussion it provoked Tuesday afternoon during the closing sesh of the TV Summit, coproduced by Variety and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation.
“It’s like being in a conversation where you get to say one thing — and everybody else gets to talk forever,” “Parks and Recreation” exec producer Schur said. “It’s much easier for me to function properly in my job if I don’t read it.”
Kapnek, a “Parks and Rec” alum who set off on her own this season with “Suburgatory,” loves the instant response but admits to sometimes taking umbrage at pointed comments. “I drag my husband over to the monitor and say ‘Are you going to let them say this about us? Aren’t you going to defend me?’ ” she joked.
As usual when showrunners assemble, the conversation ranged from the merits of working in broadcast vs. cable, the rigidity of episode running times and strategies for dealing with network notes. Kapnek takes the psychological approach: “Sometimes you know that people are scared to give a note so you read it back to them and say ‘You really want me to do this?’ They want you to push back a little,” she assured.
Cynthia Cidre, exec producer of TNT’s upcoming reboot of “Dallas,” did the quick math on the difference between broadcast vs. cable notes. “CBS — two hours. TNT — five minutes,” she said.
Jonah Nolan, creator and exec producer of CBS’ “Person of Interest,” talked about being the new kid in the writers’ room after previously working only in features. He credited fellow exec producer Greg Plageman with “dialing me back from the cliff’s edge of killing everybody off” by the fourth episode.
Alex Gansa of Showtime’s “Homeland” earned the admiration of his fellow panelists in discussing how he and Howard Gordon first shopped the moody political thriller to the broadcast networks in the hopes that it wouldn’t be picked up. At the time, Claire Danes’ character was a “fairly straightforward hero,” not a bipolar hot mess.
“Once we took it to Showtime we were able to do the show we wanted to do,” Gansa said, with a grin.