“Pushing Daisies” exec producer Barry Sonnenfeld opened Tuesday’s Hollywood Radio and TV Society luncheon with a penis joke and closed it by professing his dream to open a combo Chinese restaurant/bowling alley.
In between, the outspoken Sonnenfeld held court as one of the HRTS’ more lively moderators in recent memory, addressing his own TV gripes and throwing out some unusual questions as he headlined the org’s annual Network Chiefs Luncheon.
During the panel, Sonnenfeld criticized the uneven practice of testing new shows; asked whether lengthy pitch meetings are really necessary; tweaked Warner Bros. TV, the studio behind “Daisies”; and berated the networks for their stance in the Writers Guild negotiations.
“Just step up, give the same residuals in all formats,” Sonnenfeld said.
The network presidents, however, said they believed it was just too soon to determine how they’ll make money off new-media platforms.
“We are at a point in the industry where things are shifting,” said Fox Entertainment prexy Kevin Reilly. “It’s clear, with rhetoric and positioning aside, there’s a number of unknowns on these fronts … I don’t think anybody really understands it.”
Later, Sonnenfeld gave his two cents’ worth: “You have to figure out how to monetize it — but that’s not the business of the Writers Guild.”
And CBS Entertainment prexy Nina Tassler noted that with talks still in a “very confrontational phase,” it’s still too early to tell where guild negotiations are headed. “We still don’t know what the hell will happen,” Tassler said.
The broadcast business, added NBC Entertainment/Universal Media Studios co-chair Ben Silverman, is “under assault.”
“There’s no question people are watching content in different ways,” Silverman said.
If there’s a silver lining to a strike, Reilly said, it’s that it may finally force the networks to stop paying lip service to changing the calendar and finally start developing projects through the year.
“A strike is giving us an excuse to shake it up,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sonnenfeld referred to his recent budget debates with Warner Bros. TV over “Daisies” (WBTV wound up keeping him from directing a handful of early episodes as planned), telling ABC Entertainment prexy Steve McPherson that buying “from an independent studio without some control over how much they’ll spend just seems weird.”
Then there were the pointed questions posed across the dais.
To Tassler and CW Entertainment prexy Dawn Ostroff: “Has Les Moonves ever threatened to kill either of you?” To Reilly (a close pal of McPherson): “Would you rather share a cross-country road trip with a surly Leslie Moonves or Steve McPherson?”
“I’ve done the second drive, and it’s colorful,” replied Reilly.
Sonnenfeld also asked Silverman whether his sex life was better as a network suit or a producer and tried to get Reilly to admit that his boss, Peter Liguori, “is so handsome that you want to punch him in the face.” (Reilly opted out on that one.)
Also at the HRTS, Lionsgate TV programming/production prexy Kevin Beggs was named VP of the org, while 25C Prods. partner Sarah Timberman has been named secretary. ICM’s Chris Silbermann, prexy of HRTS, made the announcement.
HRTS also added nine board members: Alta Loma Entertainment’s Jason Burns, City National Bank’s Martha Henderson, BET’s Reginald Hudlin, Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite’s Tracy Katsky, Fox’s Liguori, Universal Media Studios’ Katherine Pope, Starz Entertainment’s Stephan Shelanski, CBS Paramount Network TV’s David Stapf and TNT’s Michael Wright.