After expressing the requisite gratitude and humility, Lauren Zalaznick did away with the niceties at NATPE’s Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Awards and asked the obvious question.
“A legacy award — really?” she said. “Shouldn’t I get it when I’m really old, or retired?”
Zalaznick, the former NBCUniversal cable and digital maven, was one of four honorees at the 11th annual Tartikoff kudos, recognizing industry figures who have made an impact on the biz in the spirit of the late NBC master programmer.
Zalaznick, the youngest of the group, made a point of looking forward in her remarks, noting the “tremendous transformation of our industry” at this fraught moment when to many it feels as if “there’s a siege on our audience and a siege in the value of our content.”
To illustrate the pace of change that the biz has experienced in the past few years, she offered a characteristically heady theoretical exercise in envisioning the history of the arts as if they were compressed into a seven-day time frame — meaning that the world of streaming media on pocket-sized devices would have only emerged “three seconds ago.”
“We’re still just at the beginning of the modern media age,” she told the slightly bewildered audience in conclusion. And for those who fret about where the business of TV is headed, she offered reassuringly “I have nothing but faith that we’re going to sort that out.”
Feltheimer spoke of his memories of working with Tartikoff when the former was a young television exec at New World Entertainment. Like his father, Feltheimer recalled, Tartikoff was a great salesman, and he recalled his father’s maxim: “A great salesman doesn’t start selling until the customer says ‘No,’ “ he said.
Azcarraga Jean was intro’d by Mexican comedy superstar Eugenio Derbez, star of the cross-border B.O. hit “Instructions Not Included,” distribbed by the Televisa-Lionsgate joint venture Pantelion Films.
Azcarrage Jean joked about the length of time it took Derbez to write the script for “Instructions,” and further joked that he hoped the actor would sign a “150-year” contract with the Mexican media giant, which Azcarraga Jean has been actively turning into a global media force since he took the reins at age 29 in 1997. He noted that even from afar, Tartikoff “represented everything I love about this business.”
Brooks closed the ceremony, hosted by “Entertainment Tonight’s” Nancy O’Dell, with an “ass-kissy” love letter to the great bosses he’s had in TV over the years.
The list included Grant Tinker (who went to bat for him and Allen Burns on their vision for “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”), former CBS programming chief Bob Wood (who gave “MTM” the coveted post-“All in the Family” timeslot), Tartikoff (who rescued “Taxi” from cancelation by ABC) and Fox’s Peter Rice and 20th Century Fox TV chairman Gary Newman, who was on hand to intro Brooks’ tribute. (Newman was the pinch-hitter for “Everybody Loves Raymond” creator Phil Rosenthal, who had to bow out because of illness.)
Brooks characterized Newman as the only person who is consistently “the adult in the room” when it comes to dealing with all things involving “The Simpsons.” Considering the drama over contracts and compensation that has periodically erupted behind the scenes on landmark toon series, that’s saying something.
Pictured from left: Jon Feltheimer, Lauren Zalaznick, Emilio Azscarrage Jean, James L. Brooks