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Dick Wolf & Chuck Lorre: TV Biz Changed More in Last Six Months Than in Six Years

“This is actually the closest Dick and I will come to this stage when it comes to the Golden Globes,” Chuck Lorre said Monday afternoon at the Beverly Hilton.

Lorre’s laughter-inducing statement — in response to last week’s nominations, which were ruled by Netflix, Amazon and Hulu — was a blatant reflection on the television industry’s evolution, which most recently, was marked by just one broadcast network show receiving a major category nod for the 2016 Globes.

Sitting with Dick Wolf at the Hollywood Radio and Television Society’s annual Newsmaker Luncheon series on the two-man panel dubbed “Building A Kingdom, Then and Now,” the CBS comedy king spoke about the rapidly-changing TV biz, along with the “Law & Order” and “Chicago” media mogul.

“The one thing that is constantly evolutionary is change,” said Wolf. “Everything changes and anybody who tells you, ‘I’ll tell you what the business is going to be in five years,’ is on drugs. It changed in the last six months more than it has in the last six years, and before that, more than in 60 years.”

Wolf summed up his thought with a rhetorical question: “Did anyone think that Amazon and Netflix would be the prestige studios?”

Asked about changing practices over the past three decades from the “golden age” of Thursday night must-see TV by moderator Warren Littlefield, former NBC entertainment president and “Fargo” exec producer, Wolf said it’s all about the scripts.

“It’s always the writing,” Wolf said. Speaking on the trend of serialized versus procedural dramas, noting that all three of his “Chicago” shows are less serialized than they’ve ever been, he added, “If the writing is good, people will be perfectly happy watching a self-contained hour. Taste is drifting back to procedural. The pendulum will probably swing back the other way since nobody knows what anything is going to worth in five years… Four years ago, everything had to be heavily serialized basically to accommodate binge-viewing. That never made much sense to me.”

Littlefield pointed out that while they’re at the helm of huge franchises, none of Wolf nor Lorre’s shows are of huge critical acclaim. He asked if the power duo writes for critics or viewers.

“Myself and the writers I work with, we write essentially for ourselves. Would we watch it? Would we laugh at that moment?” Lorre explained, adding that the “secret sauce” to a successful show — no matter the industry’s evolution — is creating a character where the audience says, “I care what happens to you.” With a laugh, he stressed the importance of using a live-studio audience as a focus group of sorts. “I’m the stegosaurus who’s still working in front of an audience… It terrifies me every week… But at the same time, when you hear the audience viscerally laughing out loud, it’s the most gratifying thing in the world.”

However, Lorre had no “secret sauce” to successful pitching. When talking about pitching a show about an alcoholic mother to CBS (“Mom”), he reminded the room that he already had “Two and Half Men” and “Big Bang Theory” on the air. He quipped, ”They’re more receptive — gee.”

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