×

Judd Apatow Talks ‘Quality Control’ Problem of Peak TV Era

In an era of peak TV, which is a seller’s market with traditional platforms and emerging studios alike eager to find new material, the positives come from the fact that there is a plethora of content that speaks to a wide range of individuals. But the negatives, veteran producer Judd Apatow considers, is that in some cases the same people are making multiple deals.

“A danger of the situation is a lot of people are over-extended and where’s the quality control?” Apatow pointed out at Variety‘s Tune In! TV Summit in Los Angeles Wednesday. “It’s hard to make one TV show, and I don’t know how people do it.”

In a conversation with Variety’s managing editor, TV, Cynthia Littleton, Apatow shared that he, personally, isn’t looking to work on multiple series at the same time.

“I have to focus on not extending myself to a place where I can’t do my best work because I need a deal where I have to deliver 11 series. That’s not a place I can create from,” Apatow said. “I feel like I wouldn’t do a good job. [Although] I could make 11 sh–ty shows.”

Similarly, he’s not interested in being too political in his series, despite “ranting” about politics on a stand-up stage and tweeting about the news because of the responsibility he feels. “We all have…to pay attention to what’s going on and to speak up and fight for what’s right.

“It’s very difficult because I read something every day and I feel it’s important that people know about it [but] I don’t know how you do it in real time,” he said of bringing daily news headlines into scripted programming. “I think in the future there will be incredible movies about Michael Cohen turning on Trump, but we’re in the middle of it.”

Apatow has come a long way from his first television jobs, which included writing for the 1991 Grammy Awards, as well as writing stand-up acts for Tom Arnold and Roseanne Barr. Now he is in a position where is often asked to attach his name to projects, but he shared that he is “very uncomfortable” having his name on something that he’s “not sweating blood for.”

“The idea of it is, ‘Hey this will be easier because we’ll put your name on it and you get a piece and you don’t have to do nothing,'” he said, “but I’m miserable because I don’t trust anybody.”

So he focuses on the projects that he is passionate about — including “The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling” and “Crashing,” both for HBO.

The latter came out of an improvised pitch that comedian Pete Holmes gave him during a sketch they worked on together that was basically “him pitching me bad ideas for movies and TV shows, and I was rejecting them,” Apatow recalled. Holmes riffed on the idea of a struggling comedian whose wife cheats on him, which Apatow pointed out was Holmes’ story in real life.

“In the sketch I heard it and I went, ‘No, that’s terrible, that’s so sad,'” Apatow said. “And about a year later Pete said, ‘Maybe that would be a good idea,’ and we talked about it and set it up at HBO and are shooting our third season now.”

Apatow added that “there is nothing that’s made my life better than not working for network television.”

“It’s creativity with a gun to your head because they could cancel you at any moment,” Apatow said. On newer platforms such as Netflix, where Apatow had projects like “Love” and “Judd Apatow: The Return,” he noted, “Ted Sarandos won’t just walk onto your set and pull the plug.”

“You’re getting to finish thoughts. You finish a bunch and then you have a conversation — ‘Do you want to make a bunch more?'” he said.

He also enjoys the freedom to “plot and hire people and figure things out.” Netflix bought two seasons of “Love,” for example, without having seen the pilot. Conversely, Apatow recalled times when broadcast network executives would give notes that made no sense but the implication was the show would be canceled if the note was not taken.

“I probably come at this from a very spoiled angle, which is my own concern is making good things that I want a lot of people to see,” Apatow said of his strategy for creating content today.

“I hope if they watch my show they remember it because they’re probably watching the entire series of ‘Friends’ over eight days. …There are shows that are so brilliant and people watch them in a day, and then how much can you hold? How much can you remember from a great episode if people are bingeing so much TV?”

More TV

  • Stefano Sollima for Web Story

    'ZeroZeroZero' Creator on Making an Old Story New and How Andrea Riseborough Got Hurt (EXCLUSIVE)

    Stefano Sollima, the Italian director known in Hollywood for “Sicario: Day of the Soldado” and TV show “Gomorrah,” is the main creative force behind cocaine-trafficking series “ZeroZeroZero,” which will world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on Sept. 5. Festival chief Alberto Barbera has praised it as blowing “Narcos” out of the water. Sollima directed [...]

  • Ballers HBO

    'Ballers' to End After Season 5 on HBO

    “Ballers” is coming to an end after five seasons on HBO. Star and executive producer Dwayne Johnson confirmed the news via an emotional Instagram video. “My heart is full of gratitude to all of you for rocking with us every season. You made us HBO’s highest rated comedy for years and most importantly, you helped [...]

  • Sublime Primetime

    How Emmy-Nominated Writers’ Rooms Keep Politics in Mind

    In a world filled with elections, social movements and national tragedies, how open should the doors of a writers’ room actually be? For some of this year’s Emmy-nominated shows, those doors are wide open. Before the 71st annual Primetime Emmy Awards air on Sept. 22, the Writers Guild of America West and Writers Guild Foundation, [...]

  • Disney Villains Series 'Book of Enchantment'

    'Book of Enchantment' Series Based on Iconic Disney Villains Shelved at Disney Plus

    Disney Plus has decided to not move forward with “Book of Enchantment,” a series based on some of Disney’s most iconic villains, Variety has learned from sources. The news comes the day before Disney is set to unveil its streaming service at the biannual D23 convention in Anaheim. The prospective project was based on the [...]

  • ITV STUDIOS PRESENTS VERAFILM 2Pictured: BRENDA

    Brenda Blethyn to Star in New ITV Sitcom 'Kate and Kolo'

    Oscar-nominated Brenda Blethyn is set to star in the new sitcom “Kate and Kolo” for ITV, the U.K. broadcaster announced at the Edinburgh TV Festival. Blethyn takes on the title role of Kate in the comedy alongside theater and film actor Jimmy Akingbola as Kolo. Blethyn is a popular star with ITV audiences after having [...]

  • Sean Spicer Emmys

    Sean Spicer's Casting Explained? Red States Love 'Dancing With the Stars'

    ABC faced backlash this week after casting former White House press secretary Sean Spicer on “Dancing with the Stars.” But that outrage might actually spice up the dancing competition’s dwindling ratings — particularly in Trump Country. “Dancing with the Stars” has faced a relatively alarming decline in ratings over the past two cycles, falling 32% [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content