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FROM THIS EPISODE

Enjoy the Process

This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.

They've done surveys -- like that? They? Who's they? Doesn't matter. Just go with me on this -- They've done surveys that show that people would rather make $70,000 a year if everyone they know is making sixty, than make eighty if everyone they know is making ninety.

See how that works? People are so messed up that they'd rather earn less and be slightly ahead of everyone else, than earn more and be slightly behind.

Yesterday I was talking to a network executive, and even though I was trying to be nice, I still for some reason got in a dig at a show they have on the air that's not doing very well. It's a pretty lackluster same-old same-old comedy -- you know the type: he's a former Wildman now a father trying to balance fatherhood and his crazy past; she's a local newspaper columnist trying to balance work and family; they're like best friends from high school, who are very different but now are roommates balancing friendship and adult responsibilities; she's a gal who balances things for a living trying hard to balance that and a new relationship -- anyway, it's one of those shows. And even though I was trying to be nice, I may have mentioned the show in a some-might-call snide way, at which point my network executive friend said, "Hey, that show is really working for us, okay?"

"It got a ten share," I say.

"Yeah, but nobody else is doing any better."

See how that works? A ten share is bad, but not if no one else is getting an 11. That's on the order of happily making seventy if everyone else is making sixty, but considering the state of the TV business, it's more like making 2 when everyone else is making 1. Actually, it's more like making 1 when everyone else is making zero. Maybe next year that executive will be able to crow happily that the show is "really working for us, okay?" And I'll say, "last night it got a zero share."

And the executive will say, "Yeah, but those other networks have been killed and eaten by predators."

Not really a recipe for success, seems to me.

Years ago, I had a show on the air that I felt was getting rough treatment from the network. They weren't promoting it, they weren't supporting it, and it was clear that a show they preferred -- a show about an overweight, unattractive guy mysteriously married to a gorgeous woman and the conversations they had in the living room set that didn't involve explaining this odd physical disparity -- that was going to get an order for a second season and we were not.

I called up the network executive assigned to our show and complained. I got a little hot, I'll admit. And I said some things -- again, I try to be nice -- which were jerky and nasty and insulting to the network and its management. I behaved, in other words, like a typical writer, which is about the worst thing you can say about someone.

"You have to understand," the executive said to me when I finally ran out of steam, "our goal isn't really to be the best network to be on. It's to be just a little bit better than every other network."

"Well, you're not," I said.

"Really? At any other network, at this point in this call I probably would have hung up. But here, I stayed on the line. I listened to the whole thing. See? Just a little bit better."

Well, when you're on a sinking ship, at a certain point it doesn't really matter if you're just a little bit higher than everyone else. And of course they did replace us with the other show, and it actually did just a little bit worse than we did. But it did just a little bit better than every other network. That was a few years ago. I think we were delivering a 16 share. And the ship keeps sinking.

That's it for this week. Next week, we'll shake things up.

For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.

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