The Tweet

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This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.

There’s an old story about former NBC chief Brandon Tartikoff. While he was running the network in the early 1980’s, he was on the phone in his office, talking to somebody about something, and he suddenly had a flash of inspiration – totally unrelated to the conversation he was having.

He had an idea for a show. And rather than get off the phone and gather his troops and convene an actual meeting, he instead scrawled a few words on a Post-it and handed it to the underlings who were milling around his office.

“MTV cops” is what he wrote. The show became Miami Vice.

Miami Vice was a popular cop show on TV in the 1980s. It’s surprisingly depressing that I have to explain what that was. But if you’re under thirty and feeling smug right now, know this: it all goes lightning fast. First you’re wearing complicated blue jeans and non-sequitor t-shirts, then, suddenly, you’re trying to explain to some much younger person what The Suite Life of Zach and Cody was all about.

But I’m losing the thread here.

So: Brandon Tartikoff writes “MTV Cops” on a post-it, and the result is Miami Vice. And if he was doing it today, he wouldn’t have to reach for a post-it and grab a pen. If he was doing it today, he would have just put it on Twitter. Short. Grabby. Easy to digest. I’m surprised more people don’t use Twitter for what it’s clearly best for: as a fantastic pitching device.

Twitter is in the news a lot these days, but for the record, I’ve been on it for years – I’m rcbl, in case you want to follow me – and I’ve used it for telling and receiving cruel, hilarious jokes during the Oscar telecast; to locate the Korean Bar-be-que taco truck; to vent some customer dissatisfaction with a big retailer; and sometimes just for starting weird, offbeat conversations. I sent one up last month that was, simply: “My favorite ’09 movie in Tweetspeak: Indian gets rich unexpectedly. Dot, not feather.” And I got this version back from a friend: “Hogan wannabee loses deli counter job, stripper girlfriend, and big comeback fight in that order. Springsteen sings plaintively.”

But those are for projects that have been made. I don’t see why everybody in show business can’t just arrange to follow everybody else in show business, and pitch new stuff that way.

There are loads of actors and other famous people on Twitter already. What there doesn’t seem to be, right at this minute, are any executives. They should hop on, and in an instant all of the complicate sitting around, meetings, parking, pitches, small talk – the whole constellation of boring and soul-killing requirements of the job will be reduced and simplified to what it’s really about: a short pitch that’s easily digested and sent around to the various marketing heads for approval.

Twitter has its own weird code of @ symbols and hashtags – you can send a message to everyone at once, a specific person, or into a general subject heading. So maybe it would work like this:

#Feature pitch: @disneyfeatures Blues Brothers remake with Jonas Brothers.

#Scripted TV: @cbscomedy @nbccomedy @abccomedy Show about two newly married couples, married to each others’ exes.

#Reality TV: @fox National election for America’s student body president.

See how simple that is? That’s the power of Twitter: take a thought, remove stuff from it, hit send. And that, in a nutshell, is what show business is all about.

That’s it for this week. Next week, we’ll watch TV on our TVs. For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.

PS: If you liked any of those pitches, feel free to follow me on Twitter. I’m at rcbl.



Rob Long