* Me. **
** No entrails were involved in the execution of this prediction. Chicken or otherwise.
GRATEFUL CHICKEN: “Thank you.”
GRATEFUL OTHERWISE: “Us too. Whoever we are.”
In truth, my prediction was less oracular than intuitive. ***
*** Making “oracular” more a metaphorical device.
“DEAR MR. POMERANTZ: I HAVE BEEN AUTHORIZED TO NOTIFY YOU THAT YOU HAVE EXPENDED YOU ASTIRISKAL ALLOTMENT FOR THE REMAINDER OF THIS CALENDAR YEAR. IF YOU PERSIST IN THIS EXCESSIVE ASTERISK ABUSE, THERE WILL BE SERIOUS, PUNITIVE CONSEQUENCES. THANK YOU.”
Sorry. I didn’t know there was a quota.
“WELL THERE IS. TO YOUR ALLOTMENT OF ASTERISKS. AND TO OUR PATIENCE.”
Okay. So I made this prediction.
And it turned out to be correct.
… was all I was trying to convey.
For some reason – perhaps because I was riding high with a TV series I had developed called Major Dad (which ran for four seasons, affording me and my family a swimming pool) – anyway… for whatever reason, they asked me participate on this panel, whose “Topic in Question” was:
“The Skyrocketing Costs of Television Production.”
It was effectively a business panel, exemplified by the fact that the four other panelists were top tier television executives – presidents of networks, studios and major production companies.
And then there was me.
Who knew nothing about the business he was in, except that it paid well and it kept me from doing something that paid less. I should perhaps end that sentence right there. Though an equally fortuitous element was that my involvement in show business meant I did not have to do anything else, which is good, because I am unsuited to do anything else.
Everyone on the panel was asked for an “Opening Statement” concerning the issue of runaway production expenses. The preset seating arrangement – deliberate or otherwise – meant that I would speak last.
The first four speakers, in differing formulations, said virtually the same thing. TV shows’ budgets were ballooning due to rapidly rising expenditures for “Above-the-Line” talent. (Actors, writers, directors. I’d have put an asterisk after “talent”, but I have apparently used them all up.) The obvious solution was a contractual “roll- back.”
Finally, it was my turn.
Speaking slowly and deliberately, I said,
“There are a lot of smart people on this panel. And they all agree on the solution to this problem. They all say – and who would contradict four extremely smart people? – that the way to reduce the costs of runaway television production….
“… is to cut my salary.”
The room exploded in laughter. And this was a roomful of businessmen. They only laugh when they’re receiving their bonuses. And that’s more a maniacal cackle.
I had struck a nerve by exposing an inequity. No television executive I’m aware of ever entered into negotiations with their employers during tough economic times, saying,
“I am willing to take less.”
But they wanted meto.
(NOTE: Any corrective information involving TV executives who took less would be greatly appreciated. I have no interest in trading in falsehoods.)
My auguring prediction occurred later in the festivities when I suggested that writers would be willing to receive lower salaries in exchange for more creative control, meaning, less outside interference in the content and execution of the programming.
A brave voice from the darkness proclaimed,
“Have your agent give me a call.”
Which got a laugh from the television business executives, although it was nothing like mine, showing that truth is funnier than a cynical retort.
This panel discussion took place in the early 90’s. Cable television had arrived, providing growing competition for the reigning “Big Three” – CBS, NBC and ABC.
But – and herein lies the underlying point of my prescient prognostication –
Though the “Above the Line” talent on cable – and now the streaming services – accepted lower paychecks than they’d receive working on network TV…
Trumpeting Accompaniment: “Bump-bada-bum-bum-bum-baaaaaaahhhh!!!”
They received more creative control!
(Bring cable and streaming services bushels of Emmys for “Excellence”, and “The Big Three” networks virtually none.
As Taxi’s Louie Da Palma would say, inserting the triumphing needle:
In a way, I am better than the Oracles of Antiquity.
Their pronouncements were always enigmatic, open to varying interpretations.
My prediction was clear as a bell.
And no chickens were mutilated in the process.
UNDAMAGED CHICKEN: “Explaining your framed picture in henhouses across the nation.”
I am honored by the acknowledgement.
Though television executives may not remember,
At least I am appreciated by poultry.