Thursday, October 17, 2019

"Forgiving Jeff"

I know I am late with this, but in the spirit of the recent Day of Atonement “Forgiveness Season”, I am belatedly forgiving Jeff, president of CBS in the early nineties.

Jeff was a graduate of Yale.   Ideal credentials for president of a television network.

“Can you plug this thing in?”

“Yes, I think it goes there.”

“”Thanks, Jeff.”

(I said I’d forgive.  I said nothing about teasing.)

As I recall, he had a beautiful suit.

There is no dispute here.  “Final Decision” – the network president makes the “Call.”  I fully “get” and grumblingly accept that.

The distinguishing feature is:


Okay, here we go.

(Written entirely without venom, so if you feel like licking the screen, you’re safe.)

We bring in an actress for “Final Confirmation” by the network president.  If he “okay’s” our favored selection, vetted and happily approved by the production and the studio bankrolling the enterprise, it is “Green Light – Go!” for the pilot, and we are off to the races, and, hopefully, the TV Guide Preview Edition in the Fall.

The woman auditions, and does great.  We later reiterate, “She’s our first choice.”  (Sincerely.  Not just to “move on” in the process.  We really want her for the part.)  CBS lower executives express butt-covering support.

It is now time for Jeff to weigh in.

The network president says,


It is not “No” like this, however:

“She appears to me to be ‘wrong for the part’.”


“I was not ‘knocked out’ by her performance.”

Disappointing, but fine.  But this is not what we were ultimately informed.

Facing spirited response to his negative decision, the challenged network president finally instead shouts,

“I will not have that woman on my network!”

Now that’s different.

That’s not “Artistic Judgment.”

That’s “Your Ruler has Spoken!”

“I will not have that woman on my network!”  (Which he suddenly owns.)

It kind of almost sounds personal.  Like she reminds him of somebody he’d once struck out with and now he is denying someone who reminds him of her a chance at a television show.  

That’s not “Unsuitable for the Role.”  

That woman was “Unsuitable to Live!

Rounding out the story, our “Auditioner of Choice” that day was Julianna Margulies.

Who did quite well on ER and The Good Wife, (the latter appearance on Jeff’s network, although long after he was gone.)

Now I know what you’re thinking.

“Everyone makes mistakes.” 

Including network presidents from Yale.

(And experienced show makers from the University of Toronto.)

But it’s not the mistake I am talking about.

It’s the way that mistake was loftily proclaimed.

Not as “Personal Decision.”

But as “Dominant Decree.”

Today, I forgive Jeff for his dubious decision.

Forgiving a system that insists, “I am Unquestionable Potentate and You are Nothing”,

I shall leave that for next time.

Or possibly never.

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