HRTS tackles reality TV, indecency

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A panel of TV creators and executive producers discussed topics ranging from the merits of reality shows to disagreements with broadcast standards executives Wednesday during a "Hitmakers" panel, part of the Hollywood Radio and Television Society's Newsmaker Luncheon series.

The panel was mixed about reality TV, with Amy Sherman-Palladino, creator of "Gilmore Girls" (which started out on WB Network and now airs on the CW), the most vocal about her feelings during the discussion at the Regent Beverly Wilshire.

"These shows are a crutch and an excuse for the networks not to develop great (scripted) shows," she said. "Comedy is not dead; it's just that the networks haven't put on a great comedy (with some exceptions). ... The Big Four should be doing (more scripted programming). They have the biggest audience and the biggest budgets. Comedy used to make money, but everybody turned their back on it because it's just too easy not to trust good writers."

Sherman-Palladino, who received varying levels of applause three times during her comments, also complained that networks too quickly replace failing scripted series with reality programming.

Greg Daniels, executive producer of NBC's "The Office," said he's a fan of reality TV and sometimes watches shows to see how they are shot because "The Office" is structured as if the characters are taking part in a documentary.

"They're killing the industry, I guess, but I like them," he said, citing NBC's "Average Joe" as a favorite.

On the other hand, Damon Lindelof, co-creator/executive producer of ABC's "Lost," said there's not much he can incorporate by watching CBS' "Survivor" -- despite the fact that former ABC Entertainment TV Group chairman Lloyd Braun's idea for the show was " 'Survivor' as a drama" -- because it's more of a game show with a prize at the end, he said.

But Lindelof did admit that "Lost" episodes are often influenced by favorite series of the writers and producers, citing such shows as WB/UPN's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and the syndicated series "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

Also during the discussion -- moderated by Jimmy Kimmel, who once again didn't disappoint in keeping up a lively conversation -- the panelists discussed the disagreements they've had with broadcast standards executives.

Seth MacFarlane, creator and executive producer of Fox's "Family Guy," said his show can get away with more than live-action series because it's animated, but there has been a heavier crackdown on content since the Janet Jackson Super Bowl incident in 2004.

"Broadcast standards says we live in a post-Janet Jackson world now, as if it were Sept. 11," he said, adding that a major "no-no" is "shit jokes. That's public enemy No. 1 of broadcast standards' concerns."

Ron Moore, executive producer of Sci Fi Channel's "Battlestar Galactica," said his disagreements usually concern sexual content and how many "pelvis thrusts" can be shown -- "two are OK, but you can't show three in a row" -- and said he has gotten around concerns related to cussing by using the made-up expletive "frak" as a substitute.

"It was established in the original (ABC's 1978-80 'Battlestar Galactica'), so we're able to use 'motherfraker' and 'frak me' and 'frak off,' " he said.

Meanwhile, Kimmel asked Anthony Zuiker, creator of CBS' "CSI" franchise, where he would set a fourth "CSI" series.

"I pray to God we never do that, but I think it should be somewhere cool, like Los Angeles -- Hollywood, where you've got stars, guns, sex, drugs," he said.
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