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Thoughts of the writers strike permeated the Paley Center for Media’s gala honoring NBC Universal’s Jeff Zucker and Dick Ebersol, though speakers ranging from Steve Carell to Kathy Griffin to Al Michaels did keep the evening light and amusing overall.
Not everyone mentioned the strike in their remarks Monday night, but those who did for the most part expressed a desire for a timely resolution. Zucker wasted almost no time alluding to the strike after Michaels introduced the NBC Universal president and CEO.
“It’s no secret this is a difficult time for all of us in the industry. … We’re in the middle of a seismic shift in the business,” he told the more than 500 attendees at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Century City. “This stoppage benefits none of us. … I sincerely hope that it stops soon,” he added to applause.
Pat Mitchell, president and CEO of the Paley Center (formerly the Museum of Television & Radio), also received some applause after calling for “a timely resolution to the current (issues) that threaten to divide us.”
Zucker kept his speech brief, saying that he wanted everyone to be able to get home in time to watch NBC’s “Heroes” at 9 p.m.
“God knows we could use the eyeballs,” he quipped. (A special performance by John Mayer at the end of the night did keep the attendees there beyond 9 p.m.)
Carell — who has refused to cross the picket lines to shoot his NBC comedy, “The Office,” since the strike started — didn’t mention the issue in his remarks but did tell a “captivating and largely fictitious (story about how) Jeff Zucker saved my life.”
In a video, NBC sportscaster Bob Costas took the opportunity to roast Zucker, who got his start at NBC in 1986 as a researcher for NBC Sports’ coverage of the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.
“He was a nobody … doing grunt work for me in 1988,” Costas said. “Now he (oversees) the No. 4 network, there’s a writers strike. … He’s months away from being a nobody.”
Costas also joked that after greenlighting shows including “Fear Factor,” “Good Morning, Miami” and “Inside Schwartz,” Zucker has continued to rise through the ranks because of “hard work, perserverence and (damning) photos of Bob Wright,” the former chairman and CEO of NBC Universal.
Like Zucker, Ebersol got his start as an Olympics researcher, becoming the first to hold that position for ABC Sports in 1967. In his address, the current chairman of NBC Universal Sports & Olympics paid tribute to the late Roone Arledge, whom he worked for at ABC; Zucker, “the best live TV producer of his time”; and the late Brandon Tartikoff.
Referring to the strike, or “scripted crisis,” Ebersol received applause after saying: “There’s a lack of back and forth. I’d love to get everybody back into one room and talk.”
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