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A version of this story first appeared in the Aug. 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
With more than 400 original series being made this year, it’s no surprise the TV industry’s top executives long for a simpler era. “There’s so much television [now] that you can’t guide an audience that would love a show because all of the good gets in the way of the great,” FX Networks CEO John Landgraf said when he sat down to take The Hollywood Reporter‘s semiannual executive survey at the Television Critics Association summer press tour. But the questionnaire revealed more than simple frustrations with the increasingly crowded landscape. Network heads including Showtime’s David Nevins, Starz‘s Chris Albrecht, NBC’s Bob Greenblatt, and Fox’s Dana Walden and Gary Newman got candid about the show they wish they didn’t have to cancel, the series they’d love to see rebooted and, yes, the first thing that pops into their head when they hear Donald Trump‘s name.
The person in the industry I’d most like to have dinner with is …
SARAH BARNETT, BBC AMERICA Diane Keaton or Amy Schumer, preferably together.
CINDY HOLLAND, NETFLIX I’m not a night person, but I’d love to have breakfast with Oprah.
MATT CHERNISS, WGN AMERICA Ken Ziffren, so I can hear his insights into every aspect of our business.
JENNIFER CASERTA, IFC Howard Stern
ROB SHARENOW, A&E/LIFETIME President Selina Meyer
DIRK HOOGSTRA, HISTORY John Malone
ROY PRICE, AMAZON Norman Lear
KEITH COX, TV LAND Jeff Bezos
CRAIG ERWICH, HULU Quentin Tarantino
DAVID NEVINS, SHOWTIME Bob Dylan
SUSAN LEVISON, VH1 Caitlyn Jenner. I’d like to thank her for the amazing work she’s doing.
CHARLIE COLLIER, AMC/SUNDANCE Anyone who works at a streaming service. We’ll go for a huge dinner and a night of craziness in Vegas. We’ll order all we can eat and drink for less than $10 each, and in the morning there will be no public evidence of what we consumed and no one will ever share details.
The most worrisome or dangerous TV trend is …
JOHN LANDGRAF, FX/FXX So much television that you can’t guide an audience that would love a show because all of the good gets in the way of the great.
LEVISON The rise of “cord nevers.”
BARNETT Spiraling costs of scripted hours.
HOLLAND I think most networks would say it’s Netflix, but I don’t see worrisome or dangerous trends for us.
COX The shared viewing experience becoming extinct.
NEVINS Personal devices for watching TV.
MARK PEDOWITZ, CW Copycats.
CHRIS ALBRECHT, STARZ Taking it all too seriously.
The new or upcoming show I wish was mine …
HOLLAND Fox’s Last Man on Earth
LAUREN DOLGEN, MTV HBO’s The Jinx. Some sort of version for MTV would be pretty cool.
BARNETT Catastrophe on Amazon.
ALBRECHT AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead
PRICE Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience on Starz.
CHRIS MCCUMBER, USA HBO’s Vinyl — 1970s, NYC, punk rock? I’m in.
GARY NEWMAN, FOX NBC’s Blindspot
NINA TASSLER, CBS ABC’s The Catch
DAVE HOWE, SYFY Black Mirror. We killed ourselves to get that show.
PEDOWITZ The CW would have a hell of a time with Ryan Murphy’s Scream Queens.
LANDGRAF Passing on Breaking Bad is enough humiliation for one programmer for an entire lifetime.
If I could gather my competitors in a single room, I wish we could all agree to …
COX Disregard next-day ratings.
CHERNISS Figure out a way to stop piracy.
DANA WALDEN, FOX Move away from the pilot calendar.
MCCUMBER Band together to change the way the industry measures the success of our programming.
ERWICH Premiere shows in a more orderly way so that we’re not all on top of each other.
HOOGSTRA Send the best projects my way.
HOWE Play Russian roulette.
I wish agents understood that …
BOB GREENBLATT, NBC There’s no more money.
MINA LEFEVRE, MTV How emotional and hard it is for us to pass.
ALBRECHT You can tell your client no.
HOLLAND Email is way more efficient than trading phone calls.
CASERTA I live on the East Coast, and I go to bed earlier than they do.
COX There is more than one haircut.
LANDGRAF It’s the long-term success of the show that ultimately matters most to their clients. So don’t take the upfront money; take the partner that will get you the backend.
NEVINS How much reading I have to do every single weekend.
TASSLER There is no correlation between the size of the deal and the success of a show.
HOWE Drinks meetings means one drink, not two.
PEDOWITZ It’s not personal!
The note I still regret giving is …
ERWICH You got an hour?
ALBRECHT Suggesting that we change the title of The Sopranos to Family Man.
SHARENOW In the early development of UnREAL, I found myself wanting to give the hack executive note to make the characters more “likable.” Thankfully, I resisted because the show is perfect with its deeply flawed characters just the way they are.
COX Can you make this multicam a single-cam?
COLLIER Less cowbell.
If I could be a fly on the wall of one current writers room for a week, I’d join …
CHERNISS Game of Thrones because then I’d know who’s alive and who’s dead.
LEVISON Inside Amy Schumer. Can you imagine the sketches that don’t make it on the air!?
CASERTA Saturday Night Live
PEDOWITZ The Big Bang Theory
HOOGSTRA Better Call Saul
TASSLER Cinemax’s The Knick. I love that show.
NEWMAN Donald Trump’s campaign war room.
The showrunner I’m dying to work with …
HOLLAND Shonda Rhimes
TASSLER Shonda Rhimes
ALBRECHT Vince Gilligan
GREENBLATT Aaron Sorkin
HOOGSTRA Vince Gilligan … along with everyone else in the world.
LEVISON Ryan Murphy
MCCUMBER Terence Winter and Vince Gilligan
WALDEN Graham Yost
NEWMAN Judd Apatow
PEDOWITZ Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, together or separately.
HOWE Guillermo del Toro
NEVINS I’d be curious to see what Shonda Rhimes could do in a pay cable environment.
The hardest show for me to cancel was …
DOLGEN Jackass. It had to graduate to theatrical R ratings and a different set of standards for the guys, which was the right move for it.
SHARENOW Witches of East End. … A full year later, my daughter has still not forgotten, or forgiven, its cancellation.
LEVISON Stevie TV. Stevie Ryan will have her moment soon.
NEWMAN The Mindy Project
PEDOWITZ Emily Owens, M.D. In the moment, we realized we weren’t going to make it with a procedural.
COLLIER Game of Thrones. HBO just won’t listen to us.
The show I wish I could revive is …
CHERNISS China Beach. I don’t know what it would look like today, but I would watch it.
LEFEVRE Sex and the City or Golden Girls.
DOLGEN Freaks and Geeks
PRICE I’d like to see another season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, even if it isn’t mine.
LEVISON Temptation Island — a buzzy idea and a perfect title. We’re constantly talking about how to reinvent the series.
WALDEN Ally McBeal
CASERTA Freaks and Geeks
NEWMAN Buffy the Vampire Slayer
NEVINS All in the Family
HOWE The Krypton Factor, which is a game show in the U.K. We just put it into development, so this could be wish-fulfillment.
COX Freaks and Geeks
The hit show I don’t really get is …
COLLIER … likely not really a hit. Care to share the numbers?
HOLLAND Game of Thrones
LEFEVRE 19 Kids and Counting
HOOGSTRA Big Brother
PEDOWITZ The Affair
HOWE Two and a Half Men. And it’s colossal!
COX I applaud any show that can become a hit today, however I never understood the appeal of Duck Dynasty.
Fill in the blank: Donald Trump is …
HOLLAND Pure entertainment.
COX Alfred E. Neuman
HOOGSTRA Getting a lot of attention.
LEVISON Not running for president. He’s secretly taping a Punk’d episode that will air this fall.
MCCUMBER Striking a nerve in America.
ERWICH A celebrity.
PEDOWITZ Entitled to his opinions.
NEVINS The best thing that ever happened to the Fox News Channel.
TASSLER A big ass!
HOWE A sign the end of the world is coming.
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