Reality mentality


In a TV season when only established unscripted shows seem to be performing well for broadcast networks, NBC's recently hired reality head Paul Telegdy is charged with a daunting task: launching a new crop of hits. Coming from BBC Worldwide, where he developed ABC's breakthrough "Dancing With the Stars," the affable Brit already has greenlighted several shows, including this summer's "I'm a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!" and the vocal competition series "The Sing Off."

Paul Telegdy: I try not to make pronouncements about what we should and shouldn't do because invariably I just trip myself up. I think it's fair to say we want people to come in with concepts about real people — large amounts of human interest that are fundamentally positive and have a wink to the audience. And ingenuity — something you haven't seen or heard before.

Telegdy: I am utterly hooked on "Biggest Loser." Of course, we all watch "American Idol" … Ryan Seacrest is a really great all-around talent. And "Keeping Up With the Kardashians."

Telegdy: Yeah! If I'd thought about it, I would have named all my children's first names with one letter — that's just brilliant. I watch a lot of cooking programs because I'm just greedy and love food.

Telegdy: That's (Fox alternative president) Mike Darnell's stock in trade. From crashing jumbo jets to "When Animals Attack," that's always been their reality brand — or what they think their reality brand is. Of course, their only (current) successful reality shows, "Hell's Kitchen" and "American Idol," don't fall into that category.

Telegdy: I don't think our brand is snarky in that way.

Telegdy: "Who Do You Think You Are?" has been running for three years in the U.K., "Have I Got News for You" is a 20-year-old format; "I'm a Celebrity" is a 7-year-old format. There have been very few new hits in the U.K. as well as here.

Telegdy: I don't know what the direct correlation is. You have to understand that once a successful franchise has established itself, the amount of real estate available to experiment is much reduced.

Telegdy: I think the environment for celebrities on television, and also the definition of celebrity and also the consumption of celebrity news and gossip in mixed media, has changed. At the time they made it at ABC, America wasn't ready for it. The whole VH1 celeb- reality and "Dancing With the Stars" hadn't happened. I think it was a very different environment.

Telegdy: The stakes for any programming decision are extremely high, and therefore the stakes for a programming decision in which you go wide are a bit higher. But it is the way the show works best. Do I sound calm? Relatively. You do what you do and stand back.

Telegdy: I don't think Fox's "Osbournes: Reloaded" was a variety show. "America's Got Talent" is a variety show, and it is a successful one. It's a platform for come one, come all; it's your dream, our stage, so come up here and see how you get along, and surprise and delight us. So we have a very serviceable variety, in the tradition of "Live at the Apollo," that's the stepping-off point for that show.

Telegdy: When the show first came out, it was the commoditizing of something that's extremely relevant today: a job. Right now, the best thing you could have in America is a job. (partialdiff)