THE SURF REPORT: Variety Emmy Showrunner Panel today, The Emmys are Sunday 8/29!

EMMY-RELATED FUN: I posted the interview I did with Michael Blieden and Mike DiCenzo (Deetch) from LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON. Bliden and Deetch were the director and writer, respectively, of the brilliant LATE minisodes the show did. Click over to The Surf Report site at http://thesurfreport.biz and be sure to watch the LATE minisodes – they are wonderful and brilliant and especially great if you’re a LOST fan. The link to the minisodes on the LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON site is in the post on my site.

VARIETY EMMY SHOWRUNNER PANEL: Variety hosted an Emmy Elite Showrunners Breakfast and panel for Emmy-nominated showrunners this morning at The Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills. I was invited and I loved every minute so I’m sharing with you. Special thanks to Stuart Levine at Variety and the lovely folks at the Paley Center: Craig Hitchcock, Rene Reyes and Terri Ebright.

The comedy panelists: Steve Levitan (Modern Family), Jeff Schaffer (Curb), Liz Brixius & Linda Wallem (Nurse Jackie), Greg Daniels & Paul Lieberstein (The Office), Brad Falchuk & Dante DiLoreto (Glee)
30 ROCK is also nominated and according to Variety’s Mike Schneider, they were busy polishing their past Emmys.

The drama panelists: Clyde Phillips (Dexter), Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad), Gregg Fienberg (True Blood), Damon Lindelof & Carlton Cuse (Lost) and Robert King (The Good Wife). Matt Weiner was invited but he had to be on set as he’s directing an episode right now.

Here are high points from the comedy panel:
When asked about this super-busy time of year – TCA sessions, returning to start production on the new season, the Emmys, Steve Levitan said, “Oh, it’s just hell. People wanna see your show, the Emmys. Look, no one here can complain. It’ll be nice next week to get back to our shows. I have no complaints at all.”

When asked about dealing with the cultural phenomenon that GLEE has become, Brad Falchuk said, “We don’t think about that. We’re back at work. We’re a little ahead on scripts. We’re shooting and we almost have a complete script. As for the cultural phenomenon, we’re just gonna get up to bat, sit down and write the stories. We don’t feel that much pressure on set. We just wanna get the scenes right. We do our best.” Dante DiLoreto added, “We produce our shows in big black boxes – we’re isolated.”

When Paul Lieberstein and Greg Daniels were asked about THE OFFICE going into it’s 7th (!) season and if there was newfound enthusiasm or greater pressure, Lieberstein said, “I feel tremendous pressure. It’s horrible! No – it’s charged up the show in a way I didn’t expect. There’s a new energy. We’re excited to go to work.” When asked about Steve Carell’s departure at the end of the coming season, Lieberstein said, “We’re just gonna see what we can do in Steve’s last year and we hope people like it. There’s a plan in place. I know how the final episode goes and I’m still figuring out the way to get there.” Mike Schneider joked, “the last shot is Steve looks up, sees the plane as he dies” to which Lieberstein said, “it’s relatable if your boss is dead.”

CURB producer Jeff Schaffer commented on the fact that CURB is the longest running show on the panel: Every season, it’s the end. Larry couldn’t be here today, he regrets doing this in absentia. Larry calls and says, “I’m not doing another season” and we say “OK Larry.” Then he calls and says, “I don’t have any ideas. OK, I have ONE idea.” Then eight scripts get written and we ask him, “are you sure we shouldn’t call production?” So basically, we write seasons on spec.

When Wallem & Brixius were asked about NURSE JACKIE having two seasons worth of episodes eligible for this Emmy year, they both acknowledged how unusual it is and that since they don’t have the same production schedule, that won’t happen again. The new season starts shooting Sept. 20. Since they’re in NYC, they’re even more hidden from all this (the Emmy frenzy). Liz Brixius said she didn’t have the saturation of panels, the parties, she used a friend’s phrase, “My diamond shoes are too tight” – she has no complaints.

Steve Levitan was questioned (again) about his feelings about Hulu and the issue of monetizing programming and measuring viewers who watch shows online. He said: I have a number of concerns. I understand technology but we have to manage change. I don’t think the answer is to give it away because some people are pirates. We have to value our product – it can’t be “here – watch this on your cell phone or on your new shoes” – we have to keep it special. Companies like Hulu are being built off our content. We have to be sure the business models are profitable so the networks will take chances on big projects. If we don’t, it all becomes smaller, like YouTube clips. We’re judged by how many people watch our show – the nationals come in the next morning and that’s what we’re judged on. The online numbers should be thrown into the pot. It’s a conversation that needs to be had.

Dante DiLoreto added: I have friends who don’t have cable. They watch four or five episodes online. Now I hear Apple is announcing a new rental business. The thing I worry about is we’re calcified in old ways of distributing content and we need to recreate how shows are done.

Levitan: I don’t want to appear to be “You have to watch the show at this time” but measuring and monetizing has to change.

Cynthia Littleton commented, “this is one of the things that keeps Bob Iger and Les Mooves up at night” and Liz Brixius said, “Oh, Les sleeps ok.” Littleton said to Levitan, “I think you have your finger on the pulse of the issue and I think you’ll see changes this season.”

When CURB and NURSE JACKIE producers were asked if they feel hindered by their shows NOT being online, Jeff Schaffer said, “we have DVDs. Larry feels that if it’s not in the show, you don’t need to see it. He’s not concerned with the viewer experience. If he did home movies, they’d be done exactly the same way. Getting viewers at the start of a show is difficult.” Levitan interjected, “At the start of a show, fine. Then at a certain point, you need to change that plan.” Liz Brixius said, “we’re not ad revenue based since we’re on premium cable. Our audience is smart, older and will watch in non-traditional ways. People learn new ways to the well.” Linda Wallem added, “We’re a boutiquey situation – maybe i’m just peri-menopausal but I don’t give a s**t about this stuff. I don’t read blogs or reviews or anything online. It has no place when you’re making art and I do think that’s what we’re all doing. I’m so lucky to be doing this.”

Brad Falchuk was asked about the musical element of GLEE exploding into another business apart from the show which Fox clearly loves. Falchuk said, “it’s always been a part of it. It all comes down to the show. Who knew people wanted to hear a re-recording of “Don’t Rain on My Parade”? People want to relive the moment from the show of Rachel having her star turn – the drama has to come first. The shows that sell best are the ones where the drama built well.” Greg Daniels said, “The songs I tried to get my kids to listen to and they said “oh those are Dad’s stupid 80s songs” – they love them on GLEE.” Dante D said, “it’s shocking to realize how powerful TV is.”

When the other showrunners were asked if they’re doing any promotional items, etc. Levitan said, “We’re doing MODERN FAMILY potholders this year.”

Paul Lieberstein was asked about the webisodes that are produced outside THE OFFICE episodes: “We have such a big cast and some people get overlooked – the webisodes can spotlight them. They’re also a great training ground for directors who go on to direct episodes of the show.”
When asked if they received adequate compensation for the webisodes, Lieberstein said, “Probably not but we still like to do it.” Liz Brixius said, “When we started to do Dr. Cooper’s Twitter account, we realized it did do something to boost the show.”

When asked about the pressure to cut budgets and was that pressure easing up a little:
Levitan: When the studio smells blood, they’ll put more resources into a show because they think it’s money well spent. There’s general fear and everyone was worried about the economy in general so there was a general reset. If they can find the next SEINFELD, that’s why they’re in the business and they’ll spend it if they think there’ll be a giant payoff.
Lieberstein: It’s definitely easing up
Wallem: It forces you to be smart when you’re held accountable. It’s ok.
Schaffer: We’re thisclose to getting wireless in the CURB office.

More next week about the drama panel as I’m running long.

TODAY’S SURF WRITTEN WHILE LISTENING TO: Cage the Elephant – “In One Ear” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPgWNuUkuA8

Tonight – Friday 8/27/10
ABC: 8:00 p.m. Wife Swap (R) 9:00 p.m. Primetime: What Would You Do? 10:00 p.m. 20/20

CBS: 8:00 p.m. NFL Pre-Season Football: San Diego at New Orleans

NBC: 8:00 p.m. Who Do You Think You Are? 9:00 p.m. Dateline (2 hours)

FOX 8:00 p.m. Movie: Bruce Almighty (R)

THE CW: 8:00 p.m. Smallville (R) 9:00 p.m. Supernatural (R)

E! – 10pm: The Soup
Syfy: 9pm: Eureka, 10pm: Haven

Saturday 8/28
ABC: 8:00 p.m. Movie: Meet the Fockers (R) 10:00 p.m. Castle (R)

CBS: 8:00 p.m.NFL Pre-Season Football: Dallas at Houston

NBC: 8:00 p.m. Persons Unknown 9:00 p.m. Persons Unknown (series finale) 10:00 p.m. Law & Order: Criminal Intent (R)

FOX: 8:00 p.m. Cops (2 repeats) 9:00 p.m. America’s Most Wanted

Sunday 8/29 – EMMY NIGHT!
ABC: 8:00 p.m. America’s Funniest Home Videos (R) 8:00 p.m. Movie: Casino Royale

CBS: 8:00 p.m. 60 Minutes 8:00 p.m. Big Brother 9:00 p.m. Undercover Boss (R) 10:00 p.m. Cold Case (R)

NBC: IN LOS ANGELES, EMMY ARRIVALS AIR AT 4PM, EMMY SHOWTIME IS 5PM . The 62nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards Red Carpet Show 5:00 p.m. The 62nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards
Here’s a link to a printable Emmy ballot so you can follow along at home: http://www.emmys.com/sites/emmys.com/files/62ndEmmy_Ballot.pdf
Jimmy Fallon hosts the big show and he says he got a lot of help for the show open from a LOT of celebrities.

FOX: 7:00 p.m. American Dad (R) 7:30 p.m. The Simpsons (R) 8:00 p.m. NFL Pre-Season Football: Pittsburgh at Denver

AMC: 9pm: Rubicon, Mad Men – new episodes

HBO: 9pm: True Blood, Hung, Entourage – new episodes

Lifetime: Drop Dead Diva (2 hour season finale)

TBS: 10pm: My Boys

That’s a wrap for now.

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