Pity program buyers for whom split personalities are a job requirement. Fortunately, this critic doesn’t have to deal with audience tastes, but can just appreciate the production value of shows. It wasn’t an easy task at first, but time served as a teacher.


It is known that program buyers have split personalities, which is a great quality for that line of work. They are able to separate what they personally like from what their audiences want.

This is no easy task. For years, I was totally appalled by some of the new series shown during the Los Angeles Screenings. I could not imagine how audiences could be watching such trash and liking it!

I even felt sorry for those poor (just kidding) salespeople who had to screen some of those — in my assessment — terrible series. There was even an expression in Hollywood that seemed to validate my view: “If they want me to watch those shows, they have to pay me extra.”

Routinely, however, most of the new shows I liked bombed after a few broadcasts, while those I disliked succeeded. This proved, first, that I could never be a program buyer and, second, that I really didn’t understand anything about production values. But I took solace from film and TV critics who often trashed shows that became popular and even from Academy members who did not nominate or give Oscars to films that became classics. Strangely, though, critics are people who actually love films and TV programs.

Little by little, first talking with buyers after a screening and, later by watching the pilots over large, cinemascope-size screens, I started to appreciate the workmanship, the talent and efforts behind every show that I didn’t like at first.

I must admit, it wasn’t simple. It took a lot of discipline not to be sidetracked by my discriminating tastes and concentrate instead on the production value: the camerawork, the craftsmanship, the acting, the soundtracks, the editing, the set, the colors, the image sharpness, the technologic marvels — and not to mention the huge financial investment — that one single pilot required.

If we all could see firsthand the work that goes into a single TV episode, we’d be amazed at the professionalism of the people and companies involved.

Recently, VideoAge’s New York City offices were used as location to film a segment of a U.S. network series. It took a week of preparation, a full day of shooting and a crew of 100 people for five air-minutes. The preparations are so exhausting that each episode is directed by a different director (full report on page 4).

The more unrealistic the plot, the more professional the actors must be in order to render the scene plausible.

These are all elements that, perhaps, could not be appreciated watching the pilots on a small TV set, but can emerge in all their splendor on the large screens now used by all the studios during screenings.

I remember that years ago buyers wanted to view the new TV series on a small screen in order “to experience how the home viewers would be watching.” But no more. Nowadays the studios want to parade their multi-million dollar productions in all their finery on a big screen.

The buyers’ split personalities have to be reflected by trade promotion as well. Because buyers look at a TV shows with an eye toward their audience, the trade ads have to appeal to the consumer side of buyers and not to their “personal” side.

Dom Serafini

Audio Version (a DV Works service)

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