In October 1980, I started my career at NBC in New York as a management associate. After one year rotating around the various parts of Research, I spent two years with the NBC-owned stations division before going back up to the Network Audience Research area. I progressed from “Smurfs” to soaps before becoming VP Audience Research.
During my time in Research, one of the senior execs, Al Ordover, was my nemesis. I could do no right by Al, and he never hesitated to let me know it. I spent countless hours in Al’s office being schooled about research. The two things I remember about the office was this gigantic painting of a charging rhinoceros behind his desk and the desk itself, which wasn’t a desk but a long oval table.
After years of being tortured by Al, he suddenly became my best friend. I guess he saw he couldn’t break me. I enjoyed his company and learned so much from him. When he retired I asked him if I could have his desk (no interest in the rhino). That desk, along with my hack license on my front door, stayed with me through the rest of my run at NBC, on both coasts. That desk played a significant role in one of the most important scheduling decisions of the Must-See TV era.
As I said in part 1, my initial efforts to put “Seinfeld” behind “Cheers” resulted in then-scheduling head Lee Currlin moving “Seinfeld” out of the Thursday 9:30 slot and putting “Wings” back into that time period. I had a feeling that something was up, and when I became head of scheduling I was determined to find out.
John Agoglia was our head of business affairs, and we hit it off. John liked me because I was a family man, and as he always told me, “I know where you are every night.” It was his way of saying he knew I wasn’t out drinking and revealing the family secrets. John knew where all the bodies were buried, i.e. what were the scheduling land mines (concessions) that he needed to make to get a deal done.
“Cheers” and “Wings” were both Paramount shows, and when we made our last deal for “Cheers,” we agreed to keep “Wings” behind it for the entire 1991-92 season and for the first 13 originals in the 1992-93 season. Now I understood why Lee kept “Wings” in that time period.
“Seinfeld” spent the 1991-92 season on Wednesday night paired with “Night Court.” It was clear that creatively, something was happening with that show, and its ratings were stable if not yet huge. When the 1992-93 season started, I knew that after 13 episodes of “Wings,” we were through with our commitment to keeping it behind “Cheers.” Here is where Al’s desk enters the story. Starting in September, every time an original episode of “Wings” aired, I took a knife and put a deep gash in the desk. By December there were 13 gashes, and it was time to make the move.
To be continued…
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