“Arrested Development” was given a reprieve and remained on the 2005-06 schedule. It was paired up with a promising comedy, “Kitchen Confidential,” and moved to the leadoff slot on our Monday schedule. Fortunately for us, “American Idol” had not peaked yet, so “Arrested” was a luxury we could afford, sort of the way I looked at “Homicide” on NBC during the Must-See TV era.
Back in 2005, we would trek to New York for the upfronts and return to finalize a budget, which we would present either in L.A. or back in NYC. In May 2005, we returned to New York to present the budget to the top News Corp. executives. Of course, Rupert Murdoch was there, and my responsibility was to walk him through the final schedule and try to keep him engaged long enough so that we could quickly run through the budget and get out of town. One problem: The first night I was going to discuss was Monday (in TV the week is Monday-Sunday), and the first show on that night was “Arrested Development.”
Rupert had gone along with a sales request to keep the show alive for another season. Knowing that I had argued pretty aggressively to cancel it, Mr. Murdoch decided to take a different position at the budget meeting and go after me about why the show was back for a third season.
Let me digress for a moment. There were two things said to me that guided my career as a scheduler. Early in my scheduling career at NBC, my boss, Warren Littlefield, after I was ranting about some scheduling issue, calmly looked at me and said, “You have the ultimate second-guess job.” That put my whole career in perspective.
The other mantra of my career was offered to me by Jack Welch, who ran NBC’s parent company GE while I was at the Peacock. After the upfront presentation one year, we were at a reception and Uncle Jack came over and asked me why some show was scheduled where it was. I did not agree with that move. I pointed at another executive and said, “Ask him.” Jack put his finger in my face and said, “You’re the scheduler, you’re responsible and I’m asking you.” I actually have a picture of that moment with David Nevins, who runs Showtime now, looking on incredulously. Bottom line: As the scheduler, people are going to question your every move, and you need to take responsibility for the schedule — all of it.
Back to the budget meeting. Rupert would not let up about “Arrested,” and I could feel the other FBC executives pulling away from the table, unwilling to back me up. I remembered the words of Warren and Uncle Jack and defended the show and the move in spite of my reservations. I don’t know if Rupert was testing me, but it went on for most of the meeting. After we were done, he followed me out and continued the conversation. I was not happy and pretty pissed at my fellow executives for throwing me under the bus.
Fast forward to the fall. “Arrested” performed quite poorly in its new timeslot, but what really bothered me was that we let a solid comedy in “Kitchen Confidential” suffer a quick demise as the “Arrested” lead-out.
A few weeks into the season Rupert called me. “I know that you didn’t want to bring ‘Arrested Development’ back this year,” he said.
I thanked him for remembering that and told him that once we had made the decision, it was my job to defend the schedule. I will always be grateful for the wise advice from Jack Welch and Warren Littlefield. I was also proud that we had given “Arrested” three seasons, even though there was no real place for it on the schedule, and I’m happy it found a second life on Netflix.