Saturday, April 6, 2013

Update on Our TV Pilot

What a journey!  Emotionally, physically and spiritually.  As some of you know, I hit a bit of a wall back in 2008.  I was a regular on the syndicated morning radio show hosted by Whoopi Goldberg.  I was on every week reviewing new films, suggesting classic ones and -- I hope -- adding some laughs to  her show.  Also at that time, the  Food Network show I hosted was in repeats and airing Monday through Friday mornings.  So, I was on national radio and national TV.  And still could not hook a broadcast agent.  Three agents and one CNN producer of a show biz news program asked me if I had on-camera experience.  Bless their hearts.  I guess they just didn't have time to view my 3-minute demo reel.  Or to look at the resumé attached to my headshot.  One agent booked me for a meeting.  His receptionist loved my Food Network show and had seen me do comic acting for The Onion because some of my satirical news pieces aired on MSNBC.  The agent, however, thought I was still on the local morning news show that I'd quit in 1999.  And he would not look at my current demo reel.  This made me wonder if I should've learned how to operate a forklift instead of focusing on a TV career because, obviously, I'd not made an impact on the New York entertainment industry.

Whoopi's radio show got cancelled.  Work for me started to dry up, as it did for millions of others when the Recession began to rear its ugly head in 2009/2010.  I wound up here on the West Coast, determined to start over.  What did I learn?  You've got to persevere and have faith.  As Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers sang in Swing Time, you've got to "pick yourself up, dust yourself, start all over again."  Plus be grateful for good friends, loving family and lessons learned.  Last year, definite signs of new hope appeared.  Just like in Greek mythology....or Sullivan's Travels by Preston Sturges...I got a few days on-camera TV work and I co-hosted a TV pilot.  And both sweet opportunities took me right back to where I started. New York City.

The producers who booked me to be half of the 2-man host team in the pilot knew more about my career than those agents did.  I loved this pilot experience and the whole crew.

Granted the idea of a film review/interview show is not a new one.  However, this was new and groundbreaking in that the pilot presents two African-American talents reviewing the new movies and discussing classic films that folks should watch.

There's an agency in New York called The Supporting Cast that had a great reputation for hooking show biz folks up with temp gigs in between performing assignments.  In between VH1 and a syndicated game show I hosted, The Supporting Cast got me a temp clerical gig at an office near Macy's.  I worked with two cool young women -- one black, one Puerto Rican -- who both wore what John Leguizamo would call "14th Street Door Knocker Earrings."  Their earrings looked like Aztec dinner plates.  One afternoon, one said to the other, " was not as good as Paths of Glory...but it!"  My heart had wings.  They were talking about Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket.

That's why this pilot project was very important to us.  It would change racial images about who embraces and follows the cinema arts.  It would add diversity to a field in which it's sorely needed.  It could inspire minority youth to appreciate classic films.  That appreciation could inspire youth to check out specific literature in a library and to experience live theatre.  That's how it happened with me with I was a kid in South Central L.A.  Diversity was low on network TV just minutes after the Oscar nominations were announced this year.  I switched from ABC to NBC to CBS to see what guest entertainment journalists and film critics were in place to discuss the Oscar nominations.  Not one black person.  Not even in the panel on The Charlie Rose Show.  And one of the top films being discussed was Quentin Tarantino's controversial Django Unchained.

Unfortunately, we got word that PBS will not pick up our show for production this year.  We shot the pilot with initial PBS interest.  That's how it goes with TV.  I still believe that an entertaining show about film entertainment that's hosted by minorities could have a mainstream appeal. Also, our show could provide food for Hollywood thought about social images in its product.  For instance:  Why is it that, if you're a white girl who's 16 and pregnant, you have a nice suburban home, supportive parents, you go to a good school, you have access to a car, you've got a quirky personality and you're called Juno.
But, if you're a black girl who's 16 and pregnant, you live in the projects with a physically abusive single mother, you struggle in school, you've got no friends, you steal a bucket of fried chicken, you have to take mass transit and you're called Precious.

Did you see Chicago?  Those two were like the Roxie and Velma of unwed teen mothers.

I love talking about films and interviewing filmmakers.  And I love doing TV.  As proof, here's a segment I did when I worked for ABC News on its live weekday magazine show that aired on Lifetime TV.  I loved that gig.  Antonio Mora and I discussed new releases for one of my weekly movie segments on Lifetime Live in 2000.

In the late 1990s, I had a nighttime cable show on New York's Metro Channel.  I was able to have a diverse panel on for some lively film discussion.  Here's a short clip.

Here's what both clips have: Male, Female, Jewish, Gentile, Gay, Straight, Black, White, Latino...all talking about films.  It's my opinion that, in the arts and in discussion about the arts, diversity is essential.  That's my message to networks -- other races must feel that they are part of the discussion.  Maybe some other company will dig our pilot.

On to the next project.  I've got a good new agent and lots of faith.  Wish me luck!


  1. Daaaaaaaammmmn, if any producers with a pulse check this out SOMETHING'S gotta give.Gotta give. Gotta.

  2. Wishing you every good bit of luck that you deserve, because you already have the talent and enthusiasm! xoxoxo


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