DreamWorks may be high-maintenance, but most in our little poll felt it was clear that the burden was on Paramount and Viacom to make what should have been a successful marriage work. That's why when Paramount studio chief Brad Grey says publicly that life will go on without Spielberg and Geffen, a competitor is left shaking his head. "Why not say, 'Thank God these guys are here'?" he asks. "It's an extraordinary thing. I'm amazed by the simplicity of what it should have been and how hard they all made it."
Which leads us at last to what comes next—and here's the answer: No one knows. The consensus is that only one thing could salvage the situation at Paramount. "If Sumner Redstone dies, that could change things," says a studio chief.
Meanwhile, Brad Grey—having failed to do anything much to brag about at Paramount other than buying DreamWorks—will probably get some time to collect himself. Next year's J.J. Abrams-directed Star Trek and (oh, the irony) Spielberg-directed Indiana Jones should buy him breathing room. After that, as one of our ex-studio chiefs puts it—he's "sitting there all naked."
Meanwhile, the DreamWorks team finds a new home. Most observers think Ron Meyer at Universal would love to have Spielberg back, which would be most convenient for Spielberg since he's never actually left the lot. But there are questions. GE wouldn't make the DreamWorks deal in the first place. Will that change now, when there is speculation that GE will try to sell NBC Universal after the Olympics next year?
Also, one has to wonder what Geffen will demand. The DreamWorks team would have no library, no projects to bring along. That might seem to simplify things. But that doesn't mean Geffen won't demand a huge pile of money for what is, in effect, a first-look deal with Spielberg. "What are you buying?" asks one in-the-loop source. "You're buying Steven and Stacey Snider—and you don't get a discount. I'm not sure what David brings you." (Other than a formidable adversary if you piss him off.)
No doubt the folks at GE and Universal would be happiest if Geffen and Spielberg tap a few bucks out of Wall Street before they come knocking. (Link)
Sept. 19, 2007
Game On: As the fall TV season kicks off, it looks like the big networks may have more problems than the NFL. They have issues with big-budget programs that seem to be slipping off the rails. The cost of these shows, says one top network executive, is "out of control. It is craziness."
It has been widely rumored that NBC is having fits with Bionic Woman, which is over its target cost with about five episodes shot. The industry is also waiting for CBS to fail with its expensive, quirky musical Viva Laughlin. Meanwhile, with the controversial reality show Kid Nation premiering tonight, CBS has locked its lips about which advertisers might dare to sell their wares in the first episode. Clearly some have backed off, which is the kiss of death unless the first airing draws a big audience, and advertisers, believing that the controversy will die down, return to the fold. (One would suppose that the first episode has been thoroughly vetted so that potentially distressing material is kept to a minimum, which makes one wonder whether it retains any entertainment value.)
ABC also has problems. We already reported that Warner Bros. bumped Barry Sonnenfeld off of directing further episodes of ABC's Pushing Daisies because he went so far over budget on the first (post-pilot) episode. Bear in mind that Warner foots a lot of the bill and gets murdered when/if a costly show fails. Now sources tell us that hot-tempered ABC programming chief Steve McPherson thinks Warner is hurting one of the network's best hopes for the season, and he's furious at steps that Warner has taken to cut costs. An ABC source confirms that, saying, "You can't develop Lost and say we want to shoot it for $2.5 million."