Bochco Blues

Ygp682c If anyone needed proof that ageism rages in Hollywood, all you need to do is look at Steven Bochco.  According to a story in yesterday’s LA Times, he’s having a hard time getting shows on the air these days…or even getting his pilots shot.

By his own admission, he can be a difficult to work with…citing his clashes with ABC after they hired him to "save" COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF after creator/showrunner Rod Lurie was booted:

"Oh yeah, they wanted me out. They couldn’t stand me. It did a great deal of damage, probably, to my relationship with that network. It was not fun."

But there are lots of producers who are a pain-in-the-ass, clash with executives, and don’t have 1/10th of his talent or his accolades…and the networks still line up to business with them (we ALL know who they are).  The LA Times story suggests that its because Bochco has fallen out-of-step with what the networks are looking for these days:

Bochco is a reality-based drama producer in a business now crawling with "high-concept" fantasists who draw their inspiration from comic books. "You’re looking at 400-year-old cops and detectives who are vampires. . . . It’s fine. I don’t have any disdain for it. It’s just not what I do."

I don’t buy that. It’s not like his brand of story-telling has fallen out of favor. THE SHIELD, THE SOPRANOS, NIP/TUCK, THE WIRE and scores of other ‘gritty’ and ‘envellope-pushing’ shows owe an enormous debt to Bochco, who broke new ground with HILL STREET BLUES and NYPD BLUE (Bochco did try, disasterously, to jump on the high-concept bandwagon with BLIND JUSTICE, a show that started out as a joke in his novel DEATH BY HOLLYWOOD). I think the truth behind Bochco’s slump lies in this observation:

The network executives stay the same age and I keep getting older, and it creates a different kind of relationship. When I was doing my stuff at NBC with Brandon [Tartikoff] and ‘Hill Street,’ we were contemporaries. . . . When I sit down with [the current network bosses], they’re sitting in a room with someone who’s old enough to be their father. My kids are their age. That’s a different reality, and I’m not sure they want to sit in a room with their fathers."

I’ll have a chance to chat with Bochco about it. We’re both guests next month at the Cologne Conference.

(The photo above is from an MWA event…pictured are Bob Levinson, William Link, Bochco and yours truly)

1 thought on “Bochco Blues”

  1. Came across your column while looking for something else. Your commments, along with the quote from the LA Times hits the nail on the proverbial head. The 20/30 somethings running the networks have no earthly idea what an intelligent storyline or show is these days. Now, granted, I’m in the same endangered group as Bochco, however, I DO watch TV occassionally, tho I find myself watching more and more cable shows because they are more intelligent and have way more meat on the bones than the drek on networks these days.
    I am SO SICK AND TIRED of the reality show crap that’s being shoved down our throats. I want SUBSTANCE. I want characters I can get into, plots I can appreciate that don’t insult me or my intelligence. Ok, there’s that word again. Sorry, but I’m NOT dumb…I’ve got a fair amount of disposable income, and yet I’m one of the class of people (older, wiser, and NOT stupid) who are consistently ignored because we don’t fit the networks’ demographics.
    The shows you mentioned (Sopranos, The Wire, N/T, The Sheild) are all on cable. Duh! I wonder why! Could it be because the big network execs can’t handle SUBSTANCE?
    I know you have written for several shows – some I like, some I don’t. However, I would love to know why the main networks think that good scripts and writing have no place there anymore? They’re losing viewers to cable, is it any wonder WHY they are?


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