Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
On a lively and colorful afternoon TCA panel promoting the fall PBS four-hour series America in Primetime, Everybody Loves Raymond creator Phil Rosenthal blasted TNT for its recent decision to cancel Raymond star Ray Romano’s latest series, dramedy Men of a Certain Age. “Those idiots put six episodes on in November and then waited until July to schedule the next six as if they were trying to make sure the audience didn’t connect to it,” Rosenthal said. “Then they cancel it because the audience doesn’t connect to it. That’s why I say the only thing I hate about this business is the business part.”
Rosenthal’s zingers often punctuated the discussion, in which he, Nurse Jackie co-creators Liz Brixius and Linda Wallem, Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman and America in Primetime exec producer Tom Yellin delved into what makes primetime tick. The idea behind the PBS series is to promote the idea that all primetime scripted entertainment is built on the foundation of all shows that have come before it. In the series, Yellin notes that Murphy Brown creator Diane English originally received a note from CBS that the title character shouldn’t be a recovering alcoholic in her 40s but a 30-year-old woman coming out of a spa. “I got the same note on Raymond,” Rosenthal quipped, “that he be a 30-year-old woman coming out of a spa.”
More seriously, Wallem made the point that “the trick of selling a show these days is not just selling an idea; you are talking to a roomful of fear. And they bring issues about family, women, men, substances, everything. You’re always having to deal with that fear.” She later added, “What’s exciting now is seeing someone like Bob Greenblatt (who bought dark comedy Nurse Jackie at Showtime) getting hired to head NBC to shake things up a bit. I’m excited to see him bring that dangerous, fearless vibe of what he did at Showtime to a broadcast network.”
Asked about the glut of reality shows in primetime, Rosenthal replied, “It could signal something larger than just a trend, and that is the end of civilization.”