Toughing Out Those Dry Spells

Woke up this morning feeling great.  I’ve got a game show in play and some EP possibilities on the horizon after a pretty tough stretch, which inspired me to write the following post to Facebook this morning.

Remember, the entertainment business is no cake walk.

The older I get, the more I realize that everything’s transitional. Wild periods of success and struggle come and go no matter what you do or how you plan for them.

Here’s my story — and there’s a moral to it and loads of good stuff and gratitude on the other side, so don’t get bogged down with the little bit of bum-outage in the middle part of this thing.

Two years ago, I was three years and five seasons into a hit show as its Co-EP when an executive shuffle at network led to a discussion of “refreshing” the series, which ultimately resulted in me getting the axe. Every major exec (SVP and above) at the production company I worked for had moved to other opportunities elsewhere over the three years I’d been there, so it wasn’t a huge surprise when the new topper didn’t go to bat for me over the network’s ask — we’d barely had the chance to work together. She replaced me and while I really stewed about what had happened for a long time, I tried hard to just take it on the chin and move forward.

As I’d been counting on returning to the show and hadn’t made much effort to network elsewhere for three years, Spring and Summer of 2013 were lean. I managed to get by with a series of smaller jobs including the first season of Hollywood Game Night (a wonderful experience), finally landing another Co-EP seat when an old friend called and asked me to come work for him on a new docu-series. As sometimes happens with bold, unusual concepts, the show struggled to find a tone acceptable to the network and the friend that had brought me on began to plan his exit from the company for another opportunity.

Christmas came, and I went home for our extended two-week unpaid holiday break. Just before our return, I was asked if I could wait another week to come back as the company considered its course of action with the troubled project. That extra week became another, then another, and I was finally let go more than a month after I’d last set foot in the office while someone else was brought in to replace me and given the latitude to execute the position effectively.

I was crushed. Twice in under one year, I’d been let go from a show. Prior to that, I’d never been fired in the 27 years since I’d first taken a job making pizzas at 16.

For whatever reason, I didn’t land anywhere for the entire first half of the year…. another first, as I usually roll from one job right into the next. I went six months without a paycheck (having declined January offers in the period while I waited for the series to tell me what my return date that never came would be), and finally wound up going to work for someone who once worked for me when he got a well-earned break on a new series. I had a great time with him and his post team, comprised of many of the people who had been with me on the hit show that cut me loose in 2013. The end result was terrific, even if I had fallen down the ladder a bit.

From there, I rejoined Dancing With the Stars, which just ended its 19th season around Thanksgiving. I hadn’t been there since season 3, so the whole experience felt like a high school reunion. Once again, my direct supervisor was someone who had once been on one of my story teams, and I had wonderful time.

As 2014 draws to a close, I still struggle with the financial and emotional ramifications of the six-figure and sometimes humiliating torpedoing I took in 2013/14, but I do think it’s made me more appreciative of the alignment of circumstances that led me to the successes I had enjoyed up until then and those I’ll enjoy in the future. My work ethic remains solid, and I know who I am and what I can do.

The lectures (most recently London, LA, Tel Aviv) and consults continue, and one of the main points of every one-on-one discussion I have with clients and students is that it’s important to understand what a crapshoot this business is. The important things are to work hard, be likable, and to develop a thick skin, like the one these past two years have granted me.

I am encouraged, and I feel stronger moving forward. The period where I felt as if a career has to progress logically and on some sort of fixed upswing is gone. The period where I expected loyalty has passed without me feeling as if I should give up my loyalties to others. I am absolutely beat to hell, but I’m still here and God save me, I still like what I do.

Adversity passes. Your responsibilities in life are to stay alive, to learn, and to be accountable to yourself.

Here’s to all of us in 2015.

By realitytvtroy

Coming Attractions: Live vs Live-to-Tape

You’ve heard me say that no reality show airs in real time the way something falls through a lens, but live shows… live shows are a whole different ball of wax.  DANCING WITH THE STARS, save for its produced packages, is as live as they come.  Ditto most live reality competition shows, like our competitor, THE VOICE and shows like AMERICAN IDOL and SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE.

Reunion specials are usually done live-to-tape, which means they’ll shoot for several hours and then whittle it down in post.

Live shows are produced from timed rundowns, meaning that we all know how long an act should be, how long a song runs, how long a super-awesome package about how Joe Blow designed his own guitar for his performance runs, and how much host chatter can be crammed into each act.  When something goes long, something else in the show has to get shorter.  Let’s say that Complainy Complainerton decides to explain how her  microphone crapped out during the big sing-off, and suddenly the show is running a minute over.  No worries, we’ll just air two of the alternate packages that were cut down from 1:45 to 1:15 and bingo, we’re on track again.

With live-to-tape, you often have the luxury of cutting as much as 4 or 5 hours of material down to make a jam-packed hour.  Packages that rehash old storylines are produced ahead of time, so if you want to show five minutes of material in a live-show taping, you can always do it and trim the package down later based on the conversation it starts on the reunion stage.

I’ll discuss producing for both types of “live” shows in depth later this week.  Cheers!

By realitytvtroy

December LA Event TBA; Consulting Packages

I’m proud to share that a December reality seminar/workshop will soon be announced by the same genius promoter who’s handled me with the TV Writers Summit events these past few years.

While Ellen Sandler, Jen Grisanti and Chad Gervich — see — take the NYC by storm December 6-7, I’ll be spending the holidays in Merry Olde LA tying up loose ends and decompressing from a wonderful (and crazy busy) season of DANCING WITH THE STARS while I share this newly structured course perfect for beginners, mid-career pros and execs interested in learning more about crafting great story and making irresistible television.

I’ll also be offering some special consulting packages either for yourself or someone you know who’s interested in developing their reality concepts into viable treatments.  For the month of December only, packages range from $500 for three consult calls up to one hour (usually $200/hr) to $850 for a one hour consult and two revisions of your subsequent treatment draft.  Email me at realitytvtroy[at] for more details, and yes, gift certificates are available if you’re playing Santa.

After January 1, consults will return to the regular $200/hr fee and, if this year is like most others, I’ll be heading back to a new show… so jump on it!  There’s no time like the present to get yourself ready for the new year.

By realitytvtroy

I Think (Not)

Working on Dancing With the Stars again has been a real treat, thought it’s certainly keeping me away from the blog.

Just wanted to pop by today and share a neat little thought on interviews courtesy of my pal Dan, another producer on the show.

We were having a conversation about good interview technique this week, and he offered up a great bit of advice that hadn’t occurred to me after a decade and a half of working on interview questions and conducting more than my share of “look at me, not at the camera” sit-downs.

“You know, I really don’t like it when people start a response with I think,” said Dan. He explained that he felt it diluted the certainty and oomph of the statement that followed.

The more I thought about it, the more I agreed.

Look at these two responses:

“I think Carol was at least twenty minutes late.”

“Carol was at least twenty minutes late.”

The second one’s undoubtedly more impactful, because it sounds so darn certain.  The wishy-washy first statement sounds a little unsure, as if it was maybe fifteen or twenty-five minutes.

The only time that “I think” could be useful is if you had some legally hairy content and your subject said something controversial, stating their opinion.  Then “I think” clarifies that it’s their position and not a statement of absolute fact. I’m no attorney, but I imagine that it could help get your powerful personal statement through legal/S&P.

Thanks, Dan!

By realitytvtroy

Podcast Relaunch Date TBA

If you enjoyed the first five Remember, We’re Not Here podcasts, more are in the works, though the series in unlikely to relaunch until some point after Thanksgiving so I can stockpile ‘em and get a new one out every week as I’d originally hoped to.

Thanks to guests Joey Ortega, Andrew Hoagland, Shelly Goldstein, Jon Collins and Carl Hansen for their installments posted so far. The new season kicks off with a joint interview with Eddie Pepitone (comic, actor and participant in Last Comic Standing) and Karen Simmons, story assistant for Basketball Wives and Basketball Wives LA.

Meanwhile, the old shows are still available HERE.

By realitytvtroy

Hollywood Divas, October 8 10/9c on TV One

Along with my return to Dancing With the Stars, I’m pleased to share that my last show, Hollywood Divas, is set to premiere on TV One on October 8 at 10/9c.

Not only did it provide me with the opportunity to work with Basketball Wives alum Andrew Hoagland one more time, it also gave me a chance to work for Carlos King and Todd Tucker, two guys you’ll be hearing a lot from in the future.

By realitytvtroy

Where Have I Been? / On Consulting

Swiping the title of Sid Caesar’s autobiography for a quick second as it seems like forever since I’ve updated the ol’ blogaroo, here.

I’m having a wonderful time finishing up HOLLYWOOD DIVAS, which opens on TV ONE in the fall, and am in talks to head back to a show I haven’t been on for nearly ten years, a surprise I’ll announce later when the ink dries. Meanwhile, though, I’ve been readying a new online webinar for the Writers Store folks on August 11 and revamping my presentations for StoryExpo in September.

The podcast is churning along, too, though taking a brief hiatus as I edit a few shows down so that I can relaunch on track every Sunday as originally intended. Having loads of fun, especially with another informal living room visit with Karen Simmons (Basketball Wives) and Eddie Pepitone (a past participant on Last Comic Standing). This husband/wife team are some of my dearest friends and a real hoot in our hour together.

Thanks for being patient. I’ll be back soon!

On the consulting front, I’ve continued my Saturday morning schedule of consults and have to say that I’ve had a lucky streak of dealing with some very sharp folks lately.

Owing to my longtime disdain for the kind of consultants and coaches who’ll take on anyone with a checkbook, I can be brutally frank and often tell people that there’s nothing I can do for them if their only questions are about access, money, and how to keep networks and production companies from “ruining” their ideas (translation: having any input whatsoever).

And then there’s the email I got this week from somebody who managed to insult me, my work, my style (“silly” suits) and my shows, while imploring me to do something positive for a change and sell his show. That is, if I didn’t just delete the email first “because of [my] huge ego.”


To be clear: I don’t sell shows for my consulting clients. I help you refine what you’ve got and leave it to you to get those meetings and pitch like a pro. Once in a VERY blue moon, if I think there’s a love connection, I’ll quietly pass an idea along to an exec pal or two who might like it, but that’s not a service I render, and if you’re not ready for prime time, no amount of money is going to get me to squander my goodwill capital.

The good ones make it worth doing. I’ll always see myself as a working producer first and a consultant second. It’s the only reason I ever consented to being part of the TV Writers Summit events — EVERYONE on that team has spent time actually doing what they’re showing people how to do.

To close in the proper upbeat tone I was after when I started — thanks to the great consulting clients old and new who make it worth spending my Saturday mornings on the phone.

By realitytvtroy


Just posted my interview with fellow reality producer Jon Collins today and wanted to make special mention of the podcast in that it deals with a situation Jon and I have found to be a sticky one over the years: the nagging presumption that reality television viewers are somehow dumber than people who watch regular scripted programming.

You’re constantly being reminded of things through flashback and repetition that you don’t normally encounter when watching procedurals and other scripted drama, and neither one of us can quite figure out why some people don’t trust the audience to remember things.  Sure, you might get up and go stir the chili at some point, but in the age of the DVR, you can just press “pause.”  Ever stood up in a movie and yelled, “I can’t be expected to remember what happened eleven minutes ago” to anyone?  No?  Shouldn’t happen with TV, either.

Anyway, check it out.  Jon was a great guest.  You can go to the archives and hear the past interviews with Shelly Goldstein (Biography, Behind the Music), Carl Hansen (Shark Tank), Andrew Hoagland (Basketball Wives and the upcoming Hollywood Divas) or Joey Ortega (of Howie Mandel’s Alevy Productions), too.

CLICK HERE for the podcast archives!