Stories that feature ‘Jack Sobol’

My brief TV career (4)

This story takes place in 1959. It was told on August 28th, 2012 by Frank.  Be the first to comment

The meeting with Leo Burnett: twelve guys in black suits. l’m not sure they always wore black suits, but I think when they wanted to bury a project they all dressed alike. I had the feeling that I was participating in my own funeral.
They showed the pilot, and when it was over one of them said almost as if it had been scripted, “Jesus, this is gonna play great down at Greenwich Village.”
A second guy said, “Couldn’t you get that black guy and that white girl a little more focused onscreen?”
And then a third one says, “When’s Pete Seeger coming on?”
They passed.
What Jack Sobol told us would happen had happened. The show was known to everybody as used goods. Greschler pulled out, and we got William Morris, which could do very little.
Here’s how Jim McGuinn remembered it when he talked to Ted a few years ago:

One of the worst meetings I can ever remember having was when i screened our pilot at Schlitz‘s new ad agency in Chicago. It was in a big conference room. They had about 12 people there, and they just started throwing darts at us: “Oh, well, I don’t know…”
One guy said, “Well, this music reminds me of the type of stuff we used to do when I was in college and we used to sit around in our bare feet and drink beer and sing songs like that, and I don’t think it belongs on television.“
I said, “Well sir, I think that’s the point of it. This is the type of music that people do drink beer to, and we‘re talking Schlitz here.”
“No, no, this isn’t right, we can get a much better deal on reruns of sitcoms,” Pete and Gladys or whatever the hell it was. So I knew we were dead.

My brief TV career (2)

This story takes place in 1959. It was told on July 24th, 2012 by Frank.  Be the first to comment

Jim McGuinn stayed up all night and edited the tape of our TV variety show pilot. The next morning he showed it to ABC and got a pretty fair response. Then that afternoon he showed it to CBS. Mike Dann, the programming chief, loved it. He said, “If you guys can come up with half the sponsor, I’Il put it on.”
Jack Sobol at Screen Gems gave us some sage advice, which we ignored. He said, “lt’s not selling season, and there isn’t any money left. This money only remembers what you did for me today. If you show this thing now and don’t get any sales, lt’s gonna be yesterday’s news next selling season.“ But we had been told by Mike Dann that we had a great show, and we were not about to wait around.
Sobol also told us we had to get an agent. Get an agent? We couldn’t get an agent to return our phone calls. Those who heard about it thought it was a big joke. Then I remembered that I knew Abner Greschler, the hotshot agent on the West Coast who had been the Gateway Singers’ first manager. When I took over the Gateway Singers I had paid him the money they allegedly owed him, so he would at least take my calls. I called Abner and started telling him the story.
Abby often talked on two phones. He always called you collect, unless you put a stop to it by refusing the call. He was a very smart, fast man, the prototype of a Hollywood agent. So he was listening to me and doing two or three other things, until I said, “and Mike Dann likes this.”
He interrupted me: “Did Mike Dann see it?” I told him what McGuinn had told me. Abner immediately called Dann, with me still on the phone. Suddenly a change came over him. He had confirmed that CBS was interested.
Abner thought he was going to sell this show as country-western. All he knew was that CBS was interested and that this could be a hot property. So he said, “Send me a telegram giving me 90 days on it.” Jim sent him the wire, because nobody else was talking to us, and we both went home to Chicago to wait for Abner to produce a miracle. I‘m not sure Abner ever saw the show.