It’s hard to complain about work when your assignment is three days in beautiful Miami Beach, rubbing elbows with TV personalities and executives from around the world.
The National Association of Television Program Executives conference (NATPE for short) took place Monday through Wednesday at the beautiful Fountainebleau Hotel, and I immersed myself in it.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the star-struck type. I’ve never asked for an autograph in my life. But like many of you, I also found it impossible to look away.
Regis & Mary
On Wednesday I was less than 5 feet away from a man I had watched on TV since high school. I’d never met Regis Philbin, but it felt like I knew him. He’d been in my living room, after all.
The night before, the “Live” talk show host was honored with the Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Award ¬– ironic since Tartikoff cancelled a show Philbin and and fellow honoree Mary Hart co-hosted in the early ‘80s. Philbin’s other cohonorees were Dick Ebersol, head of NBC sports, and RTL Group CEO Gerhard Zeiler, who heads Europe’s leading entertainment network.
The 79-year-old TV legend may look his age, but he certainly doesn’t act it. At the top of the interview, it was Regis imitating Regis. By channeling the exaggerated version of himself (see, he does have a sense of humor), he instantly won the crowd over.
Philbin began the day’s discussion with a clarification: “I’m moving on, not retiring.”
But he also shared that Ebersol told him he should be the network’s sideline reporter on NBC coverage of Notre Dame football. “I’d love that!” added Philbin, an alumnus.
Hart leaves “Entertainment Tonight” on May 25.
“Regis doesn’t want to use the ‘R’ word – retirement – and neither do I,” said Hart after the dinner, her famous legs crossed (they were once insured by Lloyd’s of London). “I want to do something different. It may not be on television.”
The cancellation of her NBC talk show with Philbin was actually fortuitous.
After said axing, an emerging entertainment show, “Entertainment Tonight,” called Hart's agent and asked if they could interview her.
“Oh, that’s nice,” Hart recalled her reply, tongue firmly planted in cheek. But she agreed to the interview. The next day, the show called and asked if she wanted to audition for a job. Hart said yes, and the rest is history. Thirty years of it.
"I kept thinking that after 10, 15, 20 years, it would be time to try something else," Hart said.
“Then all of a sudden, 30 years pass by. Even though at first every television critic in the country said this would not work, that there was not enough entertainment news to fill five nights a week.”
Hart said one final event that she's looking forward to covering is the royal wedding Prince William and Kate Middleton in April.
"It's such happy news. It's an event that everyone is looking forward to and will have a smile on their face about."
So what’s the one interview that got away? Hart says she always wished she’d interviewed Katherine Hepburn.
Still on her wish list before May 25: Madonna and Britney Spears.
Reinventing Daryl Hall
Daryl Hall, the blond half of Hall & Oates, responsible for such hits as "She's Gone" and "Rich Girl" is blazing a new path on the Internet. His Web show is one of the many that are getting the attention of TV execs.
Hall, who at 64, is sporting a much better look than he did in the '80s, made an appearance during a Tuesday panel discussion. Yes, his face is weathered, but he's sporting a cool goatee and a serious rocker's haircut. Not unlike Jimmy Carter, he's been able to reshape his image somewhat: Less pop rocker and well-respected musician. He patiently waited after a Tuesday panel talk as a gaggle of journalists threw questions his direction.
Hall had voiced some disdain for today’s pop icons (sorry, Justin Bieber). So being a TV guy, and a bit of an antagonist, I asked: So what would you think of “Glee” doing a Hall & Oates episode?
We all could actually see the color drain from his face. While expressing no particular interest in the idea, his manager gently grabbed his arm, and Hall immediately said, “I’d never say never to anything.”
So why Hall at a TV is executives’ conference? He has started a small web show called "Live From Daryl's House." The concept is simple and cuts a wide swath through age demographics.
Hall invites musicians -- from legends like Smokey Robinson and Todd Rundgren to hot young whippersnappers like Rob Thomas and Neon Trees – to a barn/recording studio in upstate New York. He asks that they dress in their normal clothes; act as they would when they're just hanging out. They talk and they jam and the cameras roll.
Tribune gave the show a trial run on New Year's Eve, airing a special on the company-owned WGN in Chicago. and was impressed with the numbers for the broadcast. So it may be getting more publicity and more venues.
Hall told me during our interview that by mingling with the younger artists, his concerts with Oates have started to attract a broader spectrum of attendees.
“Without a doubt, I see it in my audience,” says Hall. “On any given night, up to 50 percent of my audience will be college kids.”
In closing …
NATPE was a lot of fun. I touched an Emmy. I met José Feliciano waiting for lunch outside Fountainebleau eatery Vida. I rubbed elbows with execs from NBC, CBS, Warner Bros., and the like. I spoke with my comrades who cover the industry. All in all, it was a dream come true.
Special note to readers
Thank you for all your questions and comments. There wasn’t room to answer any questions in this column, but I promise to get to them beginning next week.
In upcoming columns, we’ll also preview what local programmers have in store for the new fall season; some emerging trends in TV from around the world; plus how to make your big break in the business (Hint: It’s even more difficult than you might imagine).
Until next time, stay tuned.
Bill Green is a Naples Daily News/naplesnews.com journalist with a secret life as a couch potato. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.