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The Men Behind the Screens

These TV Executives Show that Not All Cigar-Smoking media Moguls Are in Film
Susan Karlin
From the Print Edition:
Chuck Norris, Jul/Aug 98

(continued from page 7)

Nowadays, production studios lose money on shows until they are sold into syndication. "It used to be that if we sold a show, we made money up front, and if it was really successful, we enjoyed the syndication rewards. We're now in a business where the question we ask every time we endeavor to make a new TV series is, 'How much are we willing to lose on each episode, be it half-hour comedy or hour drama, until we hit the fourth or fifth season?' Those deficits are tremendous and add up to tens of millions of dollars--and that's with a successful show!"

Happily, money's no object when it comes to cigars.

"I like Romeo y Julieta No. 2s, which you can smoke anytime," he says. "But at the end of the day, it gives opportunity to pause and reflect and truly relax. When I get home or after a business dinner, it's a lot of fun to sit outside, in the quiet of the evening, and smoke a cigar. My wife, Lissa, often comes out and joins me in a smoke. Or when we go out with our friends. There's nothing sexier than a woman with a cigar."

And there's nothing quite as decadent as a lost weekend with your buddies in Havana to sample the cigars there. A couple of years ago, Solomon did just that with a group that included John Langley and Malcomb Barbour, creators of Fox's "Cops," and Greg Meidel, then the chairman of Twentieth Television and now the chairman and chief executive officer of Studios, USA Television.

"We stayed at the Hotel Nacional and literally smoked cigars with our eggs at breakfast right through our post-dinner," recalls Solomon. "We didn't sleep too much. The place is alive 24 hours a day. We went to Hemingway's favorite haunts, La Flora Dita and La Bogadita del Medio, and most of the cigar factories, including the Partagas factory where we watched them hand-rolling cigars. They say there's nothing like smoking a Cuban cigar in Havana and they're right."

Crime Does Pay
Say you've just broken the law. Now, suppose there's a camera crew recording your arrest. Then, a producer comes up to you with a release form asking your permission to broadcast all that on a national program.

And you sign it.

"I think it's the Warhol Syndrome--everyone wants his moment of fame," shrugs producer John Langley. "But it's the media age; it's not that big a deal anymore."

Luckily for the Santa Monica, California-based Langley, most people disagree, keeping "Cops"--the Fox show he created and produces--on the air for a decade. The unscripted, documentary-style program featuring footage of real cops on the job helped pioneer cinema verité on television and led to the explosion of reality shows in the early 1990s.

"We're like the Energizer Bunny--we don't make a lot of noise and we keep on going," says Langley, whose show has garnered four Emmy nominations. "Although, we've been ripped off so many times, I feel like Velcro. But that's the nature of the beast. You cannot copyright reality." But if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, such praise he can do without.

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