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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 8)

"I'm proud today that I directly turned down invitations to do 'Cops' in another form," he says. "Why would I want to copy myself? TV, in general, is always marching to the same drummer and it's always a funeral march. There are always shows that will stand apart--like 'ER' and 'NYPD Blue'--but, for the most part, TV fails to learn the same lesson over and over again. It copies itself endlessly to the point of stupidity. 'The X-Files' succeeds, so unfortunately, now there will be 50 'X-Files' imitations."

Although cable is now the breeding ground for innovative television, Langley expects the Internet to eventually assume that mantle. "The Internet is the next form of television," he says. "At this point, it's a research and e-mail tool, but its real impact will be interactivity as television. It will offer thousands of channels and phenomenal programming specificity."

A self-proclaimed outsider, Langley has also flirted with maverick ideas. The former literature instructor got into television in the early 1980s with a documentary called "Cocaine Blues," about the cocaine phenomenon in America, and similarly themed prime-time specials hosted by Geraldo Rivera. It was the pioneering days of reality TV and was considered breakthrough television at the time. Networks loved it, because it was cheap; Langley loved it, because it kept him employed.

"Hiring myself was the only way I could get a job," he says with a laugh. "I could never be corporate. Better to be the trailblazer than a trail follower."

But sometimes, it's not so bad to jump on a bandwagon--especially when it comes to a good smoke. "I blame [USA Television's] Greg Meidel for getting me into cigars," says Langley. He knowns Meidel from his days at Twentieth Television, which syndicates "Cops."

"We were at a restaurant in L.A. called Eclipse and had a cigar afterward with Cognac," recalls Langley. "It was an Avo. It was a really enjoyable experience and I've been hooked ever since. Now, I smoke them after every lunch and dinner. It's relaxing. It's like sex; it takes away that nervous edge." A fact not lost on Langley's wife, who he says encourages his hobby for its pacifying effects.

"After lunch, I prefer a Montecristo No. 1 or 3; after dinner, it's Romeo y Julieta Churchills," he says. "They're Cubans and totally illegal. But fuck 'em--let 'em arrest me. I'll have a crew there filming."

Los Angeles-based Susan Karlin is an award-winning journalist who has written for the London, Los Angeles and New York Times, Playboy, Newsweek, TV Guide and Entertainment Weekly.

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