S2E25: “TV Or Not TV”

TV Or Not TV

Sam Egan’s been writing TV shows (and the occasional feature film) for fifty plus years. His first big break was writing and producing the show “Quincy ME” with Jack Klugman. TV was very different back then. How we watched it was different. Strange but true: there used to be only three broadcast networks putting out TV shows that everyone watched. How writers and producers came up with those shows – that was different, too. Over the course of his “TV life”, Sam Eagan has watched the world change – and profoundly.

I worked with Sam for two seasons on Showtime’s version of “The Outer Limits”. Sam was the showrunner and I was one of the writing producers on staff. It was a wonderful two years. Sam, as you’ll experience, is very Zen in his approach to the problem-solving processes required to make a TV show.

Sam’s history is fascinating. His father survived the Holocaust; he was a prisoner at Auschwitz. He was the only survivor among his family. Sam was the product of his second marriage – the post Auschwitz one. Eventually Sam’s family arrived in America. Sam eventually arrived in Los Angeles.

Along the way, he did some writing for Rolling Stone (he was at Altamont!) and wrote and produced “Imagine” the documentary about John Lennon.

In the end, Sam found his way to TV – and he never stopped working thereafter (that is until he’d had enough and wanted to get off the show biz merry-go-round-from-hell). Sam spent time on shows like Snoops (with Tim and Daphne Reid), Northern Exposure, Jeremiah, V, Masters of Science Fiction, Continuum and The Listener. And, of course The Outer Limits.

We’ll also touch on the development process – then and now. Before streaming changed the TV business model, TV was all about syndication – the secondary market for TV shows where they live in perpetual reruns. Syndicated shows mostly ran five days a week (Monday through Friday) in a particular time slot. Ad cycles in TV run for thirteen weeks. So, the math’s simple: Thirteen weeks time five episodes a week equals sixty five. For a show to reach syndication, it had to produce sixty-five episodes.

Trust us – that’s harder than it looks.

Gil and I have also had TV lives. We’ll get to compare and contrast with Sam. It’s a glorious life, a TV Life. It’s not for everyone. But if you’ve got the chops or the utter foolishness to try?

It beats working.

Photo 97744853 / Old Tv © Dmitry Sosenushkin | Dreamstime.com

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