Josh Sapan was the man of the hour at the fancy Pierre Hotel in Manhattan today, toasted and roasted as he accepted the Center For Communication’s annual award. CFC board chairman David Barrett, better known as Hearst Television president and CEO, emceed the affair, and singled out the AMC Networks president/CEO for being “one of our industry’s most creative and innovative executives.”
The event, which toasted Jeff Zucker last year, certainly has a Friar’s Club feel to it, but Fred Armisen, SNL cast member and start of IFC series Portlandia, surprised many by playing it straight. Armisen raved about AMC shows, such as Breaking Bad and The Killing, calling it “the most exciting time for television ever.”
Armisen likened Sapan to Steve Jobs for knowing what consumers want, even before consumers know what they want. When Jobs died, Armisen thought, “Where is that guy that invents things before I want it?” Thanks to AMC’s high quality programming, Armisen said, Sapan is in that rareified category.
Joan Rivers, whose Joan & Melissa reality show airs on WE, brought a few more zingers, some that we can even share on these cyberpages. Rivers started things out by thanking the ultra sincere Armisen for being “a little too funny,” and for giving the overused word “genius” a much needed rest with his way offbeat Portlandia program.
Rivers moaned about taking the red eye in from the West Coast for the lunch. “I said, they should give you a dinner,” she said. “Then I remembered it’s cable.”
“That explains the cash bar,” added Rivers. (For the record, it was open bar for the cocktail hour, but no booze during lunch.)
Rivers saluted Sapan for Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Killing and The Walking Dead. “That’s four amazing hours,” she said. “You just have to figure out what to do with the other 164, and it’ll be an amazing station.”
For his part, Sapan saluted his corporate bigwigs, including the Dolans of Cablevision, for supporting him enough to create shows with main characters, whether they’re philandering ad men or meth-making school teachers, that take the anti-hero concept to new levels.
“Clearly we have their support,” he said. “Or their inattention.”
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