Greg Berlanti Saves the Drama for TV

Greg Berlanti shared his thoughts on the television business and his experience as writer, director and producer at the LATV Fest Industry Insight Lunch Wednesday, moderated by The Wrap’s Joe Adalian.

Berlanti, referred to by an attendee as “The King Of Late-Night Melodramas,” is the executive producer and writer for such shows as Brothers & Sister, Eli Stone, Dirty Sexy Money, and Everwood.

Highlights from the luncheon are below:

On the notion that network dramas at 10 p.m. are facing challenges

“Character-driven shows are more challenging in the age of cable. If what you are dramatizing is a character’s life, on cable you can just get more introspective. [There are] less commercial breaks, the scripted hours are longer and they have a wider berth on what they can play with.”

Berlanti said the first shows that are going to get  hit are 10 p.m. shows because people used to be able to look at 10 p.m. as the slightly adult program hour but can now find that on cable networks anytime.

On if networks need to be more like cable

“One thing they can do that cable can’t do is spend a lot of money. They can make it feel special, something that feels like a movie, compared to something as brilliant but smaller like Mad Men. Network [programming] is not about the subscriptions you get for quality of programming; it’s about viewers.”

On the high cost of network dramas

“They are getting more strategic about how and when spend their money…. More than half of the pilots this year are being shot digitally, which brings costs way down…. I think you’ll see networks getting more cable-like.”

On the WGA strike’s role in Dirty Sexy Money going off the air

“More things fail than don’t, so you get used to that pattern. When things work they are in the ether or catch fire or it comes together magically. When they don’t work, I don’t blame the audience or the network or myself. The thing you can control is quality. You can fight for something that is smarter, better and deeper.

I don’t blame the strike for Dirty not working out. [But the strike] didn’t make life any easier…. It was challenging.”

On the way working in television prepares one for working on films

“Especially now, you truly are making a film every week. It’s a great learning ground for actors, writers and directors. I do think TV inspires a certain work ethic because of the deadlines.”

On selling networks, like ABC, on scripted dramas

“I call ABC the grown up WB. It tends to be more female skewing. The shows don’t repeat well in the same way. When I was at The WB, it was: What is a 16-year-old girl gonna like about the story? Now it’s: What is the 36 year-old woman gonna like about the story? ABC does well with these character-driven shows, so I don’t think they will give them up.”

On the utilizing the Internet to find new voices

“I think people can shoot things now with their own HD cameras. There will be a show that crosses over to television from the Internet. It’s bound to happen. It’s just another example of a script. It all starts with a great story.”

On what shows inspired him creatively

“I watched half-hours, and in college I started watching more hours and early David E. Kelley shows. I loved Northern Exposure and Picket Fences and Normal Lear sitcoms and Family Ties. They weren’t afraid to talk about issues of the day.”