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Rose One-On-One with Moonves

Forgive my brief burst of euphoria when I recently received an announcement about the season opener at the Hollywood Radio & Television Society (though, honestly, no one has actually seen anyone remotely connected to radio for some time at one of its events).

A wave of happiness swept over me when I read that PBS’ Charlie Rose would conduct a one-on-one interview with CBS chieftain Les Moonves in September, rather than host a panel of network entertainment presidents like it usually does. Did the HRTS finally come to its senses?

It’s not that I’m dying to see Moonves speak again, even though I always find him forthright and funny. I’m just dreading the alternative. Last year, the group scared off the masses midway through their incredibly boring panel, putting a damper on the annual schmooze-fest. Many audience members scurried for the exits less than half way through the hour-plus ordeal, disappointed by the drone-like buzzwords and useless ratings statistics pouring out of the mouths of presumably highly creative and highly intelligent executives.

They had lapsed into faceless corporate bureaucrats, fearful about losing their jobs if they dared to depart from the boilerplate language of carefully crafted PR scripts. Inane questions from a bright and knowledgeable political TV commentator unfamiliar with the inner-workings of the business didn’t help much, either.

If nothing else, the presidential programming posse made many of those who had come to glad-hand and eat rubber chicken nostalgic for the unrestrained antics and heated exchanges between showmen like Moonves, when he ran CBS Entertainment, and his personal friend and professional foe, former NBC Entertainment topper Warren Littlefield. And especially yearn for the days of the late programming legend, Brandon Tartikoff, who set the public speaking bar extremely high during his lengthy tenure at NBC.

My bliss didn’t last long, though. I was quickly reminded that, occasionally, HRTS has the entertainment presidents appear in October, as will be the case this year. Moonves’ hectic schedule probably had to be accommodated. Apparently, last year’s entertainment presidents’ panel was also in October. I guess I had tried to put it out of my mind.

By Jim Benson