Turner Offers Comedy, Drama and Koonin
As upfront presentations go, Turner's 2011 version will be remembered as the one where, for all intents and purposes, the lights went out on Broadway (or just off it). But also, when Steve Koonin, the top executive who oversees TNT and TBS, cemented his comedy chops.
The snafu that spun the jokes and drama began about 15 minutes into the show when programming head Michael Wright did the standard introduction of a trailer for new comedy "The Wedding Band" and directed the audience to it.
Nothing played, the big screen remained blank.
And blank and blank.
One can only imagine the anguish of the executives back stage wondering what was going on and what the heck do we do? (It's unclear if any blamed competitor USA for sabotaging the circuit breaker.)
In the audience, the drama built. (Perhaps a slight exaggeration -- these days, interruptions may be welcomed as a chance to get lost in a BlackBerry and iPhone.)
If President Obama described the Osama raid as the longest 40 minutes of his life, at least at that moment, the likes of Koonin and Wright had to be thinking this is the longest eight minutes of theirs.
The snafu happened just after Conan O'Brien had finished a hilarious bit, so it was bit surprising someone didn't nudge Conan to go out and riff some more (if he was still there) as the stage remained unoccupied. Or, maybe call on George Lopez or Ray Romano, both of whom came on later, to fill the gap.
But, after the lengthy intermission, out came the unrehearsed Koonin. He's always funny, but outdid himself from the get-go.
There was the intro: "My name's Steve Koonin, formerly of Turner Broadcasting."
He reported there was some kind of power surge -- later confirmed by Turner -- but then went Borscht Belt: "I'm Jewish, so I have no clue what happened."
He tried to lead the audience in a rendition of "Row, Row, Row, Your Boat." (Some sang along.)
If at that point, he thought the AV guys had sleuthed out the problem, no luck. "Still working on it" appeared on the teleprompter before him.
So, he soldiered on: "Let me tell you about TBS and TNT," Koonin said. "I got nothing."
But ... to advertisers: "Our pricing is not changing because of this."
It was a long three minutes before he asked if New York law meant there was a defibrillator in the building and his stand-up was over.
Final evaluation: he didn't kill time, he killed.
Unfortunately - though maybe fortunately for him -- he wasn't needed a bit later when another imbroglio appeared to be coming. A clip for new TNT drama "Falling Skies" didn't start playing either. "Stand by" came over the loudspeaker. But, then the promo rolled.
Turner has had some technical problems lately. Last month, a West Coast feed of O'Brien's show began with 23 straight minutes of ads.
Where was Koonin then?