Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Decade at Variety

I marked two anniversaries this week -- my 7th wedding anni with Maria, and also my 10-year mark with Variety.

That means a decade worth of "ankle," "prexy," "veep," "skein," "Alphabet net," "Peacock web," "helmer," "scribe," "nom" and other Variety speak -- what we call "Slanguage" at the paper (read all about it here).

At least once a week I get an irate email from a web reader far from Hollywood, angry at my use of the Variety slanguage. But it's part of the paper's heritage, and although it took some time to get used to a decade ago, I appreciate it now. Check out the clip above, from the 1990s animated series "Animaniacs," for an ode to that "Variety speak."

So what did I cover on day one at Variety? An angry Chris Carter, whose series "Harsh Realm" had just been canceled by Fox. The "X-Files" creator had some harsh words to say about the network and its then-entertainment president, Doug Herzog. (You can see that story here.) Also that day, I wrote about ABC picking up a full season of the David E. Kelley drama "Snoops." The show was averaging a 4.6 rating among adults 18-49 -- a pretty unexciting rating in 1999. In 2009, that would have made "Snoops" a megahit. Instead, the show was gone by the end of the TV season.

I also joined Variety just as "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" was starting its November sweeps run, following a strong launch that summer. Little did we know that a decade-long reality TV explosion was about to take place. Also in 1999, original cable series were still few and far between (save a handful, including the about-to-be launched "Sopranos," on HBO). DVRs weren't in homes. Video on computers was still rare -- and the idea of watching TV shows on your computer still a far-fetched idea. Yep, a lot has changed. But I'd also venture to say there's more great, not just good, TV in 2009. And more ways to watch it. That can't be a bad thing.

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