While most industry executives are content to let their assistants carry out their primary functions—lying to unwanted callers about their current whereabouts, caffeinated-beverage procurement, Blackberry target practice—without a second thought as to how they might be utilized in less brain-numbing tasks, progressive Fox scheduling guru Preston Beckman recently offered his underlings a chance to partake in the TV-magic-making process in a meaningful way. Briefly freeing the assistants from their chains, he invited his young staffers, who conveniently fell within the demographic sweet spot midseason sitcom Unhitched is targeting and wouldn't require the $50 stipend he'd otherwise have to waste on focus group cattle, to help him solve a problem.
Instead, the net enlisted a group of young Fox assistants to screen the series' five post-pilot episodes. The group of 35 mostly twentysomethings were then asked to pick the order in which the episodes would air.
Fox scheduling topper Preston Beckman, who generally decides these things himself, said "Unhitched" provoked a wide reaction at the net — some staffers found the show hilarious, others, not so much. (Beckman, for the record, finds it funny and even "Seinfeld"-esque.) [...]
"This was a way to empower some of the younger assistants and make them feel a part of the process," Beckman said. "I gave my word that we'd air them in the order that they chose."
Of course, Beckman's unorthodox pledge to follow the assistants' scheduling guidance didn't come without strings attached. In return for partly entrusting them with an element crucial to the fledgling show's success, he demanded positive results: for each Nielsen share point the show lost week to week based on their recommendations, he'd fire five of his new, inexperienced consultants, teaching the survivors an important lesson about how to take the heat for a boss's crazy idea.