So. Times columnist and former theater critic Frank Rich has a sweet creative consulting deal with HBO. They give him a paycheck, and he will sometimes call them up if he has a great idea (and Frank Rich has thousands of great ideas every day). He will maybe read some scripts and give notes. Did we mention he gets a paycheck? We don't begrudge him this cushy gig, but he should BEWARE. Another respected cultural thinker once went down this road, Frank!
Back when Kurt Andersen was inventing satire in Spy he was also producing TV pilots. Years later he was hired as a creative consultant for USA Networks. But things did not go well for Kurt (sigh).
But his is a cautionary tale. Over a two-year period, Mr. Andersen sat in on countless meetings with channel execs and tossed in his opinion on pilots and programming. He helped found the culture channel Trio (which was later bought and eventually shuttered by NBC). And he suggested a number of shows, none of which, according to Mr. Andersen, ever got produced.
Oh, god. Trio? Ouch. Recalling his television ventures, Andersen delivers a succinct summary of his post-Spy career: "'I was moderately useful in that role,' said Mr. Andersen. 'I couldn't fail because I didn't have any real job description.'"
Watch out, Frank! You may be giving up more than just your second cubicle in the Times culture department! And, worse, you may be leading your fellow high-profile smarty-pants cultural critics astray! Your deal may encourage false expectations that easy consulting money awaits smarty-pants scribes!
Slate founder Michael Kinsley said he thought his friend Mr. Rich would excel in the role, and may even help breathe some new life into the sputtering journalist-consultant industry even as he breathes some into HBO. "HBO has a pretty good track record of being the first to try things," said Mr. Kinsley.
See, now everyone will want to play make-believe TV exec.