“Next Caller” was supposed to be stand-up star Dane Cook’s entrée into television after scattered movie roles and guest spots on “Louie” and “Hawaii Five-0,” a single-camera comedy about a chauvinistic DJ (played by Cook) and a feminist formerly employed at NPR (Collette Wolfe) who end up co-hosting a call-in show about relationships. NBC intended the series to be a 2012-2013 mid-season replacement and ordered six half-hour episodes, only to cancel the show in October before ever airing it.
On Tumblr, the show’s creator and showrunner Stephen Falk (a co-executive producer on “Weeds”) has weighed in with a painful, funny and brutally honest post about what it felt like to have his project abruptly snuffed out while mantaining an admirable sense of balance (sorry, anyone in search of ill-considered, embittered public rage). He offers some thoughts about why it happened, and writes that “what it comes down to in the end is, I think, that they just didn’t like what I was doing that much”:
And I say “I,” because I was not only the creator and showrunner, but the sole Executive Producer as well. So the blame falls squarely on me; which is how I wanted it. Of course this is not fair or the whole story. There is a larger discussion that has to do with network expectations verses the Creative’s expectations; the wisdom of holding to what you deem good vs. What They Want; making yourself laugh first. But I won’t have that argument here because I would like to work again and because I will get too angry and passionate and I can’t type fast enough. (But if you corner me and get a few drinks in me I will be happy to have the discussion/rant in private.)
I don’t really blame anyone. The network executives are people doing a difficult job. People I mostly really like. I was a first-time showrunner 3,000 miles away — naturally it was not the most comfortable position for them. They couldn’t really keep an eye on me or give me notes in person. I wish they could have, though. If you’ve ever been separated from a romantic partner, let’s say, you know how impossible real communication is long distance. Sure you can Skype your tits or whatever, but real conversation is often strained and intentions and meanings somehow confused and corrupted by the distance and maybe also by the satellites the words have to bounce off to reach their intended targets. We are monkeys who need to look into each other’s faces to gauge true intent, and on speakerphone with 11 people (9 of whom you haven’t met) giving you notes on something you’ve made your whole writing staff stay up until 3am working on in the room, miscommunication can be the only outcome.
Falk adds that “I’m really sad that the audience won’t get to see the show we made,” praising his writing staff, Cook, Wolfe, their co-star Jeffrey Tambor and the rest of the cast, and insisting that anyone who claims when hiring writers that there aren’t enough funny women out there “didn’t look hard enough.” Read Falk’s entire post here.