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The Smell of Burning Bridge

It's not often The Reporters Who Cover Television get a chance to ask what it's like to work at NBC of a TV series writer who really doesn't care whether he/she ever works again for NBC.

This rare treat was afforded TRWCT during a BBC America Q&A session at Summer TV Press Tour 2007, in which Steven Moffat, the British creator of the original Britcom "Coupling" was pitching his new series "Jekyll" -- an update on the classic Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde story.

Gina Bellman, a cast member on the UK "Coupling" is also cast in this new drama and Moffat was asked about that.Which led one critic to think to ask the following question about the U.S. "Coupling" which was based on his U.K. original:

"Steven...why was that version of 'Coupling' such a success and the NBC version -- it tanked?"

"I so enjoy answering that question," Moffat replied. "I've only been asked it 24 times today.

"I can answer it with three letters -- N-B-C. Very, very good writing team. Very, very good cast. The network [expletive] it up, because they intervened endlessly. If you really want a job to work, don't get Jeff Zucker's team to come help you with it, because they're not funny.All right? There you go.

"I can say that because I don't care about working for NBC. But I think I'm entitled to say that because I think the way in which NBC slagged off the creative team on American "Coupling" after its failure was disgraceful and traitorous. So I enjoy slagging them off. That's the end of my career in L.A. I'll be leaving shortly."

Zucker was head of NBC's Entertainment division when the U.S. version of "Coupling" had its brief run in the fall of '03. In November of that year he said the networks were having a rough season because some of their programs "sucked" and cited "Coupling," which he'd already yanked off his primetime slate, as his network's biggest mistake of the season.

Zucker has risen through the ranks and is now CEO of NBC's parent company, NBC Universal.

Editor's note: For more on the Summer TV Press Tour, read Lisa's column: HBO Panel Ducks Questions About Sex.

By Maura McCarthy  |  July 14, 2007; 8:29 AM ET
Categories:  Summer TV Press Tour 2007  
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Next: Tim Gunn Dresses Down Congress


I agree with Moffat. The British version of Coupling is a very funny show with great writing. NBC advertised it relentlessly before it ran as a show that sounded like non-stop sex from start to finish. Their ads made it sound like it bordered on pornographic. Every advertisement for the show before it aired mentioned that everyone had slept with everyone else. Even Friends couldn't have survived that misguided pre-run hype. Heck, Sex and the City had the word sex in the title and didn't advertise itself that way--they went for more upscale, glamorous advertising. By the time the show actually aired, people with children avoided it like the plague (or, like herpes in this case). People without children fulfilled that need with pay cable stations. It's a real shame. That one where Jeff and the girl from Israel switched languages was genius. And Patrick's tape collection was a hoot. Jeff was goofy but hilarious. I still watch it on PBS late Saturday nights.

Posted by: L L L | July 16, 2007 2:24 AM | Report abuse

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