An important part of the Premium Cable Ring Kissing ceremony involves asking someone on some show panel to describe how much more wonderful it is to work in premium cable than in broadcast television.
Thursday, that lucky person was John Wells, who exec-produced such broadcast-TV classics as “China Beach,” “ER” and “The West Wing” back in the day, but who is now exec-producing Showtime’s alcoholic-dads-can-be-cute drama, “Shameless.”
“Do you see your future as a writer more in cable?” a critic asked early in the “Shameless” Q&A session, signaling to Wells that he’d been anointed.
Wells dutifully began to wax eloquent:
1. Broadcast TV has not interested him for several years.
2. Broadcast networks have, for the past five years, been so risk-averse that he could not have sold them “The West Wing” or “China Beach.” In fact, he would be “completely incapable now” of selling “The West Wing” on broadcast TV.
Check and check!
3. For the first time, he has sold several pilots to broadcast networks, where suits have realized they have to compete with cable if they want to attract sophisticated, affluent viewers to their lineup. So, it’s a really good time to pitch complex, out-of-the-box ideas to broadcasters.
Check and — what?!
Wells’s off-script revelation threatened to unseat critics’ reason, such as it was. They wisely did not follow up.