By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Iger blathered this week about the importance of “accountability” in his first post-selection interview with TheNewYorkTimes’Laura Holson. But he said nothing about his responsibility for the fact that a once-great company is now better known for failing, flailing, firing good executives, freeing better ones to find work elsewhere, and fucking with business partners. There’s been so much trouble at Disney during Iger’s tenure that it’s hard to select just one screwed-up area, but let’s talk about the most costly: ABC.
In charge of the network before Disney bought parent company Capital Cities, Iger oversaw the slip from first to third place in the prime-time pecking order. (A former weatherman, he was fixated on the bottom line, exemplified by America’sFunniestHomeVideos,not because it was a quality product but because it was a cheap show.)
Iger remained captain of ABC’s sinking ship after Disney bought the parent company. (Indeed, I still recall the joke making the rounds of Hollywood. Question:What’s the difference between ABC and the Titanic?Answer:At least the Titanichad entertainment.) Everyone in TV thought he wasn’t long for Eisner’s world, but Iger’s neck was saved by the 1999/2000 TV season when WhoWantsToBeaMillionaire?became a short-lived, cheap fix that Eisner, with Iger’s aiding and abetting, whipped like a dead horse.
By the 2001/2002 season, ABC had lost its lead, and, like he had in previous years, Iger pledged he was putting his reputation and career on the line if he couldn’t turn things around. When it didn’t happen in the 2002/2003 season, and certainly not by 2003/2004, Eisner and the rest of the Disney board should have rightfully kicked Iger to the curb, especially after he let Jerry Bruckheimer’s TV juggernaut (e.g. CSI,ColdCase,WithoutaTrace,etc.) slip through his fingers. But Teflon Bob kept his job and even consolidated his power, successfully working behind the scenes to make his flack Zenia Mucha into Disney’s No. 1 mouthpiece despite, or was it because of, her rampant reputation as a bitch-on-wheels.
Even now that ABC is finally experiencing an exasperatingly slow but steady turnaround, no reporter is giving Iger the credit. After all, he failed to foresee the success of the network’s monster hit DesperateHousewives.(I’m told he didn’t want to air the show because he was worried it would be another TwinPeaks:start out strong only to have the plot go nowhere and viewers wander off.) The only explanation for the staying power of this unexceptional executive is that, after the Mike Ovitz debacle, Eisner needed a warm body to present to Wall Street as a possible heir apparent. That Iger looks as great in a Speedo as he does at the podium of shareholder meetings continues to get him pass after pass from the journalists paid to hall-monitor Big Media.
So, okay, if the press won’t speak up, I will. This week, the sun is shining on Disney because investors have voted their confidence in Iger by making the stock price rise. But do they know the real story or just the Disney version? Let’s go back to another scene of dialogue from Mel Brooks’ movie: [Dr. Frankenstein and Igor are exhuming a dead criminal.]Dr. Frankenstein: What a filthy job. Igor: Could be worse. Dr. Frankenstein: How? Igor: Could be raining. [It starts to pour.]
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