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The 10 Most Ridiculous Things TV Network Presidents Said in 2014

Mulaney the next Seinfeld? Bill Cosby will bounce back?

No, Mulaney was not destined to be "Seinfeld for a new generation."

We've spent a lot of time talking about the best that 2014 had to offer, but what about everything that lies on the other end of the year's quality spectrum?

The network presidents spent much of 2014 bragging about, and defending, their various programming and scheduling decisions, no matter how foolish some of them turned out.

But some of those proclamations were so outrageous that they deserve revisiting. (I wanted to call this the network presidents' "10 Biggest Lies of 2014," but in fairness they actually believed at least some of these things to be true at the time they said them.) And if you think Kevin Reilly, who stepped down as Fox entertainment chairman on May 29, is going to figure prominently on this list ... you would be correct.

10. Gotham isn't going to have a 22-episode season. — Kevin Reilly, Fox 

Talking to reporters on May 12 about Fox's upfronts, then-entertainment chairman Reilly took pride in the fact that he had given Gotham a 16-episode order for its first season, because that was the precise length its story dictated. "It hasn't been written in stone tablets that TV has to be done in 13- and 22-episode increments," Reilly said. "We handcraft them here at Fox."

Well, Reilly's replacements—Fox Television Group CEOs Gary Newman and Dana Walden—must have found those stone tablets in storage, especially after Gotham became the network's sole freshman fall hit alongside four misfires. On Oct. 13, they extended Gotham's order to a full 22-episode season.

9. USA will be patient in giving comedies a chance. — Chris McCumber, USA 

Syndicated episodes of Modern Family had an immediate impact on USA, lowering the network's median viewer's age by 12 years (from 53 to 41) in just four months. At the Television Critics Association winter press tour in January, USA president Chris McCumber was preaching patience as he looked to use Modern Family's success to help USA expand from its stable of dramas into comedies, including Sirens and Playing House. "Comedy is tough," he told me. "You have to have patience."

He didn't. Eight months later, on Oct. 9, USA decided to refocus on drama and cut loose most of its comedy scripts in development.

8. CBS believes in The Millers. — Nina Tassler, CBS

At the  Television Critics Association summer press tour in July, CBS entertainment chairman Nina Tassler reiterated her support for The Millers, last season's top-rated (but creatively mediocre) new comedy, by explaining, "We feel that The Millers has a lot of great story material still embedded in the DNA of the show."

She praised the Season 2 addition of new cast member Sean Hayes and noted CBS has "a great legacy of development and building strong family comedies. And we feel that show's got that potential."

Or not. On Sept. 25, CBS announced The Millers would be losing its plum, protected post-Big Bang Theory time slot, and swapping places with its Anna Faris vehicle, Mom. The network insisted the shows would switch back in early January 2015. Instead, CBS canceled The Millers on Nov. 14, after just four episodes of Season 2 had aired.

7. Utopia is a year-long experiment that will redefine reality TV. — Kevin Reilly, Fox 

When Reilly announced Fox's Big Brother/Survivor hybrid reality series Utopia, he called it an ambitious, year-long social experiment. "We've made a very big bet on it," he told Vulture in May, shortly before the upfront.

It may have bet big, but the network also lost big. The so called year-long experiment, which debuted on Sept. 7, didn't even last two months: Fox put it out of its misery on Nov. 2.

6. Rising Star is the next great reality show. – Paul Lee, ABC 

Back at the Television Critics Association winter press tour, ABC entertainment group president Paul Lee was over the moon about its summer music interactive competition, Rising Star, which he declared was "really the next generation of reality shows," breathlessly adding that the show was "almost like a modern Colosseum."

Discussing the show's popularity in Israel, Lee said, "It really has been a big hit over there. We think it will be a star maker over here."

But it wasn't. Rising Star tanked on ABC (averaging a 1.06 rating among 18- to 49-year-olds), doing even worse than its summer music competition show Duets two years earlier (which averaged a 1.2). And international versions of the show also flopped in France and Germany.

5. True Detective Season 2 casting will be announced by late July. — Michael Lombardo and Richard Plepler, HBO 

As True Detective Season 2 casting rumors intensified, HBO president of programming Michael Lombardo and CEO Richard Plepler assured reporters at the Television Critics Association summer press tour that the wait for answers was almost over. "At least some announcement will be happening in the next week," said Lombardo. "I promise you it will not be that long before this is all coming out."

That was July 10. HBO didn't make its first True Detective Season 2 casting announcement—involving Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn—until Sept. 23, two and a half months later. It would be another month before Taylor Kitsch's role was confirmed.

4. Red Band Society is the next Glee! Mulaney is the next Seinfeld! — Kevin Reilly, Fox 

Speaking at the Fox upfront in May, Reilly likened his new teen ensemble hospital drama Red Band Society to Glee, declaring that the cast "will end up on magazine covers and generate social media buzz."

No, and no. On Nov. 26, Fox pulled Red Band from the schedule, while insisting (with a straight face) the show still had a shot for Season 2. The number of major magazine covers that featured cast members: zero.

Also at the upfront, Reilly called Mulaney "Seinfeld for a new generation." Think again: While Mulaney is somehow still on the air—in large part because 13 episodes had already been shot—it has now been banished to Sundays at 7:30 p.m., where its most recent episode had a paltry 0.6 rating in 18- to 49-year-old demographic.

3. We're skipping the pilot process and going 'straight to series.' — Reilly, Lee and Robert Greenblatt (NBC)

At least Reilly has some company for this one! Over the past year, NBC, Fox and ABC all made "straight to series" commitments to shows, which were supposed to bypass the expensive pilot process, only to end up pulling the plug down the road.

Among the straight-to-series casualties this year: NBC bailed on the Wizard of Oz-inspired Emerald City (Aug. 22) and the Tina Fey-produced comedy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (which Netflix acquired instead on Nov. 21). After Reilly's departure, Fox pulled the plug on its Ancient Egypt drama Hieroglyph (June 30) and its own Fey-produced sitcom Cabot College (Aug. 18). ABC got in the action as well last month, shutting down its John Stamos drama Members Only on Nov. 23.

So, if you end up on a show that is A) picked up "straight to series" and B) not called Gotham, don't go spending those paychecks yet.

2. NBC loves Bill Cosby, and his troubles will sort themselves out. – Greenblatt

During the TCA summer press tour, Greenblatt reiterated the network's loyalty to Bill Cosby, as it continued to develop a new series with him that was slated for the 2015-2016 season. "We have a big commitment to Bill himself," Greenblatt told reporters.

When asked about the controversy around Cosby, including the rape allegations, Greenblatt said, "All I do is try to put on shows that I think are good, with extraordinary talent. I think he's extraordinary. And I think the show will be good. All the other things will sort of sort themselves out."

You know how that turned out. On Nov. 19, as the rape allegations finally reached a years-delayed frenzy, NBC scrapped the show and likely ended its association with Cosby for good.

1. R.I.P. Pilot Season — Kevin Reilly, Fox 

It takes a lot to be more outlandish than declaring the Cosby hoopla would blow over, but Reilly—making his fifth(!) appearance on this list—managed to do that when he declared the death of pilot season at the TCA winter press tour. "R.I.P. pilot season. I've been trying to do this for a long time on Fox," said Reilly, flanked by a projection of a tombstone that read "R.I.P. Fox 'Pilot Season' 1986-2013."

Pilot season is Hollywood's grueling, months-long process for creating, casting and approving new shows. Thousands of actors converge to audition for parts, and even those lucky enough to land a pilot role will be unlikely to see their work rewarded with a long-term hit. It's an expensive and time-consuming way to produce shows, but it's been the standard approach for decades.

"This year, officially for the first time, we are going to be bypassing pilot season." Calling the old system "a welfare state," Reilly pointed to all the shows he had in production that allowed him to skip the pilot season. In other words, who needs pilot season when you have: limited series Wayward Pines (the long-delayed series now won't debut until May 2015), Hieroglyph (canceled), Gracepoint (a ratings dud), Backstrom (it will debut Jan. 22), Gotham (finally, a hit!), Mulaney (not this generation's Seinfeld), Cabot College (canceled) and The Middle Man (which was put on hold weeks later)?

The other broadcast presidents were quick to shoot down Reilly's "R.I.P." declaration later that week at press tour. On his way out the door in May, Reilly made one last plea in his outgoing memo to Fox staffers, urging, "P.S.—Don't go back to pilot season!" New heads Newman and Walden, however, made it clear that pilot season still had plenty of life at Fox, as they began making pilot orders in August and September. Newman told the Hollywood Reporter, "You're going to see a lot of different things coming out of this network—it isn't going to be just one type of development process." Pilot season is dead. Long live pilot season!

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