Jay Leno, Russell Simmons take center stage at NATPE

Russell Simmons at NATPE. (Variety)
Russell Simmons at NATPE. (Variety)

The NATPE gathering continued into Wednesday as buyers came out to see panels featuring former Tonight Show host Jay Leno and hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons:

– Leno appeared at a Q&A session Wednesday at NATPE and stated his thoughts on Bill Cosby, who is accused of sexually assaulting several women: “I don’t know why it’s so hard to believe women”, Leno said to moderator Tom Papa. “You got to Saudi Arabia and you need two women to testify against a man. Here you need 25.”

Leno had kinder words toward his replacement, Jimmy Fallon and had no regrets stepping down from the Tonight Show a year ago, and praise for Larry Wilmore, who began his Comedy Central late-night show this week. And Leno never wanted to go along with an idea to move his show to 10 p.m. (ET), which wound up hurting his stature among Hollywood stars.

To see the entire Q & A with Jay Leno at NATPE, watch the video below:


– Leno was one of the recipients of the 12th Annual Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Awards, presented Wednesday evening with Entertainment Tonight’s Nancy O’Dell emceeing the event. At the ceremony, Leno talked about the legendary NBC programming chief, who offered him the guest-hosting stint on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, which led to him taking over for Carson in 1992, owing his career to Tartikoff.

Another notable recipient was Ted Sarandos, chief content officer of Netflix, as quoted by Bruce Rosenblum: “single-handily rewriting the rules for TV by putting his shows on at once… and refusing to release ratings information, which may be a good thing.” Sarandos noted his boss (Netflix CEO Reed Hastings) gives him gives him plenty of leeway when it comes to succeeding and failing – just like Grant tinker did, letting Tartikoff take numerous risks with programming.

Other award winners included: ET executive producer Linda Bell Blue; Jonathan Murray, co-creator of The Real World and chairman of Bunim/Murray productions; and Sushowo Cisenros and his daughter Adrinna, who run Spainsh language production house Cisneros Group Of Companies.

– Def Jam Records founder Russell Simmons took to the stage at NATPE on Wednesday in a Q & A with Variety, and the legendary music mogul didn’t have too many nice things to say about Hollywood – especially in the diversity department. “The reality is the lack of integration is deafening” Simmons said. “The segregation is incredible .” Simmons also blasted Hollywood’s “progressives” for their lack of understanding African-American culture and even black actors themselves for “…not forcing themselves their way into doors.” He also took aim at the lack of diversity at Hollywood’s talent agencies, including the one he’s currently repped with, William Morris.

Simmons also took aim for failing to advance the careers of African-American comedians and the avoidance of race and class issues in television: ” No one has even discussed
race and politics as good as Norman Lear in 30 years”, Simmons said, acknowledging the legendary television producer and creator who just gave the keynote address at NATPE one day earlier.

Indeed, Simmons has found it has been tougher in the television than in the music business (where he signed acts such as The Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, and Run-D.M.C.) and fashion, where his Phat Farm clothing line was a runaway success. Still, Simmons has several TV and movie projects in development, including a JB Smoove vehicle and a project for HBO.

This is not the first time Simmons has dabbled in TV – he produced a weekly late-night syndicated music magazine show under his own name (Russell Simmons’ One World Music Beat) from 1998 to 2000.

In other NATPE News:

– Here comes another diginet – only this one is on the air already. A “new” channel called The Works from MGM and Titan Broadcast Group. It features not only TV shows and movies from the MGM libraries, but also news (from the Huff Post), stand-up comedy and sports. The Works actually launched April 1 – nine months ago.

“We’re in all the major markets”, MGM Domestic Television Distribution President John Byran was quoted as saying, but declined to name any stations or markets. A Wikipedia listing notes The Works is on in the Chicago area on WOCH-Ch. 41.1. To see the official website of The Works (which is quite scant), click here.

– Maybe third’s time the charm: According to TVNewscheck, Warner Bros. Is considering once again reviving 1980’s and 1990’s first-run dating strip Love Connection, with The Real’s Loni Love as host, targeted for a fall 2016 launch.

No other details of the project were released.

The original version of Love Connection was hosted by Chuck Woolery and ran in syndication from 1983 to 1995, with the 1994-95 season airing only in reruns. A short-lived revival aired during the 1998-99 season and hosted by Pat Bullard. Both versions were syndicated by Warner Bros. (Telepictures and Lorimar-Telepictures syndicated Love Connection’s first six seasons, before Warner Communications took over.)

Loni Love would continue to co-host The Real should Love Connection makes it to series and The Real makes it past season two.

And that’s a wrap for NATPE. See you next year!