ABC pulls the plug on Cleese sit-com
UK Telegraph
by Hugh Davies Entertainment Correspondent
Published: Tuesday, 9 April 2002

The actor and comedian John Cleese was angry last night after ABC television in New York abruptly cancelled his first United States situation comedy after only two episodes.

He accused network executives of being "scared" by the ratings wars that dominate American television. ABC blames poor viewing figures for the cancellation of Wednesday 9.30 in which, ironically, Cleese starred as a television mogul.

He played Red, an Australian media figure. He described the part as "great fun", saying: "I quite liked him. He was an ornery bastard, an absolute killer."

Critics called him "Fawlty-esqe", likening his role to that of Basil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers. Cleese thought the new series was "very good" although he agreed there were some negative reviews adding: "I have to say, they were not unfair."

However, he insisted that network bosses had not given the show enough of a chance. "At the old BBC, they made decisions on gut instinct."

And in America, there were people, he said, like former NBC entertainment president Brandon Tartikoff "who kept Cheers on the air because he liked the show".

"Nowadays, executives have no idea. They're all scared. They know the axe is going to fall, so the only way not to get axed is for them to try to not make a decision - or just speak at the same time as everybody else."

He said that even at the BBC, for which he recently did The Human Face, a factual series combining comedy sketches with popular science, he was "depressed to discover how audience-orientated everything had become".

Cleese, 62, said: "In the old days, you hardly bothered with that. You asked, 'Was it a good show or not?'

"I know I sound like all old farts. But I just don't think it's as good. It's not just that I'm a curmudgeon.

"It's a marketing world run by people who think they know what they are doing. But those of us in the creative community don't think they have any idea."