Network president Larry W. Jones talks about what makes his team tick at 90+ million-subscriber-strong TV Land and more.
Surrounded by comedic luminaries Betty White, Cedric the Entertainer, Kirstie Alley, Wayne Knight and more TV Land stars at lunch in the Studio City district of Los Angeles, it’s easy to see why network president Larry W. Jones wears a smile as bright the California sun.
Standing 93 million subscribers strong, TV Land is the house that Larry built.
That is, of course, along with a team, whom he praises as talented “students of television,” and a stellar collection of situation comedy actors who really know how to bring the funny.
Since its inception in April 1996, Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite veteran Jones has guided the cable network – which first earned the trust of fans everywhere by breathing new life into sitcom classics. He oversees the gamut of its day-to-day: programming, marketing, on-air promotion, ad sales, series development, online—all things TV Land.
Having successfully steered TV Land’s very first venture into original programming with Hot in Cleveland—now nearing syndication in its fourth year—Jones has seen his company’s original productions slate grow to include fan favorites The Soul Man, Kirstie and The Exes.
This Television Academy member took time to reflect on how far he and TV Land have come together—and on television production’s changing landscape.
How do you feel looking back on the 4 years since you and the network debuted Hot in Cleveland?
It’s very exciting to really have a foothold in original programming especially in an area like scripted original programming – which is a very natural progression from the kind of acquisitions that we have on the channel.
To be successful in making these sitcoms and to be building an audience and to have multiple shows is really spectacular.
We’re so excited about Hot In Cleveland. I mean, who would have thought 4 years ago that we’d get to 100 episodes, be in syndication this fall. It’s crazy. It’s been fantastic.
What do you think is the key to your success so far?
We’re students of television, we really are, and we respect television as it has been made over the last 50 years. We know a lot about the older TV shows, we study things, and we respect the art form and we respect different things.
There was a point in time when diversity on broadcast television (series) was more prevalent, like in the 70s or in 80s.
It’s crazy that it’s not now.
So part of trying to rebuild that – in our own little mini-network, mini-studio kind of way – is having a show like Soul Man and this makes total sense for us.
I love The Soul Man for so many different reasons – but we do want a diverse slate of programs on the air. I feel that positive imagery of African Americans is something that is shockingly absent on television.
How do the 2 newer programs fit into your vision for TV Land?
The Exes to me – in my mind – it’s always been the male version of Hot In Cleveland. Living with 3 of your best buddies in the house just goofing off, but at a certain point in everyone's lives. I love the approach that we have on both shows creatively.
I think on Kirstie, they have a kind of dream team cast. Kirstie (Alley), Rhea (Perlman), Michael (Richards) – plus Eric (Peterson) are just incredible together.
How do you feel about television studios rethinking pilot season, among other development and programming rituals?
I think it’s a natural kind of thing to have happen. We are still tied to those upfront selling seasons though.
That’s the next part that really has to evolve: the revenue part. That’s the part that's going to help the rest of the creative part evolve.
There’s so little room to have rules anymore or formats in the way that business was.
With every new platform that comes out there, I start to think that everything can be reinvented – and everything is being reinvented. Everything.