January 4, 2007
Tombers Reports On the Long Road to a Premiere
On Thursday, January 04, The Dan Ho Show premiered on Discovery
Health at 9 p.m., which will be its regular spot, provided
God wills and the creek dont rise and the ratings dont
I have been with this from the beginning
it was a glimmer in the eye of ANY network executive. I found
Dan, figuratively if not literally, in Penn Station in Hudson
Books. Squeezed in among all the lifestyle magazines was a
magazine called RESCUE, the cover of which was a very extravagant
photo of a man dressed in green, looking like a stem, repeated
enough times that he became a flower; an Asian American smiling
a smile whose wattage lit up Penn Station.
On the following Monday, I phoned Dan Ho, the man presenting
himself as a flower and owner of the title at his office in
Maine. I arranged to fly up to meet him; missed my flight
and discovered how difficult it can be to get to Portland,
When Dan was in New York next, we met. A Hollywood
producer offered him option money for the magazine; he accepted.
Nine months later my phone rang. The screen said: Dan Ho.
Pleasantly surprised, I answered.
Mr. Hollywood had made no progress, the option
was up. Would I consider working with him?
The road from there has been a road of a thousand turns.
Dan wrote and shot a demo; while rough you could see he popped
out from the screen, something America had never seen before.
He was different and he was funny and he made sense.
Having lunch with Carole Tomko, then GM of Fit TV, an old
friend, I mentioned Dan. It never occurred to me that she
might me interested but wanted to see the tape. I sent it.
She got excited. I got excited. Dan got excited.
She got promoted.
Her network went to Eileen ONeill, who is GM of the
Discovery Health Channel. The project languished. Eileen had
a TON of things to do in assimilating a new network, new staff,
plus her Discovery Health Channel was starting to do a review
as to what the ongoing business plan would be.
There were staff changes and all the people who had originally
liked Dan were now out of the company or working for different
networks within the company. Dan Ho was not a priority with
that as a backdrop.
As pleasantly aggressively as I could, I kept mentioning him,
again and again and again. Rita Mullin, VP of Development
for DHC, exhibited saint like patience with me. She developed
a special smile for me when I mentioned Dan. She liked him,
too, and knew all too well the diversions deflecting the spotlight
I was attempting to focus on him.
I kept sending replacement DVDs, as time kept burying
the last ones in the detritus of development offices.
By now I was so well-known at Discovery that Rosa at the front
desk greeted me by name and hugged me when I arrived. She
would give me a coveted yellow pass, allowing me to wander
unaccompanied. People who worked with me at Discovery ten
years ago began to wonder whether I was back working at the
company. I gave new employees directions when lost in the
labyrinthine maze of Discovery HQ.
One day, sauntering the hallways of Discovery, I ran into
Eileen, who offered me condolences on my separation. We talked
about business after that; I mentioned Dan. She PROMISED to
review the DVD.
Next trip down, we sit down. I mention Dan. I suggest/she
suggests lunch in New York.
We meet in New York, Dan, Donald Thoms, VP of Production,
Eileen and me. We have a lunch that goes on for a loooonnnnngggg
time. Dan is at his best; charming, witty, original, slightly
naughty and distinctively unlike anything that Discovery Health
has ever seen as well as probably the rest of Discovery.
Lunch sets the slow wheels of green light approval into action;
slowed down by a variety of internal debates as Discovery
Health Channel evolves into Discovery Health Media, a new
unit of DCI that brings together all health and fitness media
assets in one unit, under a new President, for whom a search
is being run.
All budgets for new programming are put on hold so no one
knows if there IS going to be money for a show, any show.
I get nervous.
Budgets get released! Its official! DHC WANTS Dan!
Having talked to one production company, the network decided
they needed to talk with more. Dan and I meet interminably
with production companies who develop concept after concept
after concept after concept after
NONE of which please
anyone. At interminable meetings with one company, Dan is
asked the same questions over and over and over again. We
wonder if everyone there has any medium term memory?
In the background of all of this, Dan finished the book he
is writing, RESCUE FROM DOMESTIC PERFECTION; a publication
date is set.
Synergistic issues suddenly rear their beautiful heads while
the patience of everyone is frayed to the max. Eileen is getting
cranky; Dan is getting cranky; the world has a cranky edge.
I work at keep my crankiness concealed.
Engel Entertainment, after a long series of e-mails, conversations
and some hand wringing gets the agreement to do the show!
Then there is an agreement that needs to be done with Dan
which turns out to be more complicated and more time
consuming than anyone had expected.
By the time every i is dotted, production has
already started and the train is running and rocking down
the tracks. And now, two years, some months later, from the
time I first met Dan, the show premieres!
And now we offer sacrifices to the ratings gods and pray that
God wills and the creek dont rise