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Weekly Features
Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is Managing Director of Intermat, Inc., ( a television company which executive produces programs and consults with industry companies on a variety of issues. Intermat, Inc. is currently involved in approximately thirty hours of television in various stages for a variety of networks. He is one of the Executive Producers of OFF TO WAR, a ten hour series for Discovery Times and for a one hour on international adoptions for Discovery Health. He has consulted a variety of companies, including Ted Turner Documentaries, WETA, Betelgeuse Productions, and Creation Films, Lou Reda Productions as well as many others.

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 don’t rise and the ratings don’t sink.

I have been with this from the beginning…from before 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, Maine.

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 O’Neill, 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 DVD’s, 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! It’s 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 don’t rise…