Mike on America

Creativity -- It Takes Guts


It's funny what a little time off will do. Just back from vacation and figuratively pushing my psyche through the sieve of relaxation, it dawns on me slowly.

Creativity takes guts. Some people have them, other people don't.

This epiphany came from two disparate sources: football and the "new" TV season. I didn't see much of either on my seven day "hiatus" (we'll be revisiting that word in a second), but I saw enough -- enough to know that we, the consuming public, are getting cheated on both fronts.

Why? Because it's scary to take chances. In football, you could lose. In television, you could fail. It breeds a certain "creative cowardice." You can count on one hand the number of truly creative coaches in the history of college and professional football -- coaches that created offenses or defenses that were true game changers, coaches that assumed the risk of doing something truly different, not just a variation on what has gone before.

Some of the names you know, others you don't. You also know a number of other names, the ones that are labeled as this season's "geniuses." Next year they likely won't be. Watch on any Saturday or Sunday. Watch for the "safe" plays, the "safe" calls, watch for conventional wisdom to take over on third and seven or second and two.

If you could watch all the games at the same time on any given day, what games would you watch, apart from the one involving "your" team? You'd be drawn to the ones where the risk is the greatest -- the games where the coaches and players are "creating" on the field. It's natural.

Same goes for television. But in TV -- particularly programming -- there are even fewer people with "creative courage." Line up all the programs across all the networks and name one or two, or any, that are really new ideas, new concepts. I'll wait.

Actually, I don't have that much time. I've been involved in television in one capacity or another for nearly four decades (I was a child prodigy). The television landscape is littered with the corpses of past shows -- shows that all looked alike.

Quick, name your favorite television shows of the last ten years. Likely, the list includes some if not all of the ones that were risky when they were first put on. But do you know how many shows have been on TV in the last ten years? Tens of thousands more than you named. Why? Because TV, for all its talk, for all its bravado, is a business filled with "creative cowardice."

If one show succeeds, there will be five more just like it. Or ten. Or 15.

Of course, there are just bad shows, just like there are bad teams. Have you seen "Chuck?" Watched Minnesota or Oakland?

How does that happen? That's another story for another vacation.

Now, "hiatus." "On the Money" on CNBC has gone on one. There has been a schedule change and "OTM" is gone. It might come back, I'm told, but for now the Mike On America segments will be seen on "Power Lunch" with Bill Griffeth and Sue Herera. Bill, Sue and I have worked together before many times and it's a lovely mix. But I can't help but wonder what happened to "OTM."

Where's the next Bill Walsh when you need him?

MOA heads to North Carolina this week. I'll see you along the road.

Questions?  Comments?  mikeonamerica@nbcuni.com