When I hear Gary Coleman's name, I think of how angry and frustrated Joe Barbera was one day. Joe was the undisputed master of the "pitch." One of the reasons Hanna-Barbera produced so many poor shows was that Joe could sell anything, which he often managed by modifying the product on the fly, quickly molding it into whatever he sensed the buyer would buy. He might well walk into your office with a good idea to sell but if you weren't receptive to that and had some notion of what you did want, Joe could instantly reshape his idea into that — whatever it was and however unworkable.
Usually, he pitched to network execs and sponsors. The day I'm recalling, he came back from having to pitch to a 14-year-old boy who looked like he was twelve. Gary Coleman has a committment from NBC to star in a Saturday morning cartoon show. If Hanna-Barbera wanted the job of producing that show, J.B. had to come up with a proposal that Gary liked. So Barbera swallowed his pride, grabbed up a pile of show ideas (some of them, probably pretty good) and went over to Gary Coleman's home or office to "pitch."
Barbera got the deal. Barbera always got the deal. But first, he said, he had to listen to about an hour of little Gary Coleman telling him how they should rerun Space Ghost, how Gary didn't like the Godzilla cartoons, how Gary thought Scooby Doo was getting stale, etc. Then he had to sit there as Gary rejected pitch after pitch, lecturing J.B. on how to create a good cartoon show. Finally, Gary described his ideas for a show and Barbera spun and mixed-and-matched and formed Gary's ideas into something that might fly...but it was a painful process. Eight months later, The Gary Coleman Show debuted on NBC...produced by Hanna-Barbera. Joe hated the show and would sometimes cite it as the lowest moment in his studio's history. But I always thought what he really hated was the pitch meeting.
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