When Steven Weinstock and Glenda Hersh (pictured, below), co-founders of Endemol Shine Group prodco True Entertainment, were also appointed co-presidents and co-CEOs of the Endemol Shine Group-owned Original Media in March, the congratulatory reaction was a mixed bag of both compliments and queries into whether they weren’t already busy enough.
The pair has been combining their creative prowess to develop television series since 1994. First as principals in Video News International, which was eventually sold to The New York Times, and then helming New York Times Television – the publication’s now-defunct production division – from 1996 to 2000, where the duo would develop such reality and documentary programs as TLC’s Trauma: Life in the ER and ESPN’s The Season.
Weinstock and Hersh would leave New York Times Television to co-found True Entertainment in 2000, which was later acquired by Endemol Shine North America in 2003. Fifteen years later, the New York-based shop is a leader in the field, producing documentary and alternative programming with a bevy of hit series in its stable, including Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Atlanta, Investigation Discovery’s Vanity Fair Confidential, and Esquire Network’s Going Deep with David Rees, which moves from National Geographic Channel to the NBCUniversal-owned network on November 11 for its second season.
Now, the New York-based True Entertainment is readying the premiere of its late night party-themed copro with host Joy Behar’s JoyBee Productions, Late Night Joy (exclusive clip below).
The 5 x 30-minute series will find the comedian and The View co-host Behar entertaining regular guest Susie Essman, her closest friends and celebrity guests in an intimate late-night house party in her New York City apartment. Together, the group will drink and gab about the latest gossip. With no conversation off-limits, the group will discuss such contemporary topics as breast implants and reductions; whether dating apps are ruining the chance of true love; keeping secrets from your significant other; and purchasing linens from a flea market, as seen in the clip below.
Realscreen spoke with Weinstock and Hersh about the challenges of running two production companies, why they haven’t merged the two firms, and how they developed Late Night Joy, which premieres on TLC tonight (November 4) at 11 p.m. EST/PST.
Why run True Entertainment and Original Media as distinct entities rather than merge the two companies?
Steven Weinstock: Each company has traditionally been known for doing a certain type of programming. I would say the majority of what True has produced over the years has been more female-centric and I think the same could be said for the majority of what has been produced at Original – it tends to be more male-centric. That’s not to say there isn’t crossover. A lot of people will say, ‘Why don’t you just merge the two companies?’ but when you’ve got such a distinct brand and they’ve both got such credibility in the marketplace, it behooves us to try our best to keep those brands going. When you start to cross-pollinate them, there’s no guarantee that they’ll merge into something that’s as strong as the individual brands by themselves.
How do you distribute the responsibilities within each company?
Glenda Hersh: Basically we have structured each company with a head of development, a head of programming in each company that reports to us, and a head of production that reports to [COO Brenda Hurley] and to us. It works pretty well in terms of having each team report to us and we’re able to switch gears and switch our hats from one to the next.
Is that overwhelming?
SW: Yeah, it’s incredibly overwhelming. We both kind of burn the candle from both ends. We first had to get into Original and understand the culture, understand what was working and what wasn’t, and make changes. As a fully operational company in the Endemol Shine North America empire, True was one of the most profitable companies, and I think [with] the systems we set in place, we were able to transfer a lot of that knowledge to Original to get Original running as efficiently and creatively as True has been. It’s now been six months and I think that things are going really well. A lot of the significant shows Original produces are being re-ordered [Comic Book Men, Ink Master, Swamp People].
GH: And we have new shows like Pacific Warriors on Discovery Channel [which launched October 23].
How do you divide your focus for each company?
GH: We both [focus on] both companies. We tend to divide and conquer on series, we both will be involved pretty heavily on development in both companies and when there’s a new pilot or new series we tend to work together to try to crack the code. Once we have that up and running, one of us will then take the lead on the series.
How did Late Night Joy come about?
SW: TLC approached us and asked if we would get involved as the production company with Joy to develop the show. We had actually met with Joy on our own months ago, talking about all sorts of possible ideas – this was before she went back to The View. It’s something very different for TLC to try a show that will appeal to their audience at 11 p.m. We’re excited and we hope the audience embraces the show.
What topics are touched upon throughout the season?
GH: It’s almost like you’re there with her on her couch with a glass of wine talking about what happened with your husband, how your kid’s making you crazy, should you do something about your boobs that are sagging – these are issues that women around the country are talking about when they’re with each other.
SW: The TLC audience is not the 20-year-old, 30-year-old audience, it skews a little older and the conversation needed to be appropriate as far as the audience was concerned. It’s a very intimate, fly-on-the-wall [experience] in Joy Behar’s real apartment.
True Entertainment’s Going Deep with David Rees was previously on Nat Geo Channel, but it’s since moved to Esquire Network for its second season. Has anything changed in the move?
SW: Fundamentally it’s the same show. We tweaked it like you do any time you produce a show. These were minor tweaks and many of them would have happened if we were doing the second season on Nat Geo anyway.
This interview has been edited and condensed.