Media Profile: Recapturing Friday night TV - Paul Sandler, production director, Planet 24

Paul Sandler rushes into his office, extremely excited. ’I’ve just seen the future of television,’ he cries, laughing. ’It’s on Live TV.

Paul Sandler rushes into his office, extremely excited. ’I’ve just

seen the future of television,’ he cries, laughing. ’It’s on Live

TV.



You have to see it. The presenter goes up to women in the street and

offers them 50p to pour custard down their bra. They say no, and he

increases the offer until they say yes. I just saw one woman agree to do

it for pounds 17.50!’



He collapses into his chair, in an excellent mood, and I realise exactly

why he is the executive producer of The Word, the man in charge of

bringing the cult show for the youth market back to our screens for

Friday nights in March. The new run is going to be a mix of studio-based

items, which have yet to be decided upon, and classic editions of the

old series of The Word, all linked together by the mighty Terry

Christian.



Sandler was in charge of The Word from its second series onwards. It was

his first long-term job after years of freelancing and he brought his

rapid response, freelance background to bear on the show.



It obviously impressed the powers in charge at Planet 24 who kept him

producing The Word for the rest of its run, then put him in charge of

the production costs of all of its output as well as a variety of new

projects. This isn’t a bad career path for a man who started out as a

runner in 1985 and who came to Planet 24 six years later from the music

video request channel the Box. It was a combination of tight costs and

high creativity that got him the Word job.



At its creative peak, the programme was inventing entire new television

shows every week and putting them out as short segments. Sky One’s Beat

The Crusher, for instance, began life as the Win or Weep slot from the

fourth series. In Beat the Crusher, a quiz show, participants either win

a new car or, if they lose, have to surrender their existing car to the

crusher. It is this kind of mayhem that Sandler wants to bring back to

what he sees as a currently dreary Friday night post-pub slot.



Although Sandler is The Word’s executive producer, he is also the

production director of the show’s production company, Planet 24. As

such, he is in charge of a number of new pilots that are coming up for

the BBC and Channel 4. He won’t be drawn on the nature of these pilots,

but he’s sure the PR industry can help him with them.



’PR people are the modern alchemists,’ Sandler says. ’A good PRO is

invaluable to me, as long as they understand the show they are talking

to. Of course, most people know what The Word was like so that’s pretty

easy.’



’Paul is the kind of producer who can cope with almost anything you

throw at him,’ says Terry Christian. ’With most shows, you’ll have the

running order set at midday on Friday for 11pm, and you’ll stick to that

order.



’When we were doing the old series of The Word, we’d have the running

order changed as the title music was playing. Paul was brilliant and

coped masterfully. I didn’t find it quite as easy. Having said that,

he’s told me we’re going to have scripts for the new series, which will

make a nice change.’



HIGHLIGHTS

1991

Producer, The Word

1993

Head of production, Planet 24

1998

Production director, Planet 24



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