As VP of development and original programming at TV Land, Dana Tuinier ’06 wants to find the next hit shows.
Dana Tuinier ’06 spends her days looking for the next big comedy hit. As vice president of development and original programming at TV Land, she’s not just responsible for the shows airing right now—she’s hunting out new series, too. Her tasks shift day to day: She might sit in a pitch meeting, visit a shoot for a show like TV Land’s hit half-hour Younger (starring Hilary Duff), or read through piles of script submissions looking for the next must-watch show.
She talked with us about working in television’s “golden age.”
You worked on shows like Bob’s Burgers, New Girl and Glee at FOX for seven years. What brought you to Viacom and TV Land?
TV Land came after me pretty aggressively because my strength was making single-camera comedies that work for millennials and women. They were switching into single-cam and looking to go more modern, and kind of rebrand their network. They had just shot the pilot for Younger, but it was far from premiering.
When a script comes across your desk, what makes it stand out?
There’s over 400 scripted series airing this year. For me, that really comes down to the characters. I worked on New Girl at FOX—I was in the pitch, luckily. It was such a simple idea, but the characters were so rich and engaging that you fell in love with them when [show creator Liz Meriwether] described them. When we started casting the pilot for New Girl, I was nervous about casting Zooey Deschanel because I was so in love with the character on the page. Of course, the casting is brilliant. So I think it does come down to the characters and the voice of the writer.
The thing that’s different about TV and film—and I was a film student—is in TV you’re thinking about years that you’re going to spend with these characters, years that you’re going to spend with these stories. So it’s also about longevity.
How has binge-watching culture changed TV?
Just because you can binge something doesn’t necessarily mean you should. The thing about TV is that it’s a shared experience. You go into work or you go to the bar and you talk about what’s going to happen next. I think binging can be great but sometimes it takes away that experience, because it ends the conversation. Then you look at something like Game of Thrones or even The Sopranos—if those were binged, would they be the same shows? If they were just released all at once without having to wait, would they be the cultural phenomena that they are?
People say we’re in the golden age of TV. How has that idea taken root over the course of your career?
I’ve only been in the business for 10 years, which is crazy to me. But 10 years ago, there was no Netflix. There were no iPhones. The industry has changed every single season that I’ve worked in it. The quality gets higher and higher and the competition gets higher and higher because everybody wants to make the best thing. Everybody wants to make someone’s favorite show.
Younger airs at 10pm (EST) Wednesdays on TV Land