HBO Executive Called on Carpet Over “Poor Word Choice”

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Ronn Torossian on HBO Executive Called on Carpet Over “Poor Word Choice”

When you’re wearing a live mic, doesn’t matter where you are in the world, you have to watch what you say and be very cognizant of how it might be portrayed. This is the age of the YouTube clip, where context is removed and memes get more attention than the “real story.”

Of course, sometimes you just say something you shouldn’t have, and need to make amends quickly before the narrative gets out of hand. For an example of this, just ask Francesca Orsi, an executive with HBO who caught some heat recently for a candid remark caught on tape.

Orsi is co-head of drama series for HBO, and she was appearing at the INTV conference in Jerusalem on Tuesday. During a segment in which she lamented the cost HBO had to pay in order to film the follow up season to “Big Little Lies,” Orsi said, “From a budget standpoint going into season two of ‘Big Little Lies’ without any options in place we’ve been… um… sort of raped…”

Orsi was speaking in the context of regretting a procedural mistake which, if avoided, could have drastically lowered the cost of casting for the second season of the program. She wanted to use hyperbole to express her frustration at both the mistake and the exorbitant cost… But in the current media climate, “rape” is not a term one can just throw around and get away with it. Sure, most people understood where Orsi was coming from, but understanding is not always in ready supply.

Orsi was quick to apologize, through a statement published by CNN: “Obviously, I’m embarrassed by my poor choice of words… We are extremely proud of ‘Big Little Lies’ and excited for the second season…”

So, an apology for the content of the statement as well as an oblique reference to an apology for complaining about the expense of a hit program. Both were likely necessary to calm any potential storm, both among the fans and with the high-profile cast, which will include Meryl Streep and involve producers Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon.

In this case, it should be enough of a balm to assuage those who jumped on Orsi for the comment. After all, no one really expected ‘Big Little Lies’ to be anything more than a single limited series, so it’s easy to understand why Orsi and other showrunners may see their surprise success as a bit of a mixed bag. Sure, it’s incredible to have critical praise heaped on your program and have an audience love it at the same time… but it’s still a case of “wish I knew then what I know now” so they could have better prepared for a follow up season.

In the end, it was a quick gaffe handled swiftly, and now everyone can get back to figuring out how to follow up on season one’s success.

Ronn Torossian is the CEO and Founder of 5W Public Relations.

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Ronn Torossian is CEO & Founder of 5WPR & one of America’s most notable PR executives. He is the Author of best-selling PR book, “For Immediate Release.“

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