When TV analyst and visiting professor George Will left Lowell Lecture Hall for the last time yesterday, Harvard lost one of its few media celebrities. In February, a team of 90 undergraduates hopes to enter the hall and create a new group of stars, filming the first of three pilots for a national late-night show starring Cillin J. Perera '99.
Perera, a resident of Canaday who hails from Australia, believes that there is "nothing out there on American television for a young audience by the young. Leno and Letterman try, but they haven't been [young] for 25 years.
The 18-year-old believes his show, "Wide Awake with Cillin Perera," can fill that void. The show will be produced by Veritasmanian Productions, a non-profit company Perera started.
Although the group has submitted a proposal for recognition to Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III, the University has not yet responded.
Veritasmanian Productions currently includes 40 active contributors; all but five are first-year students. Since Halloween the group has met biweekly to discuss creative, business and public-relations issues.
"We're looking to set up a show like Letterman, in a dorm atmosphere," Perera said. According to the host, Conan O'Brien '85 has agreed to be a guest on one of the pilots. Tommy Lee Jones '69, John A. Lithgow '67 and Visiting Professor Spike Lee are among the University affiliates whom Perera also wishes to pursue.
Although Perera will serve as the primary host, he hopes to have six to seven regular co-hosts performing original skits.
A jazz band called "Flubber," whose members are all first-year students, is currently composing a theme song.
The business team is utilizing
According to Perera, "[n]etworks have offered to fund the pilots if given the option to buy the rights to the show." The students have refused to sell the rights, however.
The production team is relying on Perera, whose first name is pronounced "Killean," to provide on-the-spot comedy. Spontancity is nothing new for the Melbourne resident.
Perera, an aspiring movie director and actor, arrived in Los Angeles this spring with $1,000. He immediately spent $700 on a car. "I left L.A. with $300 in my pocket," Perera recounted in an interview this week. "For seven days I slept in the back of the car and saw a lot of America."
In Australia, where he worked on TV and radio, Perera's friends expect nothing less than success. When Perera called his parents in November and told them about the show, "[i]t was like, 'We've been watching [TV] for two months waiting for you to come on," Perera said.
The highest expectations for the show come from Perera himself, however. The host is confident that the pilots will draw significant response from national networks. Next fall he anticipates producing the show in a weekly format filmed in a sold-out Lowell Lecture Hall.
Perera says he is comfortable with the pressure. "We have 40 people on staff jumping up and down about the show," he said. "It is a real communal atmosphere.