Sunday, August 31, 2008

The rat speaks

My Think Tank on Mariotti is coming sometime this week (tougher to write than I thought), but in the meantime, let's analyze what the backstabbing sellout had to say Friday in Phil Rosenthal's column in the Trib:

- Referring to the Sun-Times' reaction of Mariotti leaving, Gerald Minkkinen of the Chicago Newspaer Guild union said: "I looked at the newspaper this morning and went, 'What the hell?' It was the most ludicrous thing I have seen in my life."

Thank goodness this Minkkinen guy wasn't head of the Writer's Guild, or they would have been on strike for 300 days instead of 100.

- Mariotti responded: "You've been selling me out there for years and promoting me, then you turn on me and you expect people to buy it? It's crazy. It looked amateurish... This is something the White Sox would do."

No, what's amateurish were your columns you've written over the last 17 years. You've made a mockery of a profession I love to do. You are no writer. A sixth-grade term paper has more credibilty than your columns.

- Responding to Ebert's letter, he said the paper was "pulling out all the stops, obviously." His respect for Ebert notwithstanding, Mariotti said his output over the years should be proof of his loyalty.

Um, what loyalty? All Mariotti did was use the Sun-Times' space to attack people and organizations he didn't like, whether there was just cause or not. And Mariotti has the nerve to talk about loyalty. If he was so loyal, why did he sneak out of the Sun-Times like the Colts did from Baltimore 25 years ago?

- ... "I could go to work in Australia. I could go to work down the street. It's a wacky world. Anything is possible."

Then I have the perfect job for you. How about joining The Parents Television Council? Like you, they lie, attack individuals and organizations for no reason, and they are just as arrogrant and self-serving as you are. Jay Mariotti, Tim Winter, Brent Bozell, and Dan Isett - The Moronic Dream Team.

And if you can't get work there, KFC is always hiring...

-... "noting there was 'no shut-up clause' along with the out in his contract."

Yeah Mariotti, you should shut the fuck up. Save it for what Sun-Times baseball writer Chris DeLuca calls "an ESPN game show". And I'm certain if Chicago viewers want to watch a windbag who's full of himself, they can watch Dr. Phil every day at 4.

Who's in your four, Edition III

The week that was:

T Dog's Fab Four

- Jay Mariotti leaves the Sun-Times. Yes! Oh God, Yes!

-Barack Obama's Acceptance Speech. Drew just as many viewers as the opening ceremonies of the recent Summer Olympics.

- The U.S. men's and women's basketball team. The ladies brought home the Gold and the Redeem Team did likewise. Way to go!

- ABC's retro Life on Mars promo. Makes yours truly want to check out the show... and he will. Great marketing job by ABC.

T Dog's Flop Four

- The PTC. Trying to protect children from 90210. Oh, the horror!

- American Idol adds fourth judge. Isn't three grating personalities enough?

- NBC. Thanks NBC for revealing that someone won $1 million on Monday's upcoming Deal or No Deal. How anti-climatic. What ever happened to the element of surprise? What's the point of even watching? When all you're concerned about is building up ratings... Thanks a lot, Ben "Bulls Ballboy" Silverman.

- Pre-season football. Judging by the ratings, no one is interested in "The NFL rip-off extravaganza", otherwise known as pre-season football. Except in Chicago, where the Bears are the new Cubs. And I don't mean this year's Cubs.


WGN preempts the premiere of 90210 for Cubs game. WGN is sticking with the Astros-Cubs game on Tuesday night, given the historic pace the latter team is on, while pushing the premiere of 90210 to 10:30 pm - or later. I can hear teenage girls whining all over Chicagoland... Marcia! Marcia! Marcia! Oops, wrong show...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ebert to Mariotti: You're a backstabbing sellout

More and more individuals from the Sun-Times are speaking their mind on Jay Mariotti's sudden departure from the paper - and here's the most notable of them all - Roger Ebert's letter to Jay Mariotti - in which he calls Mariotti a rat - totally a great read. Also, baseball writer Chris De Luca weighs in on Mariotti's departure.

And you have former Sun-Times writers weighing in, too: Phil Rosenthal, who now writes a media column for the Tribune, roomed with Mariotti while covering the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. Somehow, Mariotti found time to blast Bulls management - never mind the fact that they were between NBA championships.

In other words, he was writing as if they were the Denver Nuggets, who went 11-71 in 1997-98. The Bulls finished 62-20, tied with past and future Finals opponent Utah for best record in the NBA.

Yours truly will weigh in with his thoughts in an upcoming Think Tank this weekend. And if you've read this blog the last two years, then you already know what I'm going to say... but it's worth repeating - and writing.

You have 30 days to sell your TV station. Time's a tickin'....

It's a station ownership mess in Virginia: In a follow-up to a story in yesterday's Groovy Grab Bag, The Department of Justice has told Raycom to sell its CBS affiliate in Richmond, Va. (WTVR) - and you have thirty days to do so. Or else.

Raycom acquired NBC affiliate WWBT-TV in Richmond as part of the company's acquisition of the Lincoln Financial Television Group. This group included once-dominant WBTV (CBS) in Charlotte, and another CBS affiliate, WCSC-TV in Charleston, S.C.

Both WWBT and WBTV were once owned by Jefferson-Pilot.

Since WTVR and WWBT are among the top four stations in the nation's 58th-largest market, the FCC and the DOJ do not allow a duopoly, since it would lead to higher prices for advertisers and violate anti-trust laws. Raycom entered into a decree with the DOJ to sell WTVR within ninety days. Under this same decree, the DOJ also has the right to reject the buyer.

Raycom tried selling WTVR to Sinclair, but the sale was rejected by the DOJ. Sinclair would turn around and sell Fox affiliate WRLH-TV to a third party, but would continue to operate it.

Raycom has thirty days to find another buyer for the station, but federal law can give the company another thirty days. If a buyer can't be found in time, the station's ownership falls in the hands of a trustee.

T Dog's Groovy Grab Bag

Let's reach into the bag today and see what we can scoop out...

- New fall syndication updates: WPWR plays the Feud again: Debmar-Mercury's Family Feud returns to WPWR-TV for the third time beginning on Sept. 8, airing back-to-back episodes at 2 p.m, while Debmar's new Trivial Pursuit: America's Plays airs at 3 p.m.

Family Feud aired on WPWR from 1991-95 and again during the 1999-2000 season.

- Charter and Time Warner have signed deals with The Big Ten Network, two of the major MSO holdouts - just in time for the upcoming college football season. Recently, Comcast added BTN to its cable lineup (In Chicago, you can find it on Ch. 52 and Ch. 255, while the HD feed can be found on Ch. 256.)

- In a rare - but complicated move, the Department of Justice has denied a station sale: In Richmond, Va, WTVR's sale to Sinclair Broadcast Group from Raycom Media was scuttled by the government agency because: 1. Sinclair would would have interests two of the top four stations in the Richmond market, since it was planning to spin-off Fox affiliate WRLH-TV to a holding company in which it would provide sales and non-related programming services; and 2. under provisions of a constent decree Raycom entered with the DOJ when it bought three Lincoln Financial stations, giving the government agency the right to reject the WTVR sale.

WTVR is Richmond's CBS affiliate - but it has struggled in recent years, often finishing third in the overall ratings.

- American Idol has added a fourth judge: Record producer Jane Doe will join Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, and Simon Cowell on the show next season. Four of them? Good luck, contestants.

- And finally has arrived. The new online network features full episodes of classic WB shows and some original content, including Sorority Forever.

updated on 2008-08-29 at 5:58 p.m. (corrected Family Feud item - Feud was on former English-language indie WGBO-TV during 1990-91 season)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

More on Mariotti's departure

According to Deadspin (take it with a grain of salt though), Jay Mariotti quit his Sun-Times job because of a perceived slight? Word is he wanted to write a column about Barack Obama after he returned from coming the Summer Olympics in China, but the Sun-Times' editors nixed the idea and gave the gig to Rick Telander.

Mariotti returned to the Sun-Times building to tape his Around the Horn segment, but management deactived his pass while management was deciding whether or not they should accept his resignation.

And now this from Sun-Times editor Michael Cooke:

"We wish Jay well and will miss him — not personally, of course, but in the sense of noticing he is no longer here, at least for a few days."


A promo that takes you to the '70's

Check this out: A cool 1970's-like promo for ABC's upcoming crime drama Life On Mars, about a guy who wakes up one morning, and thinks it's 1973. To see the clip, click here.

The clip features ABC graphics and the "meatball" logo from the era, and even uses an Ernie Anderson-like voice to promote the show (Anderson, who did voiceover work for ABC in the 1970's and 1980's and for the syndicated Star Trek: The Next Generation - not to mention playing "The Great Ghoulardi" on late-night TV in Cleveland in the 1960's - died in 1997.)

So, what was on ABC in 1973? Among the programs airing in prime-time when yours truly was just a toddler were The Brady Bunch, Odd Couple, Love, American Style (one title), The Rookies, Room 222, The F.B.I. and The New Temperatures Rising. ABC was the young-skewing alternative at the time to CBS and NBC.

Saturday Morning fare included Yogi's Gang, Superfriends, and something called Goober and the Ghost Chasers. Yes, Goober and the Ghost Chasers.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Chicago sports journalism has just improved... by a lot.

The Chicago Sun-Times' resident sports pest... er, I mean columnist, Jay Mariotti, has left the building. Mariotti resigned from the paper Tuesday night to pursue "other opportunities". The decision came after his trip to China to cover the Summer Olympics and noticed there wasn't much of a newspaper presence there, proclaiming sports journalism is now entirely on the Web (which is in fact, true.)

Well, what do I have to say about this?

Yabba Dabba Doo!

NanaNana... NanaNana... Hey, Hey, Hey... GOODBYE! Don't hit your behind out the door...

Sorry about that... Okay, where was I? Oh, yeah... Don't forget, he's still pestering audiences daily on ESPN's Around the Horn.

Ironically, Mariotti signed a three-year extension earlier this year.

Yes, Chicago, our long, local nightmare is over. Celebrate!

- Join the celebration at Jay the Joke

- Past T Dog Media Blog posts about Jay Mariotti, including A letter to Jay Mariotti and The inmates are running the asylum

- T Dog's Think Tank: O'Reilly, Mariotti aren't going anywhere

(Fred Flintstone: (C) Hanna-Barbera Productions, Inc. )

KPLR shifts CW primetime to 8 p.m.

Tribune's KPLR-TV in St. Louis is moving its half-hour 9 p.m. newscast to 7 p.m. and expanding it to a hour beginning on Sept. 8.

This means CW primetime fare currently airing at 7 p.m. is shifting to 8 p.m., with KPLR taking the Mountain Time feed. For example, when 90210 airs in St. Louis (8 p.m. Central), it'll air at the exact same time in Denver (7 p.m. MT.)

According to KPLR GM Bill Lanesey, the move is being made for viewers who can't get home to see local news on other stations at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. He points out their isn't an option for younger viewers at 9 p.m., and CW programming fits the bill. Lanesey also says PUT (People Using Television) levels for the 18-34 target audience is five points higher at 9 p.m. than it is for 7 p.m.

The move is a win for KTVI as well, with the Local TV-owned Fox affiliate (and former Fox O&O and ABC affiliate) having the news competition to itself at 9 p.m.

This isn't the first time a network affiliate shifted its prime-time programming to a later or earlier time to fit its' market's needs, but to mostly disastrous results.

In Indianapolis, WTHR-TV shifted its NBC prime-time programming to 7 p.m., Central Daylight Time from 8 p.m. in the summer of 1991 as an "early prime" experiment, but met with disastrous results, with the network version of The Cosby Show getting beat by Wheel of Fortune and the network version of Cheers on Thursday nights getting hammered by The Simpsons. It helps to note Indianapolis' three other network affiliates kept its prime-time at 8 year-around, even though the market was on Eastern Standard Time half the year (today, Indianapolis is on Eastern Time year-around.)

In 1992, NBC affiliates KCRA-TV in Sacramento, KRON-TV in San Francisco, and KSBW-TV in Salinas/Monterey, Calif. all shifted their prime-time to 7 p.m., as did CBS affiliate KPIX-TV in San Francisco in order to move their late news to 10 p.m. and expand a hour. A year later, all three NBC affiliates went back to airing prime-time programs beginning at 8 p.m., while KPIX hung in there before moving its prime-time start back to 8 p.m. in 1998.

When KOVR-TV in Sacramento switched affiliation from ABC to CBS in 1995, it moved its prime-time start to 7 p.m., where it remains today (KXTV switched from CBS to ABC and retained the 8 p.m. start for ABC programming.)

More recently, KJZZ-TV in Salt Lake City shifted My Network TV programming to late-night hours (MNT programming now airs in pattern on KCSG-TV.)

As for KPLR, the newscasts are only airing weeknights at 7 p.m. The station does not plan to air any weekend newscasts.

KPLR is also revising its' prime access lineup as well, with Everybody Loves Raymond and Two and a Half Men swapping time slots to air at 6 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., respectively.

Thought: While KPLR moving the newscast to 7 p.m. is nice, you wonder how long this will last. Not because of ratings - but because ABC's contract with its sadsack affiliate in St. Louis (Sinclair-owned KDNL-TV) reportedly comes up next year. With no local news operation at KDNL since 2001 (KDNL does not have a clause in its affiliation contract forcing it to put on local news), ABC would definitely give KPLR a look.

ABC has never really had good relations with KDNL or KTVI, and has tried to hook up with KPLR twice - once in 1988 and again in 1995, when then-owner of KTVI (New World) signed an affiliation deal with Fox with almost all of its stations, forcing ABC off KTVI and onto KDNL. What got in the way was Cardinals baseball - which KPLR held the rights to at the time.

With the Cardinals over-the-air broadcasts now on NBC affiliate KSDK-TV and CW struggling in the ratings, this is the perfect time for Sam Zell, Tribune, and KPLR to go after ABC. Look what the Tribsters recently did in San Diego. Make it happen, Mr. Zell. ABC deserves a strong station in St. Louis, while The CW deserves KDNL - after all, misery does loves company...

And don't forget, beginning Sept. 8, KDNL is airing the new daytime version of Deal or No Deal at 10 p.m. - at night - featuring bonus material - five extra minutes worth of commercials.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Merri Dee leaves WGN-TV

One of the most identifiable voices of WGN-TV is calling it a career.

Merri Dee, who has done voiceover work for WGN-TV in the 1970's and 1980's is leaving the station October 1 after 37 years.

Though known for her work for voiceovers, the Bud Billiken Parade, Illinois Lottery Drawings, and many telethons, she was also the longtime director for community relations for the Tribune-owned station.

She'll continue to be a consultant for community organizations and corporations, and she is also joining the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) as a volunteer to help shape the organization's agenda for Illinois.

Can syndication find the next hit?

Quick, when was the last true first-run syndicated hit?

Though many syndicators would argue, it was six years ago with Dr. Phil averaging a 4.4 Nielsen rating in its freshman season.

Before that, you would have to go all the way back to June 1996 for the last breakout hit - Warner Bros.' The Rosie O'Donnell Show. And if you want to go find out was the next breakout hit was before Rosie, you would have to go back all the way to 1987 when Geraldo Rivera's talk show hit it big.

This recent Broadcasting & Cable article dives into how syndicators are trying to find the next syndicated hit and in some cases, trying to re-structure a program's economic model so it can be more profitable for all parties involved.

With fragmentation the rule of the day now, it is increasingly harder and harder to launch a new first-run syndicated strip or weekly show. Then again, it was just as hard in the 1980's and 1990's, where hit shows right off the bat were just as hard to come by.

This fall's new strips hope to gain traction by appealing to different demos. And the fun begins on Sept. 8, with CBS launching a new medical talk show titled The Doctors (not related to the 1963-82 NBC daytime serial of the same name) and two new courtroom strips - Sony's Judge Karen and Program Partners' Family Court with Judge Penny.

Warner Bros. is launching the lone general-format talk show with The Bonnie Hunt Show, featuring Chicagoan Bonnie Hunt, while two game shows are launching: Debmar-Mercury's Trivial Pursuit: America Plays (debuts Sept. 22), and NBC Universal's Deal or No Deal.

Warner Bros. is programming CW's 3-5 p.m. time slot in all time zones, with the new Judge Jeanne Pirro (shot at the NBC Tower in Chicago) and repeats of The Wayans Bros. and The Jamie Foxx Show.

No off-network sitcoms are launching this season - unless you count Debmar's Tyler Perry's House of Payne, which is coming off a successful run on TBS; and Litton's off-cable series Punk'd. Also on tap are two new weeklies: Disney/ABC's Legend of the Seeker, which debuts Nov. 3, and Litton's Storm Seekers, which bows the week of Sept. 29.

Off-net weeklies coming down the pike this fall include Disney/ABC's Desperate Housewives and Lost; Twentieth's Boston Legal; and CBS Television Distribution's CSI: New York.

What's out of syndication:

Here's what yours truly knows so far...

- Twentieth's Temptation and Sony's Judge Maria Lopez have been confirmed canceled.

- Radar's Jury Duty lost its WPIX clearence in New York, so its likely gone as well.

- Sony is supposedly pulling repeats of The Shield from syndication.

- According to Sitcoms Online, WPIX in New York has dropped repeats of Soul Train from its lineup, meaning the dance music's long run on the station has come to an end. No word on the fate of the show on WGN-TV and WGN America.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Who's in your four, Edition II

The week's winners and losers:

T Dog's Fab Four

- Michael Phelps. The best Olympian. Ever.

- NBC and the Summer Olympics. The numbers posted by the event are on the pace to be the most watched Olympics. Ever.

- Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. A slight revamp and an upgrade to early fringe (5 p.m.) at WGN-TV in Chicago bodes well for the future of Meredith Vierra and this underrated game show, once an ABC prime-time mainstay.

- Bob & Tom. Those Clear Channel connections are paying off for Tribune, as the duo land a late-night TV show on WGN America.

T Dog's Flop Four

- Steve Dahl. - His show is being shortened and now moves to 5-9 a.m., so Jack-FM (WJMK) can play more music - but it may be because preliminary PPM numbers haven't been good as the diary ones. But the best lines of the week came from Dahl himself about the move: "By 9, you're done with your morning rush-hour-type radio. You're ready to kick back and enjoy some Huey Lewis, or whatever it is we play." And... "It's easier to start with something like that. It's really hard to start …[when] I've got to talk about this stupid song and Def Leppard. I've got nothing to say about Def Leppard." Funny Stuff. But you wonder if this is Steve Harvey and the now-defunct KKBT-FM (The Beat) in L.A. all over again...

- Star Wars: The Clone Wars. This year's most anticipated project turned out to be both a critical and a box office dud, dampening enthusiasm for the soon-to-launch animated TV series this fall, or whenever it premieres.

- Stargate: Atlantis. The sci-fi show on SciFi finally ran out of gas this week, canceled after five seasons.

- Washington Nationals. They couldn't find an audience (or fans) in Montreal as the Expos the last few years and now can't find an audience in Washington, D.C. With the baseball team getting beat on the field and in the ratings by infomercials featuring Wilford Brimley selling life insurance, it's time to pull the plug on this mess called MASN. As Brimley would say on those oatmeal commercials: "It's the right thing to do."

Toss Up: A pre-season Bears game Thursday night nearly beat the Summer Olympics locally, with the Bears-49ers tilt averaging a 13.3 household rating/22 share to the Olympics' 13.8/23. Hey, aren't we competing for the 2016 Olympics?

CBS, Time Warner to The CW: We got your backs

Memo to all CW employees from Time Warner and The Church of Tisch: We have you backs. By the power and the salvation of the almighty dollar, The CW will be saved from a fate worst than anything: cancellation, thanks to Pastor Les Moonves and Deacon Dawn Ostroff.

WBBM General Manager Joe Ahern will now make the rounds with the collection plate for your "donation".

In letters mailed to CW affiliates yesterday morning, Time Warner and CBS executives addressed their concerns about the fledgling network and remain 100 percent committed to the cause.

The announcement comes amid reports Tribune and others are making alternative plans to program prime-time just in case CW goes under, and a few stations are re-branding themselves without the CW name.

Ratings for CW are down 15 percent from a year ago, which was hard hit by the writer's strike. The network's ratings remain low despite the most buzzed-about shows on television. The network also recently rented out Sunday nights and Saturday mornings to outside suppliers.

Even worse, one of the network's "prize jewels" (Gossip Girl) was recently outrated in the teenage demo by ABC Family's The Secret Life Of The American Teenager, though Gossip was in repeats.

The network is being criticized for airing too many look-alike dramas featuring young, affluent spoiled brats and only targeting an audience (women 18-34) that is abandoning television for entertainment from other sources.

CW has a lot riding on this season with the revival of 90210, which I'm sure they'll declare a hit after the first hour of its two hour premiere on Sept. 2.

It is no one's surprise CBS and Time Warner is hanging on to this embarrassment of a network. After all, with members of The Church of Tisch running things, no wonder it's going to pot.

When the numbers for 90210 come out on Sept.3, you wonder if CW execs are going to be rewarded with an expensive lunch and marble showers...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

"Bob & Tom" head to WGN America

Indianapolis' popular radio duo - Bob & Tom - are headed to WGN America. The pair (which are heard locally on WRXQ-FM in southwest suburban Joliet) signed a cable deal with the network for a daily one-hour late-night show beginning in November.

The late night show features highlights from its syndicated The Bob & Tom Show, which is syndicated by Premiere Radio Networks, owned by Clear Channel Communications. WGN America's owner (Tribune) has raided several former Clear Channel executives, thanks to former CC exec Randy Michaels, who now works for Tribune.

Because WGN America is only carried on satellite in the Chicago area, Bob & Tom could air either on the local feed of WGN-TV or CLTV, but no decision has been made.

The program is scheduled for the 11 p.m. (Central Time) time slot, and will be shot in high definition.

The moves are part of a plan to rebrand WGN America with more original fare.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Olympic coverage: NBC or CBC?

Every one-and-a half to two-and-a-half years, the world pauses to celebrate the pageantry and the pomp that is the Olympics.

And every one-and-a half to two-and-a-half years, Americans bitch about NBC's coverage of them, while those who are lucky enough to get CBC's coverage from Canada (in Detroit, Buffalo, Seattle, Burlington, Vt., or anywhere near the Canadian border.

And judging by the comments in this story from TV Barn, it's clearly CBC by a landslide.

According to some, Canada's public broadcaster covers the Olympics with more depth, better analysis, and less hokeyness (i.e. those stupid athlete profiles), while NBC doesn't even know how to remove a "live" tag for Pacific and Mountain time zones.

Despite the complaints, Americans are watching NBC's coverage, with the peacock network now averaging more than 196 million viewers throughout the Olympics.

Meanwhile, CBC is losing the Olympic rights to private broadcaster CTV and cable sports channel TSN. Both are owned by CTVglobemedia.

So now it's a tradition to bash NBC's Olympic coverage. What else you'd expect from the past and future home of Knight Rider?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Chris Russo joins Sirius XM

In the "Wow, that's a big surprise" department, Chris "Mad Dog" Russo, late of the Mike & The Mad Dog show on WFAN-AM in New York City has joined Sirius XM and is getting his own channel titled "Mad Dog Radio". Russo left CBS-owned WFAN last week.

Russo will do a live show from 1-6 p.m. (Central Time) titled The Mad Dog Sports Show, and it is scheduled to premiere on September 15.

This marks the first major signing of talent for the newly merged company, and it marks another raid by Sirius XM President and CEO Mel Karmazin at his former employer.

Mad Dog Radio will soon be available on Sirius channel 123 and XM channel 144.

A change is afoot for "Millionaire"

With added competition from new freshman game show strips Trivial Pursuit: America Plays and the new weekday version of Deal or No Deal, Disney/ABC's long running game show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire is getting a facelift for its seventh season in syndication, which begins on September 8. Among the changes:

Time's Up. In order to speed up the game, the producers are now requiring contestants to give host Meredith Vierra a "final answer " to a question in an allotted amount of time. If the contestant doesn't answer the question in time, the game's over and the contestant goes home with the amount of cash he/she has won so far. Any time not used on the first fourteen questions are bankrolled to the million dollar question.

Goodbye 50/50. The lifelines a contestant can use are also changing, with the "50/50" and "Switch the Question" options being dropped. Being added instead are "Ask the Expert" (only available past the $1,000 level) which utilizes video teleconferencing (via Skype) with well-known experts, and "Double Dip", in which a contestant can take two guesses at a question.

I can now see ya (but don't want to be ya!) The "Phone A Friend" lifeline is also getting a makeover, with the contestants' phone-a-friends friend now visible.

Contestants now can also see the topics of the questions they will be asked, titled "The Millionaire Menu".

All the changes are being made to freshen up the look of the show, according to Millionaire's executive producer, Michael Davies.

Millionaire of course, began in August 1999 on ABC with Regis Philbin. The program became a weekly series in 2000, but ABC ran it too much in prime-time (up to four nights to week at one point) and ratings cratered. Millionaire moved to syndication in 2002 with a new host (Meredith Vierra) and has been a sleeper hit.

Millionaire airs locally on WGN-TV at 11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., but the second half-hour (which is usually a repeat) is being dropped to make way for an expanded midday newscast next month.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Did "Clone Wars" make "Star Wars" jump the shark?

This has been a tough 31st year for Star Wars, and it seems this franchise's soul has been left in a galaxy far, far away.

First, it was the all-Star Wars edition of Deal or No Deal last spring that was the wake. Now comes the burial: Star Wars: The Clone Wars movie - which is to set up the animated TV series on the Cartoon Network this fall - has been hit with almost unanimously poor reviews, absolutely no buzz, and indifference from some Star Wars fans.

As of this writing, the rating on Rotten Tomatoes' movie review web site is rotten indeed: only 19 percent. By comparison, Tropic Thunder - a movie that also came this past weekend, scored a 84 percent rating. The Dark Knight - the movie blockbuster of the summer - scored a rating of 94 percent.

While the pilot of the TV series played to rave reviews to critics at the TCA tour and to satisfying crowds at Comic-Con, it is somewhat of a shock to find the movie getting poor reviews - from critics and some fans alike. Clone Wars took in only $15.5 million at the box office this past weekend - which may not be a good sign for the TV series. Perhaps this should have premiered as a two hour made-for-TV movie event instead - that's how you get people to sample your program- not forcing them to fork out sixteen bucks to see it in a theater.

And notice the lack of marketing tie-ins to Clone Wars - how can you launch a movie like this without a marketing tie-in? You do so, even if the movie is an "afterthought". Even a deal with some dopey chain like Happy Burger to sell some flimsy soft drink cups would have sufficed.

Even worse, Cartoon Network still hasn't officially specified a premiere date for Clone Wars. One report stated August 10, which turned out to be incorrect. (Another report surfaced stating the series premieres on October 3, but this hasn't been verified by Cartoon Network.) Other networks - broadcast and cable - have set confirmed premiere dates for their fall programs already - why hasn't Cartoon Network done so with Clone Wars?

I haven't seen the movie yet, but still plan on doing so. But all of a sudden, I'm not as pumped about Clone Wars as I once was - thanks to the way this project has been handled - or mishandled - by the parties involved.

Use the force, Clone Wars. Because it looks like you're gonna need it.

NBC Universal unveils syndicated "Deal Or No Deal" format

NBC Universal recently unveiled details of its new Deal or No Deal strip hosted by Howie Mandel (who continues hosting the prime-time version.) The daily half hour is being assembled along the lines of the version that airs in the United Kingdom. Among the changes:

- The top prize won in the syndicated version is $500,000.

- There are only 22 cases compared to 26 in the prime-time version. Similar to the UK version, the cases are being held by potential contestants instead of models.

- But models are still a part of the show: Two of them will spin a wheel to see who gets to play. The two models are from the prime-time version of the series: Tameka Jacobs (who usually holds case No. 21) and Chicagoan Patricia Kara (who usually holds No. 9).

- Viewers can play at home by logging on to the syndicated show's website, and they have a chance to win $10,000 by playing the interactive version.

The daily version of Deal hopes to be a big hit for NBC Universal, where it and its predecessors (MCA TV and NBC Enterprises) historically have struck out in the game show arena. NBC Enterprises had a daily version of the prime-time game show The Weakest Link in syndication in 2002 and 2003, but didn't last.

In June 1987, MCA TV launched The Home Shopping Game to try to capitalize on the home-shopping craze at the time, but it fizzled out after three months. In June 1989, MCA launched a children's version of the board game Pictionary which also came and went after three months (yours truly - as a pimpled-faced teenager - watched both Pictionary and HSG, and both were the worst game shows to ever come out at the time. The 1997 adult version of Pictionary was much better.)

Deal or No Deal has landed some good early-fringe time slots and even some prime access ones. In New York and Los Angeles (WNBC-TV and KNBC-TV) respectively, the program is on opposite The Oprah Winfrey Show and Judge Judy. In Milwaukee, WVTV's airing it at 5 p.m., while in Detroit, WDIV has it on at 2:30 p.m., and in Indianapolis, WNDY-TV has slotted Deal for access at 7 p.m.

On the downside, there is still no clearance for the show in Washington D.C. while Deal is on at 10 p.m. in St. Louis (KDNL-TV) opposite local news and popular sitcom reruns (though one can argue the N.Y. and L.A. clearances are just as bad, given the competition.)

In Chicago, the daily version of Deal or No Deal premieres Sept. 8 at 12 noon on WMAQ-TV.

(Editor's note: An earlier version of this story stated there was no clearance in Kansas City when it fact there is one - at NBC affiliate KSHB-TV, as a poster pointed out. On the Deal or No Deal "where to watch" section of its website, the KSHB clearance was listed under Kansas and not Missouri. - T.H.)

Updated 9:44 p.m.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Phelps powers NBC

Michael Phelps set a record winning his eighth gold medal in the swimming relay at the Olympics, and it brought a boatload of viewers to NBC on a night where the tube is considered an afterthought.

NBC drew 31.1 million viewers for its Olympic coverage on Saturday night, with a peak 40 million at 10 p.m. Central Time.

The last time NBC drew more than 30 million viewers on a Saturday was on February 24, 1990 when an episode of the now-forgotten sitcom Empty Nest drew 31.4 million viewers.

NBC has now reached 191 million for the Beijing games so far, and is on a record pace to become the most watched Olympics ever.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

T Dog's Groovy Grab Bag - 08/16/08

But not-so-groovy: A couple of exits to report...

- Ed Sherman is out at the Tribune. The golf and sometimes media writer has accepted a buyout from the Trib and is expected to do freelance and co-author a book with Dan McNeil regarding the best and worst of Chicago sports. Best wishes to Mr. Sherman.

The move comes as 30 Chicago Tribune journalists have decided to take buyouts and leave the company, while more than 40 newsroom employees were laid off.

- Mike and the Mad Dog split up: WFAN-AM's top-rated afternoon duo in New York City have split. Chris Russo - the "Mad Dog" half of the show - has exited after nineteen years. Mike Francesa is expected to go solo with Russo possibly headed to Sirius XM.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Disney: Our stations are NOT for sale

Disney has denied a report from investment research firm Caris & Co. that it planned to sell its ten ABC O&Os, and would focus on distributing content.

Disney owns TV stations in the largest markets, including WLS-TV in Chicago. All three major networks have sold stations in the past year, although in smaller markets such as Milwaukee, St. Louis, Kansas City, Salt Lake City, and Green Bay. Some new privately-held broadcast companies have popped up as a result, including Four Points and Oak Hill's Local TV LLC (whose slogan is "The vision you can't ignore" - a Randy Michaels presentation.)

ABC owned-and-operated stations are the most successful in the business, with WLS and New York's WABC-TV and Philadelphia's WPVI listed as the most dominant outlets in their respective markets, with a strong syndicated lineup consisting of The Oprah Winfrey Show, Wheel of Fortune, Jeporady!, and Live With Regis & Kelly (except in Chicago, where Regis & Kelly airs on WGN-TV.)

In addition to the above three, ABC owns TV stations in Los Angeles (KABC); San Francisco (KGO); Houston (KTRK), Raleigh-Durham, N.C.(WTVD); Fresno (KFSN); Flint, Mich. (WJRT); and Toledo, Ohio (WTVG).

Thursday, August 14, 2008

WCIU plans Bernie Mac tribute (updated)

Independent WCIU-TV here in Chicago plans a tribute to the late Bernie Mac this Saturday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. (second item.) The station airs a local tribute at 5 p.m., followed by two episodes of The Bernie Mac Show at 6 p.m., and his special appearance with Rich Koz on Stooge-a-Palooza in 2006 at 7 p.m.

WCIU has set up a memorial page on its website, and it also contains a press release regarding Saturday's tribute.

Also: In an extra touch of class, the station has also paid tribute to the late Isaac Hayes during the station's identification breaks in-between programs. Hayes voiced Chef on the TV series South Park from 1997 to 2006. Syndicated repeats of South Park runs weeknights at midnight on WCIU.

FavreWatch: WFRV to air Jets games

CBS affiliate WFRV in Green Bay (which was up to a year ago was owned by CBS) has said it will air up to eight New York Jets games on Sunday afternoons featuring former Green Bay Packer Brett Favre at quarterback. The Liberty Media-owned station's first game airs on September 7 at noon against the Miami Dolphins.

Keep in mind NBC has the right to pluck games from CBS' and Fox's schedule later in the season as part of the "flex game" package they have - especially if the Jets are in playoff contention, so the number of games WFRV airs may be lower.

Chicago PPM July numbers

Remember, these are only in the pre-currency stage and the Portable People Meters go live in October, so here are the partial rankings among adults 25-54 and 18-34, according to All Access:

Adults 25-54

1. WDRV-FM (The Drive)
2. WTMX-FM (The Mix)
3. WUSN-FM (US 99)
6. WVAZ-FM (V103)
8. WLUP-FM (The Loop)
9. WLS-FM (True Oldies Channel)

Adults 18-34

3. Tie: WKSC-FM (Kiss FM); WLEY-FM
6. WUSN-FM (US 99)
7. WBBM-FM (B96)
8. WKQX-FM (Q101.1)
10. WLIT-FM (Lite FM)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Off-network sitcoms on rebound... or are they?

Is the off-network sitcom drought about to come to an end in syndication? It very well may be.

But stations may have other ideas.

This story from TVNewsday reports on the off-network sitcom drought this coming season and the number of sitcoms coming down the pike in September 2009. For the first time in recent memory, there are no fresh off-network sitcoms available for syndication (with the exception of Debmar-Mercury's House of Payne, which is off-TBS.)

But next year, several off-net sitcoms are hitting the market, including NBC Universal's The Office and CBS Television Distribution's Everybody Hates Chris, and maybe Twentieth's My Name Is Earl (which could be held until 2010.) Earl and Office have already been sold as a strip to TBS for a Septemeber 2009 start date.

This past season, Warner Bros.' Two and a Half Men and Twentieth's Family Guy did quite well in their off-network debuts, ranking number one and number two respectively in key demos.

For the future, syndicators are also tapping cable for sitcoms. Programs possibly headed for broadcast off-net syndication include Weeds, Entourage, and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Also coming down the pike soon is American Dad from Twentieth, possibly for 2010.

While product is coming back to the market, stations may be hesitant to bite. Many have found ample replacements for the lack of off-network syndication. For example, WGN-TV is launching a new 5:30 p.m. newscast in September and WXIX-TV in Cincinnati launched a 6:30 p.m. newscast this week. Both time slots have been occupied with sitcom reruns for as long as anyone remembers (since Adam and Eve first appeared on earth, basically.)

Plus, non-traditional affiliates (Fox, CW MyNet, and indies) are saying the same thing Big Three network affiliates said about off-network sitcoms years ago: they don't want to be tied down to a show for four or five years while they make money off local (mostly news) or first-run syndicated programming (though CBS-owned WWJ-TV in Detroit and ABC affiliate KDNL-TV in St. Louis think otherwise - they program no news.)

And broadcast stations still don't like sharing off-network sitcoms with cable. In fact, Chris-Craft/United Television, the former owners of KBHK-TV (now KBCW-TV) in San Francisco and KMSP-TV in Minneapolis signed only three-year contracts for Friends when it debuted in syndication in 1998 - because Friends was also sold to TBS with a 2001 start date. Friends moved to KTVU-TV and KSTC-TV in those markets respectively that same year.

With sitcoms now airing on cable (namely TBS), and the current crop of programs not meeting expectations for the most part, it's little wonder why stations has lost their taste for off-network sitcoms.

T Dog's Think Tank: Is the off-network sitcom dead?

T Dog's Groovy Grab Bag

Some Chicago-related media news:

- One coming from Oregon, one going to Oregon: Clear Channel has upped Tony Coles as vice president and operations of the company's six-station radio cluster here in Chicago. Coles comes via Portland, Ore. where he was regional vice president of programming at Clear Channel's Northwest cluster. He replaces Darren Davis, who was promoted to senior VP of programming overseeing 24 markets. Meanwhile, WNUA-FM host Rick O'Dell now has added duties as program director.

The one going is Mike Peterson, who announced his resignation as program director of CBS' WUSN-FM (US 99) and WCFS-FM (Fresh 105.9 FM) to return to Oregon to work in his family's business.

- Jeff Goldbatt, late of the Fox News Channel, has been tapped to become the co-anchor of Fox-owned WFLD-TV's 9 p.m. newscast, beginning Monday. Goldblatt replaces Mark Suppelsa , who jumped to WGN-TV's 9 p.m. newscast.

Who's in your four?

It's been dreary around here lately, so let's lighten the mood a little bit with a new feature: Introducing T Dog's "Who's in your four?"

T Dog's Fab Four

- The Olympics ratings. Friday's opening ceremonies rocked, scoring higher ratings than any other non-U.S. opening ceremony. The games are dominating prime-time, with high numbers for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday - and up 16 percent from Athens' 2004 totals. But the claws are already out... In the words of R&B artist Alexander O'Neal, "She's a Fake..."

- Chicago Baseball. Who'd thought people would still talk about the Cubs and White Sox in August at the same time?

- Michael Phelps. Is this swimmer hot or what? He's heating up the water!

- The rise and rise of Comic-Con. Is it getting too big for its own good? The Trib's Maureen Ryan investigates.

Extra Fab: To WTMX-FM's morning duo of Eric and Kathy who raised $1.7 million in their recent radio-thon for the Children's Memorial Hospital.

T Dog's Flop Four

- Summer TV. Except for Wipeout, not too much to note. Look on the bright side: six more weeks to go until the start of the new season.

- Tori Spelling leaves 90210. I think she'll eventually be signed, but The Church of Tisch (CBS) wouldn't up her pay to the level former stars Jennie Garth and Shannen Doherty got. I guess they'll use the money they would've paid her to give WBBM-TV boss Joe Ahern another marble shower.

- Daytime SportsCenter. What's the difference between a new edition of SportsCenter and a rerun? The same useless analysis of the Yankees and the antics of Manny Ramirez. Only fresher.

- Chicago's Olympics ratings. For a city that's making noise about landing the Olympics in eight years, we didn't exactly gather around the TV sets with Chicago not making the top 10 metered Nielsen markets. The top-rated market? San Diego (on KNSD-TV), with a 26.5 household rating and 49 share.

Toss Up

- Darkmane. He wanted us to foil the X Games. Could he show up at Wrigley in October?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

R.I.P. Bernie Brillstein

With the sudden deaths of Isaac Hayes and Bernie Mac this weekend, I also want to mention the passing of another Bernie - Bernie Brillstein, a Hollywood manager, producer, and power broker who was behind numerous TV series including Hee Haw, The Muppet Show, ALF, and Saturday Night Live. Brillstein passed away on Thursday in Los Angeles from chronic pulmonary disease. He was 77.

Brillstein formed Brillstein-Grey Entertainment in 1991 with producer Bred Grey and together they produced programs such as Newsradio, The Larry Sanders Show, The Dana Carvey Show, and The Sorpranos.

Brillstein was also co-executive producer of one of my favorite TV series of all time - It's Garry Shandling's Show, which aired on Showtime and later on Fox. Starring Garry Shandling (who was also in The Larry Sanders Show), this series inspired me to begin writing. It's a shame you can't find the program anywhere, even on DVD.

In addition to his television work, Brillstein was the executive producer of many 1980's films, including Ghostbusters, Summer Rental, Spies Like Us, and the big screen adaption of Dragnet.

Remembering Isaac Hayes

Though TV fans knew Isaac Hayes as the voice of Chef on South Park, he was much more than someone behind a cartoon character.

Isaac Hayes was a Grammy-Award winning artist who composed the score in the movie Shaft, and his groundbreaking soul music paved the way for the "smooth era" in soul music, which helped launch the careers of Barry White, Teddy Pendergrass, and Luther Vandross.

Hayes died Sunday at his home in Memphis, found unresponsive. He was 65. As of this writing, the cause of his death was unknown. His death comes only a day after comedian Bernie Mac passed. Hayes appeared on The Bernie Mac Show and co-starred with him and Samuel L. Jackson in the movie Soul Men, due out later this year.

Hayes was born in Convington, Tenn. in 1942, and moved to Memphis when he was 6.

Hayes first album was Hot Buttered Soul in 1969, which featured him singing in a "cool style", as well as peppering his songs in spoken-word, actually rapping before it was known as rap.

On November 20, 1971, Hayes scored his first number one single with The Theme From Shaft, a song which was featured in the opening credits of the movie. The song entered Billboard's Hot 100 on October 16, 1971 and raced up the charts to the top spot five weeks later. He performed the song at the 1972 Academy Awards telecast to rave reviews. The song and the score won him two Grammy Awards. He won another Grammy in 1972 for the album Black Moses. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.

Hayes was an significant part of Memphis-based Stax Records, and was also a songwriter teaming up with David Porter to compose songs for Sam and Dave (Soul Man) and Carla Thomas. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003.

Hayes also composed songs for the movies Tough Guys, Truck Turner, and Beavis and Butt-Head Do America, where he sung on Two Cool Guys.

In 1976, Hayes declared bankruptcy after the Stax label fell on hard times. He was recording again in 1979, after he signed on with Polydor.

In 1997, Hayes was hired to voice Jerome "Chef" McElroy on the TV series South Park , where he was a former musician who wound up as the South Park Elementary chef, spenting time singing a lot of racy songs. A CD titled Chef Aid was released in 1999. Based on an episode of South Park of the same name where Chef goes bankrupt and tries to raise money to pay off his debts, the CD featured Hayes in his "Chef" character and had a complication of artists including Elton John, Meatloaf, and Rick James. Hayes also contributed music to the series.

In 2006, Hayes left the show in a dispute with South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone after the duo mocked Scientology, though Hayes had decreased his role in the show prior to his walkout. The duo decided to kill off the Chef character in the tenth-season premiere episode titled The Return of Chef, featuring voice-tracked, strung-together quotes by Hayes. The episode was not well received by fans, causing some to suggest South Park had "jumped the shark". Still, the program scored its highest ratings in four years.

In addition to South Park, Hayes made numerous other television appearances over the years, including The Rockford Files, The A-Team, Hunter, American Playhouse, Tales from the Crypt, The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, Girlfriends, and The Bernie Mac Show. Film credits included Tough Guys, Escape from New York, I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, Hustle & Flow, and of course, as Chef in South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut. A few years ago, he appeared on the TV series Stargate SG-1 as Tolok.

Hayes was also working on a new album for the newly-revived Stax records.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Remembering Bernie Mac

As you've heard by now, Chicago comedian Bernie Mac passed away early Saturday Morning at Northwestern Memorial Hospital due to complications of pneumonia. He was 50. He has had some health problems over the years, including a bout with sarcoidosis, which went into remission in 2005.

Born Bernard Jeffrey McCullough on Oct 5, 1957, Bernie Mac broke into comedy in the late 1970's, performing at stand-up clubs in and around Chicago. Before that, he was performing on CTA "L" trains and parks. He is a graduate from Chicago Vocational High School.

His big break came in the early 1990's, when he won a beer company's talent search and performed on HBO's Def Comedy Jam, riffing on everything from family to antics in the bedroom, smashing one taboo subject after another. Afterward, he headlined his own HBO series, titled Midnight Mac.

He received a bit part in the 1992 theatrical Mo' Money and got his first full role in the 1995 hit Friday. Other film credits included House Party 3 and How to be a Player. His major breakthrough came in the film The Original Kings of Comedy, which featured Bernie Mac along with Steve Harvey, Cerdic the Entertainer, and D.L. Hughley touring the country together performing stand-up.

His first broadcast television credentials came when he appeared on The Wayans Bros., which led to a recurring role in Moesha as Uncle Bernie.

But his big TV break came in 2001, with the debut of The Bernie Mac Show on Fox. In the critically acclaimed sitcom, he suddenly found himself taking care of his nieces and nephew, driving him crazy every opportunity he got (the plot was taken from one of his stand-up routines in The Original Kings of Comedy film.) He was nominated for two Emmy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards in the role. The Bernie Mac Show, though did win an Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series and a Peabody Award.

Unfortunately, the success of The Bernie Mac Show didn't last. The program was an initial hit in its Wednesday 8 p.m. (CT) time slot, but tougher competition from ABC's The Bachelor later in the season forced it to move an hour earlier in year 2. Seven time period changes later, the program landed in the Friday Night Death Slot in January 2005, and after fifteen ratings-challenged months, was canceled in April 2006. Twentieth Television has been airing the series in off-network syndication since 2005, but results so far nationally have been mediocre.

After the series ended, Bernie Mac focused his career for the most part in the movies.

In addition to the movies he already appeared in before his TV show, he was also featured in Ocean's Eleven and its sequels, Bad Santa, Head of State (co-starred with Chris Rock), and in Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. He was the lead in Mr. 3000 and co-starred with Ashton Kutcher in Guess Who?

He was recently working on four theatrical projects, including the soon-to-release Soul Men and Old Dogs, which all are now in post-production. Bernie Mac was also involved in a pilot for Fox produced by Bruce Helford (The Drew Carey Show), but the network passed. However, Fox still wanted to do another project with him.


On a personal note, I saw Bernie Mac a few years ago in person in a bookstore in the Loop, where he was promoting his new book. Even though I didn't get a chance to speak to him, it was still a thrill to see him in person.

Yours truly was a big Bernie Mac fan, as well as his TV show. Even though the program was truly underrated, it was still one of the most funniest and most original comedies to come along this decade. My favorite part about this show was when Bernie Mac would break the "fourth wall" to address the audience - a tactic used before in many programs such as Burns and Allen, It's Garry Shandling's Show (another personal favorite of yours truly), Saved by the Bell, and Malcolm in the Middle.

One thing he knew was even though he worked in Los Angeles, he preferred to stay in the Chicago area. Local independent WCIU-TV won the off-network syndication bidding rights for The Bernie Mac Show in 2003 and began airing it two years later, where it continues to do well for the station. Bernie Mac himself did promos at WCIU for the show, and even appeared with host Rich Koz on Stooge-A-Palooza (the station's showcase for Three Stooges sorts on Saturday Nights), since Mac was a big Three Stooges fan.

Bernie Mac was also a dedicated sports fan, rooting hard for the White Sox and the Bears.

In short, Bernie Mac wasn't just a comedian from Chicago - he was Chicago comedy. Unlike many in Hollywood, he never forgot where he came from. And to me and a lot of us who live here on the South Side - he made us proud. Bernie Mac was perhaps the most talented comedian to ever come out of my hometown.

God bless you Bernie Mac. Thank you for making Chicago proud. Rest in peace.

Awards Tally: To read the number of awards Bernie Mac has won and has been nominated for, click here. His last award won was a 2006 Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series (The Bernie Mac Show.)

Tribute planned: There is a public memorial service planned for Bernie Mac at the House of Hope on Saturday, August 16 at 12:00 p.m. The House of Hope is a church located at 752 E. 114th Street in Chicago, just off the Bishop Ford (Calumet) Expressway, a.k.a. Interstate 94. WCIU has set up a memorial for Bernie Mac on their website, where you can share your thoughts.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Friday, August 08, 2008

FavreWatch lands in the Big Apple

Photo courtesy of Fox

The naked city just got one more story to add to its eight million.

Television's most fascinating drama landed in New York City on Thursday with the trade of Green Bay Packer Brett Favre to the New York Jets, ending his sixteen-year run as the Cheeseheads' quarterback.

Favre originally retired from the game last March, and the Packers moved on and made Aaron Rodgers as their new starting QB. But Favre unretired recently, and was reinstated by the NFL on Monday. With ESPN and other outlets watching his every move, Favre landed at Packers' training camp on Sunday, but returned to his home in Mississippi on Tuesday disgruntled.

Now, he is the quarterback for the Jets - a team that hasn't had a major superstar since Joe Namath.

The move of Favre to the Jets - an AFC team - is good news for CBS, who air the majority of Jets games since it has rights to the AFC package. Even better has for CBS, its O&O in New York (WCBS-TV) stands to see both a ratings and revenue increase thanks to Favre's arrival.

CBS has twelve Jets games scheduled this fall, while Fox has two, and ESPN and the NFL Network have one each. However, this could change if NBC decides to grab some games for prime-time late in the season if the Jets are in playoff contention.

Traditionally, the AFC games have been lower rated than NFC games - which has been the case since the days NBC owned the AFC package and CBS had the NFC. But Favre's arrival in New York could change things, and in recent years, AFC games' average ratings have caught up to those for the NFC games on Fox.

If you look at this from a Chicago perspective, the Jets are like the Chicago White Sox - a second team in a market in the same sport that often play in the shadow of another team. The New York Giants - who share their stadium with the Jets - are like the Chicago Cubs - a team with a loyal fan base all across the country, and guaranteed high ratings whenever they are on national TV.

Of course, there are differences: In the last fifty years, the Giants have won numerous championships, including last year's Super Bowl; the Cubs haven't won in a century (although they may be on their way to ending the drought.) The Jets haven't won a championship since Super Bowl III in 1969; The White Sox won the World Series in 2005, ending a 88-year drought.

Whatever the case, Favre's move to the Big Apple may not look good to the experts on sports talk radio and on the Worldwide Leader in B.S. But to CBS - where the only number they care about is on those Nielsen rating sheets - it's a very good deal.

T Dog's Groovy Grab Bag

Another installment of T Dog's Groovy Grab Bag:

- Fox has decided to replace Moment of Truth on Thursday nights this fall with Hole in the Wall, a Japanese-like game show which debuts on Sept. 11. Let's hope it doesn't turn out like a similar show ABC aired this summer.

For the record, the last time Fox aired something close to this was Family Double Dare, a prime-time version of the Nickelodeon and first-run syndicated kids' game show in 1988.

- It's official: SciFi has ordered a Battlestar Galactica prequel movie, which airs next year, shortly after the conclusion of the series. The movie will be available subsequently available on DVD.

- NBC has hit the $1 billion mark in Olympic ad sales. The torch is lit as of today.

- The goes online on August 27, with Johnson & Johnson signing on as sponsor, with Comcast adding classic WB network shows on its on-demand video service.

- Christopher Knight has signed on as host of Debmar-Mercury's new syndicated Trivial Pursuit: America's Plays game show strip. The game show debuts on Sept.22 and is airing locally over WPWR-TV. Knight played Peter Brady on The Brady Bunch, but you knew that already, didn't you?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Church of Ahern

According to an article from Robert Feder in today's Sun-Times, CBS-owned WBBM-TV GM Joe Ahern threw himself a big birthday party at a trendy Loop restaurant two months ago. Guess who got the tab.... some of the station's employees.

After Ahern sought reimbursement from CBS, Channel 2's controller turned him away. So, he made the department heads and managers pick up the tab instead, ordering them to write personal checks to him for $100 or more. No word if wore an usher suit and passed around a collection plate at the station to collect the tab.

This comes after reports surfaced that a new marble shower was installed in the washroom of his office - not to mention recently having a lunch that cost $5,000.

Wait, there's more. A Tribune story last week blasted Channel 2's new video screen outside its new soon-to-open Loop headquarters with many complaining about being too tacky, too small, and being a distraction.

All of this expense comes after the network - fiscally ruined for life by penny-pincher Larry Tisch (who once owned CBS) - made cutbacks and laid off a lot of staff at its owned-and-operated station division. Tisch made similar moves in the late 1980's where during his tenure, CBS fell to third place (fourth place in younger demos behind up-and-comer Fox) in the prime-time ratings and WBBM-TV's ratings almost dropped to the basement.

(If you've read Three Blind Mice: How the Networks Lost Its Way- a book by Ken Auletta about the networks and how they survived after they were each sold in the 1980's - then you know what I'm talking about.)

So can anyone figure out why Ahern still has a job? Easy. They belong to the Church of Tisch. It's a denomination where you don't stack 'em deep but run 'em cheap. That's how you keep your job. Dawn Ostroff is a member: she still has a job at The CW (which is co-owned by CBS and Time Warner), where she continues to lead it right down the toilet. I guess soon, we can expect Ostroff to hit up CW employees to keep the network running. What else do you expect from the Church of Tisch, where Ahern, Ostroff, and CBS boss Lesile Moonves are direct descendants? They are the "ministers" while the congregation foots the bill.

Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!

CBS founder William Paley must be turning over in his grave. I know Larry Tisch is smiling in his.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

See ya! Don't want to be ya!

In the "don't hit your behind out the door" department...

ABC inane I Survived A Japanese Game Show didn't survive the ratings Tuesday night as the two-hour season finale notched a 1.8 rating and 5 share in adults 18-49, down 22 percent from last week. The program only drew 4.5 million viewers and did not register any significant rating increases half-hour to half-hour.

Though the numbers don't indicate it should ever come back, remember: this is the network that keeps According to Jim on the air...

In the good news department, ABC has renewed Wipeout for a second season with sixteen episodes, meaning there's a good chance we may see it run during the regular season.

About the new Q101 morning show...

Robert Feder mentioned the new WKQX-FM morning show hosted by Brian Sherman and Steve Tingle in his article today and didn't exactly give it the benefit of the doubt...

He says the alternative rock station is trotting out its fourth morning show in two years (actually, only its second), and predicting doom and gloom for the show and hinted the station was better off with Erich "Mancow" Mueller, who occupied the slot from 1998 to 2006.

Personally, I say give it a chance. While I agree it has a long way to go in finding an audience, it has nowhere to go but up. Sherman & Tingle are already on in the afternoons, and it seems the show is more than ready to take on the heavyweights in morning drive.

As for Mancow Mueller, I haven't really said much about the former Q101 morning personality since he was bounced in July 2006 and this blog started two months later. In fact, out of the 1,300 or so posts I've wrote, he's mentioned in only 14 of them. He's not heard locally in Chicago anymore - hasn't been for two years. He's not a factor and is irrelevant to the local radio scene. Feder has certainly mentioned him more in his columns in the same time span, and I don't know why.

I've listened to the show before, and while it was exciting to listen to at first, it became more and more of a bitter rant fest, plus he became more of a hyprocrite, which sent me and a lot of other listeners fleeing for the exits.

I remember a few years ago when he stated in an interview regarding lyrics in many pop music and hip-hop songs were offensive. And yet, he was a radio personality at KMEL-FM in San Francisco which played such fare and his Q101 shows often was racy and featured porn stars. When you look up the word "hypocrite" in the dictionary, you'll find a picture of Mancow.

And his lawsuit against Q101 is quite baseless. I'm surprised it hasn't been thrown out of court by now. His claim of how Emmis kept him from being hired at urban outlet WPWX-FM (Power 92) is quite unbelievable and even more so given he wouldn't have been a good fit at Power 92 anyway, given he's clearly not a fan of the music they play.

And while he did well in his last ratings book at Q101, it was more of a curosity factor since a lot of people knew ahead of time his days at the station were coming to an end. Ratings for his show were slipping for years.

But think about this - how pathetic is Chicago radio when the most mentioned personality is someone who hasn't been heard here in the last two years?

While I respect Feder a lot - I've read him for 25 years - I think he's being unfair to Q101's morning team before the show even moves to its new time period. And to me, it's better to have a local morning show than a self-absorbed windbag who does his show from Chicago and isn't local at all.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

T Dog vs. The PTC, Round 2

Sung to Loverboy's "Hot Girls in Love": I'm turning up the heat....

Round 2

Yes, your humble friend T Dog drops the gloves again with the Piss Turd Council for Round 2 and their latest nonsense. Click here to go to the show (Update: Another person has since weighed in against the PTC and like typical cowards, it looks like they wanted to avoid a total beatdown.)

And in case you missed it, here's Round 1, where the PTC strikes back against me (alright, I misspelled the guy's name, so what?)

Now if I can only get Bill O'Reilly and Jay Mariotti to respond to yours truly (who by the way, has made headlines again for all the wrong reasons, - or maybe a right reason for once, since the guy criticizing ESPN's Erin Andrews is out of line. Is this Mike Nadel dimbulb a member of the PTC?)

Updated 11:20 a.m. on 2008-08-06

T Dog's Groovy Grab Bag

Some news, not enough time:

- Chicago-based Weigel Broadcasting has sold its three low-power TV stations in South Bend, Ind. to Schurz communications, owners of dominant CBS affiliate WSBT-TV.

The three TV stations are WBND (ABC), WCWW (CW) and WMYS (My Network TV.)

Weigel has stated its main Chicago and Milwaukee properties are not for sale.

- Twentieth Television is expected to announce any day now it is bringing out a daily syndicated strip version of Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? beginning in September 2009, with the possibility of prime-time host Jeff Foxworthy hosting the show.

Since its debut in February 2007, Fifth Grader has been a hit for Fox, settling in on Thursday nights at 7 p.m (CT), where it thrives in a competitive time period.

Tempation, Twentieth's most recent game show strip, was canceled this past season after less than spectular ratings (as in none.)

- While ESPN wasn't busy running FavreWatch, they were running a dugout fight between two teammates of the Milwaukee Brewers on their sports and news shows over 8,000 times last time I counted. SportsCenter is launching a new live daytime edition next week, so the FavreWatch never ends. Gotta love the Worldwide Leader in B.S.

Monday, August 04, 2008

"Oprah" in trouble?

(Editor's Note: A rough draft appeared earlier here by mistake, resulting in an error in the second paragraph which has since been corrected. In other words, the word "repeat" should have been where "new" was. - T.H.)

Maybe yesterday's White Sox-Royals brawl may serve as an indication people in Kansas City (and certainly Minnesota) may be sick of anything coming out of Chicago - maybe even a certain presidential candidate...

An item on Aaron Barnhart's TV Barn site reports The Oprah Winfrey Show finished a surprising fourth in Kansas City on ABC affiliate KMBC-TV in households during July with repeat episodes, finishing behind a newscast on CBS affiliate KCTV and Judge Judy on Fox affiliate WDAF-TV and game shows on NBC affiliate KSHB-TV (yes, KSHB - the former Fox affiliate on Channel 41.)

Not only that, Oprah came in second or third in many metered markets in households, and was beaten by CBS daytime soap The Young & The Restless in at least two of them (I assume St. Louis and Raleigh, N.C., where in the latter market, CBS affiliate WRAL-TV clearly dominates the ratings.)

While Oprah still dominates the ratings in her home base of Chicago, her ratings have slipped nationwide. According to a recent edition of Marc Berman's Programming Insider, season-to-date ratings for Oprah (through July 13, 2008) were down 15 percent in households, down 17 percent in women 25-54, and down 18 percent in adults 25-54 - all from the year-ago time period (through mid-July 2007.)

To be fair, keep in mind Oprah is still the top-rated talk show in syndication in households and in key demos. And a lot of daytime and early fringe programs have suffered ratings erosion over the last few years, as viewers have more choices in the household and can DVR or tape programs to watch later.

This becomes more interesting as Ms. Winfrey's contract comes up in three years. Winfrey doesn't seem to have much of a relationship with her current distributor (CBS Television Distribution) as she did with King World, which was bought by CBS in 1999. Her latest talk project - a medical show featuring Dr. Memhet Oz - was picked up by Sony Pictures for fall 2009 to compete with CBS' The Doctors - a project produced by Oprah protege Dr. Phil McGraw which debuts this fall.

And since CBS owns Judge Judy, they are more likely to tout that program's successful performance. While Winfrey's show is also distributed by CBS, it's owned by her Harpo production company. Stations also get a sweet deal with Judy, since license fees they pay on their current deal are lower than they are for Oprah's.

Moreover, Oprah now has to compete with earlier local newscasts on rival stations, who can make a tidy profit because they don't have to fork out any large sums of money or commercial time to a syndicator. NBC affiliate WTMJ in Milwaukee used to carry Oprah but dropped it in 1993 because they weren't willing to pay King World higher license fees. The station now runs news at 4 p.m. and Oprah now airs on ABC affiliate WISN-TV.

Ms. Winfrey has also stayed out of politics during most of her time in the spotlight. But out of nowhere, she endorsed Barack Obama for President. Some say the endorsement hurt her show whose core demo (women 25-54) was solidly behind Hilary Clinton. Her magazine has also suffered year-to-year circulation declines. Another reason for the ratings decline is maybe we're just getting Oprahed-out.

Only thing I can say is this could be the biggest shift in daytime TV since Winfrey herself came on the scene all the way back in 1986. If Oprah's ratings continue to slide, you can bet there will be some changes on West Washington Blvd.

And if Oprah Winfrey replaces herself with Ozzie Guillen, then the audience would really flee for the exits.