Thursday, July 31, 2008

Now the real fun begins for San Diego

Comic-Con ended on Sunday, but now the next event for San Diego is on the horizon, and it happens this Friday.

For the first time in 31 years, an affiliation switch is set to take place, with founding Fox affiliate XETV heading to CW and Tribune's KSWB-TV moving over to Fox. The deal was struck last March.

Both stations are both gearing up for the big day and looking forward to what their new network partners have to offer.

KSWB is looking forward to higher-rated Fox programming, including American Idol, The Simpsons, Family Guy, and of course, NASCAR races (Daytona 500 among them) and NFL Football. In addition, they get new buzzed-shows Fringe and Joss Whedon's Dollhouse (I thought I mention Joss Whedon's name again.)

Meanwhile, XETV is looking forward to reinventing itself as a CW affiliate, heavily promoting the net's new fall lineup, which features the new 90210 (The original aired on XETV when it was a Fox station) and teen magnet Gossip Girl.

Outside of news, no other changes for XETV and KSWB are expected for the rest of the stations' lineup outside of prime-time (except for KSWB and Fox Saturday Baseball) until September at the earliest, when new syndicated schedules go into effect. XETV and KSWB are also swapping Saturday morning children's lineups, but both are being programmed by the same company: 4KidsTV, so there's no noticeable difference come fall.

While XETV has already revamped its website to showcase its new ties to CW, it's interesting to note at the time of this writing, KSWB hasn't updated theirs - in fact, it still promimently features CW shows with just one day to go before the switch to Fox and has a link to 90210 - a program that'll never air on KSWB. Even their anchor bio site still features Anne State, who's now co-anchoring the news on CBS-owned WBBM-TV here in Chicago.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Cubs dominate ratings in Chicago

Anyone watching the new summer fare here in Chicago? You know, shows like I Survived a Japanese Game Show, Celebrity Family Feud, Swingtown, Duel, and Wanna Bet?

Didn't think so (in fact, no one is watching them anywhere else, either.)

What people are watching in the Windy City are the Cubs - and on Monday night, the Cubs-Brewers game dominated with a 8.3 Nielsen household rating, peaking at an 11.2 between 10:15-10:30, defeating the local newscasts on the O&Os.

Not only that, the game defeated all first-run reality shows on the networks locally Monday night, including American Gladiators and Nashville Star.

The Cubs are currently three games up on the Milwaukee Brewers as of this afternoon.

If the Cubs continue into the pennant race through October and make the playoffs, it could give the beleaguered broadcast networks really something to worry about when their fall schedules roll out.

Pat Cassidy leaves WBBM-AM

One thing yours truly has learned about this business in recent years: There's no summer vacation when it comes to media news (particularly in July), especially when it pertains to comings and goings. Today, yet another big name has left a media outlet.

Pat Cassidy, who was co-anchor at WBBM-AM with Felicia Middlebrooks for the last eight years, has left his position for a desire to do talk radio. Reportedly, he may surface at WLS-AM, or another talk outlet.

Watch this space and stay tuned.

UPDATE: It is indeed official: Pat Cassidy is going to WLS. Cassidy's contract expired today, and he declined to renew, preferring to re-invent himself as a talk-show host. More details here.

Updated 12:14 p.m.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Comic-Con post game show

Putting the wraps on another year of Comic-Con:

Geek Nation thanks you for your support

Never underestimate the marketing power of Comic-Con. Producers, writers, and the studios know this all too well, and to reach their loyal fans, they came to San Diego in droves to show off their wares.

Lost and Heroes panels played to crowds larger than you find at most Padres games nowadays. People were camped out overnight to get the best seats. It's that big. Even non Sci-fi shows like 24 and The Office were represented at the Con.

And positive buzz about a project, such as the season three premiere of Heroes, and the new Star Wars: The Clone Wars can carry you a long way (then again, this happened to The New Bionic Woman last year and look where that ended up.)

Many believe Comic-Con is replacing those old standbys, NATPE and TCA as the big media thing of the year. Maybe. But all three can co-exist. While NATPE attracts television execs to Vegas every January and TCA brings TV critics to Beverly Hills twice a year, Comic-Con is the only venue that let fans interact with the people behind the television shows they watch, the movies they go to, and the comic books they read.

Even the TV trade magazines had special sections devoted space on their websites to Comic-Con, as TV Week, Hollywood Reporter, and Variety had people blogging right from the floor.

But yours truly fears Comic-Con may be in for a shark jump as the festival continues to grow in popularity. The Gossip Girl crowd was in attendance for a Twilight screening. And yours truly knows gossip mongers TMZ, E!, Entertainment Tonight and its evil sister The Insider are now lurking around every corner.

But Comic-Con is still a blast. Who ever thought a comic book festival started in a hotel basement in 1970 would become a force to be reckoned with in the entertainment world. With over 100,000 in attendance last week for four days of fun, this festival of geek is here to stay.

Now if yours truly can get to go... it would be better than going to the Super Bowl (except on the rare occasion the Bears are in the big game.)

What was hot at Comic-Con

Lost, Heroes, Joss Whedon, Family Guy, The Cleveland Show, Dr. Horrible, Firefly (still?), Joss Whedon, Battlestar Galactica, Stargate, Dollhouse, The Dark Knight, Joss Whedon, The Simpsons, Futurama, Chuck, Fringe, Clone Wars (can't wait for that), and especially Eliza Dushku. Did I mention Joss Whedon?

What was not

X-Files' I Want To Believe. I believe I want my money back for this tripe... speaking of which, isn't money the reason these two has-been "stars" did this movie to begin with?

Adult Swim. What happened? Where was the buzz? Guess you can't get far with talking fast-food characters and a talking behind.

The Twilight. OMG! Screaming teenage girls at Comic-Con? This isn't Miley Cyrus fest.

Layoffs hit WGN-TV (updated)

Also: Tom Ehlmann out at WGN-TV

Vice President and General Manager Tom Ehlmann has resigned at WGN-TV after a four-year run at the station to take a job at the same capacity at NBC-owned KXAS-TV in Dallas-Fort Worth, Tex. The move comes after WGN laid off eight staffers, including his secretary.

However, his resignation and those layoffs are not directly related.

Ehlmann succeeds former GM Tom O'Brien, who was transferred to KXAS' sister station in New York, WNBC-TV. He will report to Larry Wert, who oversees several NBC-owned television stations, including WMAQ-TV in Chicago.

Marty Wilke, who is the sales director of Chicago's CW affiliate, becomes the station's new general manager on an interim basis.

The layoffs occurred in several departments, including programming, finance, and engineering.

Layoffs also hit sister station WGN-AM last month, when three people were let go.

Updated 6:18 p.m.

XM-Sirius is now official

The merger between XM and Sirius is now official - the deal closed earlier today, with the new company being titled SiriusXM Radio (of course the Sirius name goes first...)

The company will trade on Nasdaq under the name SIRI. With the two companies combining forces, the new entity has 18.5 million subscribers to start.

The new company also plans to launch operations in Puerto Rico.

Monday, July 28, 2008

More Comic-Con news

Recapping Day 3 and Day 4:

- More panels: The two shows that are promoted the least (because they have nothing to do with rich teens) on CW had back-to-back panels at the Con: Smallville and Supernatural. To read more on what's on tap for their new seasons, click here.

- A trio of Fox dramas had panels over the weekend as well. Bones, as well Sarah Connor Chronicles and the new Joss Whedon drama Dollhouse (they should rename this Whedon-Con) satisfied fans of each, and got the answers they were looking for (and to look at the hot Eliza Dushku)

- NBC's Chuck had a six-minute preview of the second season at their jam-packed panel, and featured actor Adam Baldwin in character saying he'll hunt anyone down if the video showed up anywhere else (too late - it showed up on YouTube.) Watch out...

- The Office being at Comic-Con is much like a displaced Bears fan in Green Bay - a fish out of water. Still, the Emmy-winning comedy had a panel at the convention, and a question about a robot invansion was asked to one member of the cast. Welcome to the Con, guys.

MGM, Weigel team up for new digital channel

Also: RTN loses CBS programming

Chicago-based Weigel Broadcasting and Los Angeles-based MGM are teaming up to launch this.

Yes, this.

As in "This TV".

Beginning in October, MGM and Weigel plan to launch the new-digital channel, featuring classic movies and television shows from the MGM library (material that wasn't bought by Ted Turner in the 1980's, so no Chips, Gone With the Wind or The Wizard of Oz.)

To meet FCC-mandated educational children's programming, Weigel and MGM also struck a deal with Cookie Jar Entertainment.

Weigel plans to program "This" on one of its digital channels in the Chicago, Milwaukee and South Bend, Ind. markets, where Weigel owns television stations.

Already, Weigel's low-powered classic TV stations WWME-TV (ME-TV) and WMEU-TV (Me-Too) are on digital subchannels 26.2 and 26.3, respectively.

With the digital switchover due to take place in February, many local broadcasters are going to be scrambling to find programming to fill their digital channels, and executives at both parties feel "This" fills the bill. Plus, it gives viewers who don't have cable or satellite another viewing option. The network also plans not to use paid programming.

Neal Sabin, who runs all three of Weigel's television stations in Chicago, is running the new outfit.

The network plans to air a lot of films, including 12 Angry Men and the 1968 version of The Producers. TV shows scheduled to air include The Addams Family, Fame, Rat Patrol, and The Outer Limits. Stations can customize the look so it can have a local feel.

- With the announcement of "This", it could spell trouble for financially troubled Retro Television Network, which recently saw its deal with CBS Television Distribution come to an end. Last Monday, all CBS-owned programming was yanked from the digital subchannel net, including Andy Griffith, I Love Lucy, Hogan's Heroes, and Happy Days.

RTN is now relying almost exclusively on the NBC Universal library, which in some markets is airing Leave it to Beaver as much as four times a day to replace the CBS programming (they might as well rename it the Universal Classic TV Channel.)

RTN was sold recently to Henry Luken, the largest shareholder of former owner Equity Media Holdings.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

More news is never enough at WTMJ

Now the Favre watch never ends.

Journal Communications' WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee is adding a 3 p.m. newscast to its lineup beginning Sept. 8, as well as adding a 6:30 p.m. newscast at the end of August, which displaces the Warner Bros.-syndicated Extra from the time slot.

The move brings the total number of local news hours at the NBC affiliate to seven hours a day.

WTMJ is also scrapping syndicated programming from its daily schedule, with the exception of Better TV, which is on in only a handful of markets. The opportunity comes as Montel Williams' talk show is out of production and declined to renew Extra. The entire NBC daytime schedule (including Days of Our Lives) continues to be cleared.

The station is mainly relying on local programming and news to grab viewers throughout the day instead of forking money and commercial time over to a syndicator. At one time, WTMJ carried high-rated syndicated fare such as The Oprah Winfrey Show, Wheel of Fortune, Jepoardy!, Jerry Springer, Family Feud (the Ray Combs-hosted version), and Little House on the Prarie.

This isn't an entirely new concept - in the 1980's and 1990's, KCNC-TV in Denver aired no syndicated programming during the week and aired more news and local programming instead. This came to an end for the most part in September 1995 when then-owner NBC swapped KCNC over to CBS as part of a complicated deal to gain an O&O in Philadelphia (WCAU-TV.) KCNC started airing syndicated fare such as Oprah in early fringe and Hollywood Squares in prime access (until 2004, when the show was canceled and replaced by a returning local newscast.)

From 1970 to 1992, ABC-owned KTRK-TV in Houston also relived heavily on local programming and movies to fill out its daily schedule and shunned all syndicated daily strip programming, with the execption of Donahue.

Ironically, the news expansion in Milwaukee comes as another Journal station in Green Bay (WGBA-TV) is cutting newscasts.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Comic-Con, Day 3: "Lost" and "Heroes" takes center stage

Media news-related items from the third day of Comic-Con:

Time to get Lost with some Heroes

Two of television's most discussed shows on the Internet took center change at Comic-Con today:

- Lost had a panel in front of thousands of people today, and while few surprises were revealed - there was an appearance by cast Matthew Fox, which sent the crowd into a tizzy. Among the things revealed for the show's upcoming season (due early next year) is less reliance on cutaways and flashbacks (maybe), and a faster series progression than they've seen in previous seasons.

You wonder how many in the crowd actually took the Dharma Initiative (which basically meant you pledge to act all loopy and a free spirit like Jenna Elfman...) Yours truly plans to take the Greg Initiative instead.

G4 strips Lost this fall and is also appearing in weekend broadcast syndication.

- The other TV series wild with web users screened where the long-awaited third season premiere was screened. Derailed by the writer's strike last year, Heroes hasn't aired a first-run episode since December and the approximately 6,500 fans in attendance were more than ready to gobble up new material.

Creator Tim Kring said the strike actually helped the series - a lot of fans (including yours truly) were disappointed with last season, which featured disjointed storylines, new, unappealing characters introduced out of nowhere (I'm looking at you, Kristen Bell), and the inconsistent play of Rex Grossman (see, there I go again...)

To read more (spoiler alert), click here.

Other TV related news at the Con:

-Simpsons, Futurama: Matt Groening is a fixture at Comic-Con for thirty years, since the days he was selling his comic strip Life In Hell. Now, he here's helming panels on two of his TV shows. Groening really revealed nothing new regarding The Simpsons upcoming season, since he did that already at TCA. On Futurama, questions were asked the Fry-Leela relationship, and what the palns are for the show. Also revealed were the idenites of who would doing guest appearences in upcoming DVDs: Rich Little and Snoop Dogg.

- Stargate: Not much information coming out of the panel for Stargate and Stargate: Atlantis, but you can check out the panels here and here (a direct-to-DVD movie titled Stargate Contimuum comes out Tuesday.)

- Dr. Horrible: Yes, even a sing-along blog can have a panel at Comic-Con - especially if it's a blog created by Joss Whedon. This panel actually took place yesterday, where Whedon (along with cast members) fielded questions about the show. Whedon talked about his other projects, including his Serenity comcis franchise.

- Battlestar Galactica: And of course, Comic-Con 2008 isn't complete with a Battlestar Galactica panel. According to the show's producers, if the writers' strike continued, the season-finale you saw this year could have been the series finale. The good news for Battlestar fans is, it did end, and they're getting ten new episodes, which begin airing early next year. Click here for more.

Friday, July 25, 2008

FCC approves XM-Sirius deal

Much like what the New York Mets did in the cover of darkness (canning manager Willie Randolph after hours), those class acts at the FCC approved the XM-Sirius merger by a margin of 3-2 this evening when commissioner Deborah Tate and chairman Kevin Martin agreed on another of principles, including a $19.7 million fine for past FCC violations.

The merger was approved with conditions, including a three-year price cap (only three?) and 8 percent of their channel capacity to minority and non-commercial broadcasters.

Thought: While this merger doesn't really bother me since I don't subscribe to satellite, what does bother me is the unintended consequences. Since the NAB opposed the merger, my guess is the organization will now demand the ownership rules be thrown out. If McCain gets elected, there is more than a likelihood media consolidation will continue unabated.

For example, CBS Radio may ask "If XM and Sirius can merge, why can't we merge with Cumulus?" Other smaller radio chains (which were already fading away even before the satellite radio merger) may cease to exist because bigger companies now want to expand their reach.

And yes, the possibility of satellite TV companies Direct TV and Dish Network merging has come up again, thanks to the XM-Sirius marriage.

You think it is too far fetched? Wait until the economy gets better.

Comic-Con: Day 2

Media-related news and notes from Comic-Con Day 2:

- It isn't Comic-Con without manatees: Seth McFarlane had a panel featuring Family Guy and its new spinoff, The Cleveland Show.

MacFarlane talked about Family Guy's upcoming season - a Sliders take off, another episode where Brian and Stewie travel back to 1939 Poland - and accidentally drag Mort Goldman with them - and one where Peter repeatedly sings the 1950's hit "Surfin' Bird" - and Brian and Stewie snatch the single smash it up - parodying the printer scene in Office Space (a movie I saw first in theaters by the way), complete with hip-hop music.

The Cleveland Show was also screened at the panel, and it's confirnmed Cleveland leaves Quahog, and moves back to his hometown of Stoll Bend, Virginia.

- Showtime's controversial Dexter had a preview of its' third season opener, which airs on Sept. 28, and the serial killer has a new best friend played by Jimmy Smits. Watch out, Jimmy!

- CBS' Big Bang Theory is having a returning guest star: former Roseanne star Sara Gilbert is returning for "multiple episodes" according to creator Chuck Lorre, who had a panel at Comic-Con.

- Gamers' paradise: More and more videogame makers are making their presence known at Comic-Con, with Electronic Arts, Sony, Capcom, and Microsoft's Xbox 360 at the convention. Sony, in fact is using the show to promote DC Universe Online with DC Comics.

- The hottest thing at Comic-Con seems to be Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog, with current How I Met Your Mother and Old Spice commercial star Neil Patrick Harris. So much so, a screening at one of the ballrooms was overbooked. Yeah, you got to pay four bucks to see it online, but that's still better than watching I Survived A Japanese Game Show on TV for free.

More coming up tomorrow, with Simpsons and Futurama panels scheduled. Look for an update late tomorrow evening.

More Chicago PPM results

All Access interviewed Radio Crunch's Anthony Acampora about the pre-currency results from Arbitron's new Portable People Meter, which is intended to replace the diaries the company has been using for decades. Keep in mind this is based on only one month of findings. Among the findings:

- Bonneville seems to be the big winner, with WDRV-FM (The Drive) surging in the ratings and in key demos, while WTMX (The Mix) continued to maintain its dominance. WILV-FM (Love FM) also showed gains.

- A bad showing for most Crawford and Clear Channel urban-formatted outlets: WGCI, WVAZ (V103), WPWX-FM (Power 92), and Smooth Jazz WNUA all showed steep declines. In fact, no station with a mostly African-American audience posted any gains. Rhythmic WBBM-FM (B96) also took a hit, but not as bad as the urbans (B96 has a significant African-American audience.) This basically mirrored what happened when the PPMs were rolled out in Houston and Philadelphia and black-targeted stations slid down.

- Jack FM (WJMK-FM) bombed big time with Steve Dahl, however - the station's shares increased throughout the day.

- Spanish language stations' shares remained fairly strong.

- Suburban stations also fared better with the new meteorology. Hope for Nine-FM?

- From Radio & Records: A chart showing the listening habits of Chicago minority groups, and it shows African-Americans ranked much lower. (except English-speaking Hispanics), which is a huge blow for the area's black radio stations. African-American listeners also didn't spend as much time listening to the radio than other minority groups.

- The same chart also breaks down the cumes for each format, comparing the diary numbers from Spring 2007 to the PPM numbers for June 2008. It shows an increase for every format except for classical.

My analysis is these PPMs may in fact save Chicago radio - unless you're an urban-formatted station. Have black-oriented stations been over-reported for years? While the numbers listen to the urban format is up, the stations may have been hurt due to the low time spent listening.

The next couple of months will be interesting, as many stations whose fates were borderline may stick around after all. The results? Fewer format changes and stability, which is good for everybody and Chicago radio in general. The quality of the medium in the Windy City may be another matter, though.

Unity conference in Chicago

While Comic-Con is going on in San Diego, there is a more important convention going on right here in Chicago which features journalists of color.

Titled UNITY: Journalists of Color , the gathering takes place at McCormick Place West and seeks dialogue and the exchange of ideas among minority reporters. The convention kicked off Wednesday and continues until Sunday, when Presidential candidate Barack Obama is scheduled to address the conference.

Participating organizations include the National Association of Black Journalists, the Native American Journalists Association, the Asian Americans Journalists Association, and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

One of the panels taking place today is Jeremiah Wright and Jena: Who reported it and who got it right? Featured on the panel include St. Petersburg Times TV Critic Eric Deggans, nationally syndicated radio personality (and former WGCI jock) Tom Joyner, and Rev. Michael Pflager of St. Sabina Catholic Church. NPR's All Things Considered host Michele Norris moderates.

This should be quite interesting, given how the media has reran clips of Rev. Jeremiah Wright's 9/11 speech repeatedly (wonder if they'll talk about ESPN rerunning White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen's rants over and over and the constant disrespect he gets from some members of the local media. Seriously.)

Deggans also recorded a special edition of NPR's Tell Me More at Navy Pier, talking about whether or not the fight at a WNBA game in suburban Detroit should be called a catfight, among other things (has he ever seen America's Next Top Model or Jerry Springer? )

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Comic-Con, Day 1

All right, fanboys and fangirls, Comic-Con from San Diego is here! And it's not just for comic book fans anymore... There's a lot of television-related stuff here as well! A lot of news at Comic-Con for its first day (covered the T Dog Media Blog way - sarcastically), so let's get to it...

- Name change for Wizard's First Rule: The upcoming syndicated sci-fi/action series from Disney-ABC Television Distribution has been changed to Legend of the Seeker. The program premieres Nov.1 locally over WGN-TV.

- A panel for NBC's upcoming Knight Rider took place, and fans of the original grilled the producer about whether or not any features from the original KITT will be in the new model for the new series. Wait a minute, there were fans of the original?

- BBC America announced they will carry the third season of Torchwood.

- A panel on the new movie Twilight (sans the Zone).

- Stan Lee and Disney are launching Time Jumper, a digital comic book that will play out on multiple platforms. It's about a cell phone that enables going back in history. Maybe it can send Disney back in time so they couldn't tinker with At the Movies.

- There was a panel on HBO's new un-Moonlight like True Blood, which is based on Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire novels. The program was discussed at great length by Ms. Harris and Alan Ball, who created the series after he was hooked on one of Ms. Harris' novels. Should be some good watchin'. The premise is creepy (sex with vampires?) but still...

More coming tomorrow...

Illinois' other Arbitron books released

Here are the Arbitron rating books for other markets in Illinois, plus South Bend-Elkhart.

Quad Cities - Clear Channel's country outlet (WLLR-FM) dominated the market, with a share that doubles its' nearest competitor.

Peoria - Will AC plays in Peoria? You bet, as Triad's WSWT-FM finished a dominant first.

Rockford - A CHR outlet finished first here, with Cumulus' WZOK-FM taking the top prize. WGN finished fifth. Biggest losers: Maverick Media's AC station WGFB-FM and Cumulus' oldies stick WKGL-FM.

Champaign - Only twelve stations in this book (with four of them Chicago-area stations) - and its News/Talk WDWS-AM that rules this college town.

Bloomington - Regent rules the top three with country outlet WBWN-FM leading the way. WGN-AM and WLS-AM finished seventh and eighth, respectively.

LaSalle-Peru - In this area just southwest of Chicago, country music rules with WALS-FM at the top, but Chicago's WGN finished a strong second, not to mention other Chicago stations showed up in the book as well.

Decatur - NextMedia (which owns some suburban sticks in the Chicago area) holds the top three spots in Decatur, with News/Talk WSOY-AM finishing first.

South Bend- In a close race, Federated Media country outlet (WBYT-FM) squeaked out a win over Schurz's Communications WNSN-FM, an AC-formatted station. Waiting for the axe to swing: Competitor WWLV-AM finished dead last, even behind Chicago's WGN and WMVP-AM.

Estelle Getty, R.I.P.

With all that's been going on the last couple of days, forgive me if I didn't mention the passing of The Golden Girls' Estelle Getty. She died a few days ago at the age of 84 due to complications from dementia. Of course, Getty played Sophia on the long-running NBC hit show from 1985 to 1992, and also appeared on the short-lived CBS spin-off The Golden Palace and wound up back on NBC in the Golden Girls' spin-off Empty Nest for the show's final two seasons.

Chicago PPM secrets revealed

In addition to the last-ever diary book released in Chicago yesterday, Arbitron's pre-currency Portable People Meter results were also released, and according to Tom Taylor of Radio-Info and Dave Martin's blog, they show the following:

- WGN continued to rank first among 12+, followed by WDRV-FM (The Drive), WBBM-AM, Ht AC outlet WTMX-FM, and Country station WUSN-FM.

- Ranking from sixth to tenth as follows in 12+: WLS-FM, WVAZ-FM (V103), WLS-AM, WLIT-FM (The Lite), WLEY-FM, WOJO-FM (both tied for tenth.)

- WGCI-FM, which finished second in the diary, finished twelfth in the PPMs in 12+.

- Bonneville's radio stations (WDRV and WTMX) finished first and second respectively, among adults 25-54.

Much like when Nielsen's Local People Meters came to town in 2005 and still showed WLS-TV at the top of the ratings heap, Arbitron's PPM systems shows likewise for WGN-AM. It looks like both stations' run at the top in their respective fields will outlive all of us.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The TCA Post-Game show : Critics' roundtable

Before TCA began, Broadcasting & Cable held a critics' roundtable on what would they do if they ran the networks. Critics who participated included the Chicago Tribune's Maureen Ryan and the Kansas City Star's (and TV Barn's) Aaron Barnhart.

Among the observations:

- ABC needs more comedies closer to Roseanne and Home Improvement, and not According to Jim and The George Lopez Show.

- The Ben Silverman legacy at NBC has basically been non-existent (spending too much time retriving Ben Gordon's basketballs at Bulls practice, perhaps?)

- If you want sex and violence, CBS is the place to be!

- Fox needs to stop depending on American Idol to bail them out every January and develop some hit shows that aren't animated.

- Man, this is almost too easy: There's more to life than rich, spolied teenagers and young adults, CW. And where's the diversity?

Click here to read the roundtable and watch video clips.

FCC vote on XM-Sirius merger tied at 2-2

Leave it to this joke of an agency to make something like the XM-Sirius merger a partisan issue... But that's what we have so far as Republicans Kevin Martin and Robert McDowell have voted for the merger and Democrats Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein voting against the merger. Adelstein considered voting for the merger, but changed his mind after the two companies refused on numerous conditions he wanted on the deal.

This leaves commissioner Deborah Tate as the only commissioner who hasn't voted.

So what happens now? Will the satellite radio bailout take place? Stay tuned.

T Dog's Think Tank: Could XM and Sirius merge mean more consolidation? Along with something that almost sounds like a retraction...

Spring 2008 book is out

In between the end of TCA and start of Comic-Con, I'm squeezing in some news regarding Chicago radio! (I know you're excited... yeah, right. But it's nice to talk about something local for a change.)

The Spring 2008 books are out for both Chicago and Milwaukee, are you can access them by clicking here (Chicago) and here (Milwaukee), with the daypart breakdowns provided by the Sun-Times' Robert Feder and demo breakdowns by Patrick Rempert of the Tribune.

Keep in mind the Chicago market has switched to PPM (Portable People Meter) from diaries, so radio exces in Chicago are pretty much treating this spring book like this month's TV ratings book - unimportant.



- WGN remains on top (thanks to Cubs baseball), while Urban WGCI continues its winning ways, finishing second and dominating the adults 18-34 and 25-54, with sister station (WVAZ-FM aka V103) finished a strong third. Steve Harvey dominated the ratings among adults 18-34.

- A strong book for Spanish WOJO-FM, finishing a strong fourth.

- The Rhythmic/Top 40 race is a dead heat with WBBM-FM (B96) and WKSC-FM (Kiss) both tied for seventh, with both stations tied among the teen demo, only behind WGCI.

- Jonathan Brandmeier had a nice rebound from the Winter book, climbing to second place from tenth in men 25-54, and new afternoon personality Eddie Webb also finished second in the same demo.

- Bonneville's The Drive (WDRV-FM) cracked the top ten for the first time at No. 10, while sister station WTMX-FM also had a good book, with an increase to twelfth WTMX's Eric & Kathy continues to dominate mornings in key female demos and finishing first in adults 25-54.

- Another urban outlet (WPWX-FM aka Power 92) did surprisingly well, scoring an increase to finish in sixteenth place.


- Goin' down: WLEY-FM had a bad book, sliding to fifteenth place, and WFMT plummeting to... wait for it... 27th place! (sorry for the long wait...)

- WILV-FM (Love FM) scored a slight increase, but still finished low tied for 21st with WXOX (Q 101.1)

- Waiting for the axe to swing: Jack FM (WJMK-FM) tied for 23rd with CBS Radio's Fresh FM (WCFS-FM.), and Steve Dahl's morning show, which dropped two full share points.


News/Talk WTMJ-AM continues to be on top, with Entercom's Top 40 outlet WXSS-FM surging to second over (when was the last time a Top 40 station came that close to number one in Chicago?) News/Talk WISN-AM also did well, jumping to third overall. Another big winner was locally-owned Alternative outlet WLUM-FM which jumped a full point to land in tenth place.

The biggest loser? How about Saga's Smooth Jazz outlet WJZX-FM, which slid to eighteenth place. This is a troubling trend for Smooth Jazz outlets as the format has been dropped in a few markets, mostly recently in Denver and Washington, D.C. Could Milwaukee be next? Heck, could Chicago?

And one more note... Can someone please do something about Radio & Records' website? The last thing I need is some portly guy popping up on the screen telling me how great the site is every time I visit...

Updated at 9:26 p.m. Here's a tip... Always finish your WFMT sentences.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

TCA: NBC, Part 3

Final items from the TCA Press Tour in Hollywood:


- MSNBC had a panel at the tour, and it was lively as expected - with Keith Olbermann taking a shot at Fox News and Chris Wallace and Karl Rove. about himself anchoring election coverage at the network. He took a swipe at archrival Bill O' Reilly as well, when asked about the loud-mouthed host possibly helming election coverage: “It would make it more interesting if Bill was on and did it live.”

NBC Sports

Lots to talk about here, given it's a big year for NBC Sports:

- The Olympics begin on August 8, and NBC is gearing up for loads of coverage on every event to be spread out on its broadcast and cable networks - 3600 hours worth. NBC Sports and Olympics chairman Dick Ebersol says the games will give Americans somethings to cheer for, given there's not a lot to cheer for right now.

NBC's news shows will have a heavy presence in China during the Olympics, with Brian Willams, Matt Lauer, and Meredith Vierra making the trip.

- NBC is gearing up for the upcoming NFL season and the 2009 Super Bowl, with a significant addition to the Football Night in America pre-game show - Dan Patrick, who reunites with Keith Olbermann to do highlights for the program. Both guys anchored SportsCenter together in the 1990s.

NBC is also having a extended presence at the Super Bowl Read by clicking here.

- A side note on Jay Leno: The soon-to-be ex-Tonight Show host showed up on Monday at TCA in disguise - silimar to what Jimmy Kimmel did last week - to ask questions about the Tonight Show transition happening next year. Like Kimmel, Leno ran out without asking questions.

Of course, like typical network executives who appear at these press tours, NBC took questions but refused to give answers - just the runaround. One of the execs executive spun what Jay Leno said about "being done with NBC - by next year" by saying his comments were taken out of context.

And now these exces are trying to put words in Leno's mouth. Really classy.

But guess what? Those exces actually have the upper hand. Leno isn't going anywhere - until the fourth quarter of 2009 - meaning his contract could be up anywhere from October 1 to December 31. Bet on the the latter date. Happy New Year.

And that's a wrap on TCA.

Big Bens to helm "At the Movies"

Well, that was quick.

Forty-eight hours after Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper announced their departure from At the Movies, Disney-ABC Domestic Television Distribution has named new co-hosts for the weekly syndicated movie review show - and announced a new format as well.

Ben Lyons - the son of New York film reviewer Jeffrey Lyons (who coincidentally co-hosts a competing syndicated movie review show based in New York) - and Ben Mankiewicz are stepping into the roles vacated by Ebert and Roeper.

Lyons reported on movies for E! and Mankiewicz was a host at Turner Classic Movies and Sirius Satellite Radio.

At the Movies is being completely revamped with a new set, new music, and new graphics, plus a new feature which enables to talk with other critics via satellite throughout the country.

The moves are being made to hold on to the weekend time periods Disney-ABC currently has after the depature of the longtime co-hosts.

The program will continue to be shot at the studios of WLS-TV in Chicago (for now), and the ABC-owned station is expected to continue carrying the show this upcoming season after the station's Saturday late newscast.

Thought: They can take this show and move it to Detroit for all I care - this isn't a local show anymore. This is a show Disney-ABC has now "plopped here" featuring two outsiders who wouldn't know Michigan Avenue from State Street. This is nothing more than a desperate ploy for Disney-ABC to hold on to some weekend time periods, which has become the eptitome of greed in the syndication business. Low-rated shows that have no business being renewed are being renewed anyway, and it's a joke.

The big six studios claim so many time periods in syndication - weekdays and weekends - it's ridiculous. Only a handful of smaller syndies (Litton, Program Partners, MGM, Debmar, CF Entertainment among others) can only claim a fraction of what the big six got. You can thank media consolidation for that.

To the big six, time periods are like real estate properties. And like the real estate market, syndication is starting to crater as well, with time periods becoming less and less valuable as viewers have fled to other alternatives in locally-programmed time periods, including cable, home video, and the Internet, and that's been going on for more than a decade.

And keep in mind when the television syndication business took off in the 1980's, Disney was one of the last major studios to enter the business, outsourcing their syndicated programming to SFM Entertainment beforehand. In fact, Siskel & Ebert was one of what was then-called Buena Vista Television's first first-run syndicated properties when it debuted in 1986.

If this is what they did to Ebert and Roeper, who's next? Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa? Nothing is scared anymore. When they replace Regis with Disney's favorite son Jim Belushi as co-host of Live, then we have really reached the height of absurdity in this business.

Monday, July 21, 2008

TCA: NBC, Part 2

More from NBC on the press tour junket:

- Saturday Night Live was the first of 2,783 panels involving NBC at the tour. Creator Lorne Michaels talks about the upcoming election, Amy Poehler, Jay Leno (he's leaving that alone), and "Laser Cats" (whatever that is.)

- NBC had a sophomore panel of shows featuring Chuck, Life, and Lipstick Jungle. They riff on everything from shooting in New York to tasty tidbits about Chuck's love life. Yum! Also a shower fight for Chuck is planned. Shower fight!

- Friday Night Lights is planning a "post-game show" after its airings on Direct TV this fall, which is basically a Q&A session from cast members, taking calls from viewers. Cool idea. Friday Night Lights airs on Direct TV's 101 Network this fall, and on NBC later in the season.

- There was an executive session for NBC featuring co-chairmen Marc Graboff and Ben "Bulls Ballboy" Silverman. Read about it here.

- Speaking of the Bulls Ballboy, Silverman admits that if he had to program things differently, he wouldn't have the Lakers and Celtics face off in the NBA Finals, but have the Memphis Grizzles and Vancouver face off instead (I think he means Seattle vs. Vancouver... or Kansas City vs. San Diego.)

How about a final featuring the Chicago Bulls? We would actually get to see Silverman in action in his second job, wiping off basketballs and being Derrick Rose's personal lackey.

- One of the Bulls Ballboy's pet projects, the revival of Knight Rider, is getting some tweaks - including a new executive producer, changes to the Iraq storyline, Val Kilmer replacing Will Arnett as the voice of KITT, and the introduction of the "KITT Cave" (I thought this was a revival of Knight Rider, not Batman.)

I guess the demand of that rabid, dedicated, and loyal Knight Rider fan base led this show to return. It was the all the talk at the Knight Rider fan conventions. LOL. Let's face it, even the 90210 revival has a better chance of succeeding than this lemon.

- Ian McShane talks about his new show Kings, and had testy exchanges with critics, obviously taking from the playbook of Karl Rove and Dawn Ostroff. The former Deadwood star talked about - um, I guess he was too busy feeding his ego against the critics to talk about his show.

Part 3 will be posted later, featuring MSNBC, NBC Sports, and the Olympics.

T Dog's Groovy Grab Bag

With so much stories to mention, I thought I throw them all together in a new feature. Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce to you the inagural T Dog's Groovy Grab Bag. Enjoy!

-Tribune-owned WGN-TV has become the third station in Chicago to broadcast its news in 1080i high-definition. The station launched its HD newscasts over the weekend, with a new, smooth graphics package. The station now airs news, sports, and CW prime-time programming (for now) in HD.

- The Score (WSCR-AM) has announced a new morning show to replace Mike North's: They tapped former middayers Mike Mulligan and Brian Hanley to fill the 6-10 a.m. slot. No word on a replacement for them in the 10 a.m.-2 p.m. slot.

- My Network TV has a new affiliate in Salt Lake City: KCSG-TV has signed on to replace KJZZ-TV as the market's MNT affiliate. The low-powered station will begin carrying the weekly twelve hours of MNT fareeffective August 18.

KJZZ, owned by Utah Jazz owner Larry H. Miller (hence the KJZZ calls) ran My Network TV out of pattern. It is the second network affiliation they have dropped, canning UPN in 2001. According to urban legend, the reason KJZZ dropped UPN was because of the network's increasing emphasis on minority audiences, which there is little of in the Salt Lake City area.

- NBC O&O WTVJ is a O&O no longer. The Miami station was sold to Post-Newsweek, Inc., a unit of The Washington Post Co. Post-Newsweek owns ABC affiliate WPLG-TV in the market and it creates a duopoly that has an ABC affiliate and NBC affiliate - unusual in a top 20 market.

The FCC permits duopolies as long as the two stations aren't among the top four rated at the same time.

NBC continues to own Telemundo affiliate WSCV-TV.

Ebert & Roeper close the balcony

(Updated from an earlier story.)

The balcony is closed. Forever.

Chicago Sun-Times personalities Richard Roeper and Roger Ebert has decided to leave the 22 year-old Disney-ABC Domestic Television-syndicated At the Movies. Roeper succeeded the late Gene Siskel in the role after his death in 1999, but medical problems have sidelined co-host Ebert for the last two years, while ratings for the weekly show have dropped. Guest co-hosts have taken up the slack since, running the gamut from Aisha Tyler to Jay Leno to current Chicago Tribune film critic Michael Phillips.

The move comes despite a relaunch of the program's website last year.

Industry insiders have been saying Disney-ABC is looking to revamp the program with a more Hollywood focus, to compete with CBS' Entertainment Tonight and NBC Universal's Lyons & Bailes Reel Talk, a local New York movie-review show that went into syndication last fall.

At the Movies with Ebert & Roeper also dropped the long-time trademark thumbs-up/thumbs down method to review movies, after Ebert got into a contract dispute with Disney over the use of the only part of the hand that's not a finger.

Roeper's contract expires on the weekend of August 17.

Ebert & Roeper began as Siskel & Ebert in 1986 - after the duo left At the Movies, a syndicated movie review show syndicated by the now-defunct Tribune Entertainment. Both Siskel & Ebert began working together in 1975 on WTTW's Sneak Previews.

Analysis: Since Ebert was forced out on medical leave two years ago, I felt this show was on borrowed time. Certainly, I'm not sure how Disney-ABC will revamp this show and relaunch it in six to eight weeks. My guess is after August 17, the show goes into reruns, and then fade away. Disney may not be adamant in filling At The Movies' time slots given many of them are either in less-profitable weekend late fringe or overnight time slots, anyway. The talk about "revamping the show" is really nothing more than a PR ploy to save face. The only thing left is the "&", and you can't make a show out of that (or can you...)

As for Roeper, he really didn't get the credit he deserved. He proved to be a terrific replacement for Gene Siskel, and grew into the role with ease. One of the more likable personalities on television, he'll be missed.

Along with Robert Feder, Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper were the only personalities at the Sun-Times whose columns were worth reading.

Jay Leno exits May 29

Tonight Show host Jay Leno will no longer be on May 29, while Conan O'Brien takes over the chair on June 1, in an announcement made today at the NBC portion of the TCA Press Tour.

O'Brien is expected to step down as host of Late Night this winter, in order to prepare him for the Tonight Show gig. NBC will begin Jimmy Fallon's new show in the spring in O'Brien old slot, and get a test run online.

While Leno mentioned last week he was done with the peacock network, NBC officials are still trying to keep him the NBC universal fold.

Court tosses FCC Super Bowl fine against CBS

In a move that makes an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court all but likely, The Third Circuit Court Of Appeals threw out the fine against CBS-owned stations for the Janet Jackson Super Bowl "wardrobe malfunction".

The court sided with CBS and found the FCC "capricious" and "arbitrary" in changing the rules in not holding fleeting nudity indecent, also concluding that the stations were not liable for an action they did not see coming.

In other words, the FCC overstepped their boundaries.

The Supreme Court is still reviewing profanity-related cases against Fox, regarding the 2003 Billboard Music Awards.

Predictably, The Parents Television Council slammed the decision.

Thought: Well, well, well. At the end of the day, common sense does prevail. But a possible appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court doesn't sit well with yours truly. After all, if the court find this "wardrobe malfunction" harmful to children - and remember - this is a court that threw out D.C.'s gun ban - then you have to question what kind of direction the Supreme Court - and this country - is going. Is nudity more harmful to children than gun violence? We all know the answer to that. The Court would send a dangerous message if it ruled against CBS and for the Federal Fraud Commission and the Prick Tofu Crud.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

TCA: SciFi may consider "Caprica" for series

SciFi is considering bypassing "the backdoor pilot" process for Battlestar Galactica prequel Caprica and may make it into a series instead. Caprica is set on the planet of the same name, and showrunner Ron Moore says it won't matter how the prequel ends - but having it would add supense.

Caprica had a panel at the TCA Press Tour featuring Moore with producers and cast members, and they fielded questions from the corps. No word on when the project premieres, but if it is ordered into a series, it could push it back a couple of months.

In other SciFi news:

- The net announced it was moving ahead with three new series: Cash or Capture, in which a contestant is chased by hunters (mainly resembling Dick Cheney); Estate of Panic, a reality competition with contestants staying in a haunted house (who saw that one coming?); and a new comedy titled Outer Space Astronauts, a combination of live action and 3D-2D animation featuring an inept space crew (sounds like a bad 1970's Saturday Morning show.)

- SciFi is also expanding and reorganizing its business into one entity titled SciFi Ventures. The new combo bring together SciFi Media, SciFi Games, and so forth.

- Ans also look for more original movies from SciFi in 2009, with production output boosted 50 percent from 2008. SciFi will showcase a whopping 36 new flicks next year, up from 24 this year.

TCA: NBC, Day One

The peacock network is strutting its features for day one of the press tour:


-NBC announced it is using the upcoming Olympics to promote its short-term Monday lineup, consisting of the premiere of America's Toughest Jobs and Deal or No Deal - each will run on Mondays for four weeks beginning August 25. Jobs moves to its regular 7 p.m. (CT) time slot on Fridays beginning September 19, while Deal will air on Wednesdays and Fridays beginning in October.

Don't forget the weekday strip of Deal premieres in syndication on September 8, locally over WMAQ-TV.

- In preparation of his new late-night gig in 2009, Jimmy Fallon is testing material online, which could contain several comedy segments. Meanwhile, Late Night is leaving is Studio 6A home of 27 years to move next door to Studio 6B at Rockefeller Center. Studio 6A of course, was home to David Letterman's and Conan O'Brien's late-night talk shows.

- Continuing on the NBC late-night beat, the network also announced the season premiere date of Saturday Night Live (Sept. 13), and will run four straight weeks of new episodes, to coincide with the Presidential campaign. NBC also is airing SNL prime-time specials on Thursdays in October and the Saturday Night Presidential Bash 2008 on the night before the election.

Stop! Cable Time...

From the networks of NBC Universal...

- USA has renewed crime drama In Plain Sight and outlined three other new projects: two crime dramas titled Stiffs and Covet Affairs, and a hospital drama titled Operating Instructions (don't lose them...)

- Former Square Pegs and Sex In The City star Sarah Jessica Parker is developing a new series for Bravo titled American Artist, a reality-competition series dedicated to - what else? Finding the next American artist. Bravo also unveiled a Top Chef spin-off, another series focusing on Miami professionals, and a new series called Fashion House, based on a BBC Series.

Does that title sound familiar? It was used for a short-lived telenovela that aired on My Network TV back in 2006, featuring Bo Derek and Morgan Fairchild.

-Women-targeted net Oxygen is launching a new series called Dance Your Ass Off, a new dance competition series. Look for a spin-off series called Falling Down On Your Ass.

The network also announced a renewal of Bad Girls Club for a third season, aka Fight Your Ass Off.

T Dog's Think Tank: The incredibly bumbling, stumbling CW

In the Chicago area, a lot of people wonder how the mayor, the governor, and the Cook County Board President keep their jobs. In television circles, people pretty much feel the same way about CW network chief Dawn Ostroff.

Ostroff recently held an executive Q&A with reporters during the network's portion of the TCA Press Tour. And in the true tradition of a Chicago politician, she dodged questions about the fledgling net - from the Media Rights Capital deal on Sunday Nights to CW's future - while being quite arrogant in the process, according to this post on TV Barn. From what I read, the session was about as tense as Fox News' presentation on Monday. Obviously, Ostroff must have gotten pointers from lout Karl Rove on how to handle the crowd.

She admitted the last two years have been "very challenging" for the sixth-rated network, saying that "we made a lot of progress." Um, what progress? Your ratings were down for the second straight year. Yeah, that's some progress. You guys lost to Univision, which by the way - last time I checked, is beating the prime-time competition in New York and Los Angeles, and that includes CW.

While the net is going forward with its newly found love for young women, the net is casting off shows they feel don't appeal to the demo, like ratings winner Friday Night Smackdown, which usually wins its time period among adults 18-49. But the net also canceled Girlfriends without a series finale, alienating fans of the show - the very same female demo CW is courting, although the audience for Girlfriends was African-American.

While I thought it was time to retire Girlfriends, sending it off without a series finale was just crass. Doing a disservice to a loyal fanbase is just wrong. And it's just another reason why audiences hold network television in such low regard. Too bad advertisers and network exces themselves don't see it that way.

Ostroff pretty much refused to answer questions on why the network is abandoning the African-American audience by canceling Girlfriends and shifting the remaining two sitcoms - Everybody Hates Chris and The Game to the Friday Night Death Slot. In fact, she's abandoned sitcoms all together for dramas - most of which don't have any diversity, period. Better off that Gossip Girl be based in Salt Lake City rather than New York City. Oh wait, the naughty things they do in Gossip Girl you can't get away with in Utah, unless you want to marry more than one person.

She talks about those wonderful buzzwords "branding" and "flow" in justifying dropping the male-skewing Smackdown. Translation: What they are essentially doing is blowing up the place and starting over. There's a major difference. If we are talking about "branding" and "flow", why she didn't do that when the network launched in 2006? What did they do instead? Merge "the best" of The WB and UPN from the CW's corporate parents, Time Warner and CBS Corp.

It comes to late for at least one station. Tribune-owned KSWB-TV in San Diego is dumping CW for Fox next month while CW moves to former Fox affiliate XETV. Tribune owner Sam Zell obviously isn't pleased with CW's ratings, and some Tribune stations aren't even branding themselves with CW anymore (they are still promoting the network's lineup heavily.) One even changed its call letters.

WGN-TV in Chicago never really incorporated CW branding into its station to begin with, keeping it out of its news and sports telecasts (The CW 9 News at Noon just doesn't cut it.) Whatever branding they do use, they stick "The CW" at the end of the station's byline. Most Chicagoans still resonate WGN with the Cubs, Bozo, and Garfield Goose - not Gossip Girl and America's Next Top Model, and that's a huge problem for CW.

And if Tribune - which holds CW affiliations in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago - the three largest markets in the U.S. - isn't happy, what about Sinclair Broadcasting? Next to Tribune, they own the largest amount of CW affiliates. Sinclair owns nine CW stations in markets like Minneapolis, Raleigh-Durham, and Baltimore, among others. Other station groups are starting to gripe as well - if they aren't already.

And the Tribsters aren't waiting around for a back-up plan when and if CW implodes. Tribune stations are already looking into some prime-time programming ventures.

But it appears to me Ostroff is refusing to admit defeat - she's standing around spinning the problems into something positive, like she is doing with Gossip Girl. Hello, it's still not a hit - though there is some potential for growth. But the program hasn't attained hit status yet - no matter what the media says, and if you wonder if CW is paying them under the table for media outlets to spin the story the way they want to (hey, it works well in Chicago politics...)

And now, she's talking about the future - looking ahead to the 2009-10 season and considering starting the season in mid-summer.

Whoa, now hold on there... First, The CW might not even be around by then... Second - while a few shows have had success with new episodes during the summer months (Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place, Northern Exposure, and Seinfeld to name a few), HUT and PUT levels are too low to launch a new season of programming that early, unless you're talking about reality shows. Talk about putting the cart before the horse.

The bottom line is, this is a make or break year for The CW. If the ratings fall even further, and they have to start providing make goods, then I think it's time to pull the plug. Young women - like young men - are watching TV less and less and watching online video more and more. The CW should have had this plan when the network was created. It's now too little, too late.

And if the network closes, Dawn Ostroff and other CW executives would be out of jobs. A possible scenario is they leave the television business, go into politics, and they all move to Chicago. With decision-impaired people in government residing here in the Windy City, Ostroff and her clan would fit right in.

God help us all.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

TCA: The CW takes center stage

The CW took center stage at the TCA Press Tour on Saturday, with perhaps the biggest breaking news of the tour thus far:

Shannen Doherty returns to 90210.

Yes, bad girl Shannen Doherty will appear in "multiple episodes" of the new version of 90210. She'll reprise her Brenda Walsh character, joining Jennie Garth and Tori Spelling, who'll also reprise their roles as Kelly Taylor and Donna Martin, respectively. The new 90210 premieres on Sept. 2, with a two-hour movie. 

Of course, this is not the first time there was a sequel to a successful TV show. There has been successes, notably from the Star Trek, Degrassi, Scooby Doo, and Saved by the Bell franchises. Then again, for every one of those, there's Sanford, The New Odd Couple (with black actors!), DaVinci's City Hall, and the 1995 version of Get Smart (with drug fiend Andy Dick.) 

Welcome back, Shannen. Though yours truly was relieved when she left 90210 in 1994, the program clearly lost some steps without her, and her replacement (Tiffany Amber-Thiessen) - from the original Saved by the Bell - proved she best stayed on Saturday morning TV. 

90210 had a panel at TCA, and you can read a summary of it here. Yours truly will certainly give this sequel a shot (I watched the original version for seven years), and it it's good, I may stick around to see it. If it saves the ratings-challenged CW is another matter, though.

90210 is the centerpiece of a more young female-friendly schedule. The CW is launching some of its schedule on Labor Day Week. For the premiere dates, click here. 

Meanwhile, The CW and Media Rights Capital plans to launch its new Sunday schedule on Sept. 21, the same night the Emmy Awards are scheduled. 

There was also an executive session with CW chief Dawn Ostroff, and I'll address that in a Think Tank due out tomorrow (watch out, Dawn!)  

TCA: The eye is on CBS

Part one of CBS' TCA session:

- Katie Couric isn't leaving The CBS Evening News. And the viewers aren't going to be watching her, either.

- CBS news executives talked about the presidential campaign and Obama's first trip overseas and the fact conservative critics could be chirping because a similar trip by John McCain in March didn't nearly gather much attention.

- An executive session with CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler, and she dishes out about Swingtown, Chicago native William Petersen exiting CSI after the season's tenth episode, and Moonlight (still?) She assured fans that there is no overhaul of The Price Is Right, unfortuantely meaning that Bob Barker won't come back.

- Panels were abound for many news CBS series, including The Ex List, and Worst Week - none of them particuarly interesting to mention here.

Other news:


The preminum channel has a slew of projects on tap:

- The network ordered episodes a new drama titled Nurse Jackie starring The Sorpranos Edie Falco.

- Showtime renewed Lionsgate's Weeds for two 13 episode seasons, but The L Word ends next year - but there are plans for a spinoff series.

- Lock 'n' Load is a new reality show based at a gun shop in Colorado, featuring people who buy guns and the people who sell them.

- Penn and Teller's: Bullshit has been picked up for another season. Indeed.

CBS Television Distribution

One brief note: The new syndicated strip The Doctors will have their sponsorship and promotional considerations handled by Creative Television Marketing.

Friday, July 18, 2008

WISH-TV photographers shot in Indianapolis

I'm surprised it didn't happen here... or in Gary...

Two photographers for CBS affiliate WISH-TV in Indianapolis were shot by pellet guns while covering a house fire on the city's east side. The fire damaged a vacant home in the area, in which there are several.

A suspect is in custody for the shooting. (turned out the suspect was upset about the news media not covering a shooting that injured him.)

Yours truly read comments on the story on both the Chicago Tribune and Indianapolis Star's websites... Hello? Any sign of intelligent life here? Nice to know stupidity reigns on both sides of the state line.


Highlights from the second day of ABC's portion of the TCA tour:

ABC Showrunner fest

ABC had the showrunners from its popular dramas on a panel, incluidng those from Lost, Grey's Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, and Ugly Betty. University Park native Shonda Rimes assured everyone there is no feud between her and Katherine Heigi, who critized the writing staff of the show last year. Ugly Betty showrunner Silvo Horita suggested to Ms. Rimes that Helgi's character be put in a coma. Okay, then...

Meanwhile, Marc Cherry stated he wants to end Housewives after seven seasons - but ABC chief Stephen McPherson shouted from the back of the room "Not gonna happen!" Which basically means he wants the show to last as long as The Simpsons - meaning Teri Hatcher could be 75 and Eva Longoria might be on her fourth marriage before this show ends... In other news:

Disney-ABC Domestic Television Distribution

In a rather unusual move for a first-run syndicated show, Disney's new fantasy/sci-fi action hour titled Wizard's First Rule premieres on the weekend of Nov. 1 and Nov. 2. Produced by ABC Studios, the program is cleared in 95 percent of the country, including WGN-TV in Chicago.

In the past, first-run syndicated hours (or half-hours) usually premiered either in late September or early October. Even in 1988, when a writers' strike delayed production of many programs, new syndicated scripted fare (War of the Worlds, My Secret Identity, Superboy, etc.) debuted the weekend of Oct. 8.

By the way, yes, Jerry O'Connell was in My Secret Identity.

Disney Channel

The Disney Channel brought out the cast of the latest Cheetah Girls movie to the press. The movie is set in India (and filmed there on location) and deals with the Bollywood scene. The movie, titled The Cheetah Girls One World, debuts later this year.

ABC Family

The cable net formerly known as CBN, The Family Channel, and Fox Family Channel had a lot to toot: The Secret Life of an American Teenager has been green-lighted for thirteen more episodes and is launching a new-miniseries titled Samurai in September. Meanwhile, the second season of Greek on Aug. 26 and the third season of Lincoln Heights on September 16.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

2008 Emmy Award nominations

Cable cleaned up in the 2008 Emmy nominations, with 85 nominations for HBO (but none for Best drama series) and nominations for Best Drama landing in Mad Men's and Damages' lap -- marking the first time two basic cable series competed in the category.

Despite ABC nabbing 76 nominations - the most of any of the broadcast nets - its trio of Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy, and Ugly Betty were all snubbed (and with good reason.)

HBO's John Adams had 23 nominations; NBC's 30 Rock had 17 (17 too many.)

In the Outstanding Animated Program category (one hour or more), hated rivals Family Guy and South Park have one program each nominated: Blue Harvest and Imaginationland, respectively, joined by Warner Bros.' Justice League: The New Frontier.

Here's one that's eye-popping: Deal or No Deal's Howie Mandel was nominated for best reality/competition host.

To see the complete list of Emmy nominations, click here.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

NBC to televise Outdoor NHL Classic - featuring Hawks and Wings at Wrigley

It's official: The third NHL Winter Outdoor Classic is being held at Wrigley Field here in Chicago featuring the Chicago Blackhawaks and the Detroit Red Wings. The two Original Six rivals will met for the 701st time on January 1, 2009 at Wrigley in a game to be televised by NBC in the United States and possibly by the CBC in Canada.

This year's outdoor game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Buffalo Sabres at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y. drew a sellout crowd and a 2.6 Nielsen household rating and a 5 household share for NBC.

TCA: ABC, You and Me

The first of the Big Three started its' presentation today at the TCA Press Tour. First up, ABC and its two-parter:

- Odd sight: A reporter for the "Sarasota N.Y. newspaper" asks if ABC is courting Jay Leno. Turns out the reporter is... Jimmy Kimmel! He dashes about before real journalists asked him about... well, you know...

- ABC chief Stephen McPherson touched on a lot of issues in his one-hour executive session, and defended Katherine Helgi, despite a developing feud between her and Grey's Anatomy creator Shonda Rimes. McPherson is also putting promotion muscle behind its Sunday Night lineup, which is competing hard with NBC and Fox.

- At the Eli Stone panel, producer Greg Berlanti revealed the bigger spectacle the show is (musicial numbers, huge computer-generated scenes, and special guest stars) the more fun the show becomes. For them, at least.

- ABC next had a panel on its new Life on Mars drama (and for the last time, it's NOT a sci-fi show!), tand the participants discuss about setting and the filming the program in New York City. The show is based on the BBC drama of the same name, about a cop who travels back to the 1970s.

- Now, about Private Practice - the hour-long Grey's Anatomy spinoff has been critized for too-much soap-operaness. ABC exces hope this upcoming season Practice hits its stride, with more medicial-related drama and action around the hospital.

- On ABC's reality/competition beat: The network has ordered more episodes of surprise hit Wipeout, but hadn't said anything about The Mole, which hasn't done as well in the ratings.

- On to Scrubs - It looks like the program may not be headed to the sunset after all. The program is moving to ABC in mid-season from NBC. McPherson is considering brining the show back beyond 2009 with a new cast - similar to what has been done with ER (really, really dumb idea... How do these guys keep their jobs?) The network also plans webisodes and to shoot the medicial comedy in HD for the first time.

- ABC had a panel on new traveling game show Opportunity Knocks from executive producer Ashton Kutcher, and it was a rather interesting one. Kutcher took the stage and defended the reality TV genre, which critics often frown down on. They played the game with critics by digging up information on each and every one of them. Remember what I said earlier about critics storming the stage?

Finally, ABC has released the premiere dates for its fall schedule. Click here to see.