Tuesday, March 31, 2009

WITI says no to "Osbournes"

Fox affiliate WITI-TV in Milwaukee decided not to air the abomination that is Osbournes: Reloaded, a variety special aired tonight on Fox, after American Idol. Instead, the program is airing at 1 a.m.

WITI originally planned not to air the special, but decided to delay it until 1 a.m. Wednesday at the last minute. The station was a Fox O&O until 2007, when it and seven others were sold to Local TV - a new, privately-held broadcast group. This is the first known pre-emption in WITI's fifteen-year history with the network (WITI switched from CBS to Fox in 1994 as part of the Fox-New World deal.)

Other pre-emptions and delays have also popped up. According to this thread at Radio-Info.com, Fox affiliates in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Kansas City (home of Aaron Barnhart's TV Barn.com, who ironically failed to mention it), West Palm Beach, and Panama City, Fla. are either pre-empting or delaying Osbournes: Reloaded.

Stations pre-empting it were concerned mainly because of content, particularly with the Osbournes' love of using words you can't say on TV. Currently, Fox has a case in the U.S. Supreme Court to be decided this year after swear words were heard live during the 2003 Billboard Music Awards.

The Osbournes special received hardly any buzz, as most TV critics have all but ignored the program.

And as for the program itself? Fox cut five more minutes from the show, reducing it to a mere 35 minutes. Earlier, Fox cut it from a hour to 40 minutes for the premiere. Judging by tonight's program, they should have just trimmed the rest.

Fox has ordered six segments of Osbournes: Reloaded to air as specials. Don't look for the other five to air anytime soon - or ever.

Sun-Times files for Chapter 11

Chicago, that great newspaper town... now with both in Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The Chicago Sun-Times has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, as the troubled newspaper is sinking under a massive amount of debt, which includes a lot to the IRS.

The Sun-Times joins The Tribune in Chapter 11, who filed for bankruptcy several months ago.

The paper has never recovered from the scandals by former chairman Conrad Black, who went to jail for embezzlement.

Also hurting the paper (and the industry itself) were declining revenues and migration of readers to the Internet.

Another newspaper (The Chicago Defender, targeted to the region's African-American community) now publishes only weekly.

Back in 1978, a third daily paper (The Chicago Daily News) went belly up.

Monday, March 30, 2009

CBS may end "Guiding Light"

The Guiding Light may soon be extinguished.

CBS and Procter & Gamble Productions are expected to decide soon on the fate of television and radio's longest-running program (combined) currently clocked in at 70 years.

Light, which began on radio in 1937 and moved to television in 1952, has fared poorly in the ratings over the last two decades. It is the lowest-rated serial on CBS, who has dominated daytime ratings during the same time span.

A year ago, the serial employed a new shooting technique in order to cut production costs, but it hasn't gone over well with fans, who continue to abandon the show in droves. Ratings are down in key demos, with a 25 percent drop in the female 18-49 demo.

The soap is usually scheduled at 3 p.m. (ET) - and has been since February 1980. But many affiliates - including several CBS owned-and-operated stations - schedule the program in the mornings, including WBBM-TV in Chicago, who airs it at 9 a.m. to a very sparse crowd (after all, it is on opposite The Oprah Winfrey Show.)

Markets airing Guiding Light at 9 or 10 a.m., include New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, Detroit, Miami, Pittsburgh, Orlando, Baltimore, South Bend, Albany, N.Y. , and Fort Wayne, Ind.

In Sacramento, Guiding Light has not aired there in seventeen years, even as the CBS affiliate (KOVR-TV) became an O&O. The former CBS affiliate (KXTV - now an ABC affiliate - dropped the show in 1992.)

In Flint, Mich. WNEM-TV aired Guiding Light at 10 a.m., but dropped the show in 1996 (it has since resurfaced on one of its digital subchannels.) In nearby Detroit, former CBS affilaite WJBK-TV (now Fox O&O) moved Light to 10 a.m. in 1992, and when CBS moved to WWJ-TV in 1994, Light kept its 10 a.m. time slot, where it remains today.

If Guiding Light gets canned, CBS may replace the serial with either game shows or reality programs, or hand the afternoon time period back to affiliates to program - or, take back the 10 a.m. ET slot for the new fare and hand the 3 p.m. slot to affiliates.

NBC handed back the 3 p.m. slot back a decade ago, when the network canceled Sunset Beach, sweeping it out the door, along with longtime veteran Another World (which left a few months earlier after a 35-year run. Keep in mind Beach was originally scheduled in-pattern at 3 p.m. - however, affiliates and O&Os often shuffled shows around the daytime schedule and wound up airing at various times in various markets.)

WMAQ to outsource sports?

Ed Sherman (remember him?) has a business of sports blog at Crain's ChicagoBusiness.com and the former Chicago Tribune sports media reporter has dirt on a possible move by NBC-owned WMAQ-TV to outsource their sports department to Comcast SportsNet.

This comes as stations are looking for ways to save money in an already declining economy. Many have eliminated their sports departments altogether.

If WMAQ does make the move, it would come without precendent. In 2003, CBS affiliate KCTV in Kansas City outsourced its sports department to local production company Metro Sports, owned by Time Warner Cable. When the deal expired last December, it left the Meredith-owned station without any sports reporting on its newscasts (then again, given the recent performance of the city's sports teams, most people didn't notice.)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Animation Domination

A ton of news on the animation beat this week:

- Cartoon Network held its upfront in New York on Wednesday, and revealed a bunch of new programming. Renewals include Star Wars: Clone Wars, Ben 10, and Total Drama Island. New additions include some live-action programming (including original movies) and yet another Scooby-Doo television series, titled Scooby-Doo Mystery Inc. plus a live-action Scoooby Doo prequel. This year, Scooby celebrates his 40th anniversary on television. Like The Simpsons (which was recently renewed for two more seasons), this series will outlive all of us!

The last Scooby effort, the underrated Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get A Clue, was canceled last year by The CW after two ratings-lackluster seasons.

- Speaking of The Simpsons, Matt Greoning was recently interviewed by A.V. Club and he talks about the future of Futurama, or whether of not if it will be around after the release of the fourth (and possibly final) straight-to-release DVD movie. He also touches on the rivalry between The Simpsons, South Park, and Family Guy.

- And speaking of Family Guy.... this Sunday's episode features a reunion of sorts by the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Several former cast members voiced their characters in a plot where Stewie kidnaps them after he didn't get a chance to ask a question while at a Star Trek convention.

Even though the story is only a subplot (with the main story featuring Butters - um, I mean Meg - finding God, a man, religion, or a tree or something with Brian objecting to it or whatever), it is worth checking out, especially if you're a Star Trek: TNG fan.

Thought: Back to Scooby Doo for a just a minute. Is another TV series really necessary? I loved the show when yours truly was younger, but come on. How much is too much? You wonder if the producers are trying to one-up The Simpsons on the episode count. Aren't there any other characters and shows in the Hanna-Barbera library they can bring back? Most of those classic shows are now regulated to an obscure channel no one can get or on YouTube. These programs are more deserving of an revival effort.

It's a shame given how Warner Bros. and Kids' WB basically refused to promote the last Scooby effort and so the best thing for them to do is blow up the franchise and start over again, screw continuity (Shaggy & Scooby were actually rich?), and give us the same lame crap that's been done before, if the recent DVD movies and What's New Scooby-Doo were are any indication.

Look, the original Scooby-Doo (1969) was good. 13 Ghosts (which ran for a few months in 1985-86), was even better. After a slow start, Get A Clue became pretty good, especially in its second season. Why? Because they were different. The last few DVD movies and What's New were rehashes of the same old crap over and over (after all, look at the last few seasons of The Simpsons... ) This new show promises to be the same. It would be great if they would do something different, but this in television in 2009, so forget it.

More Futurama, less Scooby Doo. Sounds good to me. But sadly, it won't happen, since ratings and revenue are the root of everything television.

Amy Jacobson heads to WLS-AM

She's back... and she didn't even have to be banished to Rockford, Peoria, or Cheyenne, Wyo. to find work... Call it a career reboot...

Amy Jacobson was hired Friday by Citadel Broadcasting's WLS-AM to join Roe Conn's top-rated afternoon show as a sidekick, beginning in May.

As you recall (or probably sick of hearing about), Jacobson was fired by her previous employer (WMAQ-TV) after she appeared on a tape shot by rival WBBM-TV at Craig Stebic's house wearing a bikini top and a towel around her waist in 2007. Stebic has been a suspect in the disappearance of his wife, Lisa Stebic.

Since then, Jacobson has lost her house and her husband left. She filed a lawsuit against CBS Corp. for damages related to the videotape. Since then, management at the Chicago chapter of The Church of Tisch has changed with GM Joe Ahern and news director Carol Fowler both being shown the door.

Jacobson has been working very hard to get her career back on track. She had been filling in on numerous Chicago radio stations in the last few months, including WLS and WIND-AM. Apparently, the fill-in gigs have paid off.

With the new gig at WLS, let's hope Amy Jacobson can put all this ugliness behind her. And it just proves with some persistence, you can get your foot back in the door.

Tom Joyner talks about being dumped by V103

Tom Joyner, whose syndicated radio show was dropped by WVAZ-FM (V103) Monday, doesn't seem to be bitter about the move, according to an interview he gave to the Chicago Tribune's Phil Rosenthal on Friday.

Joyner said he has been fired before, but the cancellation of his radio show by WVAZ was "different from the others."

Tuskegee, Ala. - born Joyner landed in Chicago radio at the old WVON-AM in 1972, and worked for practically every black-oriented radio station in the market, including WJPC-AM, where he was noticed by the station's owner, the late John H. Johnson - the same John H. Johnson who ran Johnson Publications, who published Ebony and Jet magazines.

Joyner of course, became "the fly jock" - the monkier he earned after commuting back and forth every day between radio gigs in Chicago and Dallas (the "fly jock" name was actually given to him by the late Richard Pegue, a collegue of Joyner's. Pegue died on February xx.)

Joyner said in the interview he understood why the decision was made to drop his radio show (syndicated by Radio One) and replace him with Steve Harvey (syndicated by Premiere Radio Networks - who is owned by Clear Channel - the same owner of WVAZ), saying he would've done the same thing if he was in CC's position. He also talks about how urban radio stations are suffering under the new Portable People Meter systems (PPMs) - though WVAZ's ratings have remained constant under the new measurement.

No word on when - or if - another Chicago radio station will pick up Joyner's program (hello, WSRB Soul 106.3 - are you listening?)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

WYCC becomes first Chicago station to dump analog

WYCC-TV (which is on Channel 20) will become Chicago's first television station to stop broadcasting in analog on April 16, two months ahead of the June 12 transition date.

The public television station (run by the City Colleges of Chicago and is based at Kennedy-King College on 63rd and Halsted) will join dozens of other stations across the country to shut off their analog signals on this date. One of those stations include Denver ratings powerhouse KUSA-TV, a Gannett-owned NBC affiliate.

WYCC currently broadcasts digitally on Channel 21, but due to PSIP, its virtual channel remains on 20.

WGCI moves Scoulfield to mornings

Mornings are going to be a riot on WGCI...

As speculated on Monday, beginning April 1 (and no, this isn't an April Fool's Joke), currently afternoon personality Tony Sculfield will take over the morning drive spot from Steve Harvey, who is moving from WGCI to sister station WVAZ (V103) to replace the canceled Tom Joyner Morning Show.

Sculfield (who was part of Howard McGee's morning show with Nikki Woods until 2007 when McGee was canned) returns to mornings and along with him, his show includes current WKSC-FM midday personality Nina Chantele and WGCI nighttime jock Leon Rogers.

Both Chantele and Rogers will keep their current gigs.

No word on a replacement for Scoulfield in the afternoons.

Thought: What I may say here is something I'd never thought I say on this blog - or at anytime for that matter...

Good move by WGCI and Clear Channel.

There, I said it. Boy, I need to take a very cold shower...

"The Morning Riot" should be a better fit for WGCI's younger-skewing audience than Steve Harvey's older-skewing syndicated program, and will now have Trey's show on WPWX and The J Niice and Julian show on WBBM-FM as competition. But what makes this move sweet is it returns a shift to a local effort rather than a nationally syndicated one.

WGCI - whose ratings have dropped with the introduction of the PPMs - should have made this move sooner.

As for Tom Joyner, there are rumors surfacing of his morning radio show ending up on WSRB-FM (Did Crawford take yours truly's advice? Shudder...) Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

WFLD (and WPWR) grab "5th Grader" (updated)

Fox-owned WFLD-TV here in Chicago (and sis station KTTV in Los Angeles) have picked up the half-hour syndicated version of Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader from Twentieth Television for this fall.

The game show, produced by Survivor creater Mark Burnett and hosted by Jeff Foxworthy, has aired on prime-time on Fox to respectable ratings. The program has cleared 95 stations covering 80 percent of the country for a September premiere.

This puts Twentieth back in the game show business, after the failure of Temptation in 2007-08 season.

5th Grader has also cleared New York's WPIX-TV.

UPDATE: According to Marc Berman's Programming Insider, Fox's sister station in Chicago (WPWR) is expected to carry the show instead. With the station already airing Family Feud, pairing it with 5th Grader makes a lot of sense.

A surprise here is Twentieth sold the show to Tribune stations in New York and Philadelphia and Sinclair's CW affiliate in Minneapolis, and not Fox O&Os in those markets.

Other clearences include WBNX in Cleveland, KPLR-TV in St. Louis, and WJBK-TV in Detroit.

Updated at 8:06 p.m. on 2009-03-26.

WBBM-AM rides on top in February

Chicago February PPM results (keep in mind this survey is based on the 6+ demo):



Surprise - they're moving up!

WPWX-FM (Power 92)


WSCR-AM (The Score), WFMT-FM

Not much to talk about in this February PPM survey, with all-news WBBM-AM holding on to the top spot, despite a drop of 11 percent. But it finished first, and that alone puts it in the winner's circle.

WLS-AM was flat in second place (was the Blago stunt today really necessary?) while WGN-AM finished third. If anyone tells you AM radio is dead, point them to Chicago where it is alive and well.

WDRV-FM was the top music station in the market in fourth place, knocking out oldies WLS-FM, which slid to sixth, behind WVAZ-FM (V103). Despite a ratings increase of 10 percent, those gains may be short-lived because of the recent axing of Tom Joyner's syndicated morning show.

Two months after its holiday music format, WLIT is still in the top 10, and inching upward. while its main competitor (WCFS-FM) continues to struggle.

Of note in this survey is a 27 percent increase in ratings for WPWX-FM (Power 92) month-to-month. What used to be a 3 or 4 point lead for rival WGCI is now down to a point and-a-half.

The biggest jump in the ratings came courtesy of Univision's WVIV-FM, who saw its ratings jump 75 percent for the Spanish adult hits station.

In the battle of sports stations, ESPN's WMVP topped WSCR-AM (The Score), with the latter station falling 18 percent month-to-month.

And classical outlet WFMT did not impress, with a 21 percent drop from January - the biggest nosedive month-to-month in the survey, meaning its off to the loser's circle.

Click here to see the February PPM results.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

T Dog's Groovy Grab Bag

Grab bag time!

- Tom Joyner, whose TJMS was disposed of from Clear Channel's WVAZ-FM (V103) yesterday, has more on the show's departure from Chicago's airwaves in an interesting blog read.

- George Lopez has signed a deal with TBS to launch a Monday-Thursday late night talk show for the cable network this fall. The program plans to target 18-34 viewers who may not be interested in watch Conan or Dave.

A syndicated late-night talk show from Lopez and Warner Bros. was branded about recently, but was turned down by station groups, perhaps still mindful of The Magic Hour, Keenan Ivory Wayans and Vibe late-night talk show failures during the 1997-98 season.

- Raycom's WUAB-TV in Cleveland signs on for This TV, the Chicago-based movie and MGM series channel to air on 43.2, filling a spot vacated by now-defunct The Tube video music channel, which ceased operations on September 30, 2007.

Raycom has also recruited Memphis' WMC-TV and Louisville's WAVE-TV as This TV digital subchannel affiliates.

- NBC has a new sitcom debuting soon with a rather odd name: Parks & Recreation. In this series, Amy Poheler (from SNL) plays the head of the Parks and Recreation department in Pawnee, Ind. while mentoring a bored college intern.

Parks & Recreation sounds more like a failed sitcom from the 1950's. What's NBC going to come up with next? A revival of the TV version of The Great Gildersleeve? I can't wait for the weekly misadventures of a water comissioner and his two nieces with Tim Allen and the Olsen twins in the lead roles. What fun!

With Ben Silverman at the helm, anything is possible - anything bad that is.

"Teenager" whips "Gossip Girl"

Does TV Week still think Gossip Girl is a hot show?

Well, here's an even hotter show. ABC Family's Secret Diary Of An American Teenager blew Gossip Girl out of the water last night in total viewers (4.5 vs. 2.2 million), in adults 18-34 (by 50%), adults 18-49 (by 43%) and viewers 12-34 (by 123%).

It was the second half of the season finale of Teenager, which doesn't get the same kind of press as Gossip Girl - maybe because Girl is about goofy shenanigans at a Manhattan prep school while Teenager is about a girl who unexpectedly gets pregnant as her family and friends deal with the issue- one today's teen and young adult audiences certainly can relate to.

American Teenager was created by Brenda Hampton, who was behind the hit family drama 7th Heaven for eleven seasons on The WB and CW.

Surprisingly, critics haven't warmed to the show - which is kind of interesting given Gossip Girl recently landed on TV Week's list of best TV shows at No. 24.

But the only thing that matters is American Teenager has touched a nerve with America's youth - something overrated Gossip Girl hasn't done. And fans of the show will be happy to know that American Teenager has been renewed for 24 more episodes by ABC Family, which starts this summer.

The program also airs on broadcast television in Canada on CityTV's chain of stations in five markets, including Toronto and Vancouver.

One rule of thumb in scriptwriting is to always give people believable characters they can relate to. For its target audience, The Secret Life of An American Teenager more than delivers. If the broadcast networks did just that with their scripted programming (instead of a ghost on Grey's Anatomy), they would have more viewers.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Tom Joyner out at V103

In a move that is a huge blow to his nationally syndicated show, The Tom Joyner Morning Show (aka The TJMS) lost its biggest - and most important - affiliate.

Clear Channel-owned WVAZ-FM (V103) has canceled Joyner's show, effective immediately, and is replacing it with The Steve Harvey Morning Show, which airs on sister station WGCI-FM. No word yet on who will replace Harvey on WGCI. A name currently branded about is current afternoon personality Tony Scoulfield.

If he gets the morning gig, it would be sort of homecoming for Scoulfield, who was on in the mornings at WGCI with "Crazy" Howard McGee and Nikki Woods for several years before getting his own show. As you recall, WGCI-FM dropped McGee in July 2007 and replaced him with Harvey's syndicated show, despite the fact McGee was number one in the time period among key demos.

There were also rumors at the time of Tom Joyner's demise at WVAZ, but the station renewed the show in a "multi-year" deal with Reach Media, Joyner's syndicator which he part-owns with Radio One - a Clear Channel urban rival in a few markets, including Philadelphia and Detroit. WVAZ was TJMS' largest non-Radio One affiliate.

As for Tom Joyner, losing the second-largest African-American market in the country is a huge blow, as the show has not aired in New York City (the nation's largest African-American market) since 2003. For awhile, Joyner's show was briefly heard in Los Angeles on the now-defunct KRBV-FM, but was dropped due to low ratings (and a 3 a.m. start time.)

A few years ago, Clear Channel Urban Adult Contemporary outlets lost the rights to TJMS in Philadelphia, Detroit, and St. Louis when Radio One became part-owner of the show and moved it to their competing Urban AC outlets in those markets. Harvey replaced Joyner on those Clear Channel stations in Philadelphia and Detroit.

The Steve Harvey Show is syndicated by Premiere Radio Networks, which is owned by Clear Channel.

Tom Joyner is a Chicago radio veteran, working at WJPC and later WGCI-FM. He earned his nickname "the fly jock" when he simultaneously held down a morning shift at KKDA-FM in Dallas in the morning and WGCI in the afternoons for eight years, flying back and forth between the two cities. His syndicated morning show had been on WVAZ for 13 years, when it moved there to make room for... Steve Harvey, who got his radio career started at WGCI in 1996.

For those of you in the Chicago area - or anywhere the show isn't airing on terrestrial radio, you can listen to TJMS online at blackamericaweb.com.

Click here for Joyner's reaction to WVAZ's move.

Thought: Yours truly listened to the TJMS and is sad to see it go and its even more agonizing since yours truly isn't a fan of Harvey (yeah, this totally f***in' sucks. Thanks again, Cheap Channel.) Personal feelings aside, his move to WVAZ actually makes sense. Harvey's show targets a more older audience and is a perfect fit for WVAZ's 25-54 demo while his show did not fit well on younger-skewing WGCI. It would be nice if there was a local program back on WGCI in morning drive, giving competition to Crawford-owned WPWX-FM's (Power 92) inane morning show (with the dumbest name anyone could think of...)

As for TJMS, this program's future could be in jeopardy. Losing the nation's second-populated African-American market and not being able to get back on terrestrial in New York is not a good sign. The show will continue - for now - but could face make-goods down the road to make up for the shortfall of the Chicago audience. Then there's Radio One, which is not in the best financial health right now...

Let's face it - ever since Clear Channel lost Joyner to Radio One in those markets two years ago, you knew they were going to strike back somehow. Vertical integration is the keyword these days. If it weren't, Medium (produced by CBS) wouldn't be on the bubble at NBC, despite respectable ratings. Clear Channel would've been better off to put Harvey on WVAZ to begin with.

If I were Crawford Broadcasting - owner of WSRB-FM (Soul 106.3) - I'd get on the phone right now to Reach Media and Radio One. Joyner's there for the taking. This is a chance to rebuild your station. How often does a popular nationally syndicated show with a built-in audience become available? Not too often. Come on WSRB, what are you waiting for? If you pass this opportunity up, I'd say - a Regional Mexican format for your station within six months.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

DreX scores new five-year deal

Call it a reward for helping take down a morning show powerhouse.

Clear Channel-owned WKSC-FM has renewed morning man Drex's contract for five more years. The move assures his fans that he will be waking them up every morning through 2013 on the Top 40 outlet.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Drex's morning show was instrumental in taking down former powerhouse Eddie & JoBo, on arch-rival WBBM-FM. The duo were dropped from the station last November after 18 non-consecutive years.

According to the latest PPM reports, Drex finished first among women 18-34 (a key demo for WKSC) and third among adults in the same age bracket. Last fall, it decisively beat Eddie & JoBo in those same demos.

This is the second signing this week, given the tough economy and turmoil in the radio industry. On Monday, WLUP-FM signed their morning personality (Jonathan Brandmeier) to a new deal, but it is only for one year.

Drex arrived to Chicago from San Antonio in 2003, which coincidentally is Clear Channel's home base.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

T Dog's Groovy Grab Bag

- CBS has re-upped Warner Bros.-produced Two and a Half Men for three more seasons and The Big Bang Theory for two. CBS and Warner Bros. also settled a pending lawsuit (so I guess CBS can go ahead and cancel Cold Case and Without A Trace...)

- Is it a good sign when a network shaves twenty minutes off your premiere episode? In an unusual move, Fox announced the premiere of Osbournes: Reloaded on March 31 has been trimmed to 40 minutes, with American Idol expanded to 80 minutes.

Osbournes: Reloaded is an attempt to bring back the variety show and the program features the wild reality-TV family in comedy sketches and man-on-the-street interviews, with audience-participation games and musical acts (and we all know how well it worked for Rosie...)

Fox plans to air the series as specials. Translation: When the show premieres on March 31, it's likely we'll never see it again. This show was a good idea... in 2003. Maybe Fox should trim some more minutes off Osbournes:Reloaded... like the remaining 40.

- Weigel Broadcasting has cut loose production manager Randy King, who was hired a year ago to oversee development of local programming at the company's television outlets. The move is not related to the economic slowdown, which has claimed a lot of jobs in the media industry over the last few months.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

T Dog's Four Pack - 3/17/09

Haven't done it in awhile, so let's see what's working this week - and what's not:

Four you should grab off the shelf

- Garry Meier on WGN-AM. After rave reviews for his recent four-day stint at the news/talk outlet, the station should just give him the vacant 1-4 afternoon slot right now. There's no contest.

- Jon Stewart takes down Jim Cramer. He slapped down Crossfire's Tucker Carslon and James Carville, now does the same to CNBC loudmouth Jim Cramer. Like the rest of those firms who put a lot of people out of work, he might actually join them. Thank you, Jon Stewart, you are a God!

- Life On Mars getting to wrap up its storylines. It's sad this series is going off the air, but props to ABC for letting the producers and writers pen a script for a final episode for closure. As for ABC's owner - well...

- South Park slaps down Mickey. Another Comedy Central slapdown, this time courtesy of South Park. Funniest season opener ever. Matt and Trey, can you please do a episode lampooning ESPN? I would like to see Chris Berman get his fat ass served.

Four you should leave on the shelf:

- ABC's Lost bait and switch. Instead of an all new episode of Lost, viewers got an "enhanced repeat" instead, this breaking a promise from the Mouse House regarding sixteen straight new episodes, with NO RERUNS. Mickey is about as honest as an Illinois politician. Man, that South Park episode was dead on.

- The PTC. Another gripe about Family Guy. Really, does anybody care about what this idiot organization says anymore?

- NBC. Has network television reached the ultimate point in absurdity? NBC is bringing back I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here, a reality dud that flopped on ABC in 2003. The program debuts on June 1, and is being stripped four nights a week. Is a revival of Pink Lady and Jeff and Sheriff Lobo also waiting in the wings? It seems NBC has gone back to 1979 and stayed there.

- American Idol's "Judge Save". This should have been invented instead: The Judges Boot, where they have a right to kick off a contestant who wasn't voted out. If this was initiated three years ago, it would have spared us anymore of Taylor Hicks.

CBC slammed for airing American shows. Again.

Stop me if you've heard this before...

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is being criticized by governmental leaders and actor unions for airing too much American programming on the public network - a practice it has been doing for decades.

The controversy comes as CBC dropped two Canadian-produced newsmagazine/lifestyle shows: Fashion File and Steven & Chris, due to low ratings and current economic conditions, but kept CBS Television Distribution's higher-rated Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, the latter featuring Canadian native Alex Trebek.

CBC acquired the game shows from CBS Television Distribution International after a lengthy run on private broadcaster CTV. Wheel airs in early fringe at 5:30 p.m. and Jeopardy! in prime access at 7:30 p.m. Here in the states, many stations pair the two game shows in access to run together, including WABC-TV in New York and KABC-TV in Los Angeles.

Heritage Minister James Moore slammed the move of canceling the home-grown product, quoted as saying:"Frankly, I can tell you I don't like it when I see the CBC canceling Canadian content, and we see Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune." The pol made the comment Sunday night on a Radio-Canada (SRC) talk show in Quebec.

The move comes as the cash-strapped public broadcaster (isn't it always?) is struggling to produce ad revenue while financial help from Ottawa has been cut.

CBC has taken heat before for airing U.S. fare, which special interest groups have complained about for decades. In the mid-1990's, CBC took American programming off from 8 to 11 p.m. and aired only Canadian programming and other foreign shows. Popular shows included This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Royal Canadian Air Farce (which recently ended its long run), and DaVinci's Inquest, which currently airs in sydicated reruns in the U.S. The most popular export was Friday night staple The Kids in the Hall, which found a home in the states on CBS, HBO, and Comedy Central.

Past programming that has aired in prime-time on CBC included Dallas, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The Golden Girls, Happy Days, The Nanny, and Welcome Back Kotter.

CBC currently strips The Simpsons weekdays at 5 p.m. and has done so since 1994 under a long-term syndication deal. Other American programming currently airing in daytime hours includes Fraiser and Martha (Martha Stewart's talk show.) Past programs stripped in afternoon time periods included The Addams Family, Fresh Prince, The Golden Girls, Star Trek: The Original Series, WKRP in Cincinnati, and The Wonder Years.

Thought: The arguments being made here in this day and age are quite pointless. In an era of the Internet, Cable TV, and DVDs, these guys seem to be stuck in the 1970's. The targeting of American programming - but not other foreign programming (Coronation Street, from the UK) is quite hypocritical and makes politicians and these groups look like total fools. Maybe the reason why Fashion File and Steven & Chris flopped with Canadian viewers because... the shows weren't good? Wow, a novel concept! Kids, Cold Squad, Da Vinci's, Night Heat, 22 Minutes, Air Farce and any Degrassi series are textbook examples of Canadian programs with good writing and good production values. It can be done, you know. Maybe the whiners should take take that into consideration before opening their mouths.

I agree the CBC should air more Canadian programming - but you have to get people in the tent somehow. The only way to do it is to air established programming - no matter where it comes from. Nobody said competing with better funded private broadcasters CTV and Global was easy.

This argument isn't new - yours truly has followed Canadian TV programming since the early 1990's and the same whiners are still - well, whining. After all, the United States doesn't have a monopoly when it comes to clueless politicians and idiot special-interest groups.

Monday, March 16, 2009

T Dog's Groovy Grab Bag

Ah, it's good to be back... because of several scheduling snafus (eliminating any free time I had), The T Dog Media Blog was unexpectedly put on hiatus last week. But we're back -and better - and snarkier - than ever before. Let's celebrate by reaching into the Grab Bag...

- A word about this article in TV Week regarding reality's dominance - um, I hate to break it to you, but reality TV has always been with us. Gasp! Really? Yes, it's been around since Candid Camera debuted all the way back in 1947. Before American Idol, there was Star Search. And before Dancing with the Stars, there was Dance Fever. Before The Bachelor, there was Love Connection, The Dating Game, and Studs (remember the uproar over that show?)

And don't forget, the term Reality TV was used to describe late '80's fare such as Cops, America's Most Wanted, Inside Edition, and salacious daytime talk shows like Geraldo.

So anyone who thinks this is a hot new phenomenon - please... you haven't been here long enough.

- Jimmy Fallon's new late-night talk show got to a good start in the ratings two weeks ago, but the reviews have been meh-like. Fallon's been criticized for unfunny monologues and lackluster interviewing skills.

Yours truly watched the first episode and ... wow. A PSA for Blonde Moms. Lick stuff for $10. That's A-list roll-out-of chair funny stuff. Yeah.

Fallon seems likable and someone you'd want to root for, but he's trying too hard. He needs to loosen up more on camera and take some risks. How's this for an idea as an opening sketch? Have sex with Meg Griffin and later get pummeled by her father, Peter Griffin. The audience would eat that up! Hey, wait a minute...

In other words, get up to speed Fallon, or you might get replaced by... Byron Allen.

- Litton Entertainment has cleared WCIU-TV for R&B star Brian McKnight's new one-hour syndicated variety series for next fall. Litton have been getting inquiries from several My Network TV affiliates, since the network - I'm sorry, I mean "programming service" - is giving Saturday prime-time back to them.

Litton hopes this effort is better than The Tom Joyner Show, a similar program featuring the legendary radio personality which the syndicator had success in launching (as in getting the project on the air), but flopped with viewers in 2005.

Litton has also cleared WPIX-TV in New York and the CW Plus group for McKnight. In a related note, NBC Universal will handle ad sales for all Litton first-run syndicated programming, including McKnight's show and Storm Stories.

- Good Grief, a Star Wars TV series? Casting began this week for a new Star Wars TV series, which focuses on minor characters and whose timeline takes place between Revenge of the Sith and the original Star Wars.

Let's hope this turns out better than the joke that's The Clone Wars.

- The Parents Television Council is after Family Guy again... this time over the episode titled "Family Gay". Does anybody care what this group say anymore? (Check out yours truly's take in the comments section in the linked article - if you can manage to read it. One word of advice - don't format on their forum.)

Oh man. Just talking about the PTC riles my blood up. I sure could use a distraction right now... Ladies and Gentlemen... Mr. Conway Twitty.

Johnny B. stays with The Loop

After long negotiations, WLUP-FM morning man Jonathan Brandmeier signed a one-year contract to stay with the classic rock outlet.

Brandmeier, a young-adult audience sensation in the 1980's and early 1990's on WLUP, returned to "The Loop" four years ago from the now-defunct KLSX-FM in Los Angeles, and has enjoyed resecptable ratings success among key adult demos (though not as big in his earlier heyday.)

The move comes as morning radio stars have been cut over the past two years, with Steve Dahl, Eddie Volkman and Joe Bohannon, and Howard McGee all losing their radio gigs partly due to their expensive contracts.

Brandmeier's signing is also bold - but realistic, given the economic conditions today. No word yet on terms of the deal.

Recently, The Loop's owner (Emmis) cut 7 percent of its workforce, including staff and on-air personnel at the station and WKQX-FM (Q101).

Monday, March 09, 2009

WEEK, WHOI merge operations

Playing in Peoria is hard these days...

The owners of NBC affiliate WEEK-TV and ABC affiliate WHOI-TV in Peoria have decided to merge their operations, effective immediately.

WEEK's owner (Granite Broadcasting) took over the operations of Barrington Broadcasting-owned WHOI in a local marketing agreement, leaving just Nextstar's CBS affiliate (WMBD-TV) as their sole local competitor.

A similar scenario has played out in Syracuse, where Granite's WTVH (CBS) had its operations taken over by Barrington's WSTM-TV (NBC).

The moves mean the news operations at WHOI and WTVH have practically shut down, with employees thrown out of work. 40 employees were dismissed at WTVH; 30 were canned at WHOI.

WHOI had dropped to last place in the ratings race in Peoria, as did WTVH in Syracuse.

Both Barrington and Granite have struggled financially over the years, with Granite filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy just a few years ago.

Despite the merging of operations, both stations are expected to keep their on-air personas and newscasts separate. However, behind the scenes work and camera crews have merged, and the newscasts are being produced out of one facility, instead of two.

The news comes as another station here in the Midwest (Fox affiliate WITI-TV in Milwaukee) announced they were "suspending" their early-fringe weekend news broadcasts because of weak economic conditions.

The Peoria-Bloomington market has been hit hard in particular: In October 2008, two radio stations owned by local businessman Bob Kelly went dark, and in January 2008, the market's local public TV station had their facilities foreclosed on.

How did it come to this? In the linked Milwaukee story regarding WITI ending its early-fringe weekend newscasts for now, Tim Cuprisin notes NBC affiliate WTMJ-TV has started running infomercials in prime access and primetime on Saturdays. No surprise here: CBS-owned WBBM-TV and NBC-owned WMAQ-TV in Chicago have done the same thing (in prime access) on alternative Saturdays for years now, and Buffalo's network affiliates have ran paid programming off-and-on in Saturday prime access for nearly fifteen years. Gives new meaning to the phrase "Saturday night TV is dead."

Also: Interesting to note in the WTVH story at Syracuse.com, 55 percent of Syracuse households tune in to late news - higher than Chicago's four-share tune in for its 10 p.m. newscasts.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

"Springer', "Wilkos" likely heading to Connecticut

I know this story is over a week old, but it is significant.

Has Chicago's media and political freak shows become too much for even the king of dysfunctional TV, Jerry Springer?

According to news that became public a week and a half ago, NBC Universal - the syndicator behind raunchy talkers Maury, Jerry Springer, and The Steve Wilkos Show, plan to move the three talk shows to a television production facility in Stamford, CT.

Stamford is home to the World Wrestling Federation, but (surprisingly) has no plan to be involved in the production of all three shows.

The three NBC Universal shows are apparently taking advantage of tax credits being offered to the shows by Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell.

Currently, Springer and Wilkos tape at the NBC Tower here in Chicago while Maury tapes at Grand Ballroom of the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City (another talk show syndicated by NBC Universal - Martha - is not part of the deal and will continue to tape in New York.) This is the second television production to flee the Big Apple in many weeks due to the collapse of the tax credit program which was supposed to lure programs to the city. Earlier, Warner Bros. announced Fringe would move production from New York to Vancouver if the freshman drama is renewed next year.

As you recall, Jerry Springer's show was under intense scrutiny from Chicago's City Council in 1998 for fights breaking out on stage and the overall raunchy tone of the show. A year earlier, WMAQ-TV (which aired Springer at the time) hired him as commentator for their 10 p.m. newscast, which forced anchors Ron Magers and Carol Marin to resign (Marin however, has since returned as an investigate reporter.)

Springer has been targeted by Rev. Michael Pflager of St. Sabina's Church and conservative groups Parents Television Council, The American Family Association, and the Illinois Family Institute for the show's raunchy tone and violent content. The ratings were sky high at one point, beating The Oprah Winfrey Show in early 1998. Springer pledged to clean up the show and did, but the fights returned, although more constrained (there have also been acquisitions that the violence and fights on the show are staged.)

Today, Springer resides near the bottom of the pack of syndicated talk shows, but does well enough to continue.

If the move goes through, Chicago would be left with only Warner Bros.' Judge Mathis and Judge Jeanne Pirro and of course, The Oprah Winfrey Show as the only nationally syndicated programs taped and/or filmed here.

This isn't the first time a talk show left the Windy City. In 1985, Phil Donahue moved his talk show from Chicago to New York to tape at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

For the record, the last time a nationally syndicated talk show was taped regularly in Connecticut was Sally Jessy Raphael's talk show, which was produced at the studios of ABC affiliate WTNH-TV in New Haven (in the Hartford DMA) from 1986-89, when afterward she moved production of her show to New York. Before moving to New Haven, Raphael taped her show at NBC affiliate KSDK-TV in St. Louis.

Donahue, Sally Jessy Raphael, and Jerry Springer were all developed and syndicated by Multimedia Entertainment, which was sold to Universal in 1997.

Thought: While yours truly is more than happy to see Springer's show leave Chicago, what I'm not happy about is the loss of jobs resulting from the move of two programs moving out of town. Even worse, special interest groups and longtime critics of the show - from Rev. Michael Pflager on the left to David Edward Smith of the Illinois Family Institute on the right - will claim victory for forcing Springer out of town, when in reality, they haven't done anything but shout and scream and run their mouths.

Don't forget - when Springer is gone, Chicago politicians - who are about as dysfunctional as the show's guests - and had the audacity to question him over his program's antics when these alderjerks engaged in this same type of behavior during the racially divisive Council Wars in the 1980's - are still here. In fact, the Council still behaves this way today.

T Dog's Think Tank Archive: Ten Years later...

Thursday, March 05, 2009

"Simpsons", "Survivor" renewed

Enough doom and gloom! Time for some happy news (if you can call it that...)

Two of television's most durable franchises received pacts ensuring their future for some time to come.

While this news actually became "official" when they started work on next season's episodes last July, Fox announced Wednesday the renewal of The Simpsons for seasons 21 and 22, making it the longest-running prime-time scripted show in television history surpassing CBS' "Gunsmoke", which ran from 1955 to 1975. The Simpsons debuted as a Christmas special on December 17, 1989.

The first HD episode handily won its Sunday night timeslot among adults 18-49, the program's main demo. The program is still a powerhouse in key male demos.

While The Simpsons has has now passed the historic threshold for prime-time, many other current programs has been longer - NBC's Meet the Press has been on the air since 1947, 60 Minutes since 1967, and numerous soap operas on the networks' current daytime lineup have been on the air since the 1950's and 1960's.

Don't forget some syndicated product have long runs as well - Wheel of Fortune is currently in its 26th season in syndication (34 years if you count its NBC daytime run, which began in 1975); Jeopardy! is in its 25th; The Oprah Winfrey Show is in its 23rd; and Inside Edition is in its 21st.

Soul Train is currently the longest-running first-run syndication series in history, but the program stopped producing episodes in 2006, its 35th season, while American Bandstand had 32 seasons under its belt with 30 of those seasons on ABC (1957-87), one season in first-run (1987-88), and another on cable's USA network (1989). Not counting toward the total is the series' first five seasons airing exclusively on WFIL-TV (now WPVI) in Philadelphia.

Survivor gets picked up as well

Meanwhile, CBS has renewed its reality franchise Survivor for its 19th and 20th editions. Survivor premiered on May 31, 2000 and the August 23, 2000 finale drew more than 50 million viewers, the most of any show in August (a traditional low homes-using-television month) since the series finale of The Fugitive aired in 1967. Survivor moved to Thursday nights in February 2001 and has thrived there ever since, bringing down young adult demo powerhouse Friends in the process.

Survivor brought younger viewers (especially those in the adults 18-49 demo) to CBS, shredding its image as a network exclusively for older viewers. The most recent episode drew more than 13 million viewers, and dominated its time slot among the 18-49 demo.

Emmis cuts staffers

From the world of deaths, we go into... layoffs.

Indianapolis-based Emmis Communications cut staffers nationwide today, reducing 7.5 percent of its workforce, including seven employees at its two Chicago outlets: alternative WKQX-FM (Q101) and classic rocker The Loop (WLUP-FM).

The layoffs were due to the deteriorating economy and the soft ad market, according to company officials.

Emmis is also merging its Chicago and St. Louis stations' branding, imaging, and programming with management shuffling back and forth between the two markets.

Among those who got the ax were: brand manager Tisa LaSorte, Q101 PD Marc Young, and imaging director Mark Tammany.

On-air personalities who were dumped were WLUP midday jock Erin Carmen and sportscaster Bruce Wolf.

Pete McMurray takes over middays at The Loop tomorrow, but John Kempf takes over the 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. time slot beginning on Monday, with McMurray relocating to Kempf's old evening slot, at least for the time being.

At Q101, Alex Quigley and Ryan and Kevin Manno exchanging time slots, with Quigley going over to evenings and the duo heading to afternoon drive.

Meanwhile, there is increasing speculation that Jonathan Brandmeier might not be back once his contract at The Loop is up. Brandmeier has yet to sign a new deal at the station, with the terrible economy one of the main sticking points. With today's layoffs at Emmis, Brandmeier's chances at staying put with a pay increase don't look very good.

Sad as all of this may seem, look at it this way: at least nobody died. We've had enough of those this past week.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Richard Pegue passes away

As I said earlier, The T Dog Media Blog is turning into the T Dog Media Obituary Blog...

Yet another Chicago media personality has left us. This time it's former DJ Richard Pegue, whose resume included stints at WGCI, WVON, WJPC, WOPA, and until last weekend, Kennedy-King College's WKKC-FM. Pegue was 64.

A Hirsch high school student (where he formed a doo-wop group), Pegue was music director at WVON-AM for seven years during "The Good Guys" era (1968-75) and during his time at WKKC, he was known as "Doctor Dusty" - spinning tunes from back in the day on late Saturday nights into Sunday mornings.

Pegue was also a jingle writer, creating themes for Moo & Oink supermarket chain and Funtown Amusement Park (formerly on 95th and Stony Island.)

Pegue received a honorary street designation in the Grand Crossing neighborhood at the corner of 76th Street and Ingleside Avenue.

Updated at 11:49 p.m. on 2008-03-04

Monday, March 02, 2009

Paul Harvey dies

Just days after losing Norm Van Lier, Johnny Kerr, and James Ward, Chicago loses yet another longtime media personality - and this one was as big as they come. This person didn't just work in radio- he was radio.

Paul Harvey died Saturday in a Phoenix hospital (near his winter home) at the age of 90.

Harvey began his long radio career in his birthplace of Tulsa, Okla., getting his start at KVOO as a staff announcer. He worked at several radio stations before coming to Chicago in 1944, where he became a newscaster for WENR and had based his nationally syndicated radio show here since 1951 and went on everyday at noon.

His popular News and Comment radio show - and a popular spinoff (The Rest of the Story) were heard on over 600 radio stations in the United States and distributed by ABC Radio Networks. In his home base of Chicago, he was heard locally on WGN-AM.

A proud member of The Radio Hall Of Fame, Harvey received The Presidential Medal of Freedom from George W. Bush in 2005.

Harvey's wife Lynne was a producer for his show. She died last May at the age of 92 from complications due to Leukemia.

His format was simple: new headlines, commentary, a celebrity item, and a weird or absurd story - and it was a format durable for over sixty years. It was his down home sensibilities and gentle manner that made him a favorite in middle America.

Another quirk of Harvey's show was his "dramatic pauses". And his ability to segue from telling a story to a sponsored message was second to none.

It would be difficult to replace a man who some thought would not fit in today's media landscape. Certainly, he was the last of his kind in radio. Though he has left us, there's comfort in knowing he is now reunited in peace with Lynne in heaven. And to him - it's a "good day."

More: Aaron Barnhart of TV Barn and the Kansas City Star has a more detailed profile of Paul Harvey.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

James Ward dies

Thursday was a tough day in Chicago media, as it was announced another well-known personality had died.

Retired WLS-TV restaurant critic James Ward died on Thursday afternoon after a long battle with cancer. He was 76 - the same age as Johnny "Red" Kerr, who died the same day.

Also passing on Thursday was Chicago Bull legend Norm Van Lier, who was 61.

Ward was the station's long-time restaurant critic, joining the station in 1985 and appearing on the ABC-owned station's Friday night newscasts where he scored the dining establishments using a system of "breads" and "circuses".

Ward also was a food critic for the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Daily News, and also wrote for numerous lifestyle magazines.

After twenty years at WLS-TV, Ward retired in December 2005.

Thanks for the fun Mr. Ward, and as you would always say - Chow Chow for now.

Johnny "Red" Kerr dies

Former Bulls broadcaster John G. "Red" Kerr passed away at his home Thursday due to a long time battle with prostate cancer at the age of 76. Kerr died just hours after former Bulls player and analyst Norm Van Lier was found dead in his Chicago home.

Kerr was the first Chicago Bulls coach (1966-68) and later had a 33-year run as the team's television and radio analyst. Until this season (when declining health forced him to scale back his workload), he was paired with Tom Dore for Comcast SportsNet telecasts and Wayne Larrivee on WGN-TV.

Kerr's NBA career began with the Syracuse Nationals in 1954, which moved to Philadelphia and became the 76ers in 1963. He stayed with the franchise until 1965, when he was traded to the Baltimore Bullets (now the Washington Wizards). In 1966, he retired as a player from pro basketball and took the Bulls' coaching job.

In the Bulls' first season (which home games were played at the International Amphitheatre at 43rd and Halsted), the expansion Bulls made the playoffs despite a 33-48 record - a first for any team in North America's four major sports - and was named NBA coach of the year.

Kerr left the Bulls in 1968 for a coaching gig with the expansion Phoenix Suns and subsequently worked for an ABA team before returning to the Bulls as a business manager in 1973. Two years later, Kerr became the team's color analyst, being teamed with broadcaster Jim Durham at first.

Kerr also emceed the Bulls' championship celebrations at Grant Park during the Michael Jordan era, and did a lot of them - six to be exact.

Even though younger fans aren't familiar with his days as a Bulls coach or his dabbling behind-the-scenes of the team, Kerr will be remembered for his enthusiastic style as a color commentator (especially when Michael Jordan sunk a game winning shot) and the team's unofficial ambassador. Watching Johnny "Red" Kerr and Norm Van Lier during Bulls' broadcasts were always fun, and won't be the same without them.