Monday, May 31, 2010

Flashback: The 1984 Upfronts

Remember the nighttime serial "Paper Dolls" with Morgan Fairchild at the helm? No? Neither does anyone else. 

Recently,'s's Robert Feder unearthed the archives and presented us with one of his Sun-Times columns back in May 1984. Since Upfront Week took place two weeks ago, I got to thinking - what was it like back then when the networks trotted out all there new shows in New York?

Well, put on your legwarmers and start breakdancing - because thanks to Google archives - and what I have read over the years (which included numerous back issues of Broadcasting magazine and Advertising Age - and of course, TV Guide), we'll flash back to those 1984 Upfronts in New York City - an event where they pretty much declared the sitcom dead and prime-time soaps with wealthy families were all the rage.

For starters, there was no Fox, CW, WB, or UPN networks yet. Cable channels like CNN, ESPN, and WTBS existed, but did not participate in the upfronts. Cable penetration was under 30 percent when the Big 3 networks controlled 80 to 90 percent of the prime-time viewing audience and was barred from syndicating their own shows (thanks to the "fin-syn" rules).

And the upfront presentations were more spread out - nearly two weeks to be exact. ABC was first on April 30; CBS was second on May 3; and NBC was last to announce their fall schedule a week later on May 10. The hoopla in Midtown Manhattan was dubbed the "Upfront Olympics", in reference to the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games, which ABC aired later that summer.

So let's go back in time and head to Upfronts '84 and see what's coming on in the fall:

ABC: One of the reasons why ABC slid in the ratings in the early 1980's was because they relied too much on aging hits- the same ones which helped them dominate the ratings in the late 1970's. Their 1983-84 lineup was full of them: Happy Days, Hart to Hart, That's Incredible, Fantasy Island, and Three's Company. In order to freshen the lineup, all of those shows either were canceled or had their runs ended.

And so, ABC's upfront presentation on April 30 at Lincoln Center featured eight new shows, and the success of Dynasty (the #2 show of the 1983-84 season) had an influence on at least two of the entries: a new serial titled Paper Dolls, with Morgan Fairchild battling with vultures in the fashion world; and Glitter, about the hijinks at a rich-and-famous celebrity magazine. Other new dramas included Jessie, about a police officer who gets too close to her boss; Street Hawk, about a cop who drives a motorcycle which flies like a jet; and Call to Glory, a drama series with Craig T. Nelson set on an Air Force base. Only two new sitcoms were unveiled: Who's the Boss, a sitcom featuring Tony Danza as a male housekeeper with Judith Light as his boss; and Three's A Crowd, a sequel to Three's Company with John Ritter moving in with his girlfriend (Mary Carodette). The lone new non-scripted entry was People Do The Craziest Things (the title speaks for itself).

Cancellations (in addition to those mentioned above) included A.K.A. Pablo, Just Our Luck, Lottery!, and Oh Madeline.

Rebuilding wasn't easy. In fact, ABC fell from second to third place during this season, despite Dynasty taking the top ratings spot. Almost all of its freshman shows bombed - early season causalities included Glitter, People Do The Craziest Things, and second season entry Foul-Ups, Bleeps, and Blunders; and the rest barely made it through the season. Veteran The Fall Guy - which was a Top 20 performer the previous season, was clobbered by NBC's new Highway to Heaven and moved to Thursday in 1985 where it died. Most of ABC's mid-season entries faltered as well, except for one, which along with Who's The Boss was another sitcom about a housekeeper - Mr. Belvedere.

ABC canceled T.J. Hooker after three seasons, but resurfaced on CBS' late-night lineup the following season.

CBS' presentation came on May 3 and the Tiffany network unveiled five new series [1] at its upfront presentation: Charles in Charge with Scott Baio; E/R with George Clooney; and Dreams with John Stamos in a rock and roll band; murder-mystery drama Murder She Wrote; and action drama Cover Up.

To make room, CBS got rid of Cutter to Houston, Goodnight Beantown and Domestic Life. Bonnie Franklin's departure from One Day At A Time ended that series' nine-season run.

CBS stayed on top of the ratings heap in 1984-85, but its ratings were starting to decline. While Murder, She Wrote became a long-time Sunday night staple for CBS, its sitcoms didn't fare so well - E/R and Charles were both canceled after one season, but Clooney went on to star in another ER - this time without the slash -which became a big hit drama for NBC; and Charles was later successfully revived  for first-run syndication in 1987. Dreams expired after five episodes and second-season sitcom AfterMASH was mercifully canceled in December. Cover Up suffered after star Jon-Erik Hexum accidentally shot and killed himself after playing around with a prop gun. The series was gone by the following April.

Also retiring were long-running hits The Dukes of Hazzard, Alice, and The Jeffersons.

It's back to the drawing board for NBC after the entire freshman class of 1983-84 was completely scrapped, including Bay City Blues, Jennifer Slept Here, Manimal, Mr. Smith, The Rousters, and We Got It Made (which returned to first-run syndication in 1987.) Also out was reality show Real People after five seasons.

So, Brandon Tartikoff unveiled the network's new 1984-85 slate at its upfront presentation on May 10, [2] and it featured nine new shows: six new dramas and three new sitcoms - with the latter bunch chances of succeeding marginal at best. The six new dramas were: Highway to Heaven with Michael Landon as an angel sent back to earth; Hunter, a L.A.-based crime drama starring Fred Dryer and Stephanie Kramer; Hot Pursuit, featuring a couple who's on thee run; Partners in Crime with Lynda Carter and Loni Anderson as female defectives; V, a sci-fi drama based on the successful 1983 mini-series; and Miami Vice, a crime drama centered around two stylish detectives.

The comedies were: It's Your Move with Jason Bateman as a young scam artist; Punky Brewster, about a orphan who winds up with a old man; and The Cosby Show, a sitcom starring Bill Cosby as a pediatrician with a wife (whose a lawyer) and four kids.

Results: In a stunning turnaround, NBC jumped into second in 1984-85. While some shows didn't work - Partners in Crime, Hot Pursuit, It's Your Move (a personal favorite of yours truly) and V - a program that would somehow find its way back onto network television in 2010 - it was these shows (except Punky Brewster) that made the difference:

- Punky Brewster was not a hit with critics. Or anyone over the age of 15. But this program is still remembered fondly today (why, I don't know), despite its low-rated two-season run on NBC and its one season run in first-run.

- Highway to Heaven wasn't a hit with critics either, but it was a Wednesday night time-period winner, knocking ABC's Fall Guy into oblivion.

- Hunter was another runaway Saturday night hit for NBC, improving on its lead-in and ran on NBC for seven seasons.

- Miami Vice was Friday night for NBC. The stylish "MTV Cops" beat CBS' Falcon Crest in the ratings among young demos and became bigger in its second year, sparking a pop culture sensation.

- But the program that turned around NBC's fortunes was The Cosby Show. The series single-handily revived the sitcom, made Thursday nights into "Must See-TV" and would help lay the groundwork for NBC to become the top-rated broadcast network the following season. Cosby sold into off-network syndication in 1986, earning a record $4 million per episode (excluding barter sales), a record which stood for more than a decade. Cosby's halo effect also helped other Thursday night shows like Cheers, Night Court, Family Ties, and Hill Street Blues, all of which were struggling to survive before Cosby came along.

When the 1985-86 season ended, NBC finished in first place in households and key demographics.

Today, NBC sits in last place - just like it did during the 1983-84 season and the eight previous seasons.

[1] "CBS announces cancellations, new offerings", St. Petersburg Times, section D, p.4, 1984-05-04.

[2] "Nine new shows to power NBC's fall", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, p. 19, 1984-05-11.

Tom Joyner heads to Power 92 - and stays at Soul 106.3

The Fly Jock is going to be doing double-duty in Chicagoland beginning this week.

As reported by Chicagoland Radio and Media, the Reach Media/Radio One-syndicated radio program is going to be simulcast on both WSRB-FM (Soul 106.3) and WPWX-FM (Power 92). Both stations are owned by Crawford Broadcasting.

As you recall, Joyner's show was dropped by WVAZ-FM in March 2009 and was replaced by Steve Harvey's syndicated morning radio show, which moved over from WGCI-FM.

How the older-skewing Joyner will mesh with the rest of Power 92's younger-skewing music and radio personalities remains to be seen. The combination didn't exactly work out at younger-skewing WGCI when older-skewing Steve Harvey's syndicated show was on morning drive.

The last time a morning radio program was simulcast over two stations was in the early-to-mid-1980's when Larry Lujack's show was aired over WLS-AM and WLS-FM.  The arrangement ended in 1986 when WLS-FM became WYTZ-FM and hired Paul Barsky for the morning show (Lujack would switch to afternoons on WLS-AM around the same time.)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Nine O'Clock news numbers not so nice

Jeff Goldbatt out at WFLD; WISN, WTMJ tie in 10 p.m. news race in Milwaukee

The recent trends in local news is somewhat puzzling to figure out sometimes - while two stations scored rating increases at 10 p.m. with their local newscasts, the two local 9 p.m. newscasts were down from year-ago averages.

Both CW affiliate WGN-TV and Fox-owned WFLD-TV were down 21 percent and 9 percent in households, respectively in the just-concluded May sweeps.

In fact, the soft numbers have cost someone their job. Jeff Goldblatt was dropped as primary 9 p.m. co-anchor at WFLD after just two years, with officials at the station declining to renew his contract. Goldblatt was brought over from Fox News Channel to reverse the ratings slide at WFLD, which has been unable to take advantage of strong Fox prime-time lead-ins (Phil Rosenthal had a deadline on his Tower Ticker blog which read "Goldblatt's closing at WFLD", the name referring to the now-defunct department store,) WFLD's post prime-time newscast usually draws the lowest numbers of any Fox O&O in the country (WNYW in New York and KTTV in Los Angeles fare much better with their 10 p.m. newscasts.)

There is no word on a replacement at this time, but there is speculation that former Fox Thing In The Morning anchor Bob Sirott is being considered for the now-open position.

Meanwhile, WGN officials blame the popular prime-time programming on the major networks this past season (of course, if WGN officials bothered to do any research, other reasons would also include the popularity of cable shows in this time period and the use of DVRs.)

It was a different story at 10 p.m., where ABC-owned WLS-TV continued its dominance of Chicago local news, with a 7 percent ratings increase in households, while third-place WBBM-TV also grew 11 percent in households.

The ratings surges however, may have likely come from a month dominated with high-profile crime blotter stories as gang violence has wrecked havoc on Chicago, from the death of a highly regarded police officer in Chatham (a mile west from where yours truly lives) to the shooting death of a student this week in Dolton to violence on Oak Street and North Avenue beaches.

While a lot of viewers decry the police blotter stuff (including yours truly), it does draw humanoids, like it or not. "If it bleeds, it leads" is alive and well in the lexicon of local news.

Oddly enough, the only owned-and-operated station to lose viewers at 10 p.m. was NBC's WMAQ-TV, which was down 6 percent from a year ago, but is good enough for second place.

In Milwaukee, the 10 p.m. news race was a horserace as ABC affiliate WISN-TV and NBC affiliate  WTMJ-TV both tied each other with a 14 share with both stations in a dead heat all month long. Meanwhile, Fox affiliate WITI and CBS affilaite WDJT-TV weren't really even in the race, with both earning a 9 share and 8 share, respectively.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Gary Coleman dies

Gary Coleman, who is best known for one of America's most famous catch phrases, died today at the age of 42 from complications of a fall earlier in the week.

Coleman was known to utter the phrase "What'cha Talking About" on Diff'rent Strokes, a sitcom he starred in and ran on NBC from 1978-85 and ABC from 1985-86.

The Zion, IL native rose to fame at an early age, appearing on a number of commercials locally in Chicago in the 1970's, including one for Harris Bank, where he held a Hubert the Lion doll. He headed west to Hollywood  in 1978 to star in Diff'rent Strokes, a show set in New York City about a white millionaire adopting two black kids from Harlem after their mother died.

The series basically kept the lights on at NBC at a time when the network was deep in ratings trouble. In the 1980-81 season, Diff'rent Strokes was one of only three NBC shows in Nielsen's Top 20, ranking at number 19 (the other two were Little House on the Prairie and Real People.)

Coleman also starred in a number of movies during Diff'rent Strokes run, including On The Right Track and headlined his own Saturday morning animated show in 1982-83.

When the network struck gold with The Cosby Show and other new shows in the 1984-85 season, NBC didn't need Strokes anymore and cut the program loose at the end of the season. ABC picked up the series the following season, but was yanked from the network's lineup in March 1986 and canceled shortly thereafter.

Coleman did not find much work after the series ended, and reduced to guest shots in shows including The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Married... With Children, and The Jamie Foxx Show.

Coleman also has had numerous health issues during his lifetime, including an operation that kept him out of several Diff'rent Strokes episodes in 1981. Recently, Coleman suffered a seizure on the set of The Insider.

His private life has also been tabloid fooder through the years, including a lawsuit against his parents and charges of domestic violence against his spouse. His troubles though, didn't come close to the legal troubles his two other Diff'rent Strokes co-stars have had in the past: Todd Bridges was charged with attempted murder of a drug dealer in 1989 (he was acquitted) and Dana Plato was arrested for robbing a video store in Las Vegas the same year (and arrested again for robbery of Valium a few years later.) Numerous drug problems led to her death in 1999.

All of the three stars' problems have led to a Diff'rent Strokes curse and jokes Mr. Drummond somehow didn't have a grip on raising his kids. The stars' troubles led to two made-for-television movies: Fox's After Diff'rent Strokes: When The Laughter Stopped in 2000, and NBC's 2006 TV-movie Behind The Camera: The Unauthorized Story of Diff'rent Strokes. Their troubles have also been featured on E!'s True Hollywood Story.

On Saturday, Me-TV in Chicago is running an eight-hour marathon on Diff'rent Strokes episodes to pay tribute to Gary Coleman, scheduled from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Chicagoan Lee DeWyze wins "American Idol"

American Idol winner Lee DeWyze with runner-up Crystal Bowersox.

It was a Midwestern feel at the American Idol finale, with one finalist from northern Illinois and the other from north central Ohio and both auditioning in Chicago.

But in the end, it was Mount Prospect native and former paint store salesman Lee DeWyze who took home the prize and the sole title of American Idol 2010.

His victory over Toledo native Crystal Bowersox sent a huge crowd gathered in the northwest suburb into a frenzy, in a celebration usually seen for a sports championship (in fact, a little too frantic - one person in the frenzied crowd tried to grab Darlene Hill's microphone during a live shot during WFLD's newscast Wednesday night.)

DeWyze's victory also ends a jinx of sorts over local Idol contestants and how Idol is perceived locally. In 2004, Chicago native Jennifer Hudson was a favorite to win, but failed to make the top six (she was a noted no-show at last night's Idol's finale.) Many theories ranged on why Hudson was eliminated, from bad weather knocking out phone service in the Chicago area the night fans were to vote for their favorites to race (Hudson and two other African-American contestants landed in the bottom three the night she was eliminated.)

Since then, ratings for Idol locally have lagged behind those of the national average, with last year's Idol finale ranking 51st out of 56 metered markets in household ratings.

But with DeWyze in the latter stages in the competition, ratings have inched upward locally. But on a national level, ratings have declined significantly.

Last night's Idol finale was the lowest rated in its history, drawing only 24 million viewers and a 8.2 rating in adults 18-49. While's those numbers are very good, Idol had a 18 percent drop in the key 18-49 demo from last year's finale.

The two other big finale events of the last few days: ABC's Lost (13.5 million) and Dancing With The Stars (18 million) were also rating disappointments, with Dancing drawing a record-low 18-49 rating, dropping 27 percent from last spring's finale.

As for the show itself, the two-hour finale featured tributes to Simon Cowell, who has left the show after nine seasons to focus on the launch of his new X-Factor show here in the United States next year. The most anti-climatic feature throughout the show was when one of the Idols would take the stage to sing a classic song - and right on cue there's the guy who did the original comes on stage to take over. Utterly predictable, since Idol's been doing this on their finale telecast for the last few years now.

This has not been a good year for Idol - many feel the departure of Paula Abdul and the addition of Ellen DeGeneres hurt the show creatively and depress the ratings (in fact, Idol was beaten by Dancing in total viewers for a few weeks.) Simon Cowell's departure will no doubt accelerate Idol's decline.

But for Lee DeWyze, his rise is just only beginning.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tribune wants more of "This"

Chicago-based Tribune Co. actually likes something crosstown rival Weigel Broadcasting Co. has - This.

Tribune announced today it has signed a long-term deal to add This TV in several markets (including WPIX in New York) and renewing existing deals in others (KTLA in Los Angeles.)

This TV is a joint venture between Weigel Broadcasting (which owns WCIU here, and airs This on one of its subchannels) and MGM. The channel consists of programming culled from the MGM library, mostly movies but also a few television shows in off-peak time periods, including Patty Duke and The Outer Limits. The channel launched on November 1, 2008.

With the new Tribune deals, This TV adds Miami (WSFL), St. Louis (KPLR), San Diego (KSWB) and Grand Rapids (WXMI) in addition to WPIX.

Existing deals were renewed in Philadelphia (WPHL), Washington D.C. (WDCW), Denver (KWGN), Hartford (WTIC) and New Orleans (WGNO) in addition to KTLA.

Tribune also has deals with Latino-targeted LATV, whose subchannels appear on WPIX, WGN in Chicago and KDAF in Dallas. The This TV deal does not affect LATV's presence on WPIX.

With the new deals, This TV is now cleared in 85 percent of the country and is also now eligible for national ratings, which it reached a deal with Nielsen recently.

The oddity in all of "this" is Tribune (with WGN) and Weigel (with WCIU) are rival competitors here in the Chicago market, but at least they're friendly: WGN usually buys time on WCIU to air White Sox, Cubs, and Bulls games in prime-time (and in a few cases early and late-fringe) due to conflicts with CW network programming.

Blackhawks tell Hurley and the gang to get "Lost"

Sorry Hurley, but Chicagoans preferred the heroics of the Blackhawks' Dustin Byfuligen on Sunday.

When it came to the ratings on Sunday, not even the Smoke Monster was no match for Dustin Byfugulien.

According to Phil Rosenthal's Tower Ticker blog, Sunday afternoon's NHL Western Conference Final Game 4 between the San Jose Sharks and the Chicago Blackhawks averaged a 14.1 Nielsen household rating  and a 32 share locally on NBC-owned WMAQ-TV, outdrawing every primetime program in Chicago, including the heavy-hyped series finale of Lost (9.3) and the season finale of Celebrity Apprentice (10.3).

Among adults 25-54 (adult 18-49 numbers were not available), the Blackhawks did a 10.4/40, while Lost did a 8.8/21, and Apprentice did a 6.8/16.

Nationally, the game averaged a 2.0 household ratings, up from a 1.5 for a Blackhawks-Red Wings playoff game a year ago.

From 4:45 to 5:00, the Blackhawks game peaked at 714,000 households (which translated into more than one million viewers!), going down as perhaps the most-watched hockey telecast in Chicago history. Just minutes earlier, Dustin Byfugulien scored the game-winning goal to put the Hawks ahead for good.  

The Blackhawks beat the Sharks 4-2 and swept the Sharks 4-0 to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1992. The Finals begin on Saturday, where they will play the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 1 at the United Center. Games 1 and 2  and 5 through 7 are airing on NBC, while Games 3 and 4 will be seen on Versus.

The finals are a boon for WMAQ (and its NBC O&O sister station in Philadelphia, WCAU), who will no doubt provide plenty of pre-game and post-game coverage on nights when a Finals game is taking place on NBC. The matchups are also good for NBC, which get the third-largest and fourth-largest markets, respectively. There is also another storyline - the Cup drought for both teams: the Flyers at 35 years, the Blackhawks at 49 years, the longest in the NHL.

The 14.1 rating the Blackhawks earned Sunday set another viewing record for the team, besting the previous high set in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals Friday night on Versus, which did an 11.1 locally.

The Blackhawks have also been good for Comcast SportsNet, whose Game 3 of a Western Conference Semifinal against Vancouver set an all-time vieweing record for the regional sports net.

As for Lost, the series finale drew just 13.5 million viewers and a 5.8 rating among adults 18-49. While the number will definitely go up due to online and DVR viewing - and giving ABC an important victory on the final Sunday night of the May sweeps, the numbers are a disappointment given all the hype. In fact, the season finale of Grey's Anatomy last Thursday (at 15.2 million) drew more viewers than the series finale of Lost. These facts on Lost's numbers Sunday night are apparently "lost" on the trade press and many message board posters.

As for the episode itself, it was well done. Lost was about the characters of course, but the real star of the show was the island itself - the polar bears, the Smoke Monster, a group of people called The Others, and the inhabitants jumping back and forth through time - this wasn't Gilligan's Island as you can tell - nobody here got hit with the skipper's hat - no, people here often got their ass kicked. Lost was probably the best drama on television the last six years, with a lot of mystery, intrigue, and just plain weirdness that kept viewers coming back for more.

And for those who complain about Lost not giving any answers to some of the questions...isn't what makes art great is leaving some questions go unanswered?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

WCIU lands "Seinfeld"

The sitcom about nothing is still apparently something in syndication.

Weigel Broadcasting's WCIU-TV acquired the fourth-cycle rights to off-network sitcom Seinfeld (sixth item), to begin airing in March.

The move comes as a few (but not all) Fox-owned stations who currently carry the show have passed on the next cycle of the popular NBC sitcom, with syndicator Sony opting to take the series to Tribune stations or to others.

Here in Chicago, the departure of Seinfeld from the Fox duopoly was expected after Tribune's WPIX-TV reacquired the show from Fox-owned WNYW-TV in New York, who outbid WPIX for the program's second cycle in 2000.

Currently, Seinfeld airs at 6 and 9:30 p.m. weeknights on WPWR-TV, and was previously on sister station WFLD-TV at 6:30 p.m. for the last fourteen years, where it was a proven prime access winner.

However, Seinfeld lost its prime access time slot to The Office and its late fringe time slot to a TMZ rerun. (ouch!)

To date, Sony has cleared the fourth cycle of Seinfeld in 60 percent of the country, with Tribune also taking the show in Dallas at KDAF-TV, Washington D.C.'s WDCW-TV, and renewing the program in markets where it already had the rights including Indianapolis; Miami; Portland, Ore. and Sacramento.

With WCIU now landing the rights to Seinfeld, there's also a good chance one of the runs could land on its sister station, classic sitcom channel Me-TV (a very good fit!) For a time earlier this season, both WCIU and Me-TV shared reruns of That '70's Show.

Seinfeld ran on NBC from July 5, 1989 (when it was a pilot titled The Seinfeld Chronicles) to September 17, 1998, earning numerous Emmy Awards and finished the 1994-95 and 1997-98 television seasons as the #1 rated program. Seinfeld still ranks in the top 10 among syndicated programs, which it has done so since its debut on September 11, 1995.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Turner announces 2010-11 sked

It's the 2010-11 Turner upfront presentation, and you know who is the man of the hour.

I'm talking about Conan O'Brien, TBS' new late night star, who stopped yesterday at the event to say hi to media buyers (and to convince him he's the real deal in a daypart dominated by David Letterman and Jay Leno.)

O'Brien woke the quasi-sleepy crowd of buyers up at 10 a.m. Wednesday morning, cracking about this is the first time he's been back in New York City since his he was at the NBC upfront a year ago and how the plot to Lost was easier to follow than his life for the last year (Ha, Ha, Ha! To read the full transcript of O'Brien's remarks at the TBS upfront presentation, click here.)

Conan O'Brien new show premieres on November 8, when it will take up residence at 10 p.m., Chicago time. George Lopez's talk show is sliding to 11 p.m. to make room.

Yesterday's festivites were part of the Turner upfront, coordinated to take place along with the major broadcast networks presentations - and to prove to them they can play with the big boys too.

Among the highlights:

- TNT will bow two new dramas this summer, including Memphis Beat and Razzoli & Isles and addition to returning programs The Closer, Saving Grace, Hawthorne, and Leverage. Later this year, TNT will bring back critically-acclaimed drama Men of A Certain Age and premiere a new Steven Speilberg-produced series titled Fallen Skies.

- Also coming to TNT next year is new episodes of SouthLand, a former NBC castoff.

- And if Mark-Paul Gosselar appearing in one failed drama isn't enough (Raising The Bar), he'll appear in yet another (Franklin & Bash).

- TBS is rolling out two new comedies this year: the animated Neighbors From Hell (which should be on Adult Swim) and Are We There Yet?, a new sitcom based on the movie from executive producer and star of the movie Ice Cube (early clips yours truly has seen liken this in the mold of Everybody Loves to Hate Chris Payne & His House of Kids - and that's not a compliment.) Also returning this summer is My Boys (television's most overrated sitcom next to Parks & Recreation.)

To read Turner's press release - and on what programs both TNT and TBS currently have in development - click here.

CW's 2010-11 lineup: We know drama - or so we claim

The CW celebrates its 5th season this fall with an eye popping nine dramas on its schedule, and one lone reality show, America's Next Top Model. The network is also claiming it has an "all original lineup", meaning no show will repeat itself on the schedule during the week (what, you thought they were running 52 weeks of original programming? HA!)

Of those nine dramas, two of them are new - Hellcats and Nikita, the latter a revival (there's that word again) of the 1990s cable series.

CW did bring back most of its programming from last year, but let The New Melrose Place, High Society, and Fly Girls go.

To see the 2010-11 CW schedule, click here.

Thought: Mary J. Blige had a hit in 2001 with No More Drama. Can we ask that of CW? For the second year in a row, CW is the (almost) all-female angst network.

Okay, The Vampire Diaries is a hit, beating FlashForward in adults 18-49 in the first two weeks of the May sweep - give them props for that. Life Unexpected is a critical favorite and CW did the right thing in bringing the show back for a second season, but is expected to struggle in its Tuesday night time slot opposite a lot of strong competition.

But let's face it - if it weren't for NBC's PR disasters this past season, we would've bashed The CW instead.

Mondays? Forget about it. Tuesday? See Monday. Wednesdays? What is exactly a Hellcat? And write Fridays off because this is Smallville's and Supernatural's (likely) final seasons.

The only night CW will be successful - modestly - will be Thursday with Vampire Diaries paired with yet another new version of Nikita (what is up with all these remakes?)

Wow. That analysis was quick. Because with The CW, there usually isn't anything much to say.

CBS shakes 'em up in 2010-11

The most aggressive moves front the upfront didn't come from the three other major networks - it came from the front runner, CBS.

CBS unveiled its 2010-11 lineup Wednesday in front of advertisers in New York City, and it came with some surprises: the biggest one of them all is the move of hot comedy The Big Bang Theory to Thursday nights to lead off prime-time.

The laugh-a-second comedy leaves its cushy Monday night slot in between Two And A Half Men (which is coming back after all, thanks to Charlie Sheen's contract renewal) and CSI: Miami and leads off a night where CBS had shared dominance with ABC over the years. Big Bang's move bumps Survivor out of the time period, which has occupied the slot since February 2001. Following Big Bang on Thursday is a new sitcom tentatively titled **** My Dad Says starring William Shatner, a sitcom created from a twitter page (I'm not making this up!)

This marks the first time in 45 years that CBS has opened Thursdays with a sitcom. In the past, this time slot has been occupied by dramas such as The Waltons, Magnum P.I., and Top Cops.

Other new fare on CBS this fall include a new Chuck Lorre comedy titled Mike & Molly; The Defenders, a legal drama not to be confused with the 1960's version of the same name (which also ran on CBS); the anticipated revival of Hawaii Five-O; and Tom Selleck returning to the network fold with Blue Bloods.

In response to ratings declines this year, two CSI spinoffs are getting new nights: Miami goes from Monday to Sunday while New York moves from Wednesday to Friday.

To make room for the new shows, seven shows were canceled by CBS on Tuesday, including Numbe3rs, Cold Case, The New Adventures of Old Christine, Gary Unmarried, Ghost Whisperer, Accidentally on Purpose, and just-introduced Miami Medical.

Thought: Wow, now that's what I call aggressive. Hats off to The Church of Tisch for shaking up their schedule - as CBS execs point out, if they didn't make changes, their ratings would decline. Survivor has done well on Wednesday before (when it aired due to the NCAA Basketball tournament pre-empting it on Thursdays) so its audience will find it. While Big Bang will likely take a hit on Thursdays, it should be fine - keep in mind this is what first happened to The Simpsons in its second season when it moved from Sundays and thrived on Thursdays for four years, knocking out long-time time period champ The Cosby Show in the process.

It remains to be seen if the two CSI spin-offs will thrive in their new nights, but the moves could extend their shelf lives a few years.

As for the new shows.... as much as yours truly hates remakes, I'm behind Hawaii Five-O - as long as they stay true to the original and not make it into another procedural. But maybe they should have remade The Defenders as well... this "comedic drama", or whatever the hell that means - with their talentless leads - hopefully gets nuked as fast as Viva Laughlin did. In the sitcom department, Mike & Molly from Chuck Lorre doesn't look to be a Dharma & Greg clone (one of his earlier series) - and that's a good thing - but will this Chicago-based sitcom about an overweight couple work? This is different, that's for sure...

William Shatner's new show - which is tentatively called - **** My Dad Says - you fill in the blank - is based on a Twitter page? My gosh, where will they come up with these sitcom ideas? Looking at the synopsis, this looks nothing more than Sanford & Son - only whiter and obviously more middle-class. Here's a sampling of the stuff Shat will say: "Elizabeth, I'm  coming to join you, honey!... you big dummy." Don't be surprised if there's a red truck in front of the house and Aunt Esther shows up once in a while to hit Shatner in the head with her purse. But hey... this could be a fun show to watch, even if the critics say otherwise.

CBS prides itself as being "America's Most Watched Network". There's no reason for the slogan to change this upcoming season.

To read CBS' press release for its' new fall schedule, click here. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

ABC's new 2010-11 lineup

ABC announced its new 2010-11 lineup in front of advertisers during its upfront presentation today, and unveiled several new programs.

While Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays remain pat, Tuesday gets a significant face-lift with two new dramas surrounding the Dancing With The Stars results show: No Ordinary Family and Detroit 1-8-7, while Better Together joins ABC's Wednesday sitcom block, with new drama The Whole Truth to cap off the evening. My Generation replaces FlashForward on Thursday and former Fox reality series Secret Millionaire takes up residence on Friday, leading into Dana Delaney's new drama Body of Proof.

As alluded to last week, ABC cut four shows to make room for the new fall entries.

Midseason programs include Matthew Perry comedy Mr. Sunshine, and the return of V.

To see ABC's new schedule and the rest of the midseason entries, click here. 

Okay, just what the hell is this? My goodness, I thought NBC's lineup from last fall was bad. But ABC's is even worse. Detroit 1-8-7 has the potential to be a good show, what will the image-conscious city's residents think? I like the idea of The Middle moving to the first half-hour of prime-time to make room for Better Together, but why are you keeping ratings loser Cougar Town? My Generation does fit better with the female-skewing Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice than FlashForward did, but competing against a rejuvenated Survivor will be no easy feat. And why is ABC picking up a jilted Fox show from two years ago in Secret Millionaire? That has to be a first. And tell yours truly why ABC decided to keep Extreme Makeover: Home Edition in its current Sunday night time slot... The Simpsons aren't that dominant. And V does not deserve to come back at all.

And for all of this buzz about Mr. Sunshine with Matthew Perry - you shelve it until midseason? Why?

ABC's 2010 fall lineup leaves yours truly rather unimpressed.

Did you know? Believe it or not, Mr. Sunshine has been on ABC's prime-time sked before - in the spring of 1986, it was a short-lived sitcom featuring Arrested Development's Jeffrey Tambor as a blind university professor, which drew criticism from interest groups for the show poking fun at his disability. The program replaced the canceled Diff'rent Strokes in the Friday night 8 p.m. (CT) time slot and perished instantly opposite Dallas.

Fox's new 2010-11 lineup

In advance of its upfront presentation today, Fox announced seven new shows for next season, including a revamped Tuesday lineup in the fall, with its freshmen hit show Glee front and center.

Shows not returning include Saturday night talker The Wanda Sykes Show and sitcom Brothers. It is not known at this time what will replace Wanda Sykes in the Saturday late-night slot.

Fox launches Tuesday nights with Glee, followed by two new comedies: Raising Hope and Running Wilde, the latter featuring Arrested Development's Will Arnett and Felicity's Keri Russell. Glee will move to Wednesday nights when American Idol returns to Tuesday nights in January, which will now be expanded to 90 minutes.

After CBS launched a new show after the Super Bowl this year with Undercover Boss, it's back to proven shows in the slot next year with Glee.

Monday night launches with veteran House and a new drama titled Lonestar, a drama set in Texas with the oil industry as a backdrop (sounds familiar? I already hear the first-season finale will have somebody wake up and discover somebody showering.)

Wednesdays have Lie to Me and Hell's Kitchen; Thursdays stand pat with Bones and Fringe; and Fridays are revamped with Human Target and newcomer The Good Guys.

Saturdays and Sundays remain the same.

On tap for midseason: A new crime-drama set entirely and filmed here in Chicago titled Ride-Along, which stars Shawn Ryan and Chicago native Jennifer Beals. Ride-Along is scheduled for Mondays after Lonestar concludes its run.

Another mid-season entry is animated comedy Bob's Burgers (a show -for once - that doesn't come from Seth McFarlane) and Terra Nova, a new sci-fi thriller.

Thought: Mixed feelings about this sked. First, Lonestar seems to be a Dallas ripoff, no doubt about it. Their two live-action comedies on Tuesday will continue the tradition of failure for Fox in this arena. Putting Glee in the post-Super Bowl slot is a bad idea because the male audience will not stick around for it. While Thursdays remain pat, the ongoing audience erosion for Fringe is a concern. Animation Domination on Sundays will have a new entry with Bob's Burgers which is worth checking out - and surprise! It's not produced by Seth MacFarlane.

Ride-Along looks very promising - a filmed in Chicago series, the first since Prison Break and The Beast. (Let's hope it doesn't meet the same fate as The Beast, which was canceled by A&E after six months and also due to star Patrick Swayze's illness.) Terra Nova on the other hand, sounds like Lost In Space meets Land of the Lost (but ironically, not Lost.)

And if you're looking for X Factor, forget it -it's likely to debut in the fall of 2011, at the earliest.

With Jack Bauer calling it a day and Simon Cowell leaving American Idol, this is going to be one challenging season for Fox. Good luck - they'll need it.

Did you know? The title The Good Guys was used for a 1968-70 CBS sitcom featuring Bob Denver and Herb Edelman. Here's a tip: never name your show after a failed Bob Denver sitcom - I suppose next we'll have a new crime drama called Dusty's Trail....

Sunday, May 16, 2010

NBC unveils 2010-11 schedule

NBC announced its 2010-11 schedule to the press today, with significant changes from last year.

For one thing: no Jay Leno in prime-time. Second, NBC has picked up dramas from J.J Abrams and Jerry Bruckhemier, two producers who know how to create hit shows - something NBC desperately needs right now.

From Abrams comes Undercovers, a new spy drama  which will air on Wednesday nights, and from the creator of CSI and The Amazing Race comes Chase, which takes a last hour on prime-time on Monday.

In a surprise move, the new single-camera comedy Outscored takes 30 Rock's slot on Thursday, pushing Rock to 7:30 p.m. (CT).

And also on Thursdays, a new anthology comedy series titled Love Bites, takes up the last hour of primetime. Love Bites is remisicent of ABC's Love, American Style, which ran for an hour on Friday nights between 1969 and 1974 (and in half-hours in endless syndicated reruns ever since.)

Canceled shows include Heroes and Law & Order. Returning midseason are The Marriage Ref, Parks & Recreation, Celebrity Apprentice (it might likely become just The Apprentice again as Donald Trump is looking to drop the "Celebrity" angle from the show), and Minute It to Win It.

To see the complete schedule, click here. And to read a Q&A session featuring executives Jeff Gaspin and Angela Bromstead, click here.

Thought: There is nowhere to go but up for NBC, thanks in part to Jay Leno's departure from prime time. Yours truly like the new dramas from Abrams and Bruckhmeier, and the two gives NBC some credibilty. While it was a given the overrated Parks & Rec was renewed, it was a bit of a surprise to see the series shifted to midseason.

There are some major pains in this schedule. Chuck should not have come back for another season in the same Monday night time slot, while continuing to fill Tuesday with two hours of The Biggest Loser is a bit much, giving the number of pilots they rejected (Biggest Loser should be only one hour a week, at best.)

While Love Bites is a different animal, keep in mind Love, American Style was a middling performer at best during its five season run at ABC - the show never broke into the top 30 and vanished midway through the 1973-74 season, an unusual move for even then.

And really, do we need Law & Order: Los Angeles? If they wanted a L.A. based-crime drama, they should have kept Southland. Or at least bring back Adam-12 (which actually did happen - in 1990 for syndication.) And renewing the ultra-lame Marriage Ref and Minute to Win It is a complete joke.

Overall, look for NBC to be stronger in 2010-11 - but not strong enough to get out of fourth place.

Did you know? Love Bites was a #1 hit for hair-metal band Def Lepperd in October 1988. 

"Big Bang Theory" sold to Fox O&Os and TBS

WFLD/WPWR picks up show as part of ten-market Fox deal 

Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution has sold The Big Bang Theory to Fox-owned stations and Turner Broadcasting for a fall 2011 start.

The cable deal has TBS paying a record-breaking $1.5 million per episode (for a cable network) for the rights to air the show in primetime four or five nights a week.

Big Bang is expected to serve as a lead-in to Conan O'Brien's new talk show on TBS, which launches this fall.

Turner was expected to land Big Bang, though other cable nets, including FX and Viacom's MTV and Comedy Central were also in the running. In fact, FX (which has the cable rights to Warner's other superstar comedy, Two and a Half Men) was deep in the running for Big Bang up until the last minute.

With an eye on boosting its My Network TV stations, Fox bought Big Bang for its nine duopoly markets and WUTB in Baltimore, beating out Tribune Broadcasting. The interesting quirk in this deal though, is the ten-market Fox deal leaves out large markets where Fox also owns stations, including Philadelphia, Boston, and Detroit.

The sale means Big Bang will be shown locally over WFLD and/or WPWR twice a day. Fox paid close to $500,000 per week for the series in the ten markets with the show being stripped in key prime access and late fringe time periods. Warner will retain 90 seconds of commercial time to sell to advertisers on a national basis.

For Fox, Big Bang is added to a comedy lineup which includes The Simpsons, The Office, My Name Is Earl, and How I Met Your Mother, which debuts on the station group and in syndication this fall.

As for Tribune, the sale of Big Bang to Fox is a huge blow to Randy Michaels & Co., who may have demanded too much from Warner in order to land the show. Tribune actually underbid and wanted exclusivity for the first season and also wanted Big Bang to air on WGN America. Warner balked at the offers, and made the TBS and Fox deals.

Tribune currently airs Big Bang's companion sitcom (Two and a Half Men) and Family Guy, which was recently re-upped for a second cycle.

Currently, Big Bang is one of television's top-rated sitcoms, finishing first among adults 18-49 and 25-54 The sitcom often outperforms its Two And A Half Men in CBS' Monday night sitcom lineup. Big Bang's continued strong performance helped drive up the price for the show in syndication.

While Big Bang did set a record for dollar-per-episode mark for cable, it remains to be seen whether or not the sitcom will do the same on the broadcast side, since those sales have just begun. The first-cycle most dollars-per-episode record is still held by both The Cosby Show in 1986 and Friends in 1996, with each earning $4 million per episode.

Seinfeld currently holds the all-time record for most revenue earned from a broadcast sale, with $5 million per-episode earned from its second cycle, which ran from 2001 to 2006.

Friday, May 14, 2010

NBC cancels "Law & Order"

The bid for Law and Order to surpass Gunsmoke as the longest-running television drama in history in the United States has fallen short. The network has pulled the plug on Dick Wolf's crime drama after twenty seasons.

Law and Order premiered on September 13, 1990, and won numerous Emmy Awards, and spun-off three series, with a fourth one coming up this fall (Law and Order: Los Angeles.)

The move comes as the major networks are pulling the plug on the deadweight (see post below) as Upfront Week approaches - the week new shows and schedule changes are announced to advertisers in New York City.

In addition, NBC pulled the plug on three other series: Mercy, Trauma (which becomes the first series since Family Guy to be canceled twice - NBC initially canceled Trauma late last fall but changed its mind and brought it back), and Heroes.

There are several reasons why Law & Order was canceled by NBC - one, ratings for the show hit historical lows recently in the adult 18-49 demo - an 1.0 rating for a recent Monday airing. Many procedural dramas have been losing young viewers this past season, and Law & Order was not an exception.  Second, ad rates for Order were falling sharply - this season, a thirty second spot on the show went for only $60,000 - down from an average of around $136,000 during the 2008-09 season.

Law & Order was also hurt from the decision to hand the last hour of prime-time to Jay Leno and his talk show, which bombed after a little more than four months on the air.

And yet another reason may be an unlikely suspect: TNT. The cable network - who has stripped Law & Order reruns since 1994 - balked at picking up reruns of any season beyond its twentieth. With a significant amount of episodes (456 to be exact), the series may have been getting too expensive for TNT, whose commitment to air reruns of the crime drama expires soon. In fact, TNT was offered the chance to continue the show into its twenty-first season by airing new episodes, but turned it down claiming it would not make financial sense to do so.

With the sudden cancellation, Law & Order will not have a final episode to wrap-up storylines or to close out the series. Then again, Gunsmoke - which ran on CBS from 1955 to 1975 - didn't get a chance to do so, either.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

FlashForward... to your demise - for real this time

Law & Order's fate hanging in the balance

It was a day for cancellations.

In a move that does not surprise anyone, ABC has canceled FlashForward after one season. The Thursday night science-fiction series' ratings declined significantly throughout the season in the key adults 18-49 demographic.

Last Thursday's airing of FlashForward finished in last place among adults 18-49 in its time period, even behind CW's Vampire Diaries, despite being pre-empted here in Chicago for a Cubs-Pirates game on WGN.

FlashForward premiered on September 24, 2009 to strong ratings, but viewers fled for the exits almost every week since. 

ABC also trashed Romantically Challenged, Alyssa Milano's laugh-challenged and ratings-challenged sitcom which ran after Dancing With The Stars on Monday nights and was beaten by CBS' Big Bang Theory in repeats. Also out are Scrubs and Better Off Ted.

Meanwhile, NBC reportedly canceled Law & Order after 20 seasons. However, this may be nothing more but a negotiating ploy as series creator Dick Wolf and the peacock network are still in talks to keep the show  on the air in some kind of captivity in order to break the record held by CBS' Gunsmoke as television's longest-running drama series in the United States.

TNT, which carries syndicated repeats of Law & Order, denied reports that they were interested to pick up new episodes of the venerable show.

And there are reports circulating of NBC finally canceling Heroes after four seasons.

If that wasn't enough for you, also canceled this week were Comedy Central's The Sarah Silverman Program and BET's Tiny & Toya

One in a million, you

Trifecta Entertainment and Mark Burnett Productions are teaming up to launch a one-of-a-kind weekday strip: a singing competition.

Tentatively titled One in a Million, the show will feature aspiring contestants competing to win one million dollars (of course.) 

While the series is targeted for daytime, Million could also wind up in prime access and late fringe time periods.

The series is slated for a September 2011 debut and would have four singers compete a day and have a three-judge panel panel determine the winner. On Friday, the week's four winners would face off to determine a weekly winner then go on to a monthly semi-final. The winner will then go on and compete in the final, which would take place on the 185th episode of the season for the million dollars.

Trifecta plans to coordinate auditions with would be stations in each market to find contestants. Million also plans a strong internet component to the show, with online voting determining a slot in the finals. 

While this is an ambitious project, programs of a caviler like this as a strip have faltered in the past: In 1992, Television Program Enterprises tried a weekday version of Star Search in several markets, including Los Angeles (Chicago was not among them.) The experiment lasted just three months before it was scrapped.

And while this is mainly targeted for daytime, stand-alone half-hour slots in the daypart are simply not common, with most programs airing either as hour-long blocks or back-to-back half hours. Prime access would be the next most logical choice, but with the recent renewals of Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy and off-network repeats of The Big Bang Theory scheduled to launch in 2011, Million would have a hard time getting into the door. 

Plus, American Idol is on a ratings downswing this season and is expected to decline even further in future seasons with the departure of Simon Cowell later this month (ironically, Trifecta distributes weekly hour American Idol Rewind in broadcast syndication.)

Still, hooking up with the esteemed Mark Burnett Productions - who will not be represented in syndication this upcoming season since Martha is moving to the Hallmark Channel -  isn't a bad idea. It's at least worth a shot.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

WPWR picks up "Bones" for 2nd syndication cycle

Fox's WPWR-TV and stations owned by Tribune, Sinclair, and Local TV have picked up the second syndicated cycle of Bones from Twentieth Television.

The procedural drama has been a  solid ratings performer during its weekend runs in syndication and continues to perform solidly on Fox's Thursday night schedule, beating FlashForward and NBC's combo of Community and Parks and RecreationBones is currently in its fifth season.

All in all, the second cycle of Bones  has cleared 70 percent of the country, which begins in September 2011.

In addition to WPWR, Bones' second cycle has been cleared by other Fox-owned stations including WWOR-TV in New York, KCOP-TV in Los Angeles and WTXF in Philadelphia. Other clearances include WTTV/WXIN in Indianapolis, WCGV/WVTV in Milwaukee, WDAF in Kansas City,  and KTVI in St. Louis. 

For a complete station list, click here.

Bones airs Saturday nights at 7 p.m. and  8 p.m. on WPWR.

Beautiful Betty tops Chicago ratings

Ugly Betty may be gone from the airwaves (did anyone notice?) but Beautiful Betty is blossoming!

Betty White's much ballyhooed hosting gig on Saturday Night Live - inspired by a Facebook campaign, won its time period with a 8.8 overnight metered-market household rating, according to Nielsen.

Among adults 18-49 in the 25 Local People Meter markets, the program averaged a 5.1 rating and 20 share, the best performance in eighteen months.

In either case, it was the highest-rated show of the broadcast day, beating every show in prime-time in households and in key demos.

In Chicago, Betty White's hosting gig rocked the house, finishing first in the 10:30p.m.- midnight time slot in all key demos. But even more impressive, Chicago's WMAQ finished first among all LPM markets with a 9.2/33 among adults 18-49 (barely beating KARE in Minneapolis-St.Paul) and a whopping 11.4/37 among adults 25-54 (click here and scroll down to the bottom for results from all LPM markets.)

The Betty White-hosted Saturday Night Live was generally praised by critics, with Matthew Gilbert of the Boston Globe boasting it was one of the best episodes of the season
Not a bad performance for the Oak Park, Ill. native who left a huge mark in the medium, with an Emmy-winning career stretching 60 years, from starring roles in The Golden Girls and The Mary Tyler Moore Show to guest roles in Ugly Betty, The Simpsons, Boston Legal, Family Guy, My Name Is Earl, Fame, St. Elsewhere and a lot more. She also headlined her own sitcom on CBS during the 1977-78 season, but lasted only fourteen episodes.

White also became the first female to win an Emmy for Outstanding Game Show Host for Just Men!, a short-lived  NBC daytime game show in 1983 which lasted only thirteen weeks. It would be another 22 years before another female would win the award again (Meredith Vierra won for Who Wants To Be A Millionaire in 2005.)

All in all, Betty White's Saturday Night Live hosting gig is just another addition to her long, successful resume.

Monday, May 10, 2010

"Family Feud" on the move

Family Feud, the venerable game show whose been through more syndicators (and hosts) than Terrell Owens been through football teams, is getting a new locale.

Beginning July 10, the Debmar-Mercury-syndicated show is trading in Los Angeles for Universal Studios in Orlando, bringing back game show production back to the facility on a regular basis for the first time since the 1990's.

The move coincides with the shift of hosting duties to Steve Harvey, whose successful syndicated radio show (which airs locally on WVAZ-FM, V103) is produced in Atlanta.

The last time a game show was produced at Universal Studios on a regular basis was in the 1990's, when Nickelodeon produced several game shows at the facility, including Double Dare, Legends of the Hidden Temple, Get the Picture, and GUTS (the latter two were hosted by a pre-Yes Dear and Glee Mike O'Malley.)

Feud has taped in Los Angeles since 1976, and this marks the first time the game show has taped outside of California, with the exception of fifteen episodes taped on location in Nashville at OprylandUSA in 1993. Studios Feud has taped in its various incarnations include ABC Television Center, CBS Television City, NBC Studios, and Tribune Studios (now Sunset Bronson Studios.)

This marks the second major game show to exit Hollywood in the last year in order to save on costs. In 2009, NBC Universal moved production of Deal or No Deal from Culver City, Calif. to Waterford, Connecticut.

While Feud gets to cut costs in its move to Florida, it also gets to promote the show inside the theme park. Producers plan to hand out brochures and other goodies to vacationers at Universal Studios Florida to get fannies in the seats for the tapings in those air-conditioned studios (and if you've visited Orlando in the summertime, you know how hot and humid it gets.)

In its current incarnation, Family Feud's 12th season  begins on September 13. Locally, the program airs on WPWR-TV.

T Dog's Four Pack

The best and the worst in media for the week ending May 9:


- Perfect. The City of Oakland and the word "perfect" often goes together as Playboy models and science-fiction conventions. But the city gets to celebrate for one day as Dallas Breaden pitched a perfect game Sunday for the hometown Athletics against the Tampa Bay Rays. Now that's a great Mother's Day present.

- Futurama returns June 24.
Comedy Central announced the return of the animated sci-fi comedy during their upfront on Thursday. Can't wait.

- Betty White on SNL. The veteran 88 year-old actress - alum of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Mama's Family, and The Golden Girls - was spectacular on the often dull Saturday Night Live two nights ago. She can make anything funny, even something called "MacGruber". Beautiful Betty rocks!

-Chicago Blackhawks set another ratings record. Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinal between the Hawks and the Vancouver Canucks earned a 10.1 household rating Wednesday night on Comcast Sportsnet Chicago, breaking a ratings record set only a few days earlier when the Hawks played Nashville in the earlier playoff round.


- American Idol. This past week, Idol hit its lowest point in the ratings since its first season way back in August 2002. With Paula Abdul gone and Simon Cowell's foot already out the door (and not to mention a bunch of unexciting contestants), the shark has already jumped.

- Apple. First, Steve Jobs slams Adobe's Flash and called their product inferior, then  bought music-streaming service and killed it, and now Ellen DeGeneres was forced to apologize to Apple on her talk show last week because she made fun of a Apple product. You know that Justin Long guy in those Apple vs. Mac ads? He's been replaced - by Mayor Daley. That alone should tell you how uncool Apple has become as of late.

- Chicago sports media's obsession with Milton Bradley. Hasn't the former Cubs player moved on to Seattle? Maybe those who work in sports media in this town should do the same.

- Tyra Banks.
It's one thing for an unruly guest to go nuts on a talk show such as Jerry Springer or Maury. But the host? Watch this clip here and see Tyra Banks do her best Stepin Fetchit imitation. My God, how disgusting - she might as well appeared in blackface. Canceling this piece of s**t show can't come soon enough (first-run episodes of Tyra ends later this month.) If you want to read a past rant by yours truly on Miss Thang, click here.

Nobody celebrates racial stereotyping more than Tyra Banks does.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Craig Kilbourn returns to TV - sort of

Former late night talk show host and ESPN SportsCenter anchor Craig Kilbourn is making a comeback to TV - well, sort of.

Twentieth Television announced it has signed Kilbourn to host a nightly prime-access strip to air this summer, which will be tested on a few Fox-owned stations, including WNYW in New York and KTTV in Los Angeles.

The identity of other Fox-owned stations were not released. It is not known if WFLD and/or WPWR here in Chicago will participate in the test.

Kilbourn was Jon Stewart's predecessor at Comedy Central's The Daily Show and Craig Ferguson's predecessor at CBS' Late, Late Show.

It is not known at this time whether or not if this new series, which is described as a combination of a daily talk show and a "nonpolitical talk show." will air in either daytime or prime access.

The test is expected to last a few weeks and if it does air in prime access, it would likely replace some major off-network sitcoms currently airing on Fox-owned stations.

The move is unusual because most stations air game shows, news magazines, or off-net sitcoms in the hour before prime-time. Talk shows have had a spotty record in the prime access daypart. A few years ago, CBS-owned WWJ-TV in Detroit and CBS affiliate WKMG-TV in Orlando aired Dr. Phil in access, but wasn't successful. KCAL-TV in Los Angeles currently airs Phil at 7 p.m., but is a repeat of a show that previously aired on sister station KCBS-TV.

During the 1988-89 season, then-ABC affiliate KTVI in St. Louis aired Geraldo at 6 p.m, replacing local news in a much-criticized move. After disastrous ratings, Geraldo moved to 4 p.m. in September 1989 and local news returned to 6 p.m., with Entertainment Tonight airing at 6:30 p.m. (KTVI is now a Fox affiliate.)

Kilbourn's show is expected to air for two months. A start date has yet to be determined. Earlier on Wednesday, Tribune announced it was testing a talk show hosted by Cincinnati radio talk-show host Bill Cummingham on a few stations this summer, including WGN-TV in Chicago.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Is Tribune looking to get back into syndie business?

Station group signs Cincinnati radio host to do daily talk show

There's going to be a new Bozo taping at the Old Bozo studio (no, it's not a new version of Bozo's Circus, but there might be a circus nonetheless.)

With an eye of getting back into the syndication business after a three-year hiatus, Tribune Broadcasting announced today it was taping several talk show pilot episodes hosted by conservative talk show host Bill Cunningham, who is better known to listeners of Cincinnati's WLW-AM, owned by Clear Channel Communications.

The pilot episodes are being taped here in Chicago at WGN's studios on June 12 and 13 and is being produced by Tribune. The studios being used is the same one the legendary children's show Bozo's Circus was produced in from 1961 to 2001.

The Cincinnati-Chicago connection is a familiar one: Jerry Springer once commuted regularly from Cincinnati to Chicago for a few years to do his talk show in Chicago and anchor the nightly news at NBC affiliate WLWT in Cincinnati. If this show takes off, Cunningham would spend two to three days a week in Chicago while doing his WLW show from the Windy City.

Richard Dominick, who was executive producer for Jerry Springer and The Steve Wilkos Show will be the showrunner for this project, tentatively titled Willie.

Willie would air later this summer on WGN and several other Tribune-owned stations, though exactly which ones has yet to be specified. It's being developed by Sean Compton, who was promoted to President of Programming at Tribune Broadcasting on Tuesday.

If the test goes well, Tribune plans to air Willie on its station group at the start of next year, with plans of rolling out the show in national syndication in September 2011.

Tribune is developing this program so it can air among its block of NBC Universal-distributed talk shows, which includes shows hosted by Springer, Wilkos, and Maury Povich. While all three talk shows air on the majority of Tribune-owned stations (including WPIX in New York and KTLA in Los Angeles), only WGN airs Maury while the other two air on Weigel's WCIU-TV (Springer moves to WCIU in September.)

It is not known what format the show will have, but it is expected to be a topical with a studio audience in the same vain of the three NBCU talk shows (in other words, expect Willie to be confrontational.)

There were plans for Cunningham to co-host a weekly political talk show with Springer. A pilot was taped and shown on WGN America, but was scrapped after Springer dropped out of the project because of other commitments.

Tribune has had success with talk show strips Geraldo and The Joan Rivers Show in the past, has had a difficult time launching a first run strip over the last decade-and-a-half, let alone a talk show. Chat failures include show hosted by Dennis Miller, James Van Praagh, Richard Simmons, and Charles Perez. Other first-run strip failures include Talk or Walk and Geraldo's Now It Can Be Told.

By 2007, Tribune was left with American Idol Rewind, Soul Train reruns, and a few other programs when Tribune Entertainment shut down. Both Idol Rewind and Soul Train wound up at Trifecta Entertainment but Soul Train - which ended original production in 2006 - was dropped by Trifecta in August 2008.

If Cunningham's show is green-lit, it would be a plus for Chicago's ailing talk show industry, who lost both Springer and Wilkos to Connecticut and is losing Oprah Winfrey next year.

In addition to his WLW talk show duties, Cunningham also hosts a weekly syndicated Sunday Night show syndicated via Premiere Radio Networks on 300 radio stations nationwide.

And yes, Cunningham is familiar with our town: back in 2008, he laid into Chicago's inept political system at a John Mccain campaign rally in Cincinnati by trying to tie Democratic candidate Barack Obama to the local political scene and called him "a hack, Chicago style-Daley politician."

I guess Mayor Daley and other Chicago pols won't be holding a parade to celebrate his arrival into town.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

T Dog's Four Pack - Putting the biscuit in the basket

Here's who is scoring goals - and who isn't - it's a hockey-themed T Dog's Four Pack:

Lighting the lamp:

Family Guy. No, you don't see this show in the winner's circle too often, but Sunday's night episode - despite some rather uncomfortable dialogue in the first act - was the best of the season and perhaps ever, on a program that hasn't been really on its game for the last two seasons. We saw some deep character development in the third act, and that's something you don't see on TV these days. As one who is familiar with the theater, Brian & Stewie would make a very good stage play.

WPIX. Seinfeld reruns return to the station that is identifiable with New York City than any other (and one of the few outlets Tribune hasn't yet screwed up... well, except for hiring Larry Mendte to do news commentaries...)

Honeymooners return to Me-TV
. ...and speaking of classic sitcoms which air on WPIX, you can credit the power of the people for Weigel's Me-TV to restore The Honeymooners to its rightful 11 p.m. time slot. The Nanny and 3rd Rock From The Sun classic sitcoms? I think not!

Dick Biondi. A real Chicago radio legend and class act is celebrating his 50th year on the air. It started way back on May 2, 1960 when Biondi started spinning records for a new Top 40 radio station called WLS-AM. Today, he's holding down the fort at oldies outlet WLS-FM and he sounds better than ever. Long live the legend!

In the penalty box:

Convicts infesting local talk radio. It's worse enough Chicago is having a tough time dealing with criminals on the street, now they're infesting talk radio in the Windy City thanks to Betty-Loren Maltese's one day gig on WVON-AM last week, Rod Blago's weekly chatfest on WLS, and the employment of former alderman and convicted felon Jim Laski on WGN Radio. The worst may be yet to come: uber-villain Russell Hantz (from Survivor) was arrested recently - don't be surprised if WGN Radio's Kevin "Pig Virus" Methany is on the phone with him the day after the Survivor finale airs.

The Crosstown Cup. The winner of the Cubs and White Sox's interleague series will now awarded a dopey trophy sponsored by a major oil company (which I christen The Sellout Cup.) This makes the Dancing With The Stars mirrorball trophy look like the Stanley Cup by comparison. At least our two baseball teams have something in common: selling out to a big corporation (and what if this ends in a tie, split 3-3? Do they saw the Cup in half?)

Chicago Bulls.
Wait a minute... they were in the playoffs? And Vinny Del Negro is now out of a job he never should have had to begin with.

The summer ahead.
If the Hawks get eliminated from the playoffs against Vancouver (as of this writing, the series is tied 1-1), we're left with bad Chicago baseball and bad reality TV. Ozzie and Lou vs. Shaq in the Dark anyone?

And if that doesn't make you sick enough in prime-time, throwing in Jim Laski may be enough to send you to the Emergency Room.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

"Seinfeld" returns to WPIX

In a bit of a homecoming for Seinfeld, local syndicated repeats of the sitcom about "nothing" is returning to Tribune Co.-owned WPIX, after ten years at Fox-owned WNYW.

WPIX was the original syndication home in the New York market, paying six figures a week for the top-rated NBC sitcom which debuted in prime access in September 1995. However, the series departed WPIX in March 2001 for WNYW after the Fox station outbid its arch rival.

This time around, WPIX is paying considerably less for Seinfeld, which will enter its fourth syndication cycle in March 2011. The series is sold for cash-plus-barter, with Sony Pictures Television holding 90 seconds back to sell national advertising. Five-and-a-half minutes are being kept by stations to sell local ads. Even though the economy played a role in the deal, off-network sitcoms generally fetch less dollars per episode the more they age.

WNYW unloaded Seinfeld to make room for upcoming syndicated purchases, including 30 Rock and How I Met Your Mother. 

There is no word yet on a sale of Seinfeld's fourth cycle in either Chicago or Los Angeles, where Fox owns the rights. But with no group deal for Fox or Tribune stations, this is good news for WCIU-TV (and possibly Me-TV), where the Weigel Broadcasting-owned station would no doubt be Sony's first stop to pitch if incumbents WFLD-TV and WPWR-TV choose not to renew.