Tuesday, August 31, 2010

T Dog's Six Pack: Special Emmy Package

On Sunday, NBC aired the 62nd Annual Emmy Awards live from Los Angeles with host Jimmy Fallon. Here are the hits and misses from the telecast:

Shining bright on Emmy night

- Jane Lynch's shout out to the South Side. Glee's Jane Lynch won Best Actress in a Comedy Series honors for her portrayal of Sue Sylvester in the wildly popular Fox series, and gave props to her hometown, particularly the South Side. Another South Sider (Jennifer Hudson) won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for Dreamgirls in 2007. We don't only win World Series and Stanley Cups (well, one of each), but we win awards as well! (okay, the Stanley Cup was a citywide thing...) I raise my megaphone to you, Ms. Lynch. Also: Jim Parsons' well-deserved win for Outstanding Actor In A Comedy Series for The Big Bang Theory made up for the snub the series received in the Outstanding Comedy Series category.

- Jimmy Fallon. Believe it or not, Jimmy Fallon rocked as Emmy host - from his Diana Ross-like changing costumes in seconds to the Glee-like opening number, his stint made everyone forget that awful hosting stunt a few years ago with five reality/game show TV show hosts.

- Modern Family wins for Outstanding Comedy Series. The modern take on the family comedy received an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series in its freshman year - the first for an ABC show since The Wonder Years in 1988 - also in its first season.

Dimming the lights

- In Memoriam. Hey, Emmy folks... you forgot one person in your tribute - like David Mills, who was a writer on The Wire and Treme. But you probably didn't know since those shows were NEVER NOMINATED.

- Billy Bush on the Red Carpet. Maybe the Miss USA chick from ABC's On The Red Carpet magazine show should've hosted instead? Oh that's right, she would've fell down. 

- A car ad featuring the cast of Community. Selling out never felt so good - so 1967, when The Beverly Hillbillies cast were regularly whoring Corn Flakes. Hey Jim Parsons, watch out - you could get run over! But the worst? The DirectTV ad with the creepy Russian guy. I don't want him near any kids - or giraffes.

The rest

- Mad Men won again for Outstanding Drama Series while Top Chef stunned Amazing Race fans by breaking the reality series' seven-year winning streak for Outstanding Reality/Competition Series. To see the complete list of winners, click here.

- The Emmy Awards drew a 4.2 adult 18-49 rating and 13.5 million viewers, about the same as last September's awards show on CBS.

- For the first time in more than 25 years, the Emmys were shown live in all time zones, from coast-to-coast. Jimmy Fallon was even reading live tweets about the Emmys on the air.

- Two ads  promoting the final season of The Oprah Winfrey Show aired during the Emmys. Unless you were an NBC affiliate who carries her show, you as a NBC affiliate or O&O GM and/or station manager were probably pissed off about a top-rated program on a competing station being promoted on your air.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Tribune launches Antenna TV

Well, we have our first blatant ripoff of Chicago's MeTV and Retro Television Network.

Tribune announced today it is launching a new classic TV digital network titled Antenna TV on January 3, 2011. The network plans to air classic series from the Sony library and from syndicator D.L. Taffner, Ltd., which (still!) holds the rights to sitcoms Three's Company and Too Close For Comfort.

Those two sitcoms will air on Antenna TV in addition to Sony product ranging from Bewitched to The Nanny to All in the Family and Married... With Children. Some of these series have been out of general syndication for many years.

Antenna TV will compete with fellow diginet RTV (formerly Retro Television Network), which mainly airs classic TV programming from NBC Universal's library.

In Chicago, Antenna TV is likely to air on WGN-DT 9.2, which was previously the home for the now-defunct The Tube Music Network and LATV, which shifted to a subchannel of low-power outlet WOCK-TV.

It is not known what impact this will have on Weigel's classic TV channels MeTV and MeToo, which owns the local Chicago rights to much of the classic Sony product, including all of the above and The Three Stooges, which has been a signature show for MeTV and WCIU. Rights to Sony's products are also held by other broadcast outlets, including WADL-TV in Detroit and WPCH-TV (Peachtree TV) in Atlanta.

Tribune exec Sean Compton said the channel is meant to complement fellow diginet This TV, which Tribune has rights to in some markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Indianapolis. In Chicago however, Weigel's WCIU airs on digital subchannel 26.4. Weigel is co-owner of This along with MGM.

Antenna TV plans to air movies in daytime, sitcoms in early fringe, prime access, and primetime, with older (thinks 1950's and 1960's sitcoms) airing in overnight hours.

Thought: This idea - already done to perfection by Weigel with MeTV and by Retro Television Network is too little, too late, which is always the case with the buffoons who run Tribune. Is anyone out there really clamoring to see reruns of Too Close For Comfort or The Ropers again? (Too Close was a laugh riot back in the day, but its humor did not hold up over time, and The Ropers were never funny.)

Friday, August 27, 2010

4:30 a.m. news: The sensation that's sweeping the nation

It's no longer a rush to get into the 4:30 a.m. news business - it's a stampede. Consider this - a recent search of TVNewsCheck of "4:30" turned up a whopping 115 items., with most of the stories featuring stations starting 4:30 a.m. newscasts in the past year, or so.

This isn't a rush - it's a stampede. Get the roosters to safety!

Just in the last few days, stations across the country from as large as New York City (WABC) and Minneapolis/St. Paul (KSTP) to as small as Huntsville, Ala. (WAAY) are jumping onto the rooster bandwagon. Others who are starting up new 4:30 newscasts soon include NBC affiliate WFLA-TV in Tampa; Fox affiliate WXIX-TV; and ABC affiliates KVUE-TV in Austin, Tex. and KTVX in Salt Lake City, according to TVNewscheck; and just about every station in Atlanta.

And just yesterday, ABC affiliate WCVB in Boston announced it too was launching - you guessed it, a 4:30 newscast.

It seems like every other day, some station, somewhere, is going to announce a new 4:30 a.m. newscast.

As yours truly alluded to back in April, more stations are adding 4:30 a.m. newscast to take advantage of increasing HUT levels in the daypart - not to mention adding extra revenue to their coffers.

So...what's on at 4:30 a.m. if you got up too early, can't get back to sleep, and not interested in hearing about the latest overnight shootings?

Aaron Barnhart posted on TVBarn what other Kansas City stations and cable channels air at 4:30 a.m., besides news. The choices included reruns of Matlock, Cops, and Married... With Children, not to mention a million infomercials. So, what's on in Chicago just before the crack of dawn? Thanks to Titan TV, I've found....

- WPWR airs reruns of Cops. There must be a thousand episodes by now.

- WCIU airs reruns of long-ago canceled courtroom strip Judge Hatchett, but as of next week, Martin repeats take over the slot (for the record, Street Court, another canceled courtroom show, airs at 4 a.m.)

- Me-TV airs Happy Days. You can jump the shark early with the Fonz and sit on it with Potsie.

- Me-Too airs Shepard's Chapel, a four-hour overnight religious program featuring nothing but a preacher reading a bible and talking about the word of God behind a desk. For real.

- WTTW runs various programs, usually repeats of programming the night before.

- ESPN2 runs a repeat of the previous night's Baseball Tonight.

- TNT airs Num3ers, a former CBS drama that will air weekends this fall on WBBM-Channel 2.

- Adult Swim is still airing at this time and running former UPN animated series Home Movies (remember UPN?)

- For you music video fans, MTV still has them on AMTV - just not any other time of the day.

- Finally, MSNBC airs a news show at 4:30 which part of the title describes this whole early news stampede: Way Too Early with Willie Geist.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"Futurama" lands on WCIU and Tribune stations

Planet Express is now making weekend deliveries.

In a deal that seemingly came together overnight, Twentieth Television has secured clearances to run Futurama on WCIU in Chicago and several Tribune-owned stations as an one-hour, all-barter block on weekends in the fall of 2011.

While WCIU has acquired Futurama in Chicago to air, Tribune stations signing on include WPIX in New York, KTLA in Los Angeles and KDAF in Dallas. (Tribune flagship WGN passed due to other weekend programming and sports commitments.) Tribune also cleared the show on its Indianapolis, Hartford, New Orleans, and Seattle duopolies.

Tribune plans to run Futurama in tandem with another Twentieth animated series, American Dad (which WCIU also has rights to in Chicago) and Family Guy and in some markets, The Simpsons (Simpsons already air on Trib stations such as KDAF, which picked up the show in a deal when they were a Fox owned-and-operated station.)

The series (created by The Simpsons' Matt Greoning), returned to Comedy Central this year in first-run episodes after a seven-year hiatus (it ran on Fox for 72 episodes between 1999 and 2003.) Reruns of the program ran on Adult Swim until December 2007. The show's voice cast includes Billy West, Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio, Lauren Tom, and Maurice LaMarche.

This fall, Twentieth is syndicating American Dad reruns to air in an one-hour block and expand to a strip in September 2011. It is not known if Twentieth has the same plans in store for Futurama come fall 2012.

Futurama's return on Comedy Central on June 24 drew nearly three million viewers, the highest season-premiere rating for any animated series on cable outside of South Park.

Monday, August 23, 2010

"Millionaire's" revamp - Jump the question or the shark?

When Who Wants To Be A Millionaire returns to begin its ninth syndicated season on September 13, the show will go under a dramatic overhaul so stringent, the only thing you may recognize is host Meredith Vierra.

To stem declining ratings, the series is changing the way how it plays the game. And if you thought it was tough to win the million dollar prize before -you haven't seen nothing yet.

For starters, there's no more hot seat. Contestants will stand for the duration of the game as will the host, which according to the producers will allow for "more personal interaction and uninhibited emotion as the contestant accumulates winnings."

Millionaire is now being divided into two rounds, and the amount of money contestants can win for the first ten questions is now being randomized, which means  the contestant can win $500 for one question, and the next they can win only $100 (are you following this?) And if contestants quit the game in the first round, they forfeit half of their winnings.

The second level will remain the same -  with the $100,000, $250,000, $500,000, and $1 million questions in order, with the contestants keeping all their winnings if they leave (without getting a question wrong) before they reach the million dollar question.

And with Millionaire's overhaul, producers  know there are going to be fans who don't like the changes. So in honor, they introduced a new lifeline called "Jump the Question", in which contestants can skip a question they don't know. "Jump the Question" is akin to "Jump the Shark" - as many viewers feel the show will do when the changes go into effect. In fact, with the new "Jump the Question" and "Ask the Audience" (the last lifeline left from the original network prime-time series), Millionaire will now be down to only two lifelines with all others eliminated.

The changes come comes as Disney-ABC Domestic Television (formerly Buena Vista Television) is somewhat thinning out the ranks of its programming in syndication for the upcoming season. In addition to Millionaire, Disney-ABC has only one other first-run show in production - long-running Live with Regis & Kelly. (Regis Phillibin of course, was the original host of Millionaire.) Departing of course, is At The Movies, which ended its long run on August 15 and Legend of the Seeker.

Meanwhile, Disney-ABC is debuting two new off-net weekend hours in syndication this fall with the arrival of Brothers & Sisters and Ugly Betty, both take the place of Desperate Housewives and Lost repeats; both were chronic underperformers.

And Disney-ABC continues to syndicate off-network strips America's Funniest Home Videos, Scrubs, My Wife & Kids and According to Jim.

Locally, Millionaire currently airs on WGN-TV weekdays at 1 p.m., but there is a possibility of the show moving to 4 p.m. this fall as a news lead-in. Millionaire also airs on several ABC owned-and-operated stations, usually after the local noon newscast. Those who currently do so include WABC-TV in New York, KGO-TV in San Francisco, and WTVD in Raleigh/Durham, N.C.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

T Dog's Grab Bag: Exit, stage left...

..and other media news of note:

- Kevin Manno is exiting his afternoon gig at alt-rock WKQX-FM (Q101) to take a job hosting a yet-to-be named weekday show on MTV according to CRM. The new show debuts on September 20 and is scheduled to air weekdays at 5 p.m. Manno's old shift is being filled temporarily by James VanOdsol.

This marks the third Chicago radio personality to exit for a cable network in recent years. In 2007, former WPWX-FM (Power 92) midday personality Rocsi left to co-host 106 & Park for BET and former WLUP-FM afternoon personality Eddie Webb exited last year to host a syndicated radio show for VH1.

MTV, BET, and VH-1 are all owned by Viacom, Inc.

- Meanwhile, Mike North has a new gig as well - he has been added to the stable of hosts at Fox Sports Radio. North was recently co-host of the recently canceled Monsters & Money in the Morning.

- Also on the outs: Maureen Ryan, who recently exited her TV critic gig at the Chicago Tribune after thirteen years. As of next week, she will join AOL in the same capacity.

- As you know by now, former Governor Rod Blagoveich was found gulity on only one count on Tuesday at his corruption trial. Robert Feder of Vocalo has a wrap-up on how Chicago's TV stations covered the verdict and its aftermath. The stunner here is the lackluster coverage provided by Tribune CW affiliate WGN-TV - who usually is at the top of their game on breaking news events (Court Jester, you've done it again.) WGN's coverage was also panned on numerous message boards.

- To syndication: Access: Hollywood Live! announced  its new costs Wednesday - current Access Hollywood host Billy Bush and former ESPN personality Kit Hoover. The daytime hour is being tested on twelve stations this fall, including NBC-owned WMAQ-TV. Yes, you get to see Billy Bush an extra hour a day.

- And the absurd item of the week goes to TBS' 90-episode pickup of new comedy Are We There Yet?, based on the movie franchise and produced by Ice Cube.  The bland, generic sitcom was tested two months ago on TBS and drew two million viewers on average. Debmar-Mercury now plans to sell the show in broadcast syndication. You know the show is bad when even NBC passes on it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

TCA: Wasting away on the "Jersey Shore"

The Television Critics Association Press Tour came to an end on Saturday with the last three days devoted to cable networks. In the past, cable usually kicked off the press tour, but this year shoved toward the end of the twelve-day tour. Neverthless, critics stayed through the end, with the HBO presentation playing to full capacity on Saturday.

The biggest surprise at the cable portion of the tour was the absence of Turner networks, especially when TBS has Conan O'Brien's new weeknight talk show to promote.

Other cable networks such as Comedy Central, BET, TVOne, and ESPN also skipped the Summer press tour.

Still, cable networks were plenty represented, and here is an abbreviated take on their panels and presentations, in no particular order:


While Viacom only featured two of its cablers at the press tour, they provided the most attention - and not due to MTV's new Teen Wolf series or some kid who was featured on YouTube getting his own show on Nickelodeon. Nope, it was those wild nitwits from Jersey Shore that convinced critics to avoid leaving the tour early. The pompous jackasses had really nothing interesting to say at the tour but to stand there, look pretty, and give insipid answers to insipid questions - just like your average politician. Snooki for Governor!


Fox's answer to cable held a Sons of Anarchy panel on August 3 featuring Mr. Hellboy himself Ron Pearlman and creator and exec producer Kurt Sutter. The biker drama returns with new episodes on Sept. 7 at 9 p.m. (CT). The best part of this panel? When asked about the lack of Emmy nominations, Sutter was quoted as saying "F*** them." You go, man!

-Also on FX's slate are new dramas Terriers and Lights Out (a new boxing drama with Stacy Keach), the newest season of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia and comedies The League (entering its second season) and Archer, a new animated sitcom featuring the voice of Aisha Tyler.


-No Kate & Jon and Eight (thank God) at the tour, but TLC is launching a new show called Sister Wives, featuring a man who lives with his three wives. Should be named Lucky Bastard.

- Discovery has a new reality/competition show that's basically Idol behind bars. From Mark Burnett (who else?) it's Talent Behind Bars, debuting this fall. Included in the competition is the "Don't Drop The Soap" contest and Who Wants To Host A Radio Show? The winner gets to co-host with ex-con Jim Laski for a day on WGN Radio.

- Also unveiled at TCA is a new cable network targeted to children called The Hub, a joint venture of Discovery and Hasbro. The channel plans to air animated series, game shows, and live-action programs, circa Nickelodeon in 1988.

Nat Geo

- Nat Geo (a.k.a. The National Geographic Channel) plans to produce ten new episodes of Locked Up Abroad, scheduled to debut next year, and renewed Taboo for a seventh season.Meanwhile, new spin-off channel Nat Geo Wild (formerly Fox Reality Channel) plans to focus on the declining feline population with Big Cat Week (and by declining felines, I mean lions and tigers - not two sports teams in Detroit which are meeting a similar fate.)


- The party may be over for Party Down, but Starz continues its commitment to original programming with new seasons of Spartacus: Blood and Sand and Pillars of the Earth and launching a new series called Camelot with FlashForward star Joesph Finnes, who gets another chance to fail. Camelot features a contemporary take on the classic story. Also arriving at Starz doorstep is Torchwood, which moves over from BBC America.

According to Starz President and CEO Bill Myers, his network wants to pursue shows that are "epic, entertainment, and fun." Yes, the party never stops at Starz - unless the name of the show has party in the title.

BBC America

On tap for BBC America is a new action drama called Outcasts, where as a group of survivors relocate to another planet after Earth is destroyed - the real question is, can they get along with one another? Another is, has this series been done before? The program is filmed in South Africa and features former Ugly Betty star Eric Mabius and former Battlestar: Galactica actress Jamie Bamber.


The Bourne Ultimatum director brings his first project to TV in the vein of The Unexplained. This documentary from Doug Liman examines paranormal activity and those who experienced it.


Last, but not least came HBO into TCA and held panels in front of a packed house on the last day of the tour. Among the talking points co-president Richard Plepler and programming chief Mike Lombardo pointed out in their exec session:

- The execs are not concerned about martin Scorsese's new series (Boardwalk Empire) premiering at the same time the major broadcast nets are rolling out their shows. The series premieres Sept. 19.

- Confirmed Entourage is ending in 2011, but a movie is in the works.

- Noted 66% of HBO viewers watch their shows via DVR playback.

- The execs took the  Kurt Sutter stance on the reason why David Simon (The Wire, Treme) doesn't get nominated for Emmys (only without using the F bomb.)

Other HBO News & Notes:

- Spike Lee told the press at TCA he actually had to add extra material If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise, which features the continued aftermath of life in post-Katrina New Orleans. Lee was nearly finished filming the documentary when the BP oil spill happened.  According to him, the reason for the extra material was to show the connection between the disaster in New Orleans (due to faulty levees) and the oil spill disaster in the Gulf - both having greed as a underlining theme. Lee also travels to Haiti to explore the aftermath of yet another disaster - the earthquake that ravaged the country last fall. The four-hour documentary airs August 23 and 24.

- Ricky Gervais will star in an HBO stand-up comedy special to be taped here in Chicago Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 and air in December.

- 30 Rock star Tracy Morgan will also be featured in a stand-up comedy special airing in November.

- Bruce Springsteen is featured in a documentary titled The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town, due to air in October.

- Rosario Dawson is hosting Brave New Voices 2010, a special featuring young poets from around the country competing at the national youth poetry slam in Los Angeles. Look for the special to air in November.

And that's a wrap - thankfully - for the TCA Press Tour in 2010. Last one turn out the lights!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

WBBM-TV cancels "Monsters"

What's surprising about Monsters and Money in the Morning is the program actually outlived The Jay Leno Show - by one month.

In what could be considered the biggest bomb in local television history, CBS-owned WBBM-TV canceled future T Dog Media Blog TV Hall of Shame inductee Monsters and Money in the Morning after six-and-a-half months of ultra-low ratings to be replaced by a new morning show on August 30, anchored by Steve Bartelstein, who held gigs at WCBS-TV and WABC-TV in New York City.

The move comes as more and more stations are firming up their morning news franchises by adding 4:30 a.m. newscasts, as two of them (WLS-TV and WFLD) just did and another (WGN-TV) is doing so as of Monday. 

Monsters leaves the air on August 27.

The program was a mix of sports talk and financial news, hosted by former WSCR personalities Mike North and Dan Jiggetts, with Terry Savage and former CNBC reporter Mike Hedgeus handling the financial side. The program debuted on February 1, only a month after North & Jiggetts' Monsters in the Morning show went belly up on Comcast SportsNet.

While ratings expectations were low, the series never found an audience as ratings failed to match the already low ratings of the traditional news shows it replaced.

Ratings have always been a problem for WBBM and many other CBS affiliates, as the network's morning show still trails Good Morning America and Today, as its been for decades with umpteenth revamps, which even included a morning "news" show with comedy elements, a.k.a. The Morning Program, which ran for only ten months in 1987.

Much like The Morning Program (which was produced by CBS Entertainment), Monsters was not classified a news program, so it would realize revenue possibilities in a way it wouldn't be able to if it had. Of course, the issue was moot given Monsters' poor ratings performance.

As yours truly predicted back in February, this "experiment" wouldn't work (after all, I learned a thing or two after predicting The Jay Leno Show in primetime would be a modest hit - and look how that turned out.) If nobody watched North and Jiggetts on Comcast SportsNet, why would the duo fare any better at The Church of Tisch?

The only thing that will be remembered about  Monsters and Money in the Morning is it has reserved a spot in the place where almost all bad television shows go to die - The T Dog Media Blog TV Hall of Shame. And Monsters would make history as the first local television program to ever be inducted (Johnny B. On The Loose doesn't really count because even though it was produced in Chicago, it was nationally syndicated.)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

TCA: PBS and "The Pioneers of Television"

It was PBS' turn at the mic at the annual TCA Press tour on Thursday, which focused mainly on the second edition of their miniseries Pioneers of Television, whose panel of classic TV stars featured two Chicago natives: Robert Conrad (Wild, Wild West, Black Sheep Squadron) Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek), who hails from southwest suburban Robbins. 

The panel also featured Mike Conners (Mannix), Martin Landau (Mission: Impossible), and Linda Evans (The Big Valley, Dyansty).

The second edition of Pioneers of Television is due in the first quarter of 2011. 

The first edition of Pioneers of Television generally received poor reviews when the four-part mini-series debuted in January 2008.  Each episode focused on one genre of television: sitcoms, game shows, variety, and late-night television.

The sequel plans to devote an episode each to science fiction; westerns; crime dramas; and local children's television (and if they were smart, they would include plenty of Chicago material - it wouldn't be the Pioneers of Television without Bozo, Bill Jackson's Gigglesnort Hotel. and Garfield Goose.)

But the most interesting part of the panel came when Nichelle Nichols told the story of when she nearly left Star Trek and was persuaded to stay by her "number one fan" (the quote is directly from Marc Berman's Programming Insider newsletter:)

“It was rather interesting to me to be cast in Star Trek because I came up in musical theater, and somehow I was really on my way to break through and do all of the things that I really wanted to do on Broadway. And I took Star Trek because I thought it would be a nice adjunct to my resume, and I’d get to Broadway quicker and as a star. And I kind of got stuck there.

As a matter of fact, I even tried to leave after the first year, the first season, because I thought, “Oh, this is going nowhere for me.” And I told Gene Roddenberry I was going to leave the show on a Friday evening. And Saturday, that next day, he said, “Please don’t leave. Don’t you see what I’m trying to do here?” And that next evening, as fate would have it, I was being one of the guest celebrities at an NAACP fund raiser. And one of the fund raisers came up to the dais and said, “Ms. Nichols, there’s a fan. There’s a person here who says he’s a big, big fan of yours. He’s your biggest fan.” And I thought it was a Trekkie, and so I said, “Sure.” And I stood up, and I looked across the room, and there was Dr. Martin Luther King walking towards me with this big grin on his face. And he reached out to me and said, “Yes, Ms. Nichols, I am your greatest fan.” And he said that — that “Star Trek” was the only show that he and his wife, Coretta, would allow their three little children to stay up and watch, because while they were marching, every night you could see people who looked like me being hosed down with a fire hose and dogs jumping on them because they wanted to eat in a restaurant. And I think it was just an encounter that started out. But the marches began and here I was playing an astronaut in the 23rd century.

So I went back and told Gene Roddenberry on Monday, because he’d asked me to think about it over the weekend, and if I still wanted to leave he — I would have his blessings. And I went back, and I told him about Dr. Martin Luther King. And Gene Roddenberry was a 6-foot-3 guy with muscles. He was a big hack-nosed guy. And he sat there with tears in his eyes. He said, “Thank God that someone knows what I’m trying to do. Thank God for Dr. Martin Luther King.” And I told him if he still wanted me, I would stay. I’ve never looked back. I’m glad I did.”

That was some number one fan. Amazing.

Next up: Cable, including HBO, FX, and BBC America

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Mary Hart exits "Entertainment Tonight"

After a 29-year run, longtime Entertainment Tonight anchor Mary Hart has decided to step down next year. The move marks an end of an era for the long-running syndicated strip, which has been on the air since September 15, 1981. Hart joined the CBS Television Distribution program in 1982.

According to The Wrap, The Insider's Lara Spencer has been named new co-anchor of Entertainment Tonight effective when Hart leaves. CBS Television Distribution officials have not confirmed or denied this. 

Hart has been through numerous changes to the show over the years, from changes to the set, co-anchors, even to who syndicates the show.

Currently, Hart anchors with Mark Steiners, whose she's been anchoring since 2004. Hart's other co-anchors included Bob Goen, John Tesh, and Robb Weller, who left A.M. Chicago in 1984 to take the job (and was replaced here by Oprah Winfrey.)

Despite the show's age, Entertainment Tonight (or simply abbreviated ET) has been among the highest-rated first-run shows, finishing in the top 20 for most of its run - even though the series has been through some down periods (notably between 1984 and 1988). A much-needed revamp of the show's format in 1988 gave the program a much-needed ratings boost.

But ratings for ET has softened over the years as competition from other entertainment tabloid shows (Extra, Access: Hollywood, and TMZ), cable networks (E! and TV Guide Channel) and the Internet have taken its toll. In the last few years in Chicago, Access on WMAQ-TV has outrated ET in households and in younger demos. However, both still get beat by Wheel of Fortune on WLS-TV and faces tough competition for younger viewers from popular syndicated sitcom reruns on other channels.

Two years ago, ET left its longtime home on Stage 28 at Paramount Studios in Hollywood to Stage 4 at CBS Studio Center in the Studio City section of Los Angeles to coincide with the show's move to high-definition. In 2006, ET syndicator Paramount Domestic Television changed its name to CBS Paramount Television Distribution after owner Viacom split into two companies (CBS has since dropped the Paramount name from all of its properties.)

Mary Hart's departure comes at a time when local stations are balking at paying increased license fees for first-run and off-network syndicated programming due to the recession, which continues to batter advertising budgets and local revenues. In fact, according to The Hollywood Reporter, Hart's salary was cut in order to bring her back for one final season - she was reported to make an estimated $5 million per year (Hart's publicist has denied this was the case.)

Hart's departure next year coincides with that of Oprah Winfrey, whose ending her talk show after 25 years.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

TCA: Fox leaves "American Idol" questions unanswered

Fox's 2010 TCA Presentation won't be remembered for its three new shows (in fact, they're quite forgettable), but for the questions it didn't answer...

Fox execs Kevin Reilly and Peter Rice talked about a lot of things pertaining to their network, but disappointed many at the press tour by refusing to answer any questions related to American Idol, especially on who's going to replace Simon Cowell as judge and whether or not Kara GioDaurdi was really let go. The only item they did confirm was Ellen DeGeneres' departure.

The execs even went as far to bash bloggers and critics, noting the decision to announce anything regarding Idol will come on their timetable - not them or their readers.

"We have no signed contracts with anyone"  noted Rice, who he and Reilly denied reports about Jennifer Lopez and Aerosmith's Steven Tyler coming to the show. With rumors of a backlash from fans signing the two, Lopez's and Tyler's plan to sit in those judge's chairs seems less likely.

However, one report was verified later in the week- Nigel Lythgoe announced he would be returning to his executive producer duties on Idol next year. Lythgoe departed the series two years ago so he can focus more on his other series So You Think You Can Dance, which he'll also continue to be showrunner.

Fox should be ranked over the coals over the way this was handled. The network should have had a game plan ready by now, especially with auditions currently in full swing. By denying reports, all Fox is doing is sending a perception that things are chaotic at American Idol. If the announcements were made about Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler joining the show, why are they backtracking from them now?

Meanwhile, panels for Fox's three new shows went as follows:

Perhaps the most anticipated new show on Fox's new fall lineup is Lonestar. Based in Texas (of course), this series is about a con man who juggles two different lives with two different women in two different Texas cities (even J.R. Ewing wasn't this much of a dog!) At a panel, producer Amy Lippman noted the series would have to reinvent itself periodically and keep it fresh. Good premise, but changing it down the road is a risk.

Next were panels on Fox's two new Tuesday night comedies - first up was Raising Hope, a new sitcom from Yes, Dear and My Name Is Earl creator Greg Garcia. It's premise: A 25 year-old bachelor who winds up caring for an infant with the help of his nutty family.

The next panel was Running Wilde from Arrested Development producer Mitchell Hurwitz featuring Arrested's Will Arnett and Felicity's Keri Russell. Arnett plays a rich Hollywood jerk (in a role he similarly played on Arrested Development - though the difference is he doesn't lose his money) who falls in love with Russell, who plays an environmentalist. Are you laughing already?

The bottom line: don't expecting from these two sitcoms, which likely will get axed midseason, if not sooner. And a day at the dentist is more fun than watching these two loser shows.

Other news from the press tour regarding Fox:

- Steven Speilberg's new action drama Terra Nova is being pushed back until next fall, but look for a sneak preview to air sometime next May - the same manner Glee was launched in 2009 with a special preview after American Idol.

- And speaking of Glee, Fox said it plans to cut the number of musical numbers per episode and more focus on the story. Kevin Reilly on Glee: “I think this year, the audience can’t wait to have it go on. We’re looking to do a great year of television, and maybe some of the hoopla will die down and I think that will be healthy.”

- One of the funniest lines quipped at Fox's portion of the tour was when Raising Hope's Cloris Leachman when she jokingly talked about Betty White:  I’m so sick of Betty White. Never liked her. We have a movie coming out that we made together. It’s called You Again. She could make a soufflĂ© and I could open the oven. That would be funny, and I slam it and make the soufflĂ© go down.”

Both  Leachman (Phyills) and White (The Betty White Show) each had spinoffs from The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

- Fox plans to join the already-crowded country music awards arena with the launch the American Country Awards. The special airs December 6. 

Next up: PBS and cable

TCA: ABC tries to move up and move on without McPherson

ABC's presentation at the Television Critics Association Press Tour was dominated by talk of the sudden departure of its longtime entertainment chief (Stephen McPherson) after six years. But while there was talk about it, there was none of it coming from ABC brass - they consider the matter closed.

In comes Paul Lee who was named new entertainment chief, who comes over from ABC Family. He inherits a prime-time lineup deteriorating in the ratings and chock full of aging, older-skewing shows.

Executive session

Talk about going from the frying pan and right into the fire: Paul Lee first task at TCA: face the critics.

- Mr. Lee said ABC Family's programming (formerly CBN, Fox Family, etc.) proabably wouldn't work on the mothership, saying both nets have different audiences.

- Expect no changes to the prime-time lineup that he's inheirting from his predecessor (good luck with that.)

- He's lucky to have hit Modern Family on his schedule. They're lucky to have him too.

- Too early to say whether or not he would add a second night of comedy to the schedule (yours truly's guess: not likely to happen anytime soon; they're not CBS.)

- Serialized shows aren't going anywhere, no matter how much they bomb in the ratings.

ABC held a multitude of panels for its new fall shows:

Detroit 1-8-7: The Detroit 1-8-7 panel talked abut the pressures of filming the new crime drama based in the Motor City, especially how the series is going to be portrayed in the rest of the nation. According to executive producer Jason Richman, the show eliminated the documentary-style presentation because of an A&E reality show (The First 48) followed Detroit police officers on a raid this past spring and shot into a house, killing a 7-year old girl. Detroit officals decided to no longer allow camera crews to follow law enforcement in the city (similar to a policy Chicago police have long held - that's why you've never seen Cops based in Chicago.)

The new series is led by former NYPD Blue star James McDaniel. The series is on Tuesdays at 9p.m., facing off against NBC's Parenthood and CBS' The Good Wife. Unfortunately, the series may be too gritty for some viewers and the series is definately going to be plagued by whether the show is positive for Detroit's image. 

My Generation: What notable about My Generation is one of the executive producers in former NBC Entertainment Chief Warren Littlefield. This show is about a group of people ten years later after high school, shot in a documentary-style format. This would be better if this were a group of losers who do nothing but hang around the 7-Eleven all day. Great idea for a TV show!

No Ordinary Family:  Michael Chiklis returns to TV as head of a family with superpowers. The panel discussion focused on the amount of violence - or the lack there of - on the show - particularly in the 7 p.m. (CT) "family hour" (how times have changed - The Rookies aired on this network from 1972-75 at 7 p.m. Mondays and it was more violent than any network show put together today outside of CSI and its sister shows.)

The Whole Truth: Jerry Bruckmeier strikes again, this time with a legal drama featuring Rob Morrow (Northern Exposure, Numb3rs) and Maura Tierney, whose health scare last year forced her to drop out of NBC's Parenthood. Equal time is presented between the prosecution and the defense in this legal drama. The Whole Truth? Pick 'Em, since its Wednesday 9 p.m. slot also features two freshman shows.

Body of Proof: Want the proof? Here's the proof! Dana Delany stars as  a neurosurgeon who loses her job and winds up solving crimes using her medical skills, i.e. Quincy and DaVinci's Inquest. Better than working at Jack-In-The Box, that's for sure. With a Friday night time slot (and competition from a relocated CSI: NY), it's likely bombs away and the crew would actually have to find jobs at Jack-In-The-Box. 

Secret Millionaire: I can't remember the last time the big three networks picked up a canceled series from Fox, but this show features a millionaire who goes into a impoverished community, lives there for a while and at the end of each episode, awards individuals money. It's likely this show will do worse for ABC than it did for Fox. Hey producers, have you ever heard of the Discovery Channel? This is where Secret Millionaire should have gone if it was looking for a revival. (Personally, yours truly does not like the concept for this show, because it basically sends the wrong message.)

Better With You: Nestled between The Middle and Modern Family on Wednesday nights, this comedy series features three couples who have different outlooks on love. The cast features Debra Jo Rupp, who played Kitty Forman on That '70's Show and Jerry Seinfeld's meddling agent on an episode of Seinfeld. One plus is its a multi-camera sitcom shpt in front of an audience. Another is the good time slot it has on ABC Wednesday night line up. Finishing second to Survivor might not be a bad thing - in fact, it is a good thing.

Also of note:

Modern Family's executive producer duo of Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd  spoke to the press at TCA and discussed how they handle their showrunner duties, given their partnership dissolved earlier this year (they  take turns being showrunner on Modern Family.)

Matthew Perry talks about his new sitcom, Mr. Sunshine and his return to TV after six years: “You can tell how successful my movies have been by the fact that I’m here,”  noted Perry. Perry plays a manager of a sports arena in San Diego where he realizes he was acting a jerk throughout his life and tries to turn it around - before it's too late. The series is due in midseason. 

ABC announced its Christmas Day NBA Doubleheader featuring the LeBron James-fueled Miami Heat against the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, in addition to a Orlando Magic-Boston Celtics game.  Meanwhile, the Chicago Bulls play on Christmas for the first time since 1997 when they take on the  Chicago Bulls in an ESPN-televised game.

Next up: Fox

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

TCA: NBC looking for a comeback

NBC spoke to the critics at the Television Critics Association Press Tour on Friday and held numerous panels. The peacock network unveiled seven new shows for the 2010-11 season, in hopes of getting the network out of fourth place, where it's been for five years. Here is the what they said at the press tour:

Executive session with Jeff Gaspin and Angela Bromstead:

- The two didn't look like the deer-in-headlines duo unlike last year when Bromstead was paired with Paul Teady. With the failure of The Jay Leno Show behind them, it's nowhere to go but up for this beleaguered network.

- With the looming departure of Steve Carrell from The Office, the duo said the show will continue, and they plan a season-long story arc leading up to his exit. I'm sorry, but Steve Carrell was the Office. Even though the series has a strong cast, it won't be the same without Mr. Carrell.

- Gaspin noted the Thursday showdown between Community and The Big Bang Theory, noting there is room for both comedies in the 7 p.m. Thursday night time slot. If Big Bang maintains its dominance like it did on Monday nights, this Community might disbandon.

- Bromstead noted the recently-canceled Heroes ..."was a great show and we had four tremendous years with that and it was a very good business for us." Oh, really? And the Cubs were great the last four years, too.

On to the panels: NBC held panels for each of its new shows.

- The Event is a serial where Heroes meets 24 (are you excited already?) This is a program is where a person investigates his finance's disappearance and uncovers... Yep, this the next Lost that's likely to wind up the next FlashForward.
- J.J Abrams' new Wednesday night spy drama is titled Undercovers, which features a married couple who met in the CIA and decide to return when a fellow spy turns up missing. The show features two black leads: Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who play the married couple. Competition won't be easy - the time slot its' in also features Survivor, The Middle, and America's Next Top Model.

- The biggest project of course, is NBC new Law & Order: Los Angeles. But first, a pause to pay tribute to the original Law & Order , the one that started all the fun (and revenue.) Creator Dick Wolf said the show is absolutely, positively dead, and there will be no wrap-up movie - closing the book on twenty seasons on the crime and court series, which ties Gunsmoke for the longest-running drama in television history.

Many critics are predicting Law & Order: LA will be a breakout hit. Is it original? No. Is it going to be good? Not likely. But its a familiar brand set in a familiar city and it doesn't get more generic than that. But it'll be a ratings smash, and that all it matters.

- Next came Outscored, a new single-camera comedy about a mid-level manager whose company  "outsources" him from Kansas City to India (any chance they can send the Royals there?) While the pilot received mixed reviews, expect this series to fit in perfectly with NBC's Thursday comedy block. But the concept of the series seems to have been borrowed from a Simpsons episode.

- The next panel was Outlaw, which features Jimmy Smits' return to TV as a Supreme Court judge who quits his gig and return to the legal profession as a lawyer. Critics have panned this show, and its Friday night 9 p.m. time slot could doom this show from the start. Over/Under? Three episodes.

- Next came Chase from super-producer Jerry Bruckheimer, about a group of U.S. marshals hunting for the country's most dangerous criminals. Expect a lot of action on this show, and yes, it will get nasty at times. There are a lot of choices for violence Mondays at 9 p.m. this fall, and that includes the local newscasts.

-And finally, School Pride is a new Friday night reality show hosted by Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm) where according to her: “The whole idea of School Pride is to bring the community together, to empower the community to make changes in the school,”. The question TV critics should have asked her: Why is such a talented performer hosting a show like this? Don't worry, Ms. Hines will be soon back on the stage making us laugh.

Other News & Notes from NBC's day at the tour:

- 30 Rock will attempt something no sitcom has done in 17 years - perform live. A live episode of 30 Rock is scheduled to be performed on October 14 on both the East Coast and West Coast. The last time a sitcom aired live was Fox's Roc, which did it not only for one episode, but for the entire 1992-93 season. Other one-time live stunts include ER (1997) and Gimme A Break! (1985).

- NBC and the Emmys have decided to strip the Best reality TV host category out of the show, upsetting the nominees.

- NBC also announced it was adding Rob Lowe (late of Brothers & Sisters) to Parks & Recreation, which returns in midseason.

- Guest Star Patrol: Drew Carey visits Community while Kathy bates drops by again on The Office.

- Chicago's own Joan Cusack guest stars on the two-hour season premiere of Law And Order: SVU on Sept. 22.

Next up: ABC

Monday, August 02, 2010

TCA: CW trying to shred image as "can't win" network

The CW was next up as part of CBS Corporation's two days at the Television Critics Association Press Tour on Thursday (CW is part-owned by CBS.)

CW chief Dawn Ostroff spoke at an executive session with the critics on Thursday. Among what was discussed:

- Overnight ratings weren't relative anymore. Maybe not, since their ratings aren't that good to begin with.

- CW was the first network to use Twitter and Facebook (and in other news, I got up today.)

- Noted America's Next Top Model begins its 15th cycle by focusing on the "High Fashion World", which meant the other fourteen were focused on something else.

- Ostroff avoided  answering questions on One Tree Hill's future, which is the second oldest-tenured show on The CW's tenure, behind Smallville, which CW did confirm it is in its final season.

- She also said CW doesn't have the resources to promote new reality series Plain Jane or CBC import 18 to Life this summer. How can a network acquire two series and then don't have the resources to prmote them? And you can see why CW is in the shape it is in.

- Remarked Supernatural will be "hunting something different every week."  To which the San Francisco Chronicle's Tim Goodman twittered on @BastardMachine "Ratings".

Nikita: The remake of USA Network '90's hit (name Le Femme Nikita) features Maggie Q (not related to '80's pop star Stacey Q) who is your heroine who kicks a lot of ass. But the question yours truly is asking is, didn't Jessica Alba do the same in Dark Angel? Didn't Jennifer garner do the same in Alias? What makes this show any different? But Nikita should do well for CW (and would pick up a few male viewers as well.)

Next up was Hellcats, which is a show about a college student who is forced to join a cheelerleading squad to pay for her education. Think Bring It On meets Felicity. Executive Producer Kevin Murphy (of Caprica fame) told Rob Owen of the Pittsburgh Gazette-Journal the series was inspired by 1980's movies (like Flashdance) that dealt with hardship and making tough choices.

Finally, CW made a important announcement regarding Gossip Girl at the press tour: It was filming two episodes in Paris! When the announcement was made, critics were playing Solitaire on their laptops, which was no doubt more exciting.

Next up: NBC

Sunday, August 01, 2010

TCA: CBS looking to stay on top

The  semi-annual Television Critics Association Press Tour got underway this week at the Beverly Hills Hilton Hotel in this upscale section of Los Angeles. Many critics complained about the air conditioning in the ballroom and lackluster wi-fi connection, which rivals the poor signal one usually gets at the Harold Washington Library in the Loop. The only difference is the security guards won't toss your ass out for opening a Milky Way.  First up: CBS.

The Church of Tisch's presentation got underway with an executive session featuring Nina Tassler, where she talked about how the network stacks up among the others, and reacting to the sudden depature of ABC Entertainment Chief Steve McPherson (more on that when I do ABC's TCA wrap-up.) Her reaction? "He got out of press tour!"

- She addressed the issue of the lack of gay and lesbian characters on the network's shows, and stated she will be adding more in the future.

- Talked about the new surprise hit Undercover Boss and hadn't held any discussions on late night star David Letterman cutting back his workload.

- She also reassured fans of Two and a Half Men that Charlie Sheen's legal woes won't affect production of the show.

- On to S#!% My Dad Says, a sitcom based on a popular Twitter feed with William Shatner playing dear old Dad. Shatner said the word "Shit" should have been used as the title, saying he doesn't know what the big deal is all about. The role of the son is being recast, but given how similar this show is to the 1970's NBC hit Sanford & Son, I'm surprised they didn't give the job to Desmond Wilson.

- William Shatner is also guest starring on The Big Bang Theory this season, which will lead into S#!% My Dad Says on Thursday nights. The cast and producers basically repeated what they said at Comic-Con about the day and time period switch. Mayim Bialik returns as Sheldon's possible "love interest" this season. Bazinga!

- Survivor is also on the move - to Wednesday, with the cast divided into two tribes: people under 40 and people over 40. A notable contestant in this year's Survivor is former Dallas Cowboys head coach and current Fox Football analyst Jimmy Johnson, which marks the first time a celebrity has been participating on Survivor.

- Chuck Lorre talks about his third sitcom on CBS, titled Mike & Molly: "Television normally would have cast Chris O' Donnell AND Courtney Cox who meet at Overeaters Anonymous." Heard there were a lot of fat jokes in the pilot. Throw in Nell Carter and three kids and you have an updated version of Gimme A Break. The only thing going for it is the show in set in Chicago. Um, wait a minute...

- The revival of Hawaii Five-O brought complaints that the show was too violent and too dark. Um, guys... so was the original. Alex O'Laughlin noted the original Hawaii-Five-O was taken off the air "40 years ago". So, what he was saying was Hawaii Five-O ended two years after it began in 1968. Funny, the program I saw on Me-TV the other day had a copyright of 1974.

- Blue Bloods
' panel featured Tom Selleck and former New Kid on the Block member Donnie Wahlberg. The New York police drama isn't wowing critics, and may likely get canceled before November.

- The CBS Corp. portion of the tour extended into Thursday, with the first part of the day devoted to Showtime programming, featuring Dexter (who announced a showrunner change), Laura Linney's new drama The Big C, The Real L Word, and tons of made-for-cable movies.

Next up: The CW.