Thursday, September 30, 2010

Happy Yabba Dabba Doo Day!

In honor of The Flintstones 50th Anniversary today, here's a clip of the opening theme:

When The Flintstones premiered on ABC on September 30, 1960, the "Meet The Flintstones" theme song didn't even exist! It used an instrumental piece for the first two seasons, though it was replaced in syndication with the more well-known theme. Here's a clip of the original opening theme:

Even though the entire series was produced in color, it didn't air in color until its third season.

The Flintstones ran for six seasons, until 1966. Reruns of the series have been syndicated all over the world and currently reside on Boomerang and available on DVD.

Subsequent series and spin-offs (The Flintstones Comedy Hour, Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm, Flintstones Kids, Fred and Barney Meet the Thing, the Schmoo, a Priest, etc.) have sucked, but there's always was something about that theme song - and the original series. Happy Yabba Dabba Doo Day!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Monday Night Fights

(Courtesy: Chicago Tribune)

Bears-Packers, Dancing destroy competition in Chicago - and everywhere else

It was a huge face-off on Monday night.

Wait, you thought I was just talking the Bears and the Packers?

Ratings in Chicago for the game were phenomenal - the Bears beat the Packers 20-17. But Dancing with the Stars was just as phenomenal (in its own universe, of course,).

Despite facing the Bears-Packers game, the two-hour edition of Dancing on ABC-owned WLS-TV drew a 17.4 Nielsen household rating, which is very good for its time slot. But the football game did a huge 38.3 rating, with 24.2 going to ESPN and WCIU-TV contributing a 14.1 rating.

Or course, Dancing drew more women than men, while the opposite was true for the football game, and it proves there is room for two big television events at the same time (though it was only from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. local time.) 

The game was on the Weigel Broadcasting outlet in the first place because WLS did not want to delay Dancing until 1 a.m. like fellow ABC affiliates WISN-TV in Milwaukee and WBAY-TV in Green Bay did, both of which carried the game. Chicago is one of Dancing's strongest markets, and a move to 1 a.m. here in the nation's third-largest market would have hurt the program's national numbers (WLS and ESPN are both owned by Disney; WISN is owned by The Hearst Corp.; WBAY is owned by Young Broadcasting but operated and managed by Gray Television due to Young's bankruptcy proceedings.)

In Milwaukee, WISN did a 38.2 Nielsen rating, and a 55.1 for the game overall, adding in ESPN's numbers.

And speaking of those national numbers, Dancing whipped the competition with 21.3 million viewers and a 4.8 rating among adults 18-49 (who said Dancing was a older-skewing show?), easily making it the top-rated show of the evening on broadcast.

And the Packers-Bears game didn't do badly on ESPN either: 17.45 million viewers and 7.2 rating among adults 18-49, topping all network and cable competition in the demo for the night and now ranks as the fifth-most watched cable program of all time.

Monday, September 27, 2010

R.I.P. Ward Quaal (1919-2010)

Ward L. Quaal, a Chicago television and radio pioneer instrumental in laying the groundwork for WGN-AM and WGN-TV, died Friday at the age of 91.

Quaal began his career in 1936 at a radio station in Marquette, Mich., and went to WGN Radio in 1941. As a staff announcer, he broke the news that Pearl Harbor was bombed, which brought America into World War II.

Quaal joined the Navy during the War, and returned to Chicago afterward to develop WGN-TV, which signed on in 1948, After a three-year stint in Cincinnati radio, Quaal would return to become vice-president and general manager of WGN Continental Broadcasting (now Tribune Co.) in 1956, which oversaw WGN-TV, WPIX-TV in New York City, and beginning in 1960, CBS affiliate KDAL-TV in Duluth, Minn. (now KDLH, which was sold by WGN in 1979.)

Thanks to his Cincinnati connections, Quaal also brought two people to WGN who would later become household names throughout Chicagoland: Wally Phillips and Bob Bell (who played Bozo, among other gigs.) He also hired Orion Samuelson in 1960, who is still with WGN Radio to this very day.

IN 1961, Quaal helped open WGN-TV's Bradley Place studios, which was equipped to shoot television programs in color- including a new children's show, Bozo's Circus. In 1965, he was named president of WGN Continental Broadcasting and held that position until he retired in 1975. During his tenure, he picked up another station to oversee when WGN Continental bought Denver's KCTO-TV in 1966, which became KWGN upon purchase.

Quaal also served on the Broadcast Pioneers board (now Broadcasters Foundation) from 1963-75 and was also its chairman from 1994-97.

Among the numerous awards and honors Quaal has achieved include an introduction to the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame in 1991 and a NATAS Silver Circle Award in 1993. The Broadcasters Foundation Pioneer Award was renamed in his honor in 2008.

Quaal also wasn't shy about weighing in on recent media issues: in 1996, he opposed the Telecommunications Act, rightfully pointing out a company can't possibility manage one hundred radio stations to keep track of local radio stations. 

Reading about this legendary pioneer, the industry today needs more visionaries like Ward Quaal and less of the likes of Jeff Zucker, Ben Silverman, Sam Zell, and Randy Michaels. Believe me, the industry would be a lot better off.

T Dog's Think Tank: Better days ahead for NBC (2000th post)

The party's over for Doogie and Partyman.

Post number 2000. Yes, yours truly is finally written his 2000th post after four years.

And what better way to celebrate by writing a Think Tank regarding the departures of biggest boobs to ever grace - or disgrace a media corporation's executive suite outside of Laurence Tisch. I'm talking about Jeff Zucker and Ben Silverman, the disastrous duo who turned the National Broadcasting Company into a national laughingstock.

As you recall, yours truly wrote last year that the dumb duo needed to go, given NBC's fortunes were sinking and their decisions were merely bankrupting the network.

Zucker stepped down (or was fired, depending on what website you read) on Friday, when he was told his services weren't needed by Comcast management, whose company is buying a 51 percent share of NBC from current owner General Electric, subject to regulatory approval (which basically is all but assured.) Silverman left the network last year to work for Barry Diller's new company, which surprisingly hasn't imploded yet with Silverman there.

Zucker and Silverman were like a reverse Batman and Robin - screwing up and f 'n up every step of the way. Jeff "Doogie" Zucker (thanks to Mark Jefferies for the phrase) filled the stereotypical television executive to a T: he loathed by almost everyone, from Madison Avenue to Madison Street, everywhere in between, and extending well into Hollywood.

And his partner in crime, Ben "Party All the Time" Silverman, made such absurd programming decisions, it reminded a lot of people of another Silverman - Fred Siverman - of making these same impaired moves back in the late 1970's and early 1980's, which were mocked by Al Franken in a Saturday Night Live skit in 1980 called "Limo For A Lame-O". Ben and Fred aren't related - but they might as well be. According to various Hollywood trades and gossip sites, Ben Silverman spent more time partying than running a network, earning  the nickname "Limo For A Lame-O Jr."

During their time of terror together, both Zucker and Silverman foisted revivals of Knight Rider, American Gladiators and Bionic Woman on us, the unfortunate viewing public. While these shows were favorites of Silverman when he was growing up, they were middling performers at best when they were on originally.

Of course came the most mind-scratching revival of the Zucker/Silverman era: The return of I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, a reality show which was a hit in its native Great Britain, but bombed stateside when it aired on ABC seven years ago. With convicted Illinois Governor Rod Blagoveich's wife participating in the show, it summed up the problems of the state and network television in general. And predictably, viewers weren't interested.

But the biggest stigma attached to Zucker's tenure came when NBC announced in May 2009 that the network was stripping The Jay Leno Show in primetime, five nights a week. While NBC thought the program's ratings performance would be judged like a weekday syndicated strip, it didn't turn out that way - ratings were completely awful and Leno was back as host of The Tonight Show in March.

But that too came with some controversy, and it cost Conan O'Brien's job at the network. O'Brien was named host of The Tonight Show in 2004 and would take over for a retiring Leno in 2009, in order to avoid the mess created when NBC gave the job to Leno over David Letterman in 1992, enabling the Late Night host to jump to CBS a year later. But NBC didn't count on Leno changing his mind. So Zucker gave Leno the nightly 9 p.m. Central slot, angering many Hollywood producers and writers who lost an opportunity to develop hit shows in the time period (full disclosure: yours truly initially backed this plan. Oops.)

NBC became the butt of jokes and the object of scorn of the industry. Zucker stood there and basically defended the network in the whole crazy mess.

But now with both Zucker and Silverman gone, NBC now has a chance to rebuild their brand, which was tarnished by these two idiots. NBC's new fall state is the strongest it has been in years, thanks to new NBC Entertainemnt Chief Jeff Gaspin (aside from Outlaw, which has to be the dumbest premise for a show in a long time.) New shows from Jerry Bruckhemier and J.J Abrahms have brought back back quality programming to the network - though to be sure, The Apprentice is still around - though not for long and The Marriage Ref and Minute It to Win It are both waiting in the wings to annoy us for midseason - but at least we no longer have to sit through moronic programming like Celebrity Circus, Emeril, or Howie Do It.

And with ABC's fall schedule not particularly impressive (despite the presence of Modern Family and Dancing With The Stars), NBC should be able to take advantage, with The Event off to a good start, The Biggest Loser being solid on Tuesdays, and Thursday night's comedy block still performing respectively well.

It may be a stretch to say NBC could take third place from ABC this season (thank you, Dancing), but the peacock network has nothing but better days ahead.

Now if we can only get rid of Sam Zell and Randy Michaels from the executive suites of the Tribune Tower. And from the looks of things, their clock is ticking and they will likely be the next to go.

We hope.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Jeff Zucker exits NBC

Don't hit your... out the door...

In news that will make TV junkies across the land jubilant, NBC Universal Chairman Jeff Zucker exited the network today after 24 years.

But just how he left is a matter of what publication you read: Broadcasting & Cable's headline was Zucker leaves NBC; but on the Deadline Hollywood site, the headline splashed on the page was Jeff Zucker Fired by Steve Burke. (Mr. Burke is Comcast's Chief Operating Officer.) Zucker's departure is effective when Comcast takes over NBC, assuming approval by regulators.

Zucker has been the fall guy for NBC's recent lack of success, including six consecutive last-place finishes among the four major networks. He sent the NBC Universal staff a final e-mail this morning, thanking them for their service and support.

Zucker rose through  the ranks at NBC, starting in August 1986 (after NBC was acquired by General Electric.), when he was hired in the network's research department. Six years later, he became the executive producer of Today. In 2000, he was promoted to head of NBC Entertainment, became NBC Universal Television Group CEO in 2005, and succeeded Bob Wright as NBC Universal President and CEO in 2007.

Early in his tenure in management, NBC was riding high with mega-hits Friends, Fraiser, and Seinfeld.and ER But by 2004, those programs except for ER were gone and the network was unable to develop any hits to replace them.

Since 2004, the network developed some a few hits - notably Heroes, The Apprentice, and Deal or No Deal - but those shows would run out of gas quickly. And as far as bombs go, last-year's Jay Leno Show in prime-time clearly took the cake.

And Zucker was the villain in Conan O'Brien's much publicized departure from the network when Leno wanted The Tonight Show job back.

But there were some highlights during Zucker's time at the peacock: its cable-owned networks produced a lot of revenue, and many of them produced hits like Battlestar Galactica (SciFi), The Real Housewives (Bravo), and The Bad Girls Club (Oxygen). Its syndication division (NBC Universal Television Distribution) chugged along with Access: Hollywood, Maury, Jerry Springer, and successfully launched The Steve Wilkos Show. But launching Deal or No Deal in syndication didn't work, and The Martha Stewart Show stayed on the air longer than necessary.

And even Madison Avenue ad buyers think NBC prime-time is better off without Zucker at the helm.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

T Dog's Grab Bag

Glee is off to a hot start - 5.5 adults 18-49 rating for its second season premiere.

- The new fall season is underway, and here's the storylines so far... Dancing With The Stars and Glee are in peak form; Hawaii Five-O had a successful debut; Mike & Molly was amply sampled; and all of Fox's new shows (Lonestar, Raising Hope, and Running Wilde) were left at the starting gate.

Raising Hope
and Running Wilde by far the worst new sitcoms of the year, though not as bad as Comedy Central's Secret Girlfriend, which was canceled after six episodes in 2009. Hope and Wilde might not even make it that far...

- DC Entertainment announced Tuesday the move of their business operations related to multimedia, digital content, film and television to Warner Bros. offices in 2011 in beautiful Downtown Burbank, Calif. (DC Comics and Warner Bros. are owned by Time Warner.) DC Comics is the home of Batman, Aquaman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. The comic book operations are staying in New York.

- Three more syndicated strips debuted this past Monday, and of those three, Judge Karen's Court scored the highest rating with a huge 0.7, topping Twentieth's Don't Forget The Lyrics (0.5) and Entertainment Studio's America's Court (0.3) Both America's Court and Karen's Court are airing locally on WCIU at 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. respectively. As you may recall (or not), Judge Karen had a syndicated strip during the 2008-09 season via Sony, but was canceled too quickly.

Two other new syndicated strips also premiered Monday, albeit with a limited rollout - Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns and Gossip Queens, but ratings for Monday premieres were not available. Both shows also air locally on WCIU.

-The Parents Television Council is now taking their campaign against CBS' William Shatner vechicle $#!* My Dad Says to the local level: The organization is asking viewers to contact their local affiliate and ask them not to air the show, and if they do, list the  local advertisers who bought time (of course, they're whining about the title.)

But it won't work in Chicago, since few viewers watch the local affiliate of The Church of Tisch anyway. In fact, so few watch that some Chicagoans think Shatner is co-anchoring the 6 pm newscast with Walter Jacobson.

- The Chicago Tribune and Second City are teaming up to present "Chicago Live!", a six-week showcase taking place in the basement of Chicago Theater. it's sort of a local Saturday Night Live - topical sketches performed by Second City performers along with musical performers. The show is being taped to air on Tribune's WGN-AM Friday nights at 11 p.m.  Tickets are $25 each.

Nothing against Second City, but why would anyone pay $25 to see this farce put on by the Tribune? If you want to see something genuinely unfunny, you can stay home and watch Raising Hope, Running Wilde, and William Shatner's new sitcom for free.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tribune, Twentieth team up for "Pt. Dume"

Tribune Broadcasting ad Twentieth Television have formed a rather unlikely alliance to clear a new syndicated program.

Titled Pt. Dume, the new weekly scripted hour for next fall is about troubled teenagers who are sequestered in a Los Angeles detention camp (are you excited already?) The series was created by Gregory Bonnan, who created Baywatch. The sun-and-surf drama which gave the world Pamela Anderson ran on NBC for one year (1989-90) and in first-run syndication for ten more.

Pt. Dume is targeted for Saturday night time slots on Tribune stations, including WGN-TV in Chicago. Due to sports pre-emptions however, expect the program to run in early fringe on Saturdays.The sale to Tribune is quite surprising, given Twentieth parent News Corp. owns My Network TV outlets in seven markets where Tribune owns stations, including Chicago and My Network TV is hurting for original programming in primetime.

The last time a scripted series aired in first-run syndication was just last season, with Disney-ABC's Legend of the Seeker. It was canceled in April after two seasons when Tribune declined to renew the show.

Twentieth's history producing first-run syndicated scripted product is quite scant; the few series it produced in this manner were sci-fi series Starlost (1973, which was a disaster no one could ever imagine); Small Wonder (1985-89; inherited when News Corp. purchased Metromedia Producers); a syndicated revival of former ABC series 9 to 5 (1986-88) and sitcom Student Bodies (1997-98).

Monday, September 20, 2010

The original Hawaii Five-O: The sales tape

In honor of the return of Hawaii Five-O to CBS tonight, here's a syndication sales presentation tape from January 1981, pitching local stations on the original 1968-80 series' exotic locale, exicting action, and oh yeah... those beautiful women!

The mastermind behind this piece was Viacom, which originally sold Hawaii Five-O in syndication. CBS produced the series and owns the copyright. Ironically, CBS spun-off Viacom in 1971 due to the financial interest and syndication rules, and when those rules ended in 1996, it paved the way for CBS and Viacom to reunite in 1999, which brought Hawaii Five-O back under CBS' roof (CBS took total control of the franchise when CBS and Viacom split in 2006.)

The New Hawaii Five-O (which stars Alex O'Laughlin) is produced by CBS Television Studios, and you can catch it every Monday night on CBS at 9 p.m. Central.

If you want to check out the original (handled by CBS Television Distribution), the Jack Lord version is still running every weekday at 11 a.m. on Me-Too (WCIU-DT, Ch. 26.3).

Welcome to the fifth season - with a new look!

Welcome to the fifth season!

The T Dog Media Blog begins its 5th season as of today - which means now I have enough episodes to air every night. Syndication riches, baby!

Okay, maybe not.

But it is hard to believe this blog started on September 18, 2006, offering yours truly's take on what's going on in the media and entertainment industries. And I didn't think it would last this long!

But yours truly has hung in there, and along the way have picked up a few friends (not to mention a couple of haters) and kudos from important people in the industry, including Robert Feder, Marc Berman, Larz from Chicagoland Radio and Media, and others - and I thank them.

And believe it or not, this blog was mentioned in Nichelle Nichols' (Star Trek) Twitter feed for a story I mentioned here! (if you don't believe me, click here - though the real credit should go to Mr. Berman for getting her amazing quotes at the recent TCA press tour.)

As of today, you'll notice some changes: For the last four years, yours truly has been using the orange-and-gray background, which by now is quite passe. Therefore, the blog now features a blue marble background with more colors and more photos added, and will be used until it becomes passe.

Also, more links have been added to the sidebar, especially in regards to radio and to local media websites such as Steve Rhoades' Beachwood Reporter site.

And to eliminate clutter, past Think Tanks have been each tagged individually and put into a single Archive link.

And speaking of Think Tanks, there certainly will be more of them, as yours truly keep his foot on Big Media's behind - such as Sam Zell, Randy Michaels, and the rest of the clowns running the Chicago Tribune into the ground. In other words, this blog is the "watchdog" of the Tribune watchdog and other big media corporations.

Since the time I devote to writing the blog has dwindled over the years, I moved most breaking news stories and short news items to my Twitter feed, which you can access and follow here. (please?) And a Facebook page is launching soon as well (okay, I said that last year, but be patient - once it launches, you'll like it - trust me.)

But one thing that won't change is my take - sometimes serious, sometimes satirical - on the ever changing media business, from television to radio to new media to newspapers- that is, if newspapers exist by this time next year.

And blog coverage of The TCA Press Tour, NATPE, and Comic-Con continues (unfortunately, yours truly did not get a chance to adequately cover Comic-Con this year, due to terrible time constraints - and its a shame, given its the one thing I love to write about.)

So let's get ready for another season of news, fun, hell-raising, and flat-out absurd items.

I hope you continue to enjoy reading this blog as I have the pleasure of writing it. As always, thanks for reading.

Enjoy the ride!

- Terence

Thursday, September 16, 2010

New syndicated fare off to slow start; "Martha" tanks on Hallmark

It's not a good thing: "Golden Girls" reruns had more viewers than Martha's relocated show on Hallmark.

The new crop of first-run and off-network/cable fare has gotten off to a slow start with the The Nate Berkus Show leading the pack with a 1.2 household Nielsen Overnight rating in its first two days.

How low is this number? Back in September 1990, Buena Vista Television's unsuccessful new game show The Challengers lead the 1990-91 freshman pack  had a 3.6 HH overnight rating in its first three days (though other new game shows - such as revivals of The Joker's Wild and Tic Tac Dough averaged around a 1.5 rating in their first week.)

Challengers was canceled in August 1991, while other new syndicated shows that season were yanked earlier than that.

But now, as then, the most important yardstrick for a first-run strip is whether it can hold on or improve on the preceding program's lead-in and outperforming the year-ago time period average - and Berkus and another new strip (Swift Justice with Nancy Grace) hold a significant advantage over the starts of the failed game shows and magazine programs from the 1990-91 season, which did neither. And keep in mind today's television landscape is different than it was 20 years ago - but even then, cable and home video choices were eating into broadcasters' ratings numbers.

Despite a 1.2, Sony's Berkus was up 20% from September 2009's time period average, with a slight drop-off from its lead-in. CBS' Nancy Grace averaged a 1.1 two-day rating, even with lead-in and year-ago time period share.

The four new off-network or off-cable sitcoms had a rougher go of it. The two-day Nielsen overnight averages of How I Met Your Mother, The New Adventures of Old Christine, Entourage, and Curb Your Enthusiasm all were down from their lead-in and underperformed year-ago time period shares.

Of the four, Mother was rated the highest (1.0), while Christine was the lowest (0.6). Yours truly has never seen a weak batch of off-net sitcoms in a fall season than this one - totally pathetic.

And if you think these numbers are bad, check out Martha Stewart's - the move of her show from syndication to the Hallmark Channel produced anemic first-day numbers with her show averaged less than 200,000 household and women 25-54 viewers for her original and repeat episode later in the day, far below what repeats of The Golden Girls previously earned at 9 a.m. and what Little House on the Prairie and M*A*S*H earned in the afternoon time periods. Then again, Ms. Stewart's ratings in syndication were nothing to brag about to begin with (averaged a 0.5 rating during the 2009-10 TV season.) In fact, her entire block of branded programming on Hallmark underperformed.

Not all the news was bad. One off-net program that had a better time of it was NBC Universal's The Real Housewives, whose two-day average was up 65 percent among women 18-49 and up 32 percent in women 25-54 from Sept. 2009 time periods in Local People Meter markets. In New York City on Monday, Housewives showed a 50 percent HH rating increase over what Deal or No Deal did the time period a year ago.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lions-Bears leads Sunday TV fare


The Lions' Calvin Johnson catches a pass in Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears (Photo: AP/Charles Rex Arbogast/

But ratings down 25% from year ago season opener

The Chicago Bears may have lucked themselves into a victory on Sunday, but at least did the job in the ratings department.

According to Crain's Chicago Business, the Bears season opener at Soldier Field on Sunday drew a 26.1 Nielsen household rating for Fox's WFLD-TV, with the game peaking at 31 toward the end of the game when the Detroit Lions' Calvin Johnson scored what looked like a touchdown late in the 4th quarter.

However, the play was overturned on replay, giving the Bears the victory.

Despite the strong number - which easily makes the Bears the number one program in Chicago this week - the number is down 25 percent from the Sept. 13, 2009 season opener against the Green Bay Packers. Keep in mind, however that game aired in higher-level HUT prime-time (not to mention a Packers-Bears contests typically draw the highest regular-season football ratings of the year.)

Still, the 26.1 rating is a bit disappointing, given Chicago fans are clearly not sold on the Bears this season, with unpopular head coach Lovie Smith still leading the team, an 0-4 pre-season, and the quality of Sunday game - in which both teams combined for seven turnovers - was quite XFLish.If  the two NBC games this past week were akin to NCIS, then Bears-Lions would be akin to Heroes. Is it to late for Sylar join the Bears' coaching staff?

Across the country though, it's a different story - the season openers has brought strong ratings for the NFL's network partners and for local affiliates.

Thursday's night NFL opener between the Minnesota Vikings and the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints on NBC drew the most viewers for a regular-season NFL game (27.5 million) in thirteen years. Sunday night's game between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins drew 25.3 million viewers, easily defeating the Video Music Awards on MTV, which drew 11.4 million viewers, which is the highest rating for a VMA show in eight years.

Monday ESPN doubleheader on Monday also drew eyeballs with the Baltimore Ravens-New York Jets game drawing an 10.5 household rating while the San Diego Chargers-Kansas City Chiefs tilt in the nightcap drew a 9.1 (and yes, the game had a 9:15 start in Kansas City - almost unheard of for a sporting event in the Central Time Zone.)

For the local stations carrying the games, the rewards were just as sweet. San Diego's CBS affiliate (KFMB) drew a 20.1 household rating while Kansas City ABC affiliate KMBC drew 25.6, despite the late start of the game.

CBS-owned WJZ-TV dominated prime-time ratings on Monday night in Baltimore with ESPN's simulcast of the game, drawing a 27 rating.

In New York however, Fox's WWOR-TV feed of the ESPN telecast could only muster up a 5 rating - even being outdrawn in the Big Apple by ESPN itself (9.4). WWOR is usually the weakest-rated commercial station - English or Spanish-language - in the New York Metropolitan area.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Syndication's new season

Stations are hoping to strike it rich with "The Nate Berkus Show". 

While the official start of the 2010-11 television season is only a week away, syndicators rolled out their new programs this week per tradition, with several new faces.

One is interior designer Nate Berkus, who hosts his own talk show courtesy of Sony Pictures Television. A lot of observers believe his show will be the next hit, following in the footsteps of Dr. Oz (which is also distributed by Sony.) Both men of course, have made appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show and whose shows are produced by Harpo Productions. Berkus' strip is cleared on the NBC O&Os, including WMAQ-TV locally.

Another new high-profile syndicated strip comes from Nancy Grace, whose new Swift Justice also debuted today from CBS Television Distribution. The controversial cable news personality presides over court cases with a few twists that makes it different from your usual courtroom show (for example, there's no robe or gavel and the word judge isn't in the title.) The show has cleared most Fox O&Os in early fringe slots, including WFLD-TV locally, which airs it at 2 p.m. (opposite Nate Berkus, no less.)

Meanwhile, Entertainment Studios debuts America's Court, while Litton is trading in Street Court to give Judge Karen another chance with Judge Karen's Court (both shows air in the early morning hours on WCIU, fittingly.)

If you want a (somewhat) new game show, you have to wait until next Monday - when a new revamped version of Don't Forget The Lyrics premieres on WPWR-TV at 2 p.m. Syndicated by Twentieth Television, the show is also airing on My Network TV Tuesday nights at 8 p.m.


Plenty of off-network and cable entries this year, and there are a few high-profile ones with Twentieth's How I Met Your Mother (6 and 6:30 p.m. on WPWR) and Warner Bros. The New Adventures of Old Christine (9 p.m. on WCIU) leading the pack (the latter's title sounds like a Saturday morning cartoon from the 1970's, and apparently written like one.) Also airing on local stations this fall (including WMAQ) is The Real Housewives franchise from NBC Universal Television Distribution, combining all of the editions that has aired on Bravo (New Jersey, New York, Orange Co., etc.)

Also making broadcast syndication debuts is HBO's Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm, cleared on primarily Tribune stations, including WGN-TV in Chicago. 

Beginning Sept. 20, Tyler Perry's Meet The Browns also enters syndication via Debmar-Mercury. The program is being paired with Perry's other sitcom, House of Payne in several markets (including WCIU in prime-time here.) But both programs are slated in late, late time periods in many markets, hindering their ability of earning a decent number in off-net.

The weekends see the off-net debuts of Ugly Betty, Criminal Minds, Brothers and Sisters, and Numb3rs.The lone first-run scripted weekly - if you can call it that - is a Canadian import titled Heartland.


In addition to new syndicated strips, existing shows are tweaking their programs to stay fresh: Family Feud has a new host (again); this time it's former Chicago radio personality Steve Harvey (with a new set and locale); Who Wants To Be A Millionaire has a new format; and Martha Stewart has a new home, with her show moving to the Hallmark Channel to anchor a new daytime block of shows she's producing.

And the changes aren't just cosmetic - one off-cable sitcom is getting a new home.  Some of Fox's My Network TV affiliates acquired the second cycle of South Park, which includes WWOR-TV in New York, KCOP-TV in Los Angeles, and WPWR in Chicago. Here, South Park moves from a 3 a.m. time slot on WCIU.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

We're ready for some football

CW has mixed results with Nikita, beaten in key demos by Jersey Shore

Thursday night's NFL opening kickoff game between the Minnesota Vikings and defending Super Bowl champion New Orelans Saints scored a touchdown Thursday night for NBC, which became the most-watched regular season game in thirteen years.

In households, the game averaged an overnight 17.7 rating and 28 share, up markedly from the Sept. 10, 2009 season opener between the Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers. Among adults 18-49, the Vikings-Saints game averaged a final rating of 10.7/30 and drew 27.49 million viewers overall.

Not surprisingly, the game drew the best ratings in Minneapolis-St. Paul and in New Orleans. KARE-TV drew a household rating/share of 43.8/64 in the Twin Cities, while WDSU in New Orleans drew a 60.0/78.

The game featured the return of Brett Favre for his 46th season in the NFL (okay, his 21st.), while the New Orleans Saints begin their request to repeat as Super Bowl Champions. The Saints won Super Bowl XLIV last February over the Indianapolis Colts, notching the largest audience ever for a prime-time program.

Despite the dominance of football, The CW itself had some mixed news Thursday with its much-hyped premiere of action-drama series Nikita, a revival of sorts of the 1990's USA Network series.

The series drew a 1.4/4 in adults 18-49, but drew a 1.8 in women 18-34 and a 1.4 in adults 18-34. But Nikita did drop 13 percent in adults 18-49 and also dropped 38 percent among women 25-54 from its Vampire Diaries' lead-in, which is never a good sign.

On the other hand, Nikita did draw the same number of viewers than last year's Supernatural season premiere.

As for The Vampire Diaries, the season-premiere drew a 1.6/5 among adults 18-49 - down 24 percent in the ratings from its premiere a year ago, but drew a 2.9/9 in its key female 18-34 audience.

But before CW can pop the corks, consider this: MTV's reprehensible Jersey Shore drew 6.3 million viewers Thursday night, drawing a 6.5/18 in women 18-34 - beating both Vampire Diaries and Nikita combined.

Even vampires and an ass-kicking heroine were no match for the idiot brigade led by Snooki and The Situation.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Roger Ebert revives "At The Movies"

The title card of the new Roger Ebert Presents At The Movies.

Get your popcorn ready - because the balcony is re-opening and there's going to be a show. One of the principals behind Sneak Previews/At The Movies is bringing the series back to its original home of PBS.

Chicago Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert announced on his website today he is bringing back At The Movies, rechristened Roger Ebert Presents At The Movies in January. The series began in 1975 on PBS as Opening Soon At A Theater Near You (later renamed Sneak Previews) with Ebert and the late Gene Siskel produced at WTTW in Chicago. In 1982, the duo departed for Tribune Entertainment and At The Movies and went to Buena Vista Television (now Disney-ABC Domestic Television) four years later for Siskel & Ebert. 

The most recent version of the show, also titled At The Movies, ended its run on August 16.

Ebert is producing the show with his wife, and features two new movie critics - National Public Radio's Elvis Mitchell and Christy Lemire of the Associated Press. Also contributing are bloggers Kim Morgan and Omar Moore. The critics will also get to use the "thumbs up/thumbs down" method of reviewing movies, which has been trademarked by Ebert was used on his and Siskel's programs.

The series is expected to be shot here in Chicago with a possibility of the program being shot at Sneak Previews' original home, WTTW.

Ebert was forced to exit Ebert & Roeper in 2006 after thyroid surgery, which robbed him of his natural voice. Various guest hosts filled in alongside co-host Richard Roeper until 2008, when Ebert's contract wasn't renewed and Roeper decided to depart the series.

Ebert will also appear on the new show, using his new computer-simulated voice to talk about classic movies.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Chicago stations in for political ad revenue windfall

With Mayor Richard M. Daley's decision not to run for a seventh term, it could mean good news for local television and radio outlets in the terms of revenue in the form of increased political advertising.

While the rest of us will being running to our nearest electronics store to buy Tivos, the announcement would mean a huge influx of political ad dollars into Chicago media outlets' coffers, with plenty of candidates jockeying for Chicago's top political job. Stations are already poised to reap increased revenue from political advertising from this year's mid-term elections, taking place this November.

And with high interest in the mayor's race, look for a ratings boost for Chicago's television news outlets and news/talk radio stations, such as WBBM-AM, WLS-AM, WGN-AM, and WVON-AM.

Interestingly enough, this is what former WBEZ-FM host Ken Davis alluded to in a joking way, on Robert Feder's Vocalo blog today (Davis, who spent eleven years in the Daley administration, debuts his new Chicago Roundtable public-affairs program Thursday at 6:30 p.m. on Chicago Access Network, which is Channel 19 on most Comcast cable systems.)

Chicago's news outlets are already experiencing ratings increases for their 6 p.m. and 9 p.m./10 p.m. newscasts. During the month of August, three of the five local stations airing news at either 9 or 10 p.m. saw household ratings increases compared to one year ago and from their network lead-in. At 6 p.m., all three network owned-and-operated stations saw household ratings increases from August 2009. (CBS O&O WBBM-TV recently brought back Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobson to anchor its 6 p.m. newscast.)

The numbers - households and the key 25-54 demos - are expected to continue their upward swing as viewers return from summer activities and the new fall TV and NFL seasons starts up. 

In addition, four stations added 4:30 a.m. newscasts this year, while WGN-TV is adding weekend morning newscasts in the next few weeks and ABC-owned WLS-TV has expanded its Saturday morning news show an hour.

In other words, local news is far from dead.

And the mayoral race provides a seamless transition from the mid-term elections, which means we could be bombarded with political advertising from now until possibly April (good news for stations; bad news for the rest of us - including other advertisers.)

Still, increased interest from the upcoming mayoral elections is good news for Chicago media outlets, whose revenues have been battered by the recession with many clients (especially automobile makers) cutting back on advertising.

Though the mayor has often sparred with the press, he has always enjoyed support from Chicago's television and radio community. Consider this: When Daley was first elected in 1989...

- There were four television networks, with Fox being the new kid on the block.

- The Simpsons were still sketches on The Tracy Ullman Show.

- The Cosby Show was the #1 show on television, with newcomer Roseanne second.

- Reality TV consisted of Cops, America's Most Wanted, Geraldo, and Inside Edition.

- Dynasty was still on the air (it was canceled in May 1989, shortly after Daley took office.)

- WLS-FM was contemporary-hit outlet WYTZ-FM, or Z95, and has gone through six format changes since.

- WLS-AM was still playing music (it flipped to talk full-time in August 1989.)

- Future American Idol judge Paula Abdul had a major hit album with Forever Your Girl.

- The most controversial talk show host of the time? The late Morton Downey Jr., whose TV show was canceled in June 1989.

- WLS-TV was the market's #1 station and still is now.

- Arsenio Hall was America's newest and hottest late-night personality. His show went off the air five years later.

- Univision-owned WGBO-TV was a low-rated English-language independent station which went nowhere in the ratings (Univision bought the station and flipped it to Spanish television programming in 1994.)

- Twitter, Facebook, Podcasting, and direct-to-home satellite TV did not exist, and your computers of choice? Either an IBM PC, Commodore, or the Apple II.

- Wheel of Fortune, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and Jeopardy! were on top of Nielsen's syndication chart. They still are today - but a change is coming here as well: Oprah Winfrey is ending her long-running show four months after Mayor Daley leaves office.

T Dog's Think Tank: Unnecessary press conference patrol

Yours truly is pleading to the powers that be - enough with the press conferences. 

This past week saw the most stupid, contrived, and ridiculous publicity stunts known to man. It reminded yours truly of those phony press conferences the WWE used to have back in the day with Randy "Macho Man" Savage and the Ultimate Warrior nearly coming to blows with Vince McMahon smiling in the background.

On Monday August 30, ABC held a press conference regarding the announcement of this upcoming participants on this fall's Dancing With The Stars during an episode of Bachelor Pad - a reality show that's a complete waste of airspace, along with the two idiot shows it spun off from.

Among the celebs announced include David Hasslehoff, Jennifer Grey, Kyle Massey, Kurt Warner, Bristol Palin, and The Situation from Jersey Shore (what, were you expecting George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Halle Berry, and Denzel Washington?)

One of the problems with this press conference (which was actually real) was it was anticlimactic. There were a lot of leaks over the last few weeks over who would complete with E!, Entertainment Weekly, TV Guide, and  Access: Hollywood basically nailing most, if not all, of the celebrities participating the few weeks beforehand- even hosts Tom Beregron and Brooke Burke acknowledged it. Meanwhile, ratings for Bachelor Pad didn't get a ratings boost, since most people who wanted to know knew who was competing anyway thanks to the leaks or went online and found out (what, you think anyone would sit through crap like Bachelor Pad?) ABC should have done what they did for last fall's cycle and just put out a simple press release.

But this publicity stunt didn't even compare to the one held last Thursday here in Chicago.

During this "press conference" at Columbus Park in the Austin neighborhood, Chicago gang leaders complained about being targeted by police and tricked into a secret meeting by Chicago Police - all part of a crackdown on gang violence in the city, which has been a hot topic and dominated news headlines all summer.

As you can tell, the press conference was disorganized from the get go and lacked any focus. For one thing, some of the leaders were wearing gang clothing - what, have they ever heard of a suit and tie? Second, they weren't able to handle the press and lacked total professionalism. Unfortunately, their message regarding unemployment on Chicago's West Side was lost as the crew on stage looked like buffoons. What the gang leaders should have done was to hire some public relations personnel so they can be coached on how to get their message out and act like professionals.

Instead, this press conference wasn't taken seriously. In fact, it was so bizarre that those who attended wondered if The Situation and Snooki were going to show up- it wouldn't been surprising. Even those clowns and the rest of the cast of Jersey Shore are more credible than this bunch (despite their own dizzying press conference at Television Critics Association Press Tour last month.)

While there were some great panels at this year's Comic-Con and press conferences at TCA, these two (or three if you count Jersey Shore's appearance) embarrassments just goes to show you how ridiculous and contrived some of these "press events" are.

And how worse can it get? On Tuesday, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley announced he was not seeking a seventh term. Given how crazy politics are in this town, don't be surprised if fired Real Housewives of New Jersey cast member and catfight provocateur Danielle Staub holds a press conference to announce she's running for mayor. Even worse, she could actually win.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Fox affiliates drift away from off-net sitcoms in early fringe and access

Yours truly had to do a double take when John Kiesewetter of the Cincinnati Enquirer reported last week that Fox affiliate WXIX-TV in Cincinnati was dumping off-network sitcoms Seinfeld and Family Guy for... Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy?

It is indeed true - the Raycom-owned station in Cincinnati has purchased the older-skewing game shows for airing beginning in September 2012, after longtime incumbent station WCPO-TV passed on renewing the shows. Cincinnati's ABC affiliate had aired the game shows since the 1980's, when WCPO was still a CBS affiliate (they returned to ABC in 1996 after a 35-year hiatus.)

Wheel of Fortune began its syndicated run on NBC affiliate WLWT in 1983, where it ran for two years.

Most Fox affiliates were former independent stations, which back in the day made off-network programming the centerpieces of their schedules. But with the invasion of cable TV and other alternative video options, much of the audience who watched that fare have drifted away.

So why did WXIX -decide to grab the game shows for prime access? Because the station wants to attract the 25-54 demo to its early-evening newscasts, which the game shows are a better fit than the off-network sitcoms it was running, which included Seinfeld, Family Guy, and The King of Queens. Beginning on September 13, WXIX plans to run Who Wants To Be A Millionaire at 5 p.m and 5:30 p.m., as a lead in to the 6 p.m. newscast.

It's a formula that has been successful at Fox affiliate WVUE-TV in New Orleans, which has had major success with Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! in prime access after luring the shows away from powerhouse  CBS affiliate WWL-TV in 2005, shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit the region. WVUE - which was traditionally a distant third as an ABC affiliate - made inroads into WWL's dominance as a result, particularly in news (WVUE has been a Fox affiliate since 1996.) It's the same kind of success WXIX hopes to duplicate.

In some cases, it hasn't worked - Fox-owned WAGA-TV in Atlanta nabbed Wheel and Jeopardy from NBC affiliate WXIA-TV in 1990 when WAGA was still a CBS affiliate. When then-owner New World switched WAGA and eleven other stations to Fox in 1994-95, the shows weren't a good matchup for Fox's young-skewing lineup and the duo were bounced back to WXIA in 1997 (both now appear on WXIA's sister station, My Network TV affiliate WATL-TV. WXIA and WATL are both owned by Gannett.) 

The moves comes at a time as many Fox affiliates are moving away from the traditional off-network sitcoms they have carried in the early evening hours and into more news programming and first-run syndicated programming, including TMZ, Extra, and Access: Hollywood. While Fox-owned WFLD does not have an early fringe newscast, it has only three off-net sitcoms on its weekday schedule - The Office, The Simpsons, and M*A*S*H, with the rest of its off-network programming acquisitions shoved onto sister station WPWR-TV.

WXIX isn't abandoning off-net sitcoms all together - the station is keeping The Simpsons and other shows on its late-fringe schedule, mirroring Fox affiliates' desire to keep off-network sitcoms in the daypart, instead of airing first-run network programming - this is one of the reasons why Fox passed on Conan O'Brien.

Meanwhile, Cincinnati fans of the two disposed off-net sitcoms can find them on WKRC digital subchannel 12.2 beginning next year with Seinfeld moving in March and Family Guy moving in September (first-run episodes of Family Guy will continue to air on WXIX through Fox, of course.)