Friday, October 29, 2010

"Caprica" , "Whole Truth" get axed

Sorry guys, you lost The Battle of Humanity in this early round because there weren't enough humans interested.

It looks like the guys from The Big Bang Theory will have to find something else to do on Caprica night.

The spin-off prequel of Battlestar Galactica was canceled by SyFy after nearly a season on the air. But in a rather unusual move (at least for a cable network), SyFy is pulling the episodes immediately, and plan to burn off the remaining five episodes in the first quarter of 2011 (guessing it will be buried in an overnight time slot somewhere on the schedule, adjacent to those vacuum cleaner and vegetable chopper infomercials ...)

Caprica had difficulty drawing more than a million viewers per epsiode and fared even worse among adults 18-49, where it often averaged a one share.  

But the good news for BSG fans (maybe) is SyFy is launching another yet spin-off prequel of the franchise with Blood & Chrome, which is set ten years into the Cylon war. The new series may focus on how the Cylons were developed - which was the obvious point of Caprica.

Yours truly actually bought the two-hour pilot of Caprica on DVD over a year ago and it's still sitting on the shelf. What does that tell you? (other than I wasted $24...)

- ABC has canceled freshman legal drama The Whole Truth with former Northern Exposure star Rob Morrow after five episodes. The series finished a distant third in its Wednesday night 9 p.m. (CT) time slot behind CBS' The Defenders and NBC's Law & Order: Los Angeles - both are also freshmen series.

ABC plans to continue production of the series until it reaches its thirteenth episode, even though the network plans to fill the time slot in November with specials. The remainder of the series' eight episodes are either likely to be released on DVD, and/or burned off later in the summer.

The two axings brings the total number of series' cancellations to five so far this season.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fall 2011 syndicaton update: The race to replace "Oprah"

Anderson Cooper has entered The Race To Replace. 

Welcome to The Race To Replace!

This fancy catch phrase yours truly created (patent pending) is to describe the hysteria over the departure of Oprah Winfrey's talk show in September and the number of vacated time periods she leaves behind for syndicators - or someone else - to fill.  Here is the latest on the fall 2011 syndication development slate:

- It's the project that won't die: Despite the current upheaval at Tribune, plans are still on track to launch The Bill Cunningham Show. The series has cleared 40 percent of the country on its station group. While Tribune is searching for a syndicator to sell the show, a name has surfaced: NBC Universal appears to be in the running to land Cunningham, this after NBC Universal and Tribune cut a deal last week to continue to carry its trio of conflict talk shows until 2014.

- Warner Bros. has signed a deal for Anderson Cooper to host a daytime talk show, and he'll continue to do his own nightly CNN show as well. Already it is drawing comparisons to The Jane Pauley Show, which lasted only two seasons - not a good thing.

- And Sony wants to add another hour to its belt; it has signed a deal with Lisa Oz (the wife of Dr. Memhet Oz, whose talk show is syndicated by Sony) to shoot a pilot for a relationship-based talk show.

-Debmar-Mercury is developing three shows, including one around Fran Drescher, who will get a tryout on six Fox-owned stations beginning on November 29 (Chicago is not one of the markets in the test.)

- Twentieth Television tested The Mike Huckabee Show in a few markets last summer, but the series featuring the former Arkansas governor did not fare in the ratings. Still, Twentieth (like Tribune with Cunningham) is still pressing forward with the show.

- Outside of Talk, CBS Television Distribution unveiled a new series titled Excused, which seeks to revive the dating/relationship genre which was left for dead several years ago with the exit of NBC Universal's Blind Date. In fact, Excused comes from Blind Date's production company. CTD is targeting the series for late-night time periods, but those could be in short supply as many stations air off-network sitcoms in those slots. The format is sort-of like Elimidate - it starts off with six people with two women voting off two men to form two couples - swapping with each other during the date. Two women then choose a final man, who picks a winning woman (get all of that?) Don't know about you, but this project should be - um, excused.

- Program Partners has cleared WLS-TV here in Chicago and nine other O&Os to carry Electric Playground, a Canadian entertainment  newsmagazine and gadget review show as quarterly specials for next season. If they are successful, it would launch as a strip for the 2012 season.

- Finally, Trifecta Entertainment and Mark Burnett Productions have pulled the plug on American Idol clone One In A Million. The rather ambitious project was introduced last spring as a daily strip for fall 2011, but wasn't able to find interest from station groups, who apparently still remember the Star Search debacle from '92 when the weekday version of the talent show was tried.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

T Dog's Six Pack: A lot to be "Glee"-ful about

It was a tumulus past week in the media world, highlighted by the exit of Tribune Court Jester Randy Michaels and the possibly of the Parents Television Council going bust. Is that a cause for celebration, or what?


Robert Feder. His coverage of the saga at Tribune Tower was exceptional work - truly a wonderful job by Chicago's best media columnist. (And if you want to see all of the articles Feder has written on this saga, click here.)

Tribune employees. Now that Lee Abrams and The Court Jester are gone, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert should fly to Chicago and hold a Rally to Restore Sanity Event at Tribune Tower.

Optimism. Think about it: With Ben Silverman, Jeff Zucker, Lee Abrams, and Randy Michaels all gone, let's hope this ushers in a new era of responsible management in the media business.


Randy Michaels. A no-brainer.

New York City-area television viewers. Not Glee-ful here: The dispute between Fox and Cablevision leaving Big Apple viewers without Fox programming such as Glee and the National League Championship Series and now the World Series could have unfortunate complications down the road - especially for advertisers, who soon may be asking for make-goods.

Glee photo shoot. Surprise! Not handing it to the PTC this time (they'll be soon gone anyway), but nuts to this lame-brained idea to have Glee cast members pose proactively in GQ, a magazine which has long ceased being relevant.

Buy a Six Pack, Get One Loser Can Free

John Kass. No, I didn't forget (K)ass, who put down bloggers to make a point about the tainted culture at the Chicago Tribune. Kass can now go back down to his mommy's basement and return to obscurity.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Tribune, Sinclair renews "Jerry" , "Maury" and "Steve Wilkos"

It look like Sean Compton has decided to make his legancy known before he is shown the door.

In the huge upheaval that was happening last week at Tribune (which saw the exit of CEO Randy Michaels), one of Michaels' hires cut a programing deal with NBC Universal to continue to carry its conflict talk shows on its station group until 2014.

Compton is President of Programming and Entertainment of Tribune Entertainment (for now, anyway.)

The deal only includes stations who currently carry the three series, including WPIX in New York City and KTLA in Los Angeles. In Chicago, only WGN-TV carries Maury; Weigel's WCIU carries Steve Wilkos and Jerry Springer under separate multi-year deals. While Wilkos has been airing on WCIU since September 2009, Springer moved to WCIU this fall from longtime outlet WPWR-TV.

All three series have also been renewed on Sinclair and Hearst station groups. Those deals cover markets including Tampa (WMOR), Orlando, Pittsburgh (WPGH), Cincinnati (WSTR), Columbus, Oh., and Milwaukee (WVTV/WCGV). Together with the Tribune deals, the renewals cover 50 percent of the country.

The trio - Jerry Springer, Maury, and The Steve Wilkos Show - have seen ratings increases in key young female demos this season as opposed to last season. With The Oprah Winfrey Show ending its run this season, it is an opportunity for these shows to take advantage - already, Maury has tied Oprah in women 18-34 so far this season and is the number one talk show in adults 18-49.

Meanwhile, Jerry Springer - now in its 20th season in syndication - saw its season premiere grow 27% in household ratings compared to last year. Interesting to note this comes on the heels of a report in the New York Times today of one of the series' early critics (The Parents Television Council) is losing clout and is also losing money.

The New York Times has been taking down a lot of organizations lately, haven't they?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

T Dog Media Blog Flashback: Randy Michaels joins Tribune

With Randy Michaels' forced exit from Tribune as Chief Operating Officer, here's a little background on him in this post from December 20, 2007 titled Randy Michaels Joins Tribune, which details how he saved WFLZ from extinction and how he cleverly did battle with Top 40 rival WRBQ (Q-105). Of course, he did not repeat his success in Chicago with his ill-conceived attempt to rename former Top 40 outlet WYTZ-FM (Z95) as "Hell FM" to counter-program competitor WBBM-FM (B96). Interesting to note as Michaels departed Tribune this past week -  the station he tried to save here in Chicago ceased as a Top 40 station 19 years ago this weekend.

To read the post, click here.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Barbara Billingsley, Tom Bosley, R.I.P.

This past week, we saw the passing of two classic TV stars.

Last Saturday, actress Barbara Billingsley passed away at the age of 94. Billingsley was best known for playing June Cleaver in Leave It To Beaver, which premiered on CBS on October 4, 1957 and moved to ABC in 1958, where it ran for five more seasons. Billingsley also reprised the role for in the revival effort Still The Beaver, which ran on the Disney Channel in 1985. With a move to TBS in 1986, it became The New Leave It To Beaver, where it ran until 1989. Her other TV credits include The Loretta Young Show, Make Room For Daddy, Mork & Mindy, Silver Spoons, and Monsters.

On Wednesday, Chicago-born actor Tom Bosley passed away due to heart failure at the age of 83. Bosley of course, is best known for playing Howard Cunningham on ABC's Happy Days from 1974-84, and along with Henry Winkler, appeared in all 255 episodes.

Bosley also appeared in ABC's Father Dowling Mysteries from 1989-91 and voiced Harry Boyle in the Hanna-Barbera-animated Wait 'Til Your Father Gets Home, which ran in first-run syndication from 1972-74 (and aired locally over WMAQ-TV during the 1972-73 season.)

Other TV credits include Naked City, The Mod Squad, Dr. Kildare, The Bill Cosby Show, Maude, The Love Boat, Out of This World, and countless other programs. Most recently, he appeared in a series of infomercials for Specialty Merchandise Products.

This weekend, Me-TV is paying tribute to both stars with a Beaver marathon Saturday and a Happy Days marathon Sunday. For more information, click here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

T Dog's Think Tank: The dinosaurs roar tonight

Your symbol of the Chicago Tribune. We do newspapers right!  Want fries with that?

The only similarities between John Kass and yours truly is we are native South Siders and White Sox fans.

That's where it stops, believe me.

Once again, a Big Media cronie proves how much he or she is out of touch with the realities of today's media business.

On Wednesday, the longtime columnist of the Chicago Tribune defended the paper he works for and rips into those who constantly been criticizing the paper, including the New York Times, bloggers, and other longtime critics, while his idiot readers praise him in the comments section by trying to make this a partisan political issue (those late-night poker parties? Yeah, it's Obama's fault. And in true Jay Mariotti fashion, he pulled down the comments section because it provided another point of **ahem** view different from his... what a dick move.)

While yours truly gives Kass props on defending journalists hard work ethics at the struggling paper, he completely misses the point when he talks about the corporate culture at the Tribune. His article basically claims what goes on at the Tribune Tower is none of our business. But when he talks about how the paper has a strong investigate unit and how politicians are evil and keep their journalists from accessing documents, it makes want to hurl given the shenanigans going on at Tribune Tower.

And of course,  he doesn't mention how the purchase of the Tribune by Sam Zell was found to be fraudulent by unsecured creditors, heaping on $8 billion of debt in debt, while only mentioning the unethical frat antics at Tribune Tower in passing. He also conveniently didn't mention the thousands of employees who were laid off since Zell took over the paper.

What a hypocrite. The article comes off as smug, self-serving, and elitist, referring to bloggers as people in "their mommy's basements."

Um, excuse me?

Well, it didn't take long for the blogosphere to strike back. One blogger for ChicagoNow (which is a network of blogs owned by - you guessed it, the Tribune!) asks "Dear John Kass... Where is the Love?" In it, Julie DiCaro defends bloggers, pointing out not all of them blog from the place you go when you hear tornado sirens, and in fact, writes from an office mind you. She also asks when was the last time Kass actually broke a story (1976, perhaps?)

Meanwhile, Kass talks about great the paper is, mentioning how the Tribune's reporters are out late at night in dangerous neighborhoods looking for witnesses after murders are committed. Since Tribune loves to pay small wages while their corrupted execs earn millions, you wonder if those reporters are better off working in safer conditions for the same pay at Wal-Mart.

And while it kinds of pains yours truly to say this, but the New York Times is miles ahead of what the Tribune offers in print and online. While the Times offers award-winning journalism, the Tribune website has an idiotic Sirens and Blotter Blog, which seems to be written from the Chicago Tribune's basement. Even worse, their Breaking Sports Blog is a joke -  while checking to see who won the Blackhawks-Canucks game around 11 p.m Wednesday night, the latest item regarding the game was posted around 9 p.m. when the game was still in the second period. But at least it kept us updated on the status of some moron running out onto a field during a Rangers-Yankees playoff game. Breaking sports news, indeed.

And what has the Tribune done to the legacy of publisher Colonel Robert McCormick? The paper turned him into a cartoon character with a silly hat, not unlike what KFC did with Colonel Sanders in the late '90's. Good grief, what's next? Colonel Tribune opening up a chain of fast-food restaurants? Next time you visit Colonel Tribune's twitter page, make sure you click the link to get a coupon for the eight-bucket special with free biscuits and mashed potatoes.

As for Kass, yours truly has never really read his column, and won't begin now - it belongs on the Chicago Tribune columnist shitpile, along with Mary Schmich, Steve Rosenbloom, David Hough, and Dennis Byrne. Kass is just another out-of-touch dinosaur working in a business that desperately needs new leadership. Kass needs to stick to politics or ripping on Daley or whatever so his columns can remain uninteresting.

And by the way... when you leave the letter K off the word Kass, what word do you have?... yep, that's exactly what he is.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tick...tock... the clock runs out on Randy Michaels

Randy Michaels has all but resigned as CEO of the Tribune Co. after a tumulus two-and-a-half years marred with allegations of sexual harassment, and comes a week after Chief "Innovation" Officer Lee Abrams resigned over an e-mail memo he sent containing profanity and racy videos.

Reports of Michaels' resignation first surfaced in the New York Times' website Monday night - the same paper which did an unflattering expose on the company two weeks ago. The reports indicated the Tribune board would ask Michaels to resign on Tuesday morning at a meeting, but never happened. In fact, Michaels quoted "I work here today and I'm still working". But he did agree to resign and depart by Friday - especially after more allegations of sexual harassment appeared in a story that surfaced Tuesday night on Chicago Tribune's website. 

Michaels' role will be filled by four individuals: Chicago Tribune Media President and Publisher Tony Hunter; Tribune Company Chief Investment Officer Nils Larsen; Los Angeles Times President and Publisher Eddy Hartenstein; and Tribune Chief Restructuring Officer Don Libentritt.

Michaels became CEO shortly after Sam Zell bought Tribune in a heavy-debt acquisition in 2007, which sent the company into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December 2008 and has been there ever since and is currently working with creditors to emerge from bankruptcy. Since taking over, Michaels has been criticized for filling positions with individuals with cronies from the days he worked with them at Jacor and Clear Channel, who had little or no experience in key positions.

For example, Michaels hired Kevin Methany (referred to as "Pig Virus" by Howard Stern, who worked under him at New York's WNBC-AM in the 1980's) to run WGN Radio - which saw an exodus of talent from the station since he took control, and in turn sent long-time listeners fleeing for the exits while failing to send new audiences through the entrances. He has been criticized for hiring ex-convict and former City Clerk James Laski for an evening talk show, and canceling the long-running Sports Central among other moves.

On the television side, former radio exec Sean Compton took over as head of Tribune's station group and WGN America. While he did renew NBC Universal's trio of daytime talk shows, the group dropped Disney-ABC action-adventure hour Legend of the Seeker after two seasons, forcing its cancellation; the embarrassing debacle over the test launch of Bill Cunningham's daytime talk show, which is being sued over an episode regarding child-pageants - and not to mention a disastrous four-day test last June with bargain-basement production values; and being outbid by Fox for the off-network syndication rights to The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family, two of the hottest sitcoms currently in prime-time. Meanwhile, WGN America continues to drift without a purpose or direction and Tribune's CW affiliates continues to underperform in primetime.

And things are worse on the newspaper side, with all Tribune-related newspapers continuing to experience steep declines in circulation.

The futures of Methany and Compton are now in serious question, as is the future of The Bill Cunningham Show, which Tribune did say it was going forward with.  While syndicators are already rolling out their new shows for fall 2011, Tribune (who abandoned the syndication business in 2007) still hasn't found a distributor for Cunningham. 

With Abrams and Michaels gone, and the likely departures of others to follow, it will take years for Tribune to recover from this, from a financial and a PR standpoint. While legions of media fanboys (like me) and fangirls cheer on their departures, at the end of the day, the mess left behind by Abrams, Zell the Ziphead, Pig Virus, and The Court Jester will take longer to clean up and perhaps even longer to restore Tribune's good name and reputation. And there's no celebration in that.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"Modern Family" sold to Fox Chicago duopoly

Twentieth Television made its first broadcast syndication sale of Emmy-winning sitcom Modern Family and not surprisingly, it was sold to ten Fox-owned stations, including Fox's duopoly of WFLD-TV and WPWR-TV. The series is being sold for a fall 2013 start.

Fox also bought the program for its eight other duopoly markets, as well as WUTB in Baltimore.

This is the same group who also purchased The Big Bang Theory from Warner Bros. for off-net syndication next fall.

The cash-plus-barter sale of Modern Family is another victory for Fox over Tribune, who owns seven stations in cities where Fox has a duopoly, including the top three markets. Tribune is trying to exit Chapter 11 bankruptcy, where it has been since December 2008. The status has hindered Tribune's ability to be competitive with other station groups in acquiring cash-plus-barter programming.

Modern Family has already won Six Emmys, including Outstanding Comedy Series in its freshmen year (2009-10) and numerous other awards, including a Peabody and Writer's Guild Award. The program has been a ratings smash for ABC, ranking first among all primetime sitcoms among adults 18-49 so far this season.

The sitcom has an ensemble cast, including veterans Sofia Vergara and Ed O'Neill, who of course, was best known for playing Al Bundy in Married... With Children, one of the first hits for Fox (Married... was sold in syndication via Columbia Pictures Television for nearly $2 million per episode back in 1990.)

The per-episode price Fox O&Os paid for Modern Family wasn't disclosed. Modern was sold earlier this year to NBC Universal's USA Network for $1.4 million per episode.

Meanwhile, the next off-net sitcom up for bids could be Twentieth's The Cleveland Show, but how much the animated sitcom could fetch in the market is questionable, given the series has yet to stand on its own during Fox's Sunday night animated sitcom block (currently hamhocked between Simpsons and Family Guy) - not to mention general dislike from the viewing public - just check out its user rating on metacritic.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Reboot Fever... Catch It!

Marvel is hoping Hulk can smash the competition in 2011 like he did in the late '70's. (Image:

Get ready for another reboot... this time of The Incredible Hulk.

The revival of the classic 1978-82 CBS series with Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno - also notable for its wonderful closing theme song -  is one of the projects Marvel has in development for ABC since Jeph Loeb took over as head of the production company. (In 2009, Marvel was purchased by The Walt Disney Co., who also owns ABC)

Loeb is known for his work in many of Marvel's graphic novels in addition to his work as a staff writer on Lost and Heroes.

The revival is one of many in the works for next season - recently, David Kelley has been tagged to revive DC Comics' Wonder Woman - a series than ran on ABC and CBS in the 1970's with Lynda Carter in the lead role (though Cathy Lee Crosby was the lead in the 1974 made-for-TV movie of the same name.)

Also, Bryan fuller - best known for his work on Heroes and Pushing Daisies - is helming yet another revival of The Munsters, which ran on CBS from 1964-66. A recent revival (The Munsters Today) puttered in first-run syndication from 1988-91 (WPWR here in Chicago moved the series from a key weekend time slot to 1 p.m. Friday afternoons in the middle of its second season. No kidding.)

Another series in development is Cloak and Dagger, a series developed for ABC Family.

Marvel recently submitted a list of proposed television series for ABC. Yours truly's favorite: Daughter of the Dragon, where a dynamic duo - one with a bionic arm and another a granddaughter of a samurai - open up a detective agency. You can't go wrong with that!

But a word of caution here if ABC wants to jump on the Superhero bandwagon: During the time Hulk was on CBS' prime-time lineup, he shared the schedule with Wonder Woman and The Amazing Spider-Man, a live-action which was sacked after two seasons because CBS didn't want to be tagged as "the Superhero network" (i.e.., they weren't attracting enough female demos with the shows - you see, they had this hot new show named Dallas, and wanted more programming similar to the Ewing clan. After all, J.R. Ewing did make comic book villains look like choir boys by comparison...)

Interestingly enough, Spiderman co-creator Stan Lee denounced the show in later years - even though he was credited as a script consulant on the series.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Lee Abrams: The rise and fall of

The resignation of Tribune executive Lee Abrams on Friday was pretty much expected, and came as no surprise.

Abrams sent a company-wide e-mail on Monday featuring Not Safe for Work videos and angering employees company-wide, and was suspended Wednesday for doing so. Some of the videos featured stuff you would normally find on a Girls Gone Wild DVD.  And all of this came as a New York Times article ten days ago exposed the frat-boy antics that was going on at the Tribune Tower, as did Vocalo's Robert Feder beforehand.

Forget NBC: The Tribune Co. has surpassed the peacock network as the biggest joke in the media industry. Not even Jeff Zucker and Ben Silverman have accomplished what Tribune's Three Stooges have done in a short time: Owner Sam Zell, CEO Randy "Court Jester" Michaels, and Chief "Innovation" Officer Lee Abrams have managed to alienate viewers, listeners, advertisers, and their own employees, not to mention slide the company into bankruptcy. Anything and everything they touched turned to rust. The only thing the stooges didn't try to do was revive Supertrain, or hire Pink Lady and Jeff to anchor WGN-TV's morning newscast.

When news came down of Abrams' suspension, employees were heard cheering at the Trib-owned Baltimore Sun's newsroom (for real.) When he was fired on Friday (or forced to resign... whatever, it's the same thing), employees at the Trib-owned Los Angeles Times cheered (for real.)

Abrams was the "Chief Innovation Officer" of Tribune, or whatever that means. What is a Chief Innovation Officer anyway? Is what Lee Abrams did at Tribune actually work? To moi, it's just another fancy name for a job title with little or no substance behind it - much like the "sandwich artists" at Subway, and they're better at their jobs than Abrams was at his.

Interestingly enough, a commenter on the Chicago Tribune's Breaking Business Blog said he/she applied for the advertised position. But we all know no qualified candidate had a chance in heck of securing the position, since The Court Jester wasn't going to fill it anyway. As it turns out, he only created the position just to give ol' buddy Abrams a job - and he got the job because Michaels knew him from his days at Jacor, a radio company who merged with Clear Channel about a decade ago.

And you thought Chicago government was corrupt in its hiring practices.

So how can Abrams, a person with experience in radio but none in the newspaper or television industries, succeed in this role?

Well, he didn't. Look at the evidence: Tribune's WPIX in New York demoted two popular 10 p.m. anchors and hired Jodi Applegate to take over, resulting in a lot of angry viewers; Tribune lost the syndication bidding rights to hot off-network series The Big Bang Theory in markets where it competes against one or two Fox-owned stations (except in Philadelphia, where Tribune's WPHL won the rights over an uninterested Fox O&O); and planned to introduce a new "anchorless" TMZ-like news program at KIAH in Houston titled NewsFix, whose concept is basically described by some as a mess (For the record, KIAH's 9 p.m. newscast has no viewers - literally.)

How that work out for Abrams? Not exactly innovative, isn't it? It seems Randy Michaels hired a Chief Idiot Officer instead of a Chief Innovation Officer.

And to think this person was the best it what he was thirty years ago. He hwas a successful AOR radio programmer and also had similar success at the former XM Radio. But he was unable to translate that same success to WGN Radio, the four Tribune-owned newspapers or its 26 television stations. Yes, my friends,  television and newspapers and WGN-AM are far different animals than an AOR formatted radio station. Different mediums, different time. The business needs fresh minds to stay afloat, not some 60-year old has-been whose idea of innovation is sending racy e-mails of women kissing each other. The idea may play well with the Jersey Shore fanatics (trying to "hip" to the young generation, basically), but not those who want to maintain a professional environment.

And that's what it is all about. We need real innovators like Brandon Tartikoff, Stephen J. Cannell, Barry Diller, and William Paley in this business and less of the phonies like Abrams, Michaels, Zell, Zucker, and Silverman, who are each about as innovative as the Bears' Offensive Coordinator. We need more creative minds -  not jerks who love to piss audiences off for the heck of it and telling them to go somewhere else if they don't like it. That's no way to run a media organization, or any organization for that matter.

Abrams' departure is likely the first in what is likely to be many from the Tribune Tower. When the bankruptcy judge gets through with them, the remaining two stooges (Zell and Michaels) will likely be gone. During their time at the Tribune, the company's newspapers circulation have continued to decline; hundreds of people were laid-off; WGN Radio's numbers are falling in key demos; Tribune's CW affiliates are getting squashed in primetime with programming targeted to female viewers who aren't watching; and of course, the Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Curly is already gone. Larry and Moe are next.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tribune suspends Lee Abrams

Tribune Co. announced the supension of Chief Innoviation Officer Lee Abrams today after he e-mailed a rather racy memo to employees of the company on Monday. The suspension is indefinate, and further disciplinary action may take place, including termination.

The story - ironically enough - broke Tuesday on Chicago Tribune's website by Phil Rosenthal. 

The move comes at a time when Tribune is suffering through a string of PR nightmares, including an unflattering article in last week's New York Times; WGN Radio's continued ratings decline in key demos; and New Yorkers' negative reaction to WPIX's format revamp for its 10 p.m. newscast, which saw unpopular anchor Jodi Applegate ushered in on Monday and popular anchors Katie Tong and Jim Watkins demoted.

You can say Tribune has been sacked to the ground as much as Jay Cutler has.

One bright light for the beleaguered media company: an exit out of Chapter 11 is now imminent.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tribune CIO Abrams in hot water over memo

Once again, Chicago is living up to its media freak show reputation.

Nearly a week after a damaging New York Times article was published on the frat-boy antics at Tribune Tower,  Chief "Innovation" Officer Lee Abrams sent out a company-wide e-mail on Monday, which continued several inapporiate videos, including one labled "Sluts". Ironically, the story broke Tuesday afternoon - on Chicago Tribune's website by Phil Rosenthal.

Some of the videos were from The Onion, which Tribune took over advertising sales for its print editions. The videos in the e-mail included one where a woman poured liquor on her bare breasts, and a fake news report on a bus crash featuring reality-show contestants, where "2,000 pounds of slut" spilled out on the highway. This particular video also contained inappropriate content.

Many Tribune employees were shocked and angered over the memo, which many deemed inappropriate in a workplace environment.

The e-mail was also brought to the attention of Chicago Tribune Editor Gerould Kern, who complained to Abrams and took the matter to Tribune's Human Resources Department. Kern sent out his own e-mail last Friday in response to the New York Times article, reminding Chicago Tribune staffers that the paper operates under "the highest ethical standards" and on Tuesday, distanced himself and his staff from the Abrams e-mail.

Abrams apologized in another e-mailed memo Tuesday night, saying the e-mail should have never gone out and the videos in question would never air on any of the television stations it owns.

Abrams was brought on board shortly after Sam Zell bought the Tribune in late 2007 in an newly created position of Chief Innovation Officer, who was employed at Jacor and Clear Channel Communications and was a radio consultant. He was hired by Randy Michaels, who is the CEO of Tribune Co.

Thought: Once again, another embarrassment from these clowns at Tribune Tower. If this was any other workplace (that's not run by local or state government), there would be no doubt Abrams would be fired as soon the e-mail was sent from his computer.

But this is Tribune we're talking about. Abrams' is probably in line for a promotion from The Court Jester. If this is "innovation" as described by Abrams, then Tribune - and the media business in general - is screwed beyond belief.

And kudos to Mr. Kern for calling out Tribune's Clown Idiot Officer and sticking up for his beleaguered Chicago Tribune employees. They have enough to worry about - which includes putting out a newspaper and maintaining a website under trying circumstances.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

T Dog's Grab Bag - Jerry Lewis may walk out that door

You'll never walk alone? You might have to if Jerry Lewis walks out the door.

- Did we hear Jerry Lewis sing You'll Never Walk Alone for the final time? The Muscular Dystrophy Association announced this week it was cutting back its hours of its annual Labor Day Telethon from 21 hours to only six, regulating it from 6 p.m. to midnight on Sunday in order to attract more sponsors and big-name artists. But more telling in the announcement, the press release barely mentioned the 84-year old Lewis in any role for next year's show or beyond. Stay tuned...

Telethons were television staples for decades, but stations have cut back such fare in recent years, with the Easter Seals and Children's Miracle Network telethons all but vanishing from the airwaves, at least in Chicago. The MDA telethon hasn't been exempt, with some stations already cutting back hours and not carrying the entire program.

There no word on whether or not WGN-TV (which has carried the telethon for 31 years) will continue to carry the telethon under the new format. Before WGN carried the MDA Telethon, WFLD-TV handled the duties from 1966 to 1978.

- The September PPMs are out for Chicago, and it was a successful survey for Clear Channel Urban AC outlet V103 (WVAZ-FM), which finished first among the key 25-54 demo and second overall (all-news WBBM-AM finished first.) But the big news is the continuing decline of Tribune's WGN-AM. Even though the station only slipped to third overall, its 25-54 demos continue to erode. WGN did not crack the top 20 in 25-54s.

Many music-oriented stations had declines month-to-month in overall rankings as listeners headed back to school (and work) last month.

In New York, Clear Channel's WLTW-FM (Lite) finished first in overall ratings, while the same was true for its sister Top 40 station in Los Angeles, KIIS-FM.

For a full analysis of September's radio ratings for Chicago, click here.

- In a huge setback for PBS, Los Angeles' KCET announced Friday it would drop the service by the end of the year and go independent (the question is, will anyone out there notice?) KCET plans to fill the hours vacated by PBS with news and documentary programming from other countries, and the stations has no plans at the present to convert its non-commercial license to a commercial one. KCET signed-on in 1964 as part of National Education Television, the forerunner of PBS. 

PBS fans in Southern California need not worry - there are three other stations serving the region: KLCS,  KOCE in Huntington Beach, and KVCR in San Bernardino.

- Even though its unlikely WGN-TV will revamp its newscasts, the opposite has become true for its sister station in New York, WPIX. The station added Jodi Applegate as sole anchor, replacing Kaity Tong and Jim Watkins, who both have been reassigned, and the format has been overhauled to make it more "live and local". WPIX's 10 p.m. newscast has struggled for years, typically finishing behind Fox-owned WNYW and even Secacus, N.J.-based WWOR, when they had news at 10.

- With Oprah Winfrey leaving, I guess anybody can get a talk show these days - Sony is currently pitching a talk show featuring Dr. Memhet Oz's wife, Lisa, which would focus on solving relationship problems. Um... haven't we seen this before with Barbara DeAngelis and Joy Browne?

Thursday, October 07, 2010

T Dog's Six Pack: The new season so far

Since we're three weeks into the new fall season, here's how things are shape up in TV land in this edition of T Dog's Six Pack:

Three Up

NFL Football. The quality of play is down, but ratings are up? It's true - viewers are tuning in droves to NFL Football with CBS, Fox, ESPN and NBC all posting year-to-year gains. But celebrate now, my friends: With a possible lockout looming next year, the party may be over.

Local newscasts. With interest in next's month's elections - and next year's mayoral race at a fever pitch, viewers are tuning in to Chicago's local newscasts - even at 4:30 a.m. in the morning, reversing a years-long ratings decline. In September, at least three of Chicago's late newscasts (including the 9 p.m. entries on WGN-TV and WFLD-TV) experienced ratings growth vs. a year ago.

Hawaii Five-O. Reviews have been mixed, but the revival of the 1968-80 of the sun-and-surf crime drama is the only new show to land in Nielsen's Top 20.

Three Down. Way Down.

Network TV's new shows. Viewers tuning in to a rather mediocre Bears team, tabloid material on Dancing With The Stars, and to local newscasts' nightly orgy of crime and mayhem, but it appears they're shunning new fare. And worst, veteran shows - aside from Dancing With The Stars and Survivor - are losing audience. The low point came last Thursday (Sept. 30) when MTV's Jersey Shore beat both CBS' The Mentalist and ABC's Private Practice in adults 18-49. Obviously, the hottest trend this fall is the trainwreck.

Lonestar and My Generation get the You know your show sucked when it got canceled before the Cubs and White Sox played their final games of the season.

The Event. Oh no... not again! Another serialized drama in the vein of Lost that's going to be over-analyzed all season long. The real "event" ended its six-year run last May.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The idiots we can't seem to ignore

The New York Times today made national what was reported in Chicago media circles for months regarding the frat house antics at Tribune Tower.

David Carr had a front-page story in the newspaper regarding the dysfunctional nature that has become the Tribune Co., since Sam Zell bought the company in an ill-fated $8.2 million buyout  in 2007 with Tribune Chump Egomaniac Officer Randy "Court Jester" Michaels tipping waitresses to show their breasts, sexual shenanigans on the Tribune Tower balconies, poker parties in boardrooms, and Lee Abrahms sending out non-sensible and rambling memos.

Welcome to the Wacky World of Tribune Tower.

Of course, the story touched on how Tribune management has alienated audiences, clients, advertisers, and the like since Zell the Ziphead and Co. took over - you know, how the Chicago Tribune has become nothing but a Weekly World News clone, the butchering of WGN Radio, The Los Angeles Times' front page filled with ads for NBC shows, etc.(is Lee Abrams is getting his ideas from Jeff Zucker?)

And when the story came out, Randy "Court  Jester" Michaels sent an e-mail to employees, telling them to "Ignore the Noise from the New York Times Story", apparently using the advice he read in the "covering your ass" playbook.

But what's more galling is the number of old cronies related to Zell filling jobs they're not qualified for (isn't this what goes on in Chicago politics?) and laying off thousands in the process, not to mention allegations of fraud by Tribune's creditors, who are trying to take over the company, which is mired in Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

And all of this while the Chicago Tribune - once the benchmark of quality journalism in the Windy City - is urging its readers (if any left) to fight corruption in City Hall and on the Cook County Board and launched Tribune Watchdog, which is about as fake as Kim Kardashian's breasts.

So, should we seriously take a company who talks about ethics in government while it lacks those same ethics in the corporate boardrooms?

Hell to the no.

Instead of Standing Guard for Chicago - the Tribune Watchdog's slogan should read Standing Guard for Chicago While Our Execs Line Their Pockets With Bonuses.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

More U for you

Weigel Broadcasting's WCIU-TV announced yet another expansion of its programming options Tuesday with the planned December launch of U Too on WCUU-CA (analog low-power Channel 48) and WCIU-DT digital channel 26.5 and 26.6.

Many were tipped when the call letters of WMEU-CA were changed to the WCUU calls last week.

U Too is part of a duopoly - of sorts. Weigel plans to air some current first-run and off- network syndicated programming on the new channel, while continuing to do so on 26.1 and air "programming from independent producers that fit our brand as well as another opportunity to reach a new audience for existing and future clients", according to Weigel chief executive Neal Sabin. (when this was teased earlier today, yours truly threw out a wild guess it would be a Spanish-language channel. I'm not always right, ya know?...)

Weiglel officials also plan to sell creatively between the two U brands, much in the same way MeTV and MeToo have successfully done.

To make room, Weigel is dropping FBT, the brokered ethnic programming channel on 26.6. Until March 2008, It was known as WFBT on low powered channel 48 (and before 2005 on low-powered channel 23), which was moved to the 26.6 frequency to make room for MeToo, a spin-off of classic TV channel MeTV, which was launched on WWME-TV in 2005 (replacing WFBT on channel 23) and now resides on WCIU's digital channel 26.2.

Weigel officials plan to find new homes for the producers who had fare on FBT.

U Too meanwhile, will be made available on Comcast, WOW, and RCN cable systems, but not DirectTV or Dish Network, at least for now.

WCIU began life as the market's first UHF station in 1964, and was mostly known for ethnic programming, The Stock Market Observer, where Soul Train got its start, and other local programs. In 1995, it became a general-market independent station, replacing the ultra low-rated WGBO-TV in that role after Univision (which had a part-time affiliation with WCIU) purchased the former Grant Broadcasting station. Unlike WGBO however, WCIU has been a ratings success.

No word yet on a programming schedule for U Too.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Stephen J. Cannell, R.I.P.

Writer, producer, and businessman Stephen J. Cannell, died yesterday at the age of 69 in his Pasadena, Calif. home from complications resulting from melanoma. The news came as a shock to a lot of people, since his illness wasn't made public.

Cannell wrote, created, and produced many television shows, selling his first script in 1968 to Universal for It Takes A Thief. He also created The Rockford Files at Universal, and gave future Sopranos writer David Chase a job as a scribe for the show.

He formed his own production company and hit his stride in the mid-1980's with hit series like The Greatest American Hero, The A-Team, Hardcastle and McCormick, Hunter, Riptide, The Commish, and Wiseguy. However, he was responsible for his share of duds as well - J.J. Starbuck, The Last Precinct, and The Rousters.

In 1987, he produced 21 Jump Street, Fox's first crime drama, which was a major success with young viewers. The series made celebrities out of then-unknown young stars Johnny Depp and Holly Robinson Peete. In order to keep costs down, Cannell opened a studio facility in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and produced numerous shows there, including Jump Street.

When Fox canceled Jump Street in 1990, Cannell formed his own syndication company to continue the series in first-run syndication. Cannell later created other action hours in syndication including Street Justice and Renegade.

Cannell also created programs in other genres. In 1992, he created two game shows: Personals,a late-night dating game show strip for CBS; and Caesar's Challenge, a game show originally targeted for syndication, but wound up on NBC's daytime lineup in 1993 instead and also had a short run at WGN-TV in Chicago.

Cannell also went into the television ownership business, buying WUAB-TV in Cleveland and Fox affiliate WHNS-TV in Greensville, S.C. WHNS was sold in 1994; WUAB was sold in 1999 to Malrite, then-owner of CBS affiliate WOIO-TV (who managed WUAB for six years prior.) Both WOIO and WUAB are now owned by Montgomery, Ala. -based Raycom Media.

Cannell's company was bought out by New World Communications in 1995, which News Corp. would acquire two years later. Cannell re-acquired some of his series' rights and sold the DVD rights to them to Mill Creek Entertainment.

And Cannell would also pop up on camera from time-to-time. He hosted CBS' late-night anthology series Scene of the Crime, and appeared in acting roles on Renegade and most recently, Castle.

Cannell was also vocal on numerous industry issues. He showed his concerns about the decreasing presence of the independent producer in Hollywood, thanks to the disappearance of the financial interest and syndication rules from the media landscape.

In recent years, Cannell focused mainly on writing novels, in which he has released fourteen of them.

On a personal note, let me say Stephen Cannell was one of my idols growing up and helped inspire me to be a writer. He understood character development, structure, and best of all - how to tell a great story. In addition, he also understood the basics of the media business - even owning two TV stations on the side. How many writers can lay claim to that? He really understood the business.

Even more impressive, he had dyslexia and overcame those odds to become the talented producer and writer he was known for.

His mark on Hollywood - and the media business -  will never be forgotten.

Rest in peace.