Monday, February 28, 2011

T Dog’s Think Tank: Surviving Sheen

There are many reasons why shows get canceled or end their runs: the star dies or retires, declining ratings, getting too expensive to produce, etc.

But because of a rant against his boss?  That’s a new one to me!

As you’ve heard by now, CBS and Warner Bros. has suspended production on Two And A Half Men again – this time for the reminder of the season – due to star Charlie Sheen ripping into producer and creator Chuck Lorre, calling him every nasty name in the book and then some, including an anti-Semitic slur.

Sheen’s antics even makes White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen tame by comparison.

Two And A Half Men shut down production for weeks earlier this season after Sheen’s partying and alleged cocaine use and his subsequent trip to rehab.

On Thursday, Sheen went on Alex Jones’ radio show and ripped on Lorre, using rather disturbing quotes I won’t use here. After learning his series was canceled for the rest of the season, he continued his rant on Lorre, calling him a “maggot”, "earthworm", and a "clown" and wished him “nothing but pain”.

Given the circumstances, Men might not continue after this season, and if it does, the show definitely won’t air past 2012, when the show’s contract is up with CBS.

At the TCA press gathering in Pasadena last month, CBS executives were nonchalant when they responded to Sheen’s partying, saying it doesn’t bother them as long as it didn’t effect his performance and he showed up for work. But we all know the bad behavior would eventually catch up to him on the set.

Back in 1978, One Day At A Time co-star Mackenzie Phillips was busted for public drunkenness and cocaine possession. A year later, Phillips’ cocaine addiction caught up with her on the set.  She started forgetting lines and her appearance on-camera was horrid. She was fired from the show in 1980, but returned as “a special guest star” for the start of the show’s seventh season. But Phillips went back to her addiction and was fired from the show again in 1983 after collapsing on the set and refusing to take a urine test.

So how did the writers respond to her abuse? Her character on the show was written out of the series by walking out her family and disappearing (how’s that for revenge?) Phillips made news over a year ago with her admission of an incestural relationship with her father (John Phillips of The Mamas and Papas fame) on The Oprah Winfrey Show, promoting her "memoirs" no less, and was busted in 2008 for drug possession en route to a One Day At A Time reunion.

Gotta love those family values.

It would be much tougher to fire Charlie Sheen for a number of reasons as the series evolves around him almost every episode, and shooting without Sheen is a risk CBS and Warner do not want to take. When Cindy Williams quit Laverne & Shirley in 1982 over issues she had with Paramount related to her pregnancy, Penny Marshall was forced to carry the show alone. As a result, ratings dropped (they were already declining for three straight seasons) and ABC unceremoniously canceled the series with the final episode airing on May 10, 1983. 

It also helps to point out the Two And A Half Men has made a lot of money for TimeWarner throughout its CBS run – not to mention DVDs, merchandise, sales of syndicated repeats to local TV stations and FX, and others internationally.

And as for those syndicated repeats, Tribune and Sinclair Broadcasting plopped down a lot of money to secure second-cycle rights to Men, beginning in September 2014. If the series ends now, the licensing deal ends in December 2013 (39 weeks early.) On the other hand, local stations wouldn’t have to pay for any additional episodes produced. But that isn’t great news for Warner Bros., which would miss out on millions of dollars of extra syndication revenue.

So now CBS and Warner Bros. are being tested by Sheen, whose lunatic-like behavior is jeopardizing the show’s bottom line. The real question is, how far will Sheen go before he realizes his idiotic actions and his non-stop  motormouth effects more than he imagines – like the possibility of 300 people – most who only earn a fraction of what Sheen makes - losing their jobs because of this asshole?

Interesting note here -  Mackenzie Phillips didn’t put the cast and crew of One Day At A Time out of work – only herself. Twice. How in the world Charlie Sheen could manage to sink even below that benchmark?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Wisconsin budget fracas draws viewers to Milwaukee's newscasts

In just a matter of days, Cheesehead nation has transformed from a state celebrating a Green Bay Packers Super Bowl victory to looking like the new "Beirut On The Lake".

With the Wisconsin legislature producing a new 21st century version of Council Wars, the fracas over unions is drawing viewers to Milwaukee's local newscasts, according to a article in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, (not to mention a lot of Winter weather.)

For the first thirteen days of the February sweeps period, Journal Communications-owned NBC affiliate WTMJ leads in the 10 p.m. late news was up 4% from last November. Weigel's WDJT (CBS) and Local TV's WITI (Fox) also showed gains, up 48% and 11 %, respectively in the same time frame. The bigger loser was ABC affiliate WISN, which was down 12 %. However, the Hearst-owned station still held on to its 6 p.m. newscast (all ratings measured on a household basis as Local People Meters have yet to arrive in Milwaukee.)

Traffic has also increased dramatically at each of Milwaukee's network affiliates' websites - page views have more than doubled, and the same holds true for the Journal-Sentinel's site.

For those of you not familiar with Chicago politics, the words "Beirut On The Lake" and "Council Wars"  were used to describe the chaos surrounding the Chicago City Council in the mid-1980's between the Aldermanic factions of  late Chicago Mayor Harold Washington (who was elected as the first black mayor in Chicago history) and his nemesis, 10th Ward Alderman Ed Vrdolyak. The "Vrdolyak 29" (as in 29 aldermen) formed a voting bloc and blocked any legislation proposed by Washington and his reform-minded allies, and the clashes often turned into a bitter, ugly, racially polarized affair, which hurt Chicago's image worldwide and continues to do so to this day.

Chicago comedian Aaron Freeman (who had a weekly local late-night talk show on WPWR-TV in the 1990s) coined the phrase "Council Wars", who wrote a Star Wars-like parody on the subject.

The use of those phrases can be applied here (minus the racial polarization aspect, of course) to describe the ongoing saga going on in Wisconsin's legislature. But here's a major difference: Mayor Washington's Aldermanic bloc never fled to Indiana or any other state to avoid a crucial vote.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Chicago tunes out election coverage

"I'm CEO of Chicago, b-tch!"

Chicago elected new mayor Rahm Emmanuel in a historic election - the first in 22 years without the name Daley on the ballot. But in the end, the ratings for Chicago's broadcast TV stations looked like what you normally find on a Tuesday night as low voter turnout morphed into a huge viewer tuneout.

WGN-TV pulled an upset of sorts Tuesday in the 9 p.m. time period beating all competitors with a 3 rating and 7 share in the key target demo of adults 25-54, and a 6.3 household (HH) rating. WLS-TV (with a combo of election coverage and What Would You Do?) did a 2.8/7 in the key target demo and a 3.5 HH rating. Next up was WMAQ-TV (with a combo of election coverage and Parenthood), with a 2.3/6 in the key target demo and a 3.9 HH rating. Fourth was WBBM-TV - who moved up prime time programming up an hour so it could provide election coverage at 9 p.m. - notched an unimpressive 1.5/4 in the key target demo and a 4.6 HH rating, meaning the viewership skewed much older toward the 55+ crowd. Last and certainly least was WFLD-TV, with a 1.2/3 in the key target demo and a 2.3 HH rating. In fact, a Seinfeld repeat on sister station WPWR-TV beat WFLD's newscast in the third quarter hour (Seinfeld is moving off WPWR on March 21 and moving to WCIU at 9 p.m.)

At 10 p.m., the numbers were pretty much reflected what you would find on a normal weeknight: WLS lead in among adults 25-54 and in households with a 4.5/13 and a 9.6 rating, respectively, with WMAQ second and WBBM third.

While Rahm Emmanuel's victory wasn't really in doubt, the early projection from CNN and other sources - 45 minutes after the polls closed (basically before Sue Sylvester can clobber anyone on Glee with her megaphone) caught local news operations by surprise, and likely suppressed ratings for election coverage. CLTV and WMAQ's Non-Stop Chicago channel provided live coverage throughout the evening.

In all, Chicago's five major news stations combined for a 23.8/37 at 9 when the mayor-elect made his acceptance speech - down considerably from the 43.3 rating for Richard M. Daley's victory on April 4, 1989 - at a time when much of Chicago still wasn't wired for cable TV and your video alternatives were either VHS or Beta, and your computer (if you could afford one) was either was an IBM PC or an Macintosh II.

The numbers for WBBM and WFLD are clearly disappointing (regardless of what Lazare has to say about WBBM - advertisers don't buy household ratings.) Despite Fox's (at least when American Idol is on) successes in prime-time, it hasn't translated to additional viewers for WFLD, and it's also a problem of WBBM, though to a lesser extent. There is no excuse for a station's late newscast to lose a significant portion of viewers from a prime-time lead-in - especially since local news is "appointment TV" viewing for many.

Ratings information in this article provided by Nielsen Media Research via Chicagoland Radio and Media, Chicago Sun-Times, and Robert Feder from Time Out Chicago. Photo courtesy of Chicago Tribune.

Monday, February 21, 2011

No cable required – the sequel

Once again, these guys are coming to you every night to a broadcast station near you. 

No, you’re not looking at a previous T Dog Media Blog post. But a familiar series is coming back to daily syndication after a two-year hiatus.

NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution announced last week it was returning Law & order: Criminal Intent to broadcast syndication this fall as a strip and cleared 90 percent of the country including the Fox, CBS, Sinclair, and Local TV station groups. Even though NBC Universal did not release a station list, it’s likely Criminal Intent will air this fall on Fox-owned WPWR-TV at 10 p.m., where Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is currently airing and ran from 2007-09 in its previous syndicated incarnation.

NBC Universal has sold Criminal Intent in a double-run as back-to-back episodes, claiming this is the first time in “more than a decade” that a syndicated off-network procedural drama has been sold as a two-hour block (actually, yours truly doesn’t remember if an off-net hour has ever been sold in broadcast syndication this way - this is nothing more than rhetoric to hype up a press release.)

On October 26, 2006, yours truly wrote an article on the first-cycle sale of Criminal Intent to broadcast stations and noted that the Law & Order spin-off was the first crime drama to be sold in syndication as a strip since 21 Jump Street and Matlock in 1990 and the first overall drama since 7th Heaven in 1999. The article also detailed the history of off-network dramas in syndication (and was fun to write.)

In September 2009, Criminal Intent repeats moved to My Network TV on Monday nights and is expected to be replaced by Special Victims Unit around the same time Criminal Intent moves back to syndication.

Criminal Intent also airs on USA Network in both first-run and classic episodes, with NBC (the network it ran on during its first six seasons) airing reruns of the USA originals. Currently, Criminal Intent is in its tenth and final season of episodes on USA.

Meanwhile, the original Law & Order also heads to broadcast syndication this fall as a weekend offering, with WPWR and a few other Fox stations on board.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

T Dog’s Six Pack: Snowed under

Yes, February has been one hell of the month, with a historic blizzard (the most snowfall ever recorded at one time for the month) and late-season cold snap that paralyzed Chicago earlier in the month. Even The T Dog Media Blog didn’t escape winter’s fury as the world headquarters went out both heat and power for 20 hours at the height of the storm and the blog was put on hold for a week due to storm clean-up duties.

But with the snow gone (for now), it’s time to catch up on the winners and losers in media:

Cups of Hot Chocolate All Around

The Green Bay Packers. It pains me to say this, but… nah, I’m not saying it.

The Chicago Bulls. While some team north of the state line is celebrating some kind of championship, we could have one in June here in Chicago – and I’m not talking about the Blackhawks (remember them?) Ratings for the Chicago Bulls are through the roof, thanks to the team’s success this year – averaging a 4.1 household rating so far this season, up 130 percent from last year. The Bulls are in first place in the NBA’s Central Division at the All-Star Break for the first time since the Michael Jordan era (1997-98).

Jeopardy! and Watson. CBS Television Distribution’s long-running game show featured a three-day tournament pitting contestants Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter against IBM Supercomputer Watson. The matchup was a ratings success, averaging a 9.1 household rating in the overnight markets, up 30 percent from Jeopardy's February 2010 average. As for the tournament, Watson wiped the floor with Jennings and Rutter. What’s next for Watson? Play against the Cleveland Cavaliers and beat them by 40 points.

Still Stuck on Lake Shore Drive

Wow, where to begin…

Midseason Flops. This season’s midseason entries – The Cape, Bob’s Burgers, Chicago Code, Harry’s Law, Off The Map, and Perfect Couples are all getting buried in the ratings. Not exactly a vote of confidence for prime-time network television. 

Survivor. Even though it drew a 3.2 adults 18-49 rating and 11 million viewers, Wednesday’s episode was the lowest-rated premiere in the show’s history – and airing opposite American Idol didn’t help either. Meanwhile, do we need Rob and Russell back? (still like Russell, but were getting too And the Redemption Island gimmick is completely stupid, and the show continues to serve up crazy black contestants. The show’s running out of gas. Too bad idiot writers from small-market newspapers no one cares about seems to think otherwise.

Fresh FM. So CBS-owned WCFS-FM (105.9 FM) introduces yet another new morning show – this time with Scotty Smith & Rebecca Ortiz. Oh God, why Is this station still around? Yeah Scotty, beam this junk up, because this station is ready to die. Another EPIC FAIL from The Church of Tisch (also see above item.)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

WLS-TV names new morning show hosts

WABC-TV in New York City reveals Oprah replacement – a newscast. 

ABC-owned WLS-TV has finally chosen its hosts for its new morning show to succeed The Oprah Winfrey Show at 9 a.m. – WLS weekend sports anchor Ryan Chiaverini and WGN-TV morning news reporter Valerie Warner. The series’ working title is Morning Rush and is expected to debut sometime around Memorial Day, when Oprah ends original episodes.

News of this story first broke Thursday on Robert Feder’s blog at Time Out Chicago’s website.

Ms. Warner’s last day at WGN-TV was Friday, where she bid farewell to the staff of WGN Morning News, performing her final “Friday Dance” with the crew.

Chiaverini and Warner auditioned and beat out many others, ranging from ESPN Radio’s Stephen A. Smith to Chicago’s Best co-host Brittany Payton to former Studs host Mark DeCarlo. Morning Rush is being shot in front of a studio audience at WLS’ State Street facility – the same one where Oprah Winfrey got her start hosting A.M. Chicago (which of course, evolved into The Oprah Winfrey Show.)

Meanwhile, sister station WABC-TV in New York has announced its Oprah Winfrey replacement – a local 4 p.m. newscast, which is scheduled to debut on May 26.  WABC is planning to build a streetside studio on Lincoln Ave. in Manhattan to house its newscasts, similar to what WLS has on State Street. While others were “surprised” at WABC’s announcement (is TV Week a clueless website these days, or what?) , the move was expected by many industry insiders, since WABC did not purchase any new syndicated strips for this year, or went after existing programming.

Meanwhile, other ABC O&Os (WPVI/Philadelphia, KGO/San Francisco,  WTVD/Raleigh-Durham, and KFSN/Fresno) are also expected to follow suit with a 4 p.m. newscast to replace Oprah. KABC-TV in Los Angeles announced a few months ago it was replacing Oprah in its weekday 3 p.m. time slot with The Dr. Oz Show.

As for Morning Rush, WLS appears to have made a good choice with Chevillini and Warner and Rush should do decently well in the ratings, given WLS’ rating dominance. And while there were many detractors to this decision – look at it this way – at least WLS didn’t hire Gary Collins, the dull-as-a-box-of-Chex-cereal host of inane 1980’s daytime talk show Hour Magazine (a proud member of The T Dog Media Blog Hall of Shame.)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cumulus buys WLS-AM/FM owner

WLS-AM and WLS-FM have new owners in the form of Atlanta-based Cumulus Broadcasting, Inc., which acquired the troubled Citadel radio group for $2.4 billion in cash and stock, with Cumulus paying $37 a share to Citadel.

While Citadel wasn’t officially up for sale, it was being pursued by both Cumulus and Bala Cynwyd, Pa. –based Entercom Communications. Cumulus made several offers to Citadel in late 2010 to buy their stations, but all were rejected.

The deal gives Cumulus a footpront into the nation’s top three markets: In addition to owning News/Talk WLS-AM and Oldies outlet WLS-FM, Cumulus also gets News/Talkers WABC-AM in New York City and KABC-AM in Los Angeles and Adult Contemporary station WPLJ-FM in New York. Cumulus would also take over its syndicated radio properties of Citadel Media (formerly ABC Radio Networks) and its roster of talent including Don Imus, Donny Osmond, Michael Baisden, Mark Levin, and the long-running American Country Countdown.

The transaction is subject to FCC approval; once those regulation hurdles are jumped over, Cumulus will own more than 200 radio stations.

Founded in Phoenix in 1984, Las Vegas-based Citadel made a major expansion by acquiring the former ABC radio stations in 2007 and became the third-largest radio station operator in the United States. But their stock price was hit very hard, reaching as low as a penny when trading closed at the New York Stock Exchange on March 6, 2009. In December 2009, Citadel fell into bankruptcy and came out in June 2010.

Cumulus is currently the second-largest radio chain operator in the United States, behind only Clear Channel Communications and ahead of Citadel. The company was founded in 1997 in Atlanta.

Cumulus hasn’t detailed what it would do with the Chicago Citadel duopoly, but no changes are expected to WLS-AM and WLS-FM, at least in the short-term.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Blackhawks, WGN-TV renew rights deal for five years

Lakers fans who live in Los Angeles who don't have cable or satellite are going to be shut out when all non-nationally televised games shift to Time Warner Cable's new planned regional sports networks.

For Chicago Blackhawks fans, that certainly won't be the case anytime soon.

On Tuesday, WGN-TV and the Blackhawks announced a contract extension that would keep at least 20 games a season on the Tribune-owned CW affiliate for the next 5 years, through 2016. The new deal has no effect on the current cable deal the team has with Comcast SportsNet (which the Blackhawks own a part interest.) Sister outlets Versus and NBC continue to air nationally-televised games, at least until the end of the season when both rights deals expires (all three are now part of the Comcast family.) Due to those national rights, WGN America is excluded from the deal.

This story first broke Tuesday morning on Chicagoland Radio & Media.

Blackhawks games have been a success for WGN for the last three seasons thanks to a successful Stanley Cup run, which climaxed with the team winning the Cup last year (however, the team has been less successful this season, which will likely lead to ratings decreases.)

The WGN-TV deal stands in stark contrast to the one the Lakers made on Monday with Time Warner Cable. Beginning in 2012, Laker games not seen on ABC and TNT will be seen on Time Warner Cable's new English-language and Spanish regional sports nets, effectively ending the team's 35-year association with KHJ/KCAL-TV, a CBS-owned independent station with the new deal reported around to be $3 billion.

Before their return to WGN in 2008, Blackhawks games (not counting nationally televised games on ABC, Fox, or NBC), hasn't had an over-the-air presence since 1980. WGN is current only a handful of NHL teams with a broadcast outlet - the others are the Dallas Stars (KDFI), Minnesota Wild (KSTC), Anaheim Ducks (KDOC), and Los Angeles Kings (KCOP).

With many sports teams making exclusive deals with regional sports networks on cable, at least one still recognizes the value of over-the-air television. Who'd thought it would be a team who was best known for a now-defunct policy on refusing to televise home games?

Lakers sign mega deal with Time Warner Cable

The NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers signed a new superstar Monday to a 20 year deal – and it’s not an athlete.

The “star” is Time Warner Cable, who announced Monday it has signed a 20-year deal with the Lakers to broadcast all non-national televised games on not one, but two regional sports networks it is planning for 2012.

The first RSN Time Warner Cable network is an English-language channel featuring Lakers games televised in high-definition as a centerpiece with pre-and post-game shows, interactive content, behind-the-scenes programming and classic games. The network is being made available on all systems (cable and satellite) in Southern California, plus Laker-fan hotbeds in  Nevada and Hawaii.

The second channel planned is a Spanish language RSN – it will produce games in Spanish and in high def. The move makes sense, given the Los Angeles market is 40 percent Hispanic. The planned channel would become the first Spanish language regional sports channel in the United States (In Quebec, there is an French-language sports channel named Reseau des Sports, or RDS, and they are the exclusive home of all French-language Montreal Canadiens telecasts.)

Time Warner Cable’s deal effectively ends the long relationship the Lakers had with Fox Sports Net and CBS-owned independent KCAL-TV. Lakers’ home games have been a staple of Fox Sports West dating back to the Prime Ticket days, a RSN founded in 1985 by Lakers owner Jerry Buss and became Fox Sports West in 1996 after Prime Ticket was purchased by News Corporation (the Prime Ticket name is still in use for Fox’s second sports channel in Los Angeles.)

KCAL has been broadcasting Lakers’ road games since November 1977 (when the station was known as KHJ-TV. It became KCAL in 1989 after being purchased by The Walt Disney Co.) The loss is a huge blow for KCAL, since Lakers games are among the highest-rated fare on the station. The departure also continues a trend of local sporting rights leaving over-the-air broadcast stations for cable (WGN here carries 25 Bulls games a year, while New York’s WWOR-TV carries a handful for New Jersey Nets produced by the YES network.)

Ironically, Time Warner Cable is owned by shareholders of the company, and not by the big media conglomerate its named after (it was spun off from Time Warner in 2008.)

But don't feel bad for Fox Sports West for losing the Lakers... they still have rights to their crosshall rivals - um, the Los Angeles Clippers.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

“Live From Darryl’s House” to rock WGN

In a continuing bid to add to their programming slate, Trifecta Entertainment & Media announced Friday it was launching Live From Darryl’s House as a weekly half-hour syndicated series this fall after a successful New Year’s Eve airing on WGN-TV in Chicago and on WGN America.

Trifecta has cleared Live From Darryl’s House on WGN and six other Tribune stations, including WPIX/New York, KTLA/Los Angeles, WPHL/Philadelphia, KDAF/Dallas, KIAH/Houston, KCPQ-KJZQ/Seattle, and KRCW/Portland, Ore. While not specified, it is likely the series will land in late fringe weekend time periods. It is not yet known if the series will be seen on WGN America.

The show is culled from Daryl Hall’s web series, where he jams with several well-known musicians for the pure enjoyment of making music. Artists who have appeared on the show include Smokey Robinson, Jose Feliciano, Train, Todd Rundgren, and Rob Thomas (the Matchbox Twenty lead singer, not the creator of Veronica Mars.)

The arrival of Live From Darryl’s House and the launch of Litton Entertainment’s Direct Access with Big Tigger marks a return of music-related programming to the syndication business in years. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, music-related programming was commonplace in first-run in weekend time periods with series such as Soul Train, It’s Showtime At The Apollo, and Solid Gold, among others. In the last few years, this type of programming has been pushed out in favor of off-network drama repeats and paid programming (ironically, Trifecta briefly took over syndication of Soul Train in 2007 and 2008 after the closure of Tribune Entertainment.)

Despite the cancellation of American Idol Rewind and deciding not to launch music-talent contest One in a Million, Trifecta is pushing ahead with more projects, including  a new dating strip in syndication called Geek Meets Girl for this fall, continuing to distribute off-cable shows including Punk'd and Cold Case Files, and started selling movie packages from Paramount Pictures and Dreamworks Entertainment (titles released before September 2005) to local stations and to This TV.

My Network TV to stick around three more years

Stick a fork in My Network TV? How about My Network TV sticking around for three more years?

News Corp. announced Friday it has reached agreements with My Network TV affiliates to carry the programming service until 2014, and the pact include the ten Fox-owned My Network TV affiliates, including WPWR-TV in Chicago, and WWOR-TV New York and KCOP-TV in Los Angeles – all (with the exception of Dallas’ KDFI-TV) former UPN affiliates.

This news was first reported Friday by Paige Albiniak on Broadcasting & Cable’s website.

My Network TV came about after those same nine stations were left out in the cold by the merger of The WB and UPN networks to form The CW in 2006.

The network launched with English version of an all-telenovela format in 2006 (remember turkeys Desire and Fashion House with Bo Derek and Morgan Fairchild?), but by mid-2007, the format was scrapped for a lineup with mostly low-budget reality shows. In 2009, My Network TV dropped its network status and instead became a programming service, trading in the low-level reality fare for repeats of Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Burn Notice. In 2010, My Network TV dropped WWE's Friday Night Smackdown and replaced it with repeats of Monk.

The programming service is working for stations and for syndicators who want a presence in primetime. Since the changeover, ratings have grown to a weekly average of over two million viewers, and up 194 percent overall since 2006. Plus, stations have more local avails to sell, as opposed to the other broadcast networks and distributors has been able to increase its revenue (in other words, a win-win all around.)

But despite this success, Fox-owned My Network TV affiliates have been mostly regulated to second-tier status, especially in the top three markets and often became a dumping ground for syndicated programming that mostly ran their course. However, Fox has been working to upgrade the stations' programming menu, as many of its ten MNT O&Os are airing higher-profile series such as off-network repeats of How I Met Your Mother, Everybody Loves Raymond, and Debmar-Mercury’s South Park, which WPWR plucked from rival WCIU last September. Both WWOR and KCOP air Major League Baseball games featuring the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, respectively. WPWR carries the AHL’s Chicago Wolves and IHSA football and basketball playoffs.

Fox purchased The Big Bang Theory for this fall in these ten markets with the intention of airing the off-network sitcom on its My Network TV stations.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

“Chicago” unable to crack the ratings “code”

The debut of Fox’s The Chicago Code Monday Night turned in a surprisingly disappointing ratings performance, given all the hype and promotion of the new shot-in-Chicago crime drama received during Super Bowl XLV.

The show features Chicago native Jennifer Beals (who starred in the hit theatrical Flashdance) as a tough police superintendent who battles corruption in the Windy City, including a crooked alderman. Code is from Rockford native Shawn Ryan, who created and produced FX’s gritty crime drama The Shield.

Despite drawing a total of 9.433 million viewers in its Monday night 8 p.m. (CT) time slot, Code drew only a 2.4/6 in adults 18-49. The program finished third behind CBS’ Two and a Half Men and ABC’s The Bachelor, which usually dominates in key female demos (Code did beat NBC’s The Cape, but that is akin to the Indiana Pacers beating the Cleveland Cavaliers.)

Worse, Code dropped 44 percent in the 18-49 demo from its House lead-in. House easily won the time slot in the demo, with a 4.3/12 and 12.325 million viewers.

While Code was greeted with critical acclaim (a 75 score on Metacritic), public reaction from Chicagoans was mixed – Code was bashed by a few local columnists and websites and by many commenters, with the most common complaint as the series being unrealistic. Others complained about the lack of authenticity in the series. One blog (Second City Cop) did blast the series as yours truly predicted– but it was a short post about Code being uninteresting and let readers of the site do the bashing instead (which to no surprise, was about 4-to-1 in the negative category.) On Twitter however, reviews were much more positive.

As for yours truly’s assessment of The Chicago Code, the series did feature a lot of action and great scenery around the city. Conflict was clearly present – with Alderman Ronin Givens being even more corrupt than a real politician (can that even be possible?) and Beals taking on a lot of police brass (with one of them shouting to her, “You think you can change how things are done in Chicago?!?!”) On the other hand, the dialogue was hokey and awkward in some parts. In the first act for example, a detective scolded a colleague about the use of harsh language around women and children. And what offensive language did the colleague use? “Screw it” and “ass”. Wow, what threatening words. And the subplots were nothing to write home about either (Sex for lunch? Seems like a plot ripped off from Skins.)

On Twitter Monday, yours truly gave this series a B+ with some needed room for improvement. But in an era where prime-time schedules are glutted with these type of shows, The Chicago Code unfortunately does not stand out. And with many Chicagoans unimpressed with the show, it will be an even bigger uphill battle for this already beleaguered crime drama.

Monday, February 07, 2011

One for the record books - again

The NFL was on fire this season with high ratings and record-breaking performances. And this year’s Super Bowl XLV between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers was expected to set an all-time viewership record – and it did not disappoint (even though most of the commercials and the halftime show did – but that came as no surprise, right?)

The Packers’ victory (snif) over the Steelers drew a whopping 111 million total viewers, making it the most watched television event of all time - far surpassing the record set just last year by Super Bowl XLIV, featuring the New Orleans Saints’ triumph over the Indianapolis Colts. That game drew 106.5 viewers, surpassing the 106 million set by the final episode of M*A*S*H on February 28, 1983.

The 111 million also marks Fox’s highest viewer total in its 24-year history – not bad for a channel once known as the “coat hanger network” and was home to fare such as The Adventures of Beans Baxter and Drexell’s Class. Fox stunned the world when it acquired rights to carry NFC games in December 1993 with a fall 1994 start, ending the NFL’s 38-year relationship with CBS (the Tiffany network retuned to the pro football dance in 1998 by snatching AFC games away from NBC.)

Preliminary ratings among adults 18-49 showed the Super Bowl earning a 36.4 rating and 71 share from 7-10 p.m. ET (this measures time period data only.) In household ratings, Super Bowl XLV earned a 46/69, tying Super Bowl XXX for second place behind Super Bowl XX.

In individual household numbers, the game drew a whopping 59.7/85 household rating/share on Local TV-owned WITI in Milwaukee (Green Bay isn’t a metered market) while Sinclair’s WPGH-TV in Pittsburgh drew an almost identical 59.7/87. Despite the Chicago bears being absent in the big game, Fox-owned WFLD-TV scored with a 51.3/73, outranking the New York and Los Angeles markets. Despite Chicago being a Bears town, there are plenty of Packers fans amongst us, and many local newscasts showed them partying in local bars (so much for former Bear Chris Zorich’s claim in a 1995 McDonald’s commercial that you should never wear a Packers uniform in Chicago.)

A special new episode of Glee was this year’s post-Super Bowl entertainment, and it scored a series-high 26.8 million viewers and an 11.1 rating among adults 18-49 (in Chicago, Glee pulled in a household 14.2/21.) However, this was lower than last year’s premiere of Undercover Boss after Super Bowl XLIV on CBS. Glee’s Super Bowl episode was panned by many in the blogosphere, with the writing being sacked more times than Steelers’ QB Ben Rothelisberger.

Best and Worst Super Bowl Commercials - 2011

Welcome to the fifth annual roundup of the best and worst Super Bowl commercials here on The T Dog Media Blog. To see the ads, click on the links on each review:

Forget the DVR. Don’t skip these ads!

1. Chrysler – Imported From Detroit. A gripping, emotional ad spotlighting Detroit pride in its automobile and the city itself with local native Eminem. Awesome.

2. NFL – American Family. This sixty second spot thanking fans for a great NFL season featured an homage to classic TV, with the Fonz rightfully wearing a computer-imposed Green Bay Packers jersey.

3. Bud Light -  Product Placement. Movie producer decides to put Bud Light signs everywhere to score free beer, complete with a beer truck crashing the set. Works for me! 

4. Bridgestone – Reply All. Office worker tells other co-worker he accidentally send e-mail reply all which sends guy around the world to prevent anyone from seeing it. Turns out he didn’t, resulting in wasted gas, time, and money. But the important thing is – his Bridgestone tires held up.

5. Volkswagen – The Force. Awww…. Little Darth Vader couldn’t use the force on anything – until he uses it on a Volkswagen – and it actually starts! (well, the lights just come on – thanks to his Dad.)

Skip these with your DVR.

1. Skechers. Kim Kardashian has sex with a guy and then dumps him – for shoes? (but at least the pair of shoes has more talent than Ms. Kardashian.)

2. Groupon – Tibet. The Chicago-based Internet company came up with an ad which spotlights the hardships of Tibet – and mocking it  at the same time. Hey Timothy Hutton, how was the food? I guess his date Kim Kardashian was in the bathroom while this was filming.

3. Stella Artois – Crying Jean. Adrien Brody makes the girls cry – and peers at their beer. What a dumb ad.

4. Mini – Cram It In The Boot. The only commercial to ever parody a Price Is Right pricing game and do it poorly. Too bad Bob Barker wasn’t there to smack the host with his microphone.

5. Doritos – House Sitting. So a guy knocks over an urn containing someone's Grandpa at a friend’s house and he magically comes back to life? What is he, Frosty the Snowman? Please, no more Doritos Super Bowl ads from these amateur “filmmakers”.

Halftime Show: After years of being treated to past-their-prime acts, this year’s Super Bowl Halftime Show  returned to the 21st Century with a performance by The Black Eyed Peas (aka The Ultimate Sellout Band) featuring Slash (from Guns ‘n Roses) and Usher.  Looking at this, it brought back memories of Up With People, and that’s not a compliment.

Other thoughts:

New ad slogan: Pepsi Max: The cola you don’t want to get hit with. Two commercials for Pepsi Max showed the products being used as weapons. And if that’s wasn’t enough, there was Roseanne Barr getting hit with a log. For next year’s Super Bowl Ads, I suppose will see Tim Allen getting hit by an Audi.

- Most improved Super Bowl Advertiser (by default, of course): Go Daddy’s two ads - one revealing with Joan Rivers as the new “.co” girl – were actually clever – but that’s not really saying much.

- At least the baby on “Raising Hope” doesn’t talk – yet: Enough of these stupid E*Trade talking baby ads – they weren’t funny when they first came out.

- Wait… that’s was who? That was Richard Lewis (Anything But Love) in this Snickers commercial? I thought it was David Letterman.

- Tell us something we already don’t know: Verizon is coming out with its own version of the iPhone. Wow, didn’t know that.

- Worst Buy. Ozzy Osbourne and quality music repellent Justin Bieber together in a Best Buy commercial. Throw in Rick Astley and we've got a party!

- Ahhh! My ears! – Was Fergie of The Black Eyed Peas screaming or singing into the microphone?

- Not surprisingly, the ads and the Halftime Show were not received well by critics, which has been the case for several years now. Even Christina Aguilera's singing of the National Anthem didn’t come off scott-free, as she botched up the lyrics in a major epic fail. But what the NFL wants is what the NFL gets, and the unbearable musical performances will continue at halftime for sometime to come – unless someone has another wardrobe malfunction.

Further reading:

- For the fifth year in a row, YouTube is rating the Super Bowl ads with its Ad Blitz. You can vote for the ads until February 14, and the winning ad gets its own homepage when its announced February 19.

- USA Today has its annual Super Bowl ad review with its 23rd annual Ad Meter, which always trumps popularity (i.e. animals and kids) over quality.

- Ken Wheaton (who takes over from Bob Garfield) reviews this year's ads for Advertising Age. But seriously... four stars for the Best Buy and Groupon ads?

- Want a Chicago angle? (or at least a review written by a member of the local press?) Lewis Lazare provides it for the Sun-Times in his annual review.

- Looking for past Super Bowl Ad reviews from this blog? I’ve got them here from 2007 (best) , 2007 (worst) , 2008 , 2009 , and 2010.

- And if you’re looking for Super Bowl Ads from beyond those years, the Museum of Broadcast Communications has a tribute page which pays homage to those Super Bowl ads from years past, from Mean Joe Greene to the Apple runner whose swing of a hammer changed advertising forever.

Updated at 10:50  (added Skechers YouTube video)