Saturday, May 28, 2011

Superstar finale Wednesday

If anyone were to tell you who dominated the ratings on the final official day of the 2010-11 television season, all they have to say is Oprah Winfrey and American Idol.

- The series finale of The Oprah Winfrey Show locally on WLS-TV drew a 13.4 household rating and a 38 share, with the 11 p.m. repeat drawing a 5.7/14. Cume the numbers from the two airings, and the Oprah finale drew a 19.1 rating. But the most interesting aspect of this is that Oprah's ratings declined in every quarter-hour at 9 a.m. - 10 percent over the course of the program. On Thursday, Oprah was replaced with new local talker Windy City Live which marks a beginning of a new era for WLS - one that will become more apparent in the months ahead with the departures of top-rated soap operas All My Children this September and One Life To Live in January 2012.

- Nationally, the Oprah finale earned a 13.3 overnight metered market household rating - the highest since Feb. 21, 1994. Oprah was premepted in two markets: St. Louis (NBC affilaite KSDK) and non-metered Little Rock (ABC affiliate KATV) due to severe weather coverage. Both stations did re-schedule the finale for the next day (and in yours truly's opinion, both stations made the right move.)

- The other big finale of the day - to American Idol's tenth season - and the first without Simon Cowell - defiined expectations by drawing 29.3 million viewers, up 21% from last year's finale and a 9.2/29 in adults 18-49, also up from last year. The 2010 Idol finale was the lowest-rated in its history, drawing only 24 million viewers and a 8.2 demo rating. Locally, Idol averaged a 14.9 household rating, but was outdrawn by the combined rating of Oprah finale and the Dancing With The Stars finale (16.4).

Like Idol, Dancing also bounced back from a record-low number last year.

The two-hour Idol finale featured the usual predictable segments: off-key performances, bloopers, Idol contestants signing covers of the artist's hits - and the artist would join them on stage to perform along side the Idol. But the increased ratings no doubt came from two of those artists: Beyonce and Lady Gaga, with both of them electrifying the stage. Also fueling viewership were the finalists' country-music background, whose genre is always a strong TV draw. Put these factors together and the Idol finale had something for everyone.

When the results were finally tallied and announced, it was Scotty Travis McCreery who triumphed over Lauren Alaina.

Idol's triumph is even more amazing given that many predicted (yours truly included) the series would decline without the presence of Simon Cowell and the addition of new judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez. Last year, yours truly also predicted Idol winner Lee DeWyze star would rise.

I also predicted The Jay Leno Show in primetime would be a success for NBC and the Chicago Bulls would make the NBA Finals this year.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

T Dog's Six (Nine) Pack: Upfronts edition

It's an special edition of T Dog's Six Pack - a supersized one with nine items related to last week's upfronts in New York as advertisers, media buyers, and the networks  now have the hardest job ahead of them - negotiations. Here are the hits and misses from last week's presentations:

Epic successes:

The return of the sitcom. Just when you've written them off... they're back... with eleven comedies on the fall lineup - the most in five years -  and more on tap midseason - the sitcom is healthy as it has ever been.Show with the best buzz? CBS' 2 Broke Girls, which is sure to be a hit.

Dramas. Speaking of healthy... one-hour drams continue to be hot - fourteen new shows  coming this fall, with good buzz for Pan Am and The Playboy Club, and for Good Christian Belles for midseason. 

Steve Koonin. When Turner's upfront presentation went south due to technical glitches, Steve Koonin saved the day with his quick wit and thinking.

Adult Swim. They're here because it's less about the presentations and more about the partying! Jay-Z was at Adult Swim's upfront, where he performed a full set for an hour.

Cable. With ratings for programming that equals - and often surpasses those on the broadcast networks, Turner's TBS and TNT and Disney's ESPN have more than earned their seat at the table during upfront week.


ABC Upfront Presentation. Lots of buyers were happy with the shows - but reportedly, not the presentation. Though Jimmy Kimmel made them laugh. Allegedly.

The Church of Tisch security woes. A reporter from Broadcasting & Cable was threatened by a security guard (who may or may not look like Katie Couric) for tweeting away at the CBS presentation at Carnegie Hall - so much so that the guard told all reporters they were not allowed to use any technology in the building whatsoever. Sorry, any 21st century innovations are not allowed at in the halls of The Church of Tisch, because management is still stuck in the 20th Century. How else you can explain the return of Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobson? There were also reports that everyone inside had to make a mandatory donation going toward Les Moonves' expensive lunches.

Me-Me-Me focused reality shows. The fall lineup on the networks features just two non-scripted shows - and just one is in the vein of the celebrity/housewife/acting-like-a-jackass crap - which thank God - are regulated to cable channels that are easy to avoid. However...

H8r. One of those type of shows is premiering in September on CW where celebrities are paired up with people who hate them. How about me being paired with the moron who thought of this idea? This might be the first show to land in the T Dog Media Blog TV Hall Of Shame before it even airs. Don't be surprised if the first "celebrity" lined up on the show is Bears QB Jay Cutler.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tuesday night fights: Bulls stumble on the court and in the ratings

Courtesy: NBA/Getty Images

"Dancing" dominates broadcast channels in Chicago; "Idol" takes ratings hit

Tuesday was a rather competitive night for television both locally and nationally with the final two performing on American Idol and the season finale of Dancing With The Stars. But national viewers preferred the dancers and wannabe signers as opposed to Derrick Rose and LeBron James.

According to Phil Rosenthal's Tower Ticker Blog, Game 4 of the Bulls-Heat series averaged a 22.6 household rating locally on TNT, up 0.4% from Game 3. However, Game 4's ratings are down 7% from Game 1 and down 8% from Game 2.

The 22.6 is at least a small victory for the Bulls, given Game 4 was up against Idol; and the Dancing finale, the latter is regularly Chicago's top-rated entertainment program. With the Bulls now down 3-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals against Miami (thanks to last night's overtime loss), they may be hard-pressed to beat Game 1's number (24.3) on Thursday night.

Dancing thrashed Idol locally to the tune of 16.4 to 11.3 in households. The victory comes as no surprise; Chicago continues to be one of Idol's weakest markets, despite Mt. Prospect native Lee DeWyze's victory last year and Wheeling native Haley Reinhart's participation in this year's show, making all the way to the top three (many Chicagoans still haven't forgiven the show for the way local favorite Jennifer Hudson was eliminated in 2004.)

Nationally, the Bulls-Heat game drew 9.77 million viewers, compared to 21.42 million for Dancing; 20.6 million for Idol; and 11.8 million for Glee. Game 4's ratings were its lowest yet in the series.

With the Pittsburgh Steelers' Hines Ward in the mix, Dancing's finale drew more viewers than last May's finale - thanks in part to the tons of Terrible Towel-waving fans who tuned in to see Ward win the Mirrorball Trophy over former Cheers star Kirstie Alley. In fact, the twelfth edition was the most-watched ever, with Tuesday's finale topping Idol's final performance show (however, Idol held a big edge in the adults 18-49 demo.)

Many critics and even a few fans are dismissing tonight's Idol finale as a snoozefest. But with 20 million expected to tune in tonight, somehow much of the viewing public begs to differ.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Stations make post- "Oprah" moves

Local stations nationwide are wasting little time when The Oprah Winfrey Show signs off on Wednesday. And ABC-owned WLS-TV isn't the only Chicago station making changes

Beginning this Thursday (yes, this Thursday), WLS is replacing Oprah at 9 a.m.with a local effort, Windy City Live. Oprah reruns will air on WLS at 11:05 p.m. until September 9.

But WCIU (26.1) is also making some changes as well - on the same day, no less. Beginning Thursday, WCIU begins airing Dr. Phil - yes, that Dr. Phil - at 9 a.m., according to information obtained from WCIU's website. The run consists of mainly second-run episodes.

New episodes Dr. Phil continues to air at 3 p.m. on CBS-owned WBBM-TV. Earlier this year, WCIU quietly added second-run episodes of Dr. Phil at 7 p.m. on its "U Too" channel.

Sharing syndicated product isn't new in Chicago - syndicated reruns of Family Guy air on WGN on its weeknight schedule and on WCIU in primetime on Saturday nights. MeTV airs M*A*S*H weeknights at 6 p.m. and also on its longtime syndicated home at WFLD-TV at 12:30 a.m. Other syndicated series shared by local stations in the past include Judge Judy and reruns of Beverly Hills, 90210.

WCIU is also adding a second run of Dr. Phil spin-off The Doctors on the same day at 8 a.m. (Doctors continues to air at 5 p.m. on WCIU.)

With The Oprah Winfrey Show ending first-run episodes Wednesday and officially entering lame-duck status, stations can program Oprah spin-offs Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil, and The Nate Berkus Show wherever they want on their programming schedule (Doctors wasn't covered under that pact because it isn't produced by Harpo.) In the past, stations were prohibited from airing any Harpo-produced programming opposite The Oprah Winfrey Show per their contracts with respective syndicators CBS Television Distribution and Sony Pictures Television. But those clauses are lifted as of Thursday.

Meanwhile, other stations are also making changes on Thursday. Several ABC-owned stations are cutting Oprah out of their lineups or moving the talker to late-night to make room for local newscasts, while some of their competitors are taking advantage. In Philadelphia ABC-owned WPVI is adding a 4 p.m. newscast to replace Oprah, while CBS-owned KYW-TV is moving Dr. Phil to the same time period.

In New York, WABC-TV is also launching a 4 p.m. newscast Thursday. In San Francisco, ABC's KGO-TV debuts its 4 p.m. newscast on Thursday, while Cox Communications' Fox affiliate KTVU shifts Dr. Oz to the same time period. Other ABC O&O markets making changes include Raleigh, N.C. and Fresno, Calif.

Cox-owned ABC affiliate WSB-TV in Atlanta is also replacing Oprah with a local newscast at 4 p.m. this Thursday.

Meanwhile, WCIU is also revamping its morning lineup, with the station combining its You & Me In The Morning's half-hours into one-two hour show from 6-8 a.m.; courtroom shows America's Court and Judge Karen's Court and off-network sitcom Everybody Hates Chris shifts to sister channel U Too.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Turner's 2011-12 Upfront - what could possibly go wrong?

Adult Swim adds three new series

Leave it to Turner to have an upfront presentation that leaves a lasting impression - even if its an unusual one.

Turner's cable networks rolled out their presentations Wednesday to advertisers and media buyers. Things were going smoothly until a power surge hit during a live video chat from L.A. featuring Conan O'Brien. Turner Entertainment Networks President Steve Koonin took to the stage and tried to keep the audience entertained: "My name is Steve Koonin, formerly with Turner Broadcasting."..."Unfortunately we had a power surge. It blew something... the shit stopped working. ... I think you can make Univision tomorrow, but I’d ration your pastries and beverages." Among the festivities while the problem was being fixed included Ray Romano and George Lopez doing impromptu stand-up routines and Koonin trying to lead the audience in a rendition of Row Row Row Your Boat (nothing like public-domain songs to get the crowd to party.)

When the presentation resumed, it gave Conan O'Brien some more ammo to aim at Turner. One of the quips: "You know I love working at TBS -- the commitment to detail," and "We’re already No. 1 in TBS’ key demographic: people who can’t afford HBO."

Many in attendance praised Koonin for keeping the Turner presentation under control despite the numerous technical glitches.

On a more serious note, the presentation featured clips from upcoming programming from TNT and TBS, and a tearful farewell from Closer star Kyra Sedgwick, who show concludes next year and spins off Major Crimes, a series set in the Los Angeles Police Department. TNT is developing a Tuesday Mystery Movie, featuring six made-for-movies with a mystery theme set to debut in November (which somewhat resembles the NBC Mystery Movie series from the 1970's), and launching Perception from ABC Studios next year. Perception is about a neuroscientist (Eric McCormick from Will and Grace) who works to solve complex criminal cases.

TNT has a lot of new shows ready and raring to go this summer including Steven Speilberg's Falling Skies and law dramaedy Franklin & Bash (which can easily be mistaken for a David E. Kelley show.)

TBS announced it was launching a new sitcom titled The Wedding Band featuring what else? A wedding band. TBS also announced Conan is returning to New York during the first week of Novemeber and heading back to Chicago for shows in 2012.

Turner also released a list of current series in development. To see the complete list, click here.

Adult Swim

You know if there is an Adult Swim "upfront presentation" - you know it's a party. The event took place Wednesday night at the Roseland Ballroom in Manhattan (right across from the Ed Sullivan Theater, the home of Late Show with David Letterman.)

Forget about Steve Koonin singing Row Row Row Your Boat - how about Jay-Z performing his hits like Dirt on Your Shoulder and 99 Problems? In fact, the Brooklyn-born rapper performed an entire set.

As for the programming, Adult Swim announced (in a span of only five minutes) several new series: The Heart, She Holler a live-action comedy about a small rural town; Tight Bros., an animated series about two "clergymen" who sells religious items by day in a kiosk at a shopping mall - by night, they go out clubbin' (this series premieres next year); and China, IL is an animated series about two brothers who teach at a state university (sounds about right) in a fictional Illinois town. These join the previously announced animated series National Terrorism Strike Force: San Diego: Sports Utility Vehicle (or NTSF:SD: SUV for short) and Black Dynamite. Returning series include Aqua Unit Patrol Squad (the sequel to Aqua Teen Hunger Force), Robot Chicken, and live-action comedy Children's Hospital.

Did you know? China, IL is the first animated sitcom to ever be set in the state of Illinois. No word on whether Governor Pat Quinn will do a voice cameo.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

CW trots out 2011-12 schedule

Often the industry joke (well, besides NBC and MyNetworkTV), The CW unveiled four new shows during its upfront presentation Thursday in New York City at Time Warner Center. CW's upfront was tailored to their young-female audience - flashing lights, a musical act no one over the age of 35 can't stand, and other hip, happening stuff. The only problem is - what young female audience? CW's shows are regularly beaten by fare on ABC Family and MTV in this demo, and that's hardly a cause for celebration. But Tribune and Sinclair are committed to the network despite the ratings woes - plus, CW has Mark Pedowitz as the new network president, replacing Dawn Ostroff. And besides, if The CW weren't around, Tribune stations might air something a lot worse in prime-time - like Bill Cunningham's new talk show.

And so, CW rolled out a schedule with some changes: two notable ones is the permanent removal of Hellcats from the lineup and the retirement of Smallville after ten seasons on the air. Here's what to expect this fall (new shows are in CAPS):

8 pm Gossip Girl


8 pm 90210


8 pm H8R
9 pm America's Next Top Model


8 pm The Vampire Diaries


8 pm Nikita
9 pm Supernatural

The lowdown:

CW is adding four new series - three dramas, one reality show, and once again, no sitcoms. Mondays have Gossip Girl leading in to Hart of Dixie, a series about a young female doctor who heads to a small town in Red State territory. 90210 returns to Tuesday night, followed by Ringer, led by former Buffy star Sarah Michelle Gellar (this was originally a pilot for CBS, but the network passed.) Wednesdays is all-reality night with H8R followed by a revamped America's Next Top Model. Thursdays has new sci-fi drama Secret Circle leading out of established hit The Vampire Diaries. To make room for Circle, Nikita shifts to Friday to pair up with Supernatural and to face-off against rival cult show Chuck.

 Being held for midseason are reality series The Frame and Re-Modeled and veteran drama One Tree Hill, which is ending next season.

For detailed descriptions of CW's new 2011-12 programming, click here. 


You have to question why CW is launching two series behind "veteran" series 90210 and Gossip Girl - these two shows are about as highly rated as WFLD's Good Day Chicago. Feel sorry for Hart of Dixie and Ringer - both are actually look promising and definitely a step away from the My Super Sweet 16-type of programming. But with such inadequate lead-ins, both Dixie and Ringer are going to have a hard time finding an audience.

Props to CW for finally expanding their reality TV presence - but with H8R (whatever that means)? Odd choice, since the major broadcast networks have gravitated away from this type of reality programming. The only achievement H8R will earn is landing in The T Dog Media Blog TV Hall Of Shame. Top Model's new slot gets away from Survivor and the upcoming X Factor, but like Survivor, Top Model is heading the gimmick route to boost ratings. Don't be surprised if Tyra Banks sends the model cast-offs over to Redemption Island.

Secret Circle is a perfect fit on Thursdays with Vampire Diaries, while Nikita has a decent chance of succeeding on Fridays, given the night's lower expectations.

Mark Pedowitz definitely has his work cut out for him, bless his heart. But with several declining veteran series still on the air (sans Vampire Diaries), it's going to be another long season for The CW.

The Grab Bag: WCIU's Neal Sabin promoted; local "Idol" contestant eliminated

A lot of news and notes this week's Grab Bag:

-Management changes at Weigel. Chicago-based Weigel Broadcasting announced management changes on Monday, with Neal Sabin now president of content and networks. Sabin is now responsible for all programming on Weigel stations and owned and affiliated networks; development of multiplatform content on local and national levels; strategic planning; marketing of content; and revenue generation and integration opportunities within multiple platforms. Sabin will report to President Norman Shapiro.

Sabin was vice president and general manager of WCIU for 17 years (coming over from rival WPWR-TV in the same capacity), and oversaw the station's transition from a part-time Univision affiliate to a successful general market independent. Replacing Sabin in this role is Robert J. Ramsey, who'll oversee WCIU and its Chicago low power stations, and operations of its South Bend cluster. Ramsey previously worked at Tribune's WGN-TV as station manager and also worked at Fox affiliates KTXL in Sacramento and KSWB in San Diego (both also owned by Tribune.)

In addition, John Hendricks has been named to the newly created position of executive vice president of sales. He'll oversee sales personnel and operations for all Weigel stations and the MeTV network.

- Another change for Bill Cunningham's talk show. Radio talk-host Bill Cunningham's talk show project has gone under yet another management change - this time, its Britain-based ITV Studios that's taking over production of the series and ITV installed Kim Brechka as executive producer. Production of the show now is based out of New York.

The series was developed during the Court Jester era at Tribune and was to be shot here in Chicago, where five test shows were shot (only four of them aired over WGN and a few other stations last July.) When Randy Michaels was ousted, the series was picked up NBCUniversal for distribution and production moved to Stamford, Conn. and cleared the series on LocalTV-owned and Raycom-owned stations. However, NBCUniversal has since dropped out of the project, and Tribune instead will syndicate The Bill Cunningham Show (formerly Big Willie) to WGN and its 22 other stations and Fox affiliate WXIX in Cincinnati, the home city of Cunningham's radio show.

ITV Studios is producing the new talker Jeremy Kyle Show in syndication this fall for Debmar-Mercury.

- Bulls ratings. The first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat have been a ratings winner in the Windy City. So far, the series has averaged a 24.5 household rating here, topping prime-time stalwarts American Idol, Criminal Minds, and Celebrity Apprentice. Wednesday night, Game 2 of the Bulls-Heat game averaged a 24.3 rating, opposed to Idol's 13.2 local rating.

- Wheeling's Haley Reinhart out on Idol.  And is the popularity of the Bulls to blame for local contestant Haley Reinhart's troubles on Idol? Phil Rosenthal of the Chicago Tribune asked the question in a post this past week on his Tower Ticker blog. Rosenthal wondered if the boffo ratings from the Bulls-Heat playoff game on Wednesday may have hindered her ability to get out to vote as the game smoked Idol locally in the ratings. Well, the northwest suburban woman failed to make the final two, meaning their is no Chicago repeat for Idol this year (last year, Mount Prospect native Lee DeWyze won American Idol, marking the first time a Chicagoan took home the prize.)

Reinhart didn't help her cause any when she stumbled on the stairs while performing a Led Zepplin song on the program. She wasn't the only one who stumbled Wednesday night - so did the Bulls. They scored only ten points in the fourth quarter en route to a 85-75 loss to the Heat, evening the series at 1-1.

- Oprah says goodbye (yeah, we know that already.)  On the eve of The Oprah Winfrey Show's final episode (first I've heard of this), the queen of talk sits down with WLS-TV's Cheryl Burton for an one-on-one half-hour interview to air May 24 at 6:30 p.m. on the ABC-owned station, titled Oprah Looks Back: 25 Years of the Oprah Winfrey Show. The following day, Ms. Winfrey will host her final syndicated show, set to air locally over WLS at 9 a.m. and 11 p.m.

- Conan returns to Chicago. While Oprah is leaving the Windy City, here's comes Conan! For a few days next year anyway. Turner executives confirmed at this week's upfronts that Conan O' Brien will take his Los Angeles-based TBS talk show on the road next year to Chicago and New York - the latter is where he hosted NBC's Late Night from 1993-2009. No word on an exact date or location. The last time O'Brien taped his talk show here was in 2006 at the Chicago Theater.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

CBS unveils 2011-12 schedule

CBS - America's Most Watched Network - except in the key 18-49 demo - unveiled its 2011-12 schedule Wednesday in an upfront presentation to advertisers in New York. The Tiffany network picked up five series for fall: three dramas and two comedies - and made sold bold scheduling moves, including... wait for it - an original series on Saturday!

The biggest change of course, is the addition of former That '70's Show star Ashton Kutcher to the cast of Two And A Half Men, replacing the departed Charlie Sheen. Creator Chuck Lorre is betting Kutcher would keep viewers tuned into the show - its ninth season - as the staff writes out the Charlie Harper character.

To make room for the new stuff, CBS canceled five series (none of which will be missed): Chaos, Defenders, Mad Love, $*!# My Dad Says (thank goodness I won't have to type that title again) and recent midseason entry Suspect Behavior, a spin-off of Criminal Minds.

And now, your 2011 CBS fall schedule. All times Central. All new shows are designated with (N); new time slots are designated (NT):

7:30 PM       2 BROKE GIRLS (N)
8:00 PM       TWO AND A HALF MEN
8:30 PM       MIKE & MOLLY
9:00 PM       HAWAII FIVE-0

7:00 PM       NCIS



7:00 PM        A GIFTED MAN (N)
8:00 PM        CSI: NY
9:00 PM        BLUE BLOODS

9:00 PM        48 HOURS MYSTERY

6:00 PM        60 MINUTES
8:00 PM        THE GOOD WIFE (NT)
9:00 PM        CSI: MIAMI

For detailed new program descriptions and the official CBS press release, click here. 

The lowdown:

CBS is making some major moves this fall to solidify its already strong position - CSI is shifting out of its longtime Thursday night time slot to Wednesdays to make room for new for highly-touted J.J. Abrams crime drama Person Of Interest, starring Jim Caviezel. Meanwhile, The Good Wife is shifting to Sundays opposite Desperate Housewives and in its place on Tuesday is new drama Unforgettable, which is about a detective who has a pretty good memory. Another interesting shift is sitcom Rules of Engagement shifting to Saturdays - yes, Saturdays - marking the first time scripted originals have aired on CBS' Saturday schedule since The District in 2005, and the first time a sitcom led off Saturday on CBS in nearly 20 years.

Other new series include new sitcom Two Broke Girls on Monday nights, which according to CBS, the highest tested pilot in the history of the network. The Big Bang Theory gets a new sitcom companion on Thursday nights with How To Be A Gentleman. And Fridays leads off with new drama A Gifted Man.

Undercover Boss returns in midseason.


Don't worry TV fans, The Church of Tisch will continue its reign as "America's Most Watched Network", at least in total viewers - but look for some hiccups in the road. The network may have a potential breakout hit in new comedy 2 Broke Girls - looks like a winner on Monday nights. Expect viewers to tune in out of curiosity to see how Ashton Kutcher fits in on Men - but it won't be the same without Charlie Sheen and the ratings could reflect that. Meanwhile, look for CBS to continue its success on Tuesdays, with Unforgettable fitting in well with the NCIS pair.

Survivor's new Redemption Island gimmick and bringing back two former players for another shot at a million was a creative flop - but the producers are sticking with it, not to mention more unbearable contestants like NaOnka and Phillip. It's sad to see Survivor resorting to pathetic stunts to draw ratings. On the other hand, CSI's move to Wednesday is a good move - let the aging procedural enjoy the rest of its life there.

New Thursday sitcom Gentlemen and Person of Interest might not match their predecessors' year-ago time period averages. With Big Bang and The Mentalist down, this could potentially be a bump in the road for CBS. Friday starts off with new drama A Gifted Man (which will bomb), but CSI: NY and Blue Bloods should do decently well. Good Wife - already struggling in the 18-49 demo - is going to get smacked down by ABC's Desperate Housewives head-to-head. Don't be surprised if Good Wife is relocated in midseason.

Finally, the move of Rules of Engagement to Saturdays pretty much speaks for itself.

Did You Know? The last time CBS opened Saturday night with an sitcom was in September 1992 with Frannie's Turn which was canceled after five weeks. So who was the mastermind behind this show? None other than Chuck Lorre.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

ABC rolls out 2011-12 schedule

ABC released its 2011-12 season schedule this morning in advance of its upfront presentation to advertisers this afternoon in Manhattan with twelve new series. Seven of those premiere this fall, and the list includes the return of Tim Allen to the network and and also Charlie's Angels, in a reboot of the late 1970's series which was a huge part of ABC's success back then. Can lightning strike twice?

There are several changes on the schedule, notably with the return of comedies on Tuesdays and a pair of new dramas on Sundays (Monday and Saturday nights remain unchanged.) Good Christian Belles is being held for midseason, as is Cougar Town, new comedies Apartment 23 and Work It, and Shonda Rhimes' new drama Scandal, with Kerry Washington.

The new schedule is as follows (all times Central; new series in CAPS)

7:00 p.m.  Dancing with the Stars
9:00 p.m.  Castle

7:00 p.m.    LAST MAN STANDING
7:30 p.m.    MAN UP
8:00 p.m.    Dancing with the Stars the Results Show 

9:00 p.m.    Body of Proof


7:00 p.m.    The Middle    
7:30 p.m.    SUBURGATORY
8:00 p.m.    Modern Family    

8:30 p.m.    Happy Endings    
9:00 p.m.    REVENGE


7:00 p.m.    CHARLIE'S ANGELS
8:00 p.m.    Grey's Anatomy    
9:00 p.m.    Private Practice


7:00 p.m.    Extreme Makeover: Home Edition    
8:00 p.m.    Shark Tank
9:00 p.m.    20/20


7:00 p.m.    Saturday Night College Football


6:00 p.m.    America's Funniest Home Videos    
7:00 p.m.    ONCE UPON A TIME
8:00 p.m.    Desperate Housewives

9:00 p.m.   PAN AM

The lowdown:

Tuesdays leads off with Tim Allen's Last Man Standing followed by new sitcom Man Up. When Dancing is on hiatus, Cougar Town is expected to take over its time slot, along with another unspecified sitcom. Wednesdays feature new sitcom Suburgatory in between Middle and Modern Family, with new drama Revenge penciled in at 9 p.m. (CT).

Thursday starts off with the Charlie's Angels remake, while Fridays are all-reality with relocated Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, followed by Shark Tank and 20/20. Finally on Sundays, aging Desperate Housewives is sandwiched in between two freshmen dramas: Once Upon A Time and Pan Am (yes, it is what you think it is - a show about a defunct airline.)

For a list of canceled series (as well as those of NBC's), click here

For detailed descriptions of each of the new fall and midseason series, click here. 

Here's the official press release.


Okay, what is this crap? ABC's schedule is kind of meh - one that will likely keep it ahead of NBC - perhaps barely - but still behind CBS in the 18-49 demo. Mondays should keep ABC's dominance intact, but NBC's Sing-Off could put a dent in ABC's armor, especially among younger viewers. Tuesday's sitcoms don't have a chance against CBS' NCIS (should it stay in the time slot) or Glee - what is with all these 1990's-like sitcoms? Tim Allen comes crawling back to TV since his film career stalled... wait, he had a film career? Wednesdays have new Suburgatory and returning Happy Endings on the half-hours - I foresee major holding-on-to-its-lead-in problems for both shows.

Thursday has two aging dramas in Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice - look for more audience erosion, while Charlie's Angels reboot has it s work cut out for it in a tough time period - this isn't Hawaii Five-O. ABC should do well on Fridays and Saturdays (with college football). Sundays - forget about Once Upon A Time. And a drama set in the 1960's about a now defunct airline company? Can't wait for the new TV series about shenanigans at Beatrice Foods and animation house Filmation. If Pan Am doesn't succeed, the show could be the target of some rather bad airline crash jokes.

One of the most-talked about pilots at the upfronts and Good Christian Belles is being held for midseason? Work It isn't working it, please ditch this crap. Have a happy season stuck in a distant third place, ABC. You'd be in fourth place if it wasn't for Dancing With The Stars. Network Entertainment President Paul Lee has became the new Limo-For-A-Lamo, in the proud tradition of Fred Silverman and Ben Silverman (no relation).

Did You Know? The original Charlie's Angels contributed to ABC's rise to the top in the 1976-77 season - the series' first, finishing fifth for the season. But frequent cast changes over the years slowly eroded Angels' audience, and by 1980-81 - a season ABC finished a distant second behind CBS - the series fell to 47th place. The series also spawned two feature films in the 2000's with Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu in the leads. Can Charlie's Angels help put this network on top like it did in 1976? I highly doubt it.

T Dog's Think Tank: Did Journalists cross the line? Nope, they annihilated it

Walter E. Smithe Furniture recently released a two-minute commercial honoring the 22-year legacy of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. Among those who appeared in the ad were local celebrities like George Wendt, Eric Ferguson from WTMX's Eric & Kathy, fictional Alderman Ed Bus (from the 53rd Ward), and a few other Chicago dignitaries.

Oh, and there were some local news anchors from three TV stations.

In fact, CBS-owned WBBM-TV's Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobson - who both recently returned to anchoring the station's 6 pm newscast - congratulated Daley on his tenure - right from the newsroom.

Among other news people who appeared in the ad include NBC-owned WMAQ's Allison Rosati and Natalie Martinez, and Fox-owned WFLD's Bob Sirott. Also appearing was WMAQ GM Larry Wert. Some of the short interviews were shot at a party at the Paris Club thrown by Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Inc. on April 14 honoring Daley, and the interviews were complied into the two-minute video.

Guess the Smithe brothers couldn't find time to squeeze in news anchor Tom Tucker from Family Guy.

The matter was brought up last week in Robert Feder's blog in Time Out Chicago, who questioned why the journalists appeared in the ad, their fawning over Daley, and whether or not their appearance violated journalism ethics. Shortly thereafter, Walter E. Smithe edited the WBBM and WFLD journalists out of the ad on their website, but the full two-minute ad was still available on YouTube as of this writing.

Then it was learned that WBBM officials did not grant Smithe permission to use their personnel in the video, leading the furniture chain's sales and marketing chief (Tim Smithe) to apologize for doing so.

The video from Smithe was nauseating and painful to watch to say the least. You need to grab a barf bag when you watch - just be careful not to vomit all other the new furniture you bought from there. While creative advertising is a must in an era where you can skip over any spot with a DVR, The Smithes try way too hard. What is attended to be creative instead turns out to be annoying.

For the record, Smithe has only one store in Chicago proper - in the city's affluent Lincoln Park neighborhood. In fact, Smithe has no stores in Chicago's Southland - not even in just-as-affluent Flossmoor or Olympia Fields - let alone the South Side, sans for a store in Orland Park. Daley must've given Smithe some um... favors (tax breaks!) for that one Chicago store. Why else would the Smithes would be praising him?

But the big thing here is the journalists inclusion in the ads.

It's kind of jarring to see them kissing up to Daley - kind of off-putting to say the least - especially when the guy hasn't exactly been friendly to the media. I pointed this out in a Think Tank from April 13, 2008 (Can you smell what the Mayor is Cookin?) Daley ripped into Chicago's two major newspapers for criticizing his idea of moving the Children's museum from Navy Pier to Grant Park.

Not once has Daley or his administration said anything about the dangers of media consolidation or the frat antics at the Tribune Tower. But he did find time to endorse Comcast's (a leader in providing lousy service and raising rates faster than the rate of inflation) 51 percent purchase of NBCUniversal.

Wow, no wonder WMAQ boss Larry Wert was eager to appear in the Smithe video.

Most galling of all was Kurtis and Jacobson taped their congrats to Daley from the news desk - yes, the very place Jacobson has often criticized Daley for his policies in his Perspective. How could WBBM not know what was going on here? Do we now take Jacobson seriously the next time he rips into a politician? The Church of Tisch might as well hire Jim Parsons from The Big Bang Theory or even Carl from Aqua Teen Hunger Force to front those Perspective segments instead.

Not surprisingly, many have filed this in the "who cares" file. Probably because our expectations - not to mention the bar - for local news and for television in general have lowered so much, its practically on the floor. Remember when yours truly slammed the writers of The Simpsons for changing the backstory of the series of one episode? They still have jobs and The Simpsons still isn't as funny as it used to be. As I pointed out, TV viewers watch the tube passively these days, not actively. They could care less about the quality of what's on the screen as long as they're entertained (see Celebrity Apprentice and Jersey Shore.) Quality television? Quality writing? Quality journalism? That's about as outdated as the Compact Disc. Remember the slogan "Quality is Job #1"? In the television business, it's now #16.

Many - especially younger viewers - are not surprised because they already know local news is a joke for the most part. News execs can care less about attracting the next generation of news viewers (after all, The Church of Tisch did rehire Kurtis and Jacobson.) At 9 p.m., young viewers go to cable, not WGN and certainly not WFLD. At 10 p.m., they either go to Conan or The Daily Show on cable, not The 10 O'clock News. They know local news is a sham with the daily respite of shootings, stabbings, car crashes, killer garage doors, killer clowns, spaceships, government spaceships, and government corruption - some of which created by Daley's own administration. Maybe this is a reason why these anchors appearing in a Daley tribute ad isn't a big deal - many of them don't even vote in city elections.

But aside from all that, it was time to party. At the end of the video, all the gang at the party gather around Daley and sing Our Kind Of Town.

But the journalists have to return to the newsroom to report on some breaking news: aliens who resemble  Glee's Jane Lynch are about to land their spaceship in Dolton, and they're ready to attack: armed with at least a million megaphones, they have a humongous plan to harm people's eardrums.

Bill and Walter have dibs on that story.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Fox unveils 2011-12 lineup

Fox released its 2011-12 schedule this morning in advance of its upfront presentation, which took place in New York this afternoon. Usually, Fox has two sets of schedules: one of fall, the other in midseason to accommodate the return of American Idol. And here is their lineup (new series are in CAPS; all times Central)

Fall 2011 lineup:

7:00 p.m. TERRA NOVA
8:00 p.m. House (new time)

7:00 p.m. Glee
8:00 p.m. NEW GIRL
8:30 p.m. Raising Hope (new time)


7:00 p.m. THE X FACTOR 


8:00 p.m. Bones

7:00 p.m. Kitchen Nightmares
8:00 p.m. Fringe

7:00 p.m. Cops 

7:30 p.m. Cops (R)
8:00 p.m. Encore programming (reruns)

7:00 p.m. The OT
7:30 p.m. The Cleveland Show (new time)
8:00 p.m. The Simpsons
9:00 p.m. Family Guy
9:30 p.m. American Dad

Midseason 2012 (with new shows in CAPS; all times Central).

7:00 p.m. House
8:00 p.m. ALCATRAZ

7:00 p.m. Glee
8:00 p.m. New Girl
8:30 p.m. Raising Hope

7:00 p.m. American Idol Performance Show
8:30 p.m. I Hate My Teenage Daughter

7:00 p.m. American Idol Results Show
8:00 p.m. THE FINDER / Bones (spring)

7:00 p.m. Kitchen Nightmares
8:00 p.m. Fringe

7:00 p.m. Cops 

7:30 p.m. Cops (R)
8:00 p.m. Encore programming (reruns)
6:00 p.m. Animated repeats
6:30 p.m. The Cleveland Show
7:00 p.m. The Simpsons
8:00 p.m. Family Guy
8:30 p.m. Bob’s Burgers 

The lowdown:

The biggest draw for Fox this fall is highly anticipated talent/competition series The X Factor from Simon Cowell, who confirmed the four judges: himself, British pop star Cheryl Cole, record producer Antonio "L.A." Reid, and former Idol collegue Paula Abdul. Factor (like Idol) airs two nights a week - the performance show (Wednesdays) and the results show (Thursdays) - similar to Idol's format.

Mondays starts of with big-budget time-travel series Terra Nova from Steven Speilberg, followed by the final season of House. The veteran drama then slides into Terra Nova's slot in midseason to make room for Alcatraz, the new J.J. Abrams drama. Tuesdays has new sitcom New Girl sandwiched between Glee and Raising Hope (Fox said it would try an all live-action sitcom block when Glee is on hiatus during midseason.) Wednesdays has new sitcom I Hate My Teenage Daughter after X Factor/Idol.

Thursday nights start with X Factor/Idol results show, followed by veteran Bones. But in midseason, Fox is trying out Bones spin-off Finder in the timeslot during midseason (Bones returns in spring 2012.) Fridays has Kitchen Nightmares and Fringe, with Cops continuing its run on Saturdays.

Sunday animation line-up sees some significant changes. Depending on whether or not there's a football season, The OT is being halved to a half-hour (if there's no football, animation encores will likely air in the time slot.) Cleveland Show shifts to 6:30 p.m. (CT), and the new Allen Gregory Show lands in the plum slot between Simpsons and Family Guy. Finally, American Dad (fall) and Bob's Burgers (midseason) will share the post-Family Guy time slot.

Click here to read about Fox's canceled shows. Joining the list is America's Most Wanted, which is ending its weekly run after 23 seasons, but returns as quarterly, two-hour specials for 2011-12. Reports of behind-the-scenes turmoil, stagnant ratings, and escalating production costs apparently did in John Walsh and company. Replacing Wanted in its longtime Saturday night time slot is what else? Reruns.

For detailed program descriptions of the new Fox shows, click here.


X Factor seems to be the real deal - its getting a lot of buzz - could be the hottest new show of the season. If it hits, it's another notch on the adults 18-49 belt for Fox. But if it bombs - boy, oh, boy... As for Terra Nova - wasn't this done in 1974 on Saturday morning for 3/4 the cost as Land of the Lost? With this mega-expensive show on only half a season, it better hit quick.... Not impressed with Fox's new two live-action comedies - someone remind Fox this isn't 1999... Fringe should not be back at all - a 1.3 season demo average this season? Come on man. The real reason Fringe was renewed because Fox didn't want to put up with the annoying fan base sending them peanuts and hot sauce in protest.

Sundays... where to begin? Don't worry about Simpsons or Family Guy - they can take care of themselves, despite erosion. The Cleveland Show now gets the Silver Spoons/Punky Brewster/King of the Hill/Malcolm in the Middle treatment - pre-empted a lot by football overruns. Allen Gregory has an groundbreaking premise - a seven year-old being raised by his father - and his life partner. If this is edgy enough, it could work. It's midseason replacement (Napoleon Dynamite) I'm less upbeat on - if you're not a fan of the movie, you're not likely to be a fan of the show. Fail. Meanwhile, American Dad and Bob's Burgers battle to see who can stay on the air for fall 2012.

But despite all of these problems - Fox is the one to beat among adults 18-49, Why? Because of these three: X Factor, American Idol, and Family Guy.

NBC unveils 2011-12 schedule

In a rather sly move, NBC released its 2011-12 schedule to the press on Sunday, a day before their upfront presentation in New York City to advertisers. So without further ado, here it is (all times are Central). New shows are in CAPS:

7-9 p.m. The Sing-Off

7-9 p.m. The Biggest Loser
9:00 p.m. Parenthood

7:00 p.m. UP ALL NIGHT
7:30 p.m. FREE AGENTS
8:00 p.m. Harry’s Law (new night and time)
9:00 p.m. Law & Order: SVU

7:00 p.m. Community
7:30 p.m. Parks and Recreation (new time)
8:00 p.m. The Office
8:30 p.m. WHITNEY

7:00 p.m. Chuck (new night)
8:00 p.m. GRIMM
9:00 p.m. Dateline

7:00 p.m. Encore programming

6:00 p.m. Football Night in America
7:15 p.m. NBC Sunday Night Football


6-7 p.m. Dateline NBC
7-9 p.m.  The Celebrity Apprentice
9-10 p.m. THE FIRM

7-9 p.m.  The Voice
9-10 p.m. –SMASH

The lowdown:

NBC has been trying to get out of the ratings basement for years now, and this is the network's first schedule under the new Comcast regime and network chief Robert Greenblatt and not under the out-of-touch GE era. The peacock network introduced three new dramas and comedies each and made one of its short-run series a regular series.

Monday has one-time Holiday short-term series The Sing Off now on the fall schedule, replacing Chuck (which moves to Fridays) and the canceled Event. Midseason ratings sensation The Voice takes over Monday night closes out with new drama Playboy Club, expected to be shot in Chicago.

With Tuesdays remains unchanged, Wednesdays have new comedies Up All Night and Free Agents, leading into a relocated Harry's Law and closing out with Special Victims Unit.

Thursdays has Community, Parks and Recreation, a Steve Carrell-less Office and two new series: Whitney, a new sitcom featuring Whitney Cummings, and Prime Suspect, a remake of the critically-acclaimed British series.

New drama series Grimm follows Chuck on Fridays, with Dateline finishing up the evening. Saturdays and Sundays are unchanged - however, if the NFL lockout wipes out football on Sunday nights, contingency plans are in place to air "high quality, live-event programming", according to Greenblatt (in other words, more crap.)

Midseason, NBC plans to fill its Sunday lineup with Dateline, Celebrity Apprentice (with or without Donald Trump) and new drama The Firm.

Other midseason series include sitcom Are You There Vodka? Its Me, Chelsea, based on the best-selling book from E! host and comedian Chelsea Handler and highly-anticipated musical series Smash, which leads out of Voice in January. 30 Rock is also expected to return in January, due to star Tina Fey's pregnancy (fans of the series can still catch the sitcom in syndicated reruns this fall over Comedy Central and locally over WGN-Channel 9.)

To read detailed descriptions of all the new fall NBC series, click here.

In addition to Event, canceled series include Outscored, Law & Order: Los Angeles, and Minute to Win It.


You have to applaud the job network president Robert Greenblatt has done in putting this schedule together under trying circumstances. It actually looks... interesting. NBC dumped the inane Minute to Win It and Law & Order: Los Angeles - and decided to begin the second season of new hit series Voice in January - using the same strategy Fox used with then-newcomer American Idol back in 2002-03. Smash and Prime Suspect both look promising, and so does the Chelsea Handler project, which could be NBC's next comedy hit (in the vein of 30 Rock and Office, that is.)

On the other hand... two hours of declining Biggest Loser seems too much, relocating Harry's Law to Wednesday night isn't going to do much against CBS' Criminal Minds and ABC's Modern Family, new comedy Whitney looks like a dud, and its new Wednesday night comedy block will likely die a quick death. Chuck should have been canceled two years ago - now it's in the Friday Night Death Slot, along with Grimm, which doesn't have a shot.

Overall, NBC's 2011-12 sked is promising and not bad, compared to seasons' past, at least from a creative standpoint. NBC will likely finish the season in fourth place - again. But if Voice stays strong - and if some of NBC's new shows catch on, the gap between third-place ABC and fourth-place NBC could be narrower.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

ABC's, NBC's Friday frenzy

For two of the broadcast networks, it was Friday Frenzy.

With the upfronts set to begin Monday, the networks started cancelling bubble shows ahead of time, as evidenced by Fox's decision to cancel five shows Tuesday night. On Friday, both NBC and ABC were running like hyenas on hamburger meat.

Friday Frenzy began early in the afternoon, with NBC cancelling three series and picking up several others. The casualty list featured freshman series The Event, Outsourced, and the insipid Law & Order: Los Angeles. The cancellation of this particular show now leaves the franchise with just one show on the air next fall, Special Victims Unit.

Even though the list is short, keep in mind NBC pulled the plug on several series earlier in the season, including Chase, The Cape, Perfect Couples, School Pride, and the season's biggest bomb, The Paul Reiser Show.

Two shows that should be on the canceled list but not are Chuck and Minute to Win It, with both likely return midseason. Chuck's upcoming fifth season is its last, according to NBC execs.

NBC did pick up several pilots going to series, including Playboy Club, Free Agents, and one featuring Chelsea Handler.

Among the pilots NBC rejected was a revival of the 1970's action series Wonder Woman, with a script penned by David E. Kelley (this never should have been considered.)

Meanwhile, ABC pulled the plug on seven series Friday, dumping Better With You, five-year veteran Brothers & Sisters, Detroit 1-8-7 (fellow gritty crime drama Chicago Code was canceled by Fox earlier in the week), Mr. Sunshine, No Ordinary Family, Off The Map, and the lame revival of V

This is the second time the "Mr. Sunshine" title was pink-slipped at ABC: the first came in May 1986 when the network canceled the Jeffrey Tambor sitcom of the same name. Rule of thumb: never use a title of a past failed series as a title of your new show (every producer should have Tim Brooks' book The Complete Prime Time Directory of Network and Cable Shows.)

Here's what ABC did pick up - seven comedies and five drams for next season, including a new Tim Allen comedy (Last Man Standing), a new Shonda Rhimes series (Scandal), and a revival of 1970's series Charlie's Angels.

In addition, ABC picked up on-the-fence series Secret Millionaire and Happy Endings, both for second seasons.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Warner Bros. sacks "Curb", Entourage" in syndication

In a move that is seldom used involving off-network syndicated product, Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution is removing Curb Your Enthusiasm and Entourage from broadcast syndication, effective in September.

The news broke Friday afternoon on Broadcasting & Cable's website and Deadline Hollywood.

The request is coming from HBO, who asked sibling Warner Bros. (both are owned by Time Warner) to stop syndicating the series, even though the programs are only in the first year of a three-year all-barter contract with stations.

Targeted for late fringe time periods and edited for content, neither found an audience. Entourage and Curb each are averaging a 0.6 Nielsen live-plus-same day household rating, and underperformed year-ago time period averages and lead-in by double-digit margins. HBO's request came with both series looking at time period downgrades into the wee hours of the morning in several markets.

Locally, both Entourage and Curb aired on WGN-TV, as part of a deal with the Tribune station group. Entourage aired at 11 p.m.; Curb at midnight. But in November 2010, WGN moved Curb to 12:30 a.m., as a result of low ratings.

Off-cable series have had a mixed track record in broadcast syndication, and in most recent years, they have been used mostly as time-period filler on broadcast stations. This fall, Twentieth Television will try its hand at distributing an off-cable show as it begins running It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia on broadcast stations.

The termination of the syndication contracts do not effect the basic cable runs of each  program: Entourage continues to run on Spike while Curb continues its run on TV Guide Channel. Of course, each program

As for Warner Bros., the other new off-net sitcom it brought out to syndication this fall - CBS' The New Adventures of Old Christine - will remain, but it too have struggled, averaging around a 1.0 Nielsen rating so far this season. Christine was canceled by CBS last year.

The last time any off-network product was pulled from syndication before its contract expired was way back in 1987 when Lorimar-Telepictures (the predecessor to Warner Bros.) pulled reruns of Falcon Crest from syndication early due to its poor performance.

Fox cancels "Chicago Code", four other shows

Goodbye Chicago Code. Many will miss you  - but others won't. 

Welcome to upfront season.

In what can be described as a television version of a massacre, Fox deep-sixed five shows late Tuesday, including the shot-in-the-Windy City cop drama The Chicago Code. Despite strong ratings locally (the series usually finished behind ABC's Dancing With The Stars in its Monday night time slot), the series didn't fare as well nationally, with the show hitting an all-time low adult demo rating of 1.6 on May 2.

In addition to Chicago Code, Fox also dropped crime dramas Human Target and Lie to Me and comedies Traffic Light and Breaking In.

Fox did pick up four new shows for next season - two dramas and two comedies, in addition to committing to X Factor and sci-fi drama Terra Nova: Dramas Alcatraz (produced by J.J. Abrams and features former Lost star Jorge Garcia) and Bones spin-off The Finder, while the comedies are The New Girl and I Hate My Teenage Daughter, the latter a multi-camera comedy - the first on Fox since the ill-fated Brothers in 2009.

As for The Chicago Code, the series - which debuted to disappointing numbers on February 7 - never was able to constantly grow its audience and while the Jennifer Beals-led program was praised by TV critics for its well-written scripts and gritty look (a 75 score on Metacritic), the show was blasted by some locals, with the most common complaint as the series being too unrealistic (e.g. "The Irish Mob".) Not surprisingly (and pretty much expected), much of the criticism of Chicago Code came from some Chicago police officers, as the Second City Cop blog attests.

Another problem for Chicago Code - as well as another set-in-Midwestern city cop drama (Detroit 1-8-7) - is the series often reflected both cities' all-too real crime problems. After a long day, did anyone want to sit back and watch something they can find on their local newscast every night at 10? Believe it or not, many don't. Another reason why Code failed is viewers simply won't watch gritty crime-dramas - a good example of this is The Wire: while the shot-in-Baltimore series won many awards, it was one of HBO's lowest-rated shows - viewers were simply not interested.

Finally, shooting a series in Chicago isn't cheap - in fact, high costs did in the 1993-94 syndicated revival of the 1960's action series The Untouchables, which was based on the 1987 shot-in-Chicago film of the same name. With declining ratings and increasing production costs (not to mention advertisers bailing out of the series due to the series' violence - an issue that plagued the series in its' original run) - Paramount had no choice but to pull the plug on the series after just two seasons. The budget of Chicago Code was never revealed - but you can bet it was northward of $2 million per episode. And worse, the city now misses out on a financial windfall from a major series being shot in Chicago - more evident given the long-running and successful The Oprah Winfrey Show ends in about ten days. 

With Chicago Code's departure, the streak of scripted shot-in-Chicago flops continues. In addition to Untouchables, other series filmed in the Windy City that have come and gone include Chicago Story, What  About Joan, and most recently, The Beast.

Friday, May 13, 2011

WMAQ's Daryl Hawks dies

The Chicago journalism community is in shock after the sudden passing of WMAQ-TV sports anchor and reporter Daryl Hawks on Thursday. He was only 38 years old.

Hawks was on assignment in Atlanta Thursday covering Game 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference Semifinal between the Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks when he missed a wake-up call at 9:30 a.m. in his hotel room. Employees went into his hotel room and found him unresponsive and rushed him to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead nearly three hours later.

Hawks joined the NBC-owned station in 2008 from sister station KNTV in the Bay Area. He was also host of WMAQ's Sports Sunday late-night sports news wrap-up show.

A marine, Hawks was very active, playing basketball and football, among other sports. Hawks also served on the Mayor's council of Fitness and was a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and the Chicago chapter of NATAS. Hawks was also involved in several local charities.

"We are all stunned right now. Daryl was a great member of our sports team, and was so excited about covering the Bulls during this playoff run," said Frank Whittaker, WMAQ-TV's station manager and Vice-President of News in a statement posted on the station's website.

The cause of death has yet to be determined. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Monday, May 09, 2011

The Grab Bag: Chicago welcomes new Hubbard overlords

The Voice finds... its "voice"...  Looney Tunes returns... and other news of note

- It's official: the sale of Bonneville's radio stations in Chicago and a few other cities is now complete: Twin Cities (Minneapolis-St. Paul) -based Hubbard Broadcasting has officially taken over The Mix (WTMX), The Drive (WDRV), and WILV-FM on May 2. The formats and management who served under Bonneville remains the same, but there is one difference: ads for the Illinois and Hoosier lotteries and casinos are now allowed (they were forbidden under Bonneville management because their spots promote gambling - a no-no under the organization Bonneville is run under, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Bonneville still owns and operates stations in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Seattle, and its home  market of Salt Lake City.

- Usually when a new prime-time broadcast network TV series premieres, you can expect the ratings to drop in the vicinity of 10 to 20 percent in the second week, and would be lucky to ever match its premiere ratings again. But NBC's new reality/competition series The Voice has debunked that notion! Last Tuesday's night episode drew 12.58 million viewers and a 5.7 rating and 15 share among adults 18-49 - up 7% and 12% respectively from the series' premiere on April 26. And critics are praising the series, with one saying The Voice deserves to top American Idol. Ladies and gentlemen (and I use that term loosely), the next generation of reality/competition shows have arrived.

- Speaking of Tuesday nights, Cartoon Network's long-awaited The Looney Tunes Show - a new take on the classic theatrical shorts (which ran for decades on weekday afternoon and Saturday morning TV), debuted on May 3 with 2.46 million viewers and a 3.0 rating among kids 2-11 - but only a 0.6 rating among adults 18-49. Not surprisingly, Looney Tunes has received poor reviews and some Internet backlash. Of course, Looney Tunes (and Scooby Doo, among others) is seen as a "brand name" solely to make money - which explains why the series is back - the name "sells" - not excellent writing or an original concept. Guess keeping Time Warner shareholders on Wall Street happy is more important.

- A week after Comcast signed an huge deal with the NHL, here's the latest big money deal: The Pac-12 announced May 4 it reached a three billion, twelve-year agreement with ESPN and Fox - with each school netting a cool 21 million per year, beginning in 2012. The deal calls for football to air on six networks owned by the two combined, while basketball will air on ESPN and FSN. The deal also leaves the Pac-12 with the ability to launch its own network, a la the Big Ten Network and The MountainWest Sports Network. Formerly known as the Pac-10 (and the Pac-8 beforehand), the Pac-12 is adding Utah from the Mountain West and Colorado from the Big 12. Once again, my cable bill thanks you.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

"Judy" tops the syndication charts

Nearly two weeks ago, Judge Judy join an elite club of programs that did the impossible: knock off perennial ratings champ Wheel of Fortune.

According to Nielsen Media Research, Judy topped Wheel for the week ending April 24, with a 3% advantage over the long-running game show to become the top-rated show in syndication. Judy also passed over Jeopardy!, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Entertainment Tonight, and Dr. Phil.

has benefited from Nielsen recently overhauling the way it tabulates ratings for barter-supported syndicated shows, which now cumes all of a series' run into one rating (this also include cable airings of first-run and off-network series.) Judy is double-run (and in Chicago's case, quadruple-run) in most markets - usually back-to-back, while Wheel only airs once a day, mostly in prime access time slots.

But you won't hear any complaints from Wheel's syndicator, CBS Television Distribution - they handle Judge Judy as well, and also Jeopardy! Oprah, and Entertainment Tonight. In fact, CBS usually holds eight of the top ten slots of the most-watched syndicated shows on television (Warner Bros.' Two And A Half Men and Twentieth's Family Guy are usually the exceptions.) Recently, CBS extended Judge Judy's contract through 2015.

The only other shows to dethrone Wheel have been Star Trek: The Next Generation (which is now handled by CBS), and Jeopardy!. And you can bet Oprah will be king of the syndication ratings hill when her final week of shows air later this month.

Judge Judy's success helped revive the courtroom genre, which laid dormant for several years after enjoying immerse popularity in the late 1980's with Divorce Court, Superior Court, The Judge, and the original version of The People's Court. Judy has topped all courtroom shows since her show debuted on September 16, 1996 - when it was the only one in the genre. Worldvision Enterprises was Judy's original syndicator.

Locally, you can catch Judge Judy every weekday at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. over WBBM-TV. In the past, Judy has also aired on WCIU-TV and WPWR-TV.