October 2007 Archives

October 31, 2007

What Will the TV Writers Do If they Can't Write TV?

Hey, really: What will writers do if the members of the Writers Guild of America go on strike (maybe tomorrow, although recent press reports now suggest a walk-out is still days away.)

They could flip burgers, of course. Which is a possibility suggested in this short film shot just last week and which was recently brought to my attention by Gregg Rossen (who's working on a Jamie Kennedy project for Fox, and who co-wrote/directed this with Brian Sawyer; not flipping burgers yet.)

Who are the folks pictured herein, pursuing their new vocations (which could begin in, ohhh, just about eight hours from now)? They include vets like Paul Guay, who co-wrote "Liar Liar," and Doug J. Eboch, scribe of Reese Witherspoon spooler "Sweet Home Alabama," and Thomas Dean Donnelly, who worked on 2005's "Sahara." (He flipping burgers, and asks a customer, "Cheeseburger, fries and a Diet Coke. Do you want to go more archetype than stereotype?"

Very amusing. And with a strike approaching, writers need all the amusement they can get. Rossen told the LA Times yesterday, "it's all very tongue-in-cheek. It's not exactly what the writers are going to be doing [if there is a strike] but gives perspective. We want to support our fellow writers. It's good for people to laugh at something."

Local Angle: LIers Spin 'Wheel'

“Wheel of Fortune” marks the show’s 25th anniversary with three special theme weeks originating from Radio City Music Hall.

The festivities kick off with "Best Friends Week" (airing Nov. 5-9). These five shows will feature New York-area pals playing together.

Needless to say, several Long Islanders will be attempting to buy vowels. They include:

On Nov. 7: Gina Varacchi of Medford and Eric Gustafson of Centereach; Kathy Uptonof Massapequa and Heidi Spraul of Patchogue.

On Nov. 9: Vikki Rella of Nesconset and Kristin Bunger of Babylon.

“Wheel of Fortune” airs weeknights at 6:30 on WLNY/10/55 and 7:30 on WABC/7.

Robert Goulet, TV Star

TV fans, of course, remember the late Robert Goulet from his scores of appearances on variety and talk shows over the years.

But how many of you out there remember when he actually starred in a serious, World War II-era espionage drama?

The show in question was “Blue Light” and back in January 1966, ABC had high hopes for it.
The show debuted on the same night the network launched the soon-to-be-smash “Batman” as part of its then-radical notion of a “second season.” (Fancy way of saying our fall shows really stunk.)


In “Blue Light” (not to be confused with Kmart’s “Blue Light Special”), Goulet played David March, an American espionage agent. He posed as a foreign correspondent who had officially renounced his American citizenship. But he secretly belonged to an elite secret group called “Code Blue Light,” whose purpose was to infiltrate the Nazi high command. (Time magazine said “Robert Goulet has turned in his operetta cloak for a dagger.”)

Alas, “Blue Light” aired against “The Beverly Hillbillies.” one of the most popular shows of its era. It never attracted an audience and was gone by the fall.

Turner Classic Movies guest programmer month

Whoopi Goldberg kicks off 30 days of guest co-hosts this Thursday on Turner Classic Movies, where November is Guest Programmer month. Each night at 8, a celebrity from showbiz, literature, public affairs and even “Sesame Street” joins TCM’s Robert Osborne to introduce films they’ve chosen as being personally memorable or influential.

Goldberg’s picks are fascinating, led by Jean Cocteau’s dazzling 1946 take on “Beauty and the Beast” [photo at right]. Says Whoopi, “When I couldn’t explain why I wanted to be a person in cinema, this would be the first movie I showed [people]. Because magic happens and that is what the movies are about.”

Nice way to kick things off. The “View” cohost’s Thursday picks also include Barbra Streisand’s “Funny Girl” (10 p.m.), Robert Young’s 1945 love story “The Enchanted Cottage” (12:45 a.m.), and Andy Griffith’s 1957 power-of-celebrity drama “A Face in the Crowd” (2:30 a.m.).

Other intriguing choices this week come from Alfred Molina (the 1953 British workplace comedy “Trouble in Store” Friday at 8 p.m., followed by “The Secret of Santa Vittoria” and “Divorce Italian Style”), Donald Trump (“The African Queen” Saturday at 8 p.m., plus standbys “Gone With the Wind” and “Citizen Kane”) and Gore Vidal (Bette Davis’ “The Letter” Sunday at 8 p.m.).

Check out TCM’s interactive calendar of Guest Programmers for picks from the likes of Alec Baldwin, Matt Groening, Tracey Ullman, Harvey Fierstein, Martha Stewart and Kermit the Frog.

"Dancing with the Stars:" Sabs, sigh, is Gone by Halloween

Yes, by now you surely know the big news and if you don't, then here it goes...sit down...take a deep breath...drink the coffee...let the dog out...back at the terminal? Okay, here it is:

Sabrina Bryan was voted off "DWTS" last night.

What can I say that Bruno didn't already? ("Vooote, peeeeple. You muz voote...") That's certainly part of it, but there's more. Cam - one of the most improved of the hoofers - was in the bottom two. That didn't make any sense either. cheetahsabg.jpg

So what can I say? I feel cheetah'd - that's what. Sabs is just another Melinda Doolittle - someone so far and away better than anyone else that viewers just ASSUME that she'll power her way on to the finals by sheer force of ability. Why text-message in a vote or pick up the phone? No reason! She's so good that you don't NEED to vote for her. "DWTS" tried to nullify the (what I call) "Doolittle Effect" by apportioning judge votes with viewer ones; that way if a team scores a perfect thirty (as Scary did the other night), then the chances of getting the boot are minimized.

But still...if no one at home votes, then what's the point of even a perfect thirty? Yes, Sabs was done in because she WAS so good - so far and away better than any other clod-hopper here that viewers figured they didn't need to bother.

Nevertheless, this looks bad for "DWTS," or rather makes the show look bad. Imagine: Marie Osmond advances while Sabrina Bryan is dumped? Who's kidding who here? It's not a talent contest; it's barely even a popularity one (yes, Jane Seymour and Marie have better name recognition, but they're not exactly major A-list celebs either.) It's about a flawed system that's entirely dependent on the flawed voting habits of a few million people. That's it. Hence, Sabs goes.

Plus, I have yet another theory: Sabs was simply too good and viewers - mostly older - were turned off by her. They'd much rather see Marie faint and stumble, or Jane in some silly tutu; to watch Sabs was to remind us each of our own considerable lack of ability. She wasn't - as political consultants might say - "relatable."

Plus, one more little theory: She was also hurt by getting the post position on Monday. It (the foxtrot) was one of her weaker performances, and by the time voters got around to punching the buttons, they'd entirely forgotten about it.

That's it. No more over-baked theories. There are other more important things to think about (let me re-phrase that: There are IMPORTANT things to think about.)

But Sabs is gone. Sigh. Happy Halloween.

October 30, 2007

Halloween holds scary movie moments, more

Set the recorder to catch a seven-hour festival of fright flick faves. For Halloween, Bravo puts together its “100 Scariest Movie Moments” (Wednesday 11 a.m.-4 p.m.) and “Even Scarier Movie Moments” (Wednesday 4-6 p.m.).

Online, the Moviefone folks are picking their 31 Best Horror Films of All Time. They’ve already counted down all but Numero Uno, which is announced on Wednesday’s big day.

And CBS.com plans to host a Halloween “Ghost Whisperer” séance with the series’ co-executive producer and renowned medium himself, James Van Praagh. Log on at 3 p.m. Wednesday for the one-hour event.

"CSI: New York" Busts a (Scary) Move in Amityville

Boo!!! Now that I've got your attention, may I direct it to Wednesday's episode of "CSI: New York" (entitled "Boo," I believe) which heads out to poor, beleaguered, much-haunted, and much-maligned Amityville, where one house on one particular avenue known as Ocean reputedly bled, and told people to "get out," etc. A movie was made about it, too. I'm sure you've heard about that.

Tomorrow's "CSI" special Halloween edition is a keeper, however, because Mac, Stella and Danny head out to A-ville to solve a horrific crime when the local cops can't quite cope. What's the deal? Peter Lenkov, executive producer, told me yesterday, "It's something I've wanted to do for three years, and now the timing is right because the episode actually airs on Halloween, and the last two seasons, Halloween didn't fall on a Wednesday. So we got lucky.

"We've paced it a little differently - it feels much more like a ghost or horror story - and [use it] to debunk some horror myths along the way. The whole story of the house that bled from walls or has strange voices? It felt like our CSI could get into a situation where they could debunk or explain some of that to an audience."EvilHouse.jpg

The story line: There have been multiple homicides in A-ville, and "you find out that the local police are busy on another [crime] taking place at almost the same time. They bring in the pros from Manhattan to sort of help them.

Lenkov adds, "science will explain how [ghosts] exist, and - I don't want to give away too much...but the idea was to do a horror-like episode [and explain] how a house speaks, or has a voice, or how it can bleed through walls."

(Science!? And all along I thought the movie was a perfectly accurate representation of the facts...)

Joe Mantegna joins ‘Criminal Minds’ this week

Joe Mantegna makes his first appearance on the now Mandy Patinkin-less “Criminal Minds” this Wednesday (Oct. 31 at 9 p.m. on CBS).

Mantegna plays David Rossi, a long-retired agent who once helped found the Behavioral Analysis Unit and now returns to action, sez CBS’ press, with “some unfinished business of his own.” (Why are we not surprised?)

Sneak a peek at him here, in a video preview with Jayne Atkinson, “24’s” Karen Hayes.

And stay tuned to “Criminal Minds” for a Nov. 14 sweeps shot by Jamie Kennedy in an episode about “a cannibalistic serial killer.”

'Heroes' cries black tears

So maybe the reason I loved last week’s “Heroes” episode so much was that Maya and Alejandro weren’t in it. That thought struck me watching last night’s episode, where they were, and where they seemed to sink the whole hour again in a trough of whatever black sludge comes out of Maya’s eyes when she goes all homicidal.

That “power” is a killer, both literally and figuratively when it comes to the show. It’s silly, number one, and sillier, number two, when Alejandro holds her hands to snap her out of it. These new actors (Dania Ramirez and Shalim Ortiz) don’t display much charm, either -- there’s no hint of buoyancy or playfulness in their portrayals. I know their Hondurans-fleeing-to-America situation is dire, but still. Something appealing or at least intriguing should seep through. But nada.

“Heroes” now has so many characters, it can’t begin to service them all each week, and it’s become increasingly crucial what an episode’s mix is. Between that south-of-the-border dreariness and the Ukraine winter/murder and Peter’s Ireland mopiness, last night’s hour just didn’t exude much magic. Even Hiro’s time trip to 18th century feudal Japan felt a little limp, his normal exuberance mired in romantic woes. (Though that last-minute betrayal twist was pretty nifty.)

Heroes Masi Oka Eriko .jpg

Weird, isn’t it, that suddenly the show’s most compelling character seems to be Bob, that Company functionary (or is he?) played by cool-customer character actor Stephen Tobolowsky. Beware the guys in the glasses. With this show, they’re always more cagey than you expect.

(BTW, the episode’s “in memory of” end credit was for Tim Susco, the “Heroes” location manager who passed away Aug. 15 at the age of 25.)

Watch last night’s and other second-season “Heroes” episodes here, or with second-screen cast/crew commentary here (this week from episode writers Kay Foster and Adam Armus, with H.R.G. actor Jack Coleman).

[Above: Masi Oka and Eriko Tamura in NBC photo by Justin Lubin.]

"Dancing with the Stars:" No Mas, Marie, No Mas

Welcome to the Most Important Show on Television! Or the MIST, when the writers' strike is called early Thursday morning. (Okay, IF it's called.) In a lackluster - or actually pretty abysmal - season so far, "DWTS" is king or queen, in part because the show's not prey to that new phenom known as "live plus 7," when a show's overall rating is actually accrued over a week's time. Most viewers, I imagine, check out "DWTS" in real time, or "live," which makes it a genuine water-cooler show. With a looming writers strike, that should only add to its, ummm, watercoolerishness.

Last night? Mostly blah. (That will NOT add to its watercoolerishness.) The first three contestants underwhelmed, though Scary overwhelmed. Let's get to our wrap:

Sabs: Clever the way they - she - got in all those plugs for the Cheetah Girls movie; was this a commercial or pre-dance routine. I couldn't be sure. Sabs, as always, was good, but I think the judges (at least Len and Bruno) nailed it: This foxtrot seemed like a lot of hard angles, with abrupt moves and grooves. She's far better than anyone else, but tonight was a passion-free zone.

Jennie: Her mambo was tacky; all those frills and all that booty-shaking. Come on! She's become one of the best dancers in the comp, or at least one of the gutsier ones. She's better than THIS silly display.

Jane: If Jennie was tacky, this was beyond tacky. I can't even think of a word - OK, tawdry, way beneath Jane. And that outfit! (Not the one pictured here, of course, which is actually quite nice, I think.) Calling Britney. 0000032735_20060926140702.jpg

Cam: I may be the only one in the country, the world, who thought Cam really nailed last night's samba; the music was perfect, and his dancing excellent. He goes up in my estimation every week.

Scary: Queen o' the night. A really first-rate performance (the rhumba.) Nothing about it that missed, in my humble - and admittedly ignorant - opinion. But what the heck? Who else knows anything about sambas or mambos or bambas or whatever. Most of us are lead-foot ignoramuses; all we can do is judge the overall aesthetic quality of a dance routine (or: If we like it, it's good). Scary was best of the night.

Marie: Fright night for Marie. This is her last night. This should be her last night. She's gone. Those times she flopped on the floor? I actually thought she passed out again, or as Carrie Ann so delicately put it, "I was a little uncomfortable seeing you down again..."

Helio: Yup, 'Neves back. A very good cha cha cha cha cha...

October 29, 2007

NBC News' Jim Cummins Dies

Before this day gets completely away from me, I wanted to make note of a passing: Jim Cummins, a redoubtable network news reporter who graced "Nightly News" for almost thirty years, died Friday after a long battle with cancer.cummins_very_small.jpg

Cummins? Anyone with even the slightest familiarity with "Nightly" knows his work - blessed with both Mid-Western solidity and intelligence. The moment he came on screen, there was no edge or hype, but a calm recitation of fact and analysis. He was first-rate, and no doubt a reason he lasted at NBC News through so many difficult network "transitional periods," as we now euphemistically refer to them.

Just to give you a sense of what this guy did over so many years, here's his bio, as posted on MSNBC (and dated 2004):

"Jim Cummins was named Bureau Chief and Correspondent, NBC News Southwest Bureau, in June 1989. Currently based in Dallas, Cummins had been an NBC News correspondent in Chicago since 1978 when he joined NBC.

"Cummins has covered a broad spectrum of domestic and international news developments including the Iran hostage crisis in 1979; the 1981 civil war in El Salvador; America’s worst domestic U.S. airline disaster, in Chicago, in 1979; Presidential election-year politics; labor negotiations in the U.S. auto industry; the U.S. farm-debt crisis; Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and Hurricane Andrew in 1992; the Killeen Texas Massacre in 1991; the Midwest floods in 1993; the California earthquake in 1994; and the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building in 1995.

"Cummins began his broadcast news career in 1969 at KGLO-TV, Mason City, IA. He moved to WOTV-TV in Grand Rapids, MI, as an anchor/reporter in 1970. Three years later, he joined WTMJ-TV, the NBC-TV affiliate in Milwaukee. Just before joining NBC News in 1978, Cummins was a general assignment reporter for WMAQ-TV, the NBC-TV station in Chicago.
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"Cummins won a National Emmy in 1993 for his reports on the Midwest Floods. Additionally, he earned 2 National Emmy nominations for his journalistic efforts during Hurricane Hugo and the Civil War in El Salvador. In 1995 he was awarded the Marquis Who’s Who In America.

"Born in Cedar Rapids, IA, Cummins received his B.A. degree in 1967 and his master’s degree in 1968, from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He and his wife, the former Constance Driscoll, are the parents of six children."

Steve Capus, NBC News president, said this, in part about Cummins late Friday:

He was “a gentle giant of a man” who had “spent decades making Americans feel right at home, with his down-to-earth, warm reporting style, delivery and presence...Jim and Connie had a vision for life after NBC. A damnable cancer diagnosis came a short time after he left the job, and those plans took a backseat to a courageous battle."

‘5th Grader’ guests Regis, Clay Aiken this Thursday


Is Regis Philbin smarter than a fifth grader? How about Clay Aiken? The two stars kick off a sweeps month of celebrity guests on “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” (Thursday at 8 p.m. on Fox).

Coming up Nov. 8 is Tony Hawk, while the Nov. 15 show features Kellie Pickler and Billy Bush joining host Jeff Foxworthy.

Watch outtake video from the Aiken episode here.

Boomer Tube: Zach Is Back


If it’s Halloween, then it must be time for Zacherle to resurface.

And yep, the calendar doesn't lie. Cool Ghoul John Zacherle, now 89, the legendary host of NY TV’s horror/comedyfest “Chiller Theatre” way back in the day (before moving into a successful radio career at the original WNEW-FM and elsewhere), still walks among us.

Zach will be heard doing his thing Halloween night on the new-and-improved WCBS-FM/101.FM night between 8 and 10 p.m.

Now, if only some local TV brainiac would bring back “Chiller Theatre!”

Lesley Stahl and Sarko

And speaking of ticking clocks (see: "writers strike," as it "uh-oh...") I quite enjoyed last night's "60 Minutes" piece on French boss Nicolas Sarkozy; does this guy hate the press or what? He screams at photographers in New Hampshire, and now blows off Lesley Stahl in the middle of an interview. CBS has just now posted the video of the entire segment, which I happily direct you too (the commercial that leads into the piece lasts only a few seconds, so be patient - unlike Sarko!) By the way, is it just me or is "60 Minutes" hitting on mostly all cylinders these days? A very good broadcast last night, and in case you didn't notice, there was another news-breaking interview with Afghan prez Hamid Karzai as well.
In any event, here's Sarko going nutty on Les.

Warning: Do not ask crazy Frenchman about wife.

What in Heaven's Name will We Do During a TV Strike? Read Newspapers!!

Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick...

No that clock you hear - which is very annoying, by the way - is not "60 Minutes" but the clock clicking the moments away until Thursday morning when the Writers Guild of America very likely calls a strike against the industry. Very likely, I say, because it's looking real bad from where I sit, and while the sun could break through the ominous clouds at any minute (or, just to
continue mixing my metaphors, that stupid clock could stop ticking) it doesn't seem likely at this point.

Producers submitted another proposal last week and so far, silence from the writers. Nick Counter, head of the producers' Alliance told TV Week that "we'll continue to negotiate until we reach an agreement irrespective of whether they strike. I told them this morning [last week]: They can strike for six months or 12 months or 24 months; at some point we have to reach an agreement. There are no divorces in our industry. It's just a question of when and how much damage is caused."story.jpg

Yes, that does sound ominous. So what happens? Lots and lots of things. No, David Letterman won't sit there mutely, but he will be hard-pressed to write his own Top Ten every night. No, Jay Leno won't ditch his monologue, but it won't last half the show anymore either. No, Stephen Colbert won't end his run for the presidency, but he's gonna have a hard time writing both his own show AND his own speeches. And just when we started to like "Grey's Anatomy" again
(sort of, sometimes...OK, I'm STILL bugged by that George/Izzy thing), we'll have to get used to repeats. (And when we get more details on the impact of the strike on "Late Show" et al, we'll post 'em right here.)

Consider the '88 strike as template for '07 (that one lasted about five months): The producers let the writers twist in agony; the writers let the producers (who happen to also be the networks) live with repeats.

Ratings decline, and suddenly, shows like "The Biggest Loser" become the most watched programs in the land (not really, but...)

By the way, for an interesting take on where producers stand, go to Nikki Finke's must-read "Deadline Hollywood" blog; this recent posting even suggests that the networks would WELCOME a strike because of the lousy ratings for so much of the new season fare...

October 26, 2007

Bees are big this weekend in real-life disaster tales

silence of the bees nature pbs .jpgFirst, “Nature.” Now “60 Minutes” is on the bee-disaster bandwagon, too.

This Sunday, both shows are spotlighting the crisis in which honeybee colonies around the world are suddenly and inexplicably disappearing, threatening the pollination of not only all those pretty flowers but also a huge percentage of the food that feeds us.

Pennsylvania beekeeper Dave Hackenberg sounds the alarm on both programs -- the “Nature” hour “Silence of the Bees” (Sunday at 8 p.m. on PBS) and a Steve Kroft segment on “60 Minutes” (Sunday at 7 p.m. or after football on CBS).

There’s online preview video of “60 Minutes” here and the more comprehensive “Nature” hour here. (“Nature” is also filled with the coolest macro-photography of bees doing their thing.)

The PBS link also leads to lots more info about the Colony Collapse Disorder that’s providing one of the most fascinating real-world mysteries in ages.

And you were worried about global warming . . .

[Above: Honeybee keepers examine abandoned beehives in PBS photo by Whitney Johnson/EBC.]

‘Battlestar Galactica: Razor’ in theaters

Battlestar Galactica Razor .jpgFans of “Battlestar Galactica” can catch a free preview of Sci Fi’s series-event movie “Razor” in movie theaters Monday, Nov. 12, even though it doesn’t debut on TV till Nov. 24.

The story of Lee Adama’s mission as commander of the Battlestar Pegasus will be screened only in a few theaters in the New York area as well as around Philadelphia, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas and Seattle.

NYC theaters include the AMC Empire 25 on West 42nd Street and the AMC Union Square Stadium 14 on Broadway in Manhattan, as well as the Bronx’ AMC Bay Plaza 13 on Bartow Ave. No screenings are scheduled on Long Island, but it’s also at the Commerce Center Stadium 18 on Route 1 South in North Brunswick, N.J.

To score some of the limited number of free tickets, register online at BattlestarEvent.com. Each theater will have two showings Nov. 12, at 7 and 10 p.m.

“Battlestar Galactica: Razor” debuts on Sci Fi cable Nov. 24 at 9 p.m. The “BSG” series starts its fourth Sci Fi season in 2008.

[Above: Stephanie Jacobsen as Kendra Shaw, Jamie Bamber as Lee "Apollo" Adama, Katee Sackhoff as Kara "Starbuck" Thrace in Sci Fi's "Razor," photo by Carole Segal.]

Grey's Anatomy: Lesbian A-Go-Go?

Good Lord, you don't wanna get sick in Seattle Grace. They leave chainsaws with fingers stuck in them, which are then grabbed by guys with crazy legs, who use them to cut off their unruly feet. And the residents are cool with that, because they've got a lot more important things to worry about.

Like, their sex lives.

Which is why I was personally glad to see Dr. Hahn back full time at SG last night. Dr. Hahn is played by the fabulous Brooke Smith (daughter of super-duper-power-flack, Lois), and lemme tell ya, this Brooke ain't no Shields. Why, she's so tough she makes Bo Dietl look like Little Bo Peep. That was a good scene - "good" as in "amusing" - where she goes in to tell the David Clennon-character to say goodbye to his daughter - quickly - because she's gonna cut her heart out. Clennon doesn't appreciate her abrupt bedside manner (who would?! Except maybe Jack the Ripper) and it's left to girly-man George to explain that he'd give HIS heart to HIS father. (Well, good for you, George - the old man's been dead and gone a season. Easy for you to be giving away your heart.) ndBrooke%20Smith1.jpg

Anyway, Erica Hahn brings a different dynamic to SG, and if my gaydar isn't broken, I would say this is a lesbian dynamic. I don't know about you, but I'm ready for some lesbian lovin' on "GA" - and as Sloan would put it, it sounds REALLY dirty when you drop the "g." I'm sick and tired of all these whiny hetero homeboys and girls on "Grey's Anatomy." Why, Jane Doe (she calls herself Ava, I think) isn't back an hour, and Karev's off getting "re-acquainted" with her in some laundry closet. Enough! We need adults around here. We also need lesbian love affairs. We need Erica Hahn. The story possibilities are limitless: Yang, dispensed by Burke, gets back at him by throwing herself into the arms of his old nemesis. Or: Now that none of the nurses will have anything to do with him, Sloan tries to "cure" Hahn; we'll see how THAT turns out. Meredith - ashless and loveless - finds a need to explore her emotional torment in other ways.

And so on. Do you see where I'm going here? That's right. Another "GA" spin-off. I think the Logo network would be interested...

Quickie Review: Fox News' "Facing Reality: Choice"

Don't know about you, but I'd sure approach a Fox News documentary on abortion with extreme caution. Would the Red State Network slant the perspective - and reporting - so far to the right that by the time you're done watching, you'd feel so relentlessly clobbered with anti-Roe-v-Wade-right-to-life doggerel that you couldn't even get up from the couch? One assumes - heh,heh - that Fox likes to play to its audience, so why trust it on this incendiary topic?

So much for MY fair-and-balanced perspective: Fox has, in fact, proven that it can undertake a subject of this emotional magnitude and handle in a manner that's both intelligent and sensitive, and as proof, check out tomorrow night's hour-long "Facing Reality: Choice" at 9, hosted by E.D.Hill and produced by Rachel Feldman. (Of course no one expects you to sit home and watch it, so at least set your DVR or whatever to the program.) It's good, and FNC can be faulted for just two major defects - the Saturday burial ground time slot and the blunt fact that one hour (really, just 44 minutes) is an absurd amount of time for a subject like this. (Why not stake a claim, FNC? CNN is draping itself in green - YOU can drape yourself in coverage of a story that's one of the most important in the forthcoming election. Go ahead, FNC - you can do it. I know you can.)

"Facing Reality" explores the stories of three women - each white, each living in Bible Belt Country - who got pregnant and had to decide whether they should get an abortion. There's no narration or commentary; the camera follows them - really follows them, including one instance right through the procedure itself. The result are portraits that aren't quickly sketched, but deeply drawn, because each woman struggles at various times with different emotions, and shifting circumstances.There's Jeanne - drug addict, keeps getting pregnant, declines abortion, puts some up for adoption; Brooke, struggles to get pregnant, finally does with a baby with a fatal chromosomal disorder; and Kayla, aspiring cosmetician, gets pregnant, has non-supportive boyfriend. Their stories are not set up as "representative" - just stories, and well-told ones at that.

'30 Rock': 5 Things to Love

Last night on “30 Rock” — clearly the funniest comedy on TV — Liz hires her creative heroine (Carrie Fisher), once a radical “Saturday Night Live”-type comedy writer, now an alcoholic has-been.

Here are five things we loved about Thursday’s episode:

1. The writer lives in a “gentrifying” neighborhood known as Little Chechnya.

2. A reference to the “227” movie — “New Jackee City.”

3. The failed NBC show “Supercomputer” (a great homage to Fred Silverman’s fiasco, “Supertrain”). This show, we know now, was responsible for spinning off “Cosby” “Miami Vice” and “Highway to Heaven.”


4. The creepy guy as the power-mad head page, who forces the dreaded “page-off” with Kenneth.

5. Alec Baldwin’s brilliant therapy role playing as an inner-city deadbeat dad — done in an attempt to get Tracy to overcome his hostility to his absent father

Rock on, “30 Rock.” You’re the best

Free ‘Aliens in America’ episode download

Aliens in America download .jpg

If you haven’t yet caught the cool new CW comedy “Aliens in America,” about a Wisconsin geek and his Pakistani exchange student roommate -- and most of America unfortunately still hasn’t -- here’s your chance to watch at leisure.

This week’s episode, a what-to-wear conflict called “The Metamorphosis,” is available now as a free download from iTunes. Watch it on the go, and show it to your friends. (Episodes also stream online at The CW site.)

This little gem, delightfully both silly and smart, is so far doing abysmal ratings that make us fear for its survival. And “Aliens” deserves better. Of course, so did “Freaks and Geeks,” of which it so charmingly reminds us in its savvy depiction of high school hell.

Add the timely culture-clash element (and the presence of “Gilmore Girls” fave Scott Patterson), and “Aliens in America” should be soaring. Help it take flight on Monday night (8:30 p.m. on The CW).

[Above: Adhir Kalyan in CW photo by Sergei Bachlakov.]

October 25, 2007

Quickie Review: "Iconoclasts"

Into the wild, with Penn and Krakauer

Blessed with one of the better titles in all of TV, "Iconoclasts" - returning tonight at 10 for a third season on Sundance - nonetheless has some peculiar defects. It sometimes (if memory serves) teeters on the edge of blandishment if not outright puffery. These profiles can be nicely attired hagiographies, without much substance, and (after all) what Hollywood bigshot wouldn't wanna be an "iconoclast?" The compliment's delivered in the title alone.

Viewer warning thus dispensed, check out tonight's edition on Sean Penn and Jon Krakauer. With the possible exception of Dave Chappelle - who ultimately iconoclasted himself - no one over three seasons of this series better deserves the title of "iconclast" that Penn, I should think; Krakauer's just a hell of writer, which is credit enough.

Anyway, they're paired (everyone's always paired up on "Iconoclasts") because they collaborated on the movie version of Krakauer's "Into the Wild" - just released - which was directed by Penn. This COULD be a thinly disguised hour-long trailer for the movie if you choose it to be, or it COULD be an interesting look at two particularly talented and gutsy people, which I chose it to be. (I'd also advise checking your opinions on Penn's politics at the door - if possible; he's still a talented and gutsy person.) These two have a lot to say about their respective crafts, as they totter/drive/stumble/climb about the Alaskan wilderness. Penn on acting: He now harbors a "dark bitter hatred" for it. Krakauer on life: The worst thing imaginable is "boredom..." He'd rather be "dead," says he, and you truly believe him.

Book/movie's about Christopher McCandless, the kid from Emory who gave away his life savings, burned his last dollar, and trekked into the Alaskan wilderness. Best of all tonight - check out the scenery. It will simultaneously take your breath away and almost help you understand how it might lure a young man to eternity.

Halloween web series helps 'dodge the kills'

Just in time for Halloween, find out “How to Survive a Horror Movie: All the Skills to Dodge the Kills.” It’s an original web series spoofing both old-time educational films and fright film conventions, and its cool comedy comes from, of all places, CBS.

The network’s interactive division has been posting six episodes a week for the last three weeks (“666,” natch), and as of today, they’re all streaming at a dedicated web site and at CBS.com. Learn “How to Defeat Satan” (or a killer doll), as well as “What to Do If Your Corn Has Children in It.” Get wise to “Know Your Ghosts” or “Know Your Four Ejection Seats.”

It’s quick and breezy fun since the installments are generally less than 2 minutes long. (You’ll have to sit through preroll commercials first. Nothing's free in this universe.) There’s also director’s commentary and a blog, plus behind-the-scenes photos.

'Viva Laughlin' still sings online

Viva Laughlin Hugh Jackman .jpg

Now that it’s been yanked off CBS’ air after just two episodes, “Viva Laughlin” can enter pop culture legend under the category so-bad-it’s-jawdroppingly-essential. We wouldn’t want this pseudo-musical mess polluting the airwaves weekly, but we can’t let it pass, either, without saying you MUST see it at least once just to savor its sheer, mind-numbing wrongheadedness.

Thankfully, CBS’ Innertube video site still has the pilot available, located under the Recommended tab, and you might want to get there before they kill the streams, too. (They’ve already 86’d “Viva’s” CBS.com show site.) It's also available via AOL Video.

Watch as many minutes as you can stand. (The lily-livered among us could consider fast-forwarding the time bar to about halfway through for Hugh Jackman’s least-objectionable “Sympathy for the Devil” number.)

Don’t thank us. Really. We’re ashamed of ourselves already.

[Above: Hugh Jackman and Lloyd Owen in CBS photo by Robert Voets.]

Boomer Tube: 'The White Shadow' rules!

Pardon me, but I’m about 30 years late on this one.

I have discovered a great TV drama: “The White Shadow.”


The back story: I was bored watching Game One of the World Series last night so I wanted to see what other sports might be on. I clicked to YES and what I found there wasn’t sports per se, but a rerun of the drama about a white ex-NBA player who now coaches at a predominantly minority L.A. high school.

I never watched it back in 1978 and ‘79. But, bored, I stuck around and found myself riveted for the entire hour.

This episode featured Peter Horton, a decade before “thirtysomething,” as a wealthy kid whose father transfers him from a ritzy high school to the inner-city Carver High because — there are rumors the boy might be gay. (Of course, the word used throughout the show isn’t gay, but “homosexual.”) And of course, the rumors dog the boy at his new school.

Per that time, the issue gets tiptoed around but enough for Ken Howard’s Coach Ken Reeves to smell something akin to McCarthyism (guilty until proven innocent). The teenaged Horton puts on a compelling performance.

It was all so earnest — and Afros, sideburns and bad fashion aside — it made for great viewing.

Much more compelling than the BoSox’ blowout.

I can’t wait for the next episode.

October 24, 2007

'October Road' returns in November

October Road returns .jpg

Critics will cry, but all the viewers who fell in love with “October Road” will rejoice when last spring’s soapfest returns to the ABC lineup Nov. 22, in a one-time broadcast in the Thursday 10 p.m. “Big Shots” timeslot after “Grey’s Anatomy.”

(Of course, “OR” might actually be better than “Big Shots.” But that isn’t saying much.)

“October Road” then moves to its regular slot of Monday 10 p.m., where “The Bachelor” will have ended. Trapped -- I mean, starring -- in the suds are “That ’70s Show” fave Laura Prepon and “One Tree Hill’s” Bryan Greenberg. (Watch previous "October Road" episodes online here.)

Also coming back is another critically reviled ABC entry -- the hee-larious pregnancy comedy “Notes From the Underbelly,” which will air in the Monday 9 p.m. hour after the deserves-better freshman “Samantha Who?” All the Monday changes take effect Nov. 26.

[Above: “October Road” cast photo by ABC/Art Streiber.]

‘Pushing Daisies’ gets network pickup

Pushing Daisies fourth episode .jpg

Good news for all of us pie-eaters: ABC has given “Pushing Daisies” a full-season order. The critical and cult fave -- there’s already a cool fansite up called The Pie Maker -- is right behind the less impressive (but safely spun-off) “Private Practice” in getting the network’s go-ahead to continue into spring.

The show that looks and acts like nothing else on TV -- it’s scrumptious enough to eat! -- has held up well through its first three episodes as both bizarre mystery and quirky romance (and just sheer weird fun). The fourth "Pushing Daisies" airs tonight at 8 on ABC.

Or you can watch all the “Pushing Daisies” episodes online here or here.

On tube or computer, the storybook look is eye-popping either way -- especially in HD.

[Above: ABC photo by Craig Sjodin from tonight’s fourth episode of “Pushing Daisies.”]

Prison Break Springs the Women

Now, this is a SPINOFF.

Fox is planning "Prison Break: Cherry Hill,” a new series that would be set at a women’s prison and center on Molly, a new regular character that will be introduced on “Prison Break” later this season, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The 411: Molly is an upper-middle-class wife. After suffering a family tragedy at the hands of the Company — the government conspiracy that framed Michael (Wentworth Miller) and Lincoln (Dominic Purcell) and put them behind bars — she seeks them out at the hellish Panamanian prison Sona in her quest to exact vengeance.


By the way, I’m sure no one at Fox remembers that almost 20 years ago the fledgling network premiered a comedy set in a women’s pen. But I do.

The cast of “Women in Prison” included CCH Pounder (“The Shield”) and Peggy Cass (“The Hathaways,” numerous game shows) and was a laff riot.

Suffice to say, it wasn’t renewed for the 1988 season.

We wish Fox good luck in their second try -- but they have a long way to go if they hope to top the greatest women-in-prison TV moment: the "Angels in Chains" episode of "Charlie's Angels."


'24' sneak peek Thursday

January's upcoming return of "24" gets previewed during the World Series on Fox Thursday night, as well as online starting at 1 p.m. Thursday.

A trailer promoting the seventh season, starting Jan. 13-14 on Fox, will also be shown at 1 p.m. Thursday in Times Square and other locations around the world.

Here's how Fox PR teases the upcoming season: "Set in Washington, DC, 'Day 7' opens with CTU dismantled and Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) on trial. Bauer's day takes an unexpected turn when former colleague Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard) returns. Meanwhile, President Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones) leads the country alongside White House Chief of Staff Ethan Kanin (Bob Gunton) and First Gentleman Henry Taylor (Colm Feore). A national security crisis prompts an investigation by a team of FBI agents including Agent Janis Gold (Janeane Garofalo), Agent Renee Walker (Annie Wersching), Agent Larry Moss (Jeffrey Nordling), Agent Sean Hillinger (Rhys Coiro) and security specialist Michael Latham (John Billingsley). Although CTU is no longer, Chloe O'Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub) and Bill Buchanan (James Morrison) are back for another momentous day of shocking events."

"Dancing with the Stars:" Mark Cuban Exits

How do these things happen? For weeks I've wondered - "who votes for Billionaire Guy? Who? Reveal yourselves, Billionaire Guy fans, and explain why you think he's worth a vote over any of the other dancers...?" I began to speculate: Perhaps he paid off the entire city of Dallas to vote for him. Perhaps his millions of employees block-voted, recognizing that continued employment was preferable to a few little white lies... I don't know. It just didn't makecuban270x336.JPG
sense. Yesterday, I got this explanation from a reader, Rebecca, who said: “Mark is a hottie, even at 49. At least, he is giving it his all... attitude is a large part of this contest. Give him a break! HOTTIE…” To each her own. But Monday, I finally figured out his charm and that at least part of what Rebecca said was absolutely true – it’s the ham quotient, the “I’ll do Anything to Get a Vote” attitude. He actually CARED about “DWTS” – about being here, and doing the best he could, and – most of all - trying to scrap out a win each week against all odds. I decided I liked his spirit, even if I didn’t necessarily feel the same way about his dancing. I wanted Billionaire Guy to move on to the next week and the one after that…And then what happens? He gets voted off. There is no justice in “DWTS” land.

October 23, 2007

Larry David Curbs His TV Marriage


So now I have something to really think about.

Namely, will Cheryl get back with Larry?

On last Sunday’s "Curb Your Enthusiasm" — still the funniest show on TV — Cheryl David (Cheryl Hines) walked out of her marriage to jerko supremo Larry David. It was of course, a case of -- cliche alert -- art imitating life since LD’s real-life marriage to eco-activist Laurie David checked into splitsville several months ago.

The Davids’ actual union probably didn’t disintegrate in a manner as funny as what we saw on TV, which as Larry might say was pretty dark, pret-ty dark.

Cheryl dumped Larry when he hung up on her frantic air-phone call because Larry deemed it more important to talk to the cable guy about his malfunctioning TiVo.

So what happens next? I’m not sure I want to see “Curb” go down this road for its remaining episodes. I think the "will she or won’t she come back?" storyline will drag the show down if it gets stretched out. I’m hoping there will be some resolution this Sunday, but I don't think that's gonna happen. An HBO spokesman told the Associated Press earlier this week that “the split would indeed constitute a full arc."

What would you like to see happen with Larry and Cheryl? Send me a comment.

Quickie Review: "Planet In Peril"

CNN has plugged "Planet in Peril" (tonight and tomorrow at 9) so relentlessly that you don't even have to have cable to know about it; "PinP" refs are everywhere, and have seamlessly merged into a TV ecosystem that has turned green at every flick of the channel (except for Fox News where green remains banned even from the dress code.)

Yeah, TV's gone green - at least for the moment, or until some other cause comes along - and CNN's gone green too. That's a good thing, heaven knows, though I still can't quite get over the sensation of watching John Roberts chat amiably and aimlessly about carbon footprints on "American Morning"...but that's another blog.

Today, "Planet in Peril," and my simple verdict on this sprawling, and well-meaning venture comes in five words (how's that for "quickie"?): Good television, sometimes-questionable journalism. And the program is truly misnamed: "Some Wild Animals in Peril," or "China's Culinary Crimes," or "Anderson Cooper Should Really Start Watching What He Eats and Drinks...And For God's Sakes, Lay off the Makeup" could also work as titles, but they're not as catchy as "PinP" so we'll stay with that.

I watched 123 minutes of this four-hour spread (the only ones available for review), and many of them were engrossing, and particularly well produced. No expenses seemed spared by Time Warner. Watch Anderson study wolves in Yellowstone. Follow Jeff Corwin through the jungles of Madagascar. See Sanjay Gupta go to a restaurant in China that serves animal penises (on second thought...) The overall judgments of this broadcast also seem indisputable and CNN probably even errs on the side of caution: That vast numbers of species are being wiped out, and that China's out-of-control consumption habits are alarming, and that the rise in chemicals we ingest is shocking. 425.cooper.corwin.101807.jpg

But my gripes are two-fold: Foremost, much of this could have, and in fact has, appeared on the Discovery Channel and its assorted satellite networks, including Animal Planet (with Corwin.) "PinP" is treating all this like new news, when to viewers of TDC et al, it's all very old and very familiar news, if no less disturbing news.

And second, CNN couldn't decide which part of the imperiled planet it wanted to concentrate on. And with attention so widely scattered, the program doesn't necessarily address any of the issues fully or adequately.

In China, Gupta threads his way through food markets, a restaurant, and a vast iron ore mine; he seems disturbed - he IS disturbed - but he also seems lost: A tiny figure who can't quite seem to make up his mind about what crime to address, or how it should be addressed. (The program's big on problems, very small on prescriptions.)

CNN also implies, although (at least in the large swath I saw) hardly proves, that human chemical ingestion may be related to rampant pollution in China. Except we later learn that Anderson (who gets a blood test) should be blaming his pancake make-up for some of the nasty stuff he’s absorbed over the years.

Anyway, go ahead and watch. It's worth the trip. Just don't be surprised when you realize you've seen some of this before.

CNN's "Noose" Re-Sked

We wrote yesterday about CNN's special investigation, "The Noose: An American Nightmare," which will explore what happened at the Hempstead police department; it's been re-scheduled due to coverage of the California fires, and will now air Thursday at 8.

'Heroes' goes whoa!

Finally! One of those great “whoa!” moments that takes you completely by surprise and takes your breath away. Like last fall when they cut to a shot of cheerleader Claire lying on a table and chatting away with her rib cage cut completely open. Whoa!

Heroes” did it again last night when Matt’s in-the-marked-for-death-picture dad lured his cop kid and Nathan Petrelli past a door in his Philadelphia apartment that led to -- everywhere! Matt found himself in a humongous jail cell, while Nathan was on that Manhattan rooftop overlooking the (forthcoming) apocalypse. It all ended up being a dream -- daddy is Molly’s “nightmare man,” after all -- but it was a doozy of a twist, utterly unexpected.

heroesmicah.jpgMore please! After laying track the past few weeks, “Heroes” is finally zipping along. We also got a great dose of wonder and joy in Micah and his copycat cousin Monica, who’s just discovering her abilities. Turns out that reintroduction feels crucial to the show. With everybody else jaded or uber-motivated On A Mission, Monica represents that aching-heart intimacy the story needs to stay personally affective, to keep from lapsing into pure genre adventure. She reminds us what the show is really about -- people in crisis, perplexed by their sudden “powers,” overwhelmed, fearful, sometimes excited, but afraid of losing themselves by becoming entirely other persons.

Like Nathan. What’s up with the split personality? Is he going all Niki on us? And the older generation of “heroes” represented by Suresh’s boss Bob and the Petrellis’ mom and Matt’s dad, the latter actually invoking the catchphrase “save the world” last night -- good guys? Bad guys? For that matter, are we sure The Company is evil? And what about lightning-fingered new girl Kristen Bell and her on-the-phone “daddy”?

There’s suddenly so much going on that we don’t even notice when half the cast is MIA. No H.R.G. and Haitian to speak of, no Claire, very little Hiro, no Sylar and the (I’m still not into them) Hondurans. They’ll all be back next week, but “Heroes” seems so full of rich characters that they can rotate to keep the show feeling fresh. Let’s enjoy it while we can. You know what’ll happen once they’re past November sweeps . . .

Watch the episode again here, or with fun video commentary from star Greg Grunberg (Matt) and producer Greg Beeman here.

[Above: Noah Gray-Cabey as Micah, Dana Davis as Monica, in NBC photo by Chris Haston.]

"Dancing with the Stars:" Scary Soars

We already know about the "Faint, but what about the rest of the night? My down-and-dirty summation: Jennie and Scary had their best "DWTS" outings so far. Everyone one else - blah, except for Sabs, who couldn't blow this comp if she wanted to. 321002.jpg

Now, to the scores:

Marie: Lumpy, tired, bland, sodden. But Marie faints and gets the sympathy vote. Now, call the doctor...

Jane: This comes under the heading "GBD" - good but dull. She rhumbaed. I snoozed.

Mark: Hey! I liked Billionaire Guy tonight. "Dream of Jeannie" was a risk, so were the eyeglasses, and the gimmick probably stole a few million glances away from the fact that the dance wasn't all that accomplished, but at least it was diverting.

Sabrina: Another winner. She takes a slow song, and makes it energetic and visually interesting.

Jennie: The best of the night, to this point. She just had it all, or mostly all - grace, style, athleticism. She's one of my favorite dancers - all heart, and you really get the sense that she's working hard to win this thing.

Helio: A bummer of a performance. And from Helio! The guy was board-stiff and his rhumba rivaled Jane's for dullest. Though an off-night, one hopes voters don't penalize the comp's best male hoofer.

Scary B.: She and partner Maksim have a snippy little moment in the prologue...plus, she's gotta cold...and he's wearing a protective mask (whaaa??!!)...and, of course, you realize, the more dismal the picture painted by producers, the better the dance. They - the producers - did not disappoint: This was by far the night's best. No way Scary lands in the bottom two tonight.

Cam: Oh Lord, back to his brickish ways. It was a very bad night for Cam, and he seemed to know it would be lousy - why else open the shirt? Keeps his fans' eyes (whoever they are) off his leaden feet. Too bad - he had a great week last week. But he should be fine.

Marie Osmond's Dead Faint

Wonder what they're saying backstage at "Dancing with the Stars" this morning? Is our medical screening stringent enough? Is it stringent at all? What happens if something really serious were to happen? And, of course, you don't need to be a cardiologist to know that when someone falls into a dead faint - as Marie Osmond did last night - after stringent exercise, then it could (emphasize could) be symptomatic of something serious. No one - at least not at this point - knows how Osmond was revived, or whether she was carried off-stage, or whether 0_61_033107_marie_osmond.jpg
medical personnel even attended to her, but after the bizarre scary moment (when she collapsed right before a stunned Len Goodman who was about to presumably explain why her samba stunk), "DWTS" went to a commercial and when the show came back, Tom Bergeron explained, "I want to quote her exactly - the first words out of her mouth were, 'oh crap...once in a while that happens to me...'" She joked about it. Bergeron joked about it. And because the show must go on, the show went on...But someone had better call the MD.

October 22, 2007

Louis Malle festival on TCM

We don’t get to see foreign films much anymore since the demise of the old Bravo -- the old, OLD Bravo -- which back in its 1980s-90s glory days actually used to run commercial-free Kurasawa films and other gems from global masters. (Yearning sigh here. “Project Runway” will never equal “The Seven Samurai.”)

malle_directs.jpgNow this week, Turner Classic Movies takes a stab at the art-film market with two nights of Louis Malle titles this Tuesday-Wednesday (Oct. 23-24), in honor of what would have been the French director’s 75th birthday. While Malle did make films in the United States (where he lived after marrying Candice Bergen in 1980, until his death in 1995), including “Pretty Baby” and “Atlantic City,” his international reputation rests on the great French-language features TCM now celebrates.

Tuesday lineup:
8 p.m. - Elevator to the Gallows (1957), Malle’s first non-documentary film, with Jeanne Moreau.
9:45 p.m. - Zazie Dans Le Metro (1960), with Philippe Noiret.
11:30 p.m. - The Fire Within (1963)
1:30 a.m. - Murmur of the Heart (1971)
3:30 a.m. - Black Moon (1975), with Joe Dallesandro.

Wednesday lineup:
8:00 p.m. - Au Revoir, Les Enfants (1987)
10:00 p.m. - Lacombe, Lucien (1974)
12:30 a.m. - Calcutta (1969), a documentary Malle also narrates.
2:30 a.m. - Place de la Republique (1974), a Paris slice-of-life.
4:15 a.m. - God's Country (1985), a Malle-narrated look at small-town Minnesota farm life and politics.

The films are further explored at TCM’s website.

"Viva Laughlin" Is Put out of Misery

I, for one, am inconsolable over the cancellation of the first (scripted) show of the new season - that being (what else?) "Viva Laughlin." It went down in flames only a couple of hours ago, after CBS execs woke up on the west coast and wailed, in unison, "what in God's name were we thinking?" Variety broke the "Viva (Not) Laughlin" story on its website just a little while ago.

Inconsolable only because the mind reels over the possibilities of where this show would have headed had it survived. I mean, just imagine. Hugh Jackman performed in 75 of the silliest seconds on network TV in years when he sang "Sympathy for the Devil," and then that gloriously silly sequence was upstaged just minutes later when Melanie Griffith - in the role of Bunny Baxter - sang (and danced) to Blondie's prehistoric hit, "One Way or Another."
Television like this comes along but once a decade, if that, and now it's over. So, inconsolable. 244.griffith.melanie.092806.jpg

Variety reports that the singing (or lip-syncing) stopped forever when CBS checked out this morning's ratings after last night's telecast. It scored a 1.2 rating among young adult viewers, and yes, that number is as bad as it looks.

CNN Covers the Hempstead Noose Firestorm Tomorrow Night

Three weeks ago, a rope noose was found hanging in the men's locker room of the Hempstead Police Department, and now the national TV media is weighing in. In an 8 p.m. broadcast tomorrow entitled "The Noose: An American Nightmare," CNN looks into the wake of Jena 6, and it doesn't have to look too far before the Hempstead firestorm rears its ugly head.

The network talks to deputy chief Willie Dixon, who says he believes he was the target: "A noose in my mind represents the darkest periods in this country's history...it wasn't enough to lynch an African American. You could castrate him to add insult to injury, and after the lifeless body was hanging from a tree, you would then set that individual on fire."

And more: Police Chief Joseph Wing tell CNN that "in the ensuing days and weeks, I had to deal with the media and media relations. And very important, I had to deal with the morale of the officers... because this is one act it was one individual, but it has such an adverse impact on all of the officers that are working hard. "

And this from Corey Pegues, president of the Long Island chapter of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives: "We're appalled that in 2007, someone has the audacity to put a noose in a police department, where people are sworn to protect and serve."

Meanwhile, the broadcast has an an interview with Nassau County Det. Sgt. Gary Shapiro, who says "the noose is not specifically mentioned in New York State's statutes, but symbols which could possibly be, that could bring some sort of a bias or hateful message, can be addressed through harassment laws that previously existed, to deal with that type of behavior." He says nooses will (per CNN) "eventually be included in New York's hate crime law..."

CNN’s Kyra Phillips reports...

Joe Torre on "Late Show"

Here's medium-big news from the Torre front: He'll be a guest on "Late Show with David Letterman" next Monday. PH2007032501212.jpg

CBS says this'll be Joe's "first broadcast network television interview since leaving the team," but it's hardly a surprise. Over the years, Joe's been on the show at least six times, which qualifies him as a semi-regular. The last time (per CBS) was April 10, 2006, when he pitched to Johnny Damon on 53rd Street.

Oh, and "Bee Movie" guy Seinfeld will be on too.

October 19, 2007

Deborah Kerr: FMC airs tribute

The Fox Movie Channel (FMC) will also honor the late Deborah Kerr.

The cable channel announced Friday it will air two of the actresses’ best-known movies on Sunday.

At 4 p.m., “The King and I” (1956) in which Kerr played Mrs. Anna, the British schoolteacher brought to Siam to educate the king’s (Yul Brynner) extensive brood, airs at 4 p.m. Kerr doesn’t sing such classics as "Getting to Know You," her voice is dubbed by the ubiquitous Marni Nixon.


That’s followed at 6 by “The Innocents” (1961) in which Kerr plays a governess haunted by spectres that may or may not be real. Truman Capote co-wrote this movie, which was adapted from Henry James’ “Turn of the Screw.”

As previously blogged, Turner Classic Movies will also honor Kerr Sunday by airing “From Here to Eternity” (8 p.m.) and “Separate Tables” (10:15 p.m.).

'Mad Men' Says Farewell (For Now)

I’m really gonna miss “Mad Men.”

But I’m glad that it’ll be back in the summer of 2008. Something to look forward to, along with finding out whether Willie Randolph will still be managing the Mets.


Anyway, last night’s finale was plenty intense: Don finally showing some emotion (learning the fate of his brother, returning to an empty house) was a satisfying breakthrough. And Betty’s first tentative steps away from being a submissive housewife was a nice touch as well.

But the pregnant Peggy (and she didn’t know it?) storyline was right out of grade-Z soap opera. Peggy sure has looked porky the past few months — and I guess it’s been about nine months since she had that late-night tryst with groom-to-be Pete, so it wasn’t a total surprise. But can’t “Mad Men” do better than that? (You just know that Peggy is gonna give away the baby when next season arrives, the better to focus on her new career as junior copywriter.)

All I can say, it’s gonna be a lot more fun in ‘61.

(And very cool was the shots of the wrap party. I always wondered what the actors looked like as their 2007 selves, not their 1960 characters, and now I can rest peacefully)

What did you think of "The Mad Men" finale? Post here.

"Grey's Anatomy:" Fight Night

Old 'do but new-found dignity.

Me, I didn't mind last night's "Grey's Anatomy," but - as I think I just mentioned - that's me. You? You may be a different story, and please don't be shy about saying so. But I saw glimmers of hope, which suggested that whatever has ailed this show a few episodes in may be a passing phase, or a new-season rough patch.

The big issue - Izzie had turned into a complete dope, without compass bearing or focus or (most glaringly) dignity. Meanwhile, the show itself - which has seemed to struggle weekly on exactly what point of view it wants to take with certain characters - offered no clues and instead allowed Izzie to fall deeper into a post-Denny-Duquette funk that threw her into the arms of George, who (in turn) was also wrecked as a sympathetic core character.

Anyway, last night, "Grey's" tried to set matters straight. I actually liked the cafeteria scene, when Izzy put up her dukes, and then Callie deflated her with just one casual prick - "I came to talk..." Izzie, unattached balloon that she has become, visibly deflated right there on the spot. It was a good night for Callie, in a way, because she (as well she should) became the moral core that has eluded the show, and by so doing, gave true and much needed perspective on the George/Izzie fling. Callie reminded viewers what was so grievously wrong with it, and SHE reminded viewers what damage had been done - and, incidentally, the damage done to the show. (Even though Karev probably had the best observation, saying how pathetic she had become.) I say all this because it seems to me that at least "Grey's" is attempting to ground itself again, or (apologies for the mixed metaphors) trying to get that
damned compass working again.

That's good, but it's just a start.

October 18, 2007

Finally, Chase Dishes on "The Sopranos"

“Sopranos” creator David Chase has finally spoken out about his controversial send-off to the HBO series. The comments appear in the new issue of Entertainment Weekly and are excerpted from Chase’s upcoming “The Sopranos: The Complete Book.”

Was he surprised by the reaction to the final episode?

“No,” he says. “We knew there would be people who liked it and would try to go with it and other people who would be perplexed by it and shut their minds to it. This just felt like the right ending.”

Chase says he didn’t expect people to be so angered about the ending:

“We didn’t expect them to be that --- for that long. It’s one thing to be deeply involved with a television show. It’s another to be so involved that all you do is sit on a couch and watch it. It seemed that those people were just looking for an excuse to be --- off. There was a war going on that week and attempted terror attacks in London. But these people were talking about onion rings.”

Many fans have developed their own elaborate theories – like the one that says Chase was re-creating the Last Supper, but he insists there is no puzzle to be solved.

“There are no esoteric clues in there. No Da Vinci Code. Everything that pertains to that episode was in that episode. And it was in the episode before that and the one before that and seasons before this one and so on. There had been indications of what the end is like.”


Jon Stewart's New Deal Through 2010

Well, well, well - now THIS is interesting: Broadcasting Magazine is reporting that Jon Stewart has just a signed a contract extension that'll keep him at "Daily Show" through Dec. 31, 2010. Said the mag: "Stewart informed his staff of the news Thursday afternoon and a formal announcement is expected shortly. The length of the extension coincides with the 2010 expiration of David Letterman’s deal at CBS..."

And that, of course, is the interesting part. If Dave steps away, then, maybe... november-jon-stewart.jpg

But the bear who will prowling around the woods at this time will be - you guessed it - Mr. Jay Leno. After NBC rudely pushes him aside in 2009, my guess is he'll be able to go anywhere he pleases, including CBS. (Speculation has long included Fox and ABC...) But everyone has long expected a Jon-for-Dave swap when the time comes.
Meanwhile, here's more "Daily Show" news: Today, Comedy Central launched a new "Daily Show" website that'll include the show's ENTIRE "video history," dating back to 1999. (Stewart's hosted just under a thousand editions.) A press release says this will include "well over 13,000 high-quality clips..." ("High quality?" Ummm...no. So far, a disaster, in fact: The clips were a mess, hard to load and to play, and pretty much a waste of time all around; a spokesman blamed the glitches on a "tremendous amount" of drive-by traffic today. Hope they fix it soon...)

Deborah Kerr Tribute on TCM

Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will pay tribute Sunday to six-time Oscar® nominee Deborah Kerr, who passed away today at the age of 86.

On Sunday, TCM will present a special double feature of two of Kerr’s most memorable nominated roles. At 8 p.m., she stars as a lonely military wife who seeks happiness through an illicit affair in "From Here to Eternity" (1953), co-starring Burt Lancaster, Frank Sinatra and Donna Reed.

At 10:15 p.m., she plays a spinster who is completely dominated by her mother while staying at an English seaside resort in "Separate Tables" (1958), with Lancaster and Oscar winners David Niven and Wendy Hiller.


Babylon Fields: From Hell It Came

Sometimes there are actually good reasons why certain shows never make it to the air. That they are "bad" is hardly justification, simply because bad shows get on the air all the time.

No - sometimes shows are just too irredeemably gross, or silly, or strange, or whatever, to get on the air. Also, shows starring people who have worms crawling out of their faces, or engage in necrophilia, probably qualify as reasons enough, too, I would think (or hope.)

Which way to Babylon? Well, you go down the Southern State...

Anyway, "Babylon Fields" was a pilot for the fall season on CBS; it flopped, badly, never got picked up, and is now pretty much dead. It will rise from its moldering grave only through the auspices of the worldwide web. Set in Babylon, L.I., the show gained some notoriety because the good people of Babylon didn't think this pilot (portions of which were shot there) placed their bucolic 'burb in the best possible light. This was irrefutable, insofar as "Babylon Fields" was about worm-crawling, flesh-munching, body-snatching, putrid-smelling, sex-having (ewwww)...zombies.

Well, TV Week's James Hibberd has unearthed video (body)snatches of this ungodly wretch and earlier this week, posted them on his blog at the news magazine. Go here right now, if you want to see solid New York actors like Jamey Sheridan ("Law & Order: CI") slumming it with outrageous make-up jobs and sillier lines.

Thanks, TV Week...I think (and happy Halloween to you too.)

No, he didn't direct, but he should call his lawyer.

Anastos Book Signing

Good ol' Ernie Anastos - anchor and now, kids book author. The woudlbe J.K. Rowling (and current WNYW/5 anchor) will be at the East Rockaway library this Saturday (10:30 a.m.) - along with Mayor Edward T. Sieban - to read/sign copies of his new book, "Ernie & The Big Newz."

Here are some blurbs from the press release:

"In this, his first adventure, Ernie gets his big scoop covering the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Later in the story, he braves a huge snowstorm, and discovers a great little hero. Ernie & The Big Newz is the first installment of a planned series of entertaining and inspirational tales that take place in New York City, where anything can happen… and it does!

Says Ernie, “I want to inspire children to follow their dreams and become all they can be and help make the world a better place. Most journalists can remember the event, or the inspiration, that made them want to be a reporter. I hope this book will provide that inspiration for a new generation of future broadcast journalists.”

Proceeds go to charity; the library's at 477 Atlantic Ave.

October 17, 2007

Stephen Colbert Enters! Let the Race Begin

Yes, we're all terribly excited this morning because Stephen Colbert announced last night that he'd officially become a candidate for the office of the president of the U.S. of A.

(Missed it? Here's an "interview" with Gwen Ifill from earlier this year where he pretty much confirms he's gonna run anyway...)

It was quite a night for Colbert. He suggested earlier on "The Daily Show" that he'd be entering the race, although he wanted to make an official declaration on "a more prestigious show" - "The Colbert Report."

"After nearly fifteen minutes of soul-searching, I have heard the call," said he. 12271555-12271558-slarge.jpg

To fans, of course, this is no surprise - he's been hinting for weeks, months (see above), and when the new book came out recently, that pretty much sealed the deal. (Books - even best-sellers - need gimmicks too.) He'll only campaign in home state South Carolina, or so he says, and the state's public education station has already offered air time.

Is this a Borat-style campaign? Of course - except everyone already knows "Colbert" is, ummm, "Colbert." But big questions anyway: What if he does get more votes than, say, Mike Huckabee in the S.C. primary on Jan. 19? Or more than that other celebrity-in-the-running, Fred Thompson? Will he enter as a Republican AND Democratic candidate, as threatened, so he can "lose twice?" Will he be the Ross Perot of S.C.? Will the networks cover him as vigorously as any other candidate, thus helping to sell even MORE books? Once seeing traction, will he drop character (and quotation marks), and revert to his real self, whatever that is, and become Stephen Colbert? Will he win the S.C. primary and go on to other primaries, and win those too (because the networks keep airing stories about his "improbable campaign," and David Gregory gets assigned to his campaign bus?) Will he eventually win the presidency?

And, really, what sort of president will Stephen Colbert make?

But I suppose I'm getting ahead of myself. Before we get too excited, let's not forget about that other improbable celeb who's entered the race - Christopher Walken. I'm pretty certain this is a serious campaign, but I could be wrong...

And just to put this all in perspective, let's bow our heads in memory of Pat Paulsen, who died in 1997.paulsen_p.jpg

Four you young 'uns, Paulsen - a fine comedian (associated mostly with the Smothers Brothers) - ran for prez in 1968, 1972, 1980, 1988, 1992, and 1996. When the "serious" candidates criticized him - hell, when anybody criticized him - he'd respond, "picky, picky, picky." He had several campaign slogans, including, "Just a common, ordinary, simple savior of America's destiny." The most famous ones, I guess, were "If elected, I will win," or this one:

“I've upped my standards. Now, up yours.”

He got nearly a thousand votes in the '96 New Hampshire primary.

Up that, Colbert.

Who will you vote for in Election '08?

"DWTS:" Floyd Can Now Officially Train for the Big Fight

Knocked out.

What, what, WHAT!!!?? Floyd "Fancy Foot" Mayweather got ditched off of last night's "Dancing with the Stars?" Is there no justice? Is there no taste in America anymore?

Yes, there is apparently taste, which explains why that utterly mystifying and comical version of the paso doble failed to secure him a ticket to next week's comp.

But there are mysteries here: How was it that Billionaire Guy - Mark Cuban - didn't even land in the bottom rounds? Is he buying votes? Are fans of the Dallas Mavericks voting for him? Is the city of Dallas turning out for their favorite son (he IS a favorite son, right?) I think a "DWTS" investigation is called for.

And this oddity: Mel B. ended up in the bottom two. Mel B.? This is a travesty. Wake up, people. If you don't, Mark Cuban's gonna win this thing.

October 16, 2007

"Dancing with the Stars:" Is Mark Cuban a Goner?

We've got the wrap on last night's "Dancing with the Stars" right here, right now, so read on:

Mark Cuban: Sorry Billionaire Guy - the field has left you far far behind. He did a (zzzz) rendition of the Viennese Waltz that (zzzzzz) would have even put Vienna to sleep. Competent but dull. Who knows how the voting will turn out, but Cuban's headed for the exits after last night, if there's any justice on "DWTS" (and if the people of Vienna are allowed to vote.) mark-cuban-sirius.jpg

Sabrina Bryan: Bad luck...no, terrible luck...no, worst "DWTS" luck imaginable for Cuban to be followed by Sabs. This was her best dance of the competition, even though you can say that every week. Watch Cuban, then watch her, and the thought occurs: Is this whole thing cooked? She's so obviously better than everyone else that one might imagine this is all a big set-up for the third "Cheetah Girls" Disney Channel movie next year. Oh, but that would be so cynical. TV people never think that way...

Jane Seymour: Actually, nice turn on the floor for Jane, but the best part was that little tiff with Carrie Ann who argued that they broke some sort of arcane Viennese Waltz rule (after awakening from the Billionaire Guy performance, the city of Vienna is now in an uproar!!) She still got nice scores, and she's still very much safe.

Floyd Mayweather: Holy toledo (Spain!): What the hell was THAT!? I don't know, but man, it was weird. But "good" weird. Or maybe just "weird" weird. I can't make up my mind. He did the paso doble, by the way. The judges didn't love it, but what a shame if Boxing Man doesn't come back next week for more weirdness.

Scary: Mel B. was terrific again - Vienna cheered! (And then fell asleep again.)

Cam Mathison: Spendido Camerino...I thought this guy was a cinder block a couple weeks ago, but what did I know. His paso doble was the best (guy) paso doble of the night. He's the perfect example of the amateur who gets better week to week. Cam moves on!

Jennie Garth: Another good one (and all these good paso dobles were starting to make Boxing Man's bizarro paso doble romp just a little stranger as the night went on...) Jenn's really something. I think she's quite the competitor, with heart. On she must go.

Helio: Well, anyone who reads this weekly wrap knows what I think of 'Neves; he's the best guy - non-pro, natch - on the floor. He's pure charisma, and a good hoofer too. Nice waltzing last night.

Marie Osmond: I did it again! A technology glitch! (Or was it a mental one?) And so, I missed Marie's paso. Forgive me, dear girl. Forgive me.

Al Sharpton on "Today:" New Imus Employer "Flatfooted"

Still not buddies.

Al Sharpton was on "The Today Show" this morning, and he didn't sound like he was bubbling over with joy at the prospect of the new Don Imus babblefest on WABC. (It's expected to launch Dec. 3 but still no official word.) He was especially bugged with Citadel Broadcasting which (per our report last week) had still not met with the National Association of Black Journalists about its plans. He told Meredith Vieira that "we'll have to see where the arrangements with Citadel are in terms of the contract and whether there's a safeguard." He went on to say, "we've always said he has a right to work but we've always said we had a right not to support advertisers who support people who offend us. If they don't meet [with the NABJ] we can only assume they have a reason for not being forthcoming. Why wouldn't they meet if Mr. Imus was sincere...redemption comes with...full disclosure. We'll see if they're willing to fully disclose."

Mere asked, could it be good for race relations (or something like that) if he came back? Said Al: "Especially if they start off on a good foot, but right now they're flatfooted...They're not meeting with NABJ and they're not answering questions and we can only ask why..."

While not entirely certain, I think this is Rev. Al's first broadside at the new show; he may be saying the same thing on his daily radio outlet, but he's been noticeably reticent on Imus elsewhere in recent days - leading me to speculate here last week that he might even secure an ambassadorial host role on the new show. Hey - why not? Crazier things have happened, and it'd be a smart move by Imus/Citadel. But I'm starting to wonder whether Imus isn't in a conciliatory mood either.

October 15, 2007

Quickie Review: Drew Carey Has Come On Down!!!!!!!!

Drew Carey Price is Right

I am almost certainly the worst judge in the world of "The Price is Right." Don't watch. Never have. Never will. High-fallutin smart-ass TV critic much rather watch Shakespearean-like drama "Lost" or "Battlestar Gallactica" (maybe "D Housewives," too.) THIS? Mention "The Price is Right," and the nose goes up in the air..."well, I wouldn't be caught dead!!" To snobs like me, "Price" fairly screams "I'm outta work...Indigent...or...92 years old!" This is the most peculiar form of television - kitsch married to insanely stoked acquisitiveness. "Price" is a pure distillate of TV commercialism: Where's room for humor in this formula?

And God forbid a host who is cynical, or snotty, or dismissive, or SARCASTIC. Bob Barker went down well for a million years (in TV terms) because he was the perfect automaton - a true believer in the cult that is "Price." Believe, or guess right, and you too shall win that all expenses-paid trip to Las Vegas!!! And so here is Drew Carey, who started this morning: Solid, block-like, he fills the screen with good humor, a black suit, horn-rimmed glasses, and a certain angularity that brings to mind SpongeBob Squarepants. He's not a fluid mover, but a deliberative one. He’s not Bob Barker either - but then that's not the idea. He reminds me of those guys who come on stage to certify the results of the Oscars. He's like an accountant, or a car salesman, or a friendly stockbroker. COME ON DOWN!! "You could keep the four thousand!!!....You gonna go!!!...Eight Thousand dollars!!!...Only two items left!!!"

Yes, he's big on exclamation points too. Drew doesn't like to leave things flat. He likes to pick up the most mundane "Price is Rightian" phrase, pump it up full of air, then send this balloon of hype and hooey floating over the studio audience, and out across the airwaves, to that invisible studio audience in the heartland.

He seems to talk a lot more than Bob did (not that I ever watched mind you.) He doesn't like open aural spaces - he likes to keep things moving along too. "There's a show to do," he might say to an indecisive contestant. He tells some guy to keep spinning the wheel..."that's a do-over...that's a do-over." He likes to repeat stuff.

You wonder as you watch Drew: Is this what a fairly successful TV career come to? It seems like a strange, almost bizarre endpoint. Fine for Barker, because that's all he ever seemed to do. But for Drew? One can't think of "Price" as a stepping stone, say, to a big screen career, or perhaps another sitcom. This is it. The end. The “All-you'll-ever-do-and-all-you'll-ever-want-to-do.” The host that evinces just the slightest hint of careerism is the soon-to-be-dead host. This is it. There is no exit. Only Godot will come to visit.

How will Drew, a smart, creative guy, keep his sanity intact over the next four decades?

That's between him and his therapist. But after the first day of the beginning of the rest of his life, I'd say Drew will be a successful "Price is Right" host.

Not - mind you - that I'll ever watch again to prove that.

October 12, 2007

Grey's Anatomy: Too Many Wet Noodles

Okay, "Grey's Anatomy:" You want truth. We'll give you the truth. The whole truth. The Nothing But the Whole Truth. So help me the-Big-Guy-Upstairs.

You need to get back on track. You need to relocate the center. You need to make us care about the characters again, or most of them, and make us feel that what's happening to them is worth feeling a little passionate about - not a little annoyed about. And most of all, you need to make Izzie whole again - not some cheap cardboard cutout who just can't get her emotions together, and seems, no is, increasingly like some pretty twitty snitty non-entity. "I'm blondie. I'm the other woman. I'm a bad fifties cliche." There: Izzie even gave you the truth herself.

Last night wasn't bad; it was simply forgettable, and three episodes in, that's not where you want to be. My feeling - and take it or leave it - is that "Grey's Anatomy" is currently one of the most important shows on television because it re-captured a vast audience when an army of pundits said that probably couldn't be done again with an ensemble drama; it (and "D Housewives" and "Lost," both of which also proved otherwise) turned around ABC, too, by turning around 20 million heads. But those heads are nodding off.
Last night, there were sparks, but sparks do not make a series; they simply serve to remind us what was once so good and now seems so lost. The writing, for example: Intermittently crisp (like that good scene between Mere and Cristina: "You surgery stealer," said Mere, "You owe me a surgery." "You owe me sex details," said C.) Cristina's false grief - that's good too, and she's good, as always. Miranda's windy put-down of Karev, concerning interns - good too. Plus Ed Herrmann, as the newest/oldest intern, Norm. This cameo has possibilities.

But this Izzy/George/Callie triangle? Not good. The dynamics are off-kilter, and it all feels as passionate as a wet noodle. George, with the puppy dog eyes and the quivering chin, may be a certain type of female fantasy figure - gentle, weak, and malleable, a doughboy, or a puppydog that can be house trained, or a bowl of warm milk. (I guess his nickname should be McCreamy.) But Izzy's willful disregard of Callie's feelings makes her (and him) increasingly unlikeable - and to a certain extent, shouldn't she be a sympathetic figure if we're to care about her and her feelings at ALL? We don't, or I don’t, and that's hurting Izzie - and hence, Katherine Heigl - as a vital Seattle Grace lifeforce.

The other relationships seem drained as well - even Mere and Lexie seem to be charging down the path of confrontation and revelation too quickly. It's palpably draining its dramatic possibilities, while the eventual hookup of Karev/Lexie is now becoming so foreshadowed that no one will be surprised, least of all us, when it's finally consummated.

Enough of today's gripe session. I will check back next week. I know you will too.

Vintage tube: TV Land moves things around

Classic TV faves shuffle in the TV Land schedule starting Monday, Oct. 15.

night_court_1.jpgJoining the early morning lineup weekdays: “Night Court” (7 a.m.) and “Wings” (7:30 a.m.). Both sitcoms restart Monday from their premiere episodes. (“Star Trek” is starting over at 6 a.m., too.)

Added later in the morning: “Designing Women” (10:30 a.m.) and “The Brady Bunch” (11 a.m.). “Green Acres” moves to 1:30 p.m.

In prime time starting Monday, “M*A*S*H” airs at 8 and 8:30 weekdays, leading into nightly two-hour blocks (“Designing Women” Monday, “Andy Griffith” Tuesday, “Sanford and Son” Wednesday, “Good Times” Thursday, another “M*A*S*H” hour 9-10 p.m. Friday).

Check out the changes at TV Land’s just relaunched (and much crisper looking) web site, packed with show clips, interviews, episode guides, interactive goodies and more.

October 11, 2007

'Pushing Daisies' holds up after 1 hour 32 minutes and 27 seconds


Stop with the numbers already!

I don’t often scream at my TV (at least when hockey’s not on), but last night’s “Pushing Daisies” pushed my buttons. It’s only because this new ABC show feels so special, and somewhat of a learning curve, that its insistence on being precious-cute can feel so painful. How are newcomers supposed to take to this fanciful acquired-taste when it’s so busy being so annoying?

Does it really matter that magical hero Ned (Lee Pace) has been keeping the secret of his reviving-the-dead powers for 19 years 29 weeks and 2 days? Or how many years weeks days anything else has existed? The fairy tale narration by British Harry Potter book-reader Jim Dale is so finely toned that it only makes the scripts’ bizarre obsession with repeated numerical precision even more irritating. Could we, instead, actually get somewhere with the plot?

Last night’s, for instance, was tasty, having our hero piemaker resurrecting a hit-and-run victim who reported he’d actually been killed by a crash test dummy at his automotive-safety gig. The twists and turns were delightful, from jealous pie-place piner Kristin Chenoweth bursting into song (a “Grease” number) to hardboiled detective Chi McBride carrying needles to knit handgun cozies. The colorfully wacky production design and photography sustained from last week's sumptuous pilot. And “Daisies” still nails the romantic yearning of its untouchable central twosome -- Pace and Anna Friel [in ABC photo above], as the childhood crush whom he’s revived and can’t touch again without killing her.

The show just needs to get over its over-adorable “The facts were these” narration babble. Unless, of course, all those enumerated numbers actually mean something. Like the lottery numbers on “Lost”? Then maybe --

Oh, please, no. “Lost” has lost us already. We don’t want “Daisies” to push us away.

Watch the episode (and the pilot) online here.

Will Don Imus and Al Sharpton Break Bread?

Crazy? Yes, but crazier things have happened...

You know, all this business about Imus has gotten me thinking, which - as you are well aware - can be a dangerous thing.

Newsday has a big reax package today that I contributed to, but it failed - thankfully and reasonably - to embrace a pet theory I've been noodling over for the past few hours. And I lay it on you now:

What if Al Sharpton has a role on Imus's new syndicated radio show?

Crazy? Of course, but not entirely. Hear me out on this.

A week ago, Howard Kurtz in the Washington Post reported that Imus will almost certainly have an African-American co-host on his new program; one assumes we're not talking a Robin Quivers, who will laugh at his bad jokes, but a heavyweight, with perspective, opinions, thoughts, and (of course) ego of his or her own. You flip quickly through the list of obvious suspects - people like Tom Joyner, say, or Tavis Smiley, or even Clarence Page, who I think would make a terrific co because he was the one who told Imus to cut out his racist Sambo humor in the first place. After you're done flipping, you come to this interesting name:

Al Sharpton!

He's got his own radio show, of course, and it's reasonably successful, I imagine. Sharpton's also been notably silent as reports of Imus's return circulate, which automatically leads to suspicions: Why? He's not silent about anything. Why Imus all of a sudden? For all I know, he's been prattling about Imus on his daily show, but I doubt it. (I've got a call/emails to his communications chief at National Action Network, Rachel Noerdlinger, but so far no response. When I get her denial, will post it right here...) There's no business reason for reticence either that I can think of: Citadel, the strange, secretive Howard-Hughes-like radio fortress in Las Vegas that will syndicate Imus, does not own Radio One, Sharpton's syndicator.

I don't think Sharpton would necessarily be a good co-host, but a "contributor," or perhaps "correspondent" or maybe sometime-co-host. Daily proximity would probably want to make these guys kill each other, but an occasional relationship might make it bearable. Of course, you reasonably say this is a hare-brained scheme because Sharpton stuck the fork in Imus back in April. But maybe (just maybe) Imus has come to the realization that it was Imus who stuck the fork in himself, and that he really had no one to blame but himself all along. Get someone like Sharpton on board, and it makes him look magnanimous, enlightened, and builds a bridge to a community he spent thirty years ignoring (and occasionally, insulting.)

The best reason for this strange bedfellows association: It also instantly diffuses the political flak the new show is certain to raise; Citadel is largely controlled/owned by Disney, and the last time I checked, Disney does not covet political flak.

Anyway, we need a name: "Imus and Al in the Morning..."? "The Don and Al Show...?" "Don and Al: Together Again!" Any other suggestions?

'Mad Men' without commercials?


AMC’s hot yet cool new drama series “Mad Men” may take place in the world of advertising -- the title plays off the macho suits of 1960 Madison Avenue –-- but its creators would rather their show run without commercials, thank you very much.

This irony, reported this week in Advertising Age, may yet come to pass in some form or other. No, AMC isn’t returning to its commercial-free glory days. (We pause here for film buffs’ nostalgic sigh.) However, next Thursday’s season finale (Oct. 18 at 10 p.m.) begins with a “tailored opening” crediting DirecTV as the hour’s sole advertiser. The climactic episode then airs with no breaks. Afterward, DirecTV sponsors an inside peek at the program’s wrap party.

The desire to shape a story uninterrupted by often blaring ads comes naturally to “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner. He cut his drama teeth writing for HBO’s “The Sopranos,” which could easily build its mercurial moods thanks to the premium channel’s ad-free status. And like “The Sopranos,” Weiner’s sophisticated “Mad Men” appeals to an upscale adult demographic. It’s one that youth-oriented broadcast networks may spurn but that niche cablers like AMC do well to cultivate. Ad Age reports nearly a third of the show’s audience of around 1 million boasts household income topping $100,000.

In other words, they can buy lots of stuff. We’ll see whether DirecTV’s one-time restraint leads to an enduring break-free future.

[AMC photo above: Ad exec Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and model Eleanor Ames (Megan Stier) get acquainted.]

October 10, 2007

‘Psychic’ sneak peek online

Before “America’s Psychic Challenge” hits the air on Lifetime this Friday, Oct. 12 at 10 p.m., the premiere episode of the clairvoyance competition is already streaming at Yahoo TV.

Also previewing at Yahoo -- Season 2 debuts of Lifetime’s “Lisa Williams: Life Among the Dead” (back on TV Friday night at 9) and supernatural drama “Blood Ties” (not on TV till Friday at 11).

The three shows’ premieres can also be downloaded for free from iTunes.

Find more episodes at Lifetime’s video page.

Christmas TV: It's time already

So, I hear you thinking, isn’t it a little early in the fall to be hot for Christmas episodes? Hardly. TV series’ seasonal stories reveal so much about our culture and our psychology, and looking back through television’s 60-year history, they’re even a revelatory history of the way we were and the ways in which we’ve changed.

Also, of course, they’re just fun.

And they’re already airing. Sure, it’s only the middle of October, but QVC’s been running its Christmas Shoppe selling sprees for weeks already. (BTW, the next one comes Monday, Oct. 15, 7-9 a.m.)

While it isn’t quite time for my annual massive comprehensive awe-inspiring list of hundreds of Christmas episode airings (you’re not the only one wondering where it is already), the seasonal goodies are indeed starting to trickle to the tube. And this week holds a couple we can’t let pass without highlighting.

Mama’s Family (Wednesday, Oct. 10 at 8 p.m., ION/31) -- Vicki Lawrence’s cranky old lady fills in for a mall Santa.

Family Guy StewieCurb Your Enthusiasm (Friday, Oct. 12 at 7:30 and 11 p.m., HBO Comedy) -- Larry David’s hilariously inappropriate attitudes extend to gobbling his wife’s family’s nativity-shaped cookies and starting a fight over a church group’s manger scene. You don't even want to know what's stuck in his throat.

Family Guy (Friday at 11 p.m., WPIX/11) -- Another badly behaved classic. Stewie [right] worms his way into playing the baby Jesus in the town-square nativity as his quest for plutonium continues. Meanwhile, Peter watches “KISS Saves Santa” on TV.

Next week holds some unusual outings, too, including the 1975 yule from the soap “Ryan’s Hope” (Friday, Oct. 19 at 5 a.m., SOAPnet) and the Christmas party on “The Complete Tales of the City” (Friday, Oct. 19 at 10 p.m., LOGO).

May your viewings be merry and bright!

Wayne Newton: Danke Schoen and Auf Wiedersehen

No longer amongst the dancing.

There are fountains (of tears) for Wayne - not a bad name for a Vegas attraction, too, come to think of it - this morning, as he is no longer around to entertain us on "Dancing with the Stars." He was ushered off the stage last night, ending a somewhat overextended stay on a show that does (after all) have something to do with dancing. The judges actually liked his performance of the tango on Monday - one so deeply flawed and exaggerated that the only thing missing was a rose in his teeth. But no reason to pile on: Wayne Newton, Mr. Vegas, is still an amazing dude, who can fill whatever venue it is in Las Vegas that he fills, and that he has filled for many decades. Sometimes it is good to know your limitations, however. Now, back to "Danke Schoen!" Of note: Floyd Mayweather was in the bottom two last night, which strongly suggests that he'll still end up with plenty of time to train for that big title fight in December. It's looking better for the women all the time.

October 9, 2007

"DWTS:" Sabrina Bryan May Be Too Good

By the third week of "Dancing with the Stars," the mustard starts to get separated from the mayo, the meat from the ribs, the wheat from the chaff...All of which means in plain old non-cliched English: Solid trends have emerged.

And this season, those are...Sabrina's by far the best dancer; Helio's the best male; and the women, or one of them anyway, are clearly primed to take the big award home.

But the devil's in the details - in this case, the voting - and there's clearly no accounting for the taste of the American public. Oh sure, Jane Seymour gets a huge sympathy vote, but will Wayne Newton get a huge sympathy vote for entirely different reasons? Cameron Mathison remains flat of foot but someone out there is voting, so will he be safe for another week? Let's get to the quickie analysis, but first an apology - I missed Marie Osmond's performance (technical problems of my own making) so I have to pass on her. Feel free to enlighten me.

Sabrina Bryan: Come on! Who's kidding whom? Only a broken heel (and check out those heels) will topple her. A seeezmic event, said Bruno, and I have to agree. It WAS seezmic. I can't imagine how it looks from the studio audience vantage-point, but the TV screen (she jived) was a blur of limbs and torsos; Sabs is, in fact, good TV, and really the only dancer who provides such week after week.

Cameron Mathison: Said he'd "blow the judges away" this week, but no can do, Cam. His tango - a ridiculous dance anyway - was boring, boring, and more boring (and his placement after Sabs really hurt.) Still, the generous judges gave him nice marks, which may provide a protective cocoon tomorrow.

Mark Cuban: Maybe Billionaire Guy is starting to feel the pain of that replaced hip - any normal human would, after all - and he seemed to lose the infectious enthusiasm that he usually brings to this affair. He looked almost dainty out there, as he tiptoed his way through the jive, and – though I'm not certain about this - I don't think you're supposed to tiptoe the jive. He's suddenly vulnerable.

Jennie Garth: Man, what is it with the tango that brings out the hammiest, hokiest acting chops in people? With all those exaggerated head swings and leg pumps, it was almost like a comedy routine. But get past the laughs - unintentional though they may be - and this was Garth's best night so far.

Mel B Brown: Again, the jive, and partner Maksim was superlative, which made Scary look a lot less than superlative for much of this routine. But they ended with this funky arm-twisting routine that brought it all home. So another good night for Scary.

Wayne Newton: Vegas Man claimed he had a "breaththrough" with the tango, but a breakthrough to where? The comedy circuit? What an unbelievably silly night, with that fake pony tail and 'stache, and those starchy twists and turns. This was more "Saturday Night Live" than "DWTS." Cheryl Burke, meanwhile, was not smiling.

Floyd Mayweather: No, ummm, knock out performance last night. His footwork seemed off, almost like he put lead weights in his shoes, and he seemed at half-speed compared to his pro. And for whatever reason, he seemed preoccupied, as though his head was someplace else. (Maybe that big impending fight - his day job, after all?)

Jane Seymour: Well, of course, the judges loved it. What are they going to say? Jane's mom dies...she goes to England to the funeral...and STILL has the professionalism, pride and presence of mind to keep working on her dance routine? They all gave her nines, and the only way to explain that, in a word, is "sympathy." I thought the routine - again, the tango - was over baked.

Helio Castroneves: 'Neves twisted his ankle beforehand, so no one expected miracles, and no one got any. Nevertheless, I thought he was very good; he's the most entertaining of all the dancers, and fun to look at even when he's off. The judges hammered him, but I say 'Neves has - or deserves – the best chance of any guy to get through to the final lap.

‘Heroes’: Sylar chills in Maui

Well, sort of. Turned out the thought-dead brain-eating blackguard was actually hallucinating in some dumpy cement-block building marooned in the depths of the rainforest. Of course this he discovered only after chomping dead his keeper and latest victim, mind-bender Candice.

Pretty nifty turn for “Heroes” to take in its third hour of the season. (Watch it online here. With cast-crew commentary here.) Sylar (Zachary Quinto) actually got to show a little soul when he feared he’d lost all his purloined powers. And maybe he has.

But new powers were being revealed everywhere else, upping the action ante quite nicely. Still not sure, though, how I felt about that Christopher Reeve-Margot Kidder-“Can You Read My Mind” moment where fellow student West (Nicholas D’Agosto) swept Claire (Hayden Panettiere) up into his arms for a little Superman soar around the California coast. C’mon, producers -- you can do better than ripoffs of saccharine-sweet sentiment.

andosword.jpgBut the student’s capacity for flight was matched around the world and three centuries earlier when reluctant hero Kensei (David Anders) was revealed as being self-healing. The syrup wasn’t quite as sugary in ancient Japan, providing a warm moment for Hiro (Masi Oka) to pine over the white knight getting the babe he was not only yearning for but secretly courting, too. Hiro as Cyrano! Priceless. So was his sneaky scroll-hiding communication with Ando across history. [At right, NBC photo of James Kyson Lee by Chris Haston.]

And there was so much more. Peter’s bullet-spittin’ chest. (And I’m liking that Irish chick he’s been confiding in, too. And her creepy crook brother.) Niki taking Micah to New Orleans to live with hailing-frequencies-opening Uhura (Nichelle Nichols, all white-hair-helmeted now). Claire learning from her flying friend about an evil kidnaper who wears -- what else? -- Horn Rimmed Glasses!

So wait. The good guys are which ones? And the baddies might be -- ? Hmm. Not sure whom to root for now. Kinda cool, isn’t it?

(Still unpersuaded by that meandering Maya tale, though.)

October 8, 2007

MTM vs. Seinfeld

Mary or Jerry? Jerry or Mary? It’s like some weird showbiz Thursday night smackdown, when two rarely seen TV comedy legends appear at live events in Manhattan Oct. 11.

In this corner, Jerry -- Seinfeld hosts (and performs at) the Stand Up for a Cure benefit for Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center lung cancer research, Thursday at 8:30 p.m. at the Hammerstein Ballroom. Other guests include the “30 Rock” cast, Trisha Yearwood and Jerry Stiller.

In this corner, Mary -- Moore talks about her five-decade TV career in “An Evening With Mary Tyler Moore” at the Paley Center for Media (formerly Museum of Television & Radio), Thursday at 6 p.m. Upcoming Paley Center events this fall spotlight Glenn Close, Angela Lansbury and Kyra Sedgwick.

Click on the links above for info/tickets.

Dennis Miller takes on sports, again

dennismiller.jpgIf Monday night football just hasn’t been the same for you since Dennis Miller’s been gone, the comic is about to come back -- in a new venue.

“Sports Unfiltered With Dennis Miller” debuts Nov. 6 on Versus, running Tuesday nights at 10. The cabler’s press release says Miller will unleash “his cerebral and acerbic wit on the world of sports through a variety of segments featured in the show each week, including his signature ‘rant’ about relevant sports news; his unvarnished take on the news using sports headlines and snapshots from the nation’s newspapers; and a combination of in-studio and remote interviews with the biggest newsmakers and celebrities from the sports community.”

Now if Versus could only get its act together covering hockey . . .

Buster’s Story: crash test dummy tells all!

Mythbusters dummy buster.jpg

You think it’s easy to become the star of your own TV show? You don’t know the pain it takes. But Buster does. And the star of “MythBusters” now has his inside tale told online in “Behind the Story: Buster.”

The hunk made of junk, the stud who lands with a thud -- Buster hit the top in 2003 as the crash test dummy on Discovery’s sudden-smash “MythBusters.” But as with so many instant celebs, stardom turned Buster’s head. You heard about that stay at the Henry Ford Clinic. Now learn about Buster’s humble beginnings in a mixed family, and the road that led to all that stunt-double-demanding Hollywood behavior.

There’s more -- oh so much more, told in juicy clips, interviews and even bloopers (extras!) -- streaming online in “Behind the Story: Buster.” You'll never look at "MythBusters” quite the same way again.

[Discovery Channel photo above shows Buster, center, with co-stars Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman.]

October 5, 2007

Phil Simms does ‘ATWT’ soap Monday

Phil Simms on ATWT

It’s better than being decked by linebackers.

Former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms guest stars as himself on the longrunning soap “As the World Turns” Monday (Oct. 8) at 2 p.m. on CBS/2. Simms now analyzes the NFL for that network.

The soap story has Simms showing up at the local Oakdale TV station so Katie (Terri Colombino) and Brad (Austin Peck) can surprise J.J. (Daniel Manche).

[CBS photo by George DaSoto/JPI.]

More HD on DirecTV

DirecTV has added another dozen channels to its satellite-delivered high-def lineup.

Bravo, Sci Fi, USA, MHD (MTV's high-def outlet), Cinemax East, Cinemax West and HBO West appeared this week. Various regions now also see their local sports channels in HD, including SportsNet New York and YES (also New England Sports Network, Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, and Comcast SportsNet Chicago).

That makes 41 national HD channels, plus regional local sports.

DirecTV has promised 100 high-def channels by year's end.

October 4, 2007

Lorraine Bracco Shoots Long Island Pilot, ummm, TV Show

Lorraine Bracco - Westbury native who you know (and love) as Doc Melfi - will star in a Lifetime drama pilot entitled "Long Island Confidential" that may make the network's June 2008 lineup.

Now, before you get TOO excited, let's throw a wet blanket or two on this. First, "LIC" will be filmed in Toronto (production starts next week), and the last time I checked, Toronto doesn't look exactly like any part of LI that I'm familiar with, plus it's much colder. Second, this is a pilot order, which means it could get picked up, but it could just as easily NOT get picked up. Such is life in the TV trenches.

But we all know that's not gonna happen: This is Melfi's first outing since "The Sopranos" wrap and until the movie comes along - which it will, because Tony is not officially dead - then she needs something else to do. This should suffice.

What else can I tell you? Well, let's let Variety do the hard work, because it broke the story yesterday:

Bracco "will play Nora, the mom of series lead, Alison Elliott [most recently in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"] Elliott plays a female detective juggling family and career."

Neil Schubert, Lifetime's chief of publicity, told me a little while ago that the network's development team is "really, really high on the pilot" and that Nora's family is hugely unconventional. No details on what part of L.I. this is supposed to be set in, but as soon as we get 'em, you'll will be the first to hear.

"Grey's Anatomy: " The Long Climb Back

For a while - like two years - ABC declined to send review copies of "Grey's Anatomy" to TV scribes for the simple reason that it didn't HAVE to send review copies, which meant we had to watch like civilians. But guess what? Mindful of just how far out of favor this massive hit has fallen in some quarters (if last season's endless on-line gripe sessions were good indications) it's gone ahead and sent tonight's episode out for review.


So, from a long-standing "GA'" perspective, here's my quick assessment - good, but still, something's missing. Maybe this: After two and a half seasons of emotional triage among the character mainstays, one begins to ask, how much more triage can any mainstay undergo before that little heart monitor machine attached to 20 million viewers starts to flat-line? Let's count the numerous triages under way at the moment: Izzie loves George and George loves Izzie (but now Callie is starting to suspect.) Cristina has been abandoned by Burke and she's back to square one (and confronting the classic "GA" paradox - emotional fulfillment or career fulfillment?) Meredith's on-again off-again with Derek (and I've kinda lost count how many times this has gone on) has entered another phase, which we'll call Kinda On-gain (But The Clock is Ticking...) Her sister is here now, too, which is good because this at least gives Grey another emotional crisis, and "GA" another vein to tap. Webber's trying to repair things with his wife (still), and who knows WHAT gives with Miranda Bailey. Addison's gone of course and the only guy around here who isn't dripping with angst, anxiety, fear, loathing, paranoia, or love problems is Mark Sloan. (So what else is new?)

I'm not gonna get into plot points about tonight because I've learned that just bugs fans, but tonight's theme is "addiction," along with all its various manifestations. Again, it all feels like good old solid "Grey's," but somehow twice removed, or less-than-fresh, or a little worked over just one too many times. Therein lies the challenge of any major hit - keep the show firmly tethered to the mooring that made it so successful in the first place, yet strike out in new directions as well, and make fans fall in love with the object of their affection all over again. "GA's" trying - boy, it's trying - but still...

Meanwhile, I've buried my lead: Diahann Carroll is back as Jane Burke – Burke’s tough moma - and I hope it's not giving too much away to say she arrives unannounced in the waiting room where she dispenses wisdom, reprimands, tough love, and closure. I suspect this will be the last we see of dear Jane, but who knows…

Film buff fun: Fonda, Yuma, Indy

Can there be such a thing on TV as too many movies? Trying to sort through today’s dozens of digital channels can make a cinephile too tired to watch.

So we’re here to offer some occasional help, pinpointing as many noteworthy festivals, don’t-miss events and conveniently concurrent airings as time and space permit.

Today and tomorrow:

Henry Fonda (Thursdays in October, starting at 8 p.m., Turner Classic Movies) – Jane and Peter’s dad, only a legendary actor himself, runs the gamut in this Star of the Month salute. Its 26 titles spanning six decades include tonight’s dramas (“12 Angry Men” and “Fail-Safe” kick things off), next week’s westerns (from the Hollywood heroism of “The Ox-Bow Incident” to his deliciously villainous turn in Sergio Leone’s masterpiece “Once Upon a Time in the West”), Oct. 18’s war movies, and Oct. 25’s comedies (1968’s original “Yours, Mine and Ours”) and more.

3:10 to Yuma (Thursday, Oct. 4 at 8 p.m., Encore Westerns) – The 1957 original with Van Heflin and Glenn Ford hits the airwaves as the Russell Crowe-Christian Bale remake hits movie theaters. Digital cable homes where Encore VOD is available (check onscreen menus) can watch the action anytime on-demand.

The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (Thursday, Oct. 4 at 9 p.m., History International) – George Lucas’ 1990s ABC series of prequel history docu(ish)dramas begins a supplemented repeat run. The airings are followed by half-hour documentaries on subjects the globetrotting young Indy (hottie Sean Patrick Flanery) encounters, such as slavery or Sigmund Freud. For those without the digital channel History International, the original History Channel airs “Young Indy” Saturday at 7 a.m. (And all this Indy-ness comes out on DVD starting Oct. 23.)

Classic Horror Directors (Fridays in October, starting at 8 p.m., TCM) – Jacques Tourneur is the month’s first auteur, with screenings of 1958’s “Curse of the Demon,” 1942’s “Cat People,” and 1943’s “I Walked With a Zombie” and “The Leopard Man.”

Top Chef Finale: Hung Jury

Hung won; no surprise there. He was the acknowledged leader in technical skills, and the judges wisely stopped harping on his inability “to cook with love” when push came to shove. Two weeks ago, culinary eminence Andre Soltner had identified Hung as the one he’d hire. Enough said.

Dale did himself proud, but Casey seemed to fall apart. She’s had execution problems in the past (remember the raw elk?) but her great strength was her mature, restrained taste. She was always the one contestant you could be counted on not to clutter up her dish with extraneous ingredients, but there she was putting salmon roe on two of her four dishes.

For me, the finale failed to redeem what had become a boring season of Top Chef. The judges often said that the level of cooking this season was higher than it had ever been. Who am I to argue? That is so not the point. The judges get to taste the food that the contestants cook. The viewers can only watch.

Project Runway, on which Top Chef is modeled, is the perfect competition show. What the contestants are creating is essentially visual, and we, the audience, can judge the finished product because we can see the finished product. Ditto with Dancing with the Stars or Extreme Makeover or even Top Hair—or whatever it’s called.

The essential problem with Top Chef is that we can’t legitimately judge the finished results because we can’t taste them. So we must rely on the contestants’ personalities and conflicts for our fun. This round of contestants, talented as they were, just weren’t that much fun to watch.

I’m looking forward to Project Runway.

October 3, 2007

Dr. Phil shrinks Britney (Thursday)


What would Dr. Phil do?

Or at least, what would he say?, in trying to assess not the trainwreck but the human tragedy that is Britney Spears at this moment. On Thursday’s show (“Dr. Phil” at 3 p.m. on WCBS/2, 5 p.m. on WLNY/55), Ph.D psychologist Phil McGraw offers his first “Dr. Phil Now” broadcast, a timely hour counseling how the too-hard-partying pop diva can regain some equilibrium as she’s being incessantly stalked by TMZ.

We can mock Dr. Phil all we want -- and it is fun, is it not? -- but in this case, he’s a behavioral specialist of some renown who’s treating this splashed-all-over tale not as some snarky gossip item but as the sad story it is -- a once-accomplished young woman coming apart at the seams, her reckless behavior steadily trashing her career, her health, her relationships, and especially her connection with her kids. She’s got two little ones, remember. And they aren’t just courtroom tug-of-war items.

While the TV/online showbiz sites make profitable hay from her misbehavior, Dr. Phil evaluates what Britney Spears must do to get her kids back -- using his Courtroom Sciences consulting expertise (remember how he met Oprah) and, in the process, engaging in long-distance analysis, we’re sure. But it’s bound to be more estimable than the likes of “Britney's Most Shocking Year Ever” from VH1 (which ironically airs at the same time Thursday as WCBS’ “Dr. Phil”) or the lurid “Celebrity Expose” Monday on MyNetwork TV. Joining Dr. Phil will be “Spears’ former bodyguard,” says the press release, “who says he spoke out to protect her children.” He’ll “tell Dr. Phil what led him to go public.”

OK by me. Anything to start taking this mom’s meltdown seriously, people.

'Aliens in America' pairs PJ Olsson, Pakistani rocker

Now here's where it ain’t so great watching network preview screeners to review new shows (even sans commercials).

Aliens in America” -- the smart cross-cultural comedy just premiered Mondays on The CW/11 -- arrived in critics’ hands without its main title sequence/theme song. Which turns out to be super cool.

Junoon and PJ Olsson

Echoing the series’ American and Pakistani student pals, the show-open pairs Michigan-born PJ Olsson and Salman Ahmad of Pakistan’s rocking band Junoon to deliver “(What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding.” The song also appears on Olsson’s “American Scream” CD dropping Oct. 16.

Says The CW press release, “Both musicians grew up playing the traditional music of their cultures and were transformed by their experience with rock ‘n’ roll. Olsson grew up in an orchestral family and sang gospel music in church, but it was the experience of seeing Pink Floyd that inspired him to seek a career in music. In Pakistan, Ahmad played Sufi devotional music, but when he came to America at the age of 11 and saw Jimmy Page perform ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ everything changed for him as well.”

Find the pair’s music video and more info here. (Junoon videos here.)

Watch CW “Aliens in America” video here.

Quickie Review: "Cavemen." Needs Haircut.

ABC Cavemen
Barber, anyone?

Me like dumb TV.

Me WATCH dumb TV.

Me TV critic who watch dumb TV even when me not have to watch TV.

But hairy man show - "Cavemen" - too dumb even for me, dumb-TV-loving-TV-guy.

Oh, I'm sorry. I'm not supposed to be so insensitive. Cavemen: They're just like you and me, only they talk better. And they're hairier. But nice. OK, not really nice, but angry - anger based on eons of prejudice and repression by "sapes," or homo sapiens, not to mention countless bad hair days. And the apparent result? They have absolutely no sense of humor. At all. (But with all that hair, who can blame them! God, there I go again...)

What was ABC thinking? No. I take that back. ABC was not thinking. ABC had a Neanderthal impulse, sprung from a commercial that was kinda funny, but really not THAT funny, and was really only supposed to sell car insurance and not launch new series. Now THIS? "This" is a mistake.

"Cavemen" actually wasn't totally dumb, per se. Just strange: a bitter, snide, borderline nasty, weird TV experience. Not that there's anything wrong with that (per se), as "South Park" can attest. But someone forgot to tell someone that this was supposed to be funny, or at least amusing. It is neither.

Cavemen Nick, Joel, and Andy live together in San Diego. Nick...or it is Joel? I don't know - they all look the same. (There I go again. I'm sorry. Really.) Anyway Joel has a girlfriend, a sape, but Andy's trying (badly) to forget his ex (who I think is also a hirsute one.) Nick’s more metrosexual than caveman - a fancy-talker with inflections and attitude and bile, who pretty much realizes that the hairless world is a shallow soulless trench where cavemen will always be ostracized. Of course, he’s jealous that Joel's dating a gorgeous sape - jealous and dumbfounded.

Mostly these caveguys are interested - no, fixated - on sex, drinking, video games, having a good time, worrying about relationships, fretting about life, and trying to make a go of it in a cold cruel world mostly populated by cold and unattainable women. And they're very immature. It's "Two and a Half Hairy Men" or "It's Always Hairy in Philadelphia."

Those shows, though, are funny.

This one? You have your answer. Ug.

"DWTS:" Albert Reed Out; Viewer Voters Screw Up

Well, I guess I'm out of the "DWTS" prediction department: Albert Reed is out!

This is stunner - a stunner because the kid is (and was) good, with plenty of style, humor, poise, and evident talent. I called for Wayne Newton's head, but I guess the 50 million who've seen his Vegas show since well before slot machines were invented worked the phones and overcame a truly punitive judge vote.

Wayne lives! For another week anyway. Maybe many more weeks. Maybe he'll win! Another Cheryl Burke miracle. But Reed? One can only blame, well, SOMEONE - let's say the viewers. He shoulda stayed in.

October 2, 2007

‘Twin Peaks’ begins again tonight

Sorry for the late notice, but the digital cable/satellite channel Chiller just sent out its October highlights, among which we find this:

Twin Peaks,” now airing on Chiller weeknights at 8 and 11, begins again with the twisted mystery’s two-hour pilot -- one of the most acclaimed pieces of television ever.

David Lynch’s 1990 minor masterpiece is followed tonight at 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. by “Tales From the Crypt” episodes with “Peaks” stars Kyle MacLachlan and Sherilyn Fenn.

'South Park' back and hot to watch


Say it isn’t so! Cartman has Tourette’s Syndrome, which is supposed to explain all those epithets pouring forth from his mouth.

Say it is so! That means “South Park” is back Wednesday night at 10 with new episodes -- seven, count ’em, seven (7) this fall.

Comedy Central also says that, as of Friday, Oct. 5, new episodes will be available uncensored on iTunes, xBox, Amazon Unbox, walmart.com and bittorrent.com.

In case you just can’t get enough of Emmy’s best animated program.

["Le Petit Tourette" episode scene courtesy of Comedy Central.]

Diane Werts: Hey, ‘Heroes,’ hop to it!

heroescrop2.jpgDid “Heroes” start this fast/slow last fall? Guess I need to go back and watch the DVDs to remember. This second season is ostensibly racing along after two weeks -- last night’s episode (watch it here) bounced from 17th century Japan to contemporary Guatemala, to Haiti, to Ireland, to California and New York -- and it further integrated at least a half-dozen new characters.

Yet after last night’s expository hour, the series feels to me like it’s just ambling somehow. Can’t quite figure it out. I mean, Claire is all “I can’t not be what I am” again -- hasn’t she been through this like seven times already? -- and Hiro is babbling in subtitles about what he’s doing to “the space-time continuum.” Again. At least the return of the Haitian was welcome. Hadn’t realized how I’d missed his particular presence.

But the new characters haven’t really been clarified yet. What’s the deal with Maya’s “black tears” and their sometimes fatal consequences? And her twin brother sort of purifying her? I wanna know more about Japan’s white samurai, too. And that whole Irish gang, and Peter’s amnesia. (And Nathan’s moping.) Meanwhile, where the heck are Niki and Micah? (NBC press releases had promised them as part of this second episode.) And Sylar?

Pretty cool to see Claire’s severed toe regenerate, though.

Maybe this is just the measured way the season game has to be played. Kind of like “24.” That Fox thriller begins each “day” gangbusters, sort of levels off in intensity, then utterly loses its way through the season’s middle third, only to recover dramatically by story’s end. (Well, usually. Not last season.)

“Heroes” has even more to juggle, needing to reestablish its plethora of returning characters while introducing a whole ’nother passel of people and their “abilities.” That takes awhile. But after the way last season caught fire and blazed away for weeks on end, I’m in that rhythm with the bar being set high. I want those rousing reveals, breathtaking payoffs and explicit explanations all the time. So far only Claire’s lizard-toe has come close to doing the trick. And we’re two hours into the season.

Sure, I wanna see more. I just want “Heroes” to pick up the pace.

[Above: David Anders and Masi Oka in NBC photo by Trae Patton.]

"Dancing with the Stars:" Week Deux

Mr. Indy 500 slays again.

Let’s lay out "DWTS"- Week Two - in just two words: Sabs and 'Neves.

That's it. If you missed last night's show, that's all you need to know: Sabs and 'Neves.

Oh sure, yes, of course - little surprises here and there. Jane Seymour, for example. She was better than week 1, and so was Floyd Mayweather, though both were better for different reasons. But so far, Sabs and 'Neves are your clear front-runners.

Here's my recap from last night, and for my fearless prediction of the next disappearing act, effective tonight, scroll to the bottom...

Mel Brown:

Wow. We're talking Major Personal Transformation here - so much so that I didn't even recognize Scary until the dance was over; but the quick step just isn't her, no matter what MPT she's going for. It was a totally forgettable performance and washed out her terrific start. Still, she's safe.

Mark Cuban:

Billionaire Guy comes to compete, but tonight was a bad one. Was it just me or were he and his partner, Kym Johnson. totally out of sync? She was stunningly good, and as a result, he was rendered merely average. I see the judges pounded him with sixes, so he's vulnerable.

Wayne Newton:

Oh, man, the silliest dance of the night. "Viva Las Vegas?" He just thumped and bumped across the dance floor and at the end, he dumped poor Cheryl (Burke) like a sack of potatoes. Plus, those airkisses! Gak!

Marie Osmond :

Another surprise outing, and a marked improvement over week one, which was pretty darned good. Marie's looking great, and easily bested Scary, which is the biggest surprise of all.

Albert Reed:

Ho hum. Yeah, Al seemed to sense this dance (the quick step) would straightjacket his style and it did. Competent and bland - but easily better than the other male dancers to this point.

Helio Castroneves:

This was far far (and far) away the best male performance of the night. Of anybody. At all. Period. No argument. Fast, fluid, stylish, fun - don't I sound like Len? - if this was the only dance (the mambo) you caught, you didn't need to see anything else (except of course Sabs.)

Jennie Garth:

Another quick step, and a serviceable performance marred by a rare bobble, and I think it was her pro (Derek Hough) who actually made the mistake. She looked bummed, but I think she's OK for now.

Cameron Mathison:

Cam turned in a good one, and was another example of week to week improvement. He survives...

Floyd Mayweather:

There's something vaguely ridiculous about watching Floyd Mayweather do the quick step. But get past that and it was another good outing for Boxing Guy.

Jane Seymour:

Check it out (as Randy might say). Jane Seymour comes here, one of the ...ummm....more elder members of the field, and does a number with lots of athleticism and style. Jane (as Randy might also say) is hot.

Sabrina Bryan:

We know your game, "DWTS." In the intro, you show Sabs stumbling around and then in the live performance...well, let's just say she doesn't stumble. She's one of the most accomplished and talented dancers in this show's five seasons. She remains front runner and likely winner.

And kiss goodbye...Wayne. The judges sealed his fate with the low scores (which, when expressed as a percentage of all the scores, will be even more pathetic.) He'll need a massive viewer turnout to overcome the judge liability and he won't get it.

October 1, 2007

David and Paris: The Interview

OK, it WAS a beautiful weekend (except for Mets fans), and my head is half here/half not here - which is not an unusual state for me in the best of circumstances - so that may explain why I'm JUST NOW catching up with the David Letterman/Paris Hilton interview from Friday's show. But on the off-chance you're as oblivious as your humble messenger, click on the clip. It's classic Letterman and brings to mind that classic Letterman moment with Cher, who stared at him hard in his cold blue eyes and said (to this effect): It's true what they say about you - you really are an -------.

But he's also a genius; this demolition of Hilton is masterful.

God’s reality shows debut on BET

Sunday%20Best%20-%20Contestant.jpgIf you’ve had enough of the reality genre’s hot-tub-hopping, backstabbing and all-around bad behavior, two new shows arrive Tuesday night with a higher-power slant.

The singing competition “Sunday Best” (8 p.m. on BET) has gospel star Kirk Franklin hosting a search of “the country's storefront churches, parishes and mega-churches to find the best undiscovered singers in America.” They’ll be coached by pros and judged by spiritual songsters Mary Mary and BeBe Winans, toward prizes including a recording contract. [BET photo at right.]

The companion half-hour, “Exalted!” (Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. on BET) is a bio-portrait following the lives and careers of six ministers as they care for their congregations and their families.

Quickie Review: "Desperate Housewives"

Splendid new addition to "Housewives" - from late/lamented "Kidnapped."

It doesn't get much ink or pixels anymore but "Desperate Housewives" seems as fresh - to me and maybe 18 million other fans - as ever. No, of course, I'm not talking about the plotlines, deliriously absurd, as always, or the on-agains/off-agains/on-agains between whomever in any given week or season. But I am talking about the fact that the cast is superb and the footing of the show - lost so completely in 2005, then regained somewhat in 2006 - now seems to be solidly on terra firma again, at least if last night was any indication.

The original “DH” tone was set by Marc Cherry, who was unceremoniously dumped, then brought back again last season. This whole thing was his idea, his humor, and his show in the first place, so it makes perfect sense that a revived "D Housewives" should take place on his watch, even if this is the second time around.

Now, maybe best of all, is last night's addition of Dana Delany - Katherine Mayfair, the newest snarkqueen of Wisteria Lane, with a scalpel for a tongue and a mysterious daughter and bearer of secrets as sinister as any of the other secrets of the past three seasons. (An early rumor was that she was supposed to be Bree's long lost sister, but who knows...) Yeah, she moved into the Amityville Horror house of W Lane, where bad stuff always seems to happen (and maybe a realtor should check one of these days to see if there was once an Indian cemetery there...) We last see her and her husband/doc, Adam - who I'm pretty certain is Nathan Fillion of "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer," and a few dozen other shows, including "Firefly," as my vigilant colleague Diane Werts pointed out - looking over a darkened room where something terrible happened years earlier...

If it seems dismissive or even slightly pejorative to call someone an "old pro," then guilty as charged, but Delany is indisputably that, and she fits squarely among a core group of other seasoned pros that span a couple generations - including Polly Bergen, Kathryn Joosten, John Slattery, Kyle MacLachlan, Marcia Cross, Felicity Huffman, Eva Longoria, Nicollette Sheridan, Ricardo Chavira, Doug Savant, James Denton and (of course) Teri Hatcher.

So here's to Dana and "D Housewives" - fine actress and pretty darned good show. Seriously.

Fall show reviews on Metacritic

Don’t take my word for it. After you read Newsday’s reviews of the new fall shows, read everybody else’s. That’s easy to do at Metacritic, which aggregates up to 30 reviews for each series from around the country on one link-crammed page.

aliensfamily.jpgMetacritic also “averages” them, by assigning each review a numerical score (which, once you read the full reviews, doesn’t always seem accurate), then boiling them all down into one simple grade -- enabling each show to be labeled as green (acclaimed), yellow (maybe) or red (stinkeroo).

At Metacritic, “Reaper” tops the newbies with an 81, followed by “Chuck” at 74. Landing with a thud would be “Big Shots” at 33 and “Moonlight” at 36 (although I thought my own semi-appreciative assessment in Friday’s paper was scored way too low at 40).

Today’s debut of “Aliens in America” was still in the process of being compiled at Metacritic this morning, but looked promising with a preliminary 79. (My own review in Monday's Newsday was scored an 80.)

Metacritic is a great site to bookmark for TV opinions, and it also covers movies, music, DVDs, books and games (Halo 3 got a 95).

["Aliens in America" photo from The CW/Kharen Hill.]

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