November 2008 Archives

November 28, 2008

"Rosie Live": Dead

320_rodonnell_070604_bbarket_74385563.jpg I'm looking into my crystal ball ... looking ... looking ... what's that I see ... a large plastic turkey. Rachael Ray is dancing with it ... she is surrounded by dancing cupcakes..and there's Rosie.

Oh wait. That's not a crystal ball. That's a recurring nightmare - recurring since Wednesday night anyway. I'm afraid that we can all put a fork in this turkey though: "Rosie Live" will never be back on TV again. Ever. As long as any of us live. Perhaps even beyond that.

Call this one a noble failure. Or an ignoble one. Or an embarrassment. Or a disaster. In my preview on Wednesday I think I said this would either be a fiasco or an interesting and worthy flop. Correct on one count anyway. The show was seen by 5 million viewers, and got just a 1.2 rating in adults 18-49.

So, that's it. No more "Rosie Live."

Take 5: TV's 'Millionaires'

"Secret Millionaire,” a new Fox reality show based on a British hit, debuts Wednesday. Its premise is sort of intriguing: A millionaire agrees to give away tens of thousands of dollars of his or her own money after spending time in an impoverished community where no one knows they are rich. Nice touch for these times, eh?

Anyhow, the show’s title puts us in mind of these five “millionaire” TV shows or characters.

The Millionaire” (1955-60) — Each week on this dramatic anthology, the title character, John Beresford Tipton (who was heard, but never seen on camera), would instruct his personal secretary to bestow a check for $1 million (tax-free) on an unsuspecting individual.

The millionaire and his wife (1964-67) — How the wealthy, stuffy Thurston Howell III (Jim Backus) and his wife, Lovey (Natalie Schafer), were referred to in the “Gilligan’s Island” theme song. They’re still the subjects of one of TV’s enduring mysteries: How did they know to pack three years’ worth of clothing on a three-hour tour?

"Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” (1999-) — Incredibly popular game show hosted on ABC by Regis Philbin, and now in syndication by Meredith Vieira.

“Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?” (2000) — Infamous Fox reality show in which contestant Rick Rockwell winnowed out Darva Conger from a group of 50 women. Shortly after the show aired, it was revealed Rockwell had been slapped with a restraining order by a former girlfriend.

"Joe Millionaire” (2003) — Highly successful Fox reality show in which an ordinary schmo pretended to be a millionaire to win a hot babe’s heart. The test came when said hot babe learned Joe Millionaire wasn’t even Joe the Plumber

Take a trip on the wayback machine and check out this clip of TV's original "Millionaire."

November 27, 2008

"The Shield": Farewell


Before I get too far away from the actual event - and now that the hugely disappointing seventh season of "DWTS" has been washed from my memory cells - one last tribute to "The Shield." It ended the other night, as everyone is well aware, in a 90-minute ball of fury that ended in something profoundly unusual for this show - silence.

Though not in the habit of doing this, here's my review, if you missed, in which I called this one of the greatest finales in TV history. And indeed it was. And a final note (for now) on that finale: Did anyone notice the obvious similarity with "The Wire" closer? Beyond the fact that both were directed by Clark Johnson (who also appeared in both?) God knows, there were endless differences between both shows - beginning with (and ending with) "Wire" creator David Simon's compulsion to EXPLAIN what he was doing and why. But what's also noticeable is the fact that both Vic and Marlo Stanfield - also immunized - were cosseted in suits at the very end - suits as metaphors for social constrictions and conformity. Well, Marlo loses his tie, and hits the street, and Vic jams a gun under his belt. Both melt away, maybe even back to their previous lives, threatening their immunity, and no doubt losing it. The lesson - leopards can't change their spots, character is eternal.

Great finales, great shows. Now, nothing really to replace them.

November 26, 2008

Ch.11's Thanksgiving Tradition

Last-minute alert: A New York TV holiday tradition continues tomorrow...

No, not the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, but WPIX's annual broadcast of the Laurel and Hardy classic "March of the Wooden Soldiers" at 9 a.m. on Ch.11 on Thanksgiving morning.

This movie used to freak me out when I was a kid, and still does now, if this clip of the movie's final nine minutes is any indication:

The Glories of 1980s TV

Today, here in the Zone, we are debuting a new feature -- The Institute of ''80s TV Studies (TIOETS) -- which will strive to recall the tube wonders of that decade, the very last time Network TV really dominated our viewing habits.

To kick things off, lets return to the golden year of 1982.

Check out this amazing montage of opening sequences from shows that aired that year. There are a few well remembered ("Fame," " Flamingo Road") but most are long forgotten -- and deservedly so ("Open All Night," "Making a Living."). But, man, check out the soaring musical themes, the elaborate opening sequences, and cast credits (and weep when you realize that about 80 percent of the actors mentioned in them haven't been seen since the Reagan Administration.)

Marty Feldman

martyfeldman_2_396x222.jpg Well, I am the jerk of the moment. In this morning's wrap for Newsday on last night's "Dancing with the Stars," I closed out my piece with this line...

"Cloris Leachman ... well, you know all about that. Season eight next: I wonder - does Marty Feldman have any plans next spring?"

As Marty Feldman fans - and as I should have - Feldman died in December 1982. I was not making a joke here - of that, I assure you. It was late. The brain had ceased functioning. And the name of Marty - may he rest in peace - popped into my mind.

In any event, I've substituted the name of this gifted comic in the online edition for another...Gene Wilder!

Sorry, Feldman fans, and sorry, Marty. The mistake - as we say in the trade - was unintentional and regrettable.

Meanwhile, go to the jump to read this interesting note I got from Sue Madore this ayem. Sue's with Guttman Associates - a big-time LA-based PR firm - who reps Cheryl Burke. She INSISTS - contrary to my musings - that Burke and Maurice Greene get along just fine.

Read away...

Continue reading "Marty Feldman" »

Gay to "DWTS": Show us the numbers

340x.jpg I've got a modest proposal for "Dancing with the Stars," and I lay it on you this morning.

Oh, and by the way, Happy Thanksgiving.

Here it is. Are your ready? Sitting down? Good ... without further ado:

"DWTS" should reveal to viewers just how many fan votes came in for each of the three finalists.

There. That's it! Modest, is it not?

Just imagine, when all is said and done, Samantha or Tom look at a piece of paper, and say, "ah, Brooke got XX million votes, while Warren..." And so on.

Here's why the show should do this. So that you - who so eagerly pressed the buttons on your phone all fall, or texted in your vote, or registered on some site to get your votes in on time - can find out whether it was all a massive waste of time.

And guess what? I think it was.

Here's my theory, and faithful readers know it well. Virtually all power on this show resides with the three judges, and their shadow bosses, Conrad Green and the ABC hierarchy. They instituted viewer voting to give viewers the IMPRESSION that they made a difference, much as they do with "American Idol."

When, in fact, these votes don't.

Oh, sure, heavy viewer voting will keep a contestant in the hunt. There's no doubt about that. Cloris Leachman is the perfect example of this. But at the end of the day, ABC - and "DWTS" - know exactly who they want to win, and they make certain that this person does win.

They wanted Brooke Burke to win. And guess who won?

I'm not going to go to my algorithmic charts to prove why this is so, and how it got to be so. But consider this simple fact: Warren Sapp, in all likelihood, got millions more votes than Brooke. How many millions more? That's the question I'd like answered. Simply put, the judges are there to pick the best - so this thing doesn't turn into a travesty (that's good) - but they're also there to pick who they WANT to win. That's bad because it ultimately means the viewers' votes don't count.

So, once more "DWTS." Show us the numbers. Tell us who REALLY was the fan favorite, and then we can all enjoy our turkey.

November 25, 2008

"DWTS": Brooke Wins. Why Not Warren?


That's correct: Maybe Warren Sapp could have won and maybe should have won instead of Brooke Burke.

Yes, Warren Sapp, former TB Bucs/Oakland Raiders defensive lineman could have won "DWTS" if you believe "Dialidol," which had him waaaay ahead in the phone count yesterday. And (I ask you) why not? He may not have been the best dancer in this field (but heaven knows, he's got the best personality. Oh wait - you're right. I forgot: This is a DANCING contest.)

Tonight's Judge vote counted for half the total, and Warren/Kym needed a perfect thirty in their romp. Per my theory stated earlier this morning - the Three Amigo Judges planned to do everything in their power to hand this to Brooke. Why? Because they want to overcome the fan tendency to vote for men over women...

The judges succeeded.

Now, check out an endorsement from a Warren fan on the jump; her name's Nialla and she makes some good points in a rebuttal to my Lance post of this morning...

Continue reading ""DWTS": Brooke Wins. Why Not Warren? " »

"Heroes," "Chuck" Bumped in January

244.seacrest.ryan.091906.jpg And bumped for...egads are you ready for this?...that new dance-off show and the "Moma's Boys" reality series produced by Ryan Seacrest.

Good grief.

But do not worry. (Or, rather, worry, WORRY.) NBC says "Heroes/Chuck" will be back in February - I'm assuming on Mondays, but I learned long long ago - never assume anything in the TV biz.

Go to the jump for the full release on the New Year's schedule, but first here's the key graf...

The two-hour premiere of "Superstars of Dance" - from the producers of "So You Think You Can Dance?" -- will be broadcast on Sunday, January 4 (9-11 p.m. ET)
before the series resumes in its regular day and time on Monday, January 5
through January 19 (8-10 p.m. ET). The new competition series -- showcasing the
world's best and most varied dancers -- will be followed on Mondays by "Momma's
(10-11 p.m. ET), the new alternative series from executive producer Ryan

Continue reading ""Heroes," "Chuck" Bumped in January" »

Koppel to "Meet the Press?" Well...?

09-koppel-225.jpg Ted for Tom on "Meet the Press?" I mused about this a little while ago, pretty much tossing aside the possibility. But there's now some reason to think - why not?

[You ask, why replace Tom Brokaw? Because he probably WANTS to be, as he has said any number of times...]

Here are some possible reasons on why this succession could actually work...followed by some "why it might not" reasons...(A clue why not? $$$$)

* The desire's there and Ted will soon need a job. For years - let's say forever - Koppel resisted the idea of doing "This Week" at ABC, or any other Sunday ayem show, in part because he did have one of the great gigs in television ("Nightline") with a life/work schedule that he pretty much wrote. But with the Discovery job now over, he's looking for a new gig. I just got off the phone with his longtime associate and producer, Tom Bettag - these guys go back many Emmys ago - who told me, "Ted isn't at all ready to retire and at this point, will look out there to see what the next opportunity is..."

* The next opportunity may well be "Meet" and I'm told - by those all-knowing, all-seeing "sources" - that he's interested, or per one, "he's not averse to talking to NBC about 'Meet the Press' [but] I think the odds are against it."

* Koppel, 68, brings that sturdy, authorial, statesmanlike "gravitas" which one assumes is so vital to this sort of gig - the sort of gravitas that says to the bloviating congressman sitting across from the moderator, "don't BS me, pal - I'm the boss here, and I've heard every line under the sun, moon and stars." Bob Schieffer brings that to "Face the Nation" - in a nice Schieffer sort of way.

* No obvious successor to Brokaw at NBC. And frankly, if this person WERE obvious, they woulda picked him or her by now.

* Couric doesn't want it. That's my hunch anyway cuz she'd have to relocate to D.C., and her life (children) is up here. Plus, I think I heard somewhere that she anchors a nightly news show already. So she is gainfully employed.

Now...reasons against:

* He's not an NBC lifer. In a sense, a problem because this is almost more a symbol than a "job" - a symbol of a news division and culture that stretches back (on TV alone) sixty years.

* There would by ill-disguised fury among some at NBC who think they're entitled to it; no names but you can guess who they might be.

* Age - at 68, how much longer? Maybe years longer (and isn't 68 the new 58?), but it'd be hard for NBC to argue that this is somehow a "permanent" move (ah, but what is "permanence" in TV news? 'Tis a dream, a figment, an illusion...)

* He's outta practice. Seriously! Koppel's been away from an interview-style format show for years (he left "NL" three years ago...) Could he pick it up again? Sure, but...

* He's gotta big price tag. Hey, in case you haven't noticed, we're in a massive recession, and even NBC is feeling it; big cuts are coming there, and can you imagine? Ted asking for and getting his usual fee? (I think it was approaching $10 m per year in the waning days of ABC.) I leave the most obvious reason for "why not?" last.

(Above - Ted looking professorial, as well he should at this Harvard function; photos by Harvard Gazette staff photographer by Justin Ide.)

While 'Life on Mars' Is Away...

Jonesin' for "Life on Mars" until it comes back in January?

No prob: ABC has a pretty cool doo-dad at its corporate site. It's called Life on Mars Radio -- a nonstop jukebox of all kinds of outasite early-70s music.

It beats the heck out of your typical "classic rock" station.

Here's a typical set heard earlier today: " Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)" (Rolling Stones), "Whammer Jammer " (J. Geils Band); "Mr. Big Stuff" (Jean Knight); and " Jet" (Wings -- hey, that came out in '74!).

I could listen to this stuff all day, but I gotta split and watch the Watergate hearings on the tube.

In the meantime, here are the Stones performing "Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)." And don't forget Mick opens with that great "Mars"-appropriate verse: "... the po-lice in New York City/They chased a boy right through the park/And in a case of mistaken identity/ The put a bullet through his heart"

Splitsville: Koppel out at Discovery

PH2006010402227.jpg 'Tis the season for bad news - Ted Koppel and Discovery have ended their production deal, begun with so much fanfare a couple of years ago, after Ted exited ABC News...

Reasons? Well, let Ted tell you, via press release:

"We've had some glorious opportunities to produce the kinds of documentaries that Tom Bettag and I love," said Koppel. "Among the most satisfying work we've ever done was last summer's four-part series on China."

Koppel continued, "There has been significant change in senior management at Discovery. Producing our kind of news-related programs is an expensive proposition. It has long been clear that neither of us is interested in an extension of the current contract. Discovery and I worked on terminating the contract a few months early under terms that both sides found acceptable. We leave with gratitude for the professional opportunities we've been given and for the generosity with which we've been treated."

Read between the lines here and...never mind, I'll read between them for you. TDC is focused, heavily, on launching that Oprah Network and a lot of other stuff geared to RATINGS and the almighty $$$$$$. I'm not criticizing TDC, which has done so much great work over the years that it's secured a place in heaven, but these are tough times down there in Maryland headquarters: A new boss (David Zaslav) and a publicly traded stock. No matter how terrific Koppel's work here was, it doesn't pay the dividends.

Next for Ted? I assume this will re-start those rumors of his going to "Meet the Press" But don't put too much stock in 'em. Is Tom Brokaw is ready to move aside? I wonder: He's done such a great job there, and the ratings have been so strong, and the succession issue remains so clouded that...who knows!...maybe NBC will prevail on TB to stay on even after the transition.

(Pix by Robert A. Reeder -- The Washington Post)

Boomer TV: Slinky's 'mom' dead at 90

Betty James, who named the toy her husband invented -- the Slinky -- and then ran the toy company he abandoned, has died at 90.

Is there not an American kid alive today -- whether boomer, gen X, gen Y or millennial -- who wasted hours playing with one of these wacky toys?

To learn more about Mrs. James and how she came up with the name Slinky, read her obit here, then check out this super-classic commercial from the early 1960s.

"DWTS": Why the judges hate Lance Bass

lancebass509.jpg Watching "DWTS" last night got me to wondering - why do the judges have it in for LB?

I've actually wondered about this all season: Why? He's perfectly good, sometimes very good. He probably should win this thing. While that's not been obvious all along, I do think it was more or less obvious last night.

So why the nattering and general distaste the judges hold for this guy? Week after week, demerit after demerit. What's the problem here? My theory? That he is a guy: "DWTS" has to prove that this show - slogging through a big bad ratings slump in the 7th - isn't weighted heavily in favor of guys. That's why they added Kristi Yamaguchi last season - one of the world's great athletes! - amid a group of amateurs. Naturally ... she won.

70_brooke_burke_small.JPG Brooke Burke's been quite the surprise - a starlet, E! host, and former Playmate, with no apparent dancing background, who turned out to be terrific. But the Achilles heel of "DWTS" is gender. Unless the female contestant is beyond-the-pale good, female viewers (who comprise the bulk of this show's audience) vote for the males.

That means the judges have to - my theory - shade in favor of the good female contestants just to keep this thing competitive, going into the bloated two-hour finale tonight.

(Another pet theory: That "DWTS" added Brooke Burke to this season to actually build the anemic male viewing base; after all, why shouldn't they tune in to watch, and vote for, a lad mag pinup model?? Ditto Kim Kardashian...)

This is the engine that is currently propelling the entire ABC lineup - a big number tonight is imperative, and if there's a sense that this competition is already over, then the number takes a dive.

In other words, I'm imputing less-than-pure motives to our judge panel.

But you be the judge. Here are the two final freestyles from our two likely finalists...

They couldn't have loved BB's any more ... they yawned over LB's ...

sapp2.gif (Oh - and how important are the judges? Beyond important on "DWTS." Consider - you've already voted but THEY get the final word on that last dance tonight; your votes, millions of them, will count for only HALF. Their's will count for the other half. Three against millions. Not bad odds. If I were Lance/Lacey, I'd be worried...Brooke may pull this out yet.)

And after all my swell theories
, wouldn't it be wonderful if Warren Sapp won tonight? I do believe he might...I do believe he might. But...he'll need a great night.

November 24, 2008

Letterman's Funniest Bit

letterman_50.jpg Sorry, but...kind of a weak Letterman monologue tonight. Guess he's got a case of the Mondays. But...this one's a keeper:

"And I heard today that the federal government was raising like $40 billion to bail out Citigroup. You know what I’m saying? Because honestly, when you think about it, who doesn’t really feel sorry for credit card companies."

Colmes: Time was "Right"

colmes3-sized.jpgJust got off the phone with Alan Colmes...Here's the overview of our chat:

* He's leaving "because it's a great time to make a change, and I can't think of a better time - thankfully with a Democratic house and [president], what more can I do?" It's like - he jokes - he has "declared victory in Iraq - and [will] leave."
Last day: Sometime in January.

* OK, Alan - what's the real reason you're leaving the show? He said he brought up the idea to leave with his bosses back around Labor day, and "expressed my desire to make a creative change with what I'm doing. They were a little surprised but understood and asked if I'd mind staying through the election and...I was happy to do it...The timing seemed right - twelve years is a great run - a better run than most TV shows ever get. I've had a great time doing my radio show and 'Hannity & Colmes' was a terrific platform...but sometimes you have an inner voice." This one, he says, told him that he "saw where the country was going...I think it was pretty obvious. It was obvious to the country, especially [when McCain] picked Sarah Palin. I knew we'd certainly get huge gains, even if we did lose the presidency. The country has a very different mindset, people are in a very different mood, and I kind of felt that mood internally [at FNC.]"

* No word on the new show, except that it'll air on weekends, and launch sometime next year. He has not yet re-upped at Fox - "we're talking about that now...My intention is to stay and develop whatever I can develop..."

* Hannity was "surprised but he understood; he's been a partner and friend for twelve years..."

Shockeroo: Colmes to divorce Hannity


This just in, gang: Alan Colmes is outathere.

Or outta "Hannity & Colmes." By the end of the year. Go to the jump for the full press release. analysis below.

"I approached Bill Shine... (program boss) earlier this year about wanting to move on after 12 years to develop new and challenging ways to contribute to the growth of the network. Although it's bittersweet to leave one of the longest marriages on cable news, I'm proud that both Sean (Hannity) and I remained unharmed after sitting side by side, night after night for so many years."

"Colmes will continue to have a presence on FNC as he will serve as a liberal commentator on a variety of FOX News programming, including's The Strategy Room and continue hosting his radio program, The Alan Colmes Show on FOX Talk, a division of FOX News Radio. He will also begin developing a weekend program.

Shine said, "We're very sorry to see Alan reach this decision but we understand his desire to seek other creative challenges in his career. We value his incredible hard work in making Hannity & Colmes the most successful debate program on cable news and we're going to miss him on the show. Thankfully, he will begin developing a weekend pilot for us."

Hannity added, “Not only has Alan been a remarkable co-host, he’s been a great friend which is rare in this industry — I’ll genuinely miss sparring with such a skillful debate partner.”

Surprised? An understatement, although the more I think about it, the more sense it makes. Consider: The whole point of this show is not only under siege, but maybe even obsolete. It was born during the Clinton administration, thrived during the Bush one, and now, on the cusp of the Obama one, seems like an anachronism. One might even say - Alan finally won!

An irony, no doubt, because I always believed Fox wanted a weak-chinned lefty who would look pallid, pusillanimous and wimpy opposite the square-jawed Hannity. Surprise! Colmes more than held his own - he was feisty, smart, well-prepared. Both of these guys - I totally believe - made the other one better, or at least forced each to come up with something better than mere propaganda (Much has been written on this subject, and I assure you - FNC's Roger Ailes always insisted he wanted two strong opinions, because this show, perhaps above all others, would exemplify the "fair and balanced" claim. Whatever. I'm not even sure Roger believes that.)

Photo: Melissa Hom, for New York

Continue reading "Shockeroo: Colmes to divorce Hannity" »

'Entourage' Meets '24'

edgar2.jpgThe special treat for me concerning last night's "Entourage" finale -- as brilliant a homecoming episode as it gets (check out Dr. LaMonica's peerless recap here) -- was seeing Louis Lombardi alive and well in the guest role as Turtle's Cousin Ronnie, who convinces Drama to make an investment in his Queens gin mill. (Cousin Ronnie had appeared previously, in a 2007 episode, nudging Turtle to make a shady investment with him.)

But I'll always remember Lombardi as the nerdy, but lovable CTU computer whiz Edgar Stiles on "24." And as you recall, poor Edgar, so beloved by viewers, was shockingly killed off in season five when he was trapped in a locked-down CTU HQ during a nerve-gas attack. No one saw that coming.

Before that he had a recurring role on "The Sopranos" playing fed agent Skip Lipari, the guy Big Pussy had been reporting to. He's also gonna be in the upcoming, much-anticipated holiday movie "The Spirit.'"

And btw, Lombardi got no props last night at least as HBO's credits go. They hyped up big-name guests like Marty Scorsese, Gus Van Sant, Mercedes Ruehl and Jamie-Lynn Sigler, but not our favorite Bronx-born character actor.

When HBO spins off Drama into his own NY-set series, I want Cousin Ronnie to be a regular!

photo of Louis Lombardi as Edgar Stiles courtesy Fox.

"24: Redemption" Gets Twelve Million Viewers

normal_00x01.jpg That's the fast national straight from Fox, while the two-hour movie scored a ...well, let Fox tell you..."4.0/9 among Adults 18-49 and outperformed its last telecast, the finale on 5/21/07 by +3% among Adults 18-49 (vs. 3.9/10) and a big +15% in Total Viewers (12.0 vs. 10.4 Mil.)"

Lot of numbers and what do they all mean? Honestly, I thought "24: Redemption" would do a little bit better, especially with the huge audience blow-in from the Giants/Cards an hour or so earlier, which - doubtless - lead to a pretty sizable crowd for "The OT." ("The OT?" On a reasonably regular basis, one of the best rated programs on TV this fall...)

I'm thinking a few things here:

1.) The Colts/Chargers game on "Sunday Night Football," which I think was tied going into the half, drew millions of likely viewers away from "24."

2.) Fans knew the movie didn't get gang-buster reviews
(mine was so-so), and so probably thought - "meh" (to use the old "Simpsons'" word, now consecrated in some official dictionary somewhere...meh.)

3.) Some fans knew it wasn't REALLY "24" but a movie-prequel-tease, and so not part of the regular day anyway, so...

4.) Some fans remembered all the way back to that silly season-ender a year and a half ago, and said, "no way..."

In any event, I'm thinking Fox is just the tiniest bit disappointed - particularly as the American Music Awards show beat it soundly (by one full rating point) in 18-49.

Why did "SNL" Spike Samberg's Emanuel?

Oh for the days when "Saturday Night Live" did politics - at least ONE guaranteed post per day for this blog. But without an election, "SNL" is back to competing with "MADtv." So I'm wondering: Why did this pretty funny sketch of Andy Samberg's impression of Rahm Emanuel NOT make Saturday's show? (But instead go straight to on-online?) Bleeped profanities? Hardly - it's not like "SNL" or any live show has not had those before. Would this somehow be painful to sensitive ears in the audience? Gimme a BREAK!!!!!

Or...was "SNL" afraid to snap a towel on the butt of the powerful new soon-to-be chief of staff? Too bad, because what's so good about this impression is just how good it is - certainly equal to his recent animal-whisperer Wahlberg.

I wonder...I wonder...I wonder....

Actors: A Strike...?

advisoryboard-color-sag.jpg If you take a quick gander at the post just below this one - TV viewing on the Internet - you'll start to get an inkling of why Federal mediation between the Screen Actors guild and the producers' negotiating arm (AMPTP) flopped so dramatically on Saturday.

SAG now says it's gonna send out ballots to get the 75 percent vote needed from its 120,000-strong member base for a stoppage. No word, though, on when they'll actually send those ballots out, which seems kind of diffident and non-commital...

But the fact is, it's gotten ugly, and there is no end in sight. Reason? As mentioned, more people than ever are watching TV on the Internet, while that figure is growing so rapidly that it's had a dramatic impact on many shows' over-the-air ratings, not to mention time-delayed viewing. People are watching Internet TV 27 hours a month, and so SAG and everyone else wants a piece 'o that. SAG's in part worried that the producers have reneged on their promise to pay new media residuals to the writers, so they think they'll get a raw deal even IF the AMMPTP gives them the same new media terms.

In other words, this all sounds very very bad. At least AFTRA's made a deal with the producers...

But will nearly 100,000 actors call for a strike during the worst economic downturn in nearly 70 years?

SAG's release is on the jump...

Continue reading "Actors: A Strike...? " »

Noted: We Like to Watch

tv-set.jpg 'Morning: This just in from Nielsen.

We like to watch! TV, that is!

Oh brother.

But, still, some interesting stats from one of those "three screen" reports that Nielsen's taken to sending out - showing how much time people spend in front of the three boob tubes, TV, computer and mobile.

And before we get to those, the quickie factoid of the morning - people spent on average 8 hours and 18 minutes in front of the plain vanilla TV set, which is a world record. (Why, then, was viewership so low for everything except, like, repeats of "Family Guy?")

Now, the facts: People spent a total 142 hours in front of the TV in one average month, and used the Internet 27 hours, and spent three hours watching mobile. This is five hours more in total than last year.

Nielsen's two other key conclusions:

* "Americans spend more than 6 hours per month watching timeshifted TV, which is more than double the amount of time they watch video online.

* "Men are more likely than women to watch video on mobile phones, while women are more likely then men to watch video on the Internet.

November 21, 2008

Life on Mars: Bye for Now

I have to admit at first I was stunned, then I was really really p.o.'d at what ABC ihas done to the only new show I've committed to watch in real time this season. (What they used to call in the quaint old days, appointment television.)

At the end of Thursday night's "Life on Mars" -- a helluva episode in which Sam learns that his father was a mega-dirtbag -- the network informed us that "Life on Mars" will return, following "Lost" on JANUARY 28.

Huh? Where did that come from? What is ABC thinking? That's more than two months from now. Do they really expect anyone, except hardcore Martians such as myself to come back then. Even if it will now air after "Lost," which makes a lot more sense than "Grey's Anatomy."

This show belongs on cable, where it can run interrupted for 12 satisfying weeks without interruption.

Hey ABC execs, you are hereby condemned to a day strapped on a polyester couch listening to the absolute worst songs of 1973, like "Brother Louie," "Half Breed" and "Delta Dawn" in an endless, painful loop.

See you in January.

Photo of Michael ("Don't Call Me Christo-pha") Imperioli, courtesy of ABC

Those 1970s Variety Shows

Rosie O'Donnell will attempt to revive one of TV's greatest genres next Wednesday, when she hosts "Rosie Live," a variety special on NBC.

We applaud Rosie's attempt, but doubt that she's going to get very far.

Nevertheless, Rosie's show puts us in mind of the 1970s, the last Golden Age of the Variety Show. It seemed back then nearly anyone who wanted was given a variety show by the networks, desperate to emulate the success of "The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour." The list is so long, if I had to put it here, it would probably crash the computer.

If you want to get a taste of the '70s variety show yourself, check out this great clip from "Tony Orlando & Dawn," which CBS originally developed as the summer replacement for "Sonny and Cher" in 1974.

ABC Primetime Bloodbath


Bad news in TV and everywhere else seems to come in "threes" and that was the magic number in Century City yesterday too: ABC has whacked "Eli Stone" and "Dirty Sexy Money," and the end of "Pushing Daisies" now appears to be a foregone conclusion.

That's the word out of the west coast trades, and no reason not to believe it. Both "Eli" and "DSM" - good shows in their own unique ways - were so-called "reboots," or holdovers from the strike-ruined '07 season, and ABC brought them back despite so-so numbers on the assumption they never had a chance to get sampled ("Eli," as a mid-season entry, had a somewhat different story, but the idea was generally the same - that viewers were so discombobulated by the strike schedules that they didn't know up from down, so bring back shows to give them a fresh start.)

ABC also formalized some other decisions - "Scrubs" will come back, or be "re-introduced," on Jan. 6, and then get a regular time slot on Jan. 20. And as expected, "Life on Mars" will move to the post-"Lost" timeslot on Jan. 28. "Private Practice" will move to the post-"Grey's Anatomy" catbird seat on Jan. 8.

Good news for the good "Mars?" Maybe - "Lost" is a better companion. But ABC only ordered an extra four episodes.

Rosie O'Donnell: Reaction to Babs

Don't know if you've seen this yet, or if you have not...but it is pretty much priceless: Ro reacting to Bab's on-air swipe at her on "The View" yesterday, after Ro dissed the show during that conference call I reported on the other day.

I have to say - one of the only times I've ever laughed out loud at a Ro joke. This one's good...

November 20, 2008

Dave asks Katie: Ummm, What About McCain?


Remember that famous walkout of the now ancient '08 campaign? John McCain walks out on Letterman and does an interview with Katie instead?

Oh, the gnashing of teeth, the spittle flying - there is nothing quite so terrifying as a late night talk show host named Dave spurned...

Said she, "I had no idea he was on your show...I woulda said, by all means, go do Dave's show...I had no idea until you apparently had a cow on the air..."

Anyway, go on down to that there clip and click to see what Katie had to say about this to Dave last night...And per my new custom, here are the best bits from the mono...

My accountant gave me a valuable tip. He said you can save a lot of money on taxes if you turn the LATE SHOW into a church. I’m thinking about it because some nights it is that quiet in here.

"We were talking about Oprah before the show. See here’s how bad the economy is. Today, Oprah Winfrey, on her show, gave everybody in the audience a car…company. Honest to God.

"But there are some nice aspects during the transition period. For example, the Bush twins, George and Laura had the twins, and the Bush twins are giving the Obama girls a tour of the White House. And it’s very cute. It’s very sweet because that’s going to be their home the next four, maybe eight years, for the Obama kids. So that’s very sweet. But the kids, listen to this, got scared. They got really scared because they heard creepy organ music coming from Cheney’s underground lair. And then the Bush twins grabbed a candle and took the kids on a tour of his torture chamber.

"Now it’s interesting because Barack Obama is selecting his staff – cabinet members and his staff. And Hillary Clinton, they’re talking about Secretary of State. Bill Clinton, now, what a guy. What a standup guy. He went to Barack Obama and he said he will do anything to help Hillary become Secretary of State. He said, “look, I’ll remove my profile from That’s one. I’ll take that right off.” He’s going to have a motion detector installed on his fly. "

"Jericho:" Reborn, Sort Of, on the CW


"Jericho" is officially a cat, and by my count is now up to three lives (six to go!) In this intriguing development - just reported by Broadcasting & Cable - the CW will drop its Sunday lineup and install a movie night instead. And as lead-in to this movie? Repeats of "Jericho." I was just told that the B&C piece is accurate and that the CW will have access to the first and second seasons, but that there are no plans "at this point" to produce fresh ones. My hunch? This is a stop-gap measure to get CW through the rest of this year and into next, when it'll announce a new Sunday line-up; but who knows? If "J" does OK, what's to stop the web from ordering a fresh batch? (Money may be one reason; expensive show and the general idea in TVland these days is to not pour money down rat holes.)

Ailes Gets Five Years...A Contract, That Is

08_ailes_lgl.jpg They're handing contracts out like bonuses - remember those? - over at Fox News these days. Here''s the latest - and frankly, if this one didn't come down, then it would be "see ya later, turn out the lights, adios...abandon hope all ye who enter...etc."

Roger Ailes just landed a new five year deal.

I'm almost afraid to call up my friends at Fox News and ask them what he's getting paid: After they finish yelling at me, and telling me to bugger off, they'd say: "No comment."

I'm guessing he's getting $15 million per year, maybe more.

It'll be in the annual report anyway.

Here are the nice quotes:

"The new agreement states that Mr. Ailes will continue to oversee FOX News, FOX Television Stations (FTS), FOX Business Network (FBN), My Network TV and Twentieth Television. He will also continue serving as a senior advisor to Mr. Murdoch on television and news matters.

"Mr. Ailes added, 'I’m pleased to continue to work for News Corporation. It is a strong and extremely well positioned company. I look forward to carrying out Mr. Murdoch’s legendary vision in the future.'”

(Above, Rog, by Getty Images)

Ruminations on Brit

Snake, by Getty Images

I know nothing about fame, seeing as I am about as far from the spotlight as yonder rock under a tree in yonder forest - even more so. But I can imagine that there is, ahem, a downside. Watching Kristen Stewart do her contractually obligatory interview for "Twilight" on "Today" this morning, you could almost read the hesitancy and dread in her face. "Oh [I imagine her thinking], so I'm going to star in probably the second biggest movie of the year after 'The Dark Knight?' I'm going to be incredibly famous in about forty-eight hours? My dreams have come true??!! But who's going to save me from those screaming ninnies OUTSIDE?"

So, to Britney. I'll never forget - who will? - the classic "South Park" episode when the town of SP conspires to kill her, and - finally does. There was truth in that; we love our celebrities, and we love to disembowel them too. (Actually, I'll rephrase that - YOU love them. I'm allergic to them.)

With that long lead-up, I bring you now to the little story of the moment - MTV's "For the Record" telecast on Brit that'll air next Sunday and get (easily) the highest rating in MTV history...Why? Because we like to watch, like Chauncey...that's why. Honestly, this cleverly titled broadcast is cleverly titled because it really IS designed to sell a record - "Circus," out early December.

So be it. But I wonder: Will it just be the usual hogwash, and slop that such docs typically yield when it comes to over-over-exposed personalities? Or will it be - I don't know - poignant? Insightful? On that note, I've posted a couple of clips in a minute which have pretty much been everywhere except for 'Zone - the first, the promo, the second, Brit making fun of dear old dad.

I don't know - I have my doubts about "For the Record;" Brit needs help, not more gasoline on the fire.

"Lost:" Season 5 Poster

season5.jpg Always a big deal when the new season poster of "Lost" comes out, and so, here it is...the official "Lost" season 5 poster. This one's circulated on the web, and the one here I filched from Darkufo, hence explaining the water mark in the center. But the best I can tell, this is the real deal.

Observations? Beyond the obvious? We've got the on-island/off-island split, of course. We've got Locke firmly alive and on-island (where ever that dear island may be right now. ) We've got the mirror image, not dissimilar to last season 4 poster's mirror image, of the island/city (see below). We've got a little game going, seeing who's mirrored opposite whom - and WHY. And check out the eyes - who's looking at whom. Sawyer/Kate? Obvious.

Let's see...what else. Oh yes! Black is most definitely BACK.
Lost-season4.jpg And remember all the fun we had with this one? Endless guessing and shots in the dark about where this city is, etc. A glorious waste of time, but fun. (And I learned far more about Tampa's skyline than I ever expected I would in my entire life.)

Meanwhile Losties, an important program note for tonight. Hollywood Reporter says a one minute fifth-season promo will air on "Grey's Anatomy" tonight, complete with a track of a new song from the Fray entitled..."You Found Me." Clever. Very clever.

November 19, 2008

Letterman's Funniest Bits

071220_letterman_vmed_930a.widec.jpgAnd...from tonight!

"You OK with the economy? It’s awful, isn’t it? It’s ugly, isn’t it? It makes you depressed. You lose the will to live. It’s like a recession. We’re in a recession. And by the way, this is what I’ve done. For the duration of the recession, I’ve made sure that we don’t charge for tickets. Thank you. Thank you very much."

[Not to step on Dave's punchline, but "LS" tix are free and always have been.]

"Well, it’s on the stands now. The annual People Magazine World’s Sexiest Man issue is on the stands today. Hugh Jackman. Sexiest man alive. And I’m proud to say I was on the list. I’m a little farther down the list. I’m between Dr. Phil and Senator Ted Stevens.

"So the Bush girls were showing the Obama girls around and the twins really went out of their way. They even showed the kids how they operate their margarita blender.
"And at one point, this was so sweet, one of the little Obama daughters says, “Oh, oh,” she sees something in the corner, she says, “Oh, you read comic books too!” And the Bush twins said, “No, those are dad’s.”

Rosie: My New Showbiz Career

Ahhh...for the good old days.

I pulled myself away from the Rosie O'Donnell conference call because the good people at NBC will produce a transcript of this later...Chat was for the variety show to air T'giving eve on the Peacock, "Rosie Live!"

But let me just say...Whoooboy.

Rosie: God love her, but this woman can talk, and talk about ANYTHING you ask her - prop 8, gay marriage, the last eight years, even variety shows. She is voluble, no-holds-barred, say-it-like-it-is, and (contrary to what you may have heard) very civil. There's so much ground to cover here, so I'll just go straight to some bulleted items.

* If picked up, next week's variety show will become part of a six-episode order - that is, NBC will have the right to buy six episodes of her variety show, at a clip of six each. (Of course, NBC will give the green light only if the numbers bear that out...)

* Yeah, she adored the variety hour format as a babe growing up on the Island, and said that "they totally defined my desire to be an entertainer..."

* The opening number will a duet with her and Liza Minelli; she wouldn't say what the song will be other than from Minelli's '77 "The Act."

* No love lost with "The View." Quoth she, "there was not a lot of overall off-camera camaraderie...what happened on the show was a personal argument with a friend [Babs] that was publically displayed. What happened was personal. Not political. I didn't want to be paid to fight.

* She doesn't really know WHAT happened with MSNBC (remember? She was gonna do the talk show that's since gone to Rachel Maddow.) "When I decided to not go back [to 'The View'] I had a meeting with Jeff Zucker and the people at NBC - we had come to a deal at the time" and said she wanted to do the talk show cuz of the impending election and "felt it was important for a voice like mine [to be heard.]...But it never came to fruition and the reasons why are even unclear to me [now.] It turned out to be a blessing..." Both deals were separate - she had a conversation with Ben Silverman, and...

* No, she doesn't see any problem with her outsized political opinions - which have come to define her in the public eye, as I observed to her - and her new role as variety show impresario. "It's not a show about production number about torture," she said. She took the "View" gig, she added, knowing "that was the job description....Your perception of my career may be skewed by that show. It was conversation that needed to be had, and I started the ball rolling. For that show to be taken seriously as a political show, I had to fight long and hard to get them to address [the Big Issues] and they wanted to be talking about lipstick shades."

Breaking News: Ashley Speaks


Here it is -- a very first look at the Ashley Dupre interview with Diane Sawyer to air this Friday.

(Let's say -- the "first look" for those who haven't yet seen the People Mag leak, or teases on ABC's air this morning, or ... I believe in truth in advertising.)

After a quick scan, here are the newsiest bits I've mined. Then, head on down to the jump for the full story from ABC News.

"Dupre says she initially didn't know the identity of the man referred to in court documents as Client No. 9.

"He looked familiar," she said. "But I was 22 years old, I didn't, I wasn't reading the papers, I was so involved in my life and I was so selfish and caught up in my life and I didn't know who he was. And I was whoever they wanted me to be, and he was whoever he wanted to be."

When asked how often she saw Spitzer, Dupre was reluctant to discuss the details.

"Legally, I am not able to answer that question," she said.

Dupre remembers the moment of shock when she watched Spitzer's televised resignation.

"I didn't know the depth to my situation," she said. "That's when I connected the dots, was when everyone else found out. I turned on the TV and I said, "Oh --, what did I get myself involved in? I felt like everything slowed down around me. And it was just the TV and I and, I was shocked."

Dupre says she was not focused on the governor during the speech, but rather, his wife Silda's face as she stood by his side.

"I felt connected to her," Dupre said. "I didn't feel connected to him. Her pain. And I just saw the pain in her eyes."

-Click to see photos of Ashley Dupre

-Click to see photos of Silda and Eliot Spitzer

-Click for 27 photos of famous sex scandals

Continue reading "Breaking News: Ashley Speaks " »

'Life on Mars' Groovy Music

There are a million things to love about "Life on Mars," starting with Michael Imperioli's 'stache 'n burns combo.

Among other things, we're partial to the period music each episode contains that really heightens the mood.

And we're happy to share with you in advance what the four songs you'll hear tomorrow night at 10, thanks to ABC.

1. EVERYTHING I OWN (BREAD) -- A little too mellow, but at least they didn't choose "Guitar Man."

2. REELIN' IN THE YEARS (STEELY DAN) -- Excellent song for a time traveler.

3. LIFE ON MARS (DAVID BOWIE) -- Well, duh! And the episode is titled "The Man Who Sold the World," a ref to the title track of Bowie's third album as well as the song that was the B-side of the 1973 "Life on Mars" single. This is all too meta for me! (And if you have to ask what a B-side is, you're probably not watching "Life on Mars.")

4. SPACEMAN (NILSSON) -- Which seems to sum up Sam's mental state pretty well. Check out this cool song yourself:


"DWTS": Why Lance will part, Part 3

Ladies and g'men, your winners...

Now that Cody's gone, we get to this question -- the only question.

Who do the judges, and by association, ABC, want to win?

That's all that matters. In their minds they already have a winner. So who is that? For weeks, Brooke's been the anointed one, though -- for the past couple weeks -- anointment has slipped to disappointment. Why? Maybe that first dance on Monday wasn't great, but the second was good. Warren? Beloved by the judges -- but their votes haven't reflected that. You wonder about their sincerity.

That leaves Lance. I believe they want Lance to win. Unless something really shocking happens, he is the winner.


The reasons: No. 1, don't forget that the judges know EXACTLY whom viewers are voting for each week. They know who's ahead, and who's dead. They know -- I suspect -- that Lance is pulling in by far the most votes. The judges' votes are more important than viewer votes (simply because the three totals, as expressed as a percentage, are weighted just as much as the votes of millions and millions of viewers.) In short, they don't want to back a loser.

No. 2, women can't win this comp unless they're OVERWHELMINGLY GREAT. (See: Kristi Y.) Brooke's wonderful, but not OG.

No. 3, He's Lance Bass! Fame trumps non-fame, usually -- but not always -- on "DWTS." In the final three, we have a world-famous star, a former NFL great, and Brooke -- who, I'm sorry, but no one ever heard of until she got here.

No. 4, I think ABC wants to be in biz with Lance Bass. In a recession, getting people to those expensive "DWTS" tours, you need a draw. No, LB's not the draw he was eight or nine years ago, but he's still LB, hence more promotable. Sure, you'd say, LB will be on the tour even if he doesn't win BUT the tour's more promotable and hence saleable if he DOES win. Believe me on this point.

Yeah, Len's been hard on him, but I think it's been a "good" hard - as in, "get your act together pal, because we're depending on you."

That's my "DWTS" wrap. Let's check back next week to see if I'm outrageously wrong -- it's been known to happen -- or right.

November 18, 2008

Letterman's Funniest Bits

6_43_letterman_bearded.jpg Remember that new feature 'Zone started yesterday - a fast forward look at "Late Show," posting the funniest bits from the monologue each night, so you can go to bed early, forget about setting the DVR (unless Paris Hilton is on) and get on with your life...?

Probably not.

But here it is again: The two funniest jokes from tonight's mono:

"It’s an exciting time in Washington. Barack Obama is putting his team together to take over the administration. And so far he’s got his mother-in-law going to be living with him and he’s talking about Hillary for Secretary of State. So, you’ve got your mother-in-law, you’ve got Hillary Clinton – boy it sounds like smooth sailing to me!”

"Everybody’s excited about this. Like a rock ‘n’ roll star, this Barack Obama. And remember at the convention or something he did this with his wife, the fist bump or something. And don’t confuse that fist bump with the last Democratic presidency. That was the intern bump.

Rosiepalooza: Now, Baldwin Signs Up (!?)


Oh, I get it. Sure, it took me a while (but then everything usually does.) Bit by bit, press release by press release, NBC is leaking out the names of "special guests" on next week's Rosiepalooza so that blogger types like me hyperventilate and post them with gusto and joy.

As if the simple fact that LIZA MINELLI WILL BE IN THE HOUSE is not enough to get everyone to cancel those T'givng plans and stick around Wednesday night for this one.

Last press release: Alec Baldwin's doing this now. Doesn't Alec have enough to do? Practicing his host gig for a classical music station? Laying plans to become the Jonathan Schwartz of the Mostly Mozart set? While writing the sequel to "How Not to Marry a Terrible Beast Who Will Take All Your Money?"

Honestly, I love Alec Baldwin, but doesn't he have more important things to do? I guess they're old buds...

Here's the list of who will appear next week...Then, go to the jump for people Who Will Not Be Appearing In Ro's First and Maybe Last Thanksgiving Special:

"...Baldwin joins previously announced guest stars including legendary performer Liza Minnelli, recording artist's Ne-Yo and Alanis Morissette, actress and comedienne Kathy Griffin and "30 Rock" star Jane Krakowski. O'Donnell will bring back the grand tradition of the variety show format to television, like such iconic series as "The Carol Burnett Show" and "The Ed Sullivan Show," while including brand-new elements for a new generation of fans. The special will feature a topical monologue, musical production numbers and hilarious comedy sketches."

Continue reading "Rosiepalooza: Now, Baldwin Signs Up (!?)" »

E.D. Hill leaving Fox News

16_61_hill_ed2_320.jpg E.D. Hill, the tough, tart cookie who got "Fox & Friends" off the ground, is leaving Fox News. TV Newser broke the story this morning and has a confirmation from Bill Shine -- top programming exec -- who says something to the effect that he wishes her well, etc.

A big surprise? Not really: She's been an anchor without a show for months, or since that "terrorist fist jab" comment landed her in some very tepid water (remember? That's how she referred, however briefly or however sardonically, to the famous First Couple fist-bump.)

Whatever: Hill was, if not one of the original front line crew at Fox News, certainly came quickly after them (arriving -- I think -- in '98). She was a very energetic host on "F&F," and certainly deserves credit for getting that off the ground -- along with "Loosey" Doocy, of course, and "Killer" Kilmeade. I'm just not sure how popular she was around the halls of 'ol Fox, and while popularity contests are only rarely held at FNC, it doesn't hurt to have a few friends either.

It's Official: Dupre on "20/20"

ashley-dupre-kristen.jpg As reported - pretty much everywhere by now - Ashley "Luv Guv" Dupre will be on "20/20" this Friday, as part of that on-going Diane Sawyer series on prostitution. But for some reason, ABC has withheld the official announcement...until now.

Here it is:

"A Diane Sawyer exclusive: In her first television interview, Ashley Dupre, the woman at the center of the scandal involving former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, speaks candidly about what life as a high-end escort is like, how an upper middle-class, girl next door got into the profession and the psychological journey she continues to experience. The interview is a continuation of Sawyer’s recent and extensive reporting on prostitution that was the basis for an in-depth look at the profession, which aired in March of 2008."

OK, let's parse this: You'll notice that no where here does it actually imply that this will be an interview about the actual scandal, so one is left to wonder: Is Dupre even asked about Spitzer? A so-called "conditional" interview would be almost unthinkable, but I wonder why ABC doesn't at least say or suggest Spitzer comes up in the interview? Questions, questions...We'll have answers soon. Maybe.

"DWTS:" Lance, the Winner?


Is this the shoe that just won the seventh season of "Dancing with the Stars?" The shoe that was lost in the final routine of one Lance Bass? The shoe that was an anonymous white sneaker - just happy to get tied once in a while - that suddenly flew off the foot of Bass and, as a result, got its close-up on national TV?

It could be (or probably not, since I just grabbed the image off of Google - but hopefully you get the idea.) These kind of things turn voters, and turn competitions - not that this has happened on "DWTS" before. It has not. But the fact is, Lance Bass/Lacey - who I picked to win this from the very beginning - had their best night of the season, and you can't pick a better night to have a best night than the penultimate one. Then off came the shoe - and that sealed it.

So here's where it stands a week before the end:

1.) Cody will go tonight.

2.) Next week's shoot-out leaves...Warren Sapp and Lance Bass as the finalists (I just don't think Brooke has the popular vote to push her past him, particularly since last night, she and Warren were dead even, with a total of 49, at the end of the night; Lance/Lacey? A huge 57.)

3.) And the winner...if both shoes stay on...if he does as well as he did last night...if the votes keep coming in from 'N Sync fans...If Len gets off his case...If Brooke stumbles...If Warren does something really unexpected, like throw a body tackle on the three judges...Then...

Lance wins.

Yes, that's a lot of "ifs" and only one shoe. But it looks good right now for LB..

November 17, 2008

On Letterman Tonight: Funniest Bits

david-letterman.jpgYa know, the nice people at "Late Show with David Letterman" have taken to transcribing his nightly monologue, and then they send it out

Yes, just me. No one else. On the planet. It's amazing.

Well, no one ever called TV Zone not grateful and so I'm thinking of a new feature here at Zone - funniest bits from Dave's monologue. What's good about this is that you get the funniest bits, and then don't have to set your DVR, unless, of course, Paris Hilton is on. Then you'll want to set your DVR...

Head on down to the jump for Tonight's Funniest Bits...

Continue reading "On Letterman Tonight: Funniest Bits" »

Quickie Review: "Einstein"

(Annovi Frizio)

When Mariah Carey can (and does) name an album for Einstein's most famous declaration (E=MC squared) then you come to one insanely obvious conclusion - Einstein was very, very influential. So influential that the normal boundaries of that influence - science, after all - are so porous that someone named Mariah Carey can name her latest album after a paper he wrote/published one hundred and three years ago.

It's an obvious thing and a spectacular thing, this influence, but I wonder as I watch tonight's big two-hour History Channel doc, "Einstein" (at 9) whether this has escaped the network. "Einstein" comes by way of a very accomplished and talented History Channel production star, Susan Werbe (creator of the "Ten Days that Unexpectedly Changed America") but this one feels so placid and so measured that you can't help but wonder, or at least I can't help but wonder: Where's the drama and where's the excitement? I wait and I wait...

Perhaps here's the problem: Television has long had a whale of difficult time conveying not just Einsteinian discoveries but those of other great scientists who came before and - particularly - after, because the complexities are so mind-boggling that to reduce them for TV consumption transforms them to gibberish; there was one outstanding exception that I can think of, Brian Greene's incandescently brilliant "The Fabric of the Cosmos" on PBS several years ago. But that was a rare gem.

Where was the great excitement in the life of Einstein? The ideas, of course. Those difficult, knotty matters that even physicists once had trouble understanding (though, of course, are now as simple as one, two and three...) And yet History seems largely incapable or uninterested in explaining those in any great detail - so much so that it basically blips past the four great papers of the "miracle year" (1905) and just barely explains that particularly famous third one, on electrodynamics, which explained, or posited, "special relativity," or the structure of space/time and other goodies.

Mariah's "equivalency" paper (you know - E=mc squared?) That comes up in the second hour, and certainly had better insofar as it did establish the underpinnings for the atomic bomb.

There are some wonderful and hugely knowledgeable people quoted throughout - CUNY's Michio Kaku, and Walter Isaacson who wrote the lavishly praised bio and Neil Tyson DeGrasse who needs no introduction.

But for the doc itself? I'm afraid you're going to have to count me...bored.

Grade: C

(The above picture? Now that IS exciting; it was created by Annovi Frizio, an Italian design artist; here's the website for a closer look at his work.)

Big Number for "60 Minutes" expected, "60 Minutes" drew a crowd for last night's interview with prez-elect Obama and First-Lady-in-waiting, Michelle Obama.

Per the network, some 24.49 million tuned in from 7:30 to 8:30; as you know, there was a football overrun that pushed start time back a half hour. How big was this number? For "60" - and really, any TV show these days, huge: This was "60's" biggest performance in nearly ten years, or since Jan. 17, 1999, when 25.77 million tuned in, per CBS.

Hoofer Mark Cuban Charged with Insider Trading

Good Lord, what's going on with "Dancing with the Stars" stars? First Helio gets charged with tax evasion; now, Mark Cuban.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is charging him with insider trading - apparently dumping shares of something called, and thereby avoiding a loss of $750,000. All this happened about four years ago; as you know, Cuban was evicted from "DWTS" just about this time one year ago.

Here's a nice walk down memory lane, in case you've forgotten some of Mark's fancy footwork...umm, on the dance floor.

Jamie-Lynn Sigler Does It Again


Wasn't Jamie-Lynn Sigler beyond great as Turtle's squeeze on Sunday night's "Entourage?" (As always, my colleague Mark La Monica recaps the episode brilliantly here.)

Without sounding too obvious, our favorite Jericho-raised actress has come a long way from her Meadow Soprano days.

Jamie-Lynn gets another chance to show off her comedic chops tonight on "How I Met Your Mother." In the episode, simply titled, "WOOO" she plays one of a group of party girls who Robin gets to hang out with.

No clip was available, but judging by this photo, Jamie-Lynn's character is having a grand ol' time. Maybe she's auditioning for the remake of "Urban Cowboy." --Andy Edelstein

Quickie Review: "60 Minutes" and Obama


Did you watch last night's interview on "60 Minutes" with Barack Obama - conducted by Steve Kroft and produced by Michael Radutsky and Frank Devine?

Of course you did, and if you didn't I now offer my two cents - make that four cents. It was a huge TV event, seriously, in so many ways that are so obvious that it almost beggars the reasons for pointing them out, but I do nonetheless. The first black American president - there, on "60 Minutes," the nation's premiere news mag. Get beyond the content of that interview and what news may or may not have been parsed. It was just a stunning event in and of itself; a TV moment where you almost felt the ground move beneath your feet.

Here's my insta-analysis:

* Obama was very good. Of course, you say - he's always that way. . But I felt and maybe you did too that he THOUGHT as he spoke, and that the words he used were not dropped as mere recitations of former campaign promises, but a re-affirmation of those. Whatever you think of the wisdom or lack thereof of some of his stands - say, the closing of Guantanamo, and Kroft's obvious failure of followup (um, where do the prisoners go?) - those positions were stated precisely and intelligently.

* Michelle O was good too. ("Good?" Yes, "60" interviews are to a certain extent performances and as everyone well knows, such interviews can be easily botched.) "The White House was beautiful, awe-inspiring...a great honor to live there." Right answer, when you consider that after Nancy Reagan first walked through, she couldn't plan fast enough to demolish the second floor.

* Delayed gratification on new puppy ("gratification?" Not necessarily the right word when it comes to new puppies.) Yeah, much'll be made semi-seriously of the fact that a new dog isn't coming until maybe in the spring, maybe later. First broken promise!! Oh, puhlease...

* Great night for "60 Minutes," now the only serious news mag left on TV. The Only One. (Really? "20/20" had the bearded lady-man on Friday, will have a famous prostitute this Friday, and next week, closing up sweeps, an exclusive interview with Batboy.) "60" was the most watched program on television week before laset, and will likely do same this week. An "old" warhorse that just keeps on establishing its relevancy.

Grade: A

(Photo: AP)

November 14, 2008

'Life on Mars' meets 'Kojak'

This is almost too good to be true. On last Thursday's >"Life on Mars," which takes place in an imagined 1973., Harvey Keitel's Lt. Gene Hunt was part of a group held hostage by a guy who had taken over the psych ward of a hospital....

Now back in the real 1973 on the very first episode of >"Kojak" -- the spiritual godfather of "Life on Mars" -- a group of innocents is held hostage by a gang of desperate armored car-robbers, led by.... Harvey Keitel.

Cue "Twilight Zone" music and enjoy:

'30 Rock's' Next 'Friend'

Jennifer Aniston was absolutely hysterical last night on "30 Rock" as an uninhibited ditz who knows how to make Jack's clock tick.

"30 Rock" is now 2 for 2 when it comes to guest shots featuring former "Friends" cast members, following last season's riotous performance by David Schwimmer as "Greenzo," a truly warped eco-activist..

So which "Friend" should be next? May we suggest Matthew Perry.

Not as a new character, but reprising his role as comedy writer Matt Albie from "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip." After all, the man knows the TV biz. This would be the ultimate wink-wink from "30 Rock" -- "60" was supposed to be NBC's high-end drama about the TV biz, while "30" was supposed to be some dopey, low-rent comedy about the TV biz.

Well, we all know how that turned out.

Whatdya think? In the meantime, just in case you've forgotten, please go to the jump and take a look at the finale from "Studio 60."

Continue reading "'30 Rock's' Next 'Friend'" »

Beyond 'American Idol'

Chris Daughtry, one of the most successful "American Idol" contestants, stretches himself a bit next week when he guests on Wednesday's "CSI: NY," playing a rocker (well, maybe not so much of a stretch).

Anyway, that got us to thinking about other "Idol" finalists who have gone to appear on sitcoms and dramas. (We'll stay away from those who have prostituted themselves on reality TV, like Nikki McKibben on "Celebrity Rehab 2.") Tamyra Gray, the Season One finalist, went on to play an extended role on "Boston Public" and season four's Constantine Maroulis did his thing on the soap "The Bold and the Beautiful." Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken have also logged time on other shows.

But for our money, the oddest spectacle of 'em all is first-season runner-up Justin Guarini's brief appearance on the 2003 WB sitcom "Run of the House" (it starred Joey, please call me, Joseph, Lawrence). We happen to have a clip here for your amusement:

Continue reading "Beyond 'American Idol'" »

November 13, 2008

Fishburne Joins "CSI" Dec. 11

MV5BMTIyNDkyMDgwNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTU4MTU5MQ%40%40__V1__CR0%2C0%2C266%2C266_SS90_.jpg That's the big day. Here's the program line note for that night's episode, entitled "19 Down…"

"When a new murder leads to a connection with an infamous serial killer, Grissom secretly joins the class of well-known criminal pathologist Dr. Raymond Langston (Fishburne), to gain access to the killer and get a crack in the case..."

"The View:" Pregnant Man Knocked Up Again

s-PREGNANT-MAN-small.jpg There are, in fact, many reasons to watch "The View," besides to witness the gradual and sometimes shockingly fast disintegration of social mores, decency, kindness and gentility.

Of course, I'm talking about Joy and Elisabeth.

There's big news here on occassion. Notably: Pregnant Man is pregnant again.

Babs Walters announced this on the show a couple hours ago; as soon as I get a clip, will post, but in the meantime, here's the story from ABC. can go here for "Hot Topics;" (The nuns seated upfront? For "Sister Act.")

Of course, all of this is to promote that "Walters'" special tomorrow night, entitled "What Is a Man, What Is a Woman? Journey of a Pregnant Man." It airs at 10. Announced earlier this week, it was expected Babs would air outtakes of an exclusive interview BUT we now hear, via Babs herself, that Thomas Beatie is in fact....ummm...expecting again.

(What is a man? What is a woman? Well, if you have to ask...)

It's Official: "MADtv" Ends

madtv_s13_cast_240.jpg Word of this pretty big news broke late yesterday, but Fox just now has formally confirmed: The 326th and FINAL episode will air next May. It'll be a ripe old fifteen by that point.

Here's the statement from Fox Entertainment bossman Kevin Reilly: “MADtv has been one of the longest running series in recent television history. The fact that this Emmy Award-winning show has been a FOX mainstay in late-night for 14 years is a testament to the creativity and dedication put forth each week by the talented cast, writers and crew. This was a very difficult decision and we would like to give our heartfelt thanks to everyone at MADtv for making us laugh for over 300 irreverent episodes.”

What, you say? You've never even HEARD of "MADtv?" (Highly doubtful, of course.) It has had a lot of funny stuff over the years - generally cruder than "SNL," but not always. Of course, it never became even remotely the cultural force that the NBC monster is, was and presumably will continue to be.

Nonetheless, the show has had legions of fans, and I wonder whether Matthew Weiner is/was one; after all, he cast longtime "MADtv" castmember Crista Flanagan in "Mad Men," as - I'm guessing - a bit of an inside joke. (Crista goes from "MADtv" to "Mad Men!" She's Lois...)

Please head on down to the jump to check out "MADtv's" own recent political satire show, all 41 minutes of it, which I pulled off of Hulu...

Continue reading "It's Official: "MADtv" Ends" »

Fox, NBC Stations to Pool Local Coverage

WNBC_4_New_York_2008.jpgHere's a development I imagine will send chills through the entire TV news business - Fox and NBC owned-and-operated stations will pool their local TV news coverage in various markets, beginning with Philly in January. No word yet on NYC, but it will happen here too.

Why a chill? Because this will let stations from coast to coast combine resources, and when you see those words in conjunction, you know the next word is "layoffs." The local TV business is in desperate shape, with ad sales slumping and in the absence of political ads - which firmed up pricing - now about to slump even further.

Here's what the press release read: "The service will gather and distribute general market video coverage to the participating stations, allowing them to efficiently use resources to focus on more specialized franchise reporting. The stations will continue to operate independently in all other respects regarding their individual newsgathering operations."

"Prison Break" Gone Soon?


Yeah, that's Wentworth Miller, at the end of season three, looking to the future, which now seems very very tenuous. The big headline in a Hollywood Reporter story this morning is that "Prison Break" is over, and if you look at the numbers (see the jump), then it's not terribly shocking - just shocking that a show with a global cult following should face cancellation after only four (four!) seasons.

If I've got my arithmetic right, Fox originally ordered a full 22 episodes for the season, but when the '09 mid-season lineup was announced, the network was suspiciously quiet about the show, which conceivably could step in if something like "Dollhouse" flounders (for example.)

To fans, this suggests that the full order won't be produced at all. The HR piece says the show just got notification that the network wants two additional episodes only, with the implication that those will be a two-hour finale. I'm pretty certain "PB" has produced enough episodes already to close out this year - 2008 - but it's '09 that remains the big mystery.

Strange: Though I'm not a big "PB" watcher by any means, I know people who are and the sense from them is that this has been a perfectly fine season; I believe even Stephen King also weighed in on his "EW" column, saying how it had become some sort of TV addiction for him...

Meanwhile, here's a quick clip of next week's "Quiet Riot." Enjoy it while you can...

And as mentioned, go to the jump for last week's top 100 shows; scroll down, waaaay down, for "PB," which I'll mark...

Continue reading ""Prison Break" Gone Soon? " »

Ayres on "GMA"

BillAyres.jpg Here's a brief and intriguing program note: "GMA" will interview Williams Ayres on tomorrow's show. Ayres? You know - the former Weatherman who became a reasonably visible part of the McCain campaign in the waning days, as it attempted to link him to some sort of "terrorist" sympathies on the part of Barack Obama.

It all backfired (of course), and now Ayres will have his say.

Here's the "GMA" presser: "In his first first television interview since he became the center of controversy in the Presidential race, Chicago activist Williams Ayers breaks his silence in an exclusive interview with Chris Cuomo on Friday's "Good Morning America."

"Ayers, a leader of 60s radical group the Weathermen, became a political lightning rod over past associations with president-elect Barack Obama. In his first exclusive interview, Ayers talks about the re-issue of his 2001 memoir "Fugitive Days" and his journey from privileged youth to 60s radical."

(Ahhh, "re-issue" of his book; always always always a motive for interviews like this.)

November 12, 2008

"American Idol:" The Paula Goodspeed Tragedy

american_idol.jpg Expect to hear much much lip-smacking about the suicide of this tragic woman, Paula Goodspeed, who apparently had a morbid fascination with Paula Abdul. It's already been all over the Web the last few hours, and so I would imagine just about now, the moralizers will start to weigh in. They may have a point.

Allow me to foreshadow some of those:

1.) The early rounds are, of course, needlessly cruel, and contestants - some, clearly unbalanced - are often dragged before the judges who are then allowed to sharpen their meat cleavers on them. A show of hands - isn't this WRONG?

2.) Didn't it occur to ANYONE - notably line producers - that someone who has produced many many MANY drawings of Paula may be in need of psychiatric help, and NOT in need of ridicule?

3.) There was a huge outcry in Sweden (of all places) when a contestant on the first season of "Survivor" committed suicide after getting thrown off the island; will we see a similar backlash here? (Highly doubtful - this ain't Sweden...but I bring it up anyway.)

4.) Will "Idol" moderate, or at least cut back, on the early rounds, or make some effort to protect those who clearly need protection from themselves?

(Note to reader - this video takes about 20-25 seconds to load; have patience...)

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"Damages;" "Nip/Tuck" Back in January


Just go the official word from FX on the return of "Damages" and "Nip/Tuck," and here that word is:

Fifth season launch of "N/T" is Tuesday, January 6 at 10, for eight weeks, while..second season launch of "Damages" goes Wednesday, January 7 at 10, for a thirteen week run.


(That means the DVDs should be arriving shortly. Oh, the terribly difficult life of a TV critic. What suffering...)

Anything further newsy in the news release to share with you? be the judge but most of this stuff sounds familiar...

"N/T:" "As season five continues, Sean tries to re-build his life after surviving a brutal attack from Colleen Rose. McNamara/Troy faces an unexpected, serious medical crisis. Christian decides to settle down with one woman and Sean discovers a new love in a moment of extreme vulnerability.

"Guest stars include Sharon Gless, Portia de Rossi, AnnaLynne McCord, Bradley Cooper, John Schneider, Jennifer Coolidge, Morgan Fairchild and Katee Sackoff."

"Damages:" After her unprecedented victory over billionaire Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson), Patty Hewes has the legal world at her feet. Just as she’s pondering her next move, Daniel Purcell (William Hurt), a man from Patty’s mysterious past, storms back into her life, catapulting Patty into a new legal challenge.

At the same time, Ellen is on a mission to take down Patty. She's agreed to act as an informant for the FBI, assisting them in their criminal investigation of Patty and the firm. As Patty unravels the mystery surrounding Daniel Purcell, she must also negotiate the perilous minefield both inside and outside her office.

"In addition to Academy Award® winner William Hurt, Academy Award winner Marcia Gay Harden and Timothy Olyphant join the cast of Damages for its second season. "


Yes, they are everywhere this time of year, and honestly, I have no idea why. But turn on a show, any show, and something unusual, someone unusual, will pop up.

Of course it's sweeps, and of course networks have it stitched into their DNA some automatic reflex impulse which says that if you've got an unusual face on a TV show, then that will magically stop people from changing channels because ... people just have to see why that unusual face is on the screen.

Now, logically, we know this is nonsense, but networks are not about logic. Why should both Robert Guillaume and Tipi Hedren be on next week's episode of "CSI"? Why not! Why should Mary-Kate Olsen be on "Samantha Who?" Why not!

Anyway, this got me to thinking of my favorite cameos of the past; unfortunately, try as I might, I still can't locate that one with Andy Warhol in "Love Boat." The one below is a lifelong favorite.

Please go to the jump to watch a couple of others that are lunatic fringe...

Continue reading "Cameos! " »

November 11, 2008

McCain on 'Tonight Show'

OK, my friends ...

Here's John McCain's appearance on "Tonight Show with Jay Leno," or at least some collected clips thereof.

A couple of observations:

1.) He was funny (and gracious).

2.) Overall, this was much better than McCain's outing on Letterman (who was not funny or particularly gracious).

3.) That "baby" line - I liked it, but my editor, who's gotta heckuva memory, says he heard it or read it before (from 2000). Imagine! A warmed-over joke.

Now, Larry King Gets Sarah Palin

sarah-palin-vp.JPGYes! An other interview! Suddenly, you get the sense that Sarah Palin is running for office...again. Good Lord, who HASN'T interviewed her yet? At this rate, I'll be flying to Wasilla next week.

The Larry King get-together will air this Wednesday, on "Larry King Live."

Message to LK: Please, please, (I'm beggin' ya), PLEASE ask her about something besides clothes and how she and John McCain REALLY got along. This post-election cleanup campaign by Sixpack is already getting old. Tomorrow, she's gonna teach Matt Lauer how to make waffles. Enough! What we really need is for the snitch to step forward - the guy/guys who gave Carl Cameron all that stuff about Africa last week. (Meanwhile...if you haven't already heard, apparently MSNBC's David Shuster fell for some Internet hoax in which someone claimed to be the tipster; it's all over Huffpo if you care. )

One more question: Will Oprah get Sarah too?

(Robyn Beck/ AFP / Getty Images)

Clooney: Will He? Or When Will He?

clooneymarguiles_l.jpg George, George - what's going on? When are you going to step up - or your PR rep step up - and say, "I'm in..."

In at "ER," for what I'm guessing will be a guest shot in the season/series finale in May.

Again, this morning, we have had yet another confirmation that Clooney will do one last favor for the show that made his career. During a quick cross-chat outside the "Today" studio with Ann and Al, Anthony Edwards was asked whether "they" (Clooney and Julianna Margulies, the two most prominent holdouts-to-date) will turn up on the show.

"I'm sure they will," quoth he.

I'm sure they will too. And...when they see how beautifully handled this Thursday's return of Doc Greene is, they'll say: Where do we sign up?

So remember, they will be back on "ER." I'm just waiting for the press release.

Palin: "I Did Not Order Up These Clothes"

OK, then...someone's lying...

Interesting post-election interview from "The Today Show" bureau in Wasilla, Alaska: Matt Lauer's just concluded multi-parter with Sarah Palin. (No questions on Africa that I could tell.)

When Matt asked gingerly, as though approaching a porcupine brandishing a scimitar, "can I bring up the wardrobe," Sarah smiled, and brought forth her well-rehearsed, eerrr, candid denunciation of the rats and cowards who said she had spent a queen's ransom emptying out Neiman and Saks...Others bought the stuff for her, even before she turned up at the convention. Those who spoke about her behind her back and leaked to the media after the election? "Cowards..."

Interesting to see what John McCain says on "Tonight" tonight...All this stuff will come up, of course, and we'll get you the transcript as soon as it does.


November 10, 2008

Letterman: Good Stuff on Obama/Bush Meet

david-letterman.jpg David Letterman's hard-working staff has taken to transcribing his monologue and Top Ten, and then...send it out to me in the hope that we'll blog it four hours before the show airs. (I should say, me and the three others who Still Cover Television...)

And guess what? It works! Or at least when the show has some pretty good stuff. Tonight's monologue, by my count, has two excellent lines and one very good one. Letterman continues his winning ways...What will we ever do without him?

Here were my favorites...

"I’m no pundit. I don’t know anything about politics, but as soon as Barack Obama shook hands with President Bush, Obama’s approval ratings went down ten points....

"There was a little confusion there at the meeting at the White House. When he was told, when President Bush was told that Obama was coming, he said, “Oh, you mean, we caught him?”

..." There’s always that little bump in the road and it happened earlier today at the White House. An historic meeting, you have Barack Obama meeting with George W. Bush, and he showed up there for his orientation tour…so did Hillary."

Now, please go to the jump for the top ten things "overheard at the Bush/Obama meeting..."

Continue reading "Letterman: Good Stuff on Obama/Bush Meet" »

Matt Lauer Meets Sarah Palin

070614_lauer_vmed_2p.standard.jpg The conga line to Wasilla continues tomorrow on "The Today Show:" Matt Lauer will do the honors this time, asking Sarah Palin (no doubt) multiple choice questions about Africa (and maybe Europe too).

NBC is calling this Sixpack's "first network interview since the election," though I imagine that Fox News - which has her tonight - may take some umbrage with that (what are we, someone at FNC might reasonably ask? A flounder?)

"Today" says the interview will be "extensive" (code word for fun multiple choice questions about Africa) and portions will air on the show Tuesday and Wednesday. Matt's in Alaska as we speak...getting that requisite tour of the Governor manse.

Meanwhile, here's a special bonus: "Today" will release portions and outtakes later tonight, and I will get those to you posthaste.

"60 Minutes" Ted Turner

No...if you were left wondering overnight whether there were any surprises in yesterday's Morley Safer profile of Ted Turner, whose memoir, "Call Me Ted," comes out this morning.

None that I could see over twelve minutes (which makes me wonder - how forthcoming is Ted in the autobio?) The group interview with his children was interesting, but still offered nothing that no longtime Turner watchers didn't know or suspect. was all well worth watching, and if you haven't already, all you have to do is click below.

Ted: The biggest question right now, a day after another "60" treatment (I think there have been at least three over the years) is, what's left to say about him? There is no more influential a television figure in the last quarter century, although as convergence has now begun to invade (and pervade) the "TV space," the boys from Google (and of course others) may soon assume that role.

Watch CBS Videos Online

November 7, 2008

McCain on Jay; Palin on Greta


The post-election interviews have been lined up: John McCain will appear on "Tonight Show" Tuesday, November 11, while Sarah Palin will tape an interview with Greta Van Susteren in Alaska over the weekend; that one will appear on "On the Record" this Monday.

And now...this: Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Trib is reporting that Oprah has asked Sarah Sixpack to appear on her show...

(I have a quick word for that one: HA!! Where were you, O, a month ago, when you refused to have her on...? If I were Sarah, I'd say, "I'd love to be on your little show. But you'll have to come to Wasilla to tape it.")

Quickie Review: Tom Green's New Game Show


"Hosting 'Go for the Green,' a game show, is new territory for Tom," read the press release that hit my in-box not all that long ago. And after I dried the tears of delirious, hysterical laughter, I squinted to make sure that I had read this right:

Yes, I had. The star, producer and creator of "Freddy Got Fingered" has become a game show host.

For Planet Green ( 8).

Which is an eco-friendly network that the Discovery Channel launched recently.

Exquisite irony.


The only thing "green" about Tom Green, I imagine, is the name; consider: Without Tom Green, there would be no "Jackass." Without Tom Green, Drew Barrymore might have married (and divorced) someone else. He is, or was, a cultural wrecking ball. Eco-friendly Tom Green? This has got to be a joke, right?

Wrong-o. Tom, you see, has turned over a new leaf (yuk, yuk - I've been saving that bad pun for days). He needs a paycheck too. Don't we all.

I checked out this latest from that very odd new network, Planet Green. I like Planet Green and what it's trying to do. What I don't understand is WHOM it's trying to do this too. Planet Green presumes that there are young kids out there who yearn for the eco-friendly life as earnestly as their parents yearned for 8-tracks of Yes albums and metal hogs that consumed gasoline by the tanker full. These young 'uns hope that the ozone can one day be closed, and that cars CAN one day run on cold fusion and that global warming CAN be reversed. They're a wonderful, glorious, ideological lot but...honestly, I've never met one.

I suspect most of the kids that Planet Green are looking for really ARE just about as green as their parents.

Tom's show, oddly enough, is fine. He's not a bad game show host at all - sort of dry, and his visage assumes this earnest, almost sad expression; he seems like a professor, who can hardly wait to get out of class.

"Which of the following is one of the 'dirty dozen' fruits that is not sprayed by pesticides," he asks contestants. "Peaches or pumpkins?"

The show culls down contestants "green" question by green question - the one who guesses most of these greenies correctly gets an "eco-friendly" trip to Costa Rica.

"Guess" is the right word here. Most of these contestants don't seem to know the difference between a peach or a pumpkin, much less answers to "green" multiple-choice questions relating to disparate stuff like trash compactors in Philadelphia or a beer called "Cascade Green."

It's a funky show on a funky network hosted by a very funky host.

I like them all. I just don't understand any of it. And I'm fairly certain I NEVER want to drink anything called "Cascade Green."

Grade: B-

Oprah: Still "No Decision" on Show

070614_oprah_vmed_12p.widec.jpg Okay kids, we have an update on this big story concerning Oprah ending her show in 2011, and taking it to OWN, as Discovery boss, David Zaslov, said would happen.

Here's the statement from Harpo:

"While David Zaslav's comments are true that Oprah's current contract to produce 'The Oprah Winfrey Show' will expire in 2011, she has not made a final decision as to whether she will continue her show in syndication beyond that."

Allow me, if you will, to parse this: Oprah NEVER announces anything, ever, about her show's future. I do believe she's allergic to the word "announce." She instead: "Implies," "suggests," "hems" and sometimes "haws." But a flat-out declarative announcement on whether it will or will not continue. Never. In fact, I believe that someday - let's say a Monday, in 2011 - you'll turn on Ch. 7, and there will be O chatting with Oz or whomever, and then the next day, at 4 p.m., you'll turn on Ch. 7 at 4 p.m., and it WON'T be there.

O and her "partners" - notably King World and, as mentioned, Disney - are hugely sensitive about this subject, and I think what we saw with Zaslav this morning was one of those unbridled moments of pure candor.

Her show WILL go to OWN; everyone knows it will; and I'm certain that O and Discovery have tightly written within their contract that this is the way it will be.

(Pix: Evan Agostini / Getty)

Quicke Review: "Grey's" Goodbye to Erica...


But here's my question: Was that REALLY a goodbye , like Jeffrey Dean Morgan's was a reasonably definite goodbye ("reasonably" - he WAS back last night after all.)

It was a turn-on-her-heels "I don't really know you at all" moment. And then, off into the shadows she went, presumably to...what? I'm not sure. But an absolute farewell?

Not really. In a way, it was a perfect ending, I suppose, for what was certainly was of the best "Grey's Anatomy" episodes ever put to film: That sense that it's not over until it's over, and even then... They saw dead people last night, lots of them, and the boundary between life and death wasn't much more than a very thin and mostly irrelevant line. (Unless, like that bereft man, trundling out the door after his wife's death, you were among the living. That scene inspired one of the most memorable lines ever written for this show: "We're born, live and die. Sometimes not in that order.")

But Erica Hahn's - and Brooke Smith's - departure was certainly well-done. Consider: She WAS in the right about Denny Duquette's transplant, and WAS right that it had been badly handled, and that Chief was as complicit as Izzy in the mess-up. It was a great closing scene, perfectly built to character - Erica Hahn's character - as a difficult, unyielding and uncompromising soul, AND someone who lately discovered her real sexuality. She was uncompromising about that too.

I'll miss Hahn - Brooke Smith - on this show. She was a hugely valuable addition when she arrived two seasons ago, and her character deserved better. Last night, as fine an episode as that was, felt incomplete, as though a vital character who suddenly added a whole new dimension was ripped from the screen. But that's death, TV-style.

What was so good about last night though? That "Grey's," which has struggled so badly and clumsily and foolishly at times last season (shortened though it was), re-located exactly the right voice and tone that made it a great show in the first place.

So, Mary McDonnell joins next week (and we'll have to pretend she's not Laura Roslin) and I guess all of this will explain who happens to Hahn...

Who is still, meanwhile, gone. So I guess this is what's meant by "bittersweet."

Grade: A

"Oprah" Broadcast Run Over in 2011


...And show goes to the new Oprah Winfrey Network, bowing either '10 or '11.

So don't worry.

Yes, Discovery boss David Zaslav confirmed this in an earnings call with analysts this morning.

And yes, someone must have read my post which stated this yesterday, and which also said that Oprah has no intention of joining the Obama administration because she's got her hands full with this new network gig. (Or maybe no one did read it, but a fella can hope...) I said that "O's" over-the-air run would almost certainly end because the show will be the key stone for this new network. It'll likely air at night, and likely be the core show around which other programs - including, yes, sitcoms and dramas - will be placed.

This is a huge deal from an industry perspective BUT from a viewer perspective, not such a biggie. After all, it'll still be on the air, and all those favorite things will still be favored, etc. But, I imagine Disney stock will drop today when the Street learns the full extent of this - ABC stations literally depend on "O," which is by far the most successful show in syndication history. Local news on ABC affils across the country have been propelled by "O's" tailwinds for so long that some will drop outta the sky when she moves on...

“The expectation is that after that, her show will go off of ABC in syndication and she will come to OWN," Discovery CEO David Zaslav said on the company’s first earnings call as a public company, as reported in TV Week. “We’re talking now about what the presence will be and what kind of programming she would be involved in directly. But this is her Chapter 2, and building the OWN brand online and on air is . . . A core mission for her.”

He added, she is “very involved with us and focusing on what the channel is going to be, as well as developing”

Yeah, OWN's a joint venture with Discovery.

Photo: Getty

"American Idol:" January 13 and 14


As predictable as the rising sun, "American Idol" will be back mid-January, and Fox had the decency to finally give us the exact dates yesterday: January 13 and 14.

That's a Tuesday and Wednesday, by the way.

What's interesting about the new sked announced late yesterday? Well, "Idol" Results goes at 8, and will lead in to "Fringe," which is a sure sign that Fox has decided that this newcomer is the Next Big Thing.

And "Dollhouse," the much anticipated (by fanboys and Joss Whedon groupies) series with "Buffy's" Eliza Dushku, will launch Friday the 13th in February, alongside "Terminator." What means this? Well, really nothing very good for "Dollhouse," honestly. That's a tough time period, and while some people with long memories might like to point out that "The X Files" once aired Fridays at 9, that was also last century, when there were just four TV networks; there are five hundred now.

Here's the relevant graf from the presser:

"On Friday, Feb. 13, FOX presents a thrilling new action-packed lineup featuring the return and time period premiere of TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) and the highly anticipated series premiere of Joss Whedon’s DOLLHOUSE (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT). DOLLHOUSE reunites Whedon with Eliza Dushku (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), who stars as a member of a highly illegal underground group of individuals who have had their personalities wiped clean so they can be imprinted with any number of new personas.

OK, now please go to the jump for the full schedule, and after you're done perusing that, I've also posted the full press release, which will tell you more about that newcomer starring Tim Roth, "Lie to Me."

Continue reading ""American Idol:" January 13 and 14" »

November 6, 2008

"Grey's Anatomy:" Kevin McKidd


You, faithful reader, know that I've had my ups and downs with "Grey's Anatomy" - the latest down most recently Tuesday when Brooke Smith was fired (fired!) off the show because she played a lesbian character. Smith was fired but Shonda Rhimes pretended it was Just One of Those Things, but, hey, who wants to be known as a producer who KOW-TOWED to evil network overlords?

But in fact, Shonda has done at least one smart thing this season and that's add Kevin McKidd to the cast as the new surgeon who kills pigs and canoodles with Yang and gets into steely blue-eyed staring contests with Der and Sloan, or Mardere.

I like McKidd. I liked "Journeyman," too. And I thought he was great in "Rome" and (of course) "Trainspotting," which actually came out in the last century.

In any event, McKidd's people have got him talking to the press this week, and he - bless 'im - even consented to chat with little 'ol lowly 'Zone. Much to say about this fine new addition to "Grey's" - as you know, he's Scottish born and retains a nice, deep burr - but I'll let him do the talking.

Main points of our recent chat:

* There WILL be a "Rome" movie for theatrical release, which he's just confirmed with Bruno Heller. Heller, as "Rome" fans know, wrote much of the HBO series, but he's busy with a CBS hit right now, "The Mentalist," which he created. Says McKidd, there "will be a cinema release movie, and [we'll] bring back those [characters] together. He's been busy trying to work out the story and structure, [but] I talked to him and he's got the structure of the movie in his head...All the cast would come back [for it] in a heart beat." McKidd played Lucius Vorenus in "R," which ended its HBO run last year.

* McKidd's a busy guy - contracted for 13 episodes of "Grey" (just taped number 11) and he's in production on "Bunraku," with Demi Moore, Ron Perlman, Josh Hartnett, and Woody Harrelson.

* "Grey's" and ABC like his character so far, but hey! This is showbiz; they also liked Smith's. He doesn't REALLY kill pigs on "Grey's" - I jest - and the show did point out that those porcine stars from last week were in fact made of plastic and straw, so no animals were hurt.

Please go to the jump for more on McKidd...

Continue reading ""Grey's Anatomy:" Kevin McKidd" »

Oprah: Probably No Ambassadorship


Well, we've certainly had fun speculating about this Ambassador Oprah business, haven't we?

But there comes a point - even a point in a blog that often relies on nothing but the sweet, heady, thin air of pure speculation - where we actually have to do a little reporting. (Very little, mind you - I'm not into heavy lifting here.)

I've spoken to someone who's reasonably familiar with the "Oprah situation" (let's call it) and I'm not at liberty to say who this person is, or why he - or she - is in a position to know what's going on. But he/she tells me that it's not going to happen.

I repeat: No way. Oh sure, he/she says: Oprah would like to be asked but she won't take it and she can't, and that includes any ambassadorship, including the one in the Court of St. James.

First, let's begin with the most obvious reason, and the one that everyone seems to have conveniently overlooked: She has a contract! Yes, one of those silly little things that bind you to something, and which you are not able to break, under any circumstances. "The Oprah Winfrey Show" is tied to her stations - many of them ABC affils and owned-and-operated - through 2011. That's about a year before the first Obama administration comes to an end.

Let me restate this: She cannot walk away from her contract. She will NOT walk away from her contract.

But let's say that something like this is still meaningless to the army of web speculators out there who really don't care about facts. Here's something that will absolutely, or should absolutely end any speculation:

She's launching a network. Launchdate is now sometime in the '09 (but more likely '10) window. I'm also told that there's widespread belief in the TV industry right now that O will take her daily syndicated show to air as the lynch pin of this new network, possibly in the primetime hours, when the '11 station deal lapses.

In any event, my source tells me, "there's no way she's going to do" the ambassadorship "because she's got her own network [via Discovery] and that's a huge undertaking. I know she's very involved in it and she's really put herself into it; she'll have her own show [on the new web] and she's developing a whole slate of new shows. This is her dream. I can't imagine her" walking away from it.

This person adds that "I don't see her doing anything else [in the Obama administration]. She doesn't have the skill set to do a cabinet post though I think she could clearly be an outreach person for the administration or a liaison person for anything from education to [health] to a million other things, including culture and the arts. But she's not at that point in her life" where she's ready to walk away. "Maybe in twenty years, but right now she's in the center of the storm."

This source adds, "She's one hundred percent involved in every aspect of this thing [the new network]. This is her dream come true. This is her chance to create her lasting legacy and this is really an on-going network that will survive her."

"South Park:" Obama Win Part of Elaborate Caper

Now Matt and Trey have REALLY gone and done it: The two troublemakers are floating a theory through the Internets that the Barack Obama election was in fact part of an elaborate caper to steal the Hope Diamond, and (in fact) John McCain is in on the caper, and so is Bono.

Jesus, can't these two guys just stick to surreal movie criticism?

They've even created a video that proves collusion. Here it is - you can all make up your own minds as to whether this is fiction, or...(This, of course, from last night's episode...)

'Sarah Sixpack': Is Africa a Country?

We all know that in the immediate aftermath of a failed campaign, the knives come out: SOMEBODY must be to blame for the fiasco,and the media will suddenly uncover all this stuff that miraculously never made it into the papers when it should have, like during the campaign.

So, here's an interview that's well worth watching: It's last night's cross-talk between Bill O'Reilly and chief political correspondent Carl Cameron - who, if you don't know him, is a very seasoned and respected trail reporter. Honestly, this is one of the most amazing interviews I've ever seen ... already it's gotten a lot of attention, but if you want to be au courant around the ol' 'cooler, then this you've gotta see. The headline: That Palin didn't know Africa was a continent (though there's a lot more).

Can you imagine the Katie Couric interview question: "OK, Ms. Palin, is Africa a country or a continent...?"

Or, this: "Here's a map, Ms. Palin. Please point out Africa..."

Or this, from Tina Fey/Palin..."What's an 'Africa?'"

Good Lord...

November 5, 2008

Crichton, RIP

crichton_narrowweb__200x306.jpg This is just breaking as we speak: Michael Crichton has died.

Here's the statement from the family:

"While the world knew him as a great story teller that challenged our preconceived notions about the world around us -- and entertained us all while doing so -- his wife Sherri, daughter Taylor, family and friends knew Michael Crichton as a devoted husband, loving father and generous friend who inspired each of us to strive to see the wonders of our world through new eyes," the statement said. "He did this with a wry sense of humor that those who were privileged to know him personally will never forget."

Pretty much needless to say, Crichton had a huge impact on the big screen, and a significant one on the small screen, too. Based - broadly - on his experiences in the "e.r.," the show with those two letters became one of the major institutions of television during the '90s, equally (if not more so) important to the fortunes of NBC as "Friends" and "Seinfeld."

Who won last night's TV coverage?


Well, I have a million impressions from last night's coverage, and I guess I'll burden you with only couple thousand. Let's play the "who won" game.

"Who won": Not numbers, but the smartest coverage, or the coverage that seemed to best capture unfolding history, or the coverage that really gave you, the viewer, that sense that the earth was about to shift, and "so prepare yourself," etc.

So, what you are about to read are flat-out snap impressions and snap judgments - not necessarily deeply informed, or thought out or exhaustive (ha!) but merely hunches.

Generally, coverage was good, but I still can't get over the simple fact that the networks employed a fig leaf for so very long. Everyone knew that the race was absolutely over at 5 when the first exit polls came out, but they still pretended that there was still a possibility that "anything could happen." Of course it couldn't and wouldn't.

Also...why not more people of color as analysts? Of course, Fox has Juan Williams and NBC has Tavis Smiley. But why not more? A truly historic election took place last night, and network coverage would have been deeper and richer had the on-air analysts managed to convey that throughout the evening, and had more of them been black.

Anyway, here's my winner. Drum roll..............

CBS. But by a whisker.

Here's a quick net by net look:

CBS: I love Schieffer and Greenfield, and like the less-is-more style of chatter that these guys engage in; liked Katie too. The coverage didn't feel necessarily "deep" or exhaustive, but it felt fine. Like everyone else, caution ruled. Best part of the night? It actually occurred during the end of a very good edition of "Evening News." There was a two-minute collage of shots from the past two years, cleverly constructed with a soundtrack from The Last Goodnight! The Last Goodnight? I wonder if Katie even knows who they are?

Grade: B

NBC: Brian Williams desperately needed a strong "co-" last night, and he really didn't get one in Tom Brokaw, who seemed to be rarely on-camera. Brokaw was, it seemed, more visible after 11, when the race was over. Through the night, he tried to throw in the rare cautionary "don't rush to judgment" note, but it sounded unconvincing, hollow. Tim Russert was sorely, sorely missed, and last night revealed exactly what a huge contribution the guy gave in political seasons past simply by his absence and clarity. Plus, was it just me or did NBC's visuals look dowdy? The ice rink was more a bauble than constructive - oh great, look down over there by the Sea Grill! California's blue!

Grade: C

ABC: Too leisurely by half. A night where I found myself missing Peter Jennings. Charlie's fine, of course, but the whole thing felt terribly civilized and genteel; the only thing missing was a tea service. Diane (Sawyer)? My God, she looked bummed sitting over there wasting her time with the stupid exit poll stuff. At one point she had to yell over to Rudy Giuliani - yoo hoo, Mister Mayor! Remember me?

Grade: C

Fox: There was something curiously lax about FNC, and I still can't put my finger on it. Brit Hume was good, always is, and this was maybe his last full night on the air. An historic election, and he seemed like, ho hum, another election, another night. Fox's analysts, like Bill Kristol, were fast to jump on the bones of the McCain campaign. Viewers woulda been better served had they laid out the impending doom in the weeks leading up to the election.

Grade: C

MSNBC: I hate to be hard on dear ol' resurgent MS, but I felt like they were speaking in code all night, or using body language to convey the ultimate outcome; Keith Olbermann looked like the cat who swallowed the canary - ready to burst out at any moment, "Take THAT MISTER BUSH SIRRR!!! Your repudiation is AT HAND!" Instead, he looked smug and so did Chris Matthews. The hot new commodity, Rachel Maddow? Honestly, I hardly saw her on air at ALL! Was I simply looking elsewhere when she was on? I suppose so. "Stretch" - you know, David Gregory - tried to be the resident adult here, but even he couldn't seem to resist "it's over Dubya! Revenge is here." I honestly think MSNBC had an opportunity to throw caution to hell last night and say, "look, we've got this exit data and the election is OVER. The first black American president has been elected. WOW!" And then, take it from there. Instead, they played the same kabuki news drama that everyone else did. Too bad.

Grade: D

CNN: CNN and Wolf Blitzer were fine, but lemme tell ya, all that technical wizardry is best suited and designed for a CLOSE election. It's a complete waste in a blowout. John King's magic board is one of the real innovations in TV news coverage, and King - an absolute machine of a reporter - plays it like a violin. But - sorry for the horrific mix of metaphors here - it's like taking a bazooka to a fly. Last night, he teased all this data out of Indiana, which was actually quite helpful early in the evening, but the thing was utterly useless for states where the outcome was obvious. Virginia, Florida, Ohio...the magic board was useless because those states were quickly called by the networks, and that was that. The holographic stuff? Fun but ridiculous.

Grade: B -

Oprah: I Have No Agenda

0_41_oprah_school.jpg Check out this nice little scoop that CNN's Alina Cho got last night at the mega-rally in Chicago - a chat with Oprah.

What's great about this is that Cho had the smarts and skill to hold off her best question till last - Would you consider an ambassadorship?

And what's even better is Oprah's reaction. She didn't deny it, which in my book is just about as good as a confirmation. "I have no agenda," says Oprah.

Well, to which I'd say, you don't NEED one. The new president will have an agenda, and let's see if you are on it. I believe, believe, believe that Oprah WILL in fact serve the new administration, and WILL in fact serve in a manner that's far beyond just being some sort of meaningless "goodwill ambassador." I imagine Prez-elect Obama has big plans for her; how could he not?

Oprah was a huge reason he was elected last night, and not just because she stumped for him during a perilous time of the campaign. She is Oprah. Enough said.

November 4, 2008

Sarah Palin: Her Last "SNL" Stand

This morning, I looked high and I looked low for this sketch from last night's "SNL Prez Bash," but it took the intrepid to locate it instead.

This was Sarah's last "SNL" appearance of the season, appearing just after ten last night, in the midst of rewinds and golden oldies - and it's a fitting end to this historic day and historic election, made historic in some measure by an interesting lady from Wasilla who drops her 'gs" and says "you betcha" and almost single-handedly helped make "Saturday Night Live" front and center during the last stretch of this political season.

Imagine: a 33-year-old institution rides to victory on something so unexpected, so fortuitous as Sarah Sixpack? Lorne Michaels owes her.

"Grey's Anatomy": Rhimes Speaks on Brooke


Well, I now see that Shonda Rhimes has released this statement to the press, which USA Today carried and where I've picked it up...

"Brooke Smith was obviously not fired for playing a lesbian. Clearly it's not an issue, as we have a lesbian character on the show — Calliope Torres.

"Sara Ramirez," she added, is an "incredible" actress and she wants to "play up her magic. Unfortunately, we did not find that the magic and chemistry with Brooke's character would sustain in the long run."

"I believe it belittles the relationship to simply replace Erica with 'another lesbian."

OK, dear reader, do you believe this? I don't. Foremost, Calliope - Calliope! - is bisexual and if she's strictly gay, than George - wouldn't HE be surprised?! - might have had a justification in his own mind to play footsies with Izzy; clearly he did not. In any event, that was never made clear to viewers, once - or at least that I can recall.

Second, of course it was an issue with the network. This sort of stuff is always an issue - just ask David Milch how many teeth he had to pull just to get the word "----hole" on "NYPD Blue." Networks are skittish. It's in their blood.

Third, if I were Shonda, I'd be the one to step up to the plate and take full blame for the ruination of this wonderful character. Erica Hahn, as I wrote below, is one of stellar characters in "Grey's" history, and the fact that the show drained her character of said magic and chemistry is the SHOW's fault, NOT, I repeat, NOT Brooke Smith's.

A shame.

"Grey's Anatomy:" Callica Over. Forever.


The big TV news - besides that little thing called an "election" today - has to be what popped out of "EW" last night, where Brooke Smith announced that she had just been fired from "Grey's Anatomy."

Fired. Not just written out. But gone. Off the set. Good bye. Don't let the door hit you where doors hit people....

It was an amazing post, and here's what she told Michael Ausiello, who broke this: "I found out in mid-September soon after shooting the monologue that aired last week where Erica has the revelation that she's gay. They even came down and told me it was a great scene…one of the best they ever shot on the show. So I was really, really shocked. I was floored when they told me [I was being let go]. It was the last thing I expected. In fact, when they told me I asked, 'When is this happening?' And they said, 'The [next episode] is your last,' which is the one that airs this Thursday. So it was very sudden."

Now, which is the scene of which she speaks? You know - it was last week, where Erica and Callie are in bed, and Erica basically goes haywire, saying how that was the best, most awesome, most incredible, most -oh-my-GAWD,. flat out INSANE sex she ever had.

Then, she starts telling Callie about a time when she was a kid, and saw only green blobs,. went to the doctor, came back with glasses and realized - wow! - the green blobs were actually leaves on the trees. And Callie, oh, Calliecalliecalliecallie...YOU are my glasses. I am (she went to say) SO GAY SO GAY SO GAY.

You remember. How could you forget. Callie was embarrassed. She leaves. End of scene.

What was wrong with any of this - other than the fact that "Grey's" had suddenly morphed into "The L Word?" Smith, a very good actress, was fine. The scene was memorable. And, in fact, believable, rare for this show.

Then...about a million people wrote Disney and told the company that they will never, ever again take their children to Disneyworld EVER.

small_callieericakiss3.jpg Oops. That's one little problem with graphic sex scenes and declarations of lesbian love on a show owned by a company which also owns huge family-oriented theme parks.

But WAIT, you say. "Desperate Housewives," "Brothers & Sisters" "Ugly Betty" "General Hospital" - to name four prominent ABC franchises that have or have had gay storylines. They didn't prompt cancellations. True, but...I submit that Callica had turned into something that even ABC had not bargained for, namely a highly charged sexual relationship between two women. This wasn't "The Ellen Show" or a quick lesbian smooch on "Roseanne."

This was sex, in a bed. Two women...

On American commercial TV, that's pure dynamite.

But I submit, there was a problem with Erica Hahn, and it's been the one I've had with her for the past season. When she joined full time back in '07 season - though I think she first came aboard in May of '06 - she was an amazing character and addition. Here was Dr. Erica Hahn - whom some of us remembered from "Silence of the Lambs:" This tough, brilliant, domineering woman. She was, for a singular moment, the only practicing adult in all of Seattle Grace. Her sexuality was, perhaps, ambiguous, but it was also irrelevant: While Meredere were doing their thing, and everyone else was an emotional basket case, here came Hahn: The one central figure who actually SEEMED like a surgeon, and BEHAVED like a surgeon. She abused Yang and Sloan with relish, and with that icy stare froze everyone in place.

Smith absolutely grounded the show the minute she came on screen, and she was a salvation for "Grey's," coming as she did in the wake of the Isaiah Washington fiasco.

(Irony alert! Washington is ousted because he slurs gays, and Brooke Smith is ousted because she PLAYS one...)

2998628.png Then, Hahn grew a heart. She got soft. Like everyone else at Seattle Grace, she drank from the tainted water cooler, and got silly, fell in love, and became - just like everyone else - more intent on her personal life than her professional one.

It was a sad waste of a great character.

So...ABC may have ousted Smith because of the overt gay storyline. But the demolition of a once great character probably had something to do with this as well.

(Pix: Bob Damico/ ABC.)

November 3, 2008

"24:" Back January 11 and 12

tony.jpg We finally have a date for you on "24's" return: Fox'll blow out the doors on the new season with a big four-hour two night "event" event, on Sunday January 11 and Monday the 12. The 150th episode, BTW, will be hour four.

Here are some headlines from the presser. Jack's on trial. CTU is dismantled. Tony Almeida is back (I believe that is kind of old news, but for the record anyway, Tony is back.)

Read away on the jump...

Continue reading ""24:" Back January 11 and 12" »

"Heroes" Putsch

images.jpeg One of "Heroes" most famous behind-the-scenes guys has been ousted from the show. Jeph Loeb, a comic book author extraordinaire, and (I believe) a founding producer of "Smallville," was shown the door by NBC over the weekend, along with another co-exec producer, Jesse Alexander.

What happened? Besides the fact that every critic in America has been dumping on "Heroes" and the show's numbers have been sliding? If you read between the lines, it sounds like less a creative implosion than a cost one; as Variety reported, the show regularly goes over $4 million per episode, and NBC clearly wants it under $4 mill per; and as showrunner with Alexander, it's certainly incumbent - one would imagine - upon Jeph to keep those bills in line. But (one would also imagine) it would also be incumbent on Tim Kring too. And, if the show's numbers were booming, then $4 mill wouldn't seem too bad. So, maybe a combination of both...

What's wrong with "Heroes?" Beats me - since the season premiere, I've been woefully out of touch with the show. But's become so knotted in its mythology that even hardcore fans are having a tough time keeping up. Plus, darn it, when you name episodes in a foreign language, notably a dead foreign language, than you're asking for trouble. (The recent "Eris Quod Sum?" As Wiki translates, that means "I was what you are, you will be what I am." Okay, thanks.)

Here's a clip...

"SNL:" Good Night, Keith, and Good Luck

Yikes! Did you not see this ferocious impersonation of Keith Olbermann on "SNL" (so caught up were you in the more over-riding political story therein)?

If not, then a remedy. Watch the clip, and the 30-second ad for Residence Inn is even worth the price of admission. This was Ben Affleck's big moment on Saturday's show, and it is really terrific - an absolutely over-the-top full-bore impersonation that even Keith might appreciate. (Or then again, maybe he won't.)

It's eight minutes long, and like a fast summer storm, builds to a full boil by the seventh or so minute, when the subject of "Miss Precious Perfect" comes up.

November 2, 2008

"Saturday Night Live:" McCain! (And Cindy!)

How was John McCain on last night's "QVC" parody? Better question: How was the parody?

Pretty good, and a fitting end to one of the most amazing runs in "Saturday Night Live" history.

The idea was both obvious and inspirational: How do you raise cash when you're down in the polls and your opponent is so flush that he can afford a $3 million block buy on seven networks? Simple: You sell action figures ("Joe, the plumber"). You sell "McCain Fine Gold." You sell "Palin 2012" t-shirts, or rather Sarah Palin/Tina Fey does ("What are you doing over there?" asks Mac.)

Yup, as he puts it, "I'm a true maverick - a Republican without money."

Good for Mac to do this. Yeah, easy to say when this is free media exposure, and you're in the basement, but it takes some courage to poke fun at yourself in THIS forum. He did that and so did his wife, Cindy. (An "SNL" first? Both nominee and wife on show? I believe so.)

Fortunately for him, the skit was a winner.

My quickie grade: A.

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