Open Mic

May 2012

Gracies Honor Best Media Work of the Past Year in the 'Fempire'

Hillary Atkin Posted May 30, 2012 at 11:13 AM

The “fempire.” It’s a term we first heard Fox’s Kevin Reilly use at the network’s recent upfront presentation in New York, and it applies perfectly to the overarching theme of the 37th Annual Gracie Awards, handed out at a Beverly Hilton gala on May 22, 2012.

The Gracies, named after legendary comedienne Gracie Allen, are presented by the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation and recognize the best work of women in media, with a strong focus on television, including news, drama, comedy, commercials, talk, documentaries and sports, and also encompassing radio and new media.

“We’re thrilled to honor women who create innovative, intelligent and insightful programming at our signature event,” said AWMF President Erin Fuller.

Angela Kinsey of “The Office” hosted the festivities, which also featured musical performances from Vicci Martinez, a finalist from the first season of “The Voice,” and Hannah Mclalwain, a contender from season one of “The Glee Project.”

From Angie Harmon to Emilia Clarke, Lady Gaga to Oprah, Sarah Shahi to Loretta Devine and Chelsea Handler and Christina Applegate, it was an inspirational group of people who were awarded the 44 statuettes for the excellence of their work during the past year.

Harmon, for Turner’s femme-centric “Rizzoli & Isles,” and Callie Thorne of USA Network’s “Necessary Roughness” took the prizes for outstanding female actor in a leading role in a drama series or special.

Applegate won that distinction for comedy series or special for her role in “Up All Night” while Clarke took the Gracie as outstanding female rising star in a drama series or special for her powerful breakout role on HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” Shahi was lauded as outstanding female actor in a breakthrough role for USA’s “Fairly Legal.”

“Hot in Cleveland” was awarded the trophy for outstanding comedy and “Harry’s Law,” “Five” and “Revenge” took prizes for outstanding drama.

House of Mandela, the South African winery launched by Nelson Mandela’s family and run by his daughter Makaziwe and granddaughter Tukwini, was the official wine, offering attendees a taste of the spirit of unity the Mandelas hope to evoke with their winemaking.

A complete list of the Gracies winners can be found here.

Talented, Likable Syndication Veteran Jim Paratore, 58, Dies. He Championed Ellen DeGeneres, TMZ and 'The Bachelor'

Chuck Ross Posted May 30, 2012 at 8:15 AM

Like so many others in Hollywood and at TV stations around the country, I was shocked and saddened to learn of the death of Jim Paratore yesterday, May 29, 2012, apparently due to a heart attack while on a bicycling trip in France.

Jim was only 58, and part of the shock was that he appeared more physically fit than practically anyone else I know. Tall, thin and muscular, this was someone who clearly took care of himself.

I’m saddened because I liked Jim. He was a very talented, likable guy. And he had a remarkable grasp on both the show and the business parts of show business. Generally, if one excels in just one of these areas they are considered quite valuable in Hollywood.

Paratore was one of the top syndicators in the business. The list of successful shows with which he was associated is impressive. Among them are “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” (her hit series, not her recent turn on OWN), “TMZ,” “Extra” and the prime-time hit “The Bachelor.”

He was a smart, creative executive willing to take chances. Yes, for every “Ellen” and “Rosie” there was a Sharon Osborne or Bonnie Hunt, to name two personalities he touted who never really gained any traction as syndicated talk show hosts.

But throughout a career associated with Warner Bros. for more than two decades, Paratore remained canny and astute. Here’s a salute to Jim that appeared on TMZ’s website:

“Jim was President of Telepictures -- a division of Warner Bros. -- when he dreamed up the idea of getting into the digital business back in 2006. Jim and Harvey [Levin] developed the concept of TMZ ... and Jim sold it to the big wigs, which was no small feat. Jim was a driving force behind and then was critical in creating the TMZ television show.“

The latter happened after broke the story of Mel Gibson’s rant after Gibson was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol.

I remember talking to Paratore soon after TMZ had broken another big story -- the death of Michael Jackson. Paratore was lamenting the fact that the website was getting so many hits so quickly that he could never charge advertisers enough money to reflect the true value of advertising on the site at the time, considering the huge number of people who were seeing the ads.

TMZ's Harvey Levin tweeted about Paratore yesterday "Jim was a mentor to me for many years. He never feared a good, unconventional idea...he reveled in rebellion."

Paratore’s gut instinct about the value of TMZ as both a website and a new kind of reality TV show was right. He liked following his gut instincts about shows and people, but he was also willing to change his mind when he was wrong.

For example, Hilary Estey McLoughlin, who rose to No. 2 at Telepictures when Paratore was No. 1 -- and then later replaced him when he left -- has told the story that when she was a researcher at the company, Paratore didn’t think she had what it takes to move into development and deal with the strong personalities of those in the creative community.

But to Jim’s credit, he eventually realized he was wrong about Hilary.

Paratore had genuine passion, and was terrific at communicating his passions.

Mike Fleiss, who created “The Bachelor,” tweeted yesterday, “#Bachelornation might not know his name. But Jim Paratore, who died today, is the main reason the show is on the air. I am devastated.”

Bruce Rosenblum, president of Warner Bros. Television Group, said in a statement yesterday, “The Warner Bros. Television family has lost an incredibly talented and creative friend and colleague in Jim. He has left an indelible mark not only on our company’s success but on each of us who worked with him during the past 26 years. Jim had a passion for life, both inside and outside the entertainment industry, and he will truly be missed. All of us at Warner Bros. are shaken by this news.”

Paratore leaves his wife, Jill Wickert, and a daughter, Martinique Paratore.

Jim, who was from New Orleans, started his career working in advertising, marketing and then programming at local TV stations, including WTVJ and WPLG, both in Miami.

I want to end by quoting Dave Walker, the talented TV columnist at the New Orleans Times-Picayune. In a column yesterday, Walker recalled an interview he did with Paratore when Jim was out selling the new daytime show of another New Orleanian, Ellen DeGeneres.

“It was amazing to me how a lot of people, particularly men, buyers of the show, the gatekeepers, didn’t really know her comedy," Paratore said. "They knew the controversy that surrounded her when she came out [as being gay], and they really didn’t have a sense of who she was as a performer. … [Ellen] is really focused on what she’s good at, which is being funny. And that’s what people want from these shows. They want you to be funny (and) real.”

Jim had a great sense of humor and always kept it real.

Ellen herself tweeted yesterday, “My friend, producer and champion Jim Paratore died today. He gave me a chance when no one else would. I love you, Jim.”

jim-paratore2.jpgJim Paratore

In the Way It Revealed That Jim Parsons of 'The Big Bang Theory' Is Gay, The New York Times Violated Journalism 101 and Did a Disservice to Its Readers

Chuck Ross Posted May 25, 2012 at 7:46 AM

I’m not sure what they were thinking at The New York Times in the way they revealed this week that Jim Parsons, star of the most popular sitcom on TV, “The Big Bang Theory," is gay.

Here’s what we do know. The Times published an article on Wednesday, May 23, 2012, with the headline “Stalked by Shadows (and a Rabbit).” There was a little subhead reading “Theater,” tipping readers off that the piece was about, well, theater. The article was accompanied by a picture of Parsons that carried this caption: “Jim Parsons in his dressing room. He stars in the play ‘Harvey,’ which opens on June 14.” The long feature is primarily about Parsons' stage work, both in the upcoming “Harvey” and in a previous role he played in a revival of “The Normal Heart” on Broadway last June.

The article runs 1,851 words. After word number 1,507, the author of the piece, Times theater reporter Patrick Healy, wrote, “‘The Normal Heart’ resonated with him on a few levels: Mr. Parsons is gay and in a 10-year relationship, and working with an ensemble again onstage was like nourishment, he said.”

That was it. No other discussion or mention of Parsons being gay was made in the article. It was the first official announcement that Parsons is gay, although, as The Wrap and some others have pointed out, the National Enquirer tried to out him in 2010 by saying he was engaged to his boyfriend.

I called the writer of the article, Healy, at The New York Times, identified myself as being with TVWeek, and asked him why he had buried the news about Parsons being gay so deep in his article. After getting permission from an editor to respond to me, Healy wrote me this email response:

"Times policy about reporting on a person’s sexuality is the same as for reporting on other personal characteristics, in that we will consider mentioning sexual orientation if it’s pertinent to the story. In this case Jim was talking about performing on Broadway in 'The Normal Heart' -- a play about gay themes, the AIDS crisis, and gay characters, including Jim’s -- and the fact that performing in the play was resonant for him as a gay man. He spoke about this on the record, and without hesitation. This met our standard for including it in the part of the article dealing with 'The Normal Heart,' while the main thrust of the article was about Jim as an actor and his work on 'Harvey.'"

I also called Rich Ferraro, director of communications at GLAAD -- the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation -- to get his take on how The Times had handled the disclosure that Parsons is gay.

First, I asked him about GLAAD’s position about celebrities coming out.

RICH FERRARO: Coming out is an extremely personal decision, whether you’re in the national spotlight like actors and actresses, or you’re an everyday American. So GLAAD's official position is that it’s a personal decision, and you should do it when you’re ready. What we’ve tried to put out there and what GLAAD works for every day is for people to know, who are closeted, or let kids know who are still coming to terms as to who they are as people, is that you’re going to be supported. That’s one thing we’ve done with actors and actresses who’ve come out -- we let them know that they have a community who is ready to embrace them. And a community that wants to hear their story and can benefit from their story.

When you’re a person like Jim Parsons, his coming out is going to touch a lot of people -- everyday Americans who might not be ready to come out, or kids who, like I said, are still coming to terms with who they are. Kids today now have role models like Jim Parsons who has been in a relationship for 10 years, who has a really outstanding career, and critics and fans really like the guy. They have somebody to look up to and that’s really important for the LGBT community.”

ME: My context for asking you this is a journalistic point of view. First, we have the issue of gay marriage that has really come front and center with President Obama’s recent comments that he’s for gay marriage. And on the heels of that, we have this a story about the sexual orientation of the award-winning star of the most popular sitcom on TV.

FERRARO: Yes, especially given the show’s demographics.

ME: Exactly. Given all this, what do you think about The New York Times burying this information about Parsons until close to the end of a long story about him?

FERRARO: I think by The Times saying Parsons is gay that the paper knew it would be picked up by other media, which it has been. And I think Jim was OK with them doing that.

Actually, one thing that I was really happy about with the way The Times handled this is that it was only part of who he was, that it wasn’t the centerpiece of the story. The centerpiece of the story was ‘here’s a piece about a really successful actor who happens to be gay.’ For us that’s probably an even more powerful story than if [the main focus of the story] was him coming out. And I think he probably has a really great personal story that I hope he does share in more detail because I think kids out there and other Americans who might be closeted would benefit from hearing it.”

Ideally, Ferraro is right. That would be how one would hope journalists could and should eventually handle such a story.

But now, here in 2012, it was the wrong call. First, while Parsons was the subject of the article, and clearly cooperated by allowing himself to be interviewed for it, the primary responsibility of Healy and The Times is to The Times’ readers. The Times has the motto “All the news fit to print.” And when the paper has news to report, it needs to do so clearly and directly. That’s Journalism 101.

I have the same problem with the explanation Times writer Healy emailed to me. His explanation of Times policy is fine as far as it goes. But let's say that Parsons had mentioned, sometime during the interview -- on the record and without hesitation -- that he was leaving "The Big Bang Theory." My guess is that Healy and The Times would have found a way to put that up high in the story, because it's news. Parsons' sexual orientation is also news, and The Times was wrong to bury it in Healy's article. 

Here’s empirical proof that The Times blew it on this one. At the time I’m writing this, Google says there are 183 news stories about The Times' article. This includes stories by news organizations all over the world, including the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail in the United Kingdom, the Vancouver Sun in Canada and Sky News Australia. Most of the news organizations Google found were here in the U.S. -- including the Chicago Tribune, the Miami Herald, the Los Angeles Times, the Arizona Republic, ABC News, CBS News, People, MSNBC, The Washington Post, E! Online and the Daily Beast, to name a few.

And by the way, here at, our pickup of The Times' story, with the headline "Star of Sitcom Reveals He's Gay," was the most popular story on our site yesterday, May 24, 2012, using the metric of most page views.

Thanks to Google, I was able to relatively quickly check out sample portions of all 183 stories about The Times’ article about Parsons. And what they ALL have in common is that they are about Jim Parsons being gay. Most of the stories say he’s come out as gay. Some accuse The Times of outing him. A number of them, referring to how The Times buried the story, say Parsons has come out “quietly.” A few take the attitude of GLAAD’s Ferraro, that isn’t it wonderful that Parsons' coming out was such a small part of The Times’ story.

But the inescapable fact is that, again, ALL 183 news stories about The Times' article are about Parsons being gay. It was the LEAD -- that is, in the first paragraph -- of ALL 183 stories. It was the NEWS. Yet if you only read The New York Times -- which has long been referred to as our national news publication of record -- you would only know this news about Parsons if you read to almost the very end of a long article -- 1,851 words in length.

A journalist colleague of mine went so far as to say he thinks the way The Times handled its reporting of Parsons' coming out was "a little sleazy. They had to know that what everyone would pick up on was the news that Parsons has come out as gay. I would have loved to have been in the meeting when they decided to bury it. It seems like a way to separate themselves from the other news organizations, to create a false sense that they're above that sort of thing while still playing a major role in it."

Many of us wish it were the case that a major star's sexual orientation would not be news in 2012. And yes, more and more Americans are accepting of others' sexual orientation. But the fact that Jim Parsons has come out as gay is clearly news. And the paper of record's decision to bury it as if it weren't doesn't alter this truth.    

Latino Television Arrives as an Upfront Player -- and a New Player Arrives in Latino TV

Hillary Atkin Posted May 23, 2012 at 5:44 AM

Last week's television upfronts in New York featured a distinct Latin flavor for the first time -- and marked a coming-out party of sorts for a new player in the Latino TV marketplace, MundoFox.

Univision and Telemundo have long joined other networks, including NBC, Fox, ABC, ESPN, Turner, CBS and the CW, in making presentations of new programming in order to sell upfront advertising. But this year, Discovery U.S. Hispanic, Fox Hispanic Media, V-ME and MTV’s Tr3s were also part of the four-day series of events that drew a fray of advertisers, industry executives and talent, media buyers and journalists from all over the world to various venues around the city.

On Tuesday, May 15, 2012, top-rated Univision took over the New Amsterdam Theater for its high-energy presentation, including an appearance by "Modern Family" star Sofia Vergara and a performance by Shakira. In previous years, performers have included Ricky Martin and Pit Bull, making this probably the only upfront where attendees got to shake their booties.

This year, its presentation came on the heels of the major announcement that it is partnering with ABC News on an English-language news channel set to launch in early 2013.

Ad sales chief David Lawenda was in the midst of a prop-laden demonstration of the power of Univision's audience when Vergara strutted out on stage in a leopard print dress. “Honey, I may work somewhere else, but this is where I live," she said, alluding to Univision's upfront tagline, "Latinos Live Here," before going on to introduce network president Cesar Conde in a comedic skit that featured a very young look-alike of the exec.

Lawenda said Univision attracts 73% of the U.S. Hispanic audience and beat NBC on 195 nights this season in the 18- to 49-year-old demographic coveted by many advertisers.

But from the looks of things, there is very stiff competition in luring the Spanish-speaking audience to inhabiting other places as well, and partaking of programming -- and advertising -- geared toward them.

In an evening presentation hosted by actor/producer Wilmer Valderrama at the High Line Ballroom, MTV Tr3s, Música y Más announced eight new programs designed to appeal to a bilingual/bicultural audience, which the network calls acculturated Hispanic millennials, with an emphasis on pop culture and music.

Programming includes a second season of “The Ricardo Laguna Project,” a docu-series focused on a Mexican-American BMX pro and his bicultural family in Las Vegas; “The Golden Boys,” a half-hour show that tracks the legendary Oscar De La Hoya as he trains, promotes and mentors three up-and-coming fighters; and the comedic series “Culture Swap,” about two young adults, one Latino, with very different cultural backgrounds who switch lives for a week of exposure to another world.

Other shows include “The Chisme Club,” showcasing comedic banter from well-known Latino personalities and stand-ups who reveal their favorite and most absurd pop culture news; “Latino Boot Camp,” which will connect young Latinos to their roots through eye-opening encounters with their ancestors in Latin America; the female-driven competition “From Chongas to Reinas,” where rough Latinas are transformed into well-mannered women; “The Dulce Maria Show,” which follows the performer’s departure from her beloved family and fans to newfound independence and a new culture in Hollywood; and the new suspense thriller novela “Ultimo Año,” about a conniving foreign exchange student who tries to deceive and manipulate the lives of his new host family and friends.

Latin Grammy Award winner Juanes and his band performed to top off the evening.

Aside from Telemundo, the big monkey on Univision’s back may be MundoFox, a Spanish-language network set to launch this August, with the full weight of News Corp. behind it. It’s a joint venture between Fox International Channels and RCN, and will be based in Los Angeles.

MundoFox’s programming slate was unveiled during a clearly messaged presentation at the Ziegfeld Theater, which also included offerings from Fox Hispanic Media’s three other channels: Fox Deportes, the leading Hispanic sports network; Utilísima, a women’s lifestyle network; and Nat Geo Mundo, a nonfiction entertainment network now in its second year.

"We're bringing something the U.S. Hispanic market needs more of: innovation and choice for both viewers and advertisers,” said Hernán Lopez, president and CEO of Fox International Channels. “Our properties create a synergy that will allow marketers to more effectively reach the new Latino consumer.”

The MundoFox 2012 lineup includes “El Capo,” which follows the story of a rich drug trafficker in Colombia; “Kdabra,” a series that follows a magician-sleuth; action/drama police series “Corazones Blindados”; “Santísimas,” described as the Latina version of “Sex and the City,” about the lives of five women from different backgrounds; “Minuto para Ganar,” a game show adapted from the U.S. show “Minute to Win It” where contestants play 10 challenges, each lasting one minute; and “Los Pobres Ricos,” the story of a wealthy family that loses its riches.

It’s being billed as American-style programming for a Latin audience, and will also include nightly national news and the popular drama “Bones,” dubbed into Spanish.

Just as Fox shook up the established broadcast troika with its debut 25 years ago, major players Univision and rival Telemundo clearly will have a new, young rival with whom to contend.

NBC News Production Adds Resonance to Events Surrounding the Killing of Osama bin Laden

Hillary Atkin Posted May 4, 2012 at 11:05 AM

“Inside the Situation Room,” which aired this week on NBC's "Rock Center," was as dramatic as any television procedural -- but it was with otherwise incomparable resonance that the NBC News program chronicled what Barack Obama called “the most important day of his presidency.”

Talk about keeping secrets from your spouse. Obama revealed to anchor Brian Williams -- who got unprecedented access to the president, his top advisers and the two conference rooms where they discussed and watched the secret Navy SEALs operation that killed terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden at his lair in Pakistan -- that the first lady had no idea what was going down until after it happened.

The hour-long program also revealed the president to be an A-list actor, giving off no outward signs that he greenlighted the operation as he toured tornado damage that day in Alabama, and that night attended the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Even when comedian Seth Meyers made a prescient joke about finding bin Laden, Obama just laughed along, keeping the history-making secret close to the vest.

As a viewer, I was riveted as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, Leon Panetta -- then head of the CIA -- and the few other advisers who were privy described in emotional detail their thoughts and feelings about the raid -- and the especially dramatic moments when the first helicopter to land at the bin Laden complex crashed.

It was known as "Operation Neptune’s Spear," and some of those advisers were dead set against it, including Biden. But despite the lack of verifiable evidence of bin Laden’s presence, Obama was resolute in his decision. “The reason I was willing to make that decision of sending in our SEALs to try to capture or kill bin Laden rather than to take some other options was ultimately because I had 100 percent faith in the Navy SEALs themselves,” Obama told Williams in the exclusive interview.

Killing or capturing the man behind the 9/11 attacks and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing had been a top priority of two previous administrations, and after the choppers flew successfully back to their base in Afghanistan with bin Laden’s dead body on board, Obama called both former presidents Bush and Clinton with earth-shattering news that came in from the field as (OBL code name) "Geronimo KIA."

Hillary Clinton had also kept the plans secret from her husband. She had to keep a straight face as she attended a wedding the night before the raid and was asked whether the U.S. was ever going to get bin Laden, to which she replied that we would keep trying. “This was such an important secret to keep,” she told Williams. “No one in the State Department knew. I just felt a personal responsibility to keep it close, but that meant that I was basically, you know, having to consult with myself, to be honest.”

During their tense 40 minutes on the ground and after the firefight that killed the remorseless terrorist leader, the SEALs gathered up five computers, 10 hard drives and a trove of other storage devices. The content of some of them, just released, showed bin Laden plotting more attacks even as his organization was being decimated, lamenting the incompetence of some of his Al Queda lieutenants and affiliates and even the media-savviness of the terrorist organization, which apparently had a dislike for Fox News.

One of the letters just published by the U.S. Army's Combating Terrorism Center discusses the circumstances of an Al Queda spokesman releasing a message to the media. In it, he tells bin Laden, “I suggest that we should distribute it to more than one channel, so that there will be healthy competition between the channels in broadcasting the material, so that no other channel takes the lead. It should be sent for example to ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN and maybe PBS and VOA. As for Fox News, let her die in her anger.”

But bin Laden had much bigger targets in his crosshairs. He even strategized on how to kill Obama and thus make Biden president, calling him “utterly unprepared” to be the leader of the free world.

What he couldn’t have factored into that diabolical plot was Biden’s hours-long twisting of a rosary ring around his finger as he and the other insiders watched the raid go down in real time. That, and the skillful team of U.S. operatives that was finally able to take him down in short order.

As we look back a year later, and even as the triumph of getting bin Laden gets politicized and criticized, we can never forget the bravery of the commando team and the bold decision to launch their mission in the face of improbable odds.

Williams and Co. added invaluable insight into a day in history that ended in an unscripted manner, with hordes of people jubillantly descending on the White House to laud the demise of a man who represented pure evil.