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October 2004 Archives

It's the Viewers' Short Attention Spans, Bob!

October 25, 2004 12:00 AM

Why have most game shows disappeared from TV? Blink asked Bob Eubanks, who should know. He has hosted hundreds of episodes of "The Newlywed Game," "Card Sharks," "Trivia Trap," "Family Secrets" and "Dream House." He blamed today's viewers' short attention spans: "If you don't have something funny or outrageous every 10 minutes, they're gone. It's very hard to keep that up. If Jerry Springer didn't have a fight every 10 minutes, he'd lose his audience." He said "Newlywed" (he hosted four versions between 1966 and 1997) was a forerunner to reality TV shows like ABC's "The Bachelor," which he called a form of public "voyeurism." He shares more of his life in the newly published "It's in the Book, Bob!" written with Matthew Scott Hansen. Mr. Eubanks, 66, said it is about "interesting people he has met" while hosting game shows and as a TV and concert producer (who twice brought The Beatles to L.A.), a rodeo cowboy, manager for Dolly Parton and others, a nightclub owner and more. These days he addresses corporate groups and every New Year's Day hosts the telecast of the Rose Parade on L.A.'s Channel 5, as he has for 28 years.


O'Dell Stays `Hollywood'-Bound

"Access Hollywood" sparkplug Nancy O'Dell has good news and sad news. Ms. O'Dell, now in her ninth season on "Access," finally is about to sign her brand-new multiyear, multimillion-dollar contract that's been in the works since last summer, when Billy Bush succeeded Pat O'Brien as her co-host. However, Ms. O'Dell, a country music aficionado, is going to have to give up her weekend gig of the past two seasons hosting USA Network's live "Nashville Star" competition. "Star" is expected to switch to Tuesday nights for its third season, which is scheduled to start in March and film in Nashville. Ms. O'Dell's increased commitment to "Access" and her new co-host-"I adore Billy," she said- does not accommodate two-day midweek commutes to and from Nashville for nine weeks. "I love country music and I will so miss it," Ms. O'Dell told Blink. Season-to-date, the O'Dell-Bush Monday-through-Friday edition of "Access" is the top-rated entertainment magazine show among households and the 18 to 49 demo in the top five markets, according to Nielsen data.


Hit Predictor

It may have been a surprise to the rest of us, but ABC's success with "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives" was predicted by a new programming development tool called PropheSEE, which Initiative, after a year of testing, is about to roll out. The idea is to tap into the buzz about new shows based on Internet chatter monitored on more than 50 public sites. "We can track things four to five months before they premiere," said Stacey Lynn Koerner, executive VP and director of global research integration for the big agency. She said the data would be used to tweak ad packages. For example, if a character is breaking out on a series such as "Housewives," an advertiser could create a special backstory on ABC's Web site and sponsor that. "There is a lot of fear in the industry about what's next and what's going to happen if the consumer has all of the control," Ms. Koerner said. "The point is not what technology can do, but what do consumers want to do." Internet buzz, she said, can be a better predictor of long-term potential than early ratings.


I'm Too Sexy for Some Advertisers, Not Too Sexy for Others to Love

October 18, 2004 12:00 AM

The same sizzling, sexy content drawing viewers to "Desperate Housewives" is also driving some advertisers away, but for ABC that may be the good news. Lowe's Home Improvement and Tyson Foods said last week they will no longer advertise in the show, whose story lines include one homemaker having sex with her teenage gardener and two other women vying for a widower. Oddly, the dropouts are doing ABC a favor, say media buying executives. Ads sold during the upfront market in June went for $160,000 for a 30-second spot. Now that the show is a hit among viewers 18 to 49, the price has risen to just under $400,000 per unit. And despite some market weakness, there is furious demand. An ABC exec said Lowe's didn't actually buy any spots in the show: They were purchased by Whirlpool USA in a co-branding effort with Lowe's. A Lowe's spokeswoman said she didn't know the details, only that "Our advertising will no longer appear in the program." -WAYNE FRIEDMAN

A Current Idea

Twentieth Television is discussing the idea of reviving one of the original tabloid television series, "A Current Affair." The show, which was started by Rupert Murdoch's crew in 1986 and aired through 1996, mostly on Fox-owned stations, was famous for breaking the rules of television news-including paying for stories and re-enacting crimes-and focusing on lurid cases, making William Kennedy Smith, Joey Buttafuoco and Robert Chambers household names. The show died partly because the rest of the news business shifted toward the sensational. "It's been talked about from time to time about bringing it back," a Twentieth spokesman said. "It's just an idea and a concept that we're discussing internally here. There's no timetable. No decision has been made on whether or not to bring it back." The spokesman said he didn't know whether former host Maury Povich or any of the colorful characters who worked on the original show have been contacted about returning.


Suit Racked

So much for NBC's lawsuit against Pat O'Brien claiming he violated his contract with former employer "Access Hollywood" in promos for his new show, "The Insider," and by trying to steal away some "Access" staffers. At the time, there were reports that Jeffrey Zucker, president of the NBC Universal TV Group, pushed legal action because he was angry about the way Mr. O'Brien handled his exit. The New York Post reported last week that NBC tried to bar stars of its shows, including Donald Trump and Heather Locklear, from doing interviews with Mr. O'Brien. An NBC spokesperson told the paper the network prefers its talent do NBC shows but said it doesn't stop them from appearing elsewhere. A spokesperson for Paramount's "The Insider" had no comment except to note the show is the highest-rated new syndicated entry of the fall. -ALEX BEN BLOCK

It's a Steal of a Deal, and Court TV Hopes a Trend

October 11, 2004 12:00 AM

The story of a retired jewel thief could make a great TV show. Or a good movie. As it turns out, it is both projects, now tied together by an innovative deal between Court TV and New Line Cinema. To launch the campaign for its new picture "After the Sunset," an action comedy starring Pierce Brosnan and Salma Hayek opening Nov. 12, New Line is doing a multimillion-dollar promotion with Court TV tied to the show "Masterminds." Court TV will air a two-minute trailer for "After the Sunset" during a "Masterminds" episode Oct. 22 titled "Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief." The episode is the true story of Bill Mason, who burgled from Frank Sinatra, Phyllis Diller, Robert Goulet, Johnny Weissmuller and others. "It just seemed like a really good fit for us," said Robin Seidner D'Elia, New Line's VP of national television promotions and marketing. She said Mr. Mason "seems like the mirror image of Pierce Brosnan's character. "It's just a home run." Court TV, which is trying to be less O.J. Simpson and more "Ocean's 11," hopes this is the beginning of a trend. "We're working with [studios] to make that happen," said Debbie Reichig, Court TV senior VP of sales strategy. "To break through the clutter you have to make sure there is a 360-degree marketing effort, not just spots."


Team Branding

Worried about competition from blockbuster movies? Not ESPN, which believes if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. In "Mr. 3000," the female lead was an ESPN reporter. In "Dodgeball," the climactic game was covered by the fictional "ESPN 8-The Ocho." Next year, look for ESPN to pop up in "Fantastic Four," "Herbie: Fully Loaded" and "The Longest Yard." Chris LaPlaca, ESPN's senior VP of consumer communications, said placements are usually initiated by outside inquires and are not paid plugs. "We don't engage in this for monetary reasons. We engage in it to extend our brand," he said. Not everyone cheered, however, when the reporter in "Mr. 3000" slept with her source. Mr. LaPlaca noted, "She had a previous relationship with him before she became an ESPN reporter." Still, some projects strike out, such as a recent offer to be in a movie that involved sports gambling.

--James Hibberd

Cause Celeb

That is actress and author Mimi Kennedy as first lady Laura Bush in a new play by Emmy winner Tony Kushner ("Angels In America") called "Only We Who Guard the Mystery Shall Be Unhappy." You may know Ms. Kennedy as Abby O'Neil, the hippie mother she portrayed for five seasons on the sitcom "Dharma & Greg." Now Ms. Kennedy and fellow actress Sally Field will both portray Ms. Bush in a benefit production of the play Oct. 18 in Hollywood. First published in The Nation magazine, it depicts Ms. Bush reading "The Brothers Karamazov" to Iraqi children in heaven as an angel stands beside them. "I think it's a very compassionate portrait of Laura Bush," Ms. Kennedy said. "I don't know if she would think so, but it's an empathic portrait. The psychology is very real and accurate." The performance benefits Progressive Democrats of America and the Progressive Majority. "The fact that children are dying [in Iraq)] needs to be addressed," Ms. Kennedy said. "How do you defend goodness in the face of dead children?"


That 'Punk'd' Guy Gets Plenty Busy

October 4, 2004 12:00 AM

Ashton Kutcher, 26, who recently returned as Michael Kelso on Fox's "That '70s Show," continues running a cottage industry of goofy hidden-camera gimmick shows. His newest is "You've Got a Friend," based on a British comedy series. It premieres Oct. 24 as part of the male-oriented Sunday Stew block on MTV, the network where he also was renewed last week for three more seasons (24 episodes) of "Punk'd," his other "Candid Camera"-style show. Mr. Kutcher and partner Jason Goldberg aren't sharing details of "Friend," but a press release quotes Mr. Kutcher as saying: "For $15,000, would you give the creators of `Punk'd' 48 hours of your time to mess with your life?" Under their Katalyst Films banner, which has an overall development deal at 20th Century Fox TV, they have a six-episode order for an as-yet-untitled reality series for The WB, which is fast-tracked for airing later this season. Sources described it as a makeover/dating show in which a beauty is matched with a geek who gets made over. A reality show for Spike TV features William Shatner, who punk'd a whole town in Iowa. There is also a hidden-camera show in development for ABC aimed at late-night. And Katalyst has a blind script commitment at Fox Broadcasting. Kutcher, a former model from Iowa, also has several movies coming up, including the interracial comedy "Guess Who," in which he marries the daughter of a character played by Bernie Mac; the animated "Open Season" for Sony; and upcoming "The Regulators," a cop action comedy at Disney. His lastest film was "Butterfly Effect."


'Good Day' Gossip

When Jillian Barberie was suddenly dropped from Fox's "Good Day Live" earlier this year, a press release insisted she left to pursue other opportunities in daytime. She and her publicist stuck to that story for months afterward. However, last week in an on-air phone call to radio shock jock Howard Stern, Ms. Barberie admitted she had been fired from the national version of the show, as had her co-host Dorothy Lucey, though both continue on the local show in Southern California, "Good Day L.A." Ms. Barberie can also be seen on Fox's pro football coverage and has a new gig doing style items for "The Best Damn Sports Show Period." Twentieth TV replaced them in late August as Steve Edwards' sidekicks on "Good Day Live" with Arthel Neville and Debbie Matenopoulos. Apparently, it isn't an easy job. Ms. Matenopoulos recently managed to knock herself out while demonstrating how to fall into a stunt airbag. What are the casting requirements for that show, anyway?


Courting Stupidity

Add this to the America's Dumbest Criminals file. Court TV was in Miami last month searching for contestants for its new reality series "The Chase." The series, scheduled for launch in April, features professional trackers who chase people pretending to be fugitives as they try to win prizes by not getting caught. But one aspiring contestant wasn't playing around. He called attention to himself by showing up to the audition drunk and disorderly. Court TV staffers called the police, who checked him out using the information sheet he filled out for the network. It turned out he was a real fugitive and was arrested. Maybe he'll still get to appear on TV-on "Cops."