TelevisionWeek's Blink page is an industry must-read, taking a sardonic look at happenings across the television business. This wry coverage is extended online and updated throughout the week.



May 2006 Archives

They Can KISS That Poster Goodbye

May 29, 2006 12:00 AM

To some publicists, your product just isn't cool unless it's misdemeanor cool. Last week outdoor advertising association Great Outdoor Network issued a press release bragging that one-as in, just one-poster for this week's "VH1 Rock Honors" show was stolen from a Manhattan bus stop. The release, which blamed unspecified "vandals," explained the poster used new "animated display technology" and quoted a VH1 marketing executive, who declared: "This poster was obviously stolen because of the technology." Interestingly, the VH1 rep-who apparently moonlights as a New York street crime profiler-did not take the opportunity to cite as a motivating factor the feverish anticipation over the poster's content-this time out the series salutes Def Leppard, KISS, Judas Priest and Queen. Lifetime was quicker on its feet when "Cheerleader Nation" posters were recently stolen from a Philadelphia mall and calls to media ensued. "Looks like a case of an overeager vendor, since this is the first time we've seen the press release," said a VH1 spokesperson. "Clearly there's a lot of excitement already about the 'Rock Honors' show." -James Hibberd

Recipe for a Landslide

When Harold Dieterle won Bravo's "Top Chef" competition last week, the show was the highest-rated original cable series of the night, drawing more than 1 million viewers in both the 18 to 49 and 25 to 54 demographics. He also cooked up an interactive souffl%E9;, drawing votes from the audience in three ways and marking a first for television. When the votes-via cellphones, online and interactive TV from Time Warner Cable subscribers-were tallied, Mr. Dieterle was the overwhelming favorite, pulling 93 percent of the vote versus 7 percent for the other finalist, Tiffani Faison. To get those ratings, Bravo pushed the finale on its Web site, in Sears stores and through a partnership with anti-hunger organization Share Our Strength. The network bought spots and even an ad in The New York Times. "We're going everywhere and anywhere the consumer is, from on-air to online to events, to deliver the 'Top Chef' finale message," said Jason Klarman, senior VP of marketing for Bravo. -Jon Lafayette

Not Ready for Prime Time

This just in Friday (well after the TV industry's offices were emptying for the long holiday weekend, at an hour usually carefully chosen to bury bad media news):

Good news for "Passions"!

Good news-from NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly and Daytime Programs VP Annamarie Kostura, no less.

NBC has renewed "Passions" for an eighth season.

Creator James Reilly will continue his role as consulting producer and head writer, and Lisa de Cazotte will continue as executive producer.

"Jim and Lisa are a winning combination," Ms. Kostura said in a press release. "Their enthusiasm and love of the genre has created fun, fresh storytelling and we're thrilled to continue our relationship with them for what promises to be another imaginative season."

"'Passions' continues to attract a loyal fan base as well as a youthful audience that appreciates its wildly inventive story lines," Mr. Reilly said in the release.

Produced by NBC Universal Television Studio in association with Outpost Farms Productions, "Passions" ranks No. 2 for the season among women 18 to 34 and 18 to 24 and No. 1 for the season among females 12 to 17.

As for the odd timing of the announcement, Blink hears that it would have been made Thursday but for the difficulty of getting Kevin Reilly's attention. He was otherwise occupied in announcing and explaining the major surgery done on the week-and-a-half-old fall lineup to prevent Aaron Sorkin's "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" from getting caught in a ratings crunch between CBS's "CSI" and ABC's "Grey's Anatomy." -Michele Greppi

Saving the Blast for Last

May 22, 2006 12:00 AM

Despite a few jabs here and there, the network upfront presentations remained pretty clean. Until the last day of presentations. On-air talent from both The CW and Fox used the F-word during their appearances at their network homes' upfront events Thursday. Chris Rock, whose sitcom "Everybody Hates Chris" is scheduled to air Sundays on The CW, told advertisers during a brief stand-up bit: "You better spend some motherf***ing money." Former "Everybody Loves Raymond" star Brad Garrett, whose new show "'Til Death" is set for Thursdays on Fox, also did a stand-up bit, during which he skewered Fox personalities and properties and their competition alike. "Is Ryan Seacrest gay?" Mr. Garrett asked. "It doesn't matter, I'm f***ing him anyway." We liked Mr. Rock's use better.

-Christopher Lisotta and Melissa Grego

'Everwood' Fans Deprived Of Closure

Fans of the WB drama "Everwood," which did not make it onto The CW's schedule, will have to live without story line resolutions beyond this season's finale. The show wrapped production months ago, well before the creative team knew the season finale would be the series finale, The CW President Dawn Ostroff said at a press conference following the first upfront for The CW. The scheduling decisions for The CW, which is being created by combining UPN and The WB, were nailed down just a few days ago. Asked if there is a possibility of an "Everwood" movie, Ms. Ostroff said she hasn't even had a chance to discuss it.

-Melissa Grego

Moonves: You Know Who I Am?

When a reporter misspoke during a CBS press breakfast Wednesday morning in New York, referring to the CBS schedule as "NBC's," CBS Corp. President and CEO Leslie Moonves said, "Don't feel bad." Mr. Moonves then told reporters that an executive from a CBS affiliate recently called him and said, "Please renew '[My Name Is] Earl,'" the NBC breakout comedy. Mr. Moonves declined, with a laugh, to identify the confused station executive.-Melissa Grego

Sixth Sense

Maybe the folks at CBS and The CW don't have enough fingers to count networks, because during their presentations they repeatedly said that the number of networks had declined due to The CW's replacing The WB and UPN. That suggested that, somehow, Fox's MyNetworkTV is not quite a network. CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves and Warner Bros. CEO Barry Meyers asserted there were now five major networks, but declined to elaborate. The CW President Dawn Ostroff, in response to a question, said that MyNetworkTV, with its stripped, short dramatic series, was "not doing what the other networks are doing." The CW's head of sales added that the ad community was looking at MyNetworkTV as a syndication play. But Nielsen Media Research is calling MyNetworkTV a limited network, just like UPN. Bob Cook, president of Fox's Twentieth Television, said MyNetworkTV indeed is a network. "We are going to have more in-pattern clearances than The CW. When you weigh our group of stations and what they have been averaging in prime time, we're tied or a little bit ahead of them," he said, adding, "We're taking a higher ground."

-Jon Lafayette

A Second Coming for 'Heaven'

May 15, 2006 12:00 AM

The Camdens, religious folk that they are, believe in resurrection. Apparently, so does The CW, which is bringing back The WB stalwart "7th Heaven," the longest-running family drama in TV history, to launch its inaugural fall schedule. The CW has been telling advertisers for months that its new schedule would be a merger of the strongest programming from UPN and The WB, but "Heaven" had not been openly touted as a possible returning series. During the Television Critics Association winter press tour in January, WB executives said they wanted "Heaven" for an 11th season but couldn't make the finances work. But with the creation of The CW, those financial constraints are no longer such a concern. Soon after The CW was announced, speculation about the possibility of "Heaven's" return started to build within the TV industry. The network is still working out deals with creator Brenda Hampton and the show's ensemble cast, led by Stephen Collins and Catherine Hicks, but the show is expected to be a go for the fall, even though The WB promoted its May 8 episode as the "series finale." Despite being derided as overly sappy by critics, "Heaven" has long been one of The WB's highest-rated shows and is another of über producer Aaron Spelling's numerous hits. The return of "Heaven" may not be only a testament to its enduring strength, however. It may also reflect The CW's disappointment with its pilots, which have not come in as strongly as CW executives would have liked, sources close to the network said last week. The CW and CBS Paramount Network Television had no comment on "Heaven's" return.-CHRISTOPHER LISOTTA

Travel Folds Its 'PPT' Hand

Though the premiere season of "World Poker Tour" spinoff "Professional Poker Tour" has yet to air, Travel Channel is declining to pick up a second season, sources said. World Poker Tour Enterprises and Travel were embroiled in a bitter lawsuit last year over the fate of the series, which was initially offered a three-year commitment by ESPN. The sports network was chased off by Travel parent Discovery Networks, which claimed ownership of the program. Though cable poker ratings have been waning recently, Travel Channel noted it has dropped "PPT" in an effort to get back on brand with more exotic travel programming. "We are solidifying our position as the leader in real-world travel media across all platforms," a Travel Channel spokesman said. "Our partnership with WPT remains solid. … Moving beyond 2006, we will focus on the WPT franchise solely." A spokesperson for WPTE said the company is now shopping the series to other networks.-JAMES HIBBERD

Partners and Rivals

For most people in the advertising business it might be upfront season, but for David Levy, president of sales for Turner Entertainment, and Bruce Lefkowitz, executive VP of ad sales for Fox Cable Entertainment Networks, it's baseball season. After years as rival managers, the two, who are also business rivals, are sharing the load by co-managing the Harrison Braves, their 10-year-old sons' Little League team in New York's suburban Westchester County. The team is the result of the marriage of Jake Levy's team and the team featuring two of Mr. Lefkowitz's quadruplets, Trent and Coby. "It was the biggest sports merger in Westchester," said Mr. Levy, who is also president of Turner Sports, owner of the Atlanta Braves. The Harrison Braves have started the season 0-2. "The first game, it was the coaching, because I wasn't there," Mr. Levy explained. In the second game the Braves made a comeback, but the game was called because of a time limit for the field. "We were robbed," Mr. Levy said. "We had our two big hitters coming up." With both executives committed to the team, "The upfront will have to work its way around our baseball schedule," Mr. Lefkowitz said. "This way, I know Turner won't be writing business before us." But if things get very busy, Mr. Levy said, "That's where the wives come in."-JON LAFAYETTE

A Loser in Love Is Worth Two in the Spotlight

May 8, 2006 12:00 AM

With a cottage industry emerging for reality show winners looking to extend their time in the spotlight, it was perhaps inevitable that Matt Hoover, this season's winner of the weight-loss contest on NBC's "The Biggest Loser," would look to leverage his fame from the show into something bigger as well. However, rather than going solo in his quest, Mr. Hoover, who won $250,000 after losing 182 pounds, is getting a little help from a fellow contestant. He and "Biggest Loser" runner-up Suzy Preston, who lost 95 pounds and won $25,000, have become partners, in more than one sense of the word. Beyond being featured in a weight-loss book published by Rodale and making a guest appearance on NBC soap "Passions" in March, the duo got engaged on the "Today" show. And just last week they helped launch a summertime weight-loss challenge on biggestloserclub.com, a Web site tied to the reality series. But it could be Ms. Preston who ends up being the breakout star: She has appeared on "Access Hollywood," and sources say she could be close to getting a regular gig on the syndicated entertainment show. -Jay Sherman

What's in a Number?

For KRON-TV in San Francisco, numbers are hoped to be making a difference in its overall performance. In January KRON added the digits "552" to the address on the side of its building after consulting a local numerologist, according to a story from the local alternative paper SF Weekly. KRON, which is located at 1001 Van Ness Avenue, now has a "1001552" over its door, apparently as a "patch" to help improve business mojo, the Weekly reported. Some may scoff, but KRON can use all the help it can get, considering the advertising market and parent company Young Broadcasting's financial struggles. The former NBC affiliate and former No. 1 station in the market, KRON is currently an indie that will align itself with MyNetworkTV come September. Here's hoping "552" can help affect the numbers that really matter-ratings and revenue.-Christopher Lisotta

Curb Your Impatience

It's been five months since the fifth season of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" concluded on HBO, but the premium network has yet to announce a renewal. The delay has caused some to wonder if creator/star Larry David's acerbic, quasi-improvised series will be canceled, especially given that the show suffered a critical and ratings dive during the last round. Maintaining the same benevolent attitude that indulges the demands of neurotic talent, such as allowing "The Sopranos" to go on vacation for nearly two years, HBO said Mr. David has an open invitation to produce another season whenever his muse moves him. Some recent declarations from the cast suggested that that time has come-during an interview on "Good Day LA" two weeks ago, co-star Cheryl Hines said there will be another season, as did co-star Jeff Garlin last week at the TriBeCa Film Festival. Lest Mr. David detect a whiff of corporate impatience, HBO declined to comment. -James Hibberd

Fox Drama

Fox gave the green light Friday to two additional drama series for the 2006-07 season, picking up 20th Century Fox's FBI thriller "Primary" and the Warner Bros./Jerry Bruckheimer TV legal drama "American Crime."

"Primary" stars Ron Livingston and Rosemarie DeWitt as FBI hostage negotiators balancing their careers and their romantic relationship. Craig Silverstein and Tim Story are executive producing.

"Crime" tells the story of a high-profile law firm that specializes in criminal defense cases. Victor Garber, Kerr Smith, Eamonn Walker and Rebecca Marder star. Jerry Bruckheimer, Jonathan Littman and Jonathan Shapiro are executive producing.

Fox announced earlier this week it has ordered comedy "'Til Death" and drama "Vanished" for next season. -Christopher Lisotta

The Importance of Producing 'Desire'

May 1, 2006 12:00 AM

You know a project is important when your top creative executive moves his entire family to a new city to supervise production. That's what Paul Buccieri, Twentieth Television's president of programming, did when he recently relocated to San Diego to be close to the set of the company's upcoming English-language telenovela "Desire." Initially developed for syndication, the five-nights-a-week series took on new urgency for Twentieth's parent company, News Corp., when it decided to pull "Desire" out of syndication and make it the linchpin of the debuting broadcaster MyNetworkTV's prime-time schedule. "Desire" has turned out to be a much more ambitious and costly venture than Twentieth first envisioned, according to Twentieth Television President and Chief Operating Officer Bob Cook. "We upped the production budget, changed the timetable," Mr. Cook said last week of the evolution of "Desire" from a syndication vehicle to a network program. That may explain why Mr. Buccieri is now in San Diego. However, Mr. Buccieri and Mr. Cook declined through Twentieth's spokesman to elaborate on Mr. Buccieri's relocation. It appears News Corp.'s desire for a success with its new telenovela may be as passionate as the sexiest character on "Desire": All that time on the set is keeping Mr. Buccieri away from L.A., where Twentieth is still developing first-run syndication fare. And though Mr. Buccieri is spending less time taking pitches from potential daytime judges or talk-show hosts, in the long term News Corp. may be betting that its attention to "Desire's" details will pay off. -Christopher Lisotta

Changes for Paratore

For weeks, every top job opening in television seemed to have the name of Jim Paratore, Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution executive VP and Telepictures Productions president, attached as a potential candidate. Mr. Paratore, who has successfully shepherded talent such as Rosie O'Donnell, Ellen DeGeneres and Tyra Banks into syndication and who oversees ABC's "Bachelor" franchise, has a contract with Warner Bros. through April 2007. But Mr. Paratore is supposedly interested in an ownership position in the projects he develops, something executives have rarely gotten from studios. He didn't return calls for comment, but Mr. Paratore may be more interested in changing his relationship with Warner Bros. after last week's announcement that Warner Bros. Television President Peter Roth, who oversees the studio's prime-time scripted series, was given responsibility for the newly created Warner Horizon Television, along with a contract extension. The new production entity will take over prime-time reality development from Mr. Paratore's Telepictures division. Warner Horizon "really represents an expansion of our overall production base," Mr. Roth said, adding that the new division, which will have its own production executives, will focus on developing low-cost scripted fare for cable networks and broadcasters. "It's incumbent upon all of us to maintain quality in a more cost-effective manner," he added. The move makes Mr. Roth the go-to guy for prime time of all genres at Warner Bros. Mr. Paratore is on board with the changes, said Bruce Rosenblum, president of Warner Bros. Television Group, noting the change was not a reflection of Telepictures. "There's no turf war. We always should be looking at the best way to restructure our company," Mr. Rosenblum said, noting that Mr. Paratore, Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution President Dick Robertson and Telepictures Executive VP and General Manager Hilary Estey McLoughlin "recognize the appropriateness of realigning our production assets, and they are optimistic they will be able to continue their production capacity alongside Peter building his production capacity." It remains to be seen whether Mr. Paratore will still be building on Telepictures' production in the same capacity come April 2007. -Christopher Lisotta