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September 2006 Archives

Top 'Dog' For A&E

September 25, 2006 12:00 AM

You gotta give credit to A&E for quickly turning around a one-hour special last week on the arrest of its signature personality Duane "Dog" Chapman. The special, "Dog: The Family Speaks," was seen by 4.5 million viewers, tying the network's previously most-seen program (a "Dog the Bounty Hunter" special covering Mr. Chapman's wedding). One would have expected the latest installment to take Dog's side in the dispute, but this special pretty much set up Dog and his family for no less than martyrdom. Mr. Chapman, who retrieved a serial rapist from Mexico in 2003, now finds himself facing south-of-the-border extradition because of it. In the special, Mr. Chapman claimed that going to a Mexican jail would surely result in his death, and there were plenty of heart-tugging shots of him kissing his children (perhaps for the last time!) and of his sobbing wife. By the way, bounty hunting is illegal in Mexico, which is why he was arrested-something the show's narration fails to mention (but which viewers can piece together if they listen closely to on-camera comments made by others). Needless to say, since the special ran, A&E has been receiving an enormous number of expressions of support for Mr. Chapman from viewers who hope his November hearing will result in his release. -James Hibberd

CMT Drafts Ad Game

To promote its upcoming reality series "Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team," CMT is launching an online game that allows viewers to create their own advertisement for the series. Selecting from an assortment of video and audio clips, viewers can string together their own trailer for the show, which premieres Sept. 29. "This game really allows us to engage viewers in a unique way by inviting them into the creative process, and ultimately be our mouthpiece for the new series," said Andy Holeman, VP of marketing for CMT. Viewers can send links from completed ads to their family members and friends. CMT will choose a winning ad from 10 finalists to run on CMT, and the winner will receive a free trip to see a Cowboys game. -James Hibberd

Do Journalists Really 'Need' Those Free Press Junkets?

Media research firm SRBI sent out e-mails last week to reporters who cover the television industry asking them questions about the annual advertiser upfront presentations put on by networks each May in New York. A call to SRBI confirmed that the client was confidential, but it seems at least one network is trying to figure out whether the bacchanalian upfront tradition is still worthwhile to journalists. One question asked whether "eliminating the upfront presentation parties would help in making reporting/coverage decisions," while others asked whether the parties allowed for interaction with senior PR staff, talent and network executives, and whether it would be helpful if networks set up information booths for press instead of parties. Blink's guess is that reporters are responding strongly in favor of the upfronts. However, the survey failed to ask reporters some of the most pertinent questions, like whether or not they enjoy receiving all-expense-paid trips to New York, dining at restaurants they could not otherwise afford and trawling for potential mates at boozy industry mixers. Then again, the networks and SRBI no doubt know the answers to those questions.-Christopher Lisotta

He's Lucky He's Phil Rosenthal

Phil Rosenthal is best known as one of the co-creators and executive producers of CBS's "Everybody Loves Raymond," but this year he's taking on a new job in prime-time comedy: actor. Looking to promote his new book, "You're Lucky You're Funny," Mr. Rosenthal appeared in a cameo on ABC's upcoming comedy "Help Me Help You" as a neurotic psychiatrist (not a stretch for a TV writer), but was so good, producers of the show asked him to come back. "I just finished my third episode," Mr. Rosenthal said. "It's like they ran out of actors in Hollywood." The comedy producer-to-actor jump is not unheard of; just ask one of Mr. Rosenthal's role models—Garry Marshall. Plus, moving in front of the camera comes with some benefits. "If the line doesn't work or a shot isn't right, it's not my problem," Mr. Rosenthal said. "I think about it and say, 'Wait a minute, I don't care.'" -Christopher Lisotta

IFC Following Its Anime Instincts

September 18, 2006 12:00 AM

Adding to its recently announced slate of originals, IFC has ordered two Japanese anime series, "Basilisk" and "Gunslinger Girl." Both were acquired from FUNimation Entertainment, which also produces IFC's "Samurai 7," the network's initial offering in the genre. Evan Shapiro, IFC's executive VP and general manager, said internal data shows the unrated Rainbow Media-owned cable network is getting plenty of young male traffic from "Samurai." "We found anime plays well over all of our schedule, so we want to get a lot more of it," Mr. Shapiro said. The acquisitions will launch a new one-hour Friday late-night anime block. As for IFC's recently debuted scripted efforts, "Minor Accomplishments" and "The Business," Mr. Shapiro has not announced whether he will renew the shows. But he stressed, "Both are doing incredibly well; we have overwhelming enthusiasm for them."-James Hibberd

Panning for Online Gold

The launch party for AOL's new online pop culture game "Gold Rush" had Hollywood hot spot Les Deux all aglitter last Tuesday night, combining the glamour of a major TV premiere with the marketing savvy of a high-powered Internet company. "Gold" creator Mark Burnett left, and the show's host, Mark Steines, right, along with AOL Chairman Jon Miller, center, worked the crowd, which included comedian Kathy Griffin (who will blog about the game), "Desperate Housewives'" Felicity Huffman, MTV's Kristin Cavallari and even erstwhile "Facts of Life" star Mindy Cohn. Aside from sucking down 1849 Gold Rush cocktails and nibbling on brownies brushed with gold leaf, guests answered trivia questions for gold (well, not real gold) prizes including money clips and bangles. The leggy attendants handing out the prizes turned heads with their shimmering body stockings. "I didn't know it was going to be so see-through," one admitted. She deserved the $1 million "Gold Rush" grand prize just for making it through the evening. -Christopher Lisotta

Call This 'Big'? Oh, Brother

The "Big Brother All-Stars" finale, held Tuesday in Studio City, Calif., revealed Mike "Boogie" Malin as the winner of the $500,000 prize, with his "showmance" Erika Landin taking second. VIPs, who included the press, former "Big Brother" contestants and their families, watched the live show from an air-conditioned tent complete with appetizers and drinks. The biggest shock of the night: the "Big Brother" yard. What seems spacious on TV is actually the size of a living room, with AstroTurf for grass, a dime-size pool and high walls that contribute to an overwhelmingly claustrophobic feeling. Combine this with heat and humidity, and the houseguests' erratic behavior almost seems justified. Contestant Will Kirby described the experience best: "Imagine if you and your best friend went to the basement of your house, threw out the TV, the computer and your cellphone, and locked the door," he said. "Just try it for the weekend—you'll lose your mind."-Stephanie Robbins

YouTube's Reflected Glory

Guerrilla marketing is nothing new for aspiring L.A. filmmakers, but one cinematic hopeful is using old-fashioned billboards along with one of the newest marketing tools—the Web site YouTube—to promote an upcoming film project. At one busy Los Angeles intersection, Blink spotted the ad above, which promotes a yet-unreleased film called "Life Remote Control." Speeding by the billboard, it would be easy to interpret the ad as part of a YouTube campaign, particularly with the tag line "impatience is our greatest strength"—quick bites and instant gratification indeed may be the Web site's most appealing attributes. With free exposure from the creators of projects such as "Life Remote Control," it's no wonder YouTube, which does virtually no marketing of its own, has yet to launch a major ad campaign.-Christopher Lisotta

They're So Glad to Have This Time Together

September 11, 2006 12:00 AM

Megan Mullally is drawing inspiration for her new syndicated talk show from some of her childhood favorites. "After school I would watch Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas, Carol Burnett and Dinah Shore," Ms. Mullally said in a recent Q&A. While Ms. Burnett was not a talk show host per se, her popular 1967-78 comedy-variety series on CBS regularly featured her interacting with her audience. Now the new host will have a chance to interact with Ms. Burnett since the comedian has signed on to appear as a guest during Ms. Mullally's first week of shows. Their pairing seems to be a natural—comedic women who play different characters and also know how to sing. While Ms. Shore and Mr. Douglas have moved to the eternal talk show desk in the sky, Blink hopes Ms. Mullally can score a sitdown with Mr. Griffin too. -Christopher Lisotta

King of the Dropped Pants

The Museum of Television & Radio in Beverly Hills held "An Evening With Ted Koppel" Wednesday that featured a Q&A session conducted by museum president Pat Mitchell followed by a dinner replete with clips and comments. Dinner speakers included Mr. Koppel's pals Henry Winkler, Harry Shearer and Larry King, all of whom managed to rib the iconically serious newsman here and there. When he finally got to take the floor, Mr. Koppel got to fire off a few of his own missiles, including one that brought the house down: Noting that the CNN stalwart always works without a jacket, a droll Mr. Koppel let out with, "Larry King, you must have 900 pairs of suspenders. And you've been married 17 times because you can't keep your pants up!"-TOM GILBERT

TLC Tops Off Reality Slate With Petra

Czechoslovakian fashion model Petra Nemcova has a globe-trotting reality series in development with TLC. Ms. Nemcova was a popular model for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and Victoria's Secret who gained international coverage when she and her photographer/fianc%E9; Simon Atlee were trapped in Thailand during the 2004 tsunami. Mr. Atlee was killed and Ms. Nemcova survived by holding onto the top of a palm tree naked for eight hours. For the TLC series, Ms. Nemcova would travel back to her native Czechoslovakia and give girls a chance at a modeling contract. TLC had no comment.-James Hibberd

Where's Katie?

Legions of smug TiVo users didn't rush home to catch Katie Couric's Sept. 5 debut as CBS's evening news anchor, knowing their favorite gadget would record the moment for posterity. And legions may have been disappointed. Seems the digital video recorders set to look for Ms. Couric's broadcast should have been bookmarked to find her predecessor's show, "CBS Evening News With Bob Schieffer." So how many Katie fans missed her debut? Tough to tell. A TiVo spokesman said that by week's end, the company's subscribers were notified they needed to update their bookmarks for the new version of "Evening News." A friendly piece of advice from Blink: Fans of The WB and UPN better be on their guard on Sept. 18, when The CW supplants those networks on some stations.-MICHELE GREPPI

E! Takes Off

Get ready for Ryan Seacrest and the "Girls Next Door" at 35,000 feet. E! has made a deal to provide in-flight programming for US Airways. The network will provide a two-hour E!-branded channel for the first- and business-class cabins' personal TV systems, and full-length E! programs playing between feature films for the communal coach-cabin screens. The deal is the first of its kind for E!, which like many networks is seeking new avenues of nontraditional media distribution.-James Hibberd

`Ugly Betty' in English, en Español

September 4, 2006 12:00 AM

ABC is taking advantage of a built-in audience for its new Thursday night hour "Ugly Betty," which is based on the popular Colombian telenovela "Yo Soy Betty, la Fea" (I Am Betty, the Ugly One). "La Fea Mas Bella" (The Ugliest Pretty Girl), a Mexican adaptation of the original "Betty," is pulling terrific ratings on Univision, the leading Spanish-language broadcaster. ABC is capitalizing on that success for its English-language version with its own Spanish-language ad campaign. On one billboard, "Betty" is touted as "so ugly we did it in English," with the word "fea" underlined in what is clearly an homage to the Univision series. "We're going after an audience that knows and loves Betty," said Darren Schillace, ABC's VP of advertising. "It is a nod to their show. We are taking it to another level and letting them enjoy the show all over again."

ABC's "Betty" premieres Sept. (that's short for Septiembre) 28.

Raising the Ante

Texas Hold 'Em met Hollywood largesse Aug. 19, when the Caucus for Television Producers, Writers and Directors Foundation held a poker tournament and casino night as a fund-raiser to help endow the foundation's ongoing student filmmaker completion grant program. High rollers at the event, which raised $50,000, included actors Jennifer Tilly (pictured here with foundation president Chuck Fries), Joan Van Ark, Jean Smart and Dick Van Patten and executives David Gerber, Herman Rush, Bob Finkel, Lionel Chetwynd and caucus Chairman Vin Di Bona. -TOM GILBERT

Jumping `Judy' Back on WCBS-TV

CBS Paramount's top-rated syndicated courtroom series "Judge Judy" is making the leap back to WCBS-TV in New York this fall, and the station's president and general manager, Peter Dunn, couldn't be more excited. "Judy" will be in session at 4 p.m. (ET), which Mr. Dunn expects will boost his 5 p.m. local news and even the network news, now anchored by Katie Couric. "We need somebody else in our corner, and `Judge Judy' is finally the person to have," he said. WCBS's gain is rival WNBC-TV's loss. WNBC snagged "Judy" back in 2000. The saga of "Judy" in New York is due in part to Fox TV Stations' Dennis Swanson, who as GM at WNBC snatched "Judy" from WCBS right before he went over to run the Viacom stations-which include WCBS. Last year Mr. Swanson nabbed "Judy" for WCBS again right before he left to join Fox. No word yet on whether Mr. Swanson is gunning for a "Judy" move to Fox, and then to complete the circle, a job back at WNBC.

CBS Spells Out Sundays

CBS's new post-7 p.m. (ET) Sunday night lineup is a poet's dream: "Amazing Race," "Cold Case" and "Without a Trace" all running back to back. To play up the rhyming titles, CBS is employing "human anagrams" to promote the new shows at various events, starting with CBS's coverage of the U.S. Open Tennis Championship. Brandishing sandwich boards emblazoned with letters, five CBS staffers (presumably college English majors) will spell out "Race," "Case" and "Trace," while a sixth will be on hand when the five spell out "After" to flash the "60 Minutes" logo. Considering employment costs alone, CBS is lucky that "Two and a Half Men" or "How I Met Your Mother" didn't move to Sundays.