About

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.

Blogroll

Blink


March 2007 Archives

'Hunger Force' Got Game

March 26, 2007 12:00 AM

Apparently nothing can stop the "Aqua Teen Hunger Force." Two months after a marketing stunt foul-up for the Adult Swim show cost Cartoon Network's general manager his job and parent Turner Broadcasting $2 million, Midway Games said it is developing an interactive game based on the fast-food trio of heroes.

"Aqua Teen Hunger Force Zombie Ninja Pro-Am" is set at a golf club and mayhem no doubt ensues. No word on whether copies of the game are being quietly placed in locations around Boston.

Meanwhile, Cartoon Network has signed Buena Vista as the first advertiser in one of its online games. Users playing "Foster's Big Fat Awesome House Party" beginning today might notice posters on the house's walls for the films "Meet the Robinsons," "Ratatouille" and "Underdog."

'Jesus Tomb' Director Rushes DVD to Market

March 26, 2007 12:00 AM

The director of Discovery Channel's controversial yet hugely popular "Lost Tomb of Jesus" documentary is rushing to release a DVD of the program after the network yanked three repeats of it earlier this month.

Filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici, who created "Lost Tomb" along with executive producer and "Titanic" director James Cameron, said Discovery has reassured him it is standing by the project.

"I really don't understand some of the decisions they've made," he said last Friday. "I've been reassured as recently as this morning that they're standing beside the film. But we don't have an air date [for repeats] yet."

One of the repeats was supposed to be the 105-minute director's cut, which included re-enactment shots such as a pregnant Mary Magdalene, which Discovery execs deemed too sensitive for U.S. audiences, Mr. Jacobovici said.

The director hopes that once Discovery's current promotional push for its eco-documentary "Planet Earth" has concluded the network will revisit his film, the debut airing of which was seen by 4.1 million viewers -- the best viewership of any Discovery program in more than a year.

"This may be the most talked-about documentary ever," he said. "Even if it's only a 50-50 chance [of being Jesus' tomb], it's still the biggest story on the planet."

A 'Haunting' Event

March 26, 2007 12:00 AM

While recording the musical score for the new season of Court TV's "Haunting Evidence," MusicBox composers Joel Goodman and Dan Stein experienced some paranormal activity in their Calabasas, Calif., studios.

The duo recorded the score in normal fashion, but when mixing tracks later in the process, they noticed audio was appearing on empty tracks.

Mr. Goodman and Mr. Stein sent the audio files in question to their software tech support team, which found no audio on the empty tracks. Then, when the duo went back to the studio to listen more closely, they distinctly heard a woman's voice singing in the background.

"The voice was almost angelic. ... It gave us all the creeps, because there was no singing on the score, and there weren't any women anywhere near us during the recording sessions," Mr. Stein said. "Apparently our friendly female ghost likes to sing!"

Rotten 'Deal' for One Ad Buyer

March 26, 2007 12:00 AM

It seemed like a great plan at the time. For NBC's development presentation to advertisers last week on the Culver City, Calif., "Deal or No Deal" stage, the network brought out host Howie Mandel to play a quick version of the game with a media ad buyer. Only problem was the buyer wasn't very familiar with the rules.

With up to $5,000 at stake, when Mr. Mandel first asked her the show's title question the buyer declared "No deal" and hit her red flashing "Deal" button on the podium. Mr. Mandel handled the goof with good humor, but was a tad exasperated.

"It's the simplest show on TV!" he exclaimed. "Morons walk out of here with a ton of money!"

For the buyer's sake, the board was reset, the mistake erased, then they tried again. In rapid succession, the buyer "No dealed" her way to walking away with a mere $100.

Not wanting an ad buyer to go home disappointed, Mr. Mandel said she would still receive $2,000 as a consolation prize. The buyer thanked him, turned to exit and slipped and fell flat on the stage.

Mom's Gone Hunting

March 26, 2007 12:00 AM

Now anyone can be a bounty hunter. To promote its new show "Wife, Mom, Bounty Hunter," WE TV is launching a video game on its Web site in which players try to steer the show's star, Sandra Scott, as she chases a bad guy while enduring such obstacles as calls from a husband who wants her to pick up a suit from the dry cleaners.

The game is part of a multimedia campaign, which is one of WE's key initiatives for 2007, according to Kenetta Bailey, senior VP of marketing. The campaign also includes cable ads, print, radio and outdoor.

The campaign aims to kill two birds with one stone by using two slogans. One, "Our TV mom can beat up your TV mom," is designed to appeal to ad buyers and cable operators, while "She's not your typical mom" has more of a consumer appeal, she said.

The show's premise and title make it fairly easy to promote, Ms. Bailey noted. "She is a wife, a mom and a bounty hunter," she said.

Only a Passing Fad?

March 19, 2007 12:00 AM

While some media executives worry that YouTube is the future of entertainment distribution, Matt Blank, chairman and CEO of Showtime Networks, dismissed the video mega-site as something more akin to a trend.

"We will be sitting here a year from now and we won't be talking about YouTube," Mr. Blank said at the annual Hollywood Radio & Television Society cable chiefs luncheon. "There will be something else we're talking about."

Networks might boast about preparing for the digital future, Mr. Blank said, but "The technology is changing so rapidly that I don't think anybody has a long-term strategy for this. It's all about learning right now."

Bochco's Tell-All

March 19, 2007 12:00 AM

What if you got a nosebleed during sex? What if you were caught urinating by a family of seven while squatting next to their mini-van? Then you'd be at the top of Steven Bochco's list for your 15 minutes of fame on online video site Metacafe.

The Hollywood producer of TV hits "Hill Street Blues," "L.A. Law" and "NYPD Blue" is giving the Internet a whirl by producing a series of confessionals for Metacafe about your first time, wildest drinking moment, weird family, most embarrassing moment and worst job.

After interviewing more than 120 twentysomethings, he picked the best 44 stories from the crew. Those one-minute to two-minute videos will be released on Metacafe's new Café Confidential channel over the next four weeks.

"The young Internet audience that's being raised on their computer has a completely different perception of intimacy, privacy and voyeurism," Mr. Bochco said. "[The stories] become enjoyable in the way a good joke is. ... For me this sort of harkens back to an older dynamic, which is sitting around the campfire telling stories. For me this is like an electronic campfire."

Asked whether he is a voyeur, Mr. Bochco promptly responded, "Yes, I am. Yes, I am. I said that twice, didn't I?"

We Aren't Sure What It Is But We Like It Anyway

March 19, 2007 12:00 AM

Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution has now topped the 92 percent mark in clearances for upcoming celebrity newsmagazine "TMZ."

Sure, that's pretty much standard for a series about to go national in the fall, but what's notable about these particular clearances is that the series has managed to hit that level in less than two months without an announcement of any on-air talent or even a clearly defined format for the show.

Blink has learned that among the stations outside the core Fox-owned station group to snag rights to the half-hour strip are Cox-owned KTVU-TV in San Francisco, McGraw-Hill-owned KGTV in San Diego and Sinclair's KOKH-TV in Oklahoma City.

"TMZ," based on the monster Web site that follows the lives of celebrities, will be produced in Los Angeles by Harvey Levin Productions and paraMedia in association with Telepictures Productions; it will be distributed by Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution.

"TMZ" executive producer and paraMedia founder Jim Paratore sees the ease in early clearances as a sign of the times.

"When you look at the success of the Web site, to be able to build a brand this huge in less than a year really speaks not only to the digital age we live in, but also the tremendous appetite people have for celebrity news," he said. "Stations responded to that. In addition, they are looking to build a business on their own Web sites and by airing 'TMZ' they will receive a module on their site that will drive traffic for them."

A Museum by Any Other Name

March 19, 2007 12:00 AM

The Museum of Television & Radio, nee the Museum of Broadcasting, is taking on yet another moniker, one that reflects today's morphing media landscape.

The 31-year-old institution, started by CBS founder William Paley to guarantee the preservation of radio and TV's cultural history, is not ready to talk about it. However, the museum's board voted last week to rename the museum The Paley Center for Media.

The new name covers everything from analog to digital to broadband programming and beyond, not to mention the MT&R's many activities that allow the public to learn more about TV and radio. The museum has branches in Manhattan and Beverly Hills.

Look for a big announcement of the name change this spring.

What Ailes Edwards

March 12, 2007 12:00 AM

Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes is lashing out at Democratic presidential contender Sen. John Edwards, who dropped out of a Nevada presidential debate in part because it was being hosted by Fox News Channel.

"If [Sen. Edwards] doesn't have enough sense to show up and turns off the largest cable audience, he's going to have to accept the consequences," Mr. Ailes told TelevisionWeek. "People are going to realize he sold out."

Mr. Ailes' comments followed a speech in Washington to the Radio & Television News Directors Association in which he warned presidential candidates about boycotting debates based on which media outlets were involved. Mr. Ailes suggested Sen. Edwards is distancing himself from Fox to curry favor with liberals.

"He's been on Fox News 33 times [since August 2000]," Mr. Ailes said. "All of a sudden the far left is funding him and he has a different view. That's interesting." Mr. Ailes said he hasn't contacted Sen. Edwards. "Why? So we can get into a fight and he can say to the left-wingers, 'See, I'm in a fight with Fox News'?" Mr. Ailes said.

Late Friday, political bloggers reported that the Democratic party was considering canceling the Nevada event.

True to Their Roots

March 12, 2007 12:00 AM

Randi Jayne and Jennifer Lee never thought they'd be asked what they're looking for in an agent. But last week in the offices of Creative Artists Agency in Los Angeles, the two viral video stars of "Mac in My Top" fame told four agents from one of Hollywood's biggest shops that they would only want an agent who understands they are loyal to the Internet.

"We aren't looking to be movie or TV stars," Ms. Jayne said.

The trip to CAA followed the duo's tour of Hollywood last month to meet industry insiders. In addition to considering agencies, the pair got some more face time with independent production shop Evolution Media last week to brainstorm ideas for Internet shows they'll create together, such as a weekend style-news update or a reality show chronicling their video shoots.

Ms. Jayne said they expect to finalize a deal later this month or in early April.

Two Blondes and a Correction

March 12, 2007 12:00 AM

Don't call CNBC's Dylan Ratigan a Cassandra for seeing a stock market correction in the works four trading days before the Dow tumbled more than 400 points on Feb. 27. Mr. Bratigan posited on-air that traders seemed to be more concerned with nonstop coverage of Britney Spears and Anna Nicole Smith than with real issues affecting the "complacent" market, which he tagged "Goldilocks" because it was neither too hot nor too cold.

Overnight, Mr. Ratigan became the author of "The Blonde Correction." But the rising CNBC star insists, "It was simply an observation of the phenomenon of complacency. In all seriousness, we had had our longest period of time without a 2 percent down day since 1953. Record borrowing by stocks, record consecutive up months, and everybody's talking about blond women."

With Ms. Spears in rehab, Ms. Smith finally in the ground and all eyes on the market, what does he see next?

"I called one of the two biggest corrections of the decade and you want more," Mr. Ratigan said in mock protest. "We've got to find a brunette."

Moreover, he said, a tabloid queen must command an insane amount of cable news "oxygen" before he will get worried.

"So the next time you see any of the blondes or certain brunettes, and we know who they are, go over the 20 percent threshold, get worried. That's my prediction for you. Instead of predicting, I'd like to teach people to fish so people can make their own predictions."

Sounds like a sure-fire best-selling how-to-get-rich book to Blink.

A Toast to the Press

March 12, 2007 12:00 AM

Item: Toaster

Company: Fox

Promoting: "The Wedding Bells"

Comment: Genuinely clever. Wrapped in expensive paper and white bow, Fox's choice of a cheap brand (Proctor-Silex) for the cliched wedding gift serves to heighten the irony. Perhaps they went a tad too cheap, however: 95,000 Proctor-Silex toasters were recalled a few years ago for starting kitchen fires. Let's assume the intentions of Fox's marketing department were benevolent, and that they did not secretly intend to cause a string of breakfast tragedies to ensure the press never forgets "The Wedding Bells."

Monroe and Shibicky, Big Talkers

March 5, 2007 12:00 AM

Madison Square Garden Network is grabbing two microphones to tell viewers about its new show, "MSG, NY." What's unusual is these microphones are big and they talk.

They even have names: Monroe (after ex-Knick Earl Monroe and Marilyn Monroe) and Shibicky (in honor of Alex Shibicky, who played for the 1940 Stanley Cup-winning Rangers).

The point is that unlike "MSG Sports Desk," the show it replaced in October, "MSG, NY" covers both sports and entertainment.

Spots show the microphones, played by a pair of local comedians, interacting with Garden-worthy players and performers, said Steve Mars, VP of marketing for MSG Networks. "It could be Stephon Marbury or Gwen Stefani."

The spots will air on MSG and the network is buying local time on younger-skewing cable networks to attract 18- to 34-year-old viewers.

Mr. Mars also is counting on the campaign catching a viral wave. "We're sure you'll see this on YouTube," he said.

Some Club Scene

March 5, 2007 12:00 AM

It's been said that Hollywood is high school with money. For its new show "Sons of Hollywood," starring the offspring of three showbiz big shots, the creative services department of A&E Network has created a press kit that looks like the glitziest diorama ever handed in as a homework assignment.

Open the box and an audio clip of the song "The In Crowd" plays. Little flashbulbs pop. And stand-up images of Randy Spelling, Sean Stewart and David Weintraub wait behind a red velvet rope. The sound alone is sure to catch the attention of the 60 or so TV writers around the country to whom the press kits were sent.

If the show lasts longer than the batteries that keep the kit's distracting lights flashing, A&E's publicity department surely will call it mission accomplished.

More 'Warrior' for G4

March 5, 2007 12:00 AM

G4 has secured 16 more seasons of its addictive Japanese game show "Ninja Warrior," which has risen to become the network's most popular show among its target 18-to-34 demographic.

"Warrior" has contestants racing through a massive obstacle course so difficult that only two out of about 1,700 players in eight years of tournaments have ever gotten all the way through it. (The show is similar to Spike's "MXC," only with serious athleticism and very little camp.)

Starting March 19, G4 will air new episodes of the imported show Monday through Friday at 6:30 p.m., as well as a behind-the-scenes "Warrior" special from Tokyo hosted by G4 correspondent Zach Selwyn.

Getting Off Cheap

March 5, 2007 12:00 AM

Instead of spending a fortune on the latest software plug-in, broadcast design company Roger took the low-tech route in coming up with a look for Nickelodeon's recently launched ME TV interactive programming block.

In the true spirit of a grade-school class project, the Roger folks went to the local Target and purchased the following household items: cotton balls, Magic Markers, tape, scissors, safety pins and graph paper.

Roger's concept ultimately influenced all aspects of the show, from its open and on-air promotion to the set, music and Web site.

Total cost for the initial design? A whopping $15.09.

What's in a Name?

March 5, 2007 12:00 AM

Vincent Pastore, who played Salvatore "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero on "The Sopranos," has quit ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" after a week of training because he realized the extent of the physical demands the 10-week dance competition would be making on him.

Blink guesses that would explain where the nickname came from.