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July 2007 Archives

'Battlestar' Secrets Revealed (to Press)

July 30, 2007 1:08 PM

Despite record attendance and large flashy panels at Comic-Con, with multiple cast members, creators, showrunners and producers, surprisingly little hard news actually emerged from those sessions.

The most significant announcement from the "Lost" and "Battlestar Galactica" panels concerned the return of a cast member -- with the "Lost" news being leaked in advance. The majority of other news took the form of clues or plot points that would be meaningful only to die-hard fans of the show -- which I guess is what Comic-Con is all about.

"Battlestar's" big reveal was the midseason return for two or three episodes of the Cylon D'Anna, played by Lucy Lawless. Executive producer Ron Moore said D'Anna's unboxing would represent a pivotal moment in the series, turning the direction of the season's second half.

"What I like about D'Anna is she was the grit in everybody's eye," Lawless said. She also joked that Dean Stockwell's Cylon character had been keeping all the D'Anna models in his quarters for his own private purposes.

The public "Battlestar" presentation was lively and thoroughly entertaining -- focusing on the women of "Battlestar" -- but it was the press conferences after that yielded the most information and clues for devoted fans. This is perhaps a benefit of having a professional asking the questions as opposed to suffering, say, the "Heroes" audience asking several variations on "What's your favorite part about starring on the show?"

So for all you "Battlestar Galactica" die-hards, here's a rundown of what to look for in the show's fourth and final season.

Read More »

‘Today’ Throws a Wedding Road Trip

July 22, 2007 9:00 PM

"Today" will hold cattle calls starting Tuesday in Las Vegas, Miami, Chicago and New York City for couples who would like to be the eighth pair married live on the NBC morning show—with oversight of every detail of the October wedding and honeymoon presented for the viewers’ approval by no less than Martha Stewart herself. Executive producer Jim Bell says the road trip was not inspired by "American Idol’s" popular roving talent search, but instead is simply a way to do what "Today" has always done—hit the highway and see the country—as they "freshen" the "Today Throws a Wedding" franchise at the same time. Gregarious weatherman Al Roker will be mixing it up with the wedding wannabes in each city, where the first 50 brides-to-be who present completed applications will receive a wedding dress from Filene’s Basement. As for the involvement by domestic diva and NBC Universal family member Ms. Stewart, who is definitely in control of every one of her guest segments on "Today," Mr. Bell taunted this longtime Martha-phile: "I dare you not to watch. You know it’s going to be interesting to watch. If you’re going to give your wedding up to someone, wouldn’t you want to give it up to Martha Stewart?" Can we get back to you, Mr. Bell?
—Michele Greppi

The Dish on NASCAR

July 22, 2007 9:00 PM

A&E is working with EchoStar Communications’ Dish Network to reach out to the NASCAR demographic. This year, Dish Network is a primary NASCAR sponsor, with Dish All-Star drivers from the Roush Fenway race team already bringing in a number of victories this season. Dish has been sharing its cars with programmers and other partners, and when the Pennsylvania 500 is run Aug. 5 at Pocono Raceway, the "Dog the Bounty Hunter" logo will be zooming along on Greg Biffle’s car. A&E also will have trackside sign­age, and commercials for "Dog" will air over the raceway’s Jumbotron. "It’s a perfect opportunity to promote ‘Dog Days of Summer’ and to tap into the NASCAR demo, which perfectly aligns with ‘Dog’s’ target audience," said Jennifer Ball, VP of affiliate marketing for A&E and the History Channel. "We just saw it was a great fit."
—Jon Lafayette

The Couric Connection

July 22, 2007 9:00 PM

You could play a round of "Six Degrees of Katie Couric" with the nominations for the 27th annual News & Documentary Emmy Awards announced last week by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. The "CBS Evening News" anchor could collect her sixth Emmy on Sept. 24 at New York’s Marriott Marquis Hotel if she wins for her first "60 Minutes" piece, about health problems among workers at Ground Zero after the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Her predecessor Dan Rather earned a nomination for an installment of his HDNet series "Dan Rather Reports." Ann Curry, Ms. Couric’s former colleague at NBC’s "Today," registered three times on the list of nominations for reporting from Darfur and from the scene of the Amish school shootings in Pennsylvania as well as a "Dateline NBC" report on "Terror in the Classroom." Matt Lauer, Ms. Couric’s former "Today" co-host, also made the list of nominees for a "Dateline NBC" report titled "Rescue on Top of the World." "Good Morning America" co-host Diane Sawyer, Ms. Couric’s former morning-wars competitor at ABC, is on the list for her "20/20" special on domestic abuse and, with colleagues Chris Cuomo and Cynthia McFadden, for reporting on foster care. A detailed list of nominees can be found at emmyonline.tv.
—Michele Greppi

Fox Studios Finds ‘Grace’ Inspiration

July 22, 2007 9:00 PM

To help promote the launch of its new TNT series "Saving Grace," Fox Television Studios teamed with Grammy-winning artist Everlast to create a theme song and release the track as a single. The song, also called "Saving Grace," was written for the series after showrunner Nancy Miller cited Everlast as her inspiration for the pilot. "His lyrics speak so much to the struggle of Grace—her pain, her heroic nature—that I immediately connected to them," Ms. Miller said. "I feel like Everlast is the musical ‘Godfather’ of our series." The song will be released on iTunes and other retailers.
—James Hibberd

FX Show Posters Creep Up on You

July 15, 2007 9:00 PM

FX is earning praise for its season-four "Rescue Me" marketing poster. The network said the poster is inspired by Munch’s "The Scream" (though Blink also thought it had a Goya vibe). The poster continues a recent trend among FX posters toward a certain creepy sensibility, even though the shows themselves are not creepy. The red-and-black poster for "Dirt," billed as a lurid Hollywood drama, has Courteney Cox as the queen vampire of Hollywood, lording over the town. But the true creep factor is the bodies writhing under her dress. What are they doing under there, exactly? Is this the first basic-cable drama about vagina dentata? The poster for "The Riches," a comedy-drama about a family of con artists hiding in suburbia, takes a literal approach with the black ski mask over a home that resembles a face. The windows-as-eyes harks back to the original "Amityville Horror" poster. An FX spokesman said the poster is meant to be comic, but when the house is glowering down at you from a La Cienega Boulevard billboard at night, not so much. In the latest round of "The Shield" posters, hero Vic Mackey is handcuffed to a dead Strike Team member. Though it perfectly captures the theme of the season, getting stuck in traffic next to a blue-lipped corpse plastered on the side of a bus is a bit of a downer. The upside: All the FX posters are artful and discussion-prompting, which is arguably the whole point. According to FX President and General Manager John Landgraf, the posters reflect the FX brand. "Every one of those shows is funny, but they’re also dark—we don’t do ‘Characters Welcome,’" he said, referring to the USA Network tagline. "You’re never going to see a show on air that doesn’t have almost gothic themes."

--James Hibberd

NYC Gets Down to Business

July 15, 2007 9:00 PM

What a difference 11 years makes. When Fox News Channel launched Oct. 7, 1996, New Yorkers couldn’t see it because Time Warner Cable and Fox News were locked in ferocious talks about carriage of the channel. It took an 11-month battle royale that included a threat by then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani to air Fox News commercial-free on a city-run access channel to break the logjam. Last week, when Fox announced that the long-awaited Fox Business Network will launch Oct. 15, it noted prominently that it will be available on expanded basic cable in the Big Apple, financial capital of the world. An industry insider told Blink not only does Time Warner Cable NYC wants Fox Business Network, it wants the new network so badly it will convert the FBN signal from digital to the quaint and all-but-obsolete analog format in order to lodge it on the expanded platform. Fox News made carriage of FBN a must as it negotiated new distribution deals—which already add up to 30 million subscribers for FBN—mdash;with cable operators, who also are anteing up subscriber fees that will rise by as much as a third over the course of the new contracts. But as FBN begins its assault on CNBC and Bloomberg Television for eyeballs on Wall Street and Main Street, it is critical that the so-called "influentials" in the advertising and financial worlds be able to see the channel. A TWCNYC spokeswoman said she was unable to confirm the analog conversion plans.

--Michele Greppi

He Lit Up a Room

July 15, 2007 9:00 PM

Say what you will about the dangers of smoking, a lifetime of puffing away didn’t seem to do much to cut things short for veteran character actor (and ’60s TV staple) Charles Lane, who died last week at the ripe old age of 102. Back in Charlie’s salad days—when he was merely in his late 80s—a severely nicotine-addicted writer Blink knows had occasion to interview him at his home in Brentwood, and after 45 minutes of intense questioning was dying for a cigarette—but didn’t dare light up in a closed room with an octogenarian in it. Just as the scribe was about to call for a bathroom break in order to slip outside for a couple of hits, Charlie opened the desk drawer, pulled out a pack of Pall Malls and asked, "Do you mind if I smoke?" In the obituaries last week, his son Tom noted Charlie smoked a pack a day for 70 years, quitting only when he became short of breath. "I know that smoking kills people, and I must be the exception," Charlie said at the time that he quit. Well, yeah.

--Tom Gilbert

ESPN Going Ga-Ga Over Beckham Debut

July 8, 2007 9:00 PM

Talk about pulling out all the stops: ESPN has contracted a serious case of David Beckham fever and is planning to cover the British soccer superstar's July 21 Major League Soccer debut from every conceivable angle -- and then some.

Leading up to Becks' first game with the Los Angeles Galaxy at 9 p.m. ET will be an expanded 90-minute edition of "SportsCenter" at 6 p.m., then the hourlong documentary "David Beckham: New Beginnings" at 7:30, followed by a half-hour pre-game show working up a lather for the big game. And that's not to mention 19 cameras plus a special Beckham cam, "focusing on Beckham's every move throughout the match," and a celebrity-cam to catch the reactions of Becks' celebrity fans in the stands.

Add to this additional coverage on the ESPNews channel, ESPN.com, ESPN360.com and ESPNSoccernet.com and you've got what the network is calling "ESPN's most expansive initiative ever for a single U.S. domestic soccer event."

Ya think? -- Tom Gilbert

Saying What He Means

July 8, 2007 9:00 PM

Fox reality guru Mike Darnell's "Don't Forget the Lyrics!" will face off against NBC's similarly themed "The Singing Bee" this week.

Though it's anybody's guess which program will come out on top, Mr. Darnell is certain of one thing: His title is way better.

"You absolutely know what 'Don't Forget the Lyrics!' is," he said. Mr. Darnell has a famed penchant for wordy, descriptive and occasionally hostile-sounding reality show titles, such as "So You Think You Can Dance" and "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?"

When Mr. Darnell was first pitched "5th Grader," the original title was "Do You Remember Grade School?" -- wordy and descriptive, for sure, but lacking the lapel-grabbing challenge of "Smarter." In fact, this week's issue of Business Week is citing "Smarter" as the best reality show title of all time.

"Sometimes they make fun of me around here," Mr. Darnell said. "Like, 'Oh my God, it will never fit in the TV Guide.'" -- James Hibberd

New Orleans Rates Again

July 8, 2007 9:00 PM

Nearly two years after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast, overnight ratings returned to the Crescent City last Thursday. Stations will have two weeks to adjust to the picture the data presents before advertising agencies and other clients begin receiving the same data.

The Nielsen Media Research profile of the rebuilding city shows it is smaller (the 43rd-largest market in the country before Katrina; No. 54 now) and very different demographically. For a number of reasons -- some likely related to who has been able to afford to rebuild and their choices in replacing such things as TV sets -- the sample of 400 set-top metered households is higher-income than before, includes cell-phone-only users and has higher than usual hi-def penetration, according to a Nielsen representative.

Nielsen had hoped to have the sample up and running earlier this year, but had to spend more time than expected becoming acquainted with what the data showed about the rebuilt, and effectively state-of-the-art, sample. There were some meter glitches that showed a lot of "blue-screen" tuning, which indicates TVs being used for activities other than regular TV viewing.

The Nielsen rep said New Orleans now may be a leading indicator for other markets.

"I think we will be seeing things in New Orleans earlier than we would see them in other markets," the rep said. -- Michele Greppi

A Current Affair

July 8, 2007 9:00 PM

Current TV Chairman Al Gore and actress Cameron Diaz were set to announce the "60 Seconds to Save the Earth" TV-spot-making contest during the Live Earth concerts Saturday.

The contest, being held in association with the Alliance for Climate Protection, challenges viewers across the U.S., U.K. and Ireland to create 15-, 30- or 60-second "ecospot" public service announcements urging action or motivating change to help fight the climate crisis.

A "call to action" from Ms. Diaz directing viewers to www.current.com/ecospot for contest rules and details will air on Current TV through Sept. 12.

Twenty finalists will be selected by a panel of celebrity judges that, in addition to Ms. Diaz, includes Orlando Bloom, George Clooney, director Sam Mendes, admen Alex Bogusky and Joe Pytka and ACP CEO Cathy Zoi. Current's online community then will vote for its favorite.

Winners will be announced Nov. 13 and winning ecospots will be aired internationally on Current TV. -- Tom Gilbert