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November 2008 Archives

Competing Networks Brace for 'Idol' Wave

November 30, 2008 8:40 PM

Networks used to view January as a time to regroup and relaunch, setting aside the failures of the fall. Now the new year is all about one thing: Avoiding getting crushed by the return of Fox’s “American Idol.” “We anxiously await its arrival,” NBC scheduling chief Mitch Metcalf joked last week.

American Idol

Having long ago given up trying to beat the singing show tsunami, programmers these days aim merely for survival—usually via counterprogramming. NBC, repeating a strategy that worked OK last year, plans to enlist “The Biggest Loser” to fight the Tuesday edition of “Idol.” The network currently is set to sacrifice struggling drama “Knight Rider” against “Idol’s” Wednesday results show, perhaps hoping that young men will find a talking car preferable to Paula Abdul’s histrionics. ABC hasn’t yet said what it plans to air against the 8 p.m. Tuesday “Idol,” though there’s been industry speculation that the network might schedule the new male-skewing reality show “Border Security” in the slot. Wednesdays at 8 remain a mystery for ABC now that “Pushing Daisies” is set to go away. Don’t be surprised if “Lost” repeats end up in the slot for at least a few weeks. As for CBS, it traditionally has been hurt the least by Hurricane “Idol,” thanks to its schedule of older-skewing crime dramas. The network is sticking with red-hot “NCIS” on Tuesdays, and odds are comedies will remain at 8 p.m. on Wednesdays. The network that fears “Idol” most? The CW, which goes after the young females who make up the core of the “Idol” audience. Executives at The CW will be praying that new Tuesday success “90210” can hold up against Fox’s reality monster.

—Josef Adalian

Albany’s Pride

November 30, 2008 8:40 PM

There will be a bit more pride than usual involved on Dec. 6 when the YES Network televises the Gridiron Classic pitting the champs of the Northeast Conference, the University of Albany (N.Y.), against Pioneer Football League winner Jacksonville University. Albany vs. Jacksonville, you say? The network is carrying the game because VP of Operations Ed Delaney’s son plays for Albany. Eddie Delaney was born without a left hand, but played lacrosse and football in high school. He walked on at Albany, became starting defensive end and was named conference player of the week for a game in October. “Ed’s an incredibly proud papa, as you can imagine,” said network spokesman Eric Handler.

—Jon lafayette

Making the New York Scene

November 30, 2008 8:40 PM

CSI: NY Weekends Promo

CBS Television Distribution’s recent promotion for the syndicated weekend run of “CSI: NY” in New York involved a roving mock crime scene that was staged in various parts of the city over two weekends in November. Passersby, who were offered promotional keychain lights, also could pose for photos in the scene that later were displayed online at csinyweekends.com.

—Tom Gilbert

Crazy, Mixed-Up Values

November 30, 2008 8:40 PM

One result of the stock-market meltdown has been to value big, profitable television companies at absurdly low levels. Blink isn’t given to unkind comparisons, but can’t help but make some observations. Take CBS Corp., which had a market capitalization of $4.02 billion on Nov. 25. That either makes NBC Universal’s purchase of the Weather Channel for $3.5 billion look like the world’s worst bargain, or it implies that stock brokers don’t care about CBS’ killer ratings in prime time of late. And who would have guessed that little CNET, the tech-savvy Web site that sold to CBS for $1.8 billion, would carry a price tag that exceeds the market’s valuation of good old TV and newspaper owner Gannett Co., whose market cap dipped to $1.7 billion last week? It all leaves us wondering where the bottom may be, and whether that bar around the corner is open for lunch.

—Greg Baumann

A Good Cause for Indigestion

November 30, 2008 8:40 PM

Media Stocks Decline

Any lunch or dinner conversation last week with television industry insiders probably included some well-grounded kvetching about the declining value of stock-based compensation. Stock price declines among media companies have sucked the air out of many a retirement plan lately, beating even the Dow Jones Industrial Average in a race to the basement. Because misery loves company (and because the list might provide a much-appreciated dose of schadenfreude for some), Blink offers a table of media-company percentage stock declines, year-to-date through Nov. 25.

—Greg Baumann

TNT Looks for ‘Leverage’

November 25, 2008 3:04 PM

TNT’s latest “We Know Drama” series, “Leverage,” revolves around a group of high-tech crooks who steal from wealthy criminals and corrupt businessmen.
Leverage

See, the heroes in this show are morally gray because they steal from bad guys. But the bad guys totally deserve it!

In addition to star Timothy Hutton, the show features a slew of TV faces familiar to the Daily Blink: Christian Kane (“Angel”), Gina Bellman (the British “Coupling”), Aldis Hodge (“Friday Night Lights”) and Mark Sheppard (every show ever, seriously).

Check out some scenes from the show, which premieres Dec. 7, behind the cut.

Read More »

Musically Motivated ‘Lost’ Preview Hits Air

November 21, 2008 1:40 PM

It worked for “Grey’s Anatomy” with Snow Patrol and the Fray, so now ABC is giving “Lost” the music video treatment.

Lost

In a nearly 3-minute Fray music video aired last night during “Grey’s Anatomy,” fans got a sneak peek at the fifth season of “Lost.” Most of the featured “Lost” footage is old, but there are some scenes from the upcoming season, including ones of Sawyer and Juliet holding hands while running, Desmond and Penny in bed and an Easter egg for Ajira Airways.

Oh yes, and Sawyer has lost his shirt again.

Check out the full music video behind the cut.

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Take a Test Flight With ABC’s Reincarnated ‘Cupid’

November 19, 2008 4:16 PM

Back in 1998, ABC aired “Cupid,” a romantic drama about a psychologist charged with helping a man who believes he’s Cupid sent down to unite 100 couples before he’s allowed back to Mount Olympus.

Cupid

ABC canceled the Rob Thomas-created show after one season. Starring Jeremy Piven and Paula Marshall, “Cupid” was one of many shows for which Ms. Marshall earned the online nickname “Showkiller.”

But the network is giving Mr. Thomas another chance to inject some romance into prime time with an update of “Cupid.” Bobby Cannavale and Sarah Paulson take over the lead roles this time, and the setting moves from Chicago to dating mecca Los Angeles.

With so few romance shows on TV that don’t involve pubic hair—thanks for that, “The Ex List”*—and scalpels, and TV’s most non-touching romance, “Pushing Daisies,” possibly on its way out, the Daily Blink welcomes “Cupid” into the 21st century with a teaser trailer behind the cut.

*Rob Thomas has brought on board his “Veronica Mars” executive producer Diane Ruggiero, who quit her duties as “Ex List’s” showrunner before the show premiered. Hopefully, she didn’t bring the pubic hair jokes with her.

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Satire Is What Opens ‘Saturday Night’

November 16, 2008 8:30 PM

The truth is at least as strange as fiction.

Martin Eisenstadt

Political pranksters Dan Mirvish and Eitan Gorlin, hot off the blogospheric ascension and equally fast outing of their creation Martin Eisenstadt, are hoping to use their newfound fame to get their TV pilot off the ground.

Before the fictional Mr. Eisenstadt took credit for leaking Sarah Palin’s confusion about Africa to the world, the filmmakers had been shopping a pilot based on the pundit character. Mr. Mirvish said the single-camera comedy, called “The Pundit,” would be “about this sort of Frasier Crane-meets-Stephen Colbert type character” and the people who work with him at his think tank.

However, in pitch meetings before Eisenstadt’s exposure, Mr. Mirvish said, they were told, “The appetite for political satire on television is very limited.” There’s Jon Stewart and Mr. Colbert, and that’s about it.

But “Saturday Night Live’s” record ratings thanks to its political satire gives Mr. Mirvish hope. After all, he and Mr. Gorlin can take a little of the credit for that lift. The rumor that Barack Obama would appear on the NBC show on the Saturday before the election, according to Mr. Mirvish, originated on EisenstadtGroup.com, the faux pundit’s blog. It was picked up by numerous mainstream media outlets and was credited for boosting tune-in for the episode, which in fact boasted guest star John McCain.

Where does satire end and reality begin? Don’t ask Martin Eisenstadt!

—Lisa D. Horowitz

The Levin-ing of Ted Turner’s Autobiography

November 16, 2008 8:30 PM

Ted Turner
Like the South from which he hails, Ted Turner will never forget, but at least he’s being a gentleman about it. It’s no secret that Mr. Turner has no love for onetime Time Warner Chairman-CEO Gerald Levin. It was Mr. Levin who engineered TW’s financially disastrous 2000 merger with AOL and—using Mr. Turner’s term—“fired” him as vice chairman of the newly combined company even though he had his hopes pinned on running TBS, CNN and the other TW-owned networks he founded. And while he indeed takes Mr. Levin to task in his new autobiography, “Call Me Ted,” Mr. Turner generously gives equal time to the erstwhile media executive, who retired from TW in 2002 and all but vanished from the business. In one of a series of colleague-penned “Ted Stories” sprinkled throughout the book, Mr. Levin—who tactfully broaches “the force” of Mr. Turner’s personality (he was once known as “The Mouth of the South”) and characterizes him as a “fiery entrepreneur”—says that since Mr. Turner was not interested in “building a bigger company with more Internet activity,” the plan was for him to become “a cheerleader and inspirer” who “would not have to worry about the day-to-day.” Blink thinks if not exactly a firing, that would definitely qualify as a kick upstairs. Although Mr. Turner later details Mr. Levin’s rather ignominious departure from TW, he stops short of rubbing his face in the company’s failures. “We had made a fundamentally bad move by merging with AOL and I didn’t know how to turn the ship around any more than anybody else did,” he writes. n

—Tom Gilbert

Oxygen Founder Takes a Breather

November 16, 2008 8:30 PM

Without a job for the first time in 36 years, Oxygen founder Geraldine Laybourne has traveled to Bhutan, India, South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Namibia and the Amazon this year, leaving her only 45 days in New York. That means she’s had little time to watch the channel she sold to NBC Universal a year ago for $925 million. But what she has seen, she likes. “I am thrilled that NBCU has done exactly what they said they would do … promote Oxygen,” she said in an e-mail. “Most of the shows are the same shows that we put on the air and I’m told that the ratings have seen dramatic improvement. I love the tagline, Live Out Loud, which is perfect.”

—Jon Lafayette

As Green as It Gets

November 14, 2008 3:16 PM

Lipstick Jungle

On Wednesday, NBC Universal announced that “Lipstick Jungle” was one of three NBC programs that had committed to going “green.” Within the next news cycle, it was learned that “Jungle” was going bye-bye before completing its sophomore season. “You can’t go more carbon-neutral than going out of production,” said more than one industry wag. That wasn’t the only unfortunate timing. Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford this week announced on the fourth hour of “Today,” which they co-host, that they would be taping an appearance as themselves for “Lipstick” later that day. This morning they told “Today” viewers that their appearance is scheduled for Dec. 26, which is slated to be the series' final episode.

—Michele Greppi

Broadway Rosie’s Back in Town

November 13, 2008 3:59 PM

Rosie Live! Promo

Rosie O’Donnell is offering an early peek at her upcoming NBC variety hour—and making some jokes about her public persona in the process.

On a video posted Thursday on her Rosie.com Web site, Ms. O’Donnell appears in costume as Officer Lockstock, a character from the Broadway musical “Urinetown.” A young actress playing Little Sally (another character from the show) peppers her with questions.

“Will Rosie tell off a famous billionaire?” Little Sally asks.

“Oh, Little Sally, he’s not a billionaire,” Ms. O’Donnell replies, in character.

“Will she yell at a skinny little Republican?” asks Little Sally.

“No, she did that for almost a year,” responds Ms. O’Donnell.

The quips are references, of course, to Ms. O’Donnell’s run-ins with Donald Trump and Elizabeth Hasselbeck.

Ms. O’Donnell began rehearsals for her NBC special this week. The show, dubbed “Rosie Live,” airs Wednesday, Nov. 26, at 8 p.m.

NBC today announced that Kathy Griffin and Jane Krakowski will be guest starring on the show, along with the previously revealed musicals guests Ne-Yo and Alanis Morissette.

—Josef Adalian

Sneak a Peek at ‘The Beast’

November 12, 2008 5:03 PM

Sneak Preview of The Beast

Earlier this year Patrick Swayze revealed he was battling pancreatic cancer. The news brought into question his role on A&E’s series “The Beast.” After he starred in the pilot, the network was glad to keep Mr. Swayze on board for production on the series, which began this past summer in Chicago. Below is a teaser clip for the cable network’s upcoming drama due in January.

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PTC Says ‘Extreme Makeover’ Is Suitable for All, but ‘Family Guy’? Not So Much

November 12, 2008 2:42 PM

The Parents Television Council released its list of the 20 most popular prime-time broadcast TV shows watched by children ages 2-17, according to Nielsen Media Research data.

Family Guy

The programs are ranked from best to worst “based on foul language, sexual content and violence, along with the overall themes of each program,” using a traffic-light ratings system.

The green-light category, which is populated by reality and game shows such as “Deal or No Deal” and “Don’t Forget the Lyrics,” may be most suitable for children, but it’s hardly quality programming, if you ask the Daily Blink.

Here’s the complete list of green-light shows. We’ll give the PTC its top show, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” because it’s the only thing on TV that makes the Daily Blink tear up.

1. “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”
2. “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?”
3. “Don’t Forget the Lyrics”
4. “Deal or No Deal”
5. “NBC Sunday Night Football”
6. “American Idol”

Readers, prepare to step on the gas, because the following yellow-light shows are “questionably suitable.”

Read More »

'Daisies' Staff Not Ready to Say Die

November 11, 2008 9:37 PM

Fear not, "Pushing Daisies" fans: If ABC prematurely pulls the plug on piemaker Ned and his posse of peculiar pals, Bryan Fuller is prepared to resurrect his series from the dead.
medium

UNWILTING 'DAISIES' Executive producer Peter Ocko and creator Bryan Fuller.

"The idea would be to finish out the season's story arcs in comic books" if the on-the-bubble hour isn't picked up, Fuller told a full house at the Paley Center for Media on Tuesday night. He said he hoped his writing staff, most of whom were present for the "Inside the Writers' Room" panel, would be part of the project "to satisfy the fans and ourselves, to finish up the stories we'd love to tell." Warner Bros. Television, which produces the series, is a corporate sibling to DC Comics, which would be the likely publisher, Fuller said. (He also mentioned Wildstorm as a possibility.)

"That would clear the slate for a movie," Fuller added.

"Pushing Daisies" is scheduled to wrap the final episode of its 13-episode order on Thursday, and there's still no word from the network on whether that back-nine order is forthcoming, Fuller said. "It's radio silence," he said. "We ask ABC and they say 'wait and see.'

"We have a great back nine we pitched to the network," he added. "I think they're waiting on a lot of factors," including the ratings, which went up when the show was the lone network entertainment program to air in its regular slot against Barack Obama's half-hour informercial. They gained a million viewers that night, and are hoping to retain at least some of that gain on subsequent episodes.

"If it's our last episode," Fuller said of the one currently shooting, "it's something we can all be proud of."

Although he wouldn't go into great detail, he compared it to the ending of his earlier series, "Wonderfalls." "It sets up a new direction for the series, but it's a satisfying ending," he said, adding, "It's a big game-changer."

Read More »

NBA TV’s Rashad Gets ‘Magic Wall’ Help from CNN’s King

November 10, 2008 11:40 AM

If you were NBA TV host Ahmad Rashad and you were having trouble getting a grip on the network’s “TouchPass” high-tech video screen, who would call for a crash-course study on the technology?

You guessed right. CNN’s chief international correspondent, John “Magic Wall” King, will visit the NBA TV studio for its Fan Night on Nov. 11 to show Mr. Rashad a thing or two on the basics of the wall. The Daily Blink would give a call to Mr. King, too, if we were in the same situation.

Mr. King and Mr. Rashad will be joined by NBA TV analysts Chris Webber and Gary Payton for “NBA GameTime” and the “AutoTrader.com Pregame Show,” with the shows airing at 7 and 8 p.m. ET, respectively.

NBA TV uses its Multi-Touch wall to provide maps for announcers to illustrate matchups and storylines taking place throughout the country. And with the election over, it seems Mr. King has some time on his hands for a tutorial.

If that doesn’t work, Mr. Rashad could always ask the next best thing: “SNL’s” Fred Armisen.

—Christopher Perez

Ask Not for Whom the Bell Tolls on TV

November 9, 2008 8:30 PM

The clock is ticking for a number of high-profile freshman and sophomore series whose fates are up in the air, including ABC drama “Pushing Daisies” and CBS comedy “Worst Week.” “Daisies,” a critical darling that performed nicely last year, has struggled since it returned to ABC this fall after a long strike-induced hiatus. As of Friday afternoon, the network still hadn’t decided whether to order more episodes of the Warner Bros. TV-produced show, but industry insiders aren’t hopeful about its chances—which means “Pushing Daisies” could soon be, well, pushing daisies.

Pushing Daisies

Creator Bryan Fuller seems to already be preparing for life after “Daisies”; he told Entertainment Weekly’s Web site last week that he’s planning to return to his old home on NBC’s “Heroes” if his show isn’t renewed by mid-January. Nobody at CBS’ “Worst Week” is blabbing to the press about future jobs, and it could still be a while before the network has to make any decisions about the well-reviewed comedy’s fate. The network has ordered four extra scripts beyond the show’s original 13-episode order. While CBS brass like “Worst Week,” the show’s ratings have been stubbornly subpar. Decisions might come sooner for a pair of dramas battling each other at 10 p.m. Thursday: CBS’ “Eleventh Hour” and ABC’s “Life on Mars.” Both got off to so-so starts this fall, but both have been showing signs of growth in recent weeks. Another 10 p.m. drama, ABC’s “Dirty Sexy Money,” also is on the bubble. The network obviously is disappointed that the show has been finishing in third place in its Wednesday time slot, despite a strong lead-in from “Private Practice.” ABC soon will have to decide whether it can find another slot for “Dirty” or if it’s time to move on. Meanwhile, over at NBC, network executives soon will have to make a call on struggling soap “Lipstick Jungle.” The network’s decision to move the show to Fridays with no promotion or advance notice caused the show’s already low ratings to plummet on Oct. 31. If “Lipstick’s” Nov. 7 episode tanks as badly, it could be curtains for the show.

—Josef Adalian


CNN’s Own Reality

November 9, 2008 8:30 PM

CNN's Election Night Coverage

CNN Senior VP David Bohrman’s signature fascination with techno-wizardry was one of the hot topics the day after Election Night, when that cable news network scored a record audience. Mr. Borhman conjured up the network’s “hologram” plan, in which live 3-D images of correspondent Jessica Yellin and entertainer will.i.am in Chicago were “beamed” into CNN’s New York studio to be interviewed by Wolf Blitzer or Anderson Cooper. By the end of last week, Mr. Bohrman was a little tired of the “obtuse” argument raised by a Canadian scientist that what CNN showed was not a hologram but a tomogram. (He also was tired of the late-night spoofs.) “Technically, it was a living virtual character,” said Mr. Bohrman, who added that he has an undergraduate degree in physics from Stanford and still had never heard of a tomogram. And if anyone wants to go all purist on him about the journalistic integrity behind taking a correspondent out of actual geographical context for the interview, Mr. Bohrman, who spent part of his earlier 13 years at ABC News as part of the original “Nightline” production team, replies: “Here’s a secret: Ted Koppel was looking at a green wall” when, via the magic of Chyron, the audience at home thought he was looking at his interviewees on a big screen. “I came down on the side that it was valid at ‘Nightline,’ and this is no less valid to pull that [hologram] into the room.” The Washington-based CNN executive said Election Night was “a little test of an idea” that may be well enough understood to be a very interesting tool for TV news producers in the future.

—Michele Greppi

ESPN’s Mayne Sponsor

November 9, 2008 8:30 PM

ESPN has secured an official sponsor for “SportsCenter” anchor Kenny Mayne’s new show, which will appear not on cable but on ESPN.com. The sponsor of “Mayne Street,” ESPN’s first original scripted series, is—drumroll, please—Nyquil. That must mean ESPN doesn’t expect folks will fall asleep while watching the show, at least not without a pharmacological assist. ESPN is making a big push to add broadband video to ESPN.com, the monster site that accounts for 50% of the total minutes spent online for the entire sports category over the past 12 months. The site averages 120 million video views per month, according to data from Nielsen, and video use makes up 31% of the total time surfers spend on ESPN.com. The series, which launches Nov. 11 and is shot in Bristol, Conn., and New York, features a cast consisting of fake network executives and a faux camera crew.

—Jon Lafayette

NBCU Stars Talk DTV

November 9, 2008 8:30 PM

NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution stars Billy Bush, Howie Mandel, Nancy O’Dell, Maury Povich, Jerry Springer and Steve Wilkos are teaming with the National Association of Broadcasters to spread the word about the Feb. 17 transition to digital TV signals. The syndication celebrities all taped public service announcements that are due to be distributed to local broadcast stations throughout the country starting this week. The NAB also kicks off its 100-day countdown to the DTV transition today.

—Tom Gilbert

NFL Card Sharps

November 2, 2008 8:30 PM

Blink can hear it now: “I’ll trade you three Rich Eisens for a Tony Romo.”

NFL

Announcers from NFL Network will be pictured on Donruss trading cards that will be handed out for free at the NFL’s Thanksgiving Day games in Dallas and Philadelphia. The NFL Network faces—Eisen and former NFL players Deion Sanders, Warren Sapp, Rod Woodson, Terrell Davis and Marshall Faulk, plus coach Steve Mariucci—will join Cowboys and Eagle players in the packs. The cards are a promotion for both the network (its schedule is on the back) and the Salvation Army, which is kicking off its Red Kettle fundraiser at the games. The card company expects to hand out more than 120,000 packs of cards at the games.

—Jon Lafayette