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January 2009 Archives

Meet ‘How I Met Your Mother’

January 28, 2009 4:51 PM

“How I Met Your Mother” is the little show that did.

“It took three and a half years, but people are really catching on,” star Jason Segal said at a panel for the show held by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences on Jan. 27.

'MOTHER'S' FAMILY Cobie Smulders, left, Alyson Hannigan, Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Segal, Josh Radnor, co-creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, director/executive producer Pamela Fryman, co-executive producer and unit production manager Suzy Mamann-Greenberg and production designer Steve Olson.

CBS, which kept the cast and crew waiting for a renewal for each of the first three seasons, seems to agree. All five cast members have extended their deals with the show through a possible eighth season.

“Mother” is known for its playful use of time, narrative and POV, drawing comparisons during the panel to a sitcom version of “Pulp Fiction.” Trying to figure out who the mother is, online fans often are sent into a tizzy of clue-descrambling akin to another show that likes to play with time.

“The bloggers are amazing,” said Neil Patrick Harris. “They keep everyone on point and hypothesize. It’s like an episode of ‘Lost.’” Mr. Harris had a gee-whiz moment of his own during the evening.

Hannigan, Harris and Segal

Online speculation has surfaced about upcoming guest star Laura Prepon, who plays Ted’s high school girlfriend Karen. Karen taught Ted everything he knew, Josh Radnor explained, which makes her even more pretentious than college-student Ted.

Not everything is a clue, however. Production designer Steve Olson admitted that a letter hanging both in one-time fiancée Stella’s apartment and behind Ted’s kids in the future is just a coincidence.

The show is beloved for its relatable stories about friendship, love and work. Creators Craig Thomas and Carter Bays Mr. Bays and Mr. Carter said they draw many storylines from the real experiences of the shows’ writers and their friends, including this season’s “The Naked Man” episode and season one’s cockamouse storyline (a personal favorite of the Daily Blink’s).

While Mr. Bays and Mr. Carter were tight-lipped about the ending of “Mother” and the owner of the mysterious yellow umbrella, they did offer up plenty of teases for the rest of the season:

Read More »

Neil Patrick Harris: Gee Whiz

January 28, 2009 7:05 AM

Last night at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' panel for "How I Met Your Mother," Neil Patrick Harris rushed off stage in the middle of the discussion to use the restroom.

He just forgot one thing: His mic was still on.

As the panelists and audience erupted into gasping-for-air laughter, one could hear Mr. Harris tell someone he just had to use the bathroom and what sounded like a door.

Co-star Jason Segal declared it the greatest thing that's ever happened to any of them, while the pregnant Alyson Hannigan complained that she had had to pee since the panel started, but wasn't rushing off.

Mr. Harris eventually returned while a gag reel was playing with a stream of toilet paper sticking out of the back of his pants.

Stay tuned to the Daily Blink for a full recap of the night's festivities.

—Vlada Gelman

Mary (Hearts) Obama

January 25, 2009 8:20 PM

The depth and amount of media coverage of the new First Couple is typically reserved for Hollywood families like the Cruises or the Pitts. The faces of Barack and Michelle Obama have graced hundreds of magazine covers over the past two years, and the pair was even covered showbiz-style by the entertainment newsmagazines.

Mary Heart

“There’s a lot of star power to both of them,” says “Entertainment Tonight” host Mary Hart, who sat down with the Obamas and Joe and Jill Biden in October. To Ms. Hart—who has interviewed White House residents in the past, talking with President George H.W. Bush (“41”) and taking a White House tour with former First Lady Laura Bush—the most striking thing about President Obama is how comfortable he is in his own skin. “There’s an ease under all of the pressure that he has been under,” she said. “You still see a man that is completely at ease with himself and completely relaxed. I don’t know how he manages to do that.” During the campaign, Ms. Hart also was able to talk with both Republican nominees, Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin. “ET’s” coverage of the presidential race bridged entertainment and politics, something Ms. Hart said she hopes will continue in the future. “I loved doing [the political interviews],” she said. “It was a great change of pace, and it was a great look for our show.”

—Andrew Krukowski

Paquin: Not Exactly Bloodthirsty

January 25, 2009 8:19 PM

Blink has heard of low-carb diets, but this borders on the extreme. According to Dan Rebert, a creature and prosthetics make-up artist with MastersFX, which just signed on to do effects for a second season of HBO’s “True Blood,” star Anna Paquin is way conscientious about what she consumes on the set, even in character.

True Blood

“Alan Ball requested of us during the first season that any time Anna Paquin needs to drink ‘blood’ on set, we have to ensure that our special-effects blood is carb-free. So, for the second season of the show, we’re stocking up on carb-free blood—an item that’s not so easily found,” he says. It’s a good thing for Ms. Paquin that these aren’t the good old days of black-and-white productions, when Hershey’s chocolate syrup was the top choice for on-screen blood. The actress could not be reached for comment by deadline.

—Tom Gilbert

The Little Guys Unite

January 25, 2009 8:19 PM

IndiMusic TV, an upstart independent music video program that recently concluded a 15-week Saturday night run on Long Island, N.Y., digital station WLNY, is all about the little guy: It airs videos by aspiring musical artists and then conducts an on-air poll for audience favorite. Think a low-budget, prerecorded “American Idol.” But after having helped little-known acts get more exposure in the New York metropolitan area (WLNY reaches homes in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut), IndiMusic TV creator Chris Pati is looking for more exposure for the show itself and aims to move into national syndication. “In one season, we’ve established a hub for exposing and breaking new musical talent in the No. 1 market in America,” Mr. Pati said. “We’ve done it by creating a lean and mean business model for music on television that taps the only growing sector of the business—the independent sector.” Now that’s gotta be music to somebody’s ears.

—Tom Gilbert

ABC’s Super Bowl Ball

January 25, 2009 8:19 PM

ABC is getting a little, well, ballsy in its attempt to counterprogram NBC’s Super Bowl halftime show. A few weeks ago, the network announced plans to air a special abbreviated edition of its summer hit “Wipeout” opposite Bruce Springsteen’s half-time performance.

Now comes word that ABC will dispatch actors dressed as giant rubber balls onto the streets of two major American cities in order to get the word out about its stunt. Starting this week, residents of Tampa, Fla. (site of the big game), and New York should be on the lookout for street teams featuring a new “Wipeout” mascot ABC has dubbed “Ballsy.” He’ll be accompanied by thespians portraying cheerleaders and couch potatoes. The actors will hand out “Wipeout” T-shirts and rubber balls emblazoned with tune-in information. ABC is dubbing its Sunday special “Wipeout Bowl I: Cheerleaders vs. Couch Potatoes.” The show will start during halftime, then pick up once the Super Bowl wraps.

—Josef Adalian

Playing It Safe

January 25, 2009 8:19 PM

Ahh, the problems posed by movie ads with scenes of violence and deciding where not to run them. After CNN ran a 30-second spot for the movie “The International” once during its presidential inaugural coverage at about 1:45 p.m. on Jan. 20, the news network yanked plans for subsequent airings.

The International

Why? Because pictured in the ad, though well in the background, is the shooting of a man standing behind a podium. “We believe our viewers clearly recognize this was a promotional trailer for an upcoming feature film,” said a CNN spokesman. “However, due to the brief but potentially conflicting visual included in the spot, a decision was made to pull two additional airings of the 30-second trailer scheduled for later in the night in deference to our Inauguration Day programming.”

—Ira Teinowitz

Fly Away With ‘Lost’

January 21, 2009 2:07 PM

Gone are the days when the realm of a TV show existed only within that hour.

Now there are clue-ridden Web sites, viral videos and graphic novels. No show has a wider web of ancillary products than ABC’s “Lost,” which sends devoted fans into a frenzy of careful dissection and theory with each new subliminal image flashed in a video.

The Ajira Airways Web site gives Losties plenty more to dissect.

The site says, “Destiny Calls,” but when the Daily Blink tried to book a flight to destiny, it was told that all flights are booked. Guess destiny will have to wait since the Daily Blink got in too late on that fly-anywhere-for-$87 deal (is this a flat-rate airline?).

But if you book a flight using specific information, you will get a first look at some new characters and a new Dharma station. So what does it all mean? You tell us.

—Vlada Gelman

Charlie, Meet ‘Chuck’

January 19, 2009 1:44 PM

“Chuck” returns Feb. 2 with a 3-D episode featuring Dominic Monaghan playing a character not unlike his “Lost” alter ego Charlie.

Mr. Monaghan’s Tyler Martin is like Charlie before he got stranded on the island—a hard-partying rocker who mistakes Chuck’s apartment complex fountain for a toilet (“That ceiling looks just like the night sky,” he says.) and forgets to zip up his fly. Thank goodness this 3-D episode isn’t airing on HBO or Showtime.

Tyler’s also something of a Willy Wonka. He comes to Buy More to pimp his newest CD, some of which contain a golden ticket to get backstage at his benefit concert.

Check out some scenes from the episode below.

—Vlada Gelman

Bright Future Seen for USA; NBC, Not So Much

January 18, 2009 8:40 PM

Cable U, the cable programming research company, predicts 2009 will be a big year for USA Network and that sitcoms could trump reality as the ruling genre during the year. Gazing into its cable crystal ball, Cable U said USA’s current momentum could lead the cable network to overtake NBC in the ratings at least one night this year, as the Peacock looks to attract a smaller and older audience at 10 p.m. with “The Jay Leno Show.” The series finale of USA’s “Monk” might be the show that does it, Cable U suggested. Also, as the economy sours, viewers will be turning to comedy for escape, meaning a shift away from reality and back to the early ’90s heyday of sitcoms, Cable U predicted. “We are on record—reality has jumped the shark,” Cable U said. “We all need a good laugh, proven by the success of comedies such as ‘Family Guy,’ ‘SNL,’ ‘30 Rock’ and ‘House of Payne.’” Other Cable U predictions include a successful start for A&E’s “The Beast”; CMT will find a way to capitalize on the success of county-pop singer-songwriter Taylor Swift; Discovery Health could continue even after falling by the wayside due to the arrival of OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network (possibly by replacing Planet Green); and Sci Fi will continue to grow. Cable U said Sci Fi’s “Ghost Hunters” could be the jewel in the network’s crown, with spinoff “Ghost Hunters: New Generation” and another yet-to-be-named show from “Hunters’” producers being for ’09. “Ambitious programming development with a mind toward new reality series in the ‘Ghost Hunters’ franchise and beyond will draw in new audiences in male and female demographics.”

—Andrew Krukowski

The Truth About Nonfiction

January 18, 2009 8:40 PM

In case you missed the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ Jan. 8 “What Is Nonfiction?” panel in North Hollywood, it’s now being streamed on the ATAS Web site, www.emmys.tv. Panelists for “What Is Nonfiction?” included what ATAS governor Daniel H. Birman, who produced the panel, dubbed the “rock stars of nonfiction”: HBO Documentary and Family President Sheila Nevins, TLC President and General Manager Eileen O’Neill, National Geographic Channel Executive VP of Content Steve Burns; History Executive VP and General Manager Nancy Dubuc; “American Masters” executive producer Susan Lacy; and “American Experience” executive producer Mark Samels. Surprisingly, the event drew a packed house, even though it wasn’t that long ago that nobody in Hollywood gave a hoot about nonfiction programming. “But things changed a little bit,” Mr. Birman said. “This poor stepchild of drama now probably employs half of this town … [making] us the new 800-pound gorilla.”

—Tom Gilbert

Catching Up With GAC

January 18, 2009 8:40 PM

Back in November, after Scripps Networks Interactive reported that its country music network GAC had racked up its second straight quarter of declining revenue, Scripps Networks President John Lansing said the channel was rebounding and that he expected “the network’s biggest quarter ever in Q4 in terms of revenue.” Well, the fourth quarter’s over; how’d GAC do? A Scripps spokeswoman said the company can’t talk financial figures because it’s in a quiet period until it announces earnings next month. But things don’t look so promising given GAC’s ratings: Across its programming day, the network’s total viewership is down 2%, and in the demos advertisers look at, it’s off 10% among adults 25 to 54, down 28% in adults 18-49 and 40% lower among adults 18-34. Nevertheless, Mr. Lansing remained upbeat. “GAC’s viewership has been a bit uneven, due to some competitive factors,” he said. “We did see some positive signs in the fourth quarter, and we’re producing some outstanding original shows, like the ‘Top 50’ hosted by Taylor Swift, which are highly appealing to the country music fan.”

—Jon Lafayette

Regis Stops the Show

January 18, 2009 8:40 PM

Blink has always heard what a nice guy Regis Philbin is, and director Steve Petersen tells us it’s really true—he saw it first-hand. Mr. Petersen’s production company, Big Machine Design, was taping a new opening sequence for “Live With Regis and Kelly” on location in Times Square recently when a dicey-looking stranger wandered over and accosted Mr. Philbin during the shoot. The star proceeded to conduct a “very polite and patient” conversation with the intruder—and in the course of doing so held up production for a full 10 minutes.

“We were in the middle of a tricky shot when this obviously homeless woman came up to Regis and simply started talking with him, like he was her best friend,” Mr. Petersen said. “Rather than being rude to her and brushing her off, he gave her a few minutes of attention while our crew simply waited.”

At a time like that, 10 minutes can seem like an eternity—not only to the others standing around on the set, but to Mr. Philbin himself, no doubt. Just goes to show, anything for a fan, that Reege. Oh yeah, the new opening debuted earlier this month.

—Tom Gilbert

‘Skins’ Trailer Showcases Fresh Faces

January 13, 2009 2:34 PM

“Skins” is not your average American teen show.

The British teen drama, airing in the U.S. on BBC America, features enough sex, nudity, drugs, drinking and foul language to make even Gossip Girl blush.

It’s also doing what few American teen shows have the guts to do: Cutting almost its entire cast. After following the same group of kids on the verge of university for two years, the series is starting fresh with a new crop of characters for its third season.

But there will be one familiar face: Effy, the sister of the character played by Nicholas Hoult (the kid from “About a Boy” grew up good) during the first two seasons.

Check out the trailer below. Brownie points to those who know what the term “skins” refers to. Hint: It’s not human skin.

—Vlada Gelman

‘Idol’ Sharpening Its Appeal to Young Women?

January 11, 2009 8:22 PM

“American Idol’s” addition of fourth judge Kara DioGuardi marks one of the biggest changes to date for the competition reality series, debuting its eighth season Tuesday and Wednesday at 8 p.m. on Fox.

Kara DioGuardi

Although touted as a move to invigorate the series and comply with the show’s original plan to have four judges, “Idol’s” ratings decline among young adult women suggests there could an additional motivating factor behind the hire. It has already been documented that “Idol’s” ratings for season seven were down from the year before. Among adults 18 to 49, Tuesday ratings for the season were down 6% and Wednesdays were down 12%. Total viewership was down 4% on Tuesdays and off 9% on Wednesdays for the season. However, the biggest declines for last season occurred in women 18 to 34, with ratings for that demo down 16% on Tuesdays and a sharp 20% on Wednesdays. After the announcement late last summer that Ms. DioGuardi would be joining current judges Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson, Fox President of Alternative Programming Mike Darnell said Ms. Abdul has served as “an island of consideration and gentle criticism between Randy and Simon” and that the two female judges together will lend some “girl power” to the show. Will Ms. DioGuardi help give the show, and its ratings, a boost of estrogen? Tell Blink what you think at TVWeek.com.

—Sergio Ibarra

A New Life for ‘Wonderland’

January 11, 2009 8:21 PM

DirecTV soon may have to change the name of The 101 to PeterBergTV.

Wonderland

Last fall, the satellite service generated decent buzz—and endless amounts of goodwill among TV fans—when it aired the third season of Mr. Berg’s “Friday Night Lights.” Now The 101 is making room for another one of Mr. Berg’s creations. Starting Jan. 14 at 10 p.m., it will begin airing weekly episodes of “Wonderland,” the edgy, somewhat controversial medical drama that aired just twice in 2000 before ABC pulled the plug. In addition to the two previously broadcast hours, The 101 will air six episodes of the series that have never been shown anywhere. “I was just visiting with [DirecTV executive] Eric Shanks and we were talking about how great things were going with ‘Friday Night Lights,’” Mr. Berg told Blink last week from New York. “We were talking and it just occurred to me that there were these eight episodes of what I think is some of my best work sitting on a shelf, so I just pitched him the idea.” Mr. Berg sent Mr. Shanks copies of the “Wonderland” episodes, and got a quick “yes” in response. Of course, DirecTV had to do some negotiating with ABC Studios, which owns the rights to “Wonderland,” but Mr. Berg said the studio was “very classy” in terms of making a deal financially feasible for DirecTV. DirecTV’s deal could pave the way for a DVD release of the show. What’s more, Mr. Berg said he can actually see some scenarios in which “Wonderland”—which featured cameos by Samuel L. Jackson and Jeremy Piven—might be revived with original episodes. “Just a few months ago, I would have said these episodes airing on DirecTV was an impossibility,” he said. “What’s so interesting about the TV business today is that we’re seeing a revolution in distribution. Anything can happen.”

—Josef Adalian

The Password Is … Julie?

January 11, 2009 8:20 PM

“The Early Show” anchor Julie Chen impressed Blink a few weeks ago with her wordplay skills when she appeared on CBS’ “Million Dollar Password.”

Million Dollar Password

Ms. Chen proved particularly adept at both giving and receiving clues. Turns out Ms. Chen has taken quite a liking to the game. In fact, CBS chief Leslie Moonves—aka Julie’s husband—tells Blink that he and Ms. Chen have begun playing the home version of “Password” on a regular basis. “She loves it,” Mr. Moonves said between meetings at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week. “It’ll be getting late at night and she’ll say, ‘C’mon, let’s play one more round.’” Now if only Parker Bros. made a home edition of “Big Brother.”

—Josef Adalian

Big Names Make Scene at G4's CES Bash

January 8, 2009 7:14 PM

G4's annual Best of CES party attracted some serious Hollywood and tech power players Thursday night.

It's not surprising that Comcast chief Brian Roberts would be in the audience: His company owns G4.

But more than a few heads turned when movie and TV megaproducer Jerry Bruckheimer walked into the Wynn ballroom where the event was taking place. Bruckheimer immediately struck up a conversation with Mr. Roberts and another power player: Google's Eric Schmidt.

When the formal presentation began, the trio sat together at a table near the front, along with Comcast Entertainment boss Ted Harbert and Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer. The gang of five then watched various G4 talent show off some of the hottest products at CES, while snacking on miniburgers and fries.

Hey, even titans of industry have to eat.

—Josef Adalian

‘24’ Gaps Land Hulu in Hot Water With Fans

January 6, 2009 11:12 AM

Normally a fan-friendly site, Hulu ran into some angry “24” viewers over the holiday break who weren’t able to catch up on their favorite show on the online television site before season seven kicks off Sunday, Jan. 11. The show’s been off the air for more than a year due to last year’s Writers Guild of America strike.

Hulu

On the “24” page on Hulu, the site says it adds three episodes of season one of Fox’s “24” each Wednesday, with five episodes available at a time. In addition, the site has been offering “five rolling episodes” of season six to build excitement for the new season launch this weekend.

But fans on the site’s forums reported that new episodes hadn’t been added for a few weeks.

In addition, a number of episodes in the middle of the season-one timeline were not posted, leaving gaps in the show’s hourly order, to the dismay of viewers.

Fans also noted problems with the season-six episodes on the site. Hulu acknowledged the season-six problems on the forums, citing an incorrect expiration date. “Looks like someone mixed up 2008 and with 2009,” a Hulu employee wrote in the forums. “Since this happened over the holidays, we missed it. We're processing the videos right now and will post ASAP. They will still adhere to the usual schedule,” the employee wrote.

Hulu has said it continually aims to obtain as many episodes from each show it carries as possible.

“24” is produced by 20th Century Fox TV, which shares with Hulu its parent company, News Corp.

—Daisy Whitney

Why Pay For the Cow?

January 4, 2009 8:32 PM

Even if Time Warner Cable and Viacom patch up their little dispute over carriage fees for “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” the Internet may wind up the victor in the latest cable operator/cable programmer dispute.

Alert

Viacom wants a rate increase and Time Warner is refusing, especially since most of Viacom’s shows are available free online anyway. In fact, Time Warner has no problem telling its customers where to find Viacom’s programs if they’re pulled from the cable system.

“We will be telling our customers exactly where they can go to see these programs online,” Time Warner spokesman Alex Dudley told the New York Times. “We’ll also be telling them how they can hook up their PCs to a television set.”

In a countermove Dec. 31, Viacom outfitted its affected Web sites with an alert warning visitors that shows would be pulled from their online berths as well if the dispute wasn’t settled. Even so, might this latest high-stakes poker game breathe fresh interest into defecting from cable programming to the broadband-powered video lifestyle? Be careful, Time Warner: You could be biting the hand that feeds you.

—Daisy Whitney

Pepsi, Beckham Part Ways After a Decade

January 4, 2009 8:30 PM

After 10 years, Pepsi won’t be bending it with David Beckham anymore.

Beckham

The soft drink behemoth and the celebrity soccer star agreed to part ways last week, a decision both sides described in statements as mutual. But Pepsi’s decision to walk away from Mr. Beckham, coming as it does on the heels of his disappointing, injury-riddled second season with Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy, raises questions over whether Mr. Beckham’s marketability is fading along with his footwork. After all, shortly after he signed the much-ballyhooed deal with MLS in 2007, Mr. Beckham split with one of his largest sponsors, Gillette. Reports on the cause of that split differed: Some said Mr. Beckham wanted more control over his image than Gillette would allow. Others said the move to the U.S., where soccer is a minor sport, made Mr. Beckham less useful to Gillette because it lowered his profile in Europe and Asia, where the brand used him most. Mr. Beckham’s split with Pepsi also comes after reports during the summer that he was weighing launching his own line of bottled waters.

In a statement, Mr. Beckham said, “I have nothing but good memories of my 10-year association with Pepsi. Along the journey, I’ve played a gladiator, a cowboy and a surfer, and worked alongside Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez as well as some of the biggest names in world football. I hope everyone who has seen the work Pepsi and I have done together enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed making it and, who knows, there may yet be another chapter in this long relationship.” Pepsi said, “We wish David well with the many projects he is pursuing and look forward to the possibility of partnering together with him again someday.”

—Jeremy Mullman and Natalie Zmuda, Advertising Age

The Right Spots

January 4, 2009 8:28 PM

The initial game the MLB Network was to show after its scheduled launch on New Year’s Day was the first complete re-broadcast of New York Yankee Don Larsen’s 1956 perfect game—the only perfect game ever pitched during the World Series. The game was to be shown with the original commercials intact, which required a bit of fancy base-running on the part of the network’s legal department getting clearances from the companies whose spots appeared. Fortunately, the biggest sponsor of the 1956 game was Gillette, whose ads at the time featured Brooklyn Dodgers catcher Roy Campanella. The fact that Gillette is an official sponsor of Major League Baseball and retains close ties to the game made getting approvals much cleaner and smoother, an MLB spokesman said.

—Jon Lafayette