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.



‘Funniest’ Donation

April 12, 2009 8:00 PM

Of all of the television series to be enshrined in the Smithsonian Institution, “America’s Funniest Home Videos” would seem one of the least likely candidates.

Tom Bergeron at the Smithsonian

But last week, series creator and executive producer Vin Di Bona and host Tom Bergeron, right, made the trek to Washington, D.C., to present the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History with items from the long-running ABC series, including the camcorder used to tape the first winning video in November 1989; an annotated script; an audience voting machine; a presentation reel that promoted the show’s pilot to the network; Mr. Di Bona’s personal script book; a framed ticket to the show’s first taping; and a press kit, including a September 1989 People magazine featuring an ad announcing the show and soliciting home videos. Blink thinks the items might better have been donated to the U.S. Mint, since the inexpensive-to-produce show has been doing nothing but printing money for the last 20 years.

—Tom Gilbert

'Sunny' Panelists Sing, Talk Syndication

April 12, 2009 7:33 AM

Paley Fest 2009’s “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” panel made for a raunchy Good Friday as the cast talked all about the controversial show, including its musical sensibilities, “Sunny” in syndication and Danny DeVito’s new claim to fame: pooping the bed.

Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia Panel at Paley Fest 2009

Mr. DeVito, along with cast members Charlie Day, Kaitlin Olson, Glenn Howerton and Rob McElhenney, discussed the show’s appeal, which has been compared to “Seinfeld,” if Jerry and the gang worked the street for three weeks.

Mr. DeVito, who joined the cast in season two, said people used to shout at him on the street the names of his past characters, including Louie De Palma from “Taxi” and Vincent Benedict from “Twins.”

Now, he said, people refer to a recent episode of “Sunny” where he was found as the culprit of the gripping mystery of who defecated in the bed.

“People shout, ‘turd in the bed,’ ‘turd in the bed,’” he said.

Read More »

‘Southland,’ ‘Parks’ Ratings Prompt Optimism for NBC’s Silverman

April 10, 2009 4:23 PM

So why was Thursday a night that was different from all others?

Ben Silverman

Well, in addition to being the second night of Passover, two new shows premiered on NBC Thursday. And unlike most of the network's recent efforts (and, quite frankly, virtually all of this year's midseason class), both "Parks and Recreation" and "Southland" bowed to decent ratings.

The numbers were good enough to prompt Ben Silverman, co-chairman, NBC Entertainment and NBC Universal Television Studio, to get on the phone and declare ... well, not exactly victory.

"We're very excited about the promise of these shows," he said. "They're both super good. They're totally on brand. ...And (with “Southland,” which saw a ratings bump at the half-hour mark) it was nice to see people calling up each other and saying, 'You gotta see this show.’"

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Day’s Tweet Sets Off Flurry of ‘Dollhouse’ Speculation

April 9, 2009 2:03 PM

Twitter sparked the Joss Whedon fan base into a furor Thursday as actress Felicia Day mentioned, via the text messaging service, that episode 13 of “Dollhouse” was being scrapped by Fox.


“Man, day getting worse and worse. Found out my Dollhouse ep. #13 isn’t gonna air. Only on DVD. Such a great part too. Thx Fox. :(,” she said via Twitter.

The season finale, “Omega,” was announced by Fox Wednesday as the first season finale of the in-limbo show, scheduled to air May 8.

According to Fox, “Dollhouse’s” season order stands at 13, with “Omega” always set to be the season finale. Counting “Omega,” Fox will have aired only 12 episodes of “Dollhouse.”

But technically, there are 14 episodes of “Dollhouse” banked.

Read More »

‘Arrested’ Folk Join ‘SNL’ Talent to Voice ‘Sit Down Shut Up’

April 9, 2009 1:07 PM

“Sit Down Shut Up” is bringing back some “Arrested Development” flair to Fox Sundays, as the animated comedy reunites creator Mitch Hurwitz with cast members Will Arnett, Jason Bateman and Henry Winkler.

Set in a high school, the animated series follows the day-to-day dealings of a group of teachers stumbling and fumbling through their day. Among them are a suicidal German teacher (played by Mr. Winkler) and the perpetually happy vice principal Stuart Prozackian, played by “Saturday Night Live’s” Will Forte.

Mr. Forte isn’t the only “SNL” link, as Kenan Thompson and Cheri Oteri also lend their voices to the project.

Click the play button below to see some clips from the show. “Sit Down, Shut Up” premieres April 19 at 8:30 p.m. on Fox.

—Andrew Krukowski

Conan’s Tuning Up for ‘Tonight Show’

April 7, 2009 11:05 AM

Conan O’Brien is getting ready to start hosting “The Tonight Show” June 1, mainly by shouting at tourists.

Mr. O’Brien was shooting remote bits at Universal Studios Monday, armed with a bullhorn and a golf cart shaped like his desk.

He welcomed studio tour trams as they roamed around the backlots at Universal. Here’s a shot of Conan saying hello to Los Angeles:


It appears that Conan has more resources to play around with during his “Tonight” stint. Here was his last drive around Los Angeles on “Late Night”:

NBC Rolls Out Online ‘Southland’ Preview

April 2, 2009 12:51 PM

Looking like a cross between “Training Day” and “Law & Order,” NBC’s “Southland,” premiering next Thursday, follows a rookie cop learning the ropes as a Los Angeles police officer.

In this clip, Ben Sherman (played by Ben McKenzie) comes across a decomposing body at a crime scene; he reacts accordingly, reeling outside to retch. Of course, his hardened cop co-workers also react accordingly, mocking him for it.

Click play to watch the clip.

“Southland” is assuming the timeslot “ER” has held for 15 seasons, as the cornerstone medical series takes its final bow tonight.

If you like what you see in the clip, Hulu has the complete first episode of “Southland” up for viewing here.

—Andrew Krukowski

Take Me Out to the Ball Game, Food Network!

March 31, 2009 3:21 PM

Have you ever wished you could taste some of the delicacies cooked up on the Food Network? Well, head on over to the new Yankee Stadium.

The Food Network will make its food stand debut on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium on April 16.

In a multiyear partnership, Food Network and Legends Hospitality will provide the first Food Network food stands, located behind home plate in the Delta Sky 360 Suite and the Jim Beam Terrace Lounge. The stands will serve “quality takes on classics like burgers, hot dogs and fries, as well as dishes such as Puerto Rican-style pork sandwiches, Chinese cold noodles and soft tacos, incorporating the ethnic cuisines of New York City, Food Network’s hometown,” according to a statement from the Scripps Networks Interactive-owned cable network.

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Clearing Things Up at ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’

March 29, 2009 8:00 PM

Another one of the late-night warriors is going high-def. “Jimmy Kimmel Live” will begin broadcasting in HD on Tuesday, April 14, Blink has learned.

Jimmy Kimmel

It joins all of NBC’s late-night shows, as well as CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman,” in making the transition to digital broadcasting. “Kimmel’s” lead-in, the ABC News-produced “Nightline,” jumped to HD last year. ABC’s move leaves CBS’ “Late, Late Show With Craig Ferguson” as the only network late-night show that has not announced plans to switch to high definition. Given the competitive late-night landscape, as well as TV’s overall trend toward embracing HD, Mr. Ferguson likely will be making the transition eventually. Most of ABC’s primetime broadcasts are now in HD, as are news shows such as “Good Morning, America” and “20/20” and the daytime talk show “The View.”

—Josef Adalian

Well-Done Herzog

March 29, 2009 8:00 PM

He’s not exactly Larry the Cable Guy, who was roasted on Comedy Central last month, but former Comedy Central boss Doug Herzog will be feeling a bit of heat on April 23.

Doug Herzog

Mr. Herzog, now president of MTV Networks Entertainment Group, is being honored by the UJA Federation of New York’s Entertainment, Media and Communications Division at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in Times Square. Unfortunately for Mr. Herzog, comedian Joan Rivers, “Daily Show” correspondent John Oliver and Jon Stewart himself will be taking part in the ceremony. “Let’s face it, I look forward to the UJA making me look great while Joan Rivers, John Oliver and Jon Stewart make me look the exact opposite of great,” Mr. Herzog said. If he’s really nervous, he can always call CNBC’s Jim Cramer for pointers on what not to do.

—Jon Lafayette

‘ER’: Changing Times

March 29, 2009 8:00 PM

Much has changed in the world of TV—and the world in general—since “ER” premiered 15 years ago. A Democrat (Bill Clinton) was in the White House when “ER” bowed, just like now. But unemployment was much lower: Just 6.1%. “ER” also didn’t have to worry about competing with the World Series: The Fall Classic was canceled due to the players strike. The small-screen landscape, of course, was radically different back when County General first opened its doors. For example, none of the executives running the Big Four networks at the time still holds a similar position—not surprising, given that the average network president seems to last about three or four years before getting sacked. It was a pretty good year for TV overall, however. In addition to “ER,” 1994 brought the premieres of “Friends,” “Party of Five,” “Touched By an Angel,” “Due South” and “Ellen,” all of which had long runs. “My So-Called Life” and “The Critic” weren’t so lucky. On the big screen, “Forrest Gump” and “The Lion King” were burning up the box office. Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger weren’t quite as successful (on-air or off) with “The Getaway.” And while Arnold Schwarzengger has spent “ER’s” final season trying to save Cawl-ee-for-nya from fiscal crisis, he spent the show’s first year hyping his new movie “Junior.” The year of “ER’s” birth also marked the arrival of another showbiz treasure: Precocious actress Dakota Fanning, who was born Feb. 23, 1994. Just six years later, she was starring in an episode of “ER.”

—Josef Adalian

Blazing Concerts

March 29, 2009 8:00 PM

The live DirecTV music shows produced in HD by Shout Factory’s Blaze Television unit at the recent South by Southwest Festival are being edited into 16 stand-alone one-hour concerts to be distributed worldwide through North Star Media. Musical acts featured in the shows include the Airborne Toxic Event, Ben Harper and Relentless7, Carlene Carter, Echo and the Bunnymen, Third Eye Blind, Forever the Sickest Kids, Juliette Lewis and the New Romantiques, Lenka, the Proclaimers, Solange Presents Sol-Angel & the Hadley Street Dreams, Tinted Windows, the Von Bondies, Shiny Toy Guns, Ed Harcourt, The Oak Ridge Boys, Late of the Pier and Shwayze. The stand-alone shows will be transmitted in the U.S. as part of the DirecTV Concert Series on the 101 Network.

—Tom Gilbert

Over the Hill

March 29, 2009 8:00 PM

Burbank sure as heck ain’t Hollywood. That’s what Web show writer-producer-actor Hayden Black explores in his return to the computer screen this week with a spinoff of “Goodnight Burbank,” one of the first breakout Web series and the one that made Mr. Black a bona fide Internet star.

Goodnight Burbank

The new show, “Goodnight Burbank: Hollywood Report,” debuted on Babelgum.com last week with the same cast and same fictional TV station—Channel 6 in Burbank—but this time the reporters are working on a daytime entertainment show. The problem is the fictional newsroom just doesn’t have access to the same stars as it would were it in Hollywood. When the news troupe lands an interview with Oprah Winfrey, for instance, it winds up with her best friend Gayle King’s personal assistant instead, Mr. Black explained. Each of the 20 episodes in the new season will run about five minutes, with a new episode each week. The digital show is one of the flagship properties of the United Kingdom-based Babelgum’s launch into the United States market. The challenge will be growing an audience with a site that has little U.S. traction. But “Goodnight Burbank,” which debuted three years ago, has amassed 10 million total views, Mr. Black said. The goal is to lure back the faithful fans to the spinoff.

—Daisy Whitney

'Lost' Writers Provide Glimpse of Island Life

March 27, 2009 5:01 PM

“Lost” executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, co-executive producers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis and supervising producer Elizabeth Sarnoff sat down March 26 at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills to talk about the craft of writing the winding, twist-filled ABC sci-fi mystery.


At least it started that way. The “Lost” gang quickly diverged onto different topics, discussing how video games influenced season three, how giving fans what they want tends to not impress and how John Locke is Mr. Lindelof’s “cherry.”

Here’s what we learned at the panel, presented by the Writers Guild Foundation:

—Mr. Cuse said video games nearly ruined season three of the show as the writers consistently played them while they should have been breaking stories. So much so, in fact, that the Dharma Initiative’s submarine, the Galaga, is named after the Namco video game.

—Mr. Lindelof compared switching focus of characters from episode to episode in the earlier seasons to eating a pack of Starburst. If cherry is your favorite flavor, you’ll eat a few different flavors to get to another cherry, he said. “My cherry is Locke,” he said.

Read More »

‘South Park’ Weighs in on Economy

March 23, 2009 12:16 PM

Joining the pack of shows with characters dealing with a financial crunch this season, including “Ugly Betty” and “Desperate Housewives,” “South Park” enters the fray with an episode entitled “Margaritaville” this Wednesday.

According to the brief press release, “Randy steps forward with a solution to fix the desperate financial state everyone finds themselves in. The town gets behind him and everyone starts to live a life that no longer depends on any economy at all. Meanwhile, an unlikely savior makes the ultimate sacrifice to solve everyone’s problems.”

While “Betty’s” and “Housewives’” story arcs may have seemed a little shoehorned in to fit with the current times, “Park” has no scruples about taking current events head-on immediately.

This is the same show that weighed in on the 9/11 attacks, the WGA strike, the Elian Gonzalez saga and the 2000 Florida recount debacle weeks, and sometimes a few days, after the events happened.

In the case of the Florida election, which began on Nov. 7, 2000, the “Park” episode that touched on it, “Trapper Keeper,” aired Nov. 15.

For Elian Gonzales, his federally ordered seizure from his home, which occurred on April 22, 2000, was lampooned on the show in an episode entitled “Quintuplets 2000” on April 26, 2000.

Check out a clip from this week’s show:

Familiar Faces Fill ‘Unusuals’ Sneak Peek

March 20, 2009 12:37 PM

In ABC’s ongoing quest to find a procedural hit with quirk, the network is launching “The Unusuals” on April 8.

The show stars some familiar TV faces—Amber Tamblyn (“Joan of Arcadia”), Harold Perrineau (“Lost”), Adam Goldberg (“Friends,” “Entourage”)—as, you guessed it, unusual New York City police detectives.

In this show, the crimes are as odd as the folks investigating them. In the clip below, a naked guy runs through the street, his flabby, hairy body on full display, until he meets his untimely end.

“Poor naked, dead guy. No one should have to go out like that,” Ms. Tamblyn’s character says.

No one should have to see that, the Daily Blink says.

—Vlada Gelman

Milestone for ‘Smackdown’

March 15, 2009 8:00 PM

For the 500th time, heads will be locked and legs will be dropped as “Friday Night Smackdown” celebrates an episode-count milestone on Friday, March 20.

“Smackdown” has grappled on several networks since its launch in 1999, first on UPN, then The CW and now, in its ninth season, on MyNetworkTV.

While other scripted programs have hit the 500-episode mark (“WWE Raw” is nearing 825 episodes), according to the WWE, “Smackdown” has reached it faster than any other episodic show on broadcast TV.

“It’s an amazing story and an amazing accomplishment, and we’re thrilled to be a part of it,” Paul Franklin, MyNet executive VP, said.

The show has set records on MyNet, landing a 2.3 household rating on Feb. 23—the network’s highest ever—and nearly 4 million viewers. Compared with MyNet’s Friday night ratings performance last year, “Smackdown” is up 200% in the 18- to 49-year-old demographic.

“There’s no end in sight for this thing. This show is going to go on long beyond our lives,” Mr. Franklin said.

Despite the new programming model for MyNet next year, Mr. Franklin said viewers will see zero change in “Smackdown,” as it will continue to remain anchored on Friday nights.

He said the 10th anniversary of “Smackdown” will more than likely kick off MyNet’s 2009-10 season.

—Andrew Krukowski

Showing the Love to Lorre

March 12, 2009 4:12 PM

Chuck Lorre Receives a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Red Carpet Peter Roth, Warner Bros. Television president, left, and Bruce Rosenblum, Warner Bros. Television Group president, right, celebrate Chuck Lorre, creator/executive producer of "Two and a Half Men" and "The Big Bang Theory," at his Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony.

Generally a man behind the scenes, Chuck Lorre, co-creator and executive producer of “Two and a Half Men” and “The Big Bang Theory,” was front and center as he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Thursday.

Chuck Lorre

“Men” stars Jon Cryer and Charlie Sheen spoke at length about Mr. Lorre and how he’s helped their careers. Other “Bang” and “Men” cast and crew were on hand to congratulate Mr. Lorre, including Johnny Galecki and Conchata Ferrell.

Mr. Sheen, who has a star just a few feet away from Mr. Lorre’s, said he would trade the film canister logo on his star for a television, based on the fun and success he has seen while working on “Men.”

“It’s a lot to take in,” Mr. Lorre said. “I imagined someday my name would be on the ground, but I’d be under it.”

As TVWeek reported last week, Mr. Lorre said he is enthusiastic over possible multi-year renewals for “Men” and “Big Bang."

As for the future, Mr. Lorre said two successful shows on the air are enough for him.

—Andrew Krukowski

Updated fifth graf at 11:43 p.m.

Sneak a Peek as ‘Mars’ Stars ‘Party Down’ on Starz

March 12, 2009 12:59 PM

Rob Thomas’ new comedy series “Party Down,” premiering next Friday on Starz, is filled with a plethora of former cast members and producers from his canceled UPN/CW show “Veronica Mars.”

In the pilot alone, “Mars’” Dick Casablancas, aka actor Ryan Hansen, auditions for a Ryan Atwood-like role in “The Palisades” pilot, while “Veronica’s” pops Enrico Colantoni guest stars as an unhappy suburbanite.

But until Ms. Mars herself, Kristen Bell, makes an appearance in the season finale, the holy grail of “Veronica Mars” guest stars converges in episode 2. The episode features Jason Dohring (also of “Moonlight”) as the vice president of a conservative, young leaders of tomorrow-type group, which is awaiting the Governator’s visit.

And his girlfriend? Played by none other than Alona Tal, his best buddy’s one-time girlfriend on “Veronica Mars.”

In the episode, Mr. Dohring sips an underage-friendly Freedomtini and sports a hairdo that would make Donald Trump proud. He also gives advice to a bartender played by Adam Scott, a one-time “Mars” teacher accused of inappropriate student-teacher relations by guest star Leighton Meester.

Check out some exclusive clips of Mr. Dohring and Ms. Tal below:

—Vlada Gelman

NBC, Celebs Ask: ‘Have You Tried Conan O’Brien?’

March 12, 2009 11:58 AM

The selling of Conan O’Brien continues.

NBC kicked off its marketing campaign for “The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien” back in February, with a high-profile spot featuring celebrities of different sorts endorsing Mr. O’Brien as if he were a product.

“If your Conan lasts more than three hours, call a doctor,” Tina Fey said in the Super Bowl spot, which also included appearances by Martha Stewart, Paul Rudd and Megan Mullally.

Now NBC has begun the next phase of the campaign, rolling out individual celebrity endorsements of Mr. O’Brien. The theme—“Have You Tried Conan O’Brien?”—remains the same, but there’s now a direct pitch noting Mr. O’Brien is “coming to ‘The Tonight Show’” on June 1.

Some of the individual spots are reprisals of the Super Bowl endorsements. But some new names will pop up in the 20-second spots as well, including Nathan Lane, Ice-T and Steve Carell.

Here’s a first look at three of the new ads in NBC’s campaign for Mr. O’Brien:

—Josef Adalian

Jay Leno to Do Free Show for Detroit’s Unemployed

March 10, 2009 1:20 PM

Jay Leno is offering unemployed residents of Detroit a chance to laugh away their troubles—for free.

The outgoing host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show” announced Monday that he has agreed to perform a free standup gig at Detroit’s Palace of Auburn Hills. The Detroit Pistons have donated the use of their arena, while Pepsi has agreed to underwrite the cost of staging the event.

“I’m watching our president and he’s saying what we should do to help. We got this bad economy thing and well, I tell jokes … so how can I help out?” Mr. Leno said during Monday’s broadcast. “So I was thinking, an awful lot of people unemployed, out of work, don’t have any entertainment dollars. … Well, one of my favorite places is Detroit, and there are so many out-of-work autoworkers. People work hard their whole lives, they’re saving their money, and so I thought, why don’t I go to Detroit and do (my comedy) show?”

Mr. Leno has even arranged to have parking fees at the Palace waived for the night of his show. Tickets will be handed out (four per person) at the Palace starting March 16. Photo ID will be required, though not proof of unemployment.

Despite his busy “Tonight Show” schedule, Mr. Leno has never given up his first gig as a standup. He regularly plays dates across the country, including Las Vegas.

—Josef Adalian

Multiple Headaches for Octomom in Syndication

March 8, 2009 8:45 PM

The denizens of the syndicated programming world are no strangers to the avalanche of media coverage surrounding “octomom” Nadya Suleman, who gave birth famously to octuplets in Southern California in January.

Nadya Suleman

Last month, “Dr. Phil” snared a coveted interview with Ms. Suleman, while “The Oprah Winfrey Show” grabbed time with Ms. Suleman’s father, Ed Doud, who was publicly critical of his daughter.

But the backlash of negative public opinion the ongoing media frenzy has created toward the octomom has affected the syndie world too.

Genre Judge Judy Sheindlin joined the charge last week, calling Ms. Suleman “irresponsible” during a taping of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and asserting that the media outlets making Ms. Suleman into a celebrity are “doing the rest of the world a big disservice.”

And at least one syndicated outlet is flat-out refusing to feed into the hype: Billy Bush, host of NBC Universal’s “Access Hollywood,” announced on the Feb. 25 episode that the show will no longer cover Ms. Suleman’s saga, save for a possible movie-of-the-week announcement.

“It’s gross,” Mr. Bush said about the ever-expanding story.

“Access” executive producer Rob Silverstein said he was no longer interested in the story when a Radar Online “video showdown” between Ms. Suleman and her mother over the multiple births was presented almost like a WWE wrestling match.

“I found it as distasteful as I’ve ever seen,” Mr. Silverstein said.

Internet and viewer reaction to the “Access” shift was generally positive, though some found the announcement to be a wee bit sanctimonious.

“To be clear, the octomom story is sordid and tragic,” wrote one blogger at media-analysis blog Newsbusters.org, “and deciding not to report it is understandable—perhaps laudable. But ‘Access Hollywood’s’ moral preening about this is, well, gross.”

—Andrew Krukowski

Cooking With Bravo

March 8, 2009 8:42 PM

Bravo’s taking this whole chef thing pretty seriously.

Cookstr Website

Not only does the network tout its hit show “Top Chef” any chance it gets, now it’s entering the recipe business with sister network Oxygen and Web site Cookstr.

The two networks have inked a co-branding agreement with Cookstr.com, a site that’s not for your mom’s chocolate chip cookie recipes—it’s for recipes from big-name chefs and cookbook authors.

The two NBC Universal networks have now incorporated Cookstr recipes into their respective Web sites.

This is good news for friends of Bravo and Oxygen viewers; you no longer have to worry they’ll use their same tired family recipes when you show up for their dinner parties.

—Daisy Whitney

MLB Network Hits Blue Note

March 4, 2009 10:30 AM

Sometimes with live sports broadcasts, inappropriate language from the field gets on the air. And sometimes it comes from the announcer booth.

Last night, the new MLB Network dropped its first F-bomb as host Matt Vasgersian said the unspeakable into an open mike on “MLB Tonight,” after he mistakenly identified Fernando Valenzuela as Fernando Vina.

The odd thing about the incident was that Mr. Vasgersian made the slip while preparing a taped piece, and somehow that piece of tape wound up airing as part of the show.

In a statement, the network said it apologized “for the inappropriate language used by Matt Vasgersian that aired during ‘MLB Tonight’ last night. We inadvertently aired an outtake of a segment obviously not intended to make air.”

No word on what disciplinary measures were being taken with Mr. Vasgersian or the technician responsible for putting the clip into the show.

—Jon Lafayette

(1:15 p.m.: Corrected spelling of Valenzuela in 2nd paragraph)

Wrestling With Video

March 2, 2009 5:00 PM

The WWE is mainly about guys smashing each other in the face.

Now you can do some smashing of your own as the WWE, in preparation for Wrestlemania 25 on April 5, is letting fans customize their own remixed video “smash-ups,” using clips from WWE programs such as “Raw” and “Friday Night Smackdown.” WWE Smash-Ups

Users can edit the lengths of clips, add music and title cards and share their smashes.

The WWE will select certain smash-ups for prizes, including a grand prize of $5,000, with the winning video to be posted on the main WWE web site.

Users can tackle clips of current WWE talent like John Cena or The Undertaker, or dig into the WWE archives to make a video tribute to old-school wrestling icons like Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, the “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase or “Classy” Freddie Blassie.

Then again, an Internet video tribute about Mr. Blassie might get you labeled a “pencil-neck geek,” so proceed with caution.

—Andrew Krukowski

CBS Cooks Up College Comedy Coffee Klatch

March 1, 2009 8:01 PM

College students love beer, coffee—and anything that’s free. CBS is hoping that two out of three of those will be enough to help hype its Monday comedies.

The network has contracted with independent marketing company BriteVision for a caffeinated campus campaign designed to use the lure of free java to sell “How I Met Your Mother” and “The Big Bang Theory.”

Taking advantage of its nationwide network of campus coffee cafes, BriteVision is giving students the chance to attend coffee “happy hours” tied to the CBS comedies. The cafes will be outfitted with balloons and banners touting the shows; coffee will be given away for at least an hour. CBS hopes the buzz students get from the coffee will help start some buzz for its comedies.

“It’s a viral campaign using coffee,” said CBS marketing chief George Schweitzer (Boston University ’72). “It’s interactive without being digital.”

Even those students who can’t make it for the free coffee will get some exposure to the CBS comedies. BriteVision is distributing thousands of coffee cozies and in-store displays emblazoned with characters from “HIMYM” and “Big Bang.” “Don’t touch anything hot without protection,” reads one cozy featuring “HIMYM’s” Neil Patrick Harris.

“These are franchise comedies for us and the characters in them are very close to college age,” Mr. Schweitzer said. “And as successful as they already are with younger viewers, we think there’s still an opportunity to grow.”

—Josef Adalian

‘Breaking,’ Mexican-Style

March 1, 2009 8:00 PM

Following Thursday’s “Breaking Bad” season-two premiere screening at the ArcLight Hollywood, Sony and AMC threw an after-party at the Velvet Margarita, the swank, cave-like Mexican lounge on Cahuenga Boulevard.

AMC President Charlie Collier and series executive producer Vince Gilligan

AMC President Charlie Collier and series executive producer Vince Gilligan, pictured at right, worked the packed party with series star Bryan Cranston, executive producer Mark Johnson, AMC Senior VP of Original Programming, Production and Digital Joel Stillerman and Sony Pictures Television President Steve Mosko.

In the dark lounge, which was festooned with sparkling sombreros, elaborate piñatas, chandeliers and velvet paintings, guests enjoyed clips from “Breaking Bad” intercut with a new music video from the controversial Mexican band Los Cuates de Sinaloa—known for their songs about drug trafficking, border politics and corruption. Check it out . . .

Read More »

Video: ‘Wheel’ Hits 5,000-Episode Mark

February 27, 2009 11:34 AM

For the 5,000th time in syndication, contestants will buy vowels and opt to solve the puzzle on “Wheel of Fortune” tonight.

“Fortune,” in its 26th season, celebrated the milestone with a cake in the shape of “5,000,” along with host Pat Sajak and famed letter-turner Vanna White reminiscing about their favorite moment: their on-screen kiss, which was interrupted by show creator Merv Griffin.

“I think [‘Wheel’] could last indefinitely,” executive producer Harry Friedman said. “It feels almost like a sports franchise.”

Mr. Friedman said that each renewal of the show gives the producers the ability to plan out the strategy of the program three to four years at a time. This most recent renewal had the show focus on technology, including its leap into high definition, as well as providing the game in different digital formats, like online and on mobile devices.

As for the next 5,000 episodes, Mr. Friedman said the syndicated product is holding steady, downplaying the possibilities of any prime-time specials. As for Mr. Sajak and Ms. White, Mr. Friedman said he hasn’t heard any talk of retirement from “Wheel.”

Mr. Friedman said America’s appetite for game shows is growing, and he said he wouldn’t be surprised to see the classics, like “The $100,000 Pyramid,” return to the airwaves in the near future.

—Andrew Krukowski

We Love the ’80s!

February 25, 2009 3:49 PM

Alex Drake is on a bad trip—time trip, that is.

Ashes to Ashes

After taking a bullet to the head, the police officer, played by Keeley Hawes, finds herself face to face with figures she’s only read about: Gene Hunt, Ray Carling and Chris Skelton.

You see, Ms. Drake is the main character in “Ashes to Ashes,” a sort-of sequel to “Life on Mars,” the BBC series-turned-ABC drama. In the series trailer, she’s reading the file of Sam Tyler, whose travails in the 1970s were the subject of “Life.”

This time around, Ms. Drake finds herself sent back to 1981, complete with period-correct outlandishly big hair and visions of David Bowie in his distinctive “Ashes to Ashes” getup. (As with “Life on Mars,” Mr. Bowie provides the title tune.)

BBC America starts airing the series on March 7, but you can check out a preview clip here.

—Lisa D. Horowitz

WE tv Gets Break on ‘Breaking Bad’

February 20, 2009 2:27 PM

The day before “Breaking Bad” returns with Emmy winner Bryan Cranston on AMC, sister network WE tv will be airing “Last Chance,” an independent film Mr. Cranston made with his wife, Robin Dearden.

Last Chance

Charlie Collier, president and general manager of AMC, said the female-skewing film is designed to cross-promote the series to a new audience.

“It’s a sweet romantic drama that I wrote as a Valentine for my wife,” Mr. Cranston says. “I play her husband, kind of a louse of a guy, but I’m very proud of it and it’s one way that we can reach out and hopefully attract more women to ‘Breaking Bad.’”

Mr. Cranston said it would be nice if wives and girlfriends would sit and watch the series with their men.

“But not together,” he added. “You have to choose if it’s going to be your wife or your girlfriend.”

“All of us at Rainbow are big fans of Bryan Cranston and the work that he has done on AMC’s ‘Breaking Bad,’" said Kim Martin, president-general manager of WE tv. “We’re always on the lookout for quality product that speaks to women, and if it happens to come from someone who is already in the family, better still."

—Jon Lafayette