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November 2007 Archives

‘Survivor’ Tops Repeat-Heavy Thursday

November 30, 2007 11:58 AM

Survivor China (CBS)For the first time since its September premiere, CBS’ “Survivor” was the highest-rated show Thursday night, leading CBS to victory amid a repeat-strewn field.

CBS won the night among total viewers and the adults 18 to 49 with “Survivor” (4.5 preliminary rating) then “CSI” and “Without a Trace” repeats (3.4 and 2.5, respectively).

NBC was second. With “The Office” (3.0) now in repeats until the strike ends, losing the night’s tentpole comedy wounded the other shows. “My Name Is Earl” hit a series low (2.6), “30 Rock” and “ER” hit a season lows (2.5 and 3.4) and “Scrubs” was average (3.1). Somewhere “Office” showrunner Greg Daniels is holding a picket sign and going, “See?”

With ABC airing mainly repeats, Fox moved from its usual Thursday fourth place to third. The network aired well-rated crossover episodes of “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader” (2.4) and “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” (2.8).

ABC was fourth with repeats and “Big Shots” (a series-low 2.4). The CW was fifth with repeats.

From the “Rated” mailbag: “Why did ABC air a new episode of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ on Thanksgiving and a repeat tonight?!”

Good question. Even with only a couple new episodes remaining of many shows due to the strike, ABC and CBS executives say they choose to air originals to low ratings on Thanksgiving for two reasons: To keep originals on during November sweeps and because it’s the night before Black Friday, which is tremendously important to advertisers. So in this case, a ratings hit is worth the cost. The networks also expect DVR playback for originals aired on the holiday to be huge.

NBC’s January Plan Leans on Reality

November 29, 2007 8:00 PM

NBC has revealed some of its strike-inspired January scheduling, slotting “American Gladiators,” another round of “The Biggest Loser” and a second season of “1 vs. 100.”

As reported Monday, “Gladiators” will launch Jan. 6. After the premiere’s two-hour opener, the reality competition revival will move to Monday at 8 p.m.

“The Biggest Loser” will continue Tuesdays at 8 p.m. starting Jan. 1. In this round, couples will compete rather than individuals—a first for the show.

The game show “1 vs. 100” will fall back into its Friday 8 p.m. slot on Jan. 4.

The unscripted programs join NBC’s previously announced “Celebrity Apprentice,” which will air Thursdays at 9 p.m. beginning Jan. 3.

“We’re kicking off the New Year with a bang,” said Craig Plestis, executive VP of alternative programming, development and specials at NBC. “With the adrenaline rush of ‘Gladiators,’ a brand-new twist on ‘Biggest Loser,’ the first million-dollar winner on ‘1 vs. 100’ and the wildest boardrooms ever seen on ‘Celebrity Apprentice,’ NBC has a lot of excitement in store for reality fans in 2008.”

Unlike Fox’s strike schedule shuffle announced earlier this month, however, NBC’s premiere dates leave some intriguing question marks in its lineup. For instance: NBC only has one episode remaining of “Heroes” and three “Journeyman” left in its stockpile. On Mondays after “Gladiators,” it’s unclear what the network will air in the 9 and 10 p.m. hours.

Fox’s ‘Moment of Truth’ Trailer

November 29, 2007 12:56 PM

Here’s a brief peek at Fox’s upcoming lie detector game show “The Moment of Truth.” Future promos will further emphasize the show’s hot-seat intensity, but this gives a decent first-blush preview.

‘Shrek the Halls’ Decks Competition

November 29, 2007 12:51 PM

Every once in a while there’s a rating that makes you do a double spit-take of green tea onto your monitor.

That’s the case with ABC’s debut last night of the half-hour special “Shrek the Halls,” which earned a 7.2 preliminary Nielsen rating among adults 18 to 49. That beat the combined deliveries of CBS, NBC and Fox in the half-hour by 22%.

“Shrek” gave a huge lead-in to the annual airing of “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” which was up 74% from its airing last year. The ratings dropped after that, however, with a special 9 p.m. airing of “Pushing Daisies” that nonetheless managed its best number since the show’s debut (3.8). “Dirty Sexy Money” was on par (2.6).

“Shrek the Halls” will repeat on December 11 at 8 PM.

In second place for the night, CBS had “Kid Nation” (a low 2.1), “Criminal Minds” (4.5, the best rating for “Minds” since its post-Super Bowl episode in February) and “CSI: NY” (4.1, matching its season high).

Fox was third with a pair of “Til Death” episodes (2.2 and 2.4) followed by a season-high “Kitchen Nightmares” (3.3).

NBC was fourth with its annual “Christmas in Rockefeller Center” (2.0, down 23% from last year), “Bionic Woman” (2.2, another season low) and “Life” (2.2, its second lowest rating to date).

The CW’s “America’s Next Top Model” was on par (2.4) and “Gossip Girl” had its second best rating to date (1.4).

'Battlestar Galactica' Ratings Adrift

November 28, 2007 8:06 PM

Battlestar Galactica: RazorLast Saturday’s much-anticipated “Battlestar Galactica” two-hour movie “Razor” had an unspectacular debut. The stand-alone entry in Sci Fi Channel’s Peabody-winning series garnered a 0.8 rating among adults 18 to 49 and was seen by 1.7 million viewers.

That’s almost exactly what the entire third “Battlestar” season averaged, but well below its season premiere last fall.

Tricky to tea-leaf what exactly this might mean for the upcoming fourth (and final) season, since “Razor” wasn’t a continuation of last season’s cliffhanger. Also, Sci Fi aired “Razor” on Thanksgiving weekend, which couldn’t have helped.

For those who missed the airing, the “Razor” DVD will be released Dec. 4.

NBC Pulls Out ‘Lipstick’

November 28, 2007 7:44 PM

Lipstick JungleNBC has set a debut date for its power-women dramedy “Lipstick Jungle.”

The show gets the “ER” slot, Thursday at 10 p.m., starting Feb. 7—as soon as the medical drama finishes its stockpile of produced episodes.

The new show is based on a novel by Candace Bushnell (“Sex and the City”) and stars Brooke Shields (“Suddenly Susan”), Kim Raver (“24”) and Lindsay Price (“Beverly Hills, 90210”).

“This provocative new series is a fun, sexy look at strong women in New York City,” Ben Silverman, NBC co-chair, said in a statement. “We are very excited about Candace Bushnell’s larger-than-life characters—as embodied by its perfect cast—that has made ‘Lipstick’ a highly anticipated event since the network acquired the best-selling book.”

Though placement in the “ER” time period is billed as a way of plugging a hole caused by the writers strike, the medical drama’s ratings have fallen off in recent seasons and this gives NBC the chance to try another show in the valuable slot.

ABC’s “Cashmere Mafia,” thematically similar to “Lipstick,” was originally supposed to debut this week, but it was pushed back due to the strike. ABC has not yet announced a new premiere date.

Burn Off: Picking on Carson Daly Edition

November 28, 2007 4:49 PM

“Last Call” host Carson Daly leaping back to work at NBC during a writers strike has prompted the predictable scolding from the Writers Guild of America. The Smoking Gun’s revelation that he set up a scab-friendly joke hotline to help fill the show made the host himself a punchline.

Bloggers have been pretty merciless: “At least his writers weren’t funny”“I've seen chimps with better TV charisma and good looks and interviewing skills”“Back in his ‘TRL’ days, Carson Daly proved he was good at sucking up to celebrities. Turns out, he’s good at sucking up to executives, too”“NBC has a late-night program hosted by Carson Daly?" “Carson Daly is as lame as you imagined”“When Jimmy Kimmel has more integrity than you do, maybe you need to hang it up.”

Thing is, Daly isn’t a WGA member. The man could make the argument that this is an altruistic move to keep the non-striking members of his crew employed, even though it’s tough to buy it. The joke hotline sounds like a standard late-night gag, and one can assume such a device would serve only to illustrate on air how important writers are to the show. Then again, considering the lack of public affection for “Last Call,” perhaps not.

‘Dancing With the Stars’ Finale Weakest to Date

November 28, 2007 12:32 PM

ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” had its weakest finale to date on a Tuesday night that saw a few shows with depressed ratings—including new lows for CBS’ “Cane” and The CW’s “Reaper.”

The “Dancing” finale gave ABC a win for the night (although Fox’s “House” was the highest-rated show) among adults 18 to 49 and total viewers. “A Charlie Brown Christmas” opened the night strong for ABC and won the 8 p.m. hour (with a 4.6 preliminary Nielsen rating among adults 18 to 49, down slightly from last year). The two-hour “Dancing” (6.4) saw race-car driver Helio Castroneves win the top prize.

Below is a video clip of Helio winning.

Fox was second with an on-par “Bones” (3.4) and “House” (7.0).

Third place goes to NBC, which had a two-hour “Biggest Loser” (an average 3.1, and doesn’t this show’s ever-changing episode length seem to mimic the yo-yoing of its contestants’ waistlines?), followed by a similarly average “Law & Order: SVU” (4.6).

CBS had a rough night, with “NCIS” (3.3) and “The Unit” (2.9) on the low side. The network’s real headache was at 10 p.m., however, with “Cane” (1.6) resuming its descent and dropping to an alarming new low against the “Dancing” finale. CBS has shown strike-inspired patience with this drama, but that number likely rules out a pickup.

The CW’s “Beauty and the Geek” was on par (1.3), but alas, poor “Reaper” (1.0). Watching the supernatural drama’s creative and ratings struggles is like a movie where the hero is frantically giving CPR to his lifeless love interest—“Breathe, damn you!”

1:30: Updated length of "Dancing With the Stars" finale

Fall TV Freshman Class of 2007: Top Surprises and Underdogs

November 27, 2007 9:11 PM

Pushing DaisiesBiggest Surprise (tie): CBS' “Moonlight” and ABC's “Samantha Who?"

At the critics tour this summer, only “Viva Laughlin” was presumed a bigger dog than “Moonlight.”

Early in the season, when it became clear “Moonlight” had some passionate fans—but not yet clear it had enough—CBS executives joked they were worried that “Jericho”-inspired viewers would mail them garlic if they canceled the show. With “Moonlight” consistently winning the 9 p.m.. hour and its ratings improving steadily, they’re not worried anymore.

As for “Samantha Who?” the show was a second-string contender in ABC’s fall arsenal whose performance has surprised everybody. If you think high ratings are automatic for any show following a big hit like “Dancing With the Stars,” ABC has some post-“Grey’s Anatomy” real estate to sell you.

Sharpest Buzzdrop: The CW's “Aliens in America”

Generally critics continue to pimp a show whose premiere they enjoyed, even if it struggles in the ratings. Not so here. The “Aliens” pilot received positive reviews and then dropped off the map. With an average rating of about 0.8, it seems even those paid to watch TV shows aren’t watching this one.

Best Proof Critics Aren’t Smarter Than the Rest of Us: ABC's “Pushing Daisies”

In recent years critics have struggled to convince viewers to appreciate “Arrested Development,” “The Wire” and “Friday Night Lights.” The critical consensus going into the fall was that “Pushing Daisies” was a clever, unique and literate drama and so, naturally, only critics would appreciate the show. Guess what? Viewers got it.

Biggest Underdog: CBS’ “Cane”

No, not “Gossip Girl” or “Reaper” or some other show that has received publicity disproportionate to its audience. “Cane” is a true underdog: low-rated with anemic press, yet not nearly as bad as you think. The show’s sleepy subplots are ready-made for TiVo fast-forwarding, but with every episode, the main storyline has shoved protagonist Alex Vega further into a dark hole that seems impossible to escape.

Biggest Strike Beneficiary (tie): CBS' “Cane,” The CW's “Reaper,” ABC's “Big Shots” and Fox's “K-Ville”

All fell below their network’s respective red lines for their time periods, then kept going.

Biggest Mess: NBC's “Bionic Woman”

The tragedy of “Bionic Woman” was that NBC had the right idea. Throughout the summer, insiders wondered if NBC’s saturation bombing of ads for its retooling of the modestly performing 1970s version would help draw an audience. Then the premiere garnered the biggest number of the fall (at the time) and beat “Private Practice”—clearly viewers were ready and willing to watch a “Bionic” remake. But NBC wasn’t ready and willing to deliver a polished product. The ratings have dropped sharply with nearly every episode amid behind-the-scenes retooling.

Strangest Evolution: CBS' “Kid Nation”

An unprecedented amount of pre-air controversy. A soft premiere rating. Subsequent viewership drops and, later, some gains. “Nation” seemingly started with one audience (car-wreck reality gawkers) and ended up with another (kids and their parents). Fans say the show keeps getting better.

Most Foregone Conclusion (tie): CBS' “Viva Laughlin,” The CW's “Life Is Wild” and Fox's “Nashville”

Viewers watch ads for lame-sounding new series and read supportive comments made by network executives in the press and wonder how these people find their car keys in the morning. Truth is, most programmers privately have a clear sense of their show’s flaws long before the public catches on. In the case of this trio, just about everybody at their respective networks knew they weren’t going to work, yet aired them anyway. Some credit here to Fox, which may have plowed ahead with “Nashville,” but also yanked weak-buzzed “New Amsterdam” off the fall schedule in August despite a lack of scripted fall programming.

1:40 p.m.: Updated "Bionic Woman" paragraph

‘Underbelly’ Premiere Hits Ratings Midsection

November 27, 2007 12:47 PM

Notes From the UnderbellyWith the second-season premiere of ABC’s “Notes From the Underbelly,” a rare programming alignment has occurred: Sitcoms now air on three broadcast networks (ABC, CBS and The CW) for an entire hour—the same hour—each week. It’s apropos of nothing, save the usual statement about the scarcity of half-hour comedies. And, as a tribute to the dominance of CBS’ Monday block, its “Rules of Engagement” repeat whipped the other two sitcoms in the 9:30 p.m. slot.

With Fox airing repeats of “House” (2.9) and “Bones” (2.1), there was plenty of good news to go around last night for three of its competitors. Even the night’s winner among adults 18 to 49 in the preliminary Nielsens was a tie, with CBS and ABC locked for the top spot (and ABC winning among total viewers).

ABC’s hourlong “Dancing With the Stars” was the highest-rated show with a season-high 6.2. With a shorter “Dancing” this week, “Samantha Who?” took a hit (4.1) going head-to-head against CBS’ “Two and a Half Men” (a season-high 5.0) for the first time.

The “Underbelly” premiere finished third for its time period. It was lower than its April debut, but it also was the highest-rated episode since then (2.9). At 10 p.m., ABC’s time-period premiere of “October Road” (2.3) came in last for the hour.

In addition to “Two and a Half Men,” CBS’ comedy block included an on-par “How I Met Your Mother” (3.3), a “Big Bang Theory” repeat (2.8) and a “Rules” repeat (3.8). “CSI: Miami” (4.6) won the 10 p.m. hour.

NBC’s drama lineup perked up, with “Chuck” posting its strongest performance since its debut (3.3). “Heroes” (5.3, winning its hour) enjoyed its best rating in more than a month. “Journeyman” seemed to sense its being left off NBC’s list of full-season pickups and also posted gains, up 14% (2.5).

On The CW, the comedy lineup was average, but the once-promising “Aliens in America” (0.7) continues to struggle in the block.

NBC Picks Up 'Chuck' and 'Life;' Sets 'Gladiators' Premiere

November 26, 2007 3:37 PM

LifeNBC has picked up freshman dramas “Chuck” and “Life” for nine more episodes, the network announced.

"'Chuck' and 'Life' stand out in a crowded TV landscape because they are smart, well-produced series with incredibly talented casts,” said Ben Silverman, Co-Chairman, NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios. "Both shows are hitting their stride creatively, have developed loyal audiences and offer unlimited potential to grow throughout the season.”

The pickups are unexpected as the writers strike has made networks reluctant to order additional episodes since no scripts are being written. The “Life” pickup especially is a surprise, as the show has performed modestly in recent weeks, coming in last place on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. “Chuck,” which is still in production, has averaged a 3.4 rating among adults 18-49. “Life,” whose production has ceased, has averaged a 3.0.

Absent from the list of NBC fall series pickups so far: "Bionic Woman" and "Journeyman."

The network is expected to announce a midseason schedule this week, but one key detail has emerged. The network aired a promo during its “Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade" coverage that revealed a premiere date for its “American Gladiators” revamp: Sunday, Jan. 6.

The “Gladiators” usual time period will not be on Sundays, however. Sources say the show will almost certainly switch to a midweek night after its premiere.

Burn Off: Strike Jury in Deliberations

November 26, 2007 3:17 PM

With Writers Guild of America contract negotiations resumed, the town is waiting for the first words to leak about how the talks are proceeding (and leak they will, media blackout or not).

Last week, network insiders were almost universal in their private predictions that this session would not result in a deal. Given the level of prior acrimony among the two parties, and the fact that a delay until January at this point isn’t hugely painful for studios, the current talks were thought to be a likely “second to last” round.

With a new report of backchannel progress being made running up to the talks, hopes are now higher.

Also: A comprehensive survey of issues surrounding the writers strike … Advertisers might ask for their money back … For those who missed it, Fox’s Mike Darnell talks about his “end of Western civilization” lie detector reality show (once a contestant is asked a question like “Are you sexually attracted to one of your wife’s friends?” they presumably realize that going on “Deal or No Deal” might have been a wiser bet) … Glad somebody pointed this out: The second season of Showtime’s “Dexter” has been better than any drama on broadcast this fall … 91% of reality producers say they receive no overtime pay … NBC to air “Tonight Show with Jay Leno” episodes from back when he still wasn’t funny … Has Fox broken its fall ratings curse?

Holiday Ratings Rundown: The Parade, Dog Show and ‘October Road’

November 26, 2007 12:23 PM

National Dog ShowWednesday’s pre-holiday massacre: Viewing levels were down, yet networks aired original series anyway. The results were not pretty, with most shows hitting new lows. CBS continued its Wednesday winning streak and widened its margin versus ABC (a 3.1 average adults 18 to 49 preliminary rating to ABC’s 2.3). The finale for “Phenomenon” came in third place for the 8 p.m. hour. NBC also had a rare Wednesday second-place finish.

Thanksgiving specials: NBC's presentation of "Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade" and "The National Dog Show" were both down slightly from last year, with the parade hitting at least a five-year low. The parade had an 11.7 metered-market household rating, the dog show earned a 4.9. NBC is touting that 40 million viewers watched "all or some" of the parade, but there's a canyon of difference between "all" and "some." More exact numbers won't be available until later.

Also, finally figured out what's frustrating about NBC's annual display of pampered pooches: "Dog Show" is one of the few competitions aired without any critical commentary. Viewers have no sense of why any dog won or lost, only that they're all so damn adorable. If NBC wants to boost sagging "Dog Show" ratings, they should try adding a commentator next year who's willing to shrug off the holiday spirit and mock a Pyrenean sheepdog's lopsided gait. After all, it's not like you can offend the dogs.

CBS won Thursday night, with viewers suckered into a clip show of “Survivor” (3.6) followed by originals of “CSI” (4.1) and “Without a Trace” (3.1). NBC and Fox ran theatrical movies. ABC was second with “Ugly Betty” (2.2) and “Grey’s Anatomy” (5.0). ABC then aired the second-season premiere of “October Road” at 10 p.m., which on Thanksgiving is sort of like being pushed by your tribe into a volcano. The show fell 61% from its debut last March.

Friday and Saturday: With the exception of the lower viewing levels, Friday shook out like most weeks, with CBS winning the night with the top three shows. The CW, airing “Smackdown” (1.6), managed to tie ABC for third place. On Saturday, ABC broke CBS’ winning streak with college football.

Then the universe rights itself: Viewing levels returned to relative normalcy Sunday night. NBC won with “Sunday Night Football” where the Philadelphia Eagles faced the New England Patriots (7.5). ABC was second with a 100th-episode, two-hour special edition of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (3.4 and 5.0), followed by “Desperate Housewives” (6.9) and “Brothers & Sisters” (4.8). CBS came in third, with “60 Minutes” boosted by the NFL overrun (5.4), “The Amazing Race” (3.6), “Cold Case” (3.3) and “Shark” (3.1). Fox was fourth with its comedy lineup, mixing original episodes of “The Simpsons” (4.1) and “Family Guy” (4.7) with repeats. The CW had repeats.

'Bachelor: After the Rose' Wins Hour

November 21, 2007 12:08 PM

The denial of a manufactured, reality storybook ending for ABC’s “The Bachelor” has fans enraged. The network likewise reportedly wasn’t pleased that Bachelor Brad choose “none of the above” for its finale. That the ending was a brilliant surprise now generating the most discussion in years about the veteran reality show seems to be getting overlooked.

Some viewers claim they’re going to boycott the show, but there was no evidence of channel flipping last night. “Bachelor: After the Rose” won the 10 p.m. hour and tied for being the highest-rated “After the Rose” ever.

Overall, Fox led the evening, but was down slightly week to week, with “Bones” (a 3.0 preliminary rating among adults 18 to 49) and “House” (6.8).

ABC was second with “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” (3.3) and “He’s a Bully, Charlie Brown” (3.5), both improving on last year’s performance. The “Dancing With the Stars” finale hit a season high (4.9), then “After the Rose” (4.1).

NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” was on par (3.1) and “Law & Order: SVU” hit a season low (3.9) up against “Rose.”

Though in third place, CBS’s “NCIS” won the 8 p.m. hour (3.7), followed by an average “The Unit” (3.0) and “Cane” (2.0).
The CW had “Beauty and the Geek” (1.2) and a “Reaper” repeat (0.8).

‘Bachelor’ Finale Hits Ratings High

November 20, 2007 12:12 PM

The BachelorAfter earning a narrow Monday night ratings victory last week, ABC shot ahead to take last night by a clear margin.

“Dancing With the Stars” (a 5.2 preliminary Nielsen rating among adults 18 to 49) had its highest rating since its premiere, dominating its time period. “Samantha Who?” (4.8) had its highest rating ever and “The Bachelor” finale (4.3) had its highest rating of the season.

CBS was second, with its comedy originals performing well: “How I Met Your Mother” (3.4), a “Big Bang” repeat (3.0), “Two and a Half Men” (5.1) and “Rules of Engagement” (4.3). At 10 p.m., “CSI: Miami” matched its highest rating of the season (4.9) and won its hour.

NBC’s “Chuck” (3.1) was up a tick, but “Heroes” (5.0) and “Journeyman” (2.3) were down slightly.

Fox was a distant fourth, with a “House” repeat (2.6) not helping “K-Ville” (1.3).

The CW’s comedy block was on the low side, averaging a 0.8 for the night.

CW Slots ‘One Tree Hill’

November 19, 2007 2:39 PM

One Tree HillThe CW announced the premiere date for the return of “One Tree Hill” and gave some hints about the fifth-season storyline.

The story will pick up four years after the events in last season’s finale. The show will have a two-hour premiere Jan. 8, then take its regular time period of Tuesdays at 9 p.m.

Of course, that’s the “Reaper” slot, so here’s the deal there: “Reaper” is a repeat tonight. The show will air two more originals this year. “One Tree” will go into its time period. The CW plans to air the remaining episodes of "Reaper," possibly giving them a shot in a different time period.

Tempting to write a grim “Reaper” prospects headline here, given the show’s ratings performance, but the network and the entertainment press have a lot of affection for that show and The CW hopes to make it work.

Fox Crowns Sunday; ‘Moonlight’ Hits High

November 19, 2007 10:50 AM

King of the HillFox won Sunday with its comedy block, boosted by some NFL overrun.

“The Simpsons” (5.3 preliminary Nielsen rating among adults 18 to 49), “King of the Hill” (4.3), “Family Guy” (5.4) and “American Dad” (4.0) all either matched or exceeded last week’s numbers, with “King” having its best night in four years.

ABC and NBC tied for second, with ABC airing NASCAR overrun (2.4) and “The 2007 American Music Awards” (4.8, up slightly from last year). NBC had “Football Night in America” (3.0) and “Sunday Night Football,” featuring the New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills (4.9).

CBS came in third, but won among total viewers and showed across-the-board gains from last week with “60 Minutes” (3.1), “The Amazing Race” (3.8), “Cold Case” (3.2) and “Shark” (2.4).

The CW was flat with “CW Now” (0.4), “Life Is Wild” (0.4) and repeats.

Also: On Friday night, CBS’ “Moonlight” hit a series high (2.7) to help the network win the night. Also, for the first time since its premiere, “Moonlight” maintained its “Ghost Whisperer” lead-in.

Note: This blog will update less frequently this week due to the holiday.

WGA Contract Talks to Resume

November 16, 2007 9:06 PM

The Writers Guild of America will resume contract negotiations with network and studio representatives on Nov. 26.

After 12 days away from the table, both sides have agreed to restart talks under a media blackout.

“Leaders from the [Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers] and the WGA have mutually agreed to resume formal negotiations on November 26,” read a statement issued by both parties. “No other details or press statements will be issued.”

The WGA is still on strike and plans to continue its picketing and rallies, though the guild has an abridged schedule next week due to Thanksgiving.

In a letter sent to WGA members, guild president Patric Verrone wrote, “We have proven that bad news won't slow us down. Now it is equally important that we now prove that good news won't slow us down, either. We must remember that returning to the bargaining table is only a start. Our work is not done until we achieve a good contract, and that is by no means assured. Accordingly, what we achieve in negotiations will be a direct result of how successfully we can keep up our determination and resolve.”

Verrone tells the writers that return to the bargaining table “is the direct result of the hours you have spent on the picket lines, the days you've spent educating friends and colleagues, the boundless energy you've put into engaging with not only the Hollywood talent community, but people all over the country and the world.”

The unexpected announcement comes after a series of dramatic recent events that seem almost, well, scripted—from contract talks breaking down just as strikers hit the streets in New York City, to showrunners picketing their own programs, to popular series shutting down production, to a succession of large protest rallies.

Studios and writers likely hope for a similarly cinematic final act, with a new contract signed just in time for the December holidays. But if there’s one recurring theme in the narrative of the WGA negotiations, it’s that writers and their employers keeping coming together at the negotiating table … only to fall back apart.

After writers went on strike early on Nov. 5, the AMPTP expressed disinterest in resuming talks and said they were prepared for a long siege. WGA leaders have maintained they want to return to the table, but need the AMPTP to show flexibility on the key issue of online residuals.

The WGA camp believes a couple of factors have been instrumental in putting pressure on their employers. First, most showrunners have refused to work in any capacity—effectively shutting down the production of many prime-time series faster than studios had expected. Second, the guild has waged an effective post-strike media campaign; staging well-attended rallies and tapping likable personalities to get the public on their side, as polls showed earlier this week.

Updated at 10:06 p.m.

CBS Clocks Thursday Win; Final New 'Office' Airs

November 16, 2007 9:56 AM

CSICBS once again edged out ABC among the key adults 18 to 49 demographic for a Thursday night victory, but this time won without the benefit of a “CSI”/“Without a Trace” crossover.

CBS had an on-par “Survivor” (a 4.8 preliminary rating, winning its hour) and “CSI” (6.4). As expected, “Without a Trace” (4.1) was down sharply from its crossover show, but up slightly from its last regular outing and won its hour.

ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” (8.1) had its best rating since its season premiere. “Ugly Betty” was on par (3.5). At 10 p.m., ABC gave Friday night drama “Women’s Murder Club” (3.3) a spin in the post-“Grey’s” time period. The result: A series high for the show, but holding close to “Big Shots'” steep ratings dropoff in the time period.

NBC came in third place, but several comedies gave strong performances. There’s “My Name Is Earl” (up 9% to 3.6) and “30 Rock” (3.2—the highest rating since its season premiere). In the 9 p.m. hour, there’s the final new episode of “The Office” until the writers strike is resolved (4.8, also second only to the premiere) and “Scrubs” (an average 3.2). “ER” was on par (3.8).

Fox’s “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader” hit a season high (2.9) and “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” was average (2.1).

The CW’s “Smallville” (1.8) and “Supernatural” (1.2) were on par.

AMPTP vs. WGA: Giving Peace a Chance

November 15, 2007 2:13 PM

The most interesting thing about today’s full-page AMPTP newspaper ad is the tone.

The pre- and post-strike statements issued in the name of Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers president Nick Counter have typically been strident. Dispatches from a war room.

The lengthy ad copy in today’s Los Angeles Times and New York Times reads as if composed in a Zen tea garden.

The unsigned ad, titled “An Open Letter,” says there’s “a lot of confusion about what the writers strike is all about.” So much so, that “some respected writers … demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of what is on the table and how they are paid.” The ad reassures, “Such mistakes may be understandable … given the complexity of the residual system,” but they “contribute to an atmosphere where bridging the gap between us seems harder than ever.”

The earnest copy could represent a tactical shift. In the wake of two polls showing most Americans support the striking writers and very few back the studios, the ad wraps Hollywood employers in warm and understanding tones.

The content also is important, but unfortunately familiar: The Alliance seeks to correct what it sees as two fundamental misunderstandings in its PR battle, explaining that writers already receive some money from digital downloads; and that the writers were offered a percentage of producer license fees from ad-supported streaming before their talks broke up.

“So the notion we are not sharing new-media revenue with writers is simply not correct,” the ad calmly notes.

The WGA, the ad continues, was asking for unacceptable digital increases ranging from 200% to 700%.

The WGA East press office responded with its own missive, which adopted the more customary tone for discussing such matters.

“Nice try, AMPTP,” the WGA response heckled, calling the ad “patronizing.”

“FACT: In our abandoned negotiations, the AMPTP insisted that the residual rate for digital downloading be pegged to the current rate for DVDs, a penurious third of one cent on the dollar,” the WGA replied. “Let’s repeat that: A THIRD OF A PENNY!! The 700% increase they refer to roughly translates as 2.1 cents.”

The WGAE response claims the AMPTP’s offer would allow the studios and networks to stream content for free during the first six weeks after a show’s initial broadcast, during which time user downloading presumably would be the highest.

The wearisome thing about the entire conversation is it continues to re-fight Bloody Sunday, the final day at the negotiation table, rather than represent forward momentum. Few newspaper readers really want to know exactly what is on the table. They want to find the day-after-Thanksgiving ads for flat-screen TV deals, and then perhaps watch an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy”—preferably not a repeat.

For complete strike coverage click here.

Burn Off: NBC Auctions Off Steve Carell’s Wardrobe

November 15, 2007 12:10 PM

Sometimes a company makes an announcement so ripe with opportunity for sarcasm, your brain goes to a blue-screen freeze.

With NBC’s ratings struggling this season and a writers strike under way, the network is doing an online auction of “exclusive items” from its shows (read: props and wardrobe). The items include paintings from “Heroes,” a poker set from “30 Rock” and Steve Carell’s watch from “The Office.”

“Everything must go-go-GO!” emailed a competitor.

“NBC, making money from the Web at last,” quipped TVWeek’s copy chief.

A portion of the proceeds will benefit the United Way. How big of a portion? They’re not saying. Here’s the full list of items.

Also: The New Yorker weighs in on the writers strike and explores whether either side can expect its bargaining position to improve while away from the table. Best observation: “If both sides think a strike will help their cause, at least one of them must be wrong” … Maybe marginal shows could benefit from the strike after all … ABC’s emasculated men of Thursday night … Fox makes a “colossal dick move” … David Letterman to pay his staff through year’s end … Network executives are cutting back, too … Lisa de Moraes surveys the surveyors.

UPDATE: OK, thought of a few NBC-auction lines: "Maybe 'Bionic Woman' will auction off another showrunner." And: "Think they're taking bids on Jay Leno's desk yet?" And finally: "Ben Silverman told me he'd put his Jaguar up for auction, but later said it was off the record." Tip your waitress, etc.

CBS Records First Wednesday Win of the Season

November 15, 2007 11:18 AM

Kid NationFour of the five broadcast networks had positive ratings news this morning, with shows showing across-the-board growth from their last original airings. The exception: NBC, whose Wednesday night lineup continues to sink.

CBS earns the best headline: The network topped Wednesday in the adults 18 to 49 demo for the first time this season.

A month ago, the Wednesday leadership battle was between ABC (touting “Private Practice”) and NBC (with “Bionic Woman”). Since then, “Bionic” ratings have dropped with every broadcast and “Private” has largely maintained its average.

CBS’ squeaking into the top spot, led by a season-high “Criminal Minds,” shifts the Wednesday race to an ABC vs. CBS contest—with Fox also making gains thanks to its comedies and “Kitchen Nightmares.”

CBS had “Kid Nation” (up 14% week-to-week to a 2.4 preliminary rating among adults 18 to 49), “Criminal Minds” (up 13% to a 4.3) and “CSI: NY” (up 6% to a 3.8).

ABC, returning to its drama lineup after last week’s “CMA Awards,” was a close second. The network had “Pushing Daisies” (up 15% to a 3.1), “Private Practice” (up 11% to a 4.2) and “Dirty Sexy Money” (up a notch to a 2.9).

Fox was third with “Back to You” (up 14% to a 2.5), “Til Death” (up 13% to a 2.7) and “Kitchen Nightmares” (hitting a new series high with a 3.2).

Coming in fourth, NBC’s “Phenomenon” (2.0) and “Bionic Woman” (2.5) hit series lows, followed by a steady “Life” (2.5).

On The CW, “America’s Next Top Model” hit a season high (2.6) and “Gossip Girl” (1.4) had its best night since its premiere across key demos.

IATSE President Blasts WGA Negotiator

November 14, 2007 4:09 PM

Thomas Short, president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, sent a strongly worded letter to WGA President Patric Verrone on Tuesday, blasting recent comments by the guild’s chief negotiator, David Young.

Short, whose below-the-line members are losing jobs due to the writers strike, wrote: “David Young is quoted in the Los Angeles Times as delighted he’s being treated ‘like a rock star’ at rallies, and says, ‘I just lay back and look at the havoc I’ve wreaked ... I’m not going to apologize for that.’ This is hardly the point of view of a responsible labor leader.”

Short later writes that Young’s “incompetence and inexperience are causing irreparable damage to the industry” and urged the WGA to “put egos aside” and recognize how crucial it is to “get everyone back to work.”

The WGA president responded minutes ago with a letter that avoids discussing Young, but notes, “Our fight should be your fight. … As we’ve stated clearly, we are willing to negotiate; we have wanted to negotiate; we are here to negotiate.”

Young’s letter is signed, “Fraternally.” Verrone’s letter is signed, “In solidarity.”

The egomaniacal-sounding Young quote also was noted in the Wall Street Journal, as the WGA counterpart to News Corp. President Peter Chernin’s line about Fox benefiting financially from the strike.

But let’s add some context to both: Chernin was speaking during an earnings call and was obligated to accurately answer a question about how the strike impacts Fox’s bottom line. The L.A. Times story about Young describes his “havoc” quote as “half-joking” and gives the full latter line as: “They [the studios] don't care for the fact that I tried to build as much strength for our side as possible. I'm not going to apologize for that."

The reaction to both are reminders that this strike is too harmful, to too many, for any leader to take anything that might be perceived as a victory lap.

The WGA’s Poll Position

November 14, 2007 3:56 PM

As previously reported, the writers campaign has effectively rallied many average viewers to their cause. By eschewing equal-sized protests at every studio in favor of a few large rallies, each with a different theme and accompanied by big name talents, the Writers Guild of America has effectively fed the media machine. Online, writers and their supporters have utilized blogs and YouTube to further spread their message.

A Pepperdine University poll claims only 4% of the American public currently favors the studios, which is stunning. If you look at polling during major league sport strikes, the majority of fans tend to blame players during walkouts, not the owners. But another key figure in the Pepperdine poll is that 33% say they’re unsure who they support—meaning there’s plenty of opportunity for either side to make gains in the court of public opinion.

How much that court matters is another question. The networks and studios seem dug in, resigned to let writers picket over the holidays. They’re waiting for the patience of the rank-and-file to wear thin, waiting to possibly negotiate a precedent-setting contract with the Directors Guild of America, and waiting for the media’s jittery attention span move on to something shiny. They know the sight of Marc Cherry holding a picket sign is only going to draw a camera so many times.

As scripted shows go off the air and the strike drags on, one industry insider says they expect viewer surveys to start more closely resembling those sports strike polls.

‘House’ Tops Tuesday

November 14, 2007 11:46 AM

HouseFox’s “House” led an uneventful Tuesday night in the ratings that also saw new series lows for ABC’s “Cavemen” and CBS’ “Cane.”

Fox was on top with “Bones” (3.4 preliminary rating among adults 18 to 49) and “House” (7.0, down 9 percent from last week and not worried about it).

NBC, once again in second place, had “The Biggest Loser” (up a tick to a 3.4) and “Law & Order: SVU” (4.4).

In third, ABC had “Cavemen” (1.6), “Carpoolers” (on-par 1.9), a “Dancing With the Stars” results show (up slightly to a 4.1) and “Boston Legal” (up 11 percent to 2.9).

Fourth-place CBS was down slightly across the board—which is fine for “NCIS” (3.7) and “The Unit” (2.9), but a new low for “Cane” (1.8).

The CW had an on-par “Beauty and the Geek” (1.2), while “Reaper” jumped back up to its former average (1.2).

ABC Orders 'Supernanny' Spinoff Pilot

November 14, 2007 10:58 AM

SupernannyABC has ordered a pilot for a spinoff to its reality series “Supernanny,” sources say.

The project puts a gender twist on the familiar “Supernanny” format. This time, a male child-care worker will take a tough-love approach to fixing chaotic households.

The working title is, yes, "Supermanny."

The pilot was ordered from Ricochet, the U.K. company that produced the original series and last summer’s “Fat March” for the network.

ABC ordered “Supermanny” before the writers strike, so it wasn’t initially a move to replace scripted content. However, the work stoppage could arguably help any reality project to eventually receive a series order.

ABC has the largest stock of scripted inventory going into the strike. On the unscripted front, “Dancing With the Stars” is a reality titan whose ratings are bested only by Fox's “American Idol.” “The Bachelor” and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” continue to perform well, with “Wife Swap” and “Supernanny” considered solid (the latter averaging a 3.5 rating last season among adults 18 to 49).

The network has struggled this past year to add new unscripted hits, however, trying out more than a dozen freshman reality shows, including “Fast Cars and Superstars,” “The Ex-Wives Club” and “Shaq’s Big Challenge.”

WGA Fires Back; No Fan Rally Planned

November 14, 2007 12:29 AM

First: The WGA has responded to the AMPTP’s accusation of using fear and intimidation to control its members: "Mr. Counter's charge is as offensive as it is untrue," the WGA said. "To accuse the Writers Guild of America of blacklisting, when it was we who suffered the most from it in the past, is simply Mr. Counter's desperate attempt to divert attention from the fact that it was he who walked out of the negotiations, and it is he who refuses every day to return to the table. The WGA has an offer on the table and is ready and willing to meet with the AMPTP any day, anywhere." … Sure the statement effectively refocuses the conflict back on the key matter of resuming contract talks, but doesn’t the “willing to meet the AMPTP any day, anywhere” line have an after-school-at-the-bike-racks-fight quality to it?

Second: Plenty of rumors about the WGA holding a fan event at Universal this Friday. Sources at the guild say no official rally is planned. The story started with a major entertainment news site reporting that thousands of “Battlestar Galactica” fans, in town for the convention, have pledged to join writers on the picket line. The report was referenced on several sites (this one among them). The publication issued a correction, claiming there will be a general fan day instead. But sources say the event, though having been discussed, is not happening this week.

Third: The Writers Guild of America claims more than 2,500 writers and actors marched earlier today at Universal City as part of its “Picket with the Stars” protest. The WGA says casts of “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Without a Trace,” “Cold Case,” “Dexter,” “Las Vegas” and many other series attended.

AMPTP: Writers Using ‘Fear and Intimidation’

November 13, 2007 3:58 PM

After running relatively quiet this past week, the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers has issued a new dispatch accusing the Writers Guild of America of using “fear and intimidation to control its membership.”

“Asking members to inform on each other and creating a blacklist of those who question the tactics of the WGA leadership is as unacceptable today as it was when the WGA opposed these tactics in the 1950s,” said AMPTP President Nick Counter.

The AMPTP points to a story in today’s Daily Variety citing an e-mail from Dan Wilcox, chair of the newly formed (and admittedly Orwellian-sounding) WGA West Strike Rules Compliance Committee.

"The mission of the SRCC is to ensure that the strike rules are strictly enforced,” the e-mail stated. “The SRCC will primarily concentrate its efforts on unearthing and discouraging scab writing. There is no more fundamental working rule than the prohibition against a WGA member performing struck work. … If you have suspicions about a particular writer or project, the best way to report them will be to call our hotline.”

GSN Launches Strike-Proof Ads

November 13, 2007 1:14 PM

A week after Ryan Seacrest noted that E! has a strike-proof late-night talk show, cable network GSN is touting its strike-resistant status in new on-air ads.

The ads feature dramatic moments from “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” followed by the slogan “You Can’t Write This Stuff.” The ads are designed to tout GSN’s late-night block, which the network hopes will receive a ratings boost now that broadcast talk shows have gone into repeats.

“The idea was to celebrate the spontaneity of great contestant moments in our new late-night lineup,” said a GSN representative. ”We thought it might subtly catch the attention of our viewers who would ordinarily watch broadcast network late-night programming, but are now looking for alternatives.”

Although Comedy Central’s talk shows have gone into repeats, and the production of scripted cable series such as FX’s "Nip/Tuck," AMC’s "Mad Men" and USA’s “Burn Notice” likely will be interrupted, much of cable’s lineup consists of unscripted or repurposed content, meaning cable could benefit from the strike.

GSN is the home of unscripted game shows and reality projects including “High Stakes Poker” and “Lingo.” Here’s one GSN ad featuring “Millionaire” contestant John Carpenter.

‘Big Bang,’ ‘K-Ville’ and ‘Journeyman’ Make Ratings Moves

November 13, 2007 12:26 PM

Big Bang TheoryABC topped the Monday ratings yet again with “Dancing With the Stars,” but CBS narrowed the gap this week with its comedy block and “CSI: Miami.”

Also, there was some motion among the freshman shows: CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” hit a ratings high in the 18-49 demo in the preliminary Nielsens, Fox’s “K-Ville” dropped to a new low and NBC’s “Journeyman” showed its first week-to-week gain.

ABC’s slate held fairly steady, with “Dancing” (5.2) and “Samantha Who?” (4.4) up slightly and “Bachelor” on par (3.4).

CBS made some gains and finished in second place. “How I Met Your Mother” was on par (3.3). “Big Bang” was up a tick to hit a series high (3.8). “Two and a Half Men” was average (5.0). “Rules of Engagement” had the best number since its premiere (4.2) and “CSI: Miami” was up slightly (4.6).

In third place, NBC’s fallen heroes of Monday night gained some relief after recent ratings drops. “Chuck” (3.2) and “Heroes” (5.1) were up slightly, with “Journeyman” (2.5) getting the biggest bounce—up 19 percent. The gain marks the first time after six episodes that “Journeyman” ratings have increased, but the show is still coming in a distant third place for the 10 p.m. hour.

Fox’s fall finale of “Prison Break” was average (3.1) and “K-Ville” sunk several rungs on the ladder to a new low (1.6).

The CW’s comedy block was on par, averaging a 1.1 rating for the night.

Fox Ups ‘Truth’ Order

November 13, 2007 11:48 AM

As the writers strike continues, Fox is increasing the series order for its lie detector game show.

The network has upped the order for “Moment of Truth” from seven to 12 episodes. The show connects contestants to a lie detector and asks them 21 increasingly personal questions for a chance to win half a million dollars. The network recently scheduled “Truth” to premiere Wednesday, March 12.

Fox reality regular Mark L. Walberg (“Joe Millionaire,” “Temptation Island”) has been tapped as host and Howard Schultz (“Extreme Makeover”) executive produces.

Burn Off: Strike and Non-Strike

November 12, 2007 7:36 PM

Strike: Another way writers are getting out their message through online communities … Damon Lindelof writes “I have little doubt that the tide will turn against us” … More on whether TV critics press tour will survive … Adult Swim mocks the strike … Kid Nation, writers strike edition … It really is incredibly handy.

Non-strike: How to fix “Reaper” … How to fix “Heroes”Thumbs down for NBC Direct … Like running up a bar tab on an expired credit card, FX orders two seasons of “Damages” during a writers strike.

Strikers Gain Fan Support

November 12, 2007 2:53 PM

Battlestar GalacticaAlthough the Writers Guild of America's pre-strike media campaign was criticized as sluggish, the guild's headline-grabbing series of protests last week have managed to attract the sympathy of some viewers.

Seventeen entertainment blogs—among them Televisionary, Give Me My Remote and The TVAddict—will go dark Tuesday, replacing their sites with WGA solidarity statements.

"Some people thought we'd be against the writers because our favorite shows are going away, but we wanted to show that some things are more important than a few shows airing full season," says Glowy Box blogger Liz Pardue, who organized tomorrow's "blog strike." "There needs to be an education effort made and we're trying to do our part."

This morning, “CSI” fans funded a Burbank aerial banner fly-by with a statement of support.

Fan site AintItCoolNews.com and others have linked to a petition supporting the writers that claims more than 44,000 signatures. “The sooner the strike is settled, the sooner the writers can return Dwight Schrute, Nancy Botwin, Chloe O’Brien and Hurley Reyes to us,” the site says.

By putting showrunners front and center last week, the WGA managed to emphasize that original episodes of fan favorites such as “The Office,” “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives” are at risk. The guild also crystallized its complex contract dispute around the singular topic of online downloads. This week, the WGA plans to put more prime-time actors on the picket line to continue feeding the media mill.

In this regard, the networks and studios have thus far been at a disadvantage.

The Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers has impressive executives in front of the microphones, but nobody who has come across as sympathetic or relatable. Statements by media moguls such as CBS President Leslie Moonves and News Corp. President Peter Chernin shrugging off the strike are also, in effect, shrugging off the concerns of their viewers.

Moreover, the AMPTP argument that the strike hurts below-the-line workers could effectively paint writers as unduly selfish for going on strike, especially right before the holidays—if it weren’t being undermined when Mr. Chernin says the strike is “probably a positive.” And: “We save more money in term deals and, you know, story costs and probably the lack of making pilots than we lose in potential advertising."

Makes it tougher to argue writers are being greedy when you’re pointing out the bottom-line benefit of hundreds of employees losing their jobs.

UPDATE: Glowy Box (good name, tho fellow protesting blog "Seriously? OMG! WTF?" also has merit) has updated her Tuesday blog blackout list: 21 entertainment blogs and counting will go dark in a few hours. With the story of their protest getting considerable online pickup, let's see if they can all withstand that meth-like blogger urge to post content tomorrow as their traffic surges.

UPDATE II: Striking Bloggers Plan "Adopt a Writer" Campaign

Entertainment blogs supporting WGA strikers plan to continue their writer solidarity efforts with an "Adopt a Writer" campaign.

The plan is still in early stages and has not yet been announced, but the general idea to have each blogger profile a striking Hollywood writer—tell their story about why they're on strike and how it's affected their life. The striking writers won't contribute any content to the blogs since they are, after all, on strike.

UPDATE III: WGA Nixes Friday "Fan Day" Rally

Click here for complete coverage of the strike.

CBS Ratings Seesaw: Friday Up, Sunday Down

November 12, 2007 12:29 PM

MoonlightCBS’ ratings fortunes teeter-tottered over the weekend: Its Friday night crime dramas “Ghost Whisperer” and “Moonlight” rose to impressive gains, but most of its Sunday slate, led by “The Amazing Race,” dipped from last week’s season highs.

CBS ruling Friday is nothing new. But the network seems to be strengthening its hold as “Ghost Whisperer” (2.9 preliminary rating among adults 18 to 49, up 16% from last week), “Moonlight” (2.5, up 14%) and “Numb3rs” (2.8, up 22%) jumped week-to-week. “Moonlight” matched its highest rating to date.

Also Friday, the time-period premiere of Fox’s “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” (2.2) doubled its “Next Great American Band” lead-in (1.1) to place second in the 9 p.m. hour and match its Thursday average. If the number holds up next week, it could give Fox some much-needed leverage on Friday nights—particularly once scripted competitors start going into repeats.

On Sunday, however, CBS was in second place. Which doesn’t sound too bad until you realize that NBC, ABC and Fox all tied for first.

NBC had “Football Night in America” (3.4) and “Sunday Night Football” (5.7, down 15% from last week).

ABC enjoyed across-the-board increases with “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (5.3, its best audience since February), “Desperate Housewives” (7.2, up a couple ticks) and “Brothers & Sisters” (5.0, up 9%).

Fox’s comedies continue to perform strongly, with “The Simpsons” (5.1, its second-best number since January), “King of the Hill” (3.7, up 6% from its last original episode), “Family Guy” (on par) and “American Dad” (4.0, its best since January).

CBS saw drops for “The Amazing Race” (a 28% drop from last week’s premiere) and “Cold Case” (down 14% from last week’s season high), but “Shark” was up slightly (2.6).

The CW had “CW Now” (0.4), “Life Is Wild” (0.4) and repeats.

'CSI,' 'Without a Trace' Crossover Solves Ratings Mystery

November 9, 2007 10:38 AM

CSI (CBS)Two of CBS’s tough-talking, middle-aged, sunglass-wearing crime fighters teamed up last night to overthrow ABC’s Thursday-night lineup, despite “Grey’s Anatomy” once again scoring the highest series rating.

Back-to-back crossover episodes of “CSI” and “Without a Trace” teamed William Petersen and Anthony LaPaglia’s lead characters for the first time and helped give the network the nightly ratings trophy among adults 18 to 49.

Not that CBS’ 8 p.m. was any slouch. “Survivor” was down a tick from last week but continues to win the hour (with a 4.8 preliminary rating in 18 to 49). “CSI” had the highest rating since its premiere (6.4) and “Without a Trace” had its best since March 2006. The real mystery is whether “Trace” will see a ratings bump from the crossover next week.

ABC was second, with “Ugly Betty” up a notch from last week (3.5), “Grey’s” down slightly against “CSI” (7.9) and “Big Shots” (3.6). “Shots” was down two pegs from its preliminary rating last week, which is a more accurate comparison than the nationals because ABC once again pushed seven minutes of “Grey’s” into the hour. Last week the show dropped from 3.6 in the prelims to 3.1 when adjusted for the time shift.

The first hour of NBC’s comedy block was on par, with “My Name Is Earl” (3.3) and “30 Rock” (3.1), but “The Office” (4.3) and “Scrubs” (3.2) had their lowest rating of the season up against the crime crossover. “ER” matched its low (3.5).

Fox, coming in fourth, had “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader,” flat from last week’s two-hour edition (2.6), and “Don’t Forget the Lyrics,” up 21 percent from its most recent original last month (2.3).

The CW’s “Smallville” (1.8) and “Supernatural” (1.2) were on par among adults 18 to 49, but down a tad in their key demos.

Burn Off: Strike Chants Edition

November 8, 2007 1:24 PM

Still attending BlogWorld Expo.

Meantime, here’s a collection of WGA strike chants: “We write the fiction, we want jurisdiction”; “No more scripts, no more pages, soon we’ll empty all your stages”; “Webcasts, DVDs, we won’t write them, not for free”; “We write the story-a for Eva Longoria”; “I am walking at this gate ’cause I got screwed in ’88”; “How much you earnin’, Peter Chernin?”; “Who’s got more money than they can count? Pa-ra-mount”; “Pencils down! All around! Hollywood’s a union town”; “They tried to make me do a rewrite, but I said, No! No! No!” (culled from WGA members, the Los Angeles Times strike blog and DeadlineHollywoodDaily.com).

Your Burn Off: Nooo, not press tour! … “The Office” originals end next week, the staff on YouTube… “Law & Order” could be next … Could Bill Clinton help? … Tim Kring apologizes for “Heroes,” but won’t promise to kill off Maya and Alejandro … Everybody is talking about this.

'Bionic Woman' Hits Bottom

November 8, 2007 10:38 AM

Bionic Woman (NBC)Continuing its ratings freefall, NBC’s “Bionic Woman” hit a new low Wednesday night and came in last place among major networks in the 9 p.m. hour.

After such a strong start last month, “Bionic” has dropped with every telecast amid ongoing behind-the-scenes showrunner turmoil. In its six episodes, the “Bionic” narrative has paired Michelle Ryan’s Jamie Summers with several potential on-screen partners rotating through the show as if on a lazy Susan, looking for a match.

Meanwhile the show has similarly cycled through producers, with reports of writer Jason Katims (“Friday Night Lights”) recently taking over the writers room, and others reporting that Jason Cahill (“The Sopranos”) is running the show, all of which continue to receive a “no comment” from NBC (itself a sign of trouble—who’s in charge of a prime-time show should not be a backroom secret).

“Bionic” scored a 2.7 preliminary rating among adults 18 to 49, with NBC coming in fourth place for the night. Lead-in “Phenomenon” (2.2) was down from last week and “Life” was on par (2.6).

ABC won the night with the 41st annual CMA Awards, matching last year (5.4).

CBS was second with “Kid Nation” up a notch (2.1), “Criminal Minds” up a few ticks (3.9) but “CSI: NY” hit a low (3.5).

Returning to originals after airing the World Series and then repeats the last couple weeks, Fox came in third with “Back to You” (2.2), “Til Death” (2.4) and “Kitchen Nightmares” (2.9) returning to relative lows.

The CW came in second place in the 8 p.m. hour with a strong “America’s Next Top Model” (2.5), while “Gossip Girl” was on par (1.2).

Fox Shuffles Schedule, Postpones ‘24’

November 7, 2007 4:28 PM

24With the writers strike under way, Fox is switching up its 2008 schedule.

The major moves include indefinitely postponing the premiere of “24,” moving up the launch of “Hell’s Kitchen” into spring and setting premiere dates for several new shows.

Overall, Fox plans a mix of reality and repeats, along with running off its remaining stock of scripted originals.

Even with an ongoing strike expected to dry up scripted episodes, a few freshman projects are being dropped into airless Friday nights.

There’s a large number of changes here, so let’s get to it:

  • Mondays: Fox originally scheduled “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” and “24.” With only a modest number of “24” episodes reportedly complete, the season-seven premiere is being postponed “to ensure that ‘Day 7’ can air uninterrupted, in its entirety,” Fox says. Now “Prison Break” will launch the night, followed by “Connor” starting Jan. 14 (“Connor” will have a special premiere on Sunday, Jan. 13). Factoring in the limited number of completed shows available, the reality project “When Women Rule the World” will fill in at 8 p.m. starting March 3 and “House” repeats will take over at 9 p.m. on March 10.
  • Tuesdays: “American Idol” has its two-hour season premiere as planned Jan. 15 at 8 p.m. Starting Jan. 22, “Idol” will scale back to one hour and “House” will fall into the 9 p.m. slot. “Hell’s Kitchen” will take over for “House” April 1.
  • Wednesdays: Some modest shuffling here, with a planned 8 p.m. sitcom block replaced by reality. After a two-hour “Idol” on Jan. 16, the new lie detector game show hosted by Mark L. Walberg “Moment of Truth” (formerly called "Nothing But the Truth") falls into the 9 p.m. hour, then “Back to You” repeats at 9:30 p.m.
  • Thursdays: “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader” and “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” return Jan. 10.
  • Fridays: Traditionally a dead night for Fox, but several freshman scripted projects are being dropped into the night. Repeats of “Bones” and “House” start Jan. 4. Immortal detective drama “New Amsterdam” takes the 9 p.m. slot starting Feb. 22 (by that time CBS will have presumably run out of episodes of its own immortal detective drama, "Moonlight," which currently airs in the same time period). Parker Posey comedy “The Return of Jezebel James,” originally scheduled for Wednesdays, will be paired with “Til Death” repeats on Fridays starting March 7. Starting April 11, “New Amsterdam” will be replaced by another freshman drama, the courtroom drama “Canterbury’s Law” starring Julianna Margulies, which was once slotted for Thursdays.
  • Sundays: No changes to the lineup when it launches Jan. 6. On Feb. 3, Fox has the Super Bowl followed by an original of “House” with guest star Mira Sorvino. There’s the “Connor” premiere Jan. 13. On March 2, the comedy “Unhitched” gets a run at 9:30 p.m.

Fox notes this entire schedule is subject to change pending a writers strike resolution.

Click here for complete coverage of the strike.

‘House’ Tops Tuesday; ABC Comedies Drop

November 7, 2007 2:18 PM

HouseFox’s “House” continues to perform as if DVRs don’t exist.

The show was up 10 percent from last week to its highest same-day rating since its season premiere, posting a 7.7 preliminary among adults 18 to 49. Lead-in “Bones” scored a season high (3.6) and together they gave Fox an easy win for the night.

NBC was second with a two-hour “Biggest Loser,” now sans its “Singing Bee” lead-in and up 18 percent from last week (3.3). “Law & Order: SVU” was down 11 percent from its last original to a season low (although it still won its time period).

CBS was third, and once again its first two hours performed a ratings swing: “NCIS” was up 24 percent week-to-week (4.1) to post its best rating since last December and won its time period. “The Unit” was up 11 percent (3.0). But “Cane,” after holding steady last week, continued its descent, down another rung on the ladder (1.9).

If only ABC could air 40-year-old Charlie Brown specials every week. Last night its comedy block returned and few viewers seemed to have missed it. “Cavemen” was down 23 percent from its most recent telecast to finish as the lowest-rated show on the major networks (1.7) for the night. “Carpoolers” was down 21 percent (1.9). With that weak lead-in, the “Dancing With the Stars” results show hit a season low (3.8) and “Boston Legal” was on par (2.7).

The CW’s “Beauty and the Geek” posted gains (1.3) while “Reaper” was down a peg (1.0).

Also: In Las Vegas today through Saturday attending and speaking at Blog World Expo, “the world’s largest blogging conference.” Yes, it’s also the first Blog World Expo, but that doesn’t mean it’s not large. Speaking on a panel Thursday re: the role of new media in television.

Burn Off: Showrunner Protest Planned

November 6, 2007 6:28 PM

Tomorrow morning at Disney Studios, a large group of showrunners are planning to picket, sources say.

The WGA has about 35 showrunners confirmed and are hoping for about 75 to make the protest. The rally stems from Saturday's showrunner meeting led by Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd ("Back to You," "Frasier"), Matthew Weiner (“Mad Men”), Dawn Prestwich and Nicole Yorkin (“The Riches”), and Josh Friedman (“Sarah Connor Chronicles”) that helped convince writer-producers into largely adhering to picket lines during the first two days of the strike.

The Disney location wasn't chosen to target any particular project but because it has a favorable parking situation (really).

Also: "The Office" protest may be working. Strikers report that the production came to a full stop today, though this has not been confirmed.

Your burn off: Late night shows might return without writers ... Much in the way potato chips are technically vegetarian, Ryan Seacrest reminds us the E! schedule is strike proof ... "Nightline" may benefit from strike ... CBS eyes "Big Brother" for strike ... Is John Wells the man behind the Counter? ... Web video shops pounce on strike.

Click here for complete coverage of the strike.

‘Chuck’ Up; ‘Journeyman’ Dips

November 6, 2007 3:39 PM

JourneymanThe start of the writers strike failed to send viewers rushing to watch endangered scripted programming last night, with network ratings roughly on par.

Among the more notable shifts week-to-week: NBC’s “Chuck” was up 14 percent (to a 3.2 preliminary average rating among adults 18 to 49) and CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” saw a 12 percent bounce (3.8), while NBC’s “Journeyman” hit a new low (2.1).

Overall, ABC topped the night in the demo and among total viewers, but its ratings are approximate due to quirky start times. Its lineup was “Dancing With the Stars” (5.0), “Samantha Who?” (4.2) and “The Bachelor” (3.7).

CBS came in second with “How I Met Your Mother” (up 10 percent to match a season-high 3.4), “Big Bang” (3.8), “Two and a Half Men” (5.0), “Rules of Engagement” (4.0) and “CSI: Miami” (4.4).

NBC and Fox tied for third, with NBC airing “Chuck” (3.2), “Heroes” (4.9) and “Journeyman” (a series-low 2.1).

Fox’s “Prison Break” returned up slightly with back-to-back episodes (3.3 and 3.4).

The CW had “Everybody Hates Chris” (1.0), “Aliens in America” (0.7, hitting a new low), “Girlfriends” (0.9) and “The Game” (1.1).

Sitcom Strike Shutdown Rundown

November 6, 2007 11:29 AM

Back to YouWith the strike entering its second day, several sitcoms have shut down production, including Fox’s “Til Death,” CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” and “Two and a Half Men.”

Sitcoms were expected to be among the first wave of shows to hit by the strike. The production process for multi-camera comedies includes rewriting of scripts right up until the day of shooting, which means they were on a short leash once the scribes walked.

The reason some comedies are still in production is because they are single-camera shows, and therefore require shots planned further in advance—along with completed scripts to plan those shots. However, one studio representative cautioned that such reasoning could not be applied in every case.

Here’s the current list:

CBS: “Big Bang,” “Two and a Half Men” and “Rules of Engagement” are shut down. “How I Met Your Mother” is still in production this week.

Fox: “Til Death” and “Back to You” are shut down (the latter actually is on a scheduled hiatus and was due to commence production tomorrow).

NBC: “My Name Is Earl” is still shooting. “The Office” was heavily picketed and media reports suggest the production was disrupted, if not officially shut down. “Scrubs” is still in production. "30 Rock" is in production and sources say Tina Fey, who walked the Rockefeller Plaza picket lines Monday, has returned to work as an actress on the show.

ABC: The network's lineup of single-camera comedies have been not been impacted by the strike so far. "Notes From the Underbelly" is still in production. "Carpoolers" is still in production and will wrap its order tomorrow. "Cavemen" is still in production on its final script. "Samantha Who?" is still in production. "Miss/Guided," which is scheduled for midseason, just wrapped.

The CW: “Aliens in America” remains in production. “Everybody Hates Chris” has wrapped for the season. “Girlfriends” and “The Game” remain in production.

Click here for complete coverage of the strike.

1:40 p.m.: Updated status of "30 Rock"

Burn Off: Strike, Day One

November 5, 2007 6:16 PM

On TVWeek.com’s Strike Central, AMPTP chief Nick Counter explains why networks and studios are “not going to negotiate with a gun to our heads” … Hyphenate Greg Daniels and members of “The Office” cast try to shut down their own show … Fellow showrunner Shawn Ryan on why he’s striking … Shows go into repeats … Writers say they’re willing to continue negotiations … A Democratic presidential candidate supports a union … Networks make contingency plans… A rundown of how major shows are impacted … ABC pushes “Cashmere Mafia” premiere date … Picketers shut down CBS’s “Cane.”

'Simpsons,' 'Amazing Race' Hit Highs

November 5, 2007 1:28 PM

Amazing RaceOn a competitive sweeps Sunday where all the major broadcast networks gave relatively strong performances, two shows spiked in particular: The season premiere of CBS’s “Amazing Race” and Fox’s annual “Treehouse of Horror” episode of “The Simpsons.”

Returning for its 12th installment at a time when most veteran reality shows have shown ratings erosion, “Race” gave its best premiere in more than two years. With a 4.2 preliminary rating among adults 18 to 49, “Race” was up a sharp 35% from its premiere last February and 8% from its premiere last September.

Fox’s “Simpsons” hit a 5.7, it’s best 8 p.m. performance in nearly four years and up 14% from last year’s “Treehouse” episode.

Overall, NBC won the night with “Football Night in America” (3.4), then “Sunday Night Football,”
which had the Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles (6.0, up 9% over the last Sunday game two weeks ago).

CBS was second with “60 Minutes” (5.0, getting pumped up from NFL overrun), followed by “Race” (4.2, which could shift a bit since it started at 8:25 p.m.). “Cold Case” was up from last week (3.3), followed by “Shark” (2.3, yikes).

ABC was third, which tends to make the network cranky on Monday mornings given its lineup of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (4.7), “Desperate Housewives” (6.9) and “Brothers & Sisters” (4.6), all roughly on par.

Fox was fourth with “Simpsons” (5.7), the 100th episode “Family Guy” special (5.3), followed by the actual episode (5.4, up 38% from its last original airing) and “American Dad” (3.6).
The CW’s Sunday night lineup continued to founder. “CW Now” (0.3), “Aliens in America” repeat (0.4), “Life is Wild” (0.4) and “America’s Next Top Model” repeat (0.5).

CBS Plans Online Danny Bonaduce Series

November 4, 2007 9:00 PM

CBS Mobile is planning an animated mini-episode series voiced by Danny Bonaduce.

The satirical “Danny Bonaduce: Life Coach” will premiere Nov. 12 on the video services of major U.S. wireless carriers as well as stream online at CBS.com and via the CBS Audience Network of online partners such as AOL and CNET. The show includes eight short episodes, each less than five minutes in length.

“Life Coach” episodes will be inspired by current tabloid headlines, with Bonaduce giving skewed advice to the likes of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton following the latest celebrity scandals. Bonaduce’s character, along with sidekick Catchphrase Cat, will draw on his own past misdeeds for lending advice, all while weightlifting and chainsmoking.

"We feel a strong social responsibility at CBS Mobile, especially for celebrities in need,” says Cyriac Roeding, executive VP at CBS Mobile. “So we thought, what better way to help than providing timely advice from Danny Bonaduce, a life management expert, on a most personal medium—the cell phone?”

CBS says fans will be able to sign up to receive regular life coaching messages sent from Bonaduce about how to “get it together” (must …resist … linking to Bonaduce Photo). The move is the latest in a series by CBS Mobile to showcase original online programming.

As an online animated show, “Life Coach” isn’t signatory to the Writers Guild, and one can expect an increased number of similar network efforts should writers go on strike tomorrow as planned.

‘Heroes’ and the Writers Strike

November 2, 2007 1:45 PM

HeroesNBC's flagship drama "Heroes" is one of the highest-rated and most critically acclaimed shows on television, yet one would never know it from reading recent reviews and fan message boards.

The backlash started with last season’s finale, which jacked audience expectations through the roof for an epic showdown. Showrunner Tim Kring promised fans his scripted finale would play “like a $90 million movie,” then had characters chatting in an empty plaza. Viewers howled. Later it was reported that Kring was unable to shoot his planned finale due to running into a budget crunch.

This season, “Heroes” has recreated feudal Japan using a Southern California orchard and a few extras in period costumes. Entertainment Weekly recently bashed the new season for sloppy writing, as well as “myriad worldwide locales that all look like the backlot of ‘M*A*S*H” and “mediocre special effects.” Now the show’s planned spinoff, “Origins,” has been canceled, with some network insiders blaming the pending strike, and observers blaming the flagship show’s recent ratings drop.

Likewise, CBS’s ratings-challenged “Jericho” earned a renewal earlier this year by building to an epic cliffhanger that had the township going to war with a neighboring burg. After wrangling a budget for a second season, showrunner Carol Barbee says the story will resume after the battle, with only a few brief flashbacks showing the fight itself. Making a much more cautious reference to theatrical films than Kring, she jokes, “It’s not going to be like the opening of ‘Saving Private Ryan.’”

Both cases could be dismissed as showrunners being overly ambitious, writing epic stories that over-reached their small-screen budgets. But there’s an argument to be made that there’s a larger issue at play, and it parallels the rhetoric coming from the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers as the minutes tick closer to a strike.

The AMPTP’s refrain is that show budgets are going up and ratings are going down.

But you can add another industry stressor that’s less tangible, but equally significant: Audience expectations for the quality of scripted shows keep increasing. Every time a “24” re-sets the bar for an action drama, or “The Office” for a comedy, or “Grey’s Anatomy” for a prime-time soap, the creative cost of entertainment rises.

And in the case of recent complaints about some of the most ambitious shows on television, the seams are showing as high viewer expectations are bumping up against bottom-line reality.

“The expectations for shows keep getting higher and higher,” said one network and studio advocate. “Ratings are going down. Repeats are not working. Last year, the top shows were inexpensive reality shows. If networks put on the dancing bears and that’s what people want to watch, then they’re going to make dancing bear shows.”

It’s a point often met with skepticism. While moderating the HRTS luncheon, “Pushing Daisies” executive producer Barry Sonnenfeld warned that his “Daisies” budget better stay high enough to hold up the standard set by the pilot—yet also criticized network chiefs for not stepping up to pay more during writer contract negotiations. Critics bash NBC for its Nissan Rouge drive bys on “Heroes” and for stretching “The Office” to an hour, not realizing the network is desperately trying to avoiding putting on dancing bears, or keeping Hiro on the backlot or, worst of all, having more NBC Universal layoffs.

That audiences increasingly expect scripted dramas to match the quality of summer movies is hardly a new sentiment, but it’s an even greater challenge than that. Top showrunners feel enormous pressure from fans who expect their writing, week after week, to exceed that of summer tentpole hits. Amazingly, it often does. And when the writers stumble, there are loud online complaints that quickly manifest as sharp ratings drops (such as last season with “Lost” and “24,” and this season with “Heroes”). Even as the AMPTP beats its drum about the numbers no longer adding up, it knows there’s one aspect that’s not expendable in this complex creative and budgetary equation if scripted shows are to survive: High-quality writing.

So either shows need to be cheaper, stories less ambitious, viewership increased or the networks need to find new ways to monetize the content.

The AMPTP may be right that a writers strike will be a dangerous blow to the scripted drama business, but writers are correct to place a premium on their services. Either way, the parties seem to lack the same realization: They need each other, more than ever.

Click here for complete coverage of the strike.

ABC Tops First Night of Sweeps; 'Survivor' Spikes

November 2, 2007 11:22 AM

ABC led the first night of November sweeps with “Ugly Betty” and “Grey’s Anatomy” up slightly from last week.

“Betty” had a 3.4 preliminary rating among adults 18 to 49, up a tick week to week. “Grey’s” was up 5% to a 7.8, but bled 6 minutes into “Big Shots,” skewing up its 3.8 rating.

CBS came in second in the demo and first in viewers. “Survivor: China” had its best rating since its premiere with a 4.8. A highpoint: After several seasons of contestants finding and using hidden immunity idols to keep from being voted off, an endangered “Survivor” contestant finally goofed and tried to present a random object at Tribal Council that, as it turned out, was worthless. Host Jeff Probst threw the non-idol into the fire, her competitors laughed, and voted her off. Check out the clip.

CBS followed “Survivor” with “CSI,” which hit a season low 5.6, then “Without a Trace,” up 18% to a 3.8.

Coming in third, NBC had average outings of “My Name Is Earl” (3.1), “The Office” (4.5), “Scrubs” (3.7, down a notch from last week’s premiere) and “ER”(3.7).

In fourth place, after running repeats the past few days because the World Series ended after four games, Fox returned to originals with a two hour “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader” (2.5).

The CW’s “Smallville” was down slightly in the demo and among adults 18 to 34 (1.7 / 1.9) and “Supernatural” was flat in the demo but up a notch among 18 to 34 (1.3 /1.4).

Burn Off: ‘Reaper’ Goes to iTunes

November 1, 2007 12:46 PM

The CW is going to add “Reaper” to iTunes today, sources say, making the show’s season-to-date episodes available for download.

The network faces a tough call whether to pick up this show, whose ratings have been very bubbly, even by CW standards. Everybody agrees the pilot was spot-on. “Reaper” gets good press, with the current issue of Entertainment Weekly running an item urging viewers to watch. Ray Wise, who plays the devil, has practically become the network’s new spokesman.

Everybody also agrees, however, that “Reaper” has yet to match the promise of its pilot. Witty dialogue has been sparse of late. The show is still trying to figure out what to do with its female lead. Producers plan to introduce more serialized elements tracking Sam’s efforts to get out of his contract with the devil, but pushing the comedy back to whip-smart level is their main goal.

Also: CourtTV’s new identity, TruTV, reveals a tagline—“Not Reality. Actuality”—as good as its rebrand … A “Family Guy” parody of “The Empire Strikes Back” is looking more likely … A blogger calls Sci Fi Channel on its “abusive” relationship with its fans (oh sci-fi fans, you never receive as much love as you give), while another bashes NBC’s latest effort to saddle “Heroes” with can’t-miss ads … ABC says “Pushing Daisies” is a comedy for award show purposes … Dennis Miller will host NBC’s “Amnesia” … Wal-Mart will sell Toshiba's HD DVD player for a mere $98 tomorrow ... and, of course, all of this and every bit of entertainment news will be thrown off-kilter if the writers call a strike tonight.

Criss Angel Pulls Halloween Trick

November 1, 2007 11:08 AM

Viewing levels dropped last night due to Halloween, resulting in blameless series lows for many shows.

ABC and CBS tied for first place, with ABC running “Pushing Daisies” (2.6), “Private Practice” (3.8) and “Dirty Sexy Money” (2.9). CBS had “Kid Nation” (2.0), “Criminal Minds” (3.5) and “CSI: NY” (3.6).

NBC was third with a two-hour live edition of “Phenomenon” (2.3) and “Life” (1.9).

Fox and The CW had repeats.

On “Phenomenon,” judge Criss Angel unexpectedly called out both a contestant and his fellow judge Uri Geller as psychic frauds. After witnessing a series of performers demonstrating their ability to divine numbers, cards, words and objects hidden from view, Angel seemed to lose his patience after contestant Jim Callahan performed an odd ritual where he claimed to commune with the dead. Angel whipped out an envelope and offered either Callahan or Geller $1 million if they could tell him what was inside. A scuffle ensued; here’s the clip.