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December 2007 Archives

Burn Off: Blog on Vacation Edition

December 20, 2007 4:06 PM

Burnoff’Tis the season for reporters churning out retrospectives before they leave on vacation. So in this proud tradition of wanton end-of-year recycling, here’s a look back at the first six months of “Rated.”

Also:

‘Loser’ Tops Tuesday; ‘Duel’ Grows

December 19, 2007 12:15 PM

The Biggest Loser (NBC)Reality shows staged a comeback Tuesday night, as NBC’s combination of “Clash of the Choirs” and “The Biggest Loser” finale won the night.

NBC led among adults 18 to 49 in the preliminary Nielsen ratings, while CBS won among total viewers with its trio of original dramas.

“Biggest Loser” (4.6) was off a very slight 4% from last year, but that’s still considered a victory given the increased DVR penetration (now up to 21%, according to the latest Nielsen tally). Its success bodes well for NBC’s next round of “Biggest Loser” debuting Jan. 1.

Lead-in “Choirs” (2.4) maintained its premiere number, and NBC just announced it will expand Thursday night’s finale to two hours.

Fox was second with repeats of “Bones” (2.0) and “House” (3.3).

CBS was third with originals of “NCIS” (2.7), “The Unit” (2.8) and the last produced episode of “Cane” (1.8), all on the low side.

ABC was fourth with “Duel” (2.4), up a sigh-of-relief 14% from its premiere to tie with “Choir” for second place in the 8 p.m. hour. A repeat of “According to Jim” (1.5) followed, then a season-low “Boston Legal” (2.1). The CW aired repeats.

'Survivor' Lunch Lady Turns Down $50,000

December 18, 2007 5:38 PM

“Survivor” fourth-place finisher Denise Martin said she will turn down executive producer Mark Burnett’s offer of $50,000 after being caught in a lie during the finale’s live reunion show Sunday night.

Martin (oft-billed on “Survivor” as “The Lunch Lady”) claimed she lost her Douglas, Mass., public school cafeteria job because her boss said she became too distracting to the students after her stint on the popular CBS reality show. Martin added she was now working as a janitor instead.

She told her tale on the CBS reunion show after the two-hour “Survivor” finale. Before getting voted out, Martin pleaded with rivals not to send her home, claiming she earned only $7 an hour. Another contestant cruelly bashed Martin during the episode for her economic status, saying she “sucks at life.” After Martin then revealed her apparent demotion to cleaning toilets on the air, “Survivor” host Jeff Probst declared that Burnett will give Martin $50,000—lending her story a happy ending.

But Douglas Schools Superintendent Nancy Lane disputed Martin’s account the next day, saying she had requested the higher-paying janitorial work (at $17 an hour) and actually started her new position before leaving to film the show. In an interview on CBS’ “The Early Show,” Martin accepted Ms. Lane's version of events and apologized.

Late Tuesday, Martin released a statement through CBS: “I would like to apologize to Mark Burnett, Jeff Probst, CBS, Nancy Lane, the town of Douglas and my friends and family. It was not my intention to mislead anyone. I take full responsibility for my actions and hope that you can find it in your hearts to forgive me. I do not feel comfortable about accepting the $50,000. I would instead ask that it be donated to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Please accept my apology. I would also like to thank all the people who have supported me through this experience.”

Notice Martin’s apology doesn’t let Burnett off the hook for coughing up 50 grand. A spot for Martin on the upcoming “fans vs. favorites” season of “Survivor”? Unlikely.

Below is the clip of Martin talking about her "demotion" to janitor during the "Survivor" reunion show.


And Kimmel, Too

December 18, 2007 1:21 PM

Jimmy KimmelJimmy Kimmel will join his NBC talk show brethren and return to the air without writers on Jan. 2.

His statement echoes the “this one’s for the crew” reasoning expressed by Carson Daly, Conan O’Brien and Jay Leno: “Though it makes me sick to do so without my writers, there are more than a hundred people whose financial well-being depends on our show. It is time to go back to work. I support my colleagues and friends in the WGA completely and hope this ends both fairly and soon.”

Word is still pending on the return of David Letterman, and whether the veteran host will be able to secure permission from the Writers Guild of America to employ his writing staff after the guild rejected waiver pleas from producers of the Golden Globes and Academy Awards.

UPDATE: Statement from "Late Show With David Letterman" executive producer and Worldwide Pants President/CEO Rob Burnett on the status of its request for an interim agreement with the WGA: "We are willing to agree to the writers' demands that are within our control, so we have no reason to believe that an interim agreement can't be achieved with the WGA. As a result, our only focus is on returning January 2nd with writers."

‘Duel,’ ‘Choirs’ Clash and Burn

December 18, 2007 12:53 PM

Clash of the ChoirsIn a ratings report sure to please striking writers, ABC's and NBC's latest unscripted series premieres were overshadowed by repeats Monday night.

The two-hour debut of ABC’s new game show “Duel” (2.5 preliminary rating among adults 18 to 49) and NBC’s holiday reality competition “Clash of the Choirs” (2.4) posted low returns for their respective time periods. “Duel” barely bested the 90-minute “Choirs” by a tenth of a point in the 8 p.m. hour.

However, a rerun of Fox’s “House” (2.6) edged out both of them in the 8 p.m. hour, as did back-to-back repeats of CBS' "Two and a Half Men" at 9 p.m. (3.6) and 9:30 (3.7).

CBS managed to come out on top for the evening, winning in the demo and among total viewers. CBS ran two hours of comedy repeats leading into an original “CSI: Miami” (3.9) that was the highest-rated show of the night despite matching its series low.

ABC was second with “Duel,” “Notes From the Underbelly” (1.9) and “October Road” (2.2).

NBC and Fox tied for third, with NBC airing “Choirs” and “Journeyman” (a series-low 1.6). Fox had “House” and the final scheduled episode of “K-Ville” (1.6). The CW was fifth with repeats.

UPDATE: In the Nielsen national ratings, ABC's "Duel" dropped sharply to a 2.1 rating due to some affiliates carrying ESPN's "Monday Night Football." As a result, NBC's "Choirs" (2.4) came out on top between the two shows.

‘Monk,’ ‘Psych’ to Get NBC Run

December 18, 2007 12:25 PM

Monk (USA)Continuing to cross-pollinate its cable and network content, NBC Universal soon will give USA Network hits “Psych” and “Monk” a second airing on NBC.

Six original episodes will premiere on USA in January, followed by a repeat on NBC on Sunday nights starting in March. NBC also may air older episodes from last summer or previous seasons of the shows.

“I’ve been a big fan of both shows, and we have been talking about [airing] these since the merger of NBC and the studio,” said NBC Entertainment Co-Chair Ben Silverman. “We felt these two character-driven procedurals would play well as a block together.”

Although the move will almost certainly be seen as a response to the writers strike, Silverman claimed he was planning to air the shows regardless.

“A lot of this we would be doing anyway,” he said. “The strike is pointing a flashlight on it.”

Bonnie Hammer, president of USA Network and Sci Fi Channel, said: “[Airing on NBC] was always an end-game goal. It’s just been accelerated at this point.”

Starting in January, NBC also is repurposing episodes of USA’s “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” a decision made months before the strike. Hammer said NBC siphoning USA’s content will only benefit the cable network’s brand.

“We’re very excited about getting the extra exposure on NBC,” she said. “If anything, it will bring new viewers to the USA Network.”

NBC is the first broadcast network to dip heavily into a cable catalog during the writers strike. Some of NBC’s broadcast competitors have said they consider such a move a last-resort option if they run dry of original content. But NBC has a history of cross-promoting its popular fare across its network properties, including USA, Bravo and Sci Fi Channel.

Absent from NBC’s current repurposing plans: USA’s new hit “Burn Notice,” which averaged higher ratings last summer among adults 18 to 49 than either “Monk” or “Psych.” Since “Burn Notice” is produced by Fox Television Studios, a separate deal would have to be made to bring the show to the network. “Monk” and “Psych” are produced in-house at Universal Media Studios.

“There have been very non-detailed conversations about bringing over ‘Burn Notice,’” one source familiar with the matter said. “NBC is going into its own neighborhood first.”

Another issue with “Burn Notice” is that only last summer’s episodes are available for repurposing. The second season had yet to begin production when the writers strike started in November.

NBC executives left the door open to other cable series making the jump, however. Sci Fi’s “Battlestar Galactica,” which returns for its fourth season in March and is produced by Universal Media Studios, could enjoy additional airings on NBC, executives said, though the network is wary of scheduling heavily serialized programs.

UPDATED: NBC has nailed down premiere dates and times for "Monk" and "Psych." Starting March 2, "Monk" will air Sundays at 8 p.m. followed by "Psych" at 9 p.m.

Burn Off: Late Night & ‘Lost’ Edition

December 17, 2007 9:21 PM

Conan and Jay to return Jan. 2 without writers … Maybe Letterman will also return – with writers … “Our sympathizers are legion” – new video that says talk shows will be disrupted if their hosts return to work attempts to be threatening and playful at the same time, which is a tad tricky to pull off … “Lost” co-creator Damon Lindelof, sounding far from annoyed at ABC airing a partial season, says it’s “awesome” to be on Thursday nights: “We can't go on strike in one breath and then complain about the fact that the series isn't airing the way we want it to in the other. I believe in the strike and why we're on strike, so that supersedes what my preference is for the ideal way for the show to end” ... A Q&A with “Dexter” producers about the finale.


ABC’s New ‘Lost’ Trailer

December 17, 2007 1:42 PM

A closer look at the fourth season, not to be confused with last week’s 32-second teaser. ABC made headlines Friday when it announced the show will return on Thursday nights starting Jan. 31.


‘Survivor: China’ Finale Solid for CBS

December 17, 2007 12:59 PM

Survivor (CBS)Aside from Fox’s half-hour of NFL overrun, CBS’ “Survivor: China” finale topped Sunday night in preliminary Nielsen ratings. The veteran reality series closed its 15th season by posting strong returns in the 18 to 49 demographic (5.1 rating) and among total viewers (15.1 million).

The two-hour event saw a “slippery” 22-year-old flight attendant take home the $1 million prize.

Although the finale was down 11% from last December, the show has sturdily ruled its regular Thursday time period amid falling ratings for many shows this season, particularly in recent weeks. Last night’s one-hour reunion special (4.5, down 12%) came in second in the 10 p.m. hour behind NBC’s tentative NFL delivery.

At the conclusion of the reunion show, “Survivor” host Jeff Probst announced a format twist for next season: A tribe of the show’s “super fans” will compete against a group of popular contestants from previous seasons—thus mixing an “All Stars” edition and a somewhat traditional “Survivor” contestant crop.

With its average dragged down by an episode of “60 Minutes” (2.6), CBS finished second for the night.

Fox won the evening, boosted by the half-hour of NFL overrun (8.2). New episodes of “The Simpsons” (4.8), “King of the Hill” (3.7) and “American Dad” (3.5) mingled with a “Family Guy” repeat (4.2).

NBC was third with its presentation of “Football Night in America” (2.5) and “Sunday Night Football: Washington Redskins at New York Giants” (4.8).

ABC was last among the major networks, airing “America’s Funniest Home Videos” (2.7), “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (4.2) and repeats of “Desperate Housewives” (2.4) and “Brothers & Sisters” (1.7).

The CW aired repeats, aside from an original of “CW Now” (0.4).

On Friday: CBS won all three hours with its regular lineup of “Ghost Whisperer” (2.6), “Moonlight” (2.1) and “Numb3rs” (2.5).

NBC Announces 'quarterlife' Premiere

December 16, 2007 9:12 PM

NBC will premiere its MySpace-to-broadcast drama “quarterlife” on Feb. 18, launching the project as a one-hour series.

“Quarterlife” claims to mark a few industry firsts: the first “network-quality” series (read: not cheap) produced for the Internet, the first Internet series created in tandem with social networks (MySpace.com and quarterlife.com) and the first online series that has migrated to primetime broadcast television.

"[NBC Co-Chair] Ben Silverman and NBC are innovators who understand and appreciate that ‘quarterlife’ represents an important shift in television programming, as our Internet series is the first to air on a major network," said Marshall Herskovitz, who created the show along with creative partner Edward Zwick ("My So-Called Life,” "thirtysomething"). "Ben also really gets how special the ‘quarterlife’ story is and believes in our young talent.”

The first season contains 36 webisodes, 8-to-10 minutes each. Since Nov. 11, they have premiered weekly on MySpace.com, then debut on quarterlife.com. The webisodes will be edited together into six one-hour episodes for air on NBC in February. Producers have said the “quarterlife” scripts were completed prior to the writers strike.

The "quarterlife" series follows the interconnected stories of six creative young people. The show encourages fans to upload their own videos onto quarterlife.com, some of which are incorporated into the show.

Where 'Lost' Is Found: Thursdays

December 14, 2007 2:16 PM

Network scheduling decisions normally are routine affairs, but plenty of media suspense has built up for this announcement: ABC’s serialized hit “Lost” will return Jan. 31 at 9 p.m. That’s Thursday night in the slot currently held by “Grey’s Anatomy” (which has only one original episode left).

“Lost” has shut down production due to the writers strike and has eight completed episodes that conclude in a cliffhanger. Last season the show aired on Wednesdays at 10 p.m., where it suffered ratings drops after taking a 13-week winter hiatus. Shifting "Lost" to Thursday echoes ABC's headline-making move last year to put "Grey's Anatomy" in the 9 p.m. Thursday slot, a decision that paid off when the medical drama began regularly besting veteran procedural "CSI."

This time, the deck is stacked in ABC's favor to maintain dominance of the coveted time period. As previously pointed out, the highly valued Thursday 9 p.m. slot was looking surprisingly light of heavy-hitter competition, with “CSI” mostly in repeats against NBC’s ratings-uncertain “Celebrity Apprentice” and Fox’s modestly-performing “Don’t Forget the Lyrics.”

If the strike is resolved and original episodes of "Grey's" make to air before "Lost" has competed its brief run, ABC intends to move the action drama to 10 p.m.

But it is Wednesday nights that get the most extreme makeover in ABC’s winter strike schedule. ABC launched a trio of scripted original series this fall on Wednesdays (“Pushing Daisies,” “Private Practice” and “Dirty Sexy Money”), which are fading into repeats. Starting next month, the network plans to fill the three hours with reliable returning reality shows “Wife Swap” and “Supernanny,” along with new series “Cashmere Mafia.”

Key ABC premiere dates:

-- Power-businesswoman ensemble drama “Cashmere Mafia” will air Wednesday at 10 p.m. starting Jan. 9, going against mostly repeats of “CSI: New York” and originals of “Law & Order.” “Cashmere” will have a special premiere airing on Thursday, Jan. 3, after the final original “Grey’s Anatomy.”

-- Legal drama “Eli Stone” will premiere following “Lost” on Jan. 31, taking the Thursday 10 p.m. slot.

- “Oprah’s Big Give,” in which contestants compete to raise money and then give it away, will air Sunday nights at 9 p.m. starting March 2.

-- “Dancing With the Stars” spinoff “Dance War: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann” premieres with a two-hour episode at 8 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 7, before settling into a one-hour version thereafter.

Absent from the list: ABC hasn’t yet assigned spots to new comedy “Miss/Guided,” game show “Wanna Bet” and reality series “Here Comes the Newlyweds” and “Dance Machine.”

With ABC's announcement, the winter broadcast schedule has filled in. Here's the complete gird for Jan/Feb.

From the Dharma Initiative editing bay, below is the fourth-season trailer for “Lost.”

UPDATE: The new, longer fourth-season “Lost” trailer is here.


CBS Obliterates Thursday Field, Ties Wednesday

December 14, 2007 12:16 PM

Survivor (CBS)CBS won as about much as it could win Thursday night, leading every half-hour among adults 18 to 49 and total viewers. With its all-original lineup up against mostly repeats, CBS won the keystone night by more than two full ratings points.

CBS’ on-par lineup included the penultimate “Survivor: China” (4.5 preliminary Nielsen rating in 18-49), “CSI” (6.1) and “Without a Trace” (4.0).

In second place, NBC aired an hourlong “The Office” repeat (2.7), “30 Rock” (2.8) and a repeat of the special “Saturday Night Live Christmas” (2.7).

Placing third, Fox had “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader” (2.5) and “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” (2.7).

ABC had repeats in fourth place. The CW aired “Smallville” (1.5) and “Supernatural” (1.2).

Wednesday: Ratings were delayed. Here’s a brief rundown of the national tallies: CBS and NBC tied for first in the 18-49 demo, with CBS eking out a victory among total viewers.

CBS had the season finale of “Kid Nation” (2.2), “Criminal Minds” (3.6) and “CSI: NY” (4.1).
NBC aired a two-hour “Deal or No Deal” (3.6, an 11-week high) and “Dateline” (2.7).

Fox had comedy repeats and the season finale of “Kitchen Nightmares” (an on-par 2.8). By the by, for “Nightmares” fans, here’s a site that live-blogs each “Nightmares” episode, checks out the online menus of the restaurants and sometimes interviews the restaurant owners for a little reality fact-checking.

On The CW, the premiere reality series “Crowned” (1.1), about mother-daughter beauty contests, lost more than half its lead-in from the typically sturdy “America’s Next Top Model” finale (2.6).

Writers Guild: ‘We’re Still Here Waiting’

December 13, 2007 7:05 PM

After effectively swaying its members as well as the public behind its rallying cry of new-media compensation for Hollywood writers, the Writers Guild of America leadership recently found itself back out on the sidewalk over a list of issues that included some seemingly non-core concerns, such as reality and animation jurisdiction.

Today the guild upped the ante by filing charges with the National Labor Relations Board against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

The WGA claims the AMPTP violated federal labor law during last week’s negotiations collapse, when the studios issued an ultimatum demanding the WGA remove several proposals from the table.

WGAW Assistant Executive Director Jeff Hermanson talked Thursday afternoon about the current standstill and the Labor Board complaint.

TVWeek: How is this helpful?
Hermanson: It’s helpful in that it points out the fact that the companies walked away from the table unilaterally and illegally. I hope that when people really understand what happened here, there will be pressure on these big media organizations to get back to the table. To me it’s outrageous they would issue an ultimatum and walk away on the eve of the holiday season when there are thousands of people out of work. So we’re filing a charge to point that out—and because they have a legal obligation to bargain.

TVWeek: So it sounds like it’s more to make a point in the press than to legally force them back to the table.
Hermanson: No. Ultimately they will have to provide testimony and they will be forced ultimately to bargain with us. It’s a well-established point of law that you can’t issue an ultimatum to your bargaining partner to take things off the table or you won’t discuss other things.

TVWeek: Even if you were able to force them back to the table, you cannot force them to agree to any proposal. So don’t you still have to deal with their unwillingness to accept your current proposals regardless?
Hermanson: They have not negotiated in good faith from the very beginning. Negotiating in good faith requires them to make counter-proposals.

TVWeek: For months before the strike, the AMPTP accused you of effectively issuing an ultimatum, by your actions if not written, that unless they took profit-based residuals off the table you weren’t going to discuss other issues. How is what they’re doing different?
Hermanson: We had a full proposal on the table of reasonable demands, which they refused to discuss. We presented that proposal first. They did not respond to a single one of those proposals until close to the expiration date of the contract. So that’s quite different than their ultimatum to take specific proposals off the table. We didn’t say we wouldn’t discuss other matters. We stayed at the table, we didn’t walk away … and we’re still here waiting.

TVWeek: There’s been some grumbling that by making reality and animation part of this latest fallout, the WGA is striking away from its core issues. How do you respond to that?
Hermanson: We had those issues in our pattern of demands. It was ratified by more than 90% of our members. They were part of our initial proposal. They were never taken off the table. They’re focusing on those two issues because they think it will divide our membership. But [members] understand what bargaining is about.

Golden Globe Nominations: Despite Snubs, Quality Writing Rules

December 13, 2007 10:41 AM

A Grandpa for ChristmasHallmark Channel’s “A Grandpa for Christmas” received more Golden Globe nominations than ABC’s “Lost.”

Or NBC’s “Heroes.” Or “Friday Night Lights.” And it tied with NBC’s “The Office” and the final season of HBO’s “The Sopranos.”

This is, of course, a completely unfair way of looking at this morning’s nomination tally. “Grandpa” received a single nod, for beloved actor Ernest Borgnine, and long-form categories are notoriously weak.

Still, whining about award season snubs is a source of universal pleasure—getting outraged on behalf of stories that match our supposedly refined personal taste.

So let’s indulge for a moment: Is HBO’s “Entourage” or Showtime’s “Californication” really more worthy than NBC’s “The Office” for a comedy series nod? Doesn’t Showtime’s “The Tudors” seem like it got invited to the drama series party by mistake?

In truth, the 65th annual Golden Globes television nominations list is, by and large, admirable. AMC’s “Mad Men” (two noms). FX’s “Damages” (four!). HBO’s “Extras” (two). NBC’s “30 Rock” (three). ABC’s “Pushing Daisies” (three).

One expects the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s nominations to be ahead of the curve, singling out freshman and low-rated cable shows more reliably than the stalwart Emmys. But almost all the best series nominations share an emphasis on a particular quality that is, at the moment, ironic: Great writing (“Grey’s Anatomy,” you just dived through the closing elevator doors of this compliment, but you still get to ride it).

News stories this morning are listing Fox’s popular “24” among the snubs, but the absence of a nomination for last season’s jumbled storytelling is yet another sign the HFPA pays attention to a show’s writing rather than rubber-stamping obvious picks. Likewise with “Ugly Betty” (which received but one nomination), which critics say has stumbled since the opening rounds of its freshman season.

As far as “A Grandpa for Christmas” … well, one can only hope ABC Family’s “Holiday in Handcuffs” isn’t shut out next year.

Complete nominations list here.

Season-High ‘Loser’ Tops Tuesday

December 12, 2007 12:23 PM

The Biggest Loser (NBC)A season-high rating for “The Biggest Loser” gave NBC a Tuesday-night victory, with the reality series edging out a repeat of Fox’s “House” for the top slot.

NBC won the night among adults 18 to 49 and total viewers, though its competition was largely repeats. A special “Deal or No Deal” started the night (a 3.1 preliminary rating), followed by “The Biggest Loser” (3.6) and a “Law & Order: SVU” repeat (2.4).

Fox was second with repeats of “Bones” (2.0) and “House” (3.5).

ABC was third, getting some extra mileage with its “Shrek the Halls” special repeat (3.4) and “Winnie the Pooh and Christmas, Too!” (3.1) to win the 8 p.m. hour. ABC then aired “According to Jim” repeats (2.0 and 1.8) and an original “Boston Legal” (2.5, winning the 10 p.m. hour).

In fourth place, CBS brought the “Cane.” The network aired an “NCIS” repeat (2.5) and then back-to-back new episodes of the Miami family crime drama (1.9 and 2.0).

The CW aired repeats.

‘Knight Rider’ Premiere Set; Arnett to Voice KITT

December 12, 2007 11:22 AM

KITTNBC has set Feb. 17 as the premiere date for its two-hour “Knight Rider” revamp and announced that Will Arnett (“Arrested Development”) will provide the voice of the new KITT car. NBC also has released official images of the crime-fighting super-vehicle (thankfully, NBC’s latest product placement-mobile is a Ford Mustang, not a Nissan Rogue).

The movie stars Justin Bruening (“Cold Case”), Deanna Russo (“NCIS”), Sydney Tamiia Poitier (“Grindhouse”) and Bruce Davison (“Close to Home”). Yes, David Hasselhoff will make a cameo in his original role of Michael Knight. He’s billed in the press release as a “Special Guest Star,” an ‘80s-rific term.

The new KITT car (more pics here) will have some “Transformers”-like shape-shifting abilities (the story’s scientific explanation: “nanotechnology”). Thus, three cars will be used: The “KITT Hero” (a Ford Mustang Shelby GT500KR playing the “everyday Hero car”), the “KITT Attack” (a high-speed version of the Hero car) and a “KITT Remote” (a driverless version). Dave Bartis (“The O.C.”) and Doug Liman (“The Bourne Identity”) serve as executive producers.

NBC has ordered “Rider” as a stand-alone movie. The network will gauge viewer reaction to the event and decide whether to order a full “Rider” series. Haunting this plan: “Bionic Woman”—NBC’s other revamp of a campy action series that premiered this season.

If “Bionic” was judged solely on its towering premiere numbers, heavily populated by the curious and nostalgic, the network would have thought it had a hit on its hands. Then again, one assumes (always dangerous, but let’s go with it) that NBC has learned a thing or two from its unique “Bionic” production troubles.

Here’s the “Rider” movie’s plot summary from the release: “Sarah Graiman (Russo) is a 24-year-old Ph.D. candidate at Stanford University, following in her genius father Charles’ (Davison) footsteps. But when men attempt to abduct her, Sarah receives a mysterious call from KITT warning her that he’s a creation of Charles, who also invented the first KITT 25 years ago—and that her father is in serious danger. Sarah and KITT track down her best friend from childhood, Mike Tracer (Bruening), a 23-year-old ex-Army Ranger, whom Sarah hasn’t seen since he left home at 18. Having served in Iraq, Mike is now jaded and lost and initially resistant. Eventually he agrees to help Sarah and the two set out to discover who’s behind the attempt to procure KITT and find Charles.”

A bitter Iraq War veteran behind the wheel of KITT? Heck, that dialogue writes itself: “If only we had some shape-shifting Ford Mustangs in Fallujah, the insurgents would have never wiped out my unit.”

UPDATE: A video clip from the press unveiling of NBC's new "Knight Rider" car:

Burn Off: Strike News, Grudgingly Added

December 11, 2007 4:38 PM

The war of words resumes: “They lie. And then they lie again. And then they lie some more” …

… The must-read AMPTP.com parody Web site. As TVBarn.com rightly points out, “An AMPTP parody site isn’t surprising, but the fact that ‘AMPTP.com’ was available to register sure is.” Truly, it must be heartening for the WGA to know they’re negotiating new-media rights with an organization that didn’t have the foresight to fork over $10 to godaddy.com to protect its online identity. And hey, www.amptp.tv is still up for grabs …

… Meanwhile, the actual AMPTP site has added a cost clock showing a real-time calculation of what the strike is costing Hollywood writers. Doubtless the WGA soon will issue a lengthy statement taking issue with the cost-clock math …

… Finally, a video from Fox Business Network: Yet another know-it-all blowhard talking about the writers strike. Didn’t this guy say he was going to boycott this topic or something?

Plus: This just in, ratings for MTV’s “The Hills” season-three finale: The show was seen by a whopping 3.8 million viewers, up a steep 49% from last season’s closer and the most-watched episode ever. Margaritas at Don Antonio’s for everyone (just be sure to write down all your conversations, so you can repeat them for the cameras next season) … ABC pulls “Big Shots,” but says the show will return in January … Essay question: Is FX’s new marketing tagline “There Is No Box” an example of outside-the-box or inside-the-box thinking? … ABC Family’s “Holiday in Handcuffs” breaks ratings records … Angry MTV freelancers—presumably not invited to Don Antonio’s.

‘CSI: Miami,’ ‘Samantha’ Among Shows Hitting Season Lows

December 11, 2007 11:23 AM

JourneymanWith holiday scheduling and the writers strike weakening network lineups, scripted shows with original episodes remaining did not benefit from the scarcity of competition Monday night. Several programs hit season lows: ABC comedies “Samantha Who?” and “Notes From the Underbelly,” NBC’s “Journeyman” and CBS’ “CSI: Miami.”

CBS easily came out on top among adults 18 to 49 and total viewers, winning the 9 p.m. hour with comedy repeats. The lineup: An original “How I Met Your Mother” (a 3.3 preliminary Nielsen rating) followed by repeats of “The Big Bang Theory” (2.8), “Two and a Half Men” (3.8) and “Rules of Engagement” (3.3). At 10 p.m., “CSI: Miami” topped the hour despite its series low (3.9).

In second place, NBC saw its two-hour edition of “Deal or No Deal” hit its highest rating since April (3.4), while “Journeyman” hit a new low (1.8).

Coming in third, ABC’s presentation of the holiday special “I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown” (2.6) finished third for the hour, followed by “Samantha” (2.8), “Notes” (2.0) and “October Road” (2.2).

Fox was fourth with a “House” repeat and a new “K-Ville” (1.5).

The CW’s comedy block switched to originals this week, and came in under par with a 0.9 average.

TCA Officially Canceled

December 10, 2007 8:13 PM

With no end in sight for the writers strike, Television Critics Association President Dave Walker has announced the cancellation of the January press tour.

In an email sent to members Monday night, Mr. Walker said to “consider the tour officially canceled whether the strike is settled before January 8 or not.”

Mr. Walker said the decision was made after consulting with the networks and the Universal City Hilton, where the winter press tour was to be held.

“Given the current woeful state of the negotiations, as well as broadcast-network reluctance to present during a strike, [continuing with the tour] does not appear possible,” he wrote.

Some critics have expressed interest in a strike-themed tour, noting the work stoppage could give the proceedings greater news value. But Mr. Walker wrote that the networks disagreed with this line of thinking.

“From the beginning of this process, the commercial broadcast networks have cited expected budget cutbacks and their presumed inability to present panels for scripted programs as their reasons for not committing to a strike tour,” Mr. Walker wrote. “More recently, the networks have also reported that a strike settlement later in December or in early January would offer difficulties in presenting tour sessions, due to logistics issues and hurry-up production schedules.”

Mr. Walker originally suggested Dec. 14 as a deadline for deciding whether to continue with the tour. A conversation Monday with the Hilton, he said, prompted him to accelerate his plans.

“The decision to cancel the tour now is also partly based on a moral obligation to allow the hotel to attempt to recover revenue it will lose as the result of the canceled tour,” he wrote.

Mr. Walker added he does not intend for this setback to impact future press tours.

“It's the TCA's intention to continue the TV Tour in both January and July for the indefinite future,” he wrote.

Corrected

Frosty, Grinch and NFL Rule Weekend

December 10, 2007 11:36 AM

Frosty The SnowmanHoliday specials and sports once again determined the weekend ratings, with a combination of decades-old animated chestnuts and live NFL games spiking the Nielsens. Left in the cold: Mitch Albom, whose latest feel-good homily “For One More Day” broke the author’s streak of winning ABC movies.

Sunday: A half-hour of highly rated NFL overrun (8.1 preliminary among adults 18 to 49) on CBS pushed the network into first place ahead of NBC, which aired the otherwise top-rated “Sunday Night Football: Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens” (4.5).

The overrun threw the rest of CBS’ night off schedule, so ratings for “60 Minutes” (4.3), “The Amazing Race” (3.8), “Cold Case” (3.0) and “Shark” (2.2) are likely to shift in the nationals.
NBC’s “Football Night in America” pre-game (2.8) and “Sunday Night Football” scored one of their weaker in-season performances to date.

In third place, ABC’s “America’s Funniest Home Videos” (2.6) and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (4.4) were roughly on par.

But ABC’s original movie “Mitch Albom’s For One More Day” (3.2) was off 48% from 2004’s “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” (6.2) and even further from 1999’s “Tuesdays With Morrie” (8.0). Luckily for future Albom projects, there’s life after broadcast—just surrender and go toward the light of basic cable.

Fox’s animated comedies, now mostly in repeats, came in fourth with an original “King of the Hill” (3.1) and “American Dad” (3.2) in the mix.

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

Saturday: ABC’s fourth presentation of Jim Carrey’s “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” feature (2.4) easily dominated the night.

Friday: CBS’s double header of the much-beloved “Frosty the Snowman” (2.7 preliminary rating among adults 18 to 49) and the not-quite-as-beloved “Frosty Returns” (2.4) helped the network edge out NBC’s regular lineup for the nightly win.

Also on Friday, Fox tried swapping the time periods of “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” (1.3) and “The Next Great American Band” (1.2) and ended up with about the same cumulative rating as last week, but it was more evenly spread between the two programs.

Buzz, Hiss: Striking the Strike

December 7, 2007 11:25 AM

WGA StrikeIt’s been nine days since this blog went on strike.

More than a week of not covering the Great Writer Walkout of 2007. TelevisionWeek has hit the major strike shifts, but for this space, I’ve sat at my keyboard, arms folded, refusing to cross a self-created picket line to weigh in on the amazing amount of news that purportedly has occurred.

What’s been missed:

The WGA and AMPTP took a break from the table. Employers offered $130 million. Writers declared the $130 million “a massive rollback.” Writers demanded $151 million in non-Monopoly dollars. Networks started airing repeats. Parties returned to the table. More YouTube propaganda videos debuted. The AMPTP assured they’re not playing “a zero-sum game.” Viewers skipped the repeats and strike videos to gag at “2 Girls 1 Cup.” Writers picketed studios with their dogs. AMPTP leaders said they’re losing patience.

Here’s a quote from a news outlet detailing the exciting negotiation table action:

“The writers proposed a three-year plan worth $151 million, which begins with $33 million in residuals the first year, then escalates to $50 million the second and $68 million in the third—presumably coinciding with an uptick in media usage. All told, the guild said, the amount represents a 3.9% increase in residuals.”

Where’s this from? Variety? The Wall Street Journal?

No. E! Online.

Which is depressing. We want “School's Out for Preggers Nicole” from our E! Online, not the latest in blindingly numeric new-media residual payment disputes. It’s as if the entire entertainment media has been dragged into a neighbor’s messy and complicated tax audit. (By and by, here’s the lead from that item: “Nicole Richie isn't just too cool for school. She's also too pregnant for it"—yes.)

This blog’s recent strike-coverage strike also stems from an increasing annoyance with the perfectly natural motives of each side’s media efforts. Every day that the WGA and AMPTP remain at the table—but without a deal—their official statements and unofficial leaks are designed to push the other guy to act in their favor. The WGA says the AMPTP is being unreasonable, we report it. The next day, there’s a slight increase in pressure on the AMPTP to stop being so damn unreasonable, whether warranted or not.

The entertainment media, of course, serves such PR purposes every time we magically turn a press release into news. Our competitive interest in our respective beats allow us to glide over such worrisome scratches on our mental discs. We’re not being played, we shrug, as long as we genuinely believe that press release is newsworthy. And what could be more newsworthy than the writers strike—arguably the biggest entertainment story of the year?

But then … after a while … listening to months of buzz and hiss from the WGA and AMPTP begins to feel like you’re on a lifeboat in the open sea.

You get rocked one way, then the other. Each wave with the goal of nudging your coverage to more effectively nudge the other party right back. The numbers on the negotiating table in the current round of talks may ebb and flow. But let’s face it: All is written in erasable ink until there’s a deal.

Oh, and one of the latest headlines? The AMPTP has hired an expensive new PR team.

Well...

Suppose that makes sense from a public image perspective. But when you’re adrift in the ocean of strike news, it’s hard not to feel like it’s a massive rollback.


ABC Tops Weak Thursday

December 7, 2007 10:44 AM

Barbar WaltersBlame it on the holidays, the writers strike, DVRs or even the Bears vs. Redskins NFL game on cable. For whatever the reason, the Thursday night Nielsen broadcast ratings were miserable for just about everybody except Barbara Walters (which only makes it worse).

So let’s keep this brief. Most notices of record lows exclude Thanksgiving airings: ABC won the night among adults 18 to 49 with “Ugly Betty” (series-low 2.8) and “Grey’s Anatomy” (series-low 7.1).

At 10 p.m., “Barbara Walters Presents: The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2007” with “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling leading the list, won the hour with a 4.6 (up a steep 46% from last year). If only ABC could convince Rowling and Walters to team up every Thursday night after “Grey’s.”

CBS was second in the demo, but first in viewers, with an average “Survivor: China” (4.5), “CSI” (a season-low 5.4) and “Without a Trace” (a season-low 3.2).

NBC’s “My Name Is Earl” (3.0) and “30 Rock” (2.7) posted gains after last week’s season lows, but a repeat of “The Office” (2.5) resulted in “Scrubs” hitting a series low (2.4) and “ER” tied its series low (3.1).

Fourth-place Fox had “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader” (2.3) and “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” (2.1), both dropping from last week.

The CW aired repeats.

NBC Announces Midseason Schedule

December 6, 2007 3:18 PM

Medium (NBC)NBC has filled in the blanks of its post-holiday schedule, slating the return of “Medium,” new reality series “The Baby Borrowers” and a few unscripted specials.

The fourth season of “Medium” will premiere Jan. 7, with Oscar winner Anjelica Huston guest-starring for a six-episode story arc. The supernatural drama will air Mondays at 10 p.m.

New reality series “The Baby Borrowers,” where teens contemplating parenthood get to experience the difficulties of raising children, will air Mondays at 8 p.m. starting Feb. 18.

They join previously announced premieres such as “American Gladiators” and several Sunday-night specials, including "The 65th Annual Golden Globe Awards" (Jan. 13); “Top 100 Most Outrageous Moments” (Feb. 10); and “The Guinness Book of World Records—Live!” (Jan. 27).

Here’s the weekday lineup:

Mondays (Jan. 7)
8-9 p.m.—“American Gladiators” (premieres Sunday, Jan. 6)/ “The Baby Borrowers” (premieres Feb. 18)
9-10 p.m.—“Deal or No Deal”
10-11 p.m.—“Medium” (season premiere)

Tuesdays (Jan. 1)
8-10 p.m.—“The Biggest Loser”
10-11 p.m.—“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”

Wednesdays (Jan. 9)
8-9 p.m.—“Deal or No Deal”
9-10 p.m.—“Law & Order: Criminal Intent”
10-11 p.m.—“Law & Order” (premieres Jan. 2 with a two-hour debut)

Thursdays (Jan. 3)
8-8:30 p.m.—NBC comedy series
8:30-9 p.m.—NBC comedy series
9-10 p.m.—“Celebrity Apprentice”
10-11 p.m.—“ER” / “Lipstick Jungle” (Feb. 7)

Fridays (Jan. 4)
8-9 p.m.—“1 vs. 100”
9-10 p.m.—“Friday Night Lights”
10-11 p.m.—“Las Vegas”

'Private Practice' Leads Wednesday Pack

December 6, 2007 11:14 AM

Santa Claus Is Comin' to TownABC won an atypical Wednesday night in the Nielsen ratings, with repeat hours increasing as the writers strike continues.

The annual holiday special “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” led the 8 p.m. hour (a 3.4 preliminary rating among adults 18 to 49, down 11% from last year), followed by lower-than-usual airings of “Private Practice” (3.8, winning the hour) and “Dirty Sexy Money” (2.4).
NBC came in second in the demo, but first in total viewers with an on-par two-hour edition of “Deal or No Deal” (2.9) and “Life” (2.5).

CBS was third with an average “Kid Nation” (2.1), and repeats of “Criminal Minds” (2.5) and “CSI: NY” (2.7, and winning the hour against originals of “Money” and “Life”).

In fourth, Fox aired repeats of “Back to You” (1.8), “Til Death” (1.8) and “Kitchen Nightmares” (2.6).

The CW had “America’s Next Top Model” (2.3) and “Gossip Girl” (1.2).

Fox Belts Out More 'Lyrics'

December 5, 2007 9:35 PM

Fox has renewed its musical game show “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” for another 13 episodes, sources say.

The series, hosted by Wayne Brady, has helped Fox gain a foothold on Thursday nights along with companion series “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” The most recent episode earned a 2.8 rating in the ultra-competitive 9 p.m. hour.

"Lyrics'" recent Friday repeat scored a 1.6, twice as much as lead-in “The Next Great American Band.”

Fox plans to continue running originals of the duo on Thursdays starting Jan. 10.

"Lyrics" is produced by RDF USA.

Parents Television Council Denounces CBS’ 'Dexter' Plan

December 5, 2007 3:10 PM

Dexter (Showtime)Conservative watchdog group Parents Television Council issued a dispatch denouncing CBS Corp.’s tentative plan to air Showtime content such as “Dexter” on CBS during the writers strike.

“CBS’ plan is purely based on corporate greed, not what’s good for families or in the public interest,” said PTC President Tim Winter. “These Showtime programs contain some of the most explicit content on television, period. Yet CBS has no qualms about putting shows that make heroes of serial killers and revel in sick, graphic violence or those that condone drug use and glorify drug dealers in front of millions of children and families on broadcast television. Despite that CBS and Viacom are now ‘separate,’ CBS is funneling in super-raunchy Viacom-owned premium cable content onto the CBS broadcast network. … It is also another powerful example of why the rules concerning media consolidation must not be loosened.”

[Note: Showtime is actually a wholly owned subsidy of CBS Corp., not Viacom. The PTC caught its error and sent a corrected release.]

CBS President and CEO Les Moonves mentioned the plan at the UBS Global Media & Communications Conference in New York on Tuesday. He noted that Showtime’s serial killer drama “Dexter” was considered a likely contender to lead the charge because the show fits CBS’ crime-drama brand (except, of course, that CBS’ crime protagonists tend to arrest murderers rather than dismember them).

“Dexter” is winning raves and breaking Showtime ratings records for its current second season. Though the crime drama has pitch-black humor and is sporadically gory in a “’CSI’-gone-wild” kind of way, it likely has never been described as “super-raunchy.”

"The programming will be edited to meet all network television broadcast standards, similar to the way theatrical movies have been edited for broadcast for many years," said a CBS representative when told of the PTC statement.

Continues the PTC: “If CBS goes through with this plan, the PTC will certainly contact every sponsor of the programs.”

Thing is, in a sense CBS has already gone through with this plan. Last year the broadcast network aired the pilot for Showtime’s “Brotherhood.”

‘Rudolph’ Leads Tuesday Ratings

December 5, 2007 2:07 PM

Rudolph the Red-Nosed ReindeerHoliday specials continue to make the perfect network stocking stuffers during the writers strike, with the annual telecast of CBS’ “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” easily topping the night.

“Rudolph” had a 5.1 preliminary rating among adults 18 to 49 at 8 p.m., up 13% from last year’s Friday delivery. CBS followed up with a “NCIS” repeat (2.8) and the lowest-rated “The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show” to date (2.6, which still is a strong number for the time period).

CBS tied NBC for the night in the demo, though won in total viewers. NBC aired a two-hour “Biggest Loser” (3.2) and “Law & Order: SVU” (4.0).

Fox was third with repeats. ABC came in fourth with repeats giving the weakest lead-in of the season for “Boston Legal,” which in turn had a series low (2.2).

On The CW, the on-par season finale of “Beauty and the Geek” was followed by a resurgent “Reaper” (1.2) among the network’s target 18 to 34 demographic (a 1.3, its best since late October).

'Heroes' Fall Finale Leads Monday

December 5, 2007 12:21 PM

Heroes (NBC)The fall finale of NBC’s “Heroes” gave a resoundingly average performance in the Nielsen ratings, registering a 5.0 among adults 18 to 49.

Critics agreed the episode was a step up from the first season’s climax, but that it still had a rough time tying together the disparate plotlines into a neat conclusion. (The fate of the world hangs on one storyline, while in another, the fate of a missing backpack. Maya and Alejandro’s epic journey was abruptly concluded with a blood test and a bullet, respectively).

The rating gave NBC a Monday-night win, though original competition was lacking. Lead-in “Chuck” (3.2) narrowly topped the 8 p.m. hour against repeats and scored the most overall viewers since its premiere. NBC tried out “Life” (2.5) in the 10 p.m. spot previously occupied by “Journeyman” and got about the same result.

CBS was second with a pure repeat block and narrowly led the night in total viewers.

ABC came in third, with its comedy hour taking a hit against the “Heroes” finale and without the benefit of a “Dancing With the Stars” lead in. The network aired a second run of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (3.1), then “Samantha Who?” (2.9, dropping sharply from its prior average) and “Notes From the Underbelly” (down 15% from last week’s premiere to a 2.3). At 10 p.m. “October Road” rose slightly (2.2).

The CW aired repeats.

Note: Monday ratings were delayed until this morning and Tuesday’s rundown will be posted shortly.

Burn Off: NBC’s Reality Block, Sweeps Wrap, Leno

December 3, 2007 4:49 PM

NBC is partnering with Thom Beers (“Deadliest Catch”) for a reality block … ABC and CBS win the November sweeps. Left out of the story: MyNetworkTV bounced 33% to a 0.4 in adults 18 to 49 rating during the sweeps period compared to the same time last year … The strike could result in broadcast shows being pushed into cable’s summer … Jeff Zucker stays on point regarding the writers strike … Jay Leno decides he can afford to pay his staff – for a week … The Television Critics Association press tour prospects continue to look grim … NBC stirs controversy with its "Nightly News" series on black women.

NBC Schedules 'Law & Order'; CBS Slots 'Jericho'

December 3, 2007 4:07 PM

Law & Order (NBC)With writers strike rhetoric continuing, CBS and NBC announced varying degrees of their midseason schedule Monday.

NBC: The 18th season of “Law & Order” will return with a two-hour premiere Wednesday, Jan. 2, at 9 p.m. Then, on Jan. 9, “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” will have its broadcast premiere (originals air on USA Network) at 9 p.m., with the flagship program shifting to its former well-worn time period at 10 p.m. The schedule gives NBC a two-hour block of “L&O” franchise episodes during the week, echoing “Criminal Intent” leading into “SVU” last season.

CBS: Premiere dates for several shows, including the eight-episode second season of “Jericho,” an in-season edition of “Big Brother” and new comedy “The Captain.” CBS also is airing its previously announced six-hour miniseries “Comanche Moon” Jan. 13-16 at 9 p.m.

Here are the changes:

  • Mondays: Starting Jan. 28, CBS replaces “The Big Bang Theory” at 8:30 p.m. with “The Captain”—about an eclectic group living in a Hollywood apartment building. Show stars Chris Klein ("American Pie") and Jeffrey Tambor (“Arrested Development”). At 9:30 p.m., “The New Adventures of Old Christine” returns in the “Rules of Engagement” slot.
  • Tuesdays: “48 Hours Mystery” will pick up for “Cane” at 10 p.m. for a couple weeks starting Jan. 22. On Feb. 12, CBS replaces “The Unit” with the premiere of “Big Brother 9” at 9 p.m. and adds “Jericho” at 10 p.m.
  • Wednesdays: As of Jan. 2, game show “The Power of 10” will air in the 8 p.m. slot, picking up where “Kid Nation” left off. Another hour of “Big Brother” replaces “Power” in the time period on Feb. 13.
  • Thursdays: The 16th edition of “Survivor” (and still not in high definition) launches in its usual 8 p.m. time period Feb. 7.
  • Sundays: A third hour of “Big Brother” at 8 p.m. starts Feb. 17.


'Desperate Housewives' Hits High

December 3, 2007 12:16 PM

Desperate Housewives (ABC)The second-to-last produced episode of ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” delivered the best performance for the show in more than a year, leading Sunday night amid decreased competition.

"Housewives" is the latest series to benefit from having a relatively deep stockpile during the writers strike. Shows that last long enough are gaining a ratings boost as rivals schedule repeats and specials.

“Desperate” hit a 7.7 preliminary rating among adults 18 to 49, its highest since November 2006. The show was up against football on NBC, a Hallmark movie on CBS and a “Family Guy” repeat.

Still, the quality of “Housewives” is likely a factor, too. In recent weeks critics have noted the show has dramatically improved from the last two seasons. ABC has one produced episode remaining, but has not yet determined an airdate (ABC, CBS and NBC hope to know the outcome of the current round of contract talks before having to announce their midseason schedules, but time is getting tight).

“Housewives” gave ABC the win for Sunday, along with an on-par “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (4.9) and “Brothers & Sisters” (4.8).

Fox was second with animated repeats, the football special “BCS Selection Show” (4.3) and “American Dad” (2.8). NBC was third with “Sunday Night Football” with the Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers (5.1). CBS came in fourth, with a slightly low “Amazing Race” (3.4), and the Hallmark movie “Pictures of Hollis Woods” (2.2). The CW aired “Life Is Wild” (0.4) and repeats.

On Friday: ABC had a rare Friday victory with its second run of “The Polar Express” (3.0). NBC was second with “Deal or No Deal” (2.4), “Friday Night Lights” (1.8) and “Las Vegas” (2.0). CBS came in third with its “My Night at the Grammys” special (1.7) and a repeat. The CW was fourth with “Friday Night Smackdown” (1.3), and Fox was fifth with “Next Great American Band” (0.8) and a repeat.