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TelevisionWeek is teaming up with TV industry veteran Marianne Paskowski. The blog will give Marianne a forum to convey her deep knowledge of the industry and pass along some of the juicy morsels she's hearing on the grapevine. Marianne has covered the TV industry from the inside out and top to bottom, and TVWeek's readers are bound to benefit from her sharp eyes, ears and wit. TVWeek.com invites readers to jump online, chime in and pick Marianne's brain on the latest industry news.

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December 2006 Archives

New Year’s Resolution

December 28, 2006 6:26 PM


Whew, after last night’s holiday blast here, I’m making New Year’s resolutions already, or at least one: To never under any circumstances again engage in cocktail party chatter that always veers to blaming the media for all that ails the world. Should have just walked away, saying, “I think the dog is humping your mink coat.”

But not me. So yep, I stepped right into it again last night when a guest started grousing about how lousy TV news is at informing the American public about, well, everything. Why didn’t I just compliment him, instead, on his garishly patterned shirt, or politely asked him if he had lost weight? Afterall, I was the hostess.

So help me out here and give me your best tips for seizing control of cocktail conversation gone awry. Unfortunately, Amy Sedaris, author of the best selling book, I Like You, a whacked out guide to entertaining, is of little help on this front. Still have two more holiday parties to endure, and hopefully the words “gravitas” or “plutocrats” won’t pop up again.

MSNBC’s Olbermann Pens Book

December 21, 2006 5:59 PM


If you’re still holiday shopping, here’s the perfect gift for any of your liberal pals: “The Worst Person in the World and 202 Strong Contenders,” by MSNBC's “Countdown” anchor Keith Olbermann. As fans will know, one of the features on his popular program is his daily award for “The Worst Person in the World.”

Not surpringly, Fox News Channel anchor Bill O’Reilly is prominently featured; I’m not going to give much more away and spoil your fun. But I will say that one of our readers who regulary responds to my blog will find this book under his or her Christmas tree. Can you guess who you are? Don’t worry John, it’s not you!

Happy holidays as the year winds down and as we burrow down and celebrate today’s winter solstice. Cheers.

Did USA Overpay for ‘Casino Royale’?

December 19, 2006 7:17 PM

NBC Universal-owned, ad-supported cable net USA just won the TV rights for the new James Bond flick, “Casino Royale,” starring Daniel Craig as the new 007. In what was apparently a very spirited bidding war among broadcast and cable nets, USA paid $20 million for a five-year deal, which brings the box office hit—which has grossed $400 million since its theatrical release last month—to the small screen in June 2009.

True, Bond movies always played well on cable. But that was then and this is now. The price seems steep to me, because two years from now, when even more households will have DVRs, who’s gonna sit through an already long movie and endure the endless procession of pods cluttered with ads and promos?

Advertisers could be burned, especially if Nielsen gets its act together—and I assume it will by then—to measure minute-by-minute viewing, including commercials. I, for one, have lost all patience with watching long-form programming on cable in real time. That movie on USA could likely become an evening-long commitment. Count me out.

USA, I predict, will have quite a selling job on Madison Ave. in this new age of viewer control and impatience. How can USA monetize this deal two years from now?

‘Throw the Book at O.J.’

December 15, 2006 2:47 PM

In case you missed it, GSN, formerly the Game Show Network, launched another topical online game, “Throw the Book at O.J.” this week. The animated, viral game show features O.J. Simpson at a fictional book store for a signing of “If I Did It.” Players can pelt O.J. with books and earn points depending on how often they bump or bruise Simpson. And in this game, Simpson goes after the players by throwing footballs at them.

According to GSN spokeswoman Cindy Ronzoni, the game allows critics of the “ill-considered” O.J. project, “to do what a Los Angeles Criminal Jury refused to do,” by letting players literally throw the book at him. Remember, News Corp. killed its two-part TV O.J. special as well as his book.

GSN’s Ronzoni said the new game is the highest rated of its topical Internet games, averaging 1,000 plays a minute. And she also said that there has been absolutely no backlash from critics who hate to see O.J. get even more press and limelight. So check it out yourself at GSN.com.

And let me know what you think. Fun or bad taste?

Can TV Ads Help Taco Bell?

December 14, 2006 2:30 PM


Weeks later, E. coli outbreaks continue to plague Yum ( now Yuck, to me) Brands-owned Taco Bell in more of the fast-fooder’s restaurants in the Northeast. First it was green onions, and now the culprit might be lettuce. Taco Bell finally hired a crisis management firm to help the eatery retain trust among its customers.

But plenty of Monday-morning quarterbacks are now saying the company has let the media deliver the story and that Taco Bell must seize control of the message. To date, the company has run print ads in several newspapers in markets where the outbreaks took place, saying, that “Taco Bell is Safe,” and is cooperating with media queries.

But other crisis management firms say that’s not enough: That Taco Bell needs to launch a broad, mainstream TV campaign that explains how the restaurant picks suppliers and maintains quality control. Yes, television is a powerful medium, but I doubt any amount of advertising, now, would convince viewers that the restaurants are safe. Do you really think a massive TV ad campaign will help Taco Bell at this stage? No way Jose.

To Remember Higgins, Discovery Cancels Holiday Party

December 6, 2006 9:03 PM


Wow! Talk about a class act. Discovery Communications sent out an e-mail today to cancel its earlier scheduled Dec. 12 party at the Campbell Apartment at New York City’s Grand Central Station, always a great event.

The reason: It conflicted with a tribute to be held that very same evening to honor B&C’s business editor Higgins, who died from a massive heart attack the Monday before Thanksgiving.

The e-mail was touching; it said, “In deference to our late friend and colleague, his family and friends, we wish for that evening to be dedicated to honoring his memory.”

The venue for the Higgins memorial that night, hosted by MTV Networks, at “The Lodge,” aka, the company’s cafeteria located at 1515 Broadway, 7th floor. But you have to RSVP to Denise Galara at 212-258-8572 and let her know if you plan to speak, if you can even get in. Space is getting tight. This will be a night to remember. I will be there.

And thanks to Discovery for uncomplicating our lives and giving us the freedom to do what we want to do: hoist a few drinks to toast and remember our now-gone colleague and sorely missed friend. Still can’t believe it.

‘Lil’ Bush’ Mobisode to Get Prime-Time Play

December 4, 2006 5:35 PM

Hats off to Comedy Central, which just bought the rights to “Lil’ Bush: Resident of the United States,” a mobisode created by Amp’d Mobile Inc., a wireless carrier, that the cable net will expand into a half-hour series next summer.

“Lil’ Bush” is an animated parody of President Bush as a child and is set against the backdrop of the first Bush presidency, according to today’s Wall Street Journal. Comedy Central has a time slot already in mind, late prime time right before “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.”

And what a cast of characters, including little Condi, little Rummy, little Cheney, little John Kerry and little Mikey Moore, according to the WSJ piece, which was the funniest thing I read all day.

Beyond the obvious yucks, I love the idea of taking mobisode content with legs and developing it for linear television, in this case a half-hour show. Usually, it works just the other way, with networks using existing shows, pared down, to offer to mobile phone platforms. This is an ingenious idea and could serve as a new model for economically testing new series. Given the strong raves so far for “Lil’ Bush,” I only wish I didn’t have to wait until summer to see it.