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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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September 2007 Archives

A Modern Version of Sartre's 'No Exit'

September 28, 2007 1:30 PM

It’s been more than a week since I had my brush, or should I say blows, with technology, forced to upgrade my mobile phone while on the road to New York for Diversity Week. In the course of three visits, totaling five hours, plus several phone calls to Verizon Wireless, I got a phone that worked, but managed to wipe out my husband’s while he was stuck in a conference in Pittsburgh and remained unknowingly unwired.

That meant once back home this week, another trip to Verizon was required to straighten out the whole mess because Verizon gave me his number and not mine. And of course Verizon had to order the phone I wanted and ship it here, which meant a self-install over the phone—another 40 minutes.

Am I wrong to whine about this?

Heck no, I bought the dumbest phone I could find. So I will not be taking your picture or subjecting you, if you’re sitting next to me on a train, to mindless two-minute video segments.

So on to tackle the next technology quandary, bracing myself for a call to Verizon Broadband. I’ve had no access to e-mail for 36 hours plus, and get in via a “work-around” as Verizon and its e-mail partner fix the mess.

So off to my own passage to India.



Desegregation: 50 Years Later

September 25, 2007 1:20 PM

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the day that nine black teenagers, escorted by 1,200 soldiers, desegregated Central High School in Little Rock, Ark. This is something I would expect to see on the History Channel tonight, but it’s appearing on HBO in a quasi-documentary entitled “Little Rock Central: 50 Years Later.”

I haven’t seen a preview copy of this controversial film, but I’ve been reading about it a lot today. The film’s thesis is that 50 years later, the students there remain “self-segregated,” with the only difference being that today, African American students no longer have to have soldiers escorting them to school.

The documentary, according to what I’ve been reading, is more visceral than truly historical, consisting of footage from that momentous day and interviews with students who say nothing has really changed. According to the New York Times today, the film airs without statistics or comments by experts, or even narration, and some critics think the film’s producers could have dug deeper.

Bottom line: I’m glad some network at least attempted to scratch the surface to get to the unvarnished truth about desegregation. So today’s question: Is this a thought-provoking documentary or revisionist history?

Should Rather Sue CBS?

September 21, 2007 12:26 PM

I don’t know about you, but I was surprised to see that former anchor Dan Rather is suing CBS for removing him from his duties on the evening news in 2006 and relegating him to appearances on “60 Minutes.” Rather’s lawsuit also charges that the network did not give him enough air time on that program

The flap was over CBS’s embarrassment when it finally learned, after defending the accuracy of the report for months, that its exclusive story on President Bush’s National Guard duty service was based on forged documents.

Heads rolled including Rather’s.

Now two years later the 75 year-old newsman is seeking $70 million to repair his reputation, which he claimed in a lawsuit that CBS had destroyed. Did it? Well, he does have a job, anchoring a news show on Mark Cuban’s high def network.

So the burning question of the day is will this lawsuit go to trial or will the parties settle out of court?

Tough call, weigh in please.

I’m betting on a settlement.

2007: The Year of Al Gore?

September 17, 2007 11:22 AM

The stars are certainly shining on former Vice President Al Gore. Last night he and his Current TV won an Emmy for interactive television. Current, available on cable and satellite services here, is a two-way network that combines user-generated content and original productions, aimed at giving viewers a soapbox to air their views.

Gore’s Emmy victory came just six months after he won an Oscar for his documentary feature “An Inconvenient Truth,” which is about how just real global warning is, and not a myth.

Gore, who lost his run for president in 2000, has repeatedly declared that he will not enter the presidential race for 2008. I’m hoping he has a change of heart. It’s still early in the game, and I think he could pull it off this go-round. Do you?

Iraq Battlefront Shifts to New York Times’ Ad Pages

September 14, 2007 1:03 PM

Not only is the war in Iraq escalating, so are tempers between the conservative Freedom Watch group and the liberal MoveOn.com gang.

It all started a while ago when Freedom Watch began its $15 million ad campaign in support of the war. MoveOn strafed back with its pointed print ad, “General Petraeus or General Betray Us,” which appeared in the New York Times last Monday, the day the general began his testimony.

The Freedom Watch rallied, saying it, too, would take out an ad in the Times to shoot down the claims the liberals had made in their newspaper ad. And the war between liberals and conservatives in the media is likely to escalate even more.

After reading about all of this, just this morning, lo and behold, I got an e-mail from MoveOn, asking readers for $25 to view a link to a TV version of the controversial ad to raise funds to actually get it on the air. I passed.

Personally, I don’t think advocacy ads from either side are effective. Do you?



MTV's Ratings Swell With Spears

September 12, 2007 1:45 PM

No, I did not watch Britney Spears on MTV’s Video Awards show last Sunday. No need to. The countless, postpartum reviews on her performance were excruciating.

As predicted earlier in this space, she made the needle move for MTV, attracting 7.1 million viewers, which is a 23 percent ratings hike over last year’s show.

MTV must be thrilled over the ratings, but I’m sure Spears feels savaged by the reviews. What were her agent and handlers thinking? You don’t put an out of shape woman in a sequined bikini on stage and not expect the worst. The poor thing probably wouldn’t have been so shaky, given all that she’s gone through in rehab, if she wasn’t wearing that ridiculous get up.

But maybe something good came out of this for young female viewers. For once they weren’t exposed to an anorexic creation of Hollywood, but a real woman, with real problems, who gave birth to two children and is trying to make her comeback.

Was there a lesson here?

There’s No Escaping Britney Spears

September 7, 2007 1:46 PM

Marianne PaskowskiAlmost made it through a whole week without hearing a single word about the perils and antics of Britney Spears. But that ended today when I read that the publicity-hungry bad girl will be opening MTV’s Video Music Awards on Sunday.

Couldn’t MTV find somebody else who would be a better role model for young viewers?

Maybe this is exactly what Britney needs, a boost for her career that will get her back on track. She’ll be performing a number from her soon-to-be-released album at that televised event, and I’m sure she’ll want to look good for the cameras and not go off on some crazed binge. Personally, I won’t be watching.

I can’t even remember if she’s the one who shaved her head. Is she? Whatever, I predict tune-in could be high, given the nation’s morbid fascination with the denizens of Hollywood.

I Really Hate This Idea

September 5, 2007 2:37 PM

Wall Street loves the idea of Comcast’s test plans to let customers self-install Internet-based phone service because it will save the company anywhere from $200-$300 per truck rollout and accelerate the nation’s largest MSO’s growth in the voice business.

According to Bloomberg.com, the self-install is a breeze, quoting a Comcast person who said the process takes less than 30 minutes from opening the box to getting a ring tone. One of the problems mentioned was that the self-install only works with cordless phones and not wired phones.

While investors love the idea, I absolutely hate it. And apparently I’m not alone. In that same article a Cablevision Systems representative said the MSO began offering the self-install option in 2005, but a majority of its customers opted for a professional installation. Why am I not surprised?

Why would I want to waste 30 minutes doing something I hate, tinkering with technology, given there was no mention of a price break for those do-it-yourself types, which I clearly am not?

Been there, done that with Verizon’s DSL service. The box came and sat on my desk for a week before I had the courage to open it. But I was motivated to do it because I was rewarded with a cheap rate of $19.99 a month. That’s what Comcast needs to do: offer it on the cheap if the company expects customers to do its job. And oh, my DSL works with wired phones and not just cordless.