Apr 30, 2009
Best Development Season...EVER!
Usually, pilot buzz around this time of year is pretty unreliable. After all, screenings have just started, and most conversation is driven by agents and studios talking up their own projects.
This year, however, the rules are a bit different. In less than 100 hours, NBC will take the wraps off of its 2009-10 series pickups and renewals. So it's not surprising that buzz is starting to build around some of the network's projects.
I had hoped to avoid playing the buzz game, but some things—like Joe Biden gaffes—are simply unavoidable. Keep in mind that NBC likely hasn't made any final decisions yet, and what seems “hot” on Thursday afternoon could be ice cold come Monday.
One of TV MoJoe’s five (hundred million!) readers emailed me a few minutes ago to complain about the lack of any new posts since last night. I appreciate the desire for fresh content … but, sheesh, people! I am not this person or even the guy New York magazine just dubbed the “headline machine” of Twitter.
That said, I figured I ought to dredge up a few links for the late afternoon linkage. Afternoon Joe seems to be the “landslide” winner in the what-to-name-this-thing contest … but still waiting until Monday for a final decision.
—Time magazine is out with its annual Time 100 list of the most influential folks in the world—and some TV types made the cut. Among them: Bravo/Oxygen chief Lauren Zalaznick, who fittingly has made a career out of wooing “influencers.” Time got Martha Stewart to pen the tribute. (“She’s never contrived,” Martha writes, quite correctly.)
NBC Universal also scored mentions for Tina Fey and, in a surprise, Jay Leno. (I guess Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are played out for the Time editors?) Leno’s homage is by Jimmy Fallon, who wins this week’s Suck Up award. The ladies of “The View” also are represented, as is PBS’ Tavis Smiley. And it wouldn’t be a Really Important List without a mention of Oprah.
Apr 29, 2009
ABC has launched its stealth marketing campaign for "Flash Forward."
The Hollywood Reporter last week broke the news that the network planned to begin hyping the drama project during tonight's episode of "Lost." This, even though ABC technically hasn't ordered the project to series.
Tonight's first spot, which our East Coast spies say just aired, featured a brief "flash" of an image, meant to evoke the moments of collective memory loss at the core of the show. The tagline: What did you see?
If you Google "What did you see," it looks as if ABC has arranged for mentions of a Web site called "TheMosaicCollective.com" to appear. Go to that Web site, and you'll be greeted with a stark message—"What did you see?"—and a request to answer that question. You'll also be asked to provide your email address.
After you give the information, the Web site shoots back the semi-creepy reply: "The Mosaic Collective is dedicated to connecting the world one experience at a time."
Insiders said it's likely more spots will air in the coming weeks. ABC declined comment on its campaign.
So we still haven’t decided on a name for this afternoon link machine. One friend suggested Afternoon Joe. I kinda like—it’s got that late-day coffee-fix feel to it. I’m also mulling PM Magazine (after my favorite prime access newsmag of the 1980s) and Whole Lotta Links (Led Zeppelin references never go out of style).
Of course, given the lack of comments in yesterday’s post, it’s clear this debate is not exactly sweeping the nation like … wait for it … that’s right, I’m gonna say it … swine flu. So I promise to limit the navel-gazing on this matter to a few more days, and promise to have a permanent title by Monday.
Today’s list of stuff starts with some awesome video.
The War on Late Night
Hard to believe, but after five years of buildup, there’s just a little more than a month to go before Conan O’Brien takes over as host of “The Tonight Show.”
Expect a drip-drip-drip of announcements from NBC about the new show over the next few weeks. The latest tidbit: Conan’s “Tonight Show” logo, now posted on NBC’s PR Web site.
It’s got a cool, classy retro feel to it, with a very 1920s font. Like Jay Leno’s logo, and the old “Late Night With Conan O’Brien,” there’s a crescent moon involved. Apparently full moons don’t work for NBC’s graphics department.
There's news on the Dr. Oz front.
On Tuesday's edition of "The Oprah Winfrey Show," Ms. Winfrey let loose with a couple of details about the new Dr. Mehmet Oz-hosted program she's producing in conjunction with Sony.
First, a premiere date: It will bow Monday, Sept. 14.
Second, Ms. Winfrey revealed that the series will be called "The Dr. Oz Show." Sony and Harpo Productions had been using the working title "Dr. Oz."
Ms. Winfrey also told viewers she plans to "say goodbye" to Dr. Oz with a special retrospective featuring highlights of his 55 appearances on "Oprah" over the past five years. It will air May 12.
Behind the News
I can still remember the first moment I heard about “Lost.”
It was 2004 and my then-Variety colleague Mike Schneider and I were having lunch with Lloyd Braun, who then ran most of the ABC empire. We were in the Disney executive dining room. Jennifer Garner, then smoldering on-screen in “Alias,” had come by to pay her respects. (This is the real reason I remember that day.)
Anyway, Braun suddenly leans in, as if he’s about to reveal the secret location of Walt Disney’s frozen corpse. “Boys,” he said, “I’ve got the best idea for a show. Ever. It’s ‘Survivor’ meets ‘Lord of the Flies.’ And J.J. [Abrams] is writing it.”
Tonight, Braun’s brainchild marks its milestone 100th episode. A lot of people are responsible for the success of “Lost” beyond Braun, including current ABC overlord Steve McPherson.
But ultimately, “Lost” is about the genius of two men.
There's more Donald in the works at NBC.
The network Wednesday greenlit a third cycle of "The Celebrity Apprentice," the reality competition show from Donald Trump and Mark Burnett. No shocker, given its nice Sunday night ratings.
The Internet had been buzzing about a return to the civilian format of "Apprentice." For now, however, NBC is only revealing plans to recruit another batch of slightly well-known people and pit them against one another.
I'm still holding out for Mr. T, Justine Bateman, Ricky Schroeder, Scott Bakula, Mindy Cohn and the guy who played Skippy on "Family Ties" to square off in a battle of the former 1980s NBC stars. You know it's a genius idea. Especially since The Donald still has '80s hair.
Standard-issue quotes and a few more details here.
Apr 28, 2009
It's 4 o'clock. Where's everybody gone?
Nope, Oprah's not on. (Though feel free to get jiggy with it like Carlton).
At least not here in L.A. Instead, everybody's hunched over their computers for TV MoJoe's … well, I haven't thought of a name yet for this feature. Basically, it's the standard list of links you find on these here weblogs. Suggestions on what to call this thing—Link It Like Ya Mean It? PM Magazine?—are much appreciated.
—ABC News is not happy about today's page one New York Times article detailing how a 2007 story by the network's Brian Ross may have influenced the public debate over waterboarding. Gawker offers up details of ABC's foot-stomping, while also raising a few questions of its own about Ross' reporting. (My thought: The Times story was less a hit on Ross and more of an examination of how politicians and interest groups twist news reports to fit their own agendas.)
I had never heard of Ernie Barnes until today. A former football star turned artist, Barnes died Monday night at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, according to wire service reports.
While Barnes was unfamiliar to me, one of his creations is instantly recognizable to fans of classic TV. It turns out Barnes painted “Sugar Shack,” a scene of African-American dancing and liberation that appeared in the closing credits for Norman Lear’s series “Good Times.”
Today, most opening credits sequences have been shrunk to a few seconds, and they usually consist of video montages. And closing credits sequences? They’re largely extinct, replaced by network promotions.
The Lear era of sitcoms, however, was marked by truly memorable themes and credit sequences, “Good Times” being one of his best.
You can see the “Sugar Shack” scene here.
I can’t find the “Good Times” credits with Barnes’ painting online. But here’s one version notable for something else: Note who plays “The Young Man.”
Fellow TVWeek blogger Sergio Ibarra will have a full report later, but given TV MoJoe's commitment to maximum/borderline obsessive coverage of all things "Chuck," here's an update on how the show's season finale did in the ratings.
Not bad. Not awesome. But not bad.
According to preliminary Nielsen data, Monday's episode averaged a 2.3/6 in adults 18-49. That's the same as last week's episode, which matched a two-month high for the show. If recent patterns hold up, "Chuck" will inch up to a 2.4 when final Nielsen numbers are calculated this afternoon.
While it would be nice to think that all the Twitter and blog hype for "Chuck" would directly translate into ratings, few people at NBC or producer Warner Bros. were expecting a big bump. As last Thursday's opening night of sweeps meltdown showed, viewers clearly are finding other things to do than watch live TV this spring. In some ways, holding flat is the new up.
Apr 27, 2009
The Internets have been blowing up today in anticipation of tonight's "Chuck" season finale. Our research spy in TV land indicates that the NBC show is getting a new mention on Twitter at least once every 1.5 minutes. And if all goes according to plan, the Subristas who work the line at Subways everywhere should be bracing for some long lines tonight.
Charles in charge, indeed.
What more could Nerd Herd lovers want—besides, you know, great ratings and a third season of "Chuck"?
Well, how about a Very Special Guest Post by none other than Josh Schwartz, the show's co-creator? We asked, and he delivered a TV MoJoe Planetary Exclusive:
Negotiating in the press is nothing new for TV stars seeking a raise. Now, "American Idol's" Paula Abdul is putting a 2009 twist on contract talks: Negotiating by Twitter.
Abdul on Monday sent out the following tweet to her 33,000 followers on the microblogging service:
RT: @MediaPost: 'Idol' Judges May Leave Hit Show: http://tinyurl.com/c3xhnk. But like I’ve said, I love being part of Idol.
The link in Abdul’s tweet was to a brief news item on MediaPost.com about recent rumblings that Abdul and Simon Cowell may leave the show after next season. Those rumblings are widely believed by cynical media insiders to be the opening salvos in the two judges’ contract renegotiations.
Wanna save "Chuck"? If you've got five bucks, and aren't averse to processed deli meats, you might just be able to help.
In fact, Subway-loving fans of NBC's Monday night dramedy already may have done their part to keep the show on the air.
A few weeks ago, "Chuck" featured a pretty prominent product placement for Subway. We're talking characters lovingly caressing a footlong sub, with one even mentioning the company's "$5 footlongs" slogan in a scene.
Unlike Tina Fey's casual mention of McDonald's McFlurry on "30 Rock" last year, the Subway love in "Chuck" was paid for. It generated plenty of attention on Madison Avenue, including a glowing writeup in AdAge.
Subway marketing officer Tony Pace told the magazine it was happy with the arrangement. But TVMoJoe has learned that "happy" may have been an understatement.
Apr 26, 2009
Bea Arthur's passing was one of the most talked about topics on Twitter over the weekend.
Think about that for a minute.
Arthur was an 86-year-old woman who hadn't been part of the primetime landscape since the early 1990s. She wasn't a pioneer of the medium like Lucille Ball, or a movie legend.
And yet, the Twiterrati-- many of whom were still in Pampers the last time Arthur was a TV regular-- seemed deeply bummed by news of her death. It wasn't quite Kurt Cobain/Selena/Heath Ledger- level shock, but there was a definite vibe that an icon had left us.
I'm not an expert on "Maude" or "The Golden Girls," so I won't try to summon up any memories of favorite lines or episodes. (Cynthia Littleton does a good job of that here, as does James Poniewozik here).
But I do think there are a few lessons to be drawn from the pretty incredible career of Beatrice Arthur.
Just two weeks until the new "Star Trek" explodes into theaters. Get ready for all manner of mind meld, boldly going and live long and prosper puns.
Both major newsweeklies are out with splashy packages on JJ Abram's new movie, which is getting early raves (both Variety and Hollywood Reporter reviews include warp speed references, so you know it's good).
Newsweek puts the Trek on its cover, with a lead story written by Steve Daly. Daly manages to find parallels between "Trek" and President Obama. Really. Still a good read.
Also in the package: An essay by former "Trek" scribe Leonard Mlodinow, who calls the demanding-but-beloved Gene Roddenberry a "Hollywood Steve Jobs."
Over at Time, the movie gets just a corner of the cover. But Lev Grossman's think piece is a nice read, and explains why the gazillion incarnations of "Trek" over the years have made it difficult for him to fully love the franchise as he once did.
Apr 24, 2009
I love this stuff.
That, in under five words, sums up why I consider myself beyond blessed to have spent virtually the whole of my adult life getting paid to write about television. It's also the underlying theme of this blog.
True: At this very moment, things are glum in the land of make-believe and fairydust. Business models which for decades reliably churned out billions in profits are evaporating with alarming speed. Many who work in the TV industry have no idea if they'll still have jobs in five years, or even five weeks.
You won't hear whining about that here. (Though you can read a deeper dissection of the mood of the TV business right now in my latest column for TVWeek, which you will find thoughtfully posted right here when it publishes).
Instead, my goal for MoJoe is simply to provide a place where the creators and overseers of TV content can talk about their craft. Not in any sort of lofty, Aren't We Great sort of way. Just people who love this medium chatting about what's going on right now on the small screen.
Apr 22, 2009
As the first entry in MoJoe TV indicates, I’m a pretty obsessive fan of classic TV marketing. When YouTube launched, I spent hours and hours watching old network image campaigns—from “Still the One” (ABC) to “Let’s All Be There” (NBC). I get really, really excited over small things such as the original version of HBO’s old Saturday “starship” movie open.
Other Web sites like to collect TV themes. I love theme songs, don’t get me wrong. But they’re about as common (and widely available) as rats in a New York City apartment house.
But the TV Production Music Museum houses much rarer gems.
Apr 18, 2009
I am a complete and total junkie for old network promos from the 1970s and 80s. I can literally spend hours on YouTube trolling for clips from network image campaigns, from ABC's "Still the One" (It's Fonzie in a hot air balloon!) to CBS's "We've Got the Touch" (Bruce Boxleitner in a helicopter!)
But, with all due respect to the market mavens elsewhere, during the 1980s, nobody did image campaigns better than NBC: Be there. Let's All Be There. Come Home. Just Watch Us Now. If you don't know the jingles associated with these slogans by heart, you didn't watch TV in the 1980s.
The great thing about having a blog, at least as I see it, is that I can now force my love of these promos onto unsuspecting readers like yourself. You've been warned.
First up: A mid-1980s classic from NBC.
Apr 16, 2009
The news last week that Showtime has decided not to greenlight any of its four pilots to series has left plenty of folks around Hollywood wondering just what’s going on at the premium cable network that’s Not HBO, But Not TV.
First thought: Showtime’s decision not to move forward demonstrates why its business model works so well.
After all, unlike broadcasters (and half the basic cable networks these days), Showtime doesn’t have some quota to fill. There’s no rule that says it has to add a new series every four to six months. There won’t be giant gaps in its schedule because these four projects turned out not to be up to snuff.