Jul 8, 2009
TVMoJoe has only been in existence since late April, but it's already time to begin another chapter in this blog's history.
Yes, this is my final MoJoe post on TVWeek.com. I'm moving on to join TheWrap.com as TV editor after a little more than a year at TelevisionWeek.
Before I make my exit, some long overdue credit to a few folks who helped birth this here blog.
Former TVWeek design chief Chad Rooney patiently translated my ideas for the look of this blog, taking them from amateurish musings ("Can we have a line thingy here?") into reality. Thanks, Chad!
Also due a shout out: Maria Villar, the supertalented design whiz who created the MoJoe logo (really, it's the best thing about this blog). She's also amazing with letterpress, so you need to go to her website now and buy yourself some custom-made something. Do it. Now.
I don't want this post to turn into an acceptance speech kind of thing, but quick hat tips to former TVWeek editor Greg Baumann, who allowed me the freedom to make this blog what i wanted it to be; current TVWeek executive editor (and NewsPro czar!) Tom Gilbert for just being an all-around awesome guy; and TVWeek managing director Chuck Ross, for finding a way to pay for it all.
If all goes as planned, look for TVMoJoe to resurface in a new form in August. You can keep your browsers set to TVMoJoe.com.
Finally, I selected the video below as the final MoJoeTV. It seems fitting:
The Michael Jackson memorial is over, but anyone who thinks this storyline will disappear from the pop culture landscape any time soon is probably living in Neverland.
So what's next? Let's count the possibilities... with the major caveat that what follows is only slightly informed speculation, nothing more. (Wait, you weren't expecting actual facts in a Michael Jackson story, were you?):
--"Heal the World: The Concert for Michael": There's already blogosphere buzz about an August memorial tribute for Jackson, possibly in the same London arena where he was scheduled to begin his comeback tour this month. I don't know if there's any truth to that notion, but this much seems certain: There will be at least one, if not several, megaconcert salutes to Jackson over the next year.
As potent as Tuesday's memorial was, it really wasn't a blockbuster event: No Madonna, no Diana, no Justin Timberlake... for Bubbles' sake, Diddy wasn't even there! There are so many musical celebrities who need to pay tribute to Jackson, a hastily arranged memorial simply won't do.
Given Jackson's friendship with Princess Diana, and the fact that he was an even bigger international star, I could see the royals getting involved. If AEG thinks it makes sense, of course.
--Said concert will be a major TV event that fetches millions in rights fees. It was certainly nice of AEG to open up the feed to Tuesday's memorial to all who wanted to broadcast it. But that event was just the appetizer. The megaconcert will require a cash infusion from one, if not multiple broadcasters. If a show can be mounted by mid-September, don't be surprised if multiple broadcast networks make bids for the show; it would make a great promotional platform to hype new shows. (And given how low ratings have sunk for the networks this summer, they need something to revive their pulse).
Don't rule out cable, though. MTV will definitely want in on the action, perhaps partnered with sibling BET.
--Expect a flood of unofficial Michael Jackson specials in the coming months. The "Motown 25" special where Jackson debuted the Moonwalk will probably be repackaged. And don't be surprised if some of the networks who don't get the rights to the big concert decide to put together their own specials.
CBS specials guru Jack Sussman knows everybody who's anybody in the music business. I'd be shocked if he isn't already calling up his pals and putting something together.
--Of course, Sussman might also be focusing on bringing some Michael magic to September's Emmy broadcast. There will almost certainly be a major tribute to Jackson on this year's kudos. That goes double for the same month's MTV Video Music Awards.
--Don't forget the tribute album(s). Expect all of Jackson's catalogue to be used for a CD of big stars singing his music, released right around Thanksgiving. Adam Lambert of "American Idol" will be on this disc.
--On that note, look for one or two big new songs to emerge paying homage to Jackson. If Tupac and Marvin Gaye's passings can inspire hit singles, Jackson's death demands a superstar collaboration of epic proportions. Personally, I'd love to see an update of "We Are the World," with a new generation of stars tackling Jackson's creation. (I hereby nominate Jason Mraz for the Bob Dylan parts).
--Finally, expect lots of kids and adults looking like these folks right around late October. Yes, there will be a surge of Michael Jackson costumes this Halloween. And some news organization somewhere is already putting together a story on how costume manufacturers have already doubled their orders for Thriller jackets.
Jun 17, 2009
Network TV's attack on grammar-- and common sense-- continues.
Today, the CW officially revealed that it was changing the name of "Parental Discretion Advised," the "Gilmore Girls" meets "Everwood" family drama that's a favorite of many network insiders. The new name wasn't a surprise, but the way the CW is spelling it is.
The network also slipped in the news that it is now calling Ashton Kutcher's drama "The Beautiful Life" by a slightly different name.
"The Beautiful Life: TBL."
This comes the same week TNT premiered a new medical drama starring Mrs. Will Smith.
It's called "HawthoRNe" (get it? She's a nurse?)
OK, we all know it's harder than ever to stand out in the media landscape. You gotta do what you gotta do (like spell the word "mojo" with an "e" at the end).
But does anyone really think annoying the nation's TV and pop culture writers with slightly freaky spellings is going to add a single viewer to the Nielsen tally?
Things are particularly out of hand at the acronym-happy CW, also known as the OMFG Network.
Unlike the "3" in "Numb3rs," the capital "X" in "Life UneXpected" makes no immediate sense.
It does make it a tiny bit easier to shorten the show's name to "LUX," a play on the main character's name of... Lux.
But to anyone who hasn't seen the show-- i.e., every single potential viewer-- it'll just be a head-scratcher. (Plus, Cramps fans will probably resent the connection to the band's late lead singer, Lux Interior).
Even more inane: the "TBL" that's now part of the title for the CW's "The Beautiful Life." The tag was probably added to avoid any issues with the title clearance police-- but the show now sounds like it's a spinoff of "CSI" or "The Real World."
Actually, TBL is the stock exchange symbol for the Timberland company, so maybe it's a product placement deal.
Some people also use "TBL" as an abbreviation for "The Big Lebowski" (dude!), Tampa Bay Lightning (goal!) and "The Biggest Loser" (wrong network).
See what happens when you try to get cute with spellings? In addition to inviting snarky, not-quite-as-funny-as-they-should-be blog postings, you open up a whole can of confusion.
Let's just hope some TV writer out there doesn't have a bit too much to drink one evening. Given the lack of copy editors in newsrooms these days, "HawthoRNe" could very easily end up "haWtHORnE."
That would just be wrong.
Jun 14, 2009
Sarah Palin is attacking David Letterman for daring to make a joke involving her daughter. But it turns out Letterman's hardly the first late night comic to use Palin progeny as a punchline.
Last September, just days after Palin burst on to the national scene, then-"Tonight Show" host Jay Leno cracked a joke that implied Bristol Palin's baby daddy was actually a famous politician.
"Gov. Palin announced over the weekend that her 17-year-old unmarried daughter is five months pregnant," Leno joked on the Sept. 2, 2008 edition of "Tonight," according to an ABC News report from the time. "And you thought John Edwards was in trouble before! Now he has really done it."
CBS's Craig Ferguson also linked the young Palin to Edwards.
"I don't think that a young lady getting pregnant should even be news, unless John Edwards is the father," Ferguson quipped, according to ABC. "Then that is kinda news."
Emmy-winning comic Kathy Griffin also jumped on the joke bandwagon last fall, taking several pointed jabs at the Palin family.
"Sarah Palin talks about creationism. Well there's a lot of creationism going on in Bristol's tummy," Griffin said. "She makes the Bush twins look like nuns. It was shocking when they were running around with beer in their hands. But she's made it trendy to be a pregnant teenager. I hope she has a really nice trailer park in Alaska."
The Palins, of course, began their war on Letterman by trying to make it seem as if Letterman were attacking their 14-year-old daughter. But even after Letterman explained he was referring to Bristol Palin-- who is now 18 and has made numerous media appearances on behalf of her mom-- the Palins have continued their rhetorical combat against Letterman.
James Hibberd has an excellent mini- rant on the matter over at The Live Feed. I concur with his point, which is that Sarah Palin purposely tries to turn different segments of American society against each other.
But I'd also like to add a complaint against Todd Palin's decision to denounce Letterman publicly and to inject the word "rape" into the discussion.
This week's column takes a look at the mythology of the Late Night Wars. My conclusion: It's time to give peace a chance. Check it out here.
Jun 11, 2009
OK, so TV MoJoe likes the Conan. And we've been pretty consistent in warning against reading too much into the overnight household ratings for the latenight daypart-- both when "The Tonight Show" premiered strongly, and when "Late Show" rallied back last week.
It was no surprise, then, that O'Brien would end up trouncing Letterman when the final numbers came out. Good for Conan. And good for NBC, which actually did a great job launching the show from a marketing and PR point of view.
But then NBC this morning goes and puts out a release declaring "Conan the New King of Late Night."
Really, NBC? Really?
It's one week, people. Lots will change. NBC insiders have said they plan to measure O'Brien's success in years, not weeks or months.
So why set up O'Brien for mocking by declaring him the king of latenight, just eight days into his run? Why give CBS something to throw back in your face when the race tightens (and it will tighten)?
It's a shame that, while the players have changed, the same silly "late night wars" mentality continues to persist in so many quarters.
To paraphrase the scholar Fergie: "NBC, you're so 2000-and-late."
End of rant.
Jun 8, 2009
So who needs a column when you've got a blog?
Good question. And, indeed, it's one I considered quite a bit as TVWeek has made the transition from a print and online publication to an Internet-only based destination.
During the Print Era, my column filled a regular hole in the print edition of the magazine. Lots of TVWeek readers never visited our website, so the column was a natural way to spread my semi-coherent ramblings to the masses-- even after TV MoJoe launched in April.
But even though there's no longer a print edition of TVWeek, I still think it makes sense to put my thoughts into column form on a semi-regular basis. Blog posts tend to be short and, sometimes, shallow; columns tend to run around 1,000 words (and hopefully a bit deeper).
I also hope that continuing the column will help me slow down from the fast and furious pace of blogging. Not to sound all Andy Rooney, but a little reflection now and again isn't such a bad thing.
Apologies for the navel-gazing. Now, on to this week's column: Some thoughts on why reality contestants ought to be treated more like paid actors. You can find it right here.
May 31, 2009
Due to some bugginess with the relaunch of TVWeek.com, I'm reposting this week's column below:
It’s another sunny day in Southern California, and Conan O’Brien is about to go for a ride.
The soon-to-be host of “The Tonight Show” waits just outside the entrance of his new late-night Thunderdome, Stage One on the Universal Studios backlot. The calendar says Memorial Day, but while most of the world is firing up the grill, Mr. O’Brien is standing quietly by himself, clad in a snazzy blue suit and full makeup. A nondescript black van waits a few feet away, but Mr. O’Brien pauses to greet me.
He’s clearly in “show mode,” as publicist Drew Shane calls it. But it would be very un-Conan of Mr. O’Brien to not at least chat for a few minutes. We’ve known each other since the earliest days of Mr. O’Brien’s tenure as host of “Late Night.” I was a 22-year-old cub reporter fresh out of Boston University; he was a 30-year-old hosting rookie enduring one of the harshest TV debuts in the medium’s history.
We exchange pleasantries. Quickly, oddly, and yet somehow inevitably, our brief conversation turns to ... The Hair.
May 17, 2009
File this one under total rampant unfounded speculation. Or, perhaps, Modest Proposals.
CBS should consider moving the original-recipe incarnation of "CSI" to 10 p.m. Thursdays.
I have not a shred of evidence to suggest the network has any plans whatsoever to do this. And, if history is any guide, there's no chance whatsoever this will happen.
After all, CBS is the Network of Stability. Scheduling overlord Kelly Kahl is known for running the least bouncy ship on the high seas of network television. He will do just about anything to avoid an unneeded move of an existing hit.
But here's why I think "CSI" might be best served by a 10 p.m. timeslot:
May 5, 2009
TV types have become shockingly immune to reading the words "Nielsen processing issues" on their Blackberries. It seems the ratings giant finds a reason to delay reporting numbers at least once a week.
But this week's Nielsen blackout—numbers for both Sunday and Monday had not yet been revealed as of late Tuesday; weekly ratings were also held up—has some industry insiders slack-jawed.
"It's outrageous," one veteran number cruncher told me today, throwing in a few four-letter words for good measure.
Inexcusable is the word that came to mind for me.
Networks have typically been reluctant to embrace the idea of funding an alternative ratings system, both because of the high cost associated with such a move and because of fear that a new system might prove that fewer people are watching TV than Nielsen says.
Cost remains a valid concern, but given how low ratings have gotten for many network shows, perhaps a new system—one that better accounted for time-shifting—might actually end up increasing viewer totals.
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.