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Long ‘Lost’ Anger

Jan 16, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Step away from the printed page, dear readers. The Insider is about to spew. And that gets messy and tends to leave permanent stains.

Just joking. Jeff Bader, executive VP of ABC Entertainment, bore the brunt of The Insider’s increasing frustration with ABC’s rotten timing on Wednesday nights, when the Alphabet Network’s seamless strategy (under which commercial-promotional messages appear within shows rather than between shows, so that one show merges directly into the next) has been taken to its most extreme.

On many Wednesday nights this season, “Lost” has not concluded until 9:01 p.m. This creates one big snafu for The Insider’s DVR, which can record two programs at a time but can’t record a third show (or allow the live viewing of a third show).

Last Wednesday “Lost” ran until 9:03. Mr. Bader said that was because “Alias” came in short. The Insider was beside herself. (If ever an image required the letterbox format, there ’tis.) Ditto for Wednesdays, Jan. 19 and Jan. 26, when “Lost” isn’t scheduled to end until 9:02. Arrrrrrgh!!!

When “Alias” falls so short, ABC moves some of the inventory from “Alias” into “Lost” to even out the load. Mr. Bader said no additional commercials are being wedged into the mix and prime time ends on time.

But when “Lost” starts after 9, even a mere minute after 9, it means The Insider must chose before she leaves home to not record either “Kevin Hill” or “The West Wing” at 9. The otherwise smart DVR is not wise enough to recognize the end of a crunch and start recording after gridlock ends.

Mr. Bader affably suggested that the most obvious solution to the dilemma is to just go with ABC’s flow right into “Alias.” The Insider replied that she had been there and tried that more than once since “Alias” launched in 2001 and is just not feeling a need to go there again, and no amount of time torture will force her to change her post-“Lost” allegiances.

So she and others confronting similar Catch-22s have to resort to more Rube Goldbergian solutions. The Insider must get home before 9, end the recording of “Alias” and flag “West Wing” for record while watching the ending of “Alias” live. As soon as “Alias” ends, hit the playback of “West Wing” and flag “Kevin Hill” for record. And when “West Wing” concludes, play back the portion of “Alias” that was recorded before The Insider got home. This obviously is not the most satisfying solution. And all this maneuvering still doesn’t accommodate “Project Runway” on its original telecast. Plus, it paints The Insider as the most pathetic no-life person ever.

Anchors Not So Far Away

Texas was a two-star state last Wednesday when second-place “ABC World News Tonight” originated from Houston, where anchor Peter Jennings was conducting interviews for an upcoming prime-time special on health care, and first-place “NBC Nightly News” was originating from Dallas, a stop on the road-to-the-inaugural tour anchor Brian Williams was making. Seldom do anchors’ paths cross outside of major events.

The Insider had to know: Is Texas big enough for these two men?

“It’s obviously big enough,” said “World News” executive producer Jon Banner.

“We thought we were going to share a region last week,” said “Nightly News” executive producer Steve Capus, alluding to the fact that the “Nightly” anchor reported from tsunami-wracked South Asia the first week of the year, when Mr. Jennings was back home fighting off a winter malady.

And so the gentle jousting continues.