Thursday, January 31, 2008
Letterman has Dr. Phil on all the time, anointing him as "TV's favorite mental health professional." Last night, it was Letterman hosting an intervention, doing a rescue job on Dr. Phil's damaged reputation.
We all saw the headlines. McGraw looked opportunistic at best and unethical at worst as he stumbled into the Spears' family's latest dysfunctional meltdown. The incident raised questions about his qualifications beyond shouting at screw ups on television.
Still, Letterman waved it all away. "No good deed goes unpunished my friend," he told McGraw.
Sure, the two have that CBS Paramount connection, and you could see why the network would want McGraw on their all the time (last night to promote his upcoming 1000th episode, airing Feb. 11 and featuring Letterman as a guest!). But what's Letterman need this abusive hambone for? The shtick about Dr. Phil mending the Oprah-Dave fence is over and old. Now its just down to two tall guys talking. You can almost hear Howard Stern at home screaming "Sell Out!" at his television.
You can see why it works for McGraw. The Letterman appearances made him seem like a big teddy bear, albeit one with a sarcastic edge. He's always giving Letterman the gears about not getting married. Letterman goes along with it, enough of a showman to welcome a straight man with a jab, knowing that viewers get a kick out of seeing him fight in his class.
I guess that's it. But it was interesting last night when McGraw started going on about how he thought "the Spears are a great family, I think they're nice people." Letterman's audience thought it was a bit and started to laugh. They weren't buying it for a New York minute, not even from TV's favorite mental health professuional.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Certainly this is a huge coup for CTV: they add a new Canada drama to their schedule, scoring brownie points in Ottawa, and, at the same time, they add a new American network series to their schedule, scoring a big simulcast boost. This is the ultimate Canadian programming executives wet dream.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
CTV's aptly named Flashpoint--one of two dramas the network recently announced--is going to air concurrently on both CBS and CTV, beginning sometime this summer. The police drama will feature Toronto-native Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars) and other Canadian-born stars, and--most significant of all--is being written by Canadian writers.
This would seem to put those writers in an awkward, to say the least, position. The Canadian Guild settled their contract a year ago but their U.S. brethren are locked into a bitter, 13-weeks and counting dispute. Isn't CBS reaching across the border for a scripted solution? And how can the Canadian Guild look the other way?
Variety's Josef Adalian writes that "Flashpoint is believed to be the first scripted project developed and ordered to series by a broadcast network since the WGA walkout in November.
Final deal points between (CBS Paramount) and CTV were being finalized Monday, and a deal could be announced as soon as today." The series is expected to start shooting in Toronto in April.
More on this later, but check here for the full story in today's Variety.
The B.C.-based, Canadian coast guard drama launched to respectable numbers last week, clocking in at an estimated 808,000 viewers.
That's tops among the half-dozen 2008 Canadian series launches so far, nudging out CBC timeslot turnarounds The Border and The Week The Women Went.
Last week's pilot was a nice mix of action, including plenty of exciting sea and air rescue shots, as well as edgy character-driven drama as the coast guard crew dealt with the aftermath of a failed rescue attempt. Can't remember a scene in any network drama before where one of the main characters does a little one-handed typing in front of a porn site. Yet there was Steve Bacic last week as duty captain Miro Da Silva, fly undone in front of his laptop, getting ready to yank the main sail.
A promising first impression, plus a new House--the first of three new episodes in a row from U.S. inventory-starved Global--should give The Guard a shot at breaking the million mark in Week Two.
All good news for Zoie Palmer, who I had lunch with in Toronto last week. (I profiled her for Canadian Press; the story was picked up on CBC.ca and you can read that column here.) Born in England, she grew up an army brat (her dad was with the RCAF), living in exotic places like Cyprus ("loved it," she says). Her family moved to Ontario when she was nine. She's a proud graduate of York University's drama program, citing fellow grad Rachel McAdams as proof York is doing something right.
She says she's always wanted to be an actress. "There was a brief moment when I wanted to run a coffee shop. It was difficult--I let it go." Her acting heroes include the usuals--Meryl Streep, Kate Winslet, Cate Blanchett and Toni Colllette--plus two she's worked with and long admired, Christine Lahti and Judy Davis.
Palmer is a delight and one to watch. Tonight's episode of The Guard has her intense character Carly confronting ghosts from her childhood as she attempts to sell her dad's old fishing boat. There's even a chance Miro might pull himself away from the keyboard tonight when he meets a real, live, flesh and blood dame, an owner of an "all ages, clothing-optional compound." Go Miro!
Monday, January 28, 2008
Did it really happen? Click below on this YouTube posting (taken from a 1977 taping of The Newlywed Game) and get to the bottom of this thing once and for all:
If you want to hear the full, hour-long interview with Mike Stafford, tune in to AM 640 this Saturday at 11 a.m. for a repeat broadcast.
Friday, January 25, 2008
In the new version, K.I.T.T. (now short for Knight Industries Three Thousand) has been updated from a 1982 Trans-Am to a brand new Ford Mustang Shelby GT500KR. The Hoff is back, guesting as Michael Knight, but this time the focus is on a new hot shot behind the wheel, Justin Bruening (All My Children), who plays Knight's estranged offspring.
Bruening and executive producer Dave Bartis (The O.C.) fielded questions from critics the other day on one of this awkward phone conferences. Actually, Bartis did most of the talking. About all we learned from Bruening was that he is too young to have watched Knight Rider when it first came out. (He has since caught up through DVDs, which sounds like something that should come with a judge's order.)
Thursday, January 24, 2008
- Lee Marvin appeared on The Tonight Show in the ‘70s and told Carson that the bravest man he ever knew was Bob Keeshan (Captain Kangaroo) who fought beside him during one of the biggest battles of World War II.
- Tommy Hillier made racist statements about African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians on Oprah Winfrey and was tossed off the show.
- Ensign Chekov was written into the second season of Star Trek after an editorial in the Communist daily newspaper Pravda chided the sci-fi series for not having a Soviet crew member aboard the starship Enterprise.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Order today and receive a free Brian Muldoon Chia Pet! Simply place in The Sun and watch it absorb every last ounce of positive energy!
Order this minute and we'll throw in millions of pages of worthless company stock! Suitable for composting! Creditors are standing by!
(Offer void in Quebec.)
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
The Queen of daytime TV still leads the syndicated talk show field, but her lead over TV pseudo-shrink Dr. Phil McGraw is shrinking. Worse, her ratings are down 17% year-to-year—21% among her core viewers, women 18-49.
That was one of the tid bits tossed today by Marc Berman, Mediaweek’s “Programming Insider.” The New York-based ratings expert crunched the latest syndicated numbers today in a webcast timed to preview shows being offered at the annual syndicated marketplace NATPE (Jan. 28-31 in Las Vegas).
Berman remarked off the top that almost all of the syndicated fare is getting old. After 20-plus years of dominance, shows like Oprah, Entertainment Tonight and Wheel of Fortune are all still tops in their fields, but they’re down year-to-year, too, as are many other syndicated favorites. “Audiences are getting bored,” Berman suggests.
Still, Oprah seemed particularly hard hit. There has been a great deal of negative reaction to her Obama endorsement at her own web site. Many female viewers apparently see Oprah’s Obama boost as a betrayal to the first female candidate to ever have a shot at the White House—Hillary Clinton. Berman says he wouldn’t be surprised if Dr. Phil didn’t ultimately overtake his TV mentor in the syndicated talk show ratings—despite his botched Britney Spears intervention earlier this month.
Berman doesn’t think that blunder--seen as brazenly opportunistic--will be much of a set back for McGraw. “The audience forgives and forgets very quickly,” he said.
Taking an even bigger drop in daytime has been Tyra Banks, down 27% in households and women 18-49. This despite the fact that the writers strike really hasn’t impacted any of these daytime talk shows. Their writers are members of a different guild.
The only daytime talker to show no loss—and no gain—in the past 12 months is Ellen DeGeneres, who ranks behind Oprah and Dr. Phil.
Next week at NATPE, a new daytime talk show starring Bonnie Hunt will be shopped. There’s also a new show from McGraw’s son Jay called The Doctors featuring a shrink, a plastic surgeon and other medical experts answering questions about health concerns. That show will likely bump Montel Williams off the schedule; his show is also shedding viewers.
A shorter, half-hour version of Deal Or No Deal, hosted by Howie Mandel, will also be shopped at NATPE as is a new TV game show version of Trivial Pursuit.
Berman noted that the fall off in sitcoms over the last decade has led to a sitcom drought in syndication. This fall’s two newcomers, Two And A Half Men and Family Guy, are doing well, but viewers seem to be tiring of reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond, Seinfeld and Friends, with the last one down 26% in adults 18-49.
Berman sees the sitcom drought being filled in the near future with cable fare. Shows such as American Chopper, Punk’d and Pimp My Ride all enter the syndicated market next fall.
Among the newsmagazines, TMZ is the hottest rookie, the highest-rated new show in all categories in syndication. While Entertainment Tonight is down 18% in adults 18-49, it's still "the No. 1 entertainment show in the universe."
Monday, January 21, 2008
TV Feeds My Family should have such problems. Maybe if I keep writing about The Border...
Friday, January 18, 2008
This just in: Katie Couric is not a rocket scientist.
Not big news, true, but nice excuse to throw to this nasty little news clip currently posted on My Damn Channel, a fun little Internet destination from brilliant satirist and versatile Simpsons' voice man Harry Shearer. (Thanks to Aaron Barnhart's TV Barn Ticker for pointing me to it.)
Couric has been a steady target since taking over the CBS Evening News and this clip will cause many of her skeptics to go, "See? Told ya." But, really, she's just had her pants pulled down the same way so many newsreaders have in the past when these off-air satellite feeds have found their way onto the Internet.
Dumb anchor moments have been career killers in the past. Toronto's Gord Martineau looked like an insensitive chimp a few years ago when a blooper reel featuring the veteran City-TV anchorman made the rounds. (He immediately apologized but--even after a 30 year career--it dented his rep.) In 2000, CTV Newsnet reporter Avery Haines slagged minority groups and stutterers in off-the-wall, off-the-cuff remarks that somehow made it to air. The skunk-haired announcer was immediately canned.
Couric doesn't commit any serious slip up here, she just looks like a lightweight, which is probably even worse. Check out her high-pitched, helium giggle and remarks about senator John McCain's wife's intense blue eyes. ("She looks like a Husky!")
As for Shearer, met him in Toronto last year (he was in town to help promote his wife Judith Owen's singing gig at the Drake Hotel) and found him to be as sharp, smart and funny in person as he is on TV. There's an edge to Shearer who doesn't suffer fools easily (remarkable we got along at all). At one point, toward the end of our interview, I dared to broach a sensitive topic--his salary. The five main Simpsons voice artists have banded together on two contract renewal occasions and managed to jack their stipend into the stratosphere; each pulls down an estimated $360,000 per episode or $8 million a year.
Get off my back, Shearer basically said, pointing to the fact that nobody said boo when NFL commentator John Madden stashed the same amount of loot into his bus for working 16 Sundays a year for the network in the mid-'90s--back when Shearer and company, the stars of Fox's most successful brand, were making a tenth of what they take home today.
You can check out Shearer's word-for-word response in a Simpsons cover story I wrote in the current issue of Bell TV's SHOW magazine. I'll try and post more of that Shearer interview here in the coming weeks. The man is up to speed on everything, especially U.S. (and Canadian) politics (he's a frequent and articulate contributor to The Huffington Post), his Spinal Tap and other improv film antics and the criminal neglect which continues to plague his adopted home town, New Orleans.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
That’s the title of a new Fox reality game show that EW.com describes as “…one of those is-it-genius-or-is-it-the-end-of-Western-Civilization? masterpieces.” It begins next Wednesday, Jan. 23 at 9 p.m. on Fox. (Show rich CTV has it two hours earlier at 7 p.m. )
You’ve probably already seen the promos, airing incessantly during American Idol. This is the show where contestants are strapped to a lie detector and asked a series of increasingly personal questions by a polygraph expert. As long as they answer the questions honestly, they can win up to $500,000.
Sounds simple enough, until you hear the questions. They start off harmlessly: “Have you ever parked in a handicapped spot?” “Have you ever made fun of your friends behind their backs?” Then they get pretty tough: “Have you ever thought that your parents would be better off if they were divorced?” “Is there a part of your husband’s body that repulses you?” “At your current job, have you ever touched a female co-worker inappropriately?”
Making it all the tougher is the fact that the participants parents, spouse and co-workers are right out in front, sometimes brought up on stage by host Mark L. Walberg (Temptation Island) to ask these very questions. On the teasingly sensational preview reel sent to critics, one father stands in front of his shocked-to-see-him, teary-eyed son and asks, “Will you forgive me for not being more present in your life?”
The show, then, is all about seeing people squirm, stammer and sweat. It is already a hit in the UK , where it is hosted by none other than tabloid TV icon Jerry Springer. It is also popular in counties as diverse as Columbia , France, Italy and Spain.
Seems lying, cheating and squirming is universal. Who knew?
Howard Schultz knew. He’s the creator and executive producer of The Moment of Truth. In a Fox conference call last Friday, he described how the idea came to him while he was on a treadmill at the gym. “I was just getting sick and tired of how much lying is going on around the world,” says Schultz, who must have been tuned to U.S. presidential primary election coverage at the time. He talked about how we seem to live in a perpetual spin zone. “You don’t even know who to trust anymore because everything just sounds like a bunch of BS.”
Schultz, who has been developing this idea for five or six years, said he wanted to produce a show that got to the truth. “I’m a firm believer in [the saying that] the truth shall set us free.”
The truth is that Schultz was also responsible for the original Extreme Makeover, a show critics assailed for carving up individuals through plastic surgery in the name of mass entertainment.
Those willing participants, Schultz would argue, simply wanted to overcome physical abnormalities in order to live a better life. What possesses people to go on The Moment of Truth? Besides a desire to get on television and win a lot of money, Schultz says some people are just convinced they have either nothing to hide or that, if they do, they “won’t get caught and they can get it by us.”
Schultz admits he’d squirm if he was on this show’s hot seat. He says he was watching a taping of the show in the control room with his wife when a question came up: “Is your spouse the best lover you ever had?” “I suddenly turned to her and said, ‘Well?’” Schultz says his wife never really answered the question. He confessed that the memory of one old flame might have caused him to try to lie his way out of a corner.
He’s probably counting on most players having the same moment of doubt or guilt. Otherwise, this could be a pretty easy TV payday. In what other game show do you already know all the answers to all the questions?
Walberg feels there's another hurdle: some contestants might think they are telling the truth but they’re not. “There are certain subjective things that we’re not really sure what’s true,” he suggests. “I’m sure there are plenty of truths that I have been denying myself over the years.”
Slipping up in this way will be costly on this show. One lie and all your winnings disappear. Contestants can walk away at anytime, if they’ve won $1000 or $100,000.
Schultz isn’t worried about the show stirring up controversy—in fact, he’s counting on it. “The really good stuff lies on the other side of the envelope,” he says.
At the same time, he says he’s “not here to destroy people—that’s not the goal. I’m here to say, if you’re an honest person, would you like to play a game? Can you be honest 21 times in a row? That’s the game.”
The show does have boundaries. There are no questions which pertain to minors. A parent or a divorced parent, for example, would never be asked if he or she prefers one child over another. Schultz says he is also bound by the federal broadcast regulator to steer clear of graphic sexual inquisitions. “Aside from that,” he says, he’s “basically willing to go anywhere.”
Despite the pitch that the show is really just a quest for truth, look for feelings to be hurt and tears to be shed. Seems to work every week on American Idol.
What he’s about is creating Fox’s next big hit. “It’s going to open up a dialogue in the homes across America ,” he feels, “because you can’t watch this show and not ask those questions of yourself.”
Would he ever consider a celebrity version of this show? Already working on it, says Schultz. His dream "get" for the hot seat? Who else but pitching ace Roger Clemens. "Mike Wallace asked if he would take a polygraph. I sure would like to be the one to give it to him."
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Thursday morning at 8:05 a.m., tune in to another Hamilton radio station, K-Lite FM 102.9, where I'll be guesting on Sunni & Hayes Morning Show. The topic? What else: "Truth and Rumors: The Reality Behind TV's Most Famous Myths." Find out if this rumour is true or false: Joanie Loves Chachi was the biggest TV hit ever in South Korea because "Chachi" is Korean for "penis."
The two hour return of Idol was a major setback for the new CBC dramedy jPod, slashing its ratings down to 250,000 viewers across Canada--a steep decline from the 472,000 who caught the debut one week before. Losing almost half your audience in one week is not good.
Unscathed head to head with Idol at 8 p.m. was the Rick Mercer Report, which actually went up last night to 832,000 viewers. (Last week it drew 810,000).
Meanwhile, Monday's second episode of The Border was seen by an estimated 599,000 CBC viewers, just 15% off last week's solid debut and more than the CBC National News drew that night (596,000). Not bad considering the stiff competition: CTV's Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (1,114,000 in Canada and an even bigger hit in the U.S. on Fox) and the Drew Barrymore movie 50 First Dates on Global (946,000), as well as City-TV's savvy pickup of American Gladiators in the Toronto market.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Monday, January 14, 2008
Sunday, January 13, 2008
- Was there a more important takeaway in Canadian programming this season than CTV snatching NFL football from CanWest Global? In a season gutted by the writers strike, football has been the one constant ratings winner. NFL playoff coverage took the Top 3 spots in the U.S. network rankings the week of Dec. 31. Exciting playoff games (like Saturday's Snow Bowl between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks, above) have goosed CTV's Saturday and Sunday night and afternoon schedules at a time when big draw award shows have been canceled and new episodes of old favorites have dried up. CTV was probably just looking to shore up their TSN brand at the time they made this deal last spring but the NFL has turned out to be a tremendous touchdown for the mother network. As for CanWest Global--thrown for a loss.
- The Golden Globes have always been a joke, a self-serving industry wank thrown by one of the least credible organizations in a town full of phonies. Still, celebs falling out of dresses plus plenty of parties and booze was always good for ratings and a laugh. Take all that away and what have you got? I never thought I'd say this, but something WORSE than the Gemini Awards. Just entertainment mannequins standing at podiums in an empty room reading lists of names and throwing to clips of (for the most part) less than blockbuster films. Atonement, for example, was the big winner in the Best Drama category, with Sweeney Todd winning for Best Musical. Woo-hoo.
- Imagine if there was an NFL strike before the Super Bowl, the players didn't show up, but the commentators still counted down the minutes. Shift the field to entertainment and that was the Golden Globes last night. Access Hollywood's Billy Bush and Nancy O'Dell tried to pretend they were actually covering something but they just looked more and more ridiculous as the pseudo-non-event dragged on.
- Although not as ridiculous as the breathless woman who was live on the scene for CNN when she gushed to Larry King about how she felt this year's Golden Globes was the best evva. Another in a long line lately of Not-Great-Nights for television.
- On the other hand, AMC's brilliant Mad Men beat out network hits like House and Grey's Anatomy to win the Best Drama prize, so maybe the Globes are legit after all. Almost all the big TV awards went to U.S. cable shows, which is exactly right. The best TV by far for the past 12 months was on U.S. cable. Glenn Close won the Best Actress in a Drama prize for Damages, an edgy little legal caper coming to Showcase next month. Mad Men (another savvy CTV pickup) also won the Best Actor prize, with uncanny Jon Hamm (above) beating out Michael C. Hall, scary good as Dexter, as well as Hugh Laurie from House and Jonathan Rhys Meyers from The Tudors.
- I know I'm just restating the obvious here, but American Gladiators is jaw-droppingly stupid! NBC missed a great opportunity last night to combine Gladiators with the Golden Globes. Have the five Best Actor and Actress contenders line up and try to charge their way past Nitro or Gizmo or the Human Growth Hormono or whatever in a mad dash to win their awards. It would be just as legit as the usual Globe Awards and more fun for viewers.
- There were exactly 147 Christmas tree ornaments on our tree this year. I know this because, for the first time in a decade--thanks to the cancellation of the January Television Critics Association press tour, usually held in Los Angeles--I was around to take them all off. Getting the tree ready for the composter was still more riveting than the Golden Globes.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Friday, January 11, 2008
It NEVER, ever happened, even if your uncle or neighbor swear they saw it. The book details how that one, plus 150 other TV rumours, myths and urban legends, spread all over North America.