Sunday, May 31, 2009
Not that anybody is watching much else on TV these days. As far as the early summer starts go, the return of So You Tbink You Can Dance (1,544,000 Wednesday and 1,374,000 Thursday on the BBM "commercial" index) was the week's big winner, dancing a step higher than CBC's hockey scores. The premiere of Canada's Next Top Model was less of a draw Tuesday night on CTV, with 694,000 tuning in. The Canadian edition of the reality series got beat handily in the timeslot by a repeat of Global's NCIS (986,000), although, in a reverse flip, Top Model took the hour across Canada among 18-49-year-olds.
Global's pickup of the highly derivative Fox summer series, Mental, did 715,000 in its premiere Tuesday. Another 872,000 caught Global's simulcast of the extreme action game show Wipeout Wednesday.
Friday, May 29, 2009
David Kines, the former MuchMusic honcho now busy pulling together the Canada Day festivities for several broadcasters, invited me in on the reading. Thanks to Dave, I got to quiz Scheft a bit about Letterman and Late Show and his take on all the changes in late night happening this week and next with the hand off of Tonight to Conan O`Brien.
Scheft noted that one of the golden rules in network television is that "the one who changes the least usually benefits the most"--which, of course, would be Letterman, sitting tight at 11:35 on CBS.
Late Show fans will have noticed that the monologue has expanded in recent months. Where once Dave told eight jokes tops, he`s up to 13-16 a night now.
Leno`s departure provided the incentive; the joke machine and his 35-40 gag opener will be off the scene until September when he returns at 10 P.M. The suggestion to beef up the Late Show monologue was made several months back and, once he got a set under his belt, Letterman embraced it, finding it gave him and the show a jolt of that good old stand up vibe.
Scheft has been with Letterman for 17 years, dating back to the NBC days. He has sharp memories of the 25th show they ever did at CBS because that was the one that was supposed to feature Bill Hicks. A bit of a stand up rebel, Hicks was pulled when Letterman and others felt his set might have crossed the line in terms of content, a decision that haunted everybody when Hicks revealed a short while later that he had cancer. He died six months later.
Letterman recently made amends by inviting Hicks' mother on the show, apologizing to her and showing Hicks' set in its entirety. It made for a fascinating show.
The kicker is that Scheft, a former stand up comedian, had stood in for Hicks at rehearsal and performed his own stand up, never thinking it would ever air. When he turned on the show that night, however, his rehearsal shtick was edited into Hicks' slot. He had made his debut on Late Show and never knew it until it aired.
Scheft is a master at the kind of smart, self deprecating humour one used to get from Woody Allen. Typical example: he majored in Latin at Harvard, he explained, "because he thought the church was going to come back." He described his mother as a "stay at home narcissist." When he asked for her unconditional love, she said, "I'll give you unconditional love when you've earned it!"
That one made me laugh out loud. The passage he read from his book was just as funny. This is the former sports writer's third novel; he says he tends to write about broken people raging against the dying of the light. The guy in Everything Hurts, Phil Camp, spends much of the book trying to get rid of a psychosomatic limp. He winds up writing a self help book as a joke ("Where Can I Stow My Baggage?") that becomes a bestseller. It couldn't be as funny as Everything Hurts; order your copy here.
I wondered when somebody was going to goof on that crazy black patch of hair in the middle of Leno's head. The song and dance was a good old fashioned, showbizzy moment, a blast from the Carson's Tonight Show past as the Leno era draws to a close.
Crystal also pointed out last night how Larry King was the original Twitter king, linking together random sentences in his crazy old USA Today columns a decade or so ago. Typical King observations: "… I hope Alec Baldwin knows how good an actor he is … Do guys get shaves at barber shops anymore? … The older I get the less I like winter … " sounded just as banal as today's Twitter blatherings.
Conan O'Brien and James Taylor bid farewell to Leno tonight. The 59-year-old comedian told me last week that he has "something kind of interesting planned for the very end which I think people might get a kick out of." If that's not enough, he'll be at Casino Rama Tuesday and back on NBC and City at 10 p.m. this fall.
The big rant is saved for the hypocrisy of Canadian broadcasters who have been crying the blues about being broke and needing cable cash and saving local TV while hauling back more American TV shows they just spent millions on in LA. Sheesh!
I also get excited about how people are starting to get smart and are switching to antennas to pick up more and more high def TV signals. You can't get a piece of the carriage fee from that, Konrad. Listen in here.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Among the new U.S. shows in Global's corner are TVFMF favourite Glee, Sons of Tucson (starring Canadian Tyler Labine) and the Seth MacFarlane animated spinoff The Cleveland Show, all from usual Canwest supplier Fox. From CBS they bought that Melrose Place remake (coming to CW) plus the Julianna Margulies-starring legal drama The Good Wife, as well as the NCIS: Los Angeles spinoff. They also bought the Chevy Chase comedy Community (NBC) and Brothers (Fox).
To create a little cap space, they unloaded How I Met Your Mother to Rogers, who also apparently picked up Modern Family from Fox as well as several other new scripted dramas, comedies and reality series (full details to follow at Rogers upfront in Toronto June 9).
From ABC/Disney, CTV bought Flash Forward--already picking up some buzz Stateside--as well as The Beautiful Life starring wooden O.C. drone Mischa Marton. From Warners, another usual CTV source, they bought Jerry Bruckheimer's medical hour Miami Trauma. Hey, ER didn't do too badly for CTV for 15 years. They also invested in another Bruckheimer show, The Forgotten.
Vlessing figures Canadian spending was down 5% from last year's tab, with the cash-strapped nets supposedly playing nice by not getting into any nasty bidding wars. So if they spend over $700 million on U.S. fare last year, does that mean they only spent $665 million this year? Can't see how giving up tip money in LA is going to sway the CRTC to turn on the carriage fee money tap. If Vlessing's math is on the money, look for more full page ads from Rogers and Shaw along the lines of, "See??? TOLDYA!!!"
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Forty-one surveys from the past year-and-a-half can now be accessed over at the TV Feeds My Family Poll Archive. Check back anytime to see who TVFMF readers chose as having the funniest show in late night, what was the best medical series ever or who was chosen the funniest comedy duo. Results from future polls will wind up there, too. Jump to the site here.
The Canadian network program buyers are down in LA right now, doing their damnedest to save local television. Somehow--even though they all say they're broke--they'll come back from the annual LA screenings with most of the 22 new U.S. network offerings announced last week by ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and The CW. Business is business, the folks at the Canadian offices of Disney, Fox and Warner Bros. Television gotta eat too, you know, and the show must go on.
Rogers has already committed to NBC's radical new Jay Leno Show weeknights at 10 next season for its City-TV stations. Rogers and even Toronto's Sun TV could emerge as bigger players this shopping trip with so many bank fingers on Global's cheque book (not to mention a little extra CRTC scrutiny this year).
It will all become a little bit clearer with the Canadian network upfronts, scheduled to begin next week (Canwest June 3, CTV June 4, Rogers/City. June 9).
Which brings me to this shameless plug for the Broadcast Research Council's annual June Gala, held June 23 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto. I've been asked to join Marc Berman, Mediaweek's expert "Programming Insider" as the guest speakers at this year's BRC event. We'll be providing a complete as possible picture of the how the fall will shake down on Canadian and U.S. schedules in the fall, along with analysis and predictions for the coming season. This will also be a chance to see clips from some of the big buzz shows--and not so buzzed about shows--coming this fall.
It's been a few years since I've stood before this industry/ad crowd at one of these events--over a dozen, in fact. I co-presented three or four times in the '90s while with TV Guide magazine. There's been a revolution in television since then, and I'm looking forward to seeing a few other survivors in the room. Marc is certainly an expert on the network and numbers landscape, having worked both within network research departments as well as a journalist. Those attending should find clues and direction to what is shaping up to be a lively, unpredictable fall.
If you want tickets or more information, go here to the BRC site.
Monday, May 25, 2009
The late night talk show host's guests this week include Mel Gibson and Lyle Lovett (tonight), Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dwight Yokam (tomorrow night), Wanda Sykes and Sarah McLachlan (Wednesday), Billy Crystal and Prince (Thursday) and Conan O'Brien and James Taylor Friday).
Had a chance to chat one-on-one with Leno on the phone last week as well as participate in an NBC conference call. The good folks at Casino Rama came through with the individual request. Leno's coming to the 5000-seat theatre there June 2 for his fifth Rama gig. Wrote about that for The Canadian Press, you can read the full column here.
Also wrote about Leno's Tonight Show departure for MSNBC.com, where I am now a contributor. I've got two posts up there now on Leno, one on how he's the hardest working man in show business and the other breaking down his Top-5 guests over his 17-year stint. (Suggestion: Read that link before voting on the TVFMF poll.)
'Course, I also kicked a few fresh Leno quotes over to my book, Night Watch: 50 Years of Late Night Television, which is due out later this year from Praeger Press.
I've been asking several comedians recently about their first Tonight Show gig, especially back in the glory days with Johnny Carson. Howie Mandel and Drew Carey both talked about it as religious experiences. Carey says he dreamt about it the night before and it played out exactly that way, right down to the nod from Johnny at the end of his set.
"You could have done other shows, but that was the only show that officially put you in show business," says Leno, who had worked The Mike Douglas Show and Merv Griffin before his Tonight Show shot. "When Johnny gave you that thumbs up, that seal of approval, that was the deal."
Leno says he wasn't nervous before he went on with Johnny, "but I was nervous waiting for it to come on after I did it which didn't make any sense."
It was Carson's reaction to that first set that could make or break a career. "Oh yeah. There was a whole pecking order," says Leno. "It was one of those deal where, 'Did you do it with Johnny or a guest (host)? If you did it with Johnny, did he give you the thumb? Did he call you over? Did he shake your hand? Did he wave at you behind the curtain?' There was all this minutia, this subculture, of where you would fit in on how your shot went."
Leno's first shot came on March 2, 1977. Burt Reynolds and Diana Ross were Carson's other guests. Leno walked on, did his set, handled a heckler (rare for the Tonight Show--"It was like getting heckled in church!" says Leno) and took his bow at the end. For the record, he got waved over to the desk, shook Carson's hand and also got The Wink. He career was made.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
2. Save The SUV
3. Save Hitler’s Brain
4. Bailout The Teachers Pension Fund Now
5. Exonerate Alan Eagleson
6. Join The Club Baby Seals Club
7. Give to the Brian Mulroney Defence Fund
8. Free Bernie Madoff Now
9. Screw Law & Order—20 Seasons for According to Jim
10. Mothers Against Mad-TV
11. Break Up The Maple Leafs
12. Hey Pulitzer—What About Marmaduke?
13. Bluetooths For Babies
14. Win a Date with Jon & Kate
15. Google McCartney’s House Now
16. Stop Obama Now
17. Tax Twitter Today
18. Seniors For Swine Flu
19. Say No to Lower Credit Card Interest Rates
20. Help Stamp Out Newspapers
21. Keep Toronto Smug
22. Tax The Poor/Free Conrad Black
23. More CBC Middle Managers Now
24. Bring Back Steven & Chris
25. Bring Back Canadian Idol
Friday, May 22, 2009
It just doesn't pass the sniff test, especially with the cable companies, who have decided to call CTV on it: today, Rogers, CTV`s old business partner Bell, Telus, Cogeco and others filed a complaint with the CRTC charging that CTV has violated the Broadcasting Act by by airing one-sided and unbalanced coverage of its own advocacy campaign. Read the entire release here.
The cable guys charge that CTV is simply trying to pressure the government--through the regulator--"to impose a TV tax on Canadian consumers"--in other words, to buckle under their relentless campaign for a chunk of the carriage fee booty.
The cable guys have seized upon the fact that CTV has shamelessly stooped to forcing their propaganda message onto their newscasts.
And they are. This afternoon I saw Ann Rohmer shilling for the phony baloney open house on CTV-owned CP24, urging viewers to get behind the cause, like they were saving baby seals or something.
"This is a blatant violation of respected journalistic principles," says noted consumer advocate/Rogers flame thrower Phil Lind. "The public should expect better and not be manipulated with one-sided reporting masquerading as 'real news'. No advocacy group should be able to hijack the newscasts of Canadian broadcasters, and that is especially true when the advocacy group is the broadcaster itself."
So guessing we won't see Phil at the open house in Agincourt Saturday (11-3).
CTV does need to have its pants pulled down over this silly stunt. The "Save Local TV" ads are icky, like watching those Harper "Just Visiting" smears against Michael Ignatieff. You can't help but think all this cunning and effort and money and promotion could have gone into something more positive--like creating the next Corner Gas.
To be honest, the series barely registered when it arrived. My teens were also surprised that Garth from Wayne's World--basically their only connection to the former Saturday Night Live standout--ever had his own TV show.
It all came back to me when I popped the first disc into the player. This was the series that had the balls to goof on actual sponsors right in the title of the show. The first episode was "The Taco Bell Dana Carvey Show." Later episodes were branded as "The Mug Root Beer Dana Carvey Show" and "The Pepsi Stuff Dana Carvey Show." A bit where Carvey jokes about Mountain Dew looking like `liquid sunshine`is a jaw dropper. It is ad-tastic.
The series takes fearless aim at the sponsors in opening dance sequences that would be struck down dead today. It was aimed at the notion that TV might be headed back to the "Texaco Star Theater" days of full corporate sponsorship--no longer such a far-fetched notion given all those product placements on American Idol and Survivor.
This is just one of the many ways this series was remarkably ahead of its time. The release that came with the set acknowledges that the series may have hit the airwaves "a moment too soon." Only eight episodes were made, and only seven aired.
But look at the astounding comedy talent list. Besides Carvey at his peak, there were these two young unknowns named Steve: Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert. Both were plucked out of Second City auditions for this series, as we learn in the accompanying interview session with Carvey and executive producer Robert Smigel (SNL, Late Night with Conan O'Brien), one of several neat extras in this unexpected TV treat.
Beyond Carell and Colbert, there are also glimpses of Louis C.K. (a writer on the series, along with Smigel, Spike Ferestein and Charlie Kaufman), Bill Chott, Elon Gold and Heather Morgan, who kills with a simple yet daring bit portraying First Lady's as dogs.
Not all the skits work, but like the gold standard for these kind of sketch shows, SCTV, the best ones will have you laughing out loud. An early version of Smigel's animated "Ambiguously Gay duo" is part of the deal, as is a running gag goofing on ABC's broadcast of the mid-`90s Beatles Anthology special. Carvey (wonderfully loopy and evasive as McCartney), Colbert (a cranky Harrison) and Smigel (as a very blank Ringo) are fab.
One of the funniest bits, seen in every episode, is a filmed spot where "Stupid Pranksters" Carvey and Carell drive up to McDonalds' windows and other points of purchase, hand over their money and then take off, laughing hysterically in their car. Carell sells it like crazy. It only sinks in at the last tragic stop that this might not be such a funny shtick.
There's also a side-splitting goof on Quentin Tarantino guesting on Jay Leno's Tonight Show, with the two in all their squeaky-voice glory. Watch you don't blow your speakers. To Carvey and Smigel`s credit, they resisted the temptation to cash in on some of Carvey`s more infamous SNL characters, although the Church Lady does get one cameo.
Some skits go too far. Princess Diana is beheaded at one point; we are not amused given she died less than a year later. A couple of other spots seem a tad misogynist. The eighth episode, which never aired, is both funny and offensive depending on whether or not you think "Germans Why Say Nice Things That Come Out Wrong" is to laff.
The Dana Carvey Show is one of those short-lived gems that coulda, woulda, shoulda and maybe lives on best as an Eight and Out. (Now if only somebody would release Dave Thomas' similar, short-lived CBS summer series, which to my memory had some pretty hilarious moments as well.) Available now from Shout Factory.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Makes sense in Toronto where the weather is B-E-You-tiful. But gad, that no hockey for a whole week in May thing just ain't working for CBC.
Last night's numbers speak for themselves: an oddly-placed, Wednesday night rerun of This Hour Has 22 Minutes drew 131,000. Overused Just Four Laughs Gags did 120,000. A movie rerun of Bookie Finds Her Knickers or whatever drew 158,000, with 41,000 in the demo. Across Canada. Expiring parking meters have drawn bigger crowds!
How are people going to discover the fabulousness of season two of Triple Sensation without any eyeballs on those promo teasers?
Why doesn't CBC move Jeopardy back to 7:30 during these long stretches between playoff games? Stuck at 4 p.m., the quiz show was down to 207,000 viewers, a fifth of its usual total. What is really dumb scheduling, Alex? Correy Street is also at a dead end at 3:30 with 283,000 viewers.
To be fair, the show that was sucking viewers from every corner of Canada was the finale of American Idol, but even that was down from last year. CTV says their "total" score on the Idol finale was 2.62 million. The BBM overnight, estimated "commercial" tally clocked in at 2,622,000. (A 40,000 jump between the two numbers seems about right.)
Fox did 28.8 million in overnight estimates with Idol, ranking it as their poorest finale score since 2004. Last year's U.S. total topped 32 million.
Opposite Idol, Global's James Bond movie, Casino Royal, did 715,000. While that's not bad considering it has been on TMN at least 007 times in the past six months, it isn't going to pay back too many loans.
Even TSN is offside without hockey on its bench. Last night's NBA playoff game drew 185,000.
It was just as bad Monday and Tuesday without hockey on CBC with reruns of the Winnipeg Comedy Fest (147,000) and Sophie (92,000) playing basically to friends and relatives.
CBC won't have another playoff game until tomorrow night, when Detroit faces off against Chicago for Game Three of the Third round.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
We also talk about Jon & Kate Plus 8 (can these people please stop procreating?), upfront week in New York and the season premiere of Glee, which drew 12.518 million viewers last night behind American Idol (24.381 million). The TVFMF favourite finished third in its timeslot up against ABC's Dancing with the Stars finale (17.978 million) and The Mentalist on CBS (16.423 million). Way down in last place on a crowded night of May sweeps finales was The CW's 90210, which drew a paltry 2.137 million, a decent number--for Canada!
Take Jimmy Kimmel, for instance. The late night talk show host led off Tuesday's ABC upfront at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall in New York with a sizzling set of jokes aimed right smack in the face of the advertisers out front and the network executives in the wings.
As reported at the New York Times, Kimmel savaged the whole proceedings. "He went too far!" said Wanda Sykes, who really didn't say that at all.
Among his barbs:
To the advertisers he said, “Every year we lie to you and every year you come back for more. You don’t need an upfront. You need therapy. We completely lie to you, and then you pass those lies onto your clients.”
Goofing on the new ABC reality show Shark Tank (a version of the hit CBC series Dragon's Den, featuring two Canadian Den judges), Kimmel pointed out that the show can't last. After all, "it has the word 'tank' right in the title."
He ridiculed NBC's plan to schedule late night rival Jay Leno every night at 10, "even if we have to destroy our own network to keep him.”
Then he goofed on Leno (and his older-skewing demos), saying his new 10 o'clock timeslot gives "Jay’s viewers exactly what they want. An early-bird special.”
He also cracked that 24 was "a head butt away from cancelation" and that Jack Bauer's new sidekick next season "would be played by Kiefer Sutherland's probation officer."
As for his own network's No. 1 show, Kimmel told advertisers that “Next year on Grey’s Anatomy, your product could kill Dr. Izzie. It just depends on how much you want to pay.”
Kimmel's upfront assault, as Nikke Finke points out, is exactly what the young ad crowd expects. Check out her list of edgy upfront fare from past comedian hosts such as Drew Carey, Conan O'Brien, David Letterman and even Triumph the Insult Comedy Dog.
Also check out the full report on ABC's 2009-10 season announcement at the New York Times (where all thos upfront stuff is piled high and ready to read).
Man, veteran screenwriter Jim Henshaw writes a blistering, mad-as-hell-and-not-going-to-take-it-anymore humdinger of a screed about the Canadian network meetings before the CRTC in Ottawa over the past few weeks. Click straight to it on the above link to his blog, The Legion of Decency.
There is a lot at stake these days for Canadians, the people who make our TV shows as well as Canadians who run TV networks. The carefully orchestrated message from the network suits is that the business model is broken and broadcasters who have been free-to-air for 50+ years suddenly need carriage fee cash to survive.
CTV has gone so far as to throw the doors open to its broadcast bunker in Agincourt from 11-3 this Saturday in an effort to "raise awareness to the crisis facing local TV in Canada." Please stick to the tour and do not wander onto the shiny new, multi-million-dollar high definition news set.
Consumers open their cable bills, wince, clutch their chests and wonder how the hell they wound up paying for a lot of stuff they never watch anymore and used to see for free.
You'd think a public hearing into the future of Canadian television would be fully open to the public, but, as Henshaw reports, a lot of what went on "in camera" at these hearings has been blacked out on the report's official 251-page transcript. (For competitive reasons, we are told.)
I wasn't there, only know how it all played out from reading various other reports, but the censorship is troubling and raises so many suspicions. As Henshaw writes, "It’s just another example of how your tax dollars get spent so others can continue to play by themselves in the Canadian broadcasting sandbox."
Read Henshaw's take. It is good and angry and one I wish I had written myself.
CBS unveiled their 2009-10 network schedule today and there were some surprises. But for the Canadian production community--and especially CTV--the biggest may be the omission of Flashpoint, which has been replaced next season on Friday nights stateside by the NBC cast off Medium.
According to today's release, CBS sees Medium as forming "a hauntingly compatible two-hour block" with Ghost Whisperer at 8 and Numb3rs at 10. The Patricia Arquette drama is also hauntingly compatible with CBS Television Studios, who produces both Ghost Whisperer and Medium. (Nikke Finke's dishy Deadline Hollywood Daily has the whole tug of war over Medium, read that story here).
There was no word about Flashpoint's fate on today's CBS fall schedule release, but apparently it will return at some point as a mid-season replacement. In this morning's in person CBS press conference, CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler said more episodes of Flashpoint are available for summer or later.
Flashpoint was the show with all the heat, the crime drama held up as proof the new, international co-production business model could work. After finding a steady audience on Friday night, why didn't it crack the fall schedule?
There are several reasons. No. 1, while Flashpoint was generally winning its Friday night timeslot on CBS, it was trending down and lagging slightly behind Ghost Whisperer and Numb3rs (CBS Last Friday: Ghost Whisperer 8.93 million viewers, Flashpoint 8.42 million, Numb3rs 9.6 million). Worse, it was skewing old, missing the target 18-49 demo networks and advertisers crave.
It was always a bigger hit in Canada, where Flashpoint drew 1,223,000 "commercial" viewers last Friday according to BBM Canada (the same night the new CTV series that follows Flashpoint, Spectacle, dropped to a series low 331,000). That easily made Flashpoint Canada's highest-rated show of the night.
CTV recently sent out a release last week heralding Flashpoint as one of its success stories this season, cracking the Canadian Top-20. According to the release, the Toronto-based cop show's season-to-date number in Canada averaged close to 1.3 million viewers a week, ranking it as the 18th most-watched show in the nation.
None of that matters in the U.S., where Flashpoint may have gotten caught in the crossfire of changing times. Several crime dramas have been slashed off schedules during the upfront announcements this week, including CBS dramas Without a Trace and The Unit. Dark, crime procedurals are giving way to what network insiders are calling "blue skies" shows. NBC boasts it now has more comedies on its new schedule than any other network, including the five-night-a-week Jay Leno Show strip at 10 as well as new comedies Parenthood and the Chevy Chase series Community. (See the full NBC schedule here).
As expected, CBS did name one other Can-Am produced, Toronto-lensed cop drama to its mid-season schedule: The Bridge. The ripped from the headlines story of a police union boss hails from E! Entertainment and is also scheduled for next season on CTV. Read CBS's full new season release here.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
The 25-year-old South African-born actor landed on my radar with Aliens in America, the funny, short-lived CW series shot in Vancouver last season. He made quite a positive impression when the series was launched at the CW press tour session, politely and cheerfully answering questions and displaying none of the star trappings that sometime cloud the careers of young twentysomethings who, as Kalyan points out later on, sometimes get blinded by their lucky break.
While that series did not last, Kalyan's good nature has been rewarded with good fortune. Besides an appearance in Paul Blart: Mall Cop--the reason for this interview--(see contest posting below) he has recurring roles on Nip/Tuck and Rules of Engagement. He also has four feature films on the go, starring big names like George Clooney and red hot young Canadian Michael Cera.
Kalyan was playing on-screen baseball on his Nintendo Wii when I reached him earlier this month by phone. He says Aliens in America "is a show that holds a very special place in my life because it is a show that changed my life completely." He was living in London, trying to break through as an actor, when his agent sent him a script for Aliens. He won the part of Raja, a good natured lad from Pakistan who was not the blond-haired, blue-eyed foreign exchange student the family that sent for him in Wisconsin was expecting. The culture clash was a little like that found on CBC's Little Mosque on the Prairie, a series Kalyan has only glimpsed in short clips he found on YouTube. "I've heard positive things about how that show, like ours, presented positive portrayals of Islam," he says.
It was the year following Aliens, 2008, when Kalyan's career really took off. Worried that he might be offered a whack of Raja-like roles, he was pleasantly surprised to find more diverse parts being offered to him, including the role of the angry, obsessive, GPS tracking boyfriend in Mall Cop.
Kalyan next played a flamboyant gay cheerleader named Brewster in Fired Up, a film that flamed out at the box office. Kalyan credits shrewd marketing with Mall Cop's success and the reverse with Fired Up's failure. "Mall Cop was marketed and cut together to be a family film," he says. It was tailor made for a family in these trying times and conditions "to escape for an hour and a half. It allowed the audience to sit back and relax and have an easy laugh."
Kalyan says he was pleased the film did so well as much for Kevin James as he was for himself. "He was such a lovely man and really extended a great deal of generosity and courtesy not just to me but to the other actors," he says.
Kalyan was actually just a day player on the film, sneaking in his scenes between takes of Fired Up, which was also shot for Sony. He was amazed when he came in to find James--also the writer of the film, sitting opposite him in a chair on his day off in order to give the other sdie of their telephone conversation. "I thought that was incredibly generous of him, he extended such courtesy to me, really respected me as an actor, even though he may well have never heard of me before or seen anything that I've been in."
James was rewarded for his good karma with a $137 million take at the box office. Kalyan has two other good news stories to tell about famous actors in two other upcoming films.
Kalyan had scenes opposite Brampton's own Michael Cera in Youth in Revolt, which is coming in October. Shot in Detroit, the film, based on the novel, stars Cera as Nick Twisp, who sets out on an outlandish journey to find his true love.
Kalyan plays VJ, a British intellectual Twisp meets along the way. "One of the things that really frustrates me a lot in this industry is when young actors receive great opportunities and they don't appreciate them," says Kalyan. "When they experience a little success they get a sense of entitlement, a feeling that they've made it. I really feel that once you start believing the hype you're in dangerous territory because you're not focusing on what you really should be focusing on. Michael, despite his success in Juno and Superbad, and how quickly his star has risen, is still a very humble young man."
Another film Kalyan can be spotted in later this year is Up in the Air. Directed by Jason Reitman (Thank You For Smoking), the film stars George Clooney as a corporate downsizer obsessed with collecting frequent flyer points.
Kalyan doesn't have a large part opposite Clooney but it's a beaut. "I get to shout profanities at Clooney for about 35 seconds," he says. "In large part, I took it from the point of curiosity to see what this man would be like. He was so warm and welcoming. Very easy going, very witty, very charming and painfully, painfully cool."
Paul Blart: Mall Cop scored a surprisingly robust US$137 million at the box office. It also features Keir O'Donnell, Jayma Mays and Bobby Cannavale along with TVFMF favourite Adhir Kalyan. It hits stores Tuesday, May 19.
QUESTION: Name the short-lived CW series starring Kalyan as a Muslim student from Pakistan who comes to live in America with a family from Wisconsin.
Post your answer in the comments section below. Contest open until midnight, May 23. The first correct entry, selected at random, will win a brand new copy of Paul Blart: Mall Cop shipped directly to your door. You won't even have to go to a mall to get it!
Friday, May 15, 2009
Every once in a while you see a show you like so much it scares you. Scares you because, as a TV critic, you're always looking for something original, something clever, something you haven't quite seen before. Such a show is Glee.
The new Fox musical comedy gets a sneak peak next Tuesday at 9 right after the season performance finale of American Idol. Here's a promo clip:
Why it scares me is that often, what critics want or seek is a little out of left field and not always hit material. Arrested Development was the classic example. All of us raved, but after a while, all those smash reviews about the smarted comedy on television went down like "eat your vegetables" talk for regular TV viewers.
I'm hoping that isn't the case with Glee. The music alone is so mainstream that it should connect with viewers. Getting previewed right after Idol is also a great way to get it in front of as many people as possible.
Creator Ryan Murphy seems like the last guy in the world to be behind this sunny, smart, positive show. He's the writer/director/producer behind the dark, twisted drama Nip/Tuck. But in a way he's perfect, bringing an edge and a savvy sensibility to a genre that could use a blast of both: musical comedy. Idealists will love Glee, but so will cynics. What other show does that?
I wrote about Murphy and Glee in today's column for the Canadian Press. You can read the full article here. Left out of that story was how the series will unfold once it returns next September as a regular weekly series. Murphy addressed that last week in a Fox conference call with critics. The pilot features six high school glee club members, a real rag-tag, misfit group. "What happens after you see the pilot," says Murphy, "is there are six kids who are in the glee club, and what we find out is that you need 12 to go to regionals and nationals. The first five episodes particularly are about the teachers hunt to find those kids from all different walks of life in the school. So six new characters come on board from all different walks of life. Then at the end, I think in episode four, you have your core group of 12."
Murphy says he's already been approached about turning the series into something else.
"I already have a offer to turn it into a movie," he says, "and there's somebody who already wants to turn it into a Broadway show, and also there's somebody who wants to turn it into an ice-skating show."
As Murphy says, let's see if it clicks first on TV.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Other things discussed on today's CHML radio chat: Joan Rivers victory on The Celebrity Apprentice (no surprise; Trump had to keep mom happy after firing daughter Melissa), Global's endless bank deadline extensions, hockey team talk in Hamilton and Jimmy Fallon's steady progress in late night.
Also discussed: CTV's plans to unveil their brand spankin' new high definition national news set. Hey--aren't these guys broke? Plus do we really need to see Lloyd Robertson in Hi-def?
You can listen in here.
That may be the view from Canada as American networks get set to host their 2009-10 season launches (Fox on May 18, ABC May 19, CBS May 20 and The CW May 21). This is the time of year Canadian network programming executives usually free up their line of credit accounts for binge buying in L.A. In recent years, CTV, Global and Rogers-owned City-TV execs have dumped over $700 million into the laps of content sellers from Sony, Warners, Disney, Fox, Paramount and Universal. If Hollywood was a Buffalo outlet mall, it would be sold out to the bare walls each May while heaving vans with Ontario license plates lurched out of the parking lot toward Canada Customs.
The year, with the network bosses crying poor before the CRTC, the binge buying might seem a tad unseemly, not to mention impossible. Global in particular might have trouble explaining to all those banks that keep extending the deadline on their debt interest payment how and why they just shelled out hundreds of thousands of American dollars per episode for the latest Knight Rider lemon or 90210 non starter.
The issue of overpaying to import American fare is making headlines in the U.K. In an article titled "BBC should stop buying expensive U.S. shows like Mad Men or The Wire," the Telegraph's Urmee Khan reports that the BBC paid approximately CAN$800,000 per episode for the second season of Heroes in 2007. In an argument familiar to CBC watchers, that was money that could have been spent on domestic programming. The article goes on to say that Britian's private networks will not get into any bidding wars for U.S. shows this spring:
Because of pressure on budgets, Mr Duncan said Channel 4 would not be able to afford a major new American drama this year and the broadcaster will not be sending a representative later this month to the LA Screenings, the annual event where foreign television executives get their first look at the new season of US programmes. "We are not in a position to go out and buy a major show for Channel 4," Mr Duncan said. Luke Johnson, Channel 4 chairman, also appearing before the committee, defended previously paying £1m for each episode of Desperate Housewives. He said it was right at the time but they were paying "substantially less" for the hit show now. Desperate Housewives and other American imports cost Channel 4 £118.5 million last year.
Mr Duncan also told MPs that an agreement about a partnership deal with BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC, was "weeks away".
Last week, Channel 4 said that it would be cutting its programming budget by at least £60 million in the next year as it battled to cope with rapidly falling revenues.
CTV and Global say they are both broke, so this would seem to be a spring to lick wounds and leave the wallets at home. And even if, say, one of them still had a few bucks stashed in the attic, you can bet the folks at the CRTC are watching those cross border shopping expeditions very closely this spring.
Monday, May 11, 2009
Vancouver got bounced by Chicago in Monday night's sixth game of the second round, leaving no Canadian team in the last two rounds of the playoffs.
Saturday night's exciting game, which the Canucks lost 4-2 to the Black Hawks, drew 1,732,000 despite a 10:30 start. The 7 p.m. CBC game drew 1,370,000, about what you'd expect during the regular season on Hockey Night in Canada.
The NHL playoffs have been a very quiet draw so far this spring. Just four games cracked the Canadian Top-30 the week of April 27-May 3, and two of them were on TSN.
A non-Canucks game Friday drew just 914,000 CBC viewers. A Boston/Carolina tilt the same night on TSN drew 574,000.
TSN did better Sunday with Anaheim at Detroit (622,000) and Carolina at Boston (772,000).
Without hockey, CBC has been doing even worse. CBC killed time with a rerun of that Shania biopic Sunday, and drew only 287,000 viewers. As Shania might have sung, up, up, up, ratings can only go up from there.
The private networks, meanwhile, are scoring big numbers with all their imported series finales. The Amazing Race signed off with 2,165,000 Sunday on CTV according to BBM Canada's overnight estimates (the "commercial" tally; the CTV total will be slightly higher). Desperate Housewives drew 1,712,000 Sunday on CTV. The Mentalist did 1,235,000.
Other recent numbers: Friday's Spectacle: Elvis Costello With... drew 660,000 "commercial." Flashpoint did 1,149,000. Sunday's Bob & Doug on Global counted just 174,000 hoseheads, still better than CTV's dying Degrassi (163,000). Good thing Global also has another week of The Simpsons (946,000) and Family Guy (!,086,000).
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Inside the box was this giant cardboard section of false floor, unfolding to a width of 48-inches. There were also some black step decals included along with step-by-step instructions on how to do the waltz and cha-cha. "Impress your colleagues and friends!" went the release. "Master the dances and you'll be the toast of the dance floor in no time!"
I'm guessing every TCA member got one, meaning Fox shipped 220 of these suckers across North America. The value on the customs invoice was five bucks, but the cost of this promotion, including shipping, had to be in the thousands of dollars and would probably buy another episode of Little Mosque on the Prairie.
Oh yeah--there was also a screener with a three-minute teaser for the series. Lovely host Cat Deeley (left, and why she nearly cut herself out of the picture instead of me I'll never know), as well as judges Nigel Lithgoe, Mary Murphy and Adam Shankman, are all back. The clips of the latest dancing auditions look pretty amazing.
Still, what to do with this big goofy floor thingy? Might slip it under the cat dish. Or, better yet, flop it in the garage to catch that oil leak from the Mighty Neon 2000. "So You Think You Can Drip." Thanks, Fox.
Friday, May 8, 2009
I've done this at a number of schools over the years. The first things kids usually ask is how much money you make. I was ready with my "Why, do you want to do my taxes?" line.
Sometime you go classroom to classroom. At this school, the kids were told to roam from table to table and ask questions. What do you say to kids who are thinking about a career in journalism, besides “RUN—RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!”
The good news was that the Grade Seven and Eight students had all heard of television. Some even had favorite shows.
Bianca, 12, loves Everybody Loves Raymond. "It's funny," she explained.
Jessica, 13, was already into Harper's Island. "It's exciting and you don't know what's going to happen next." said Jessica (one of four Jessica's in her class).
Krizia, 12, was into Ugly Betty. Another girl was a fan of Two and a Half Men. A couple of kids said they used to watch Degrassi, but that "it really sucked this year."
One girl actually confessed to reading—gasp—a newspaper. “I read Metro,” she said, “mainly about celebrities.” She wanted to know if I had interviewed Beyonce. The answer was no, so she moved on to the lawyer/fireman table.
Actually, the big action was at the Hairdresser table, where a woman was offering five minute hairdos. THAT was a big hit.
Damn—why didn’t I bring pictures of me with Howie Mandel and Donald Trump? Wait—those guys are geezers. How about Batman? No, not that potty mouth Christian Bale, the real Batman, Adam West. Mega-geezer. Note to self: next press tour, get photo taken with Michael Cera or the Jonas brothers. Or become a fireman.
A few boys approached the table but most split when they found out I didn't cover sports. One girl asked a lot of straight ahead questions. She'd make a good journalist.
"Is your job very stressful?" she asked. I had to think about that. I guess meeting constant deadlines is stressful, but it just seems part of the deal to me. I gave my usual joke reply about there being no heavy lifting. She looked at me and said, "Right--so you don't have to be in shape then." Nice shot kid. Choose your next question well, Grasshopper.
"Is your job hard on your family?" she continued. Back off, Itty-bitty Barbara Walters. Can't you just ask about the salary like a normal kid?
"I guess I've missed a few birthdays," I said, "although my kids got to meet Bill Nye the Science Guy and the dudes from Kraats Creatures and talk to the voice of The Brain from Pinky and The Brain on the phone."
"So it has its good points and bad points on the family side," she concluded. "Exactly," I said.
"What do you like best about your job?" she asked. That was easy--the interviews. Talking to smart people like Conan O'Brien or Dave Thomas or the kid from Paul Blart: Mall Cop I spoke with the other day, Adhir Kalyan. Or, sure, Drew Barrymore.
"So you like what you do," she said. Had to admit that I did. Dammit--this kid is good.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Some shows, of course, won't be back. We know Boston Legal and ER and Prison Break, which bows May 15, are done like dinner, to quote Tiger Williams. Several might be back with reduced casts and/or episodes. CBC isn't the only one cutting back on show orders. ABC and NBC are rumored to be trimming show budgets, with CBS also looking for ways to reduce the costs of its aging lineup of procedural hits.
Friday night's Dollhouse season finale is likely a series finale, too. This one seemed doomed before it started with a delayed launch, buried on a Friday night. Then again, Flashpoint has flourished on Fridays. Maybe, despite that Joss Whedon pedigree, Dollhouse is just a dumb show, I'm thinkin.
Sunday, Mother's Day, is a big night of finales, with the already renewed The Amazing Race signing off for another season, as is Celebrity Apprentice. Both Cold Case and The Unit bow out Sunday and, according to reports, if both shows don't accept production cuts, they'll bow out for good. The scissors are out at ABC, too, where Brothers & Sisters will return, but the large ensemble cast will take turns and not be in (or paid for) every episode.
Other finale dates: Monday, May 11: Surviving Suburbia, Castle, starring Edmonton's Nathan Fillion and The Big Bang Theory, as well as Fox's biggest scripted hit, House.
Tuesday, May 12: The Biggest Loser and Fringe.
Wednesday, May 13: Lost and Lie to Me.
Thursday, May 14: CSI, CSI: New York, Hell's Kitchen, My Name Is Earl (rumoured to be coveted by ABC), Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock and The Office, as well as Bones, Grey's Anatomy, Supernatural and Smallville. Shouldn't Clark Kent have grown up already?
Friday, May 15: Say goodbye to Prison Break, Ghost Whisperer, Flashpoint and Numb3rs as well as the show you can't kill with a stick, ABC's America's Funniest Home Videos
Other shows will be signing off later this month, including MADtv, which wraps for good on May 16 after 14 seasons.
Survivor Brazil (another two-hour finale plus one-hour reunion special), Desperate Housewives and The Simpsons all end on May 17. Also done for the season are 24, Two and a Half Men and CSI: Miami (May 18); The Mentalist, NCIS and Dancing With the Stars (May 19); and the big finale for TV's No. 1 show, American Idol (May 20).
Season and series finales are the topic on this week's radio chat with WIMA, Ohio, morning man Mike Miller. There's also some talk about which shows to expect back next fall. Mike's rooting for NBC bubble show Southland. You can listen in here.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
That`s how Fox sees it, anyway. The network sent TV critics the fragrent soap sampler to remind us that the series finale of this four-year-old series airs May 15 at 8 p.m. You might say they bent over backwards. CHML`s Scott Thompson gets into a lather about it on today`s Hamilton News Talk radio chit chat.
There`s also me suggesting once again that BlackBerry billionaire Jim Balsillie should buy struggling CHCH and turn it into a TV window into what everyone in Southern Ontario hopes will be his new NHL franchise. You can listen in here.
Instead, hockey numbers continue to blow hot and cold this NHL playoff season with just the Canucks left in the hunt for Lord Stanley's cup. Monday night's Washington/Pittsburgh battle drew 1,228,000 on CBC with the Ovechkin/Cosby rivalry living up to the hype. Saturday night's tilt between Vancouver and Chicago drew 1,879,000 on CBC, but a Friday night Round Two game fetched only 746,000 at 7 p.m.
TSN, meanwhile, drew 785,000 Sunday at 7:30 and 497,000 for a Friday game (all numbers BBM Canada overnight `commercial`estimates).
As for non-hockey numbers, Global`s House flirted with 2 million Monday (1,986,000) with 24 arresting another 1,183,000. CTV`s CSI: Miami (1,852,000), Two and a Half Men (1,487,000) and the CTV Evening News (1,111,000) had typically strong Monday nights. CTV did even better Sunday with winding down Amazing Race (1,986,000), Desperate Housewives (1,710,000) and The Mentalist (1,407,000--keep in mind that the CTV `Total`tally will be slightly higher for all their shows).
Friday saw Flashpoint grab another first place ratings finish with 1,365,000 viewers. Once again, there was a big drop off an hour later for Elvis Costello`s Spectacle, which clocked in at 591,000 commercial.
Dave Thomas`s new animated effort Bob & Doug failed to take off again Sunday night on Global (137,000), with moribund Degrassi not much better opposite on CTV (208,000). Global makes little effort to even keep the light on Saturday night, with back-to-back decade old reruns of Doc fetching 114,000 and 108,000 respectively. The acky-breaky doctor is out!
Monday, May 4, 2009
The four dramas include two medical shows (to replace departing ER?), including the San Francisco-based paramedic drama Trauma. Mercy stars Nova Scotia-native James Tupper, the former Men in Trees lead romantically linked to Anne Heche. Michelle Trachtenberg is also in this medical drama which looks at things from the nurse's perspective. Parenthood is another run at bringing that lame Steve Martin movie to the small screen (a 1990 attempt with Ed Begley, Jr., fizzled after a few months). Peter Krause, Maura Tierney and Craig T. Nelson star in this Ron Howard/Brian Grazer production. Check out this long trailer posted at the NBC site, it presents a much more dramatic series than the earlier, '90s attempt.
A fourth drama, Day One--an apocalyptic vision from the folks behind Heroes, Lost and Alias--will bow early next year behind NBC's promo-packed 2010 Winter Olympic coverage.
Two comedies are also joining NBC's schedule: 100 Questions, a dating sitcom with couples exploring 100 questions to ask about love. Christopher Moynihan (For Your Consideration) stars and writes. Community is about a group of community college adult education losers. Chevy Chase is exhumed for the effort.
Speaking of Chase, NBC has also ordered more of those Saturday Night Live Weekend Update specials. NBC had previously announced that The Office, 30 Rock, The Biggest Loser, The Celebrity Apprentice, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Friday Night Lights would all be back. They've also ordered several new alternative/reality series, including Jerry Seinfeld's The Marriage Ref, Breakthrough With Tony Robbins and Who Do You Think You Are?
NBC also confirmed today that midseason shows Southland and Parks & Recreation will both be back, as will Heroes, although there are rumours of a shorter order. As for the fate of "bubble" shows My Name is Earl, Chuck or Medium, or long-running Law & Order or Law & Order: Criminal Intent, those decisions have apparently been postponed a week (although The Hollywood Reporter says Medium has been renewed, perhaps as a backup series). NBC will make more details of their final schedule known on May 19, around the time the other networks will make their schedules known to advertisers.
Friday, May 1, 2009
Cattrall was in Italy, at some swank hotel, vacationing after shooting Roman Polanski's "The Ghost" with Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGregor in Germany. The call was arranged for close to midnight, Italian time; Cattrall had agreed to chat about her new animated, made-in-Canada comedy Producing Parker (premiering on TVtropolis Monday at 8:30).
Trouble was, two other journalists were trying to get at her. Who ever went first went over, and I kept dialing the 011 overseas exchange and getting a busy signal, and then the concierge. He was very helpful, even sneaking upstairs to rap on her door, but turned around when he saw the "Do Not Disturb" sign. It was midnight, after all.
A publicist intervened and the connection was eventually made. Cattrall was as pleasant and professional as ever. I remember chatting with her at the Four Seasons in Toronto several years ago at the height of all the Sex And The City buzz. She was as glamorous as you'd expect, but much more modest and subdued, almost shy. You get fooled by the character, expecting brazen Samantha Jones to give you a thorough checking out before offering you a martini.
She was very sweet on the phone, considering the late hour, chatting about some of her favorite cartoon characters from the past. (She gets 'tooned up as daytime talk show diva Dee in Producing Parker.) You can always tell a person's age by the 'toons they treasure. Cattrall's a Jetsons and Bugs Bunny girl, which makes us the same age. She remembered that classic Bugs Bunny-Road Runner Hour came on CBC on Saturday nights, right before Hockey Night in Canada. "It was like my moment to get my cartoon fix before my brother and dad took over the TV set," said Cattrall, who grew up in B.C.
Follow this link to the rest of the story, filed yesterday for The Canadian Press.