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Question Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info ( AVS Forum HDTV Programming )
Updated: 2008-05-24 04:15:06 (25442)
Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info

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? Post #2 - Current Ratings
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Answers: Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info ( AVS Forum HDTV Programming )
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unfortunatly in cincinnati we are stuck with cincinnati bell which is in a partnership with directv and stopped their iptv roll out last year.. and even if they moved it forward, they said.. no hd channels

jim tressler

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Aren't monopolies wonderful, Jim?


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TV Review
Showtime's 'Sleeper Cell':
Shut It Down
By Tom Shales Washington Post Staff Writer Saturday, December 9, 2006

CBS honcho Les Moonves reportedly wants more sizzle from sister company Showtime, a pay-cable channel that runs a poor second to that house o' hits, HBO. So it is that Showtime has in recent months introduced series about pot growers, terrorists, a society of dead people and a supposedly lovable serial killer.

In other words, fun for the whole family!

"Sleeper Cell: American Terror," a key component in Showtime's new nastiness, returns to the network tomorrow night with a fresh array of murder, mayhem, toilet-cleaning and throat-slitting, the story of a small band of terrorists and the American agent who has managed to infiltrate it.

It's unlikely the show will have you on the edge of your seat, but it might have you crawling on the floor -- searching for the channel-changer and its escape to viewing alternatives.

Part 1 of the new batch of "Sleeper Cells" opens with a bit of visual trickery that also includes cinematic homage. We hear the Arabic call to prayer as the camera pans down a minaret that stands against the sky -- very similar, if pointlessly so, to one of the first shots in the movie classic "Casablanca." Then we suddenly find ourselves romping on the beach at the Hotel del Coronado, the famed San Diego landmark that was prominently featured in the legendary comedy "Some Like It Hot."

In "Sleeper Cell," however, San Diego is supposed to be San Diego and not Miami Beach, the role it played in Billy Wilder's brilliant film.

We mention these minor details mainly to delay considering "Sleeper Cell" itself, because a dreary thing it is, and depressing, too. It's not in the best of taste to use terrorism, the fears it inspires, and references to the reprehensible attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon as the stuff of cheap exploitation. The ploy's the thing, and an ugly thing, too.

It is even suggested by one character -- admittedly someone who's supposed to be an imbecile -- that the atrocity of 9/11 was perpetrated by American forces to make Islamic extremists look bad. "Uncle Sam was behind the whole thing," it is recklessly alleged.

Allegedly in the interest of fairness, or something, the cast of characters includes U.S. military men who abuse suspected captured terrorists -- including one man who is questioned, and questioned, and questioned in a barren room, the monotony broken when the interrogator gives the suspect a whack that sends him sprawling to the floor. Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo are conspicuously mentioned as symbols of American culpability.

It's all distasteful -- sensationalistic in a drab and flabby way. "Sometimes failure is a great motivator," one agent philosophizes to another. Perhaps, but sometimes failure is just a great failur-ator. "Sleeper Cell" is certainly no success.



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The Business of TV
Study: Cable Beats Broadcast Four Nights a Week
By Linda Haugsted MultiChannel News 12/11/2006

The primetime household share for cable networks is beating that of broadcast networks four out of seven nights a week, according to research released this week by Smithgeiger Inc.

The survey was commissioned by the Warner Bros. Research Department and was based on Nielsen ratings between Sept. 19 and Nov. 30, 2006. The survey found that more people watched cable networks on Mondays (55 vs. 50 share), Wednesdays (53 vs. 49 share), Fridays (54 vs. 45 share) and Saturdays (60 vs. 34 share). Smithgeiger called this the first time cable has outdrawn broadcast during a majority of nights of the week.

The survey results were culled through a poll of 1,500 subjects who subscribe to cable or satellite television. The respondents said that their favorite cable channels offer a mix of originals and acquired programming. That is the mix offered by WB Research's business siblings, TBS and TNT.

Viewers still go first to broadcast networks for new shows (58% vs. 37% for cable) and to learn of upcoming new shows (52% vs. 29% for cable). Cable is the top draw for people who want to catch up on episodes of older, acquired shows. The top basic-cable networks, such as USA Network, Spike TV and TBS, have become a mix of original shows and acquired off-networks hits such as the multiple Law & Order series, the CSI franchise and Sex and the City.

Viewers still most often begin a TV-viewing session by dialing to a favorite channel (38%). A specific show, at its scheduled time, is the second-highest destination, at 34%; 16% start at the interactive program guide, 9% start with a previously recorded show, and 3% pop in a DVD, search the on-demand area or order pay-per-view.



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TV Review
A Tale Where The Truth Would Do
By Tom Shales Washington Post Staff Writer Saturday, December 9, 2006

Feel like making a movie? Want the world to beat a path to your film's door? Helpful hint: Keep the word "aftermath" out of the title. It gives the impression that the major piece of your story's action happened before the movie has even begun.

A handy case-in-point is "Tsunami, the Aftermath," a new HBO drama filled with arduous details of misery, torment and horror.

And just for variety -- a little more misery on top of that.

The three-hour HBO-BBC production, airing in two parts (tomorrow *PM ET and next Sunday), follows the fates of various survivors of the monstrous, tragic tidal wave that struck the coast of Thailand in December 2004. Many survivors spend most of the movie searching for other survivors -- relatives and other loved ones -- and bemoaning the terrible toll in human lives.

It is moving, tense and sometimes agonizing to watch, but the film is plagued by the sense that there ought to be more to it. How many viewers, after all, will be startled to learn that a tsunami is not nice? It also seems odd -- with memories of Hurricane Katrina and its devastation of New Orleans and other cities fresh in the national consciousness -- that we're being asked to immerse ourselves, as it were, in a tidal wave that struck two years ago on the other side of the world.

No one, of course, should be indifferent to mass tragedy wherever it occurs. The global village is no place for provincialism. And the film, directed by Bharat Nalluri and written by Abi Morgan, conveys the sense and sensations of a horrendous catastrophe in stunningly intimate detail. We can theoretically learn much, much more about the nature of such devastation by observing the effects on one struggling family than we can from TV news reports filled with facts, figures and faceless statistics.

It turns out, though, that the families profiled in "Tsunami" are fictitious. The characters are composites based on the kinds of real people whose lives were engulfed by a capricious act of nature. A disclaimer calls the film "a fictional drama inspired by actual accounts of the Asian tsunami" -- one "based on interviews and research."

Oh. So this docudrama is mostly drama and only a little bit docu. Details about the tsunami's devastation are obviously true, but since the people in whose lives we become involved didn't exist, we're watching vignettes that could very well have happened, but didn't.

In an interview, Nalluri says that "truth" was his first concern in making the movie, but obviously he doesn't mean literal truth. Just "sort-of" truth. This can't help but detract from the impact.

The cast, meanwhile, isn't exactly chock-full of household names, unless Chiwetel Ejiofor and Sophie Okonedo are as familiar around your place as Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. (The former are far better actors, of course, but who isn't?) Clearly the most recognizable name to U.S. audiences is Tim Roth, who very convincingly plays a rumpled, semi-cynical journalist teamed with a young Thai photographer as they attempt to document the scenes that stubborn, paranoid officials (perhaps with an eye on the future tourist trade) don't want the world to see.

Ejiofor conveys with tangible, aching anguish the plight of Ian Carter, a man searching desperately for the daughter he feels certain has survived the storm. If only he can wade past the bureaucratic roadblocks as well as the fields of debris. Told that his plight is common to natural disasters, Carter explodes: "There is nothing natural about any of this!"

Some of the imagery is striking -- a boat lodged in the second-story window of an apartment building, or a human leg sticking up from a pile of otherwise unidentifiable objects. But you will see very little of the tsunami itself -- basically the same shots of receding water that were shown on Western newscasts at the time.

Maybe it would be vulgar to whip up a tsunami in the special-effects department, but at least we would get a better sense of the storm's destructive power at the moment of its greatest impact.

"Tsunami" is rigorous and conscientious filmmaking about a subject whose grim importance lingers. It's a portrait of people trying to fathom and cope and, although the obstacles appear insurmountable, to conquer and prevail. But for all its haunting moments, it still seems a story told in bits and pieces -- a mosaic that we see only in sections without ever getting a truly panoramic portrait.



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Critic’s Notebook
Let's get serious
While other programmers go for the sweet and repeats, Showtime and HBO would have us think about terrorism and a tsunami
By Jonathan Storm Philadelphia Inquirer Columnist Dec. 9, 2006

Seeing a prime programming opportunity in December's sugary and repeat-filled TV schedule, pay cable turns to disaster and terrorism tomorrow night.

HBO goes with a soggy drama about the aftermath in Thailand of the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004. You need to be at least a little British to know that Boxing Day is the day after Christmas, and it helps to have a little limey in you to relate to Tsunami: The Aftermath, made by the BBC for a British audience.

Showtime counters with season two of Sleeper Cell: American Terror, homegrown all the way. It's an intense fictional look at Muslim terrorists in our midst and the insane extremes they're willing to embrace to glorify Allah.

The show's hero is also a Muslim, dedicated to battling the twisted aims of some of his brethren. "We wanted to make a strong statement," Showtime boss Robert Greenblatt said last year about Sleeper Cell. "Just because the show is about terrorism does not mean that all Muslims are terrorists."

Violent and sometimes sexually tawdry, as only pay cable can be, Sleeper Cell is not for the faint of heart, but it provides well-constructed thrills with its tour of the morally ambiguous land of counter-terrorism.

Tsunami fails, in part, because it lacks the shades of gray that make for colorful drama. It does contain two of the best TV performances you'll see this year: British actors Chiwetel Ejiofor and Sophie Okonedo are scintillating as parents who lost their little girl in the big wave.

HBO televises Tsunami tomorrow and Dec. 17 from 8 to 10 p.m. Sleeper Cell goes from 9 to 10 p.m. for eight consecutive days beginning tomorrow. It repeats at 11 p.m. and will be repeated at other times and be available on demand. The same concentrated schedule worked well for Showtime last year.

"It's very serialized," Greenblatt said, "so we thought there would be more impact to do it all at once."

Last year, undercover FBI agent Darwyn Al-Sayeed, played with passionate energy by Michael Ealy (Barbershop, Their Eyes Were Watching God), helped foil a plot to blow up Dodger Stadium and everyone inside. When the action opens tomorrow, he's spending quiet time in San Diego with his girlfriend and her kid.

"Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in." Michael Corleone and Silvio Dante said that. Al-Sayeed didn't. But he could, as he winds up this time the leader of a ragtag cell of extremists that includes your standard-issue Iraqi hothead (Omid Abtahi) and a gorgeous Dutch Muslim convert (Thekla Reuten).

Meanwhile, Ilija Korjenic (Henri Lubatti), the terrorist who got away, is hightailing it with his girlfriend to Canada, and the one who got caught, Faris Al-Farik (the amazing Oded Fehr), still causes trouble even under withering interrogation. (Is it torture? Yeah).

Good and bad are not clearly defined in this world. Al-Sayeed's liaison with the FBI is a wet-behind-the-ears nepotism beneficiary who uses the Patriot Act in Monday's episode to coerce a harmless individual into a nefarious scheme, with awful consequences.

Tsunami is overrun with nefarious characters - Thai officials and foreign hoteliers - who try to cover up a report that predicted the disaster and then profit from it by ripping off beachfront property in the aftermath.

There's a seedy but dogged journalist (Tim Roth) and an Aussie welfare worker (Toni Collette) who says she finds herself actually happy for the first time in her life in the chatty chaos caused by the tsunami.

The British Embassy, apparently, did a lousy job helping U.K. victims, which surely upset folks in Old Blighty, but doesn't resonate strongly in the U.S.A. Neither will the speeches on ethics and the haphazard direction that wash through the mini-series



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Critic's Notebook
Game Shows, Espionage and the Tragedies of Life
By Susan Stewart, The New York Times December 9, 2006

"The Chuck Barris Story: My Life on the Edge" Sunday at 8PM & 11PM ET/PT on Game Show Network

Television is such a fast-moving medium that it tends to turn schlockmeisters into auteurs before we’ve forgotten the junk that made them famous. Such a case is Chuck Barris, the creator of 1960s and ’70s game shows that were despised by the critics but that in retrospect seem to be the work of a visionary.

After all, would there be an ?American Idol? without Mr. Barris’s ?Gong Show?? ?The Bachelor? without ?The Dating Game??

?The Chuck Barris Story: My Life on the Edge,? a biography that will be shown tomorrow night on GSN, does not go so far as to ask whether we would be better off without the legacy of Mr. Barris. It simply makes a strong case for its subject as a television innovator while acknowledging that he is also a little nutty. Both sides of the man are fascinating.

Mr. Barris was born in Philadelphia in 1929, graduated from Drexel University and wrangled a job in an NBC training program by saying he had references from board members of NBC’s parent company.

His father, who worked in textiles, was not his inspiration.

?I think my ambition came from my great fear of ever ending up in that clothing business,? says Mr. Barris, who even in his 70s retains the candor and roguish personality of his days as the host of ?The Gong Show.?

That show, Mr. Barris’s crowning achievement, and also his undoing, first appeared in 1976, around the time when he had a mind-boggling 27 programming blocks on the air. ?Gong? took the silliness of ?The Dating Game? and the sexiness of ?The Newlywed Game? and added a spoof of Ted Mack’s ?Original Amateur Hour.? Basically, ?Gong? rewarded talentlessness.

Flipper-wearing cellists, bad singers and even a pre-Pee-wee Paul Reubens were among those who performed for up to 90 seconds, provided that a celebrity judge like Phyllis Diller or Scatman Crothers didn’t ring the gong to silence them first.

As host, Mr. Barris set the tone, and he quickly became a self-parody, wearing a holster with a rubber rooster in it and generally behaving like an idiot.

?I always felt I had a midlife crisis right on coast-to-coast television,? he says. Thanks to Mr. Barris’s soul-baring silliness, this precursor of reality TV was itself the first reality show.

?My Life on the Edge? also covers Mr. Barris’s many marriages and his sad private life; his only child died of a drug overdose in 1998. Then there is his other claim to fame: his contention that, while chaperoning prizewinners from his game shows on international vacations, he worked as a paid assassin for the C.I.A.

?I saw him kill three guys,? says the actor Pat Harrington. It is impossible to know if he is kidding. Mr. Barris’s book about this shadow life became a 2002 movie by George Clooney and Charlie Kaufman, ?Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.?

Mr. Barris’s mind doesn’t seem the least bit dangerous today, but his confessions are refreshing, and even poignant.



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Critic’s Notebook
Serials on the slide
By Diane Holloway Austin American-Statesman

The fall TV season's biggest trend — serialized dramas — arrived in a big parade. Now most of them have been tossed into the trash.

The season was resplendent with serials. Some of them were good, some mediocre, some not good, many already gone. Only one, NBC's "Heroes," has emerged as a bona fide hit.

The major networks asked us to lock in 15 hours a week of appointment viewing for new and returning serial dramas. Even with TiVo, who has that kind of time?

Critics tried to warn the broadcast executives that they were asking too much before the season began, but the TV honchos were having none of it.

"Serials are an excellent way to tell stories," said Jason Smilovic, creator-producer of NBC's eagerly anticipated but quickly canceled "Kidnapped." "You live and invest in one story for the season."

"We've reclaimed the water cooler!" crowed CBS entertainment chief Nina Tassler before the show premiered. "People are investing in characters and making commitments to stories."

Or not. Many of the touted newcomers were dead or dying before Thanksgiving.

Despite heaps of critical praise, "Kidnapped," about the abduction of a wealthy teen in New York, debuted to disappointing ratings. Within a few weeks, NBC moved it to Saturdays and then banished it from the schedule altogether.

ABC boasted the biggest batch of new and returning serials, including the two hotties "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost."

But "Lost" has been bleeding viewers this season, recently beaten in the ratings by CBS' procedural drama "Criminal Minds." Just as "Lost" seemed to be regaining its footing after an early season of confusing stories, ABC took it off the air until Feb. 7. Bad break.

ABC's newcomer "The Nine," about a group of people caught up in a 52-hour hostage crisis, was pulled during Thanksgiving weekend and has been put on hiatus indefinitely; and "Six Degrees," a relationship sudser about a group of young New Yorkers connected by odd coincidences, was yanked in October and might return in January.

Fox's "Vanished," about the mysterious disappearance of a prominent politician's wife, vanished within weeks of its debut, and the CW's "Runaway," about a family on the lam, disappeared without a trace, too.

It's easy to give up on a serial or avoid it in the first place. Some people are afraid to commit to a show that will leave them confused if they miss an episode or two. Others don't want to get involved with a show and then have it canceled before the mystery is solved.

Just because an overdone trend is kaput doesn't mean there aren't serials out there worth watching. Fox's "Prison Break" is on hiatus, scheduled to return in January, and "24" begins its new season in January. Both shows are suspenseful and appointment-worthy.



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Originally Posted by fredfa
TV Review
Showtime's 'Sleeper Cell':
Shut It Down
By Tom Shales Washington Post Staff Writer Saturday, December 9, 2006

CBS honcho Les Moonves reportedly wants more sizzle from sister company Showtime, a pay-cable channel that runs a poor second to that house o' hits, HBO.
well, Moonves is doing well. I wouldn't even consider it a poor second to HBO now. It's more like FX with less content.

What with the abysmal movie lineup, only 3 or 4 shows of any caliber left on the air, and the only one I actually watch (Dexter) is repeated ad nauseum throughout the week. Even better is when the first new Dexter episode of the week is plastered with onscreen pop up ads for Sleeper Cell during the show.

Yep, great work Moonves.


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Those popups do seem to have Moonves' fingerprints all over it. The new this season light green box box in the lower left hand corner of CBS HD/DD 5.1 programs is annoying as well.


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Moonves is hardly alone in putting annoying bugs on the screen. If anything NBC and TNT are king when it comes to putting annoying pop-ups in the middle of a show, although every network does this now except for HBO. No pop-ups during their TV shows (that I've seen) = class!

Speaking of pop-ups, was anyone seriously annoyed at Sci-Fi Channel for leaving a permanent bug/ad for 'The Lost Room' during last Friday's 'Battlestar Galactica' (and I pressume the entire primetime line-up) on the lower right corner? Is bad enough that 'BG' is letterboxed so it can't be made to fill an HD screen without distortion, but to clutter almost 1/10th of the screen with a freaking plug for a mini-series is too much. Couldn't Sci-Fi leave the 'Lost Room' plug in the unused black portion of the screen so it wouldn't clutter the already-limited screen taken by the 1:78:1 spectrum? I wasn't planning on watching 'The Lost Room,' but Sci-Fi cramming its premiere date during 'BG' ensured I will definitely AVOID it like the plague.


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I'm not saying Moonves is alone in doing it, but to do it on a premium channel is an affront to the whole idea of a premium content channel in the first place.

Regarding SciFi/Battlestar Galactica, since there doesn't seem to any plans to go HD with SciFi, I'd just as soon they aired their letterboxed programs in 4x3. It looks like crap anyways, might as well use more of the available screen real estate. Or, at least simulcast it on Universal-HD, NBC/Uni's cable channels USA/SciFi are some of the very worst looking channels available. You'd think the producers of these shows would scream bloody murder at how bad their product looks when it gets to the viewers home. Might as well use hand-held 8mm cameras to film the stuff.


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Critic’s Notebook
'Cold Case,' hot sound
Nashville's the theme
By David Hinckley, New York Daily News December 9, 2006

COLD CASE. Sunday night at 9, CBS

"Cold Case" plays it both ways with country music in tomorrow night's episode, which is built around the murder of a promising young singer outside a Philadelphia bar and features the music of country star Tim McGraw.

The writers are pretty nice to the music, even though country isn't exactly the sound for which Philly is known, and they clearly know McGraw's songs because the lyrics several times provide an almost literal narration for what's happening on the screen.

At the same time, the show doesn't mind scaring up a mess of hillbilly jokes. When the team of Rush (Kathryn Morris), Valens (Daniel Pino), Vera (Jeremy Ratchford), Jeffries (Thom Barry) and Miller (Tracie Thoms) learns that two of them must travel to Tennessee to interview witnesses, only Ross expresses a willingness to make the trip, leaving the rest to draw straws.

Short straw has to go.

For the record, the winner/loser does end up getting a reward for his trouble. She's a brunette.

That little road-trip-romance subplot itself could seed a good half-dozen country songs if the writers had the time and inclination. But they're busy spinning the tale of the murder, which is just as well, because it needs as much attention it can get.

It turns out that several minidramas had sprouted up around the victim just before his death.

It also turns out that none of them were especially well camouflaged or covered up at the time of the killing, six years earlier.

But the cop who originally caught the case was less than fully involved. Jeffries, who was once his partner, explains that the guy was more interested in putting in his hours than in going to the extra trouble of actually solving crimes.

If that cop had been just a little more diligent, he might have learned that the victim had a physical confrontation with the club owner earlier on the day he was killed, that the victim's wife had shown up that afternoon to say she was leaving him, and that the victim had just been offered a record deal on the condition that he kick his older brother out of the band.

Which he did, meaning he had an eventful night even before he was murdered.

We might also mention that his band's lead guitarist was a heroin addict who would do anything for money. So the potential perps and their motives could fill a whole folio of country songs even before a final twist that occurs right before our boy takes a bullet in the chest.

Right after that, by the way, the writers can't resist a last hillbilly gag, thinly disguised as tragic irony. Explaining it would mean giving up the killer, but here's a hint: It involves his cowboy hat.

In the end, McGraw's music and the culture-clash jokes add some seasoning to a solid if fairly routine night's work for the "Cold Case" team.



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Critic’s Notebook
The Countless Varieties of a Single Emotion: Love
By Felicia R. Lee, New York Times December 9, 2006

The close-as-brothers relationship between Azim Khamisa and Ples Felix certainly exemplifies friendship as a kind of love. But it is an even more extraordinary example of forgiveness, compelling enough to be included in the PBS documentary ?The Mystery of Love,? to be broadcast on Wednesday night.

?Mystery? serves up experts and ordinary people to investigate love’s varieties, and includes the story of how Mr. Felix’s grandson killed Mr. Khamisa’s only son. Afterward the men met and began teaching nonviolence as a way to redeem the tragedy, and their relationship deepened.

?The collective culture is competition, conflict and violence,? Joan Konner, the executive producer of ?Mystery,? said in discussing why she turned her journalistic skills to a hardly neglected topic. A former dean of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, Ms. Konner said she sought to encourage people to consider love as a tool to replenish a post-9/11 society that she said was focused on survival, and getting and spending.

?I hope that people become aware of the many deep connections and give them as much honor as they do the dominant stories in the culture, which are love and sex and religion,? Ms. Konner said in an interview about the program. Most often, the love stories we tell are about romance and sex, she said.

Given that even the oceans of wisdom from Shakespeare to Dr. Phil cannot unknot love’s challenges, ?Mystery? introduces viewers to many types of love stories and many ideas about what it all means. The stories include those of an elderly, interracial couple in Indiana who live together platonically; a 30ish couple about to be wed; the seemingly odd-couple marriage of an opera singer and a hog farmer in Minnesota; a national group of motorcyclists who help abused children; three brothers in Baltimore who went to Iraq at the same time; and even a glimpse at connections among primates.

As host, the writer and actor Anna Deavere Smith brings together the stories, which are threaded with comments by people like the Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes Jr., senior minister of the Riverside Church in Manhattan; James Hillman, a psychologist and author of ?A Terrible Love of War?; and Dr. Frans de Waal, director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center of Emory University, where the chimps have their own love stories.

Ms. Konner, an award-winning television documentary producer, said she found no fewer than 1,000 current ?experts? who have written about love. She discovered a handful of the show’s subjects through a professional choir called Conspirare, based in Austin, Tex., which is included as an example of communal love and whose orchestral and chamber music is featured throughout ?Mystery.?

Ms. Smith was chosen as host, Ms. Konner said, as an alternative to hiring a glossy broadcast journalist who might not have had Ms. Smith’s intellectual bona fides. For her part, Ms. Smith said she was taken with the program’s presentation of love as a radical force, beyond the usual boy-girl fluff.

?I’m interested in connection,? said Ms. Smith, who teaches at New York University, in the Tisch School of the Arts and at the law school.

?On the one hand, the traditional family has fallen apart; it doesn’t exist like it did a generation ago,? Ms. Smith said. ?On the other hand, we haven’t created a way for people to have intimacy outside of one-on-one relationships. We don’t have enough ways to care for each other; that’s the moment we’re living in. We need love to solve the problem of education, and I don’t know how we’re going to solve the health care problem without love.?

The major financing for ?Mystery? came from the Fetzer Institute in Kalamazoo, Mich., a nonprofit foundation that, according to its literature, has a mission to foster the awareness of the power of love and forgiveness. Among other things, the foundation finances research on topics like altruism and compassion. It was endowed by John E. Fetzer, a pioneer in broadcasting and the former owner of the Detroit Tigers. Community groups in cities across the country, as part of an initiative financed by the Fetzer Institute, are convening with their group members and others to watch ?Mystery? and talk about its ideas.

In Dayton, Ohio, for example, a group called Civic Life International is assembling a diverse group of 80 people to talk about love and race relationships. They will meet on Tuesday at the local PBS station to see two segments of ?Mystery,? in advance of the national broadcast.

?When we talk about love, we don’t want to talk about it in isolation,? said Tokunbo Awoshakin, the executive director of Civic Life International, a group composed of journalists and professionals in conflict resolution who work to help African and minority communities. ?How do you put love into action in a diverse community like Dayton, which is deeply segregated along lines of race and class??

The story of Mr. Khamisa and Mr. Felix certainly happens along a few social fault lines. In San Diego in 1995, Tariq Khamisa, 20, was in a car delivering a pizza when Tony Hicks, Mr. Felix’s grandson, then a 14-year-old eighth grader, shot him to death. The teenager, who admitted the killing and was sentenced to 25 years in prison, was part of a gang that intended to rob Mr. Khamisa.

Mr. Khamisa, a devout Muslim, and Mr. Felix, who talks about society’s perception of his black grandson, now travel the country discussing forgiveness and the prevention of violence. In ?Mystery? they tell their story to a group of elementary school students and ask how many would want revenge for Tariq’s death. Many hands shoot up.

?But let me ask you, would revenge bring Tariq back?? Mr. Khamisa asks.

Another provocative segment on the documentary, called ?Love and War,? shows Mr. Hillman, the psychologist, theorizing about the brotherhood of the battlefield. Across cultures and across time a collective thrill runs through civilizations as they march off to face an enemy, Mr. Hillman said in an interview about his participation in the program. ?How the hell do you account for the fact that we’ve been at war since human history began?? he said. ?We must love it.?

?The love of war is a love, in war, of the men for each other,? Mr. Hillman says in ?Mystery.? On a more mundane and upbeat note, ?Mystery? takes us to the wedding of Mark Cravotta and Monica Proctor, musicians in Austin who met on the Internet and then grappled with preconceived notions of what a relationship should be. Ms. Proctor was wary that Mr. Cravotta was twice divorced and had a child. He realized that he had never really seen marriage as a lifetime commitment.

?We are in a position now where we definitely could get hurt,? Mr. Cravotta says in the show after he and his wife exchange vows. ?And we’re in anyway. But that’s where the juicy stuff is.?



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Originally Posted by keenan
I'm not saying Moonves is alone in doing it, but to do it on a premium channel is an affront to the whole idea of a premium content channel in the first place.
Exactly my thoughts. You pretty much expect it with ad supported channels, especially on the basic cable tier but I don't recall ever seeing an onscreen ad during a show on any other subscription channel I see, even if it's for their own product. Which is as it should be.

Showtime even does it during movies. It wouldn't be so bad if they had a good selection of first-runs but right now I'm subscribing to a premium channel running movies that have already been around the block a few times and I'm getting ads during them!

Premium movies and shows without ads is one of the primary reasons for subscribing to begin with.


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Critic's Notebook
'Terror porn' is still just TV
By Verne Gay, Newsday December 8, 2006

Most critics swooned over "Sleeper Cell" last December when it bowed as a short-run miniseries on Showtime, but there was one meanie who dissented. That was New York Observer writer Ron Rosenbaum who branded this "terror porn," or a new form of entertainment that glorified in the latest bogey to stalk the American psyche.

He wasn't wrong, but does "terror porn" necessarily make a show bad? Not at all. "24," the Bob Guccione of the genre, is often terrific (often outrageously silly, too, but still terrific.) TNT's "The Grid" was OK, (right?) and so was "Alias." But not all shows that dabbled in terror porn were winners. (Remember ABC's "Threat Matrix"?).

"Sleeper Cell" is, by and large, a winner.

But because we're friends, we can be honest with one another, and just admit the obvious here: "Sleeper Cell" is nicely acted, produced, written, directed, but is still so deeply rooted in the conventions of the medium, that no matter how hard it tries, or how hard it wants to be something else, this still ends up Just TV.

Nothing wrong with Just TV, except that last season, "Sleeper Cell" badly wanted to be an oracle, a clarion, or even the Truth, writ large. By that standard, "Sleeper Cell" does not always make the cut. Take out a couple of dirty words here, a couple of boob shots there, and this could easily air on CBS, Friday night at 10 - with commercials. This season as last, "Sleeper Cell's" unique selling proposition is that the terrorists among us are not media stereotypes, but a rainbow coalition of races waging ideological battles among themselves. But this sometimes feels more politically correct than politically accurate. In its stated intention to promote understanding, "Sleeper Cell" wants to offend no one, Muslims included. That's a TV impulse, writ large.

Sunday night, Michael Ealy - reprising his role as undercover Fed Darwyn Al-Sayeed - pulls one of those "I Want Out But They Just Keep Dragging Me Back" routines. There's an opening for a teacher at Quantico, but ... well, you know the drill: He saved L.A. once, and now he's gotta do it all over again. As always, Ealy's good, but when will his fellow terrorists get hip to the fact that a guy who can buy a Stinger with one hand and shoot somebody dead with the other isn't supposed to be so damned cute?

Oded Fehr is back too, as the appropriately menacing, and now shackled, terror kingpin Faris Al-Farik. He's in jail, where we get a glimpse of what "Sleeper Cell" would like us to believe are Guantanamo-like "interrogation" procedures. They're harrowing, indeed, with good-cop/bad-cop routines, while an Islamic Army chaplain even tries to work his charm. The results - you can guess - are predictable.

Meanwhile, there are some newcomers who will perhaps improve upon last season's foiled plot to blow up Dodger Stadium. We get a female terrorist this time - Dutch actress Thekla Reuten, as Mina. There's a Hispanic as well - Benny Valazquez (Kevin Alejandro) and a Middle Eastern terrorist by way of the U.K., Salim (Omid Abtahi). They all form the core of the new cell Darwyn penetrates.

Let's not overlook a couple of standouts from last season. Ilija Korjenic (Henri Lubatti) has avoided the dragnet and is fleeing the country. Gayle Bishop (Melissa Sagemiller) is still in love with Darwyn and still long-suffering, wondering when - or if - they'll ever have a normal life together.

Like last season, Showtime will blow the series out over eight consecutive nights, hoping for maximum impact and viewer interest. There's plenty of impact, all right, but it's still hard to forget it's a television screen you're looking at.

SLEEPER CELL: AMERICAN TERROR. Airing over eight nights, the series once again fuses a crash course in Islam with an action/adventure thriller. Premieres Sunday at 10 p.m. on Showtime.



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The Hat Trick That Didn’t Happen
By Richard Siklos, The New York Times December 10, 2006

WITH the arrival of mittens and mufflers comes the inevitable onslaught of year-in-review columns. Certainly there have been plenty of media milestones this year — from the march of Google and the explosion in online video to the turmoil in the newspaper industry, led by the disappearance of Knight-Ridder and the upheaval at the Tribune Company. Then there was Sumner M. Redstone’s banishing of the Toms (Cruise and Freston) and Rupert Murdoch’s fiasco with O.J.

But we’ll leave the highlights and lowlights to others. What we’re really interested in is the year that wasn’t: the trends that seemed as if they would change the world but instead reminded us that behind the frenzy — and there’s no better word for it — the wheels of change turn more slowly than we think. So here, with 2006 all but over except for the bonuses, are three contenders for the year that wasn’t:

HIGH DEFINITION It sure looked as if this would be hi-def’s year, with sleek flat-panel televisions flying off of store shelves, new formats for watching DVDs with crystalline pictures and even a new kind of radio that borrowed the term.

Sure, this was the first year when sales of digital TVs were supposed to outstrip sales of analog sets. But it turns out that there is a big difference between owning a high-definition flat-panel display and using it to watch high-definition programs.

According to a recent survey by Frank N. Magid Associates, the number of people buying these sets who are looking forward to watching television shows in hi-def format has actually declined, to 47 percent from 63 percent two years ago. And while nearly half of current owners of HDTV sets said that their main reason for buying one was to watch programs in HD, only 25 percent of those now shopping for the sets feel that way.

The reason for this lack of enthusiasm is pretty clear in my own home. For one thing, plenty of shows on the high-definition channels I receive with my digital cable package appear with big black borders — because of the aspect ratio or somesuch — and I can’t figure out whether this is my doing or the cable company’s or the broadcaster’s.

Moreover, it requires yet another cash outlay to gain access to premium HD fare like Dan Rather’s new crystal-clear newscasts on Mark Cuban’s HDNet.

High-definition, or digital, radio is a vastly more mysterious phenomenon, with very few receivers in homes but some 1,000 new radio channels beaming around the country like space probes searching for alien life. This industry is very much in its infancy and new, less-expensive players are about to hit the market.

Digital radio does have a few things going for it, including the fact that it’s free — once you buy a receiver — and could be an interesting alternative to the niche and ad-free channels that have drawn attention and listeners to satellite radio. That said, HD Radio in the near term faces a huge marketing challenge to convince people that they should invest in yet another gadget.

As for high-definition DVDs, there are two new but incompatible, and thus warring, formats: the Sony-led Blu-Ray and the Toshiba-led HD-DVD. That bodes well for just about anything but DVD sales.

MOBILE MEDIA There were many nifty product and service introductions this year among phone and media companies, including content developed just for the tiny screen. Yet some things — like an ESPN-branded phone — have already come and gone for lack of traction.

But even for all the clips and whatnot that have come to market, mobile has not yet amounted to a meaningful new media business — and for two vexing reasons.

The first is logistics. On its face, the beauty of mobile is that you should be able to do anything with it that you can on the Web — only while on the move. Simple, right? The problem is that, unlike the Web, cellular networks are privately owned and most things that media companies are trying to do require — at the very least — technical clearances from the cellphone operators to push material through their networks. By the way, there are 20 phone carriers and 400 models of handsets to work with.

The bigger holdup also relates to the mobile-qua-Web notion. The big thing right now online is business models based on giving people things free with advertising rather than having them pay. (Think AOL’s big strategy shift or free reruns of episodes of ?Grey’s Anatomy? online.)

However, the idea of putting ads of any kind on cellphones — whether 30-second spots or pop-ups or spam — is a can of worms. Better luck next year.

THE AVATAR Finally, I had great hopes that 2006 would be the Year of the Avatar. After all, few things are more curious and compelling than the growing popularity of virtual worlds like Second Life and There.com.

Millions of Yahoo users have created avatars — digital renderings that may or may not resemble their real-life selves, in appearance or action; the avatars are used on e-mail and instant messages and on its Yahoo Answers site, among other places.

This summer, IAC/InteractiveCorp got into the game by starting Zwinky.com, a Web site for creating avatars that can be used to hop around to various destinations on the Internet and to interact with others. Last week, CBS even announced an avatar-based game for mobile phones. It all sounds good, but critical mass is still far away.

For one thing, most people over 30 have a bit of difficulty grasping the concept of why you’d want a digital version of yourself online. (Fair enough.)

But the bigger issue is what you do with your other self. In the case of Second Life, the virtual world saw its ?population? grow to more than one million, but a large number of folks never make it past their first visit. It turns out that navigating a second life can be as complicated as living the first one.

ENOUGH about 2006. Any of these near misses may break through soon, or, who knows, the new year may herald something completely different.

What do you think 2007 will be ?the year of,? when it comes to media? In the spirit of the season of inclusiveness, I invite you to share your visionary predictions with me at frenzy@nytimes.com.



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Many routinely (and arrogantly) make fun of HD newbies here and on other websites, but the Siklos article is sadly instructive. He certainly is not an idiot or a J6P or any of the other derogatory names so easily flung at folks who just don't "get" HD.

The fact is that how to hook up and get HD signals is almost incomprehensible to an average intelligent American. That, IMO, is the major reason the transition has been so arduous -- not to mention so maddeningly slow.


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Originally Posted by keenan
Those popups do seem to have Moonves' fingerprints all over it. The new this season light green box box in the lower left hand corner of CBS HD/DD 5.1 programs is annoying as well.
That's NBC that has the Green logo in the lower left, CBS has the spinning eye when it comes back from commercial in the lower right. Or are you talking about something else?

Edit: Never mind, I know what you're talking about on CBS, I was just thinking about the logo.


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TV Notebook
In November Sweeps, NBC’s Williams Is First Among Anchors
By Jacques Steinberg The New York Times December 9, 2006

If the recently concluded November sweeps period was the equivalent of the busy Christmas shopping season for the three network evening newscasts, each of which is a business generating annual revenues in excess of $100 million annually, then the heaviest foot traffic passed through the front door of ?NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams.?

With an average daily viewership of 9.6 million viewers, Mr. Williams attracted an audience 7 percent bigger than that of ?World News With Charles Gibson? (8.9 million) and 23 percent bigger than the ?CBS Evening News With Katie Couric? (7.8 million), according to figures released this week by Nielsen Media Research.

The three annual sweeps periods (the others occur in February and May) are a bellwether for advertisers, and last month’s contest was particularly important because it represented the first in which Mr. Williams, top-rated since he succeeded Tom Brokaw in December 2004, went up against Mr. Gibson and Ms. Couric.

Mr. Williams’s broadcast also won, albeit more narrowly, in the demographic category typically used to sell advertising on the evening news, viewers ages 25 to 54. It drew 3 million such viewers on average each night — about 100,000 more than ABC (2.9 million) and more than 500,000 more than CBS (2.4 million), according to Nielsen.

?I’m thrilled that we’re winning, and that viewers keep coming to Brian,? said John Reiss, executive producer of Mr. Williams’s broadcast, which was able to withstand a heavy marketing campaign mounted on Ms. Couric’s behalf around her Sept. 5 start. ?You’ll win by more some years, and less others. The one thing consistent is Brian is No. 1.?

While all three broadcasts have shed viewers since last November, the most noteworthy loss, arguably, has been at CBS, where Ms. Couric — who is being paid an estimated $15 million a year for her work on the evening news and ?60 Minutes? — attracted 169,000 fewer viewers, on average, each night than Bob Schieffer was drawing a year ago, a loss of 2 percent. (Of some consolation to CBS is that Mr. Williams is actually down by far more than that, having lost 900,000 viewers a night — 8 percent — in November when compared with his own showing last year. Mr. Gibson lost just 63,000 viewers each night, on average, when compared with last year, when ABC, following Peter Jennings’s death, was using a rotating cast of anchors.)

Asked about CBS’s performance in the November sweeps, Rome Hartman, the executive producer of Ms. Couric’s broadcast, emphasized a theme he has been articulating all fall.

?We really have been focused on trying to make the broadcast as good as it can be and not chasing any specific demographic or viewer, but hoping we are doing a broadcast that is interesting and lively and valuable,? Mr. Hartman said. ?That is going to be a long process and hopefully one that will be successful. It’s going to take time.?

Mr. Hartman had said on the eve of Ms. Couric’s first broadcast in September that she would use much of her first year to experiment, and, three months into her run, she has already begun to retool a bit. A new nightly segment called ?Free Speech,? in which she had asked outsiders (as well as Mr. Schieffer, on Wednesdays) to provide 90 seconds of opinion each night, is being drastically scaled back, though not eliminated.

Mr. Hartman said he felt the segment generally worked best when it was given over to people who were not well known, and thus a segment scheduled for last night featured a British journalist complaining about American gas-guzzling. A future segment will showcase a woman who suffered a spinal cord injury while giving birth to her second child; she will talk about hope.

In place of ?Free Speech? on some nights, Mr. Hartman said, the broadcast may emphasize Ms. Couric’s skills as an interviewer. On Thursday night, for example, Ms. Couric introduced a segment titled ?Person to Person,? in which she interviewed Sandra Day O’Connor, the retired Supreme Court Justice. (?Person to Person? was also the name of Edward R. Murrow’s popular interview series, which was on CBS from 1953 to 1961.)

Jon Banner, executive producer of Mr. Gibson’s broadcast, said he found much within the November figures that was encouraging. For example, NBC’s lead over ABC — about 650,000 viewers a night in November — was less than half of what it was a year ago, while ABC increased its lead over CBS (by about 100,000 viewers, to 1.1 million).

?We want to be No. 1, and we clearly have work to do,? Mr. Banner said. ?But we take some pride in where things are heading.?

And what of ?Today,? the NBC morning show that Ms. Couric left behind for CBS?

With Meredith Vieira having replaced Ms. Couric, ?Today? drew an average daily audience in November of 5.8 million, about 735,000 more than ?Good Morning America? on ABC (5.0 million) and nearly double the audience of ?The ?Early Show? on CBS (3 million).



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Originally Posted by fredfa
TV Notebook
In November Sweeps, NBC’s Williams Is First Among Anchors
By Jacques Steinberg The New York Times December 9, 2006

Fred, are you not even bothering to look anymore? Previous page, post #18906!


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Originally Posted by rebkell
That's NBC that has the Green logo in the lower left, CBS has the spinning eye when it comes back from commercial in the lower right. Or are you talking about something else?

Edit: Never mind, I know what you're talking about on CBS, I was just thinking about the logo.
Yes, it's only at the beginning of the program. It's a cheap, TNT-style look.


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Critic’s Notebook
Web TV: My life is good!
Top shows when I want
By Marisa Guthrie, New York Daily News December 10, 2006

What was life like before the Internet? Who wants to remember?

I've suppressed those dark days before the convenience of e-mail and the instant gratification of online shopping, pushed them deep down to the place where childhood traumas and mother issues reside.

Now, the Web has made keeping up with the many television shows I simply don't have time to watch between the prescribed primetime hours of 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. a cinch - or a click, as it were.

The tough choices - do I go to yoga class or do I head for the couch and "Grey's Anatomy" - are blessedly a thing of the past.

For the first time this season, most of the broadcast networks have made their series available online for free immediately or shortly after they premiere. This is a new ad-supported model, so there are commercials, but they are mercifully short (usually 30 seconds) and much less frequent (usually three breaks per hour-long show). Now that's progress.

On a recent Tuesday, I am my own network programmer, watching what I want, when I want - with nothing to program.

I start with the previous Thursday's episode of "Survivor," the one in which Candice finally got the ol' heave ho from the Cooks. CBS offers a full-screen version of online episodes, but as with the other networks' offerings, the bigger the frame, the less sharp the picture. And near the end of the episode, my screen froze when Candice's face was twisted, mid-snarl, during her rant at Jonathan. (To be fair, this happened on all the sites, at least on my computer.)

In about 45 minutes, I was through "Survivor." A quick check in with "Survivor Live," the Web recap show, revealed little, except maybe that Candice actually looked better when she was on the island not showering or eating.

After so much unscripted comedy, I felt compelled to check in on the professionals. Comedy Central breaks out episodes of "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" in segment chunks, so I was able to quickly watch Jon Stewart roll through the headlines and move on to "The Colbert Report" and watch Stephen Colbert get indignant at the unsettling rise in discrimination against smokers and people with lots of tattoos.

Comedy Central also offers one of the best made-for-the-Web series: "Good God." (Think "The Office" set in heaven, starring Steve Carell as God and Death as the dreaded Dunder Mifflin bean counters.) Time invested on all three: 15 minutes.

I'm rarely home for two of the best new shows of the season: "Heroes" and "Friday Night Lights." I have watched almost the entire season of "Lights," which airs Tuesday nights at 8, on the NBC Web site. "Heroes," Mondays at 9 p.m., is easier to catch, but I missed last Monday's episode. And as the final new chapter this year - the show returns with new episodes on Jan. 22 - it was one of this series' best.

The brave new world of TV anytime may someday supplant the TV model we've known since the medium's inception. But according to early research, people would still rather watch on television than on their computer. What online and downloadable-for-purchase viewing presents us with are options. And no one ever went broke offering consumers more options.

I regularly watch "Grey's Anatomy," "Desperate Housewives," "Day Break," "Ugly Betty," "The Office" and "My Name is Earl" online, which frees up my primetime to spend with real people, like my yoga teachers. Inner peace never came so easy.



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Thurday’s updated fast national over night prime-time ratings have been posted just under the HD Football listings near the top of Ratings News the first post in this thread.


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Wow, a new 'Ugly Betty' came in third behind 'Survivor' and the first hour of a horrible, horrible 'Deal Or No Deal' two-hour special (zero tension since all the contestants eliminated the big money early and were playing for chump change). Can 'Betty' be on its way to becoming the next 'Commander In Chief'? At the very least the media's pronouncement that 'Ugly Betty' and 'Heroes' are the only breakout hits of the season should be modified. While 'Heroes'' ratings continue to hold steady or rise 'Betty's' lose viewers with every new episode (though not as badly as 'Commander in Chief').


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The "Ugly Betty" numbers were surely down. But so was everything else.

Heavily promoted "Grey's Anatomy" and "CSI" (with Roger Daltrey) were also far off their season averages.

Nonetheless, I agree with Marc Berman that "UB" is facing a major problem: the story line just becomes less than compelling. (How long can she face down all those adversaries week after week?)


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TV Notebook
Filling in the once-bawdy blank
?Match Game? players recall its mix of urbanity and naughtiness — and the lunchtime vodka
By Richard Rushfield Los Angeles Times Staff Writer November 25, 2006

Decades before "The Osbournes" gave the American public a peek into the family life of a rock legend, before "Chaotic" detailed pop princess Britney Spears' unraveling, before "Being Bobby Brown" captured celebrity dysfunction in its fullest flower, one little daytime quiz show brought the unguarded moments of television's biggest stars into American homes every afternoon. And it captured the lifestyle of swinging 1970s California more vividly than any Joan Didion novel or Robert Altman film.

After a brief stint in a staid, buttoned-up, black-and-white incarnation in the '60s, "Match Game" relaunched in 1973 and immediately became the grooviest celeb hangout on the airwaves. Ostensibly a straightforward word game, the format served as a sometimes thin-seeming excuse for the era's TV icons to joke around in a split-level celebrity panel led by definitional 1970s "personalities" Charles Nelson Reilly, Brett Somers and Richard Dawson.

The rules were simple. Host Gene Rayburn read a phrase in which one word was left out and read as a "blank." (For instance: "The bank guard said to Bertha the stripper, 'Lady, I don't care how valuable you think they are. You can't keep your 'blanks' in our safety deposit vault.' "). Contestants then guessed what word should fill in the blank followed by the rotating panel of six celebrities. For each celebrity whose answer they "matched," the contestant received a point.

Minutes into the show, however, the rules were often thrown out the window as the party commenced on a glittering, shag-carpeted set that seemed the embodiment of the era's foppish excess — like a Las Vegas showroom, a suburban conversation pit and the hospitality lounge of a Concorde jet had been melded together.

Twenty-four years after its cancellation in 1982, "Match Game" continues to inspire a cult following, with a host of tribute sites on the Internet and an enduring following on the Game Show Network, which runs episodes daily, and Sunday will air "The Real Match Game Story: Behind the Blank," an hourlong special on the show's history. According to Rich Cronin, GSN's president and chief executive, " 'Match Game' debuted on GSN when the network launched in 1994 and has consistently been one of our top-rated classics."

"God it was fun," gushed regular Marcia Wallace on Wednesday. "We knew at the time that it was a great gig."

Brought together for a two-hour lunch conversation at Santa Monica's Casa del Mar hotel, Wallace's and fellow regular Jimmie Walker's affection for the show brimmed over.

"It was a show of euphemisms and it was wildly hilarious," remembered Wallace, who these days is heard as the voice of Bart's teacher on "The Simpsons" and has just written her memoir, "Don't Look Back, We're Not Going That Way."

The show's comedy flourished with the thrill of first acknowledgment of forbidden fruit but retained an air of refinement and innocence that TV would quickly lose once the floodgates to the bacchanal were hurled open. "Naughty is not in now," Walker reflected, adding that nowadays the innuendo goes further.

Life on the "Match Game" set, Wallace and Walker report, was indeed borderline out of control. Wallace recalled meeting regular Somers her first day on the show. "Brett said, 'Oh, hello darling, you must forgive me, I'm not myself. I just separated from my husband,' and I said, 'I wouldn't notice. I just got out of the loony bin.' From then on we were best friends."

On-air, the show managed to capture, in the most static of TV formats, the feeling of a loose and friendly, very grown-up cocktail party, complete with drinks and cigarettes. Five shows would be filmed in one day and, Walker said, "After the second show we went to lunch, and there was this big flask and there would be people who would imbibe."

"It was a vodka group," concurred Wallace, who said few were actually drunk, merely loosened up. It is noted in GSN's documentary that when watching a week's worth of shows, the episodes filmed later in the day have a decidedly more buoyant tone.

The pair also credit much of the game's success to host Rayburn, notable for his Cheshire cat grin, three-piece suits with a pocket square, conspicuous flirtations with the panelist in the "dumb blond seat" and his legendary 12-inch wand microphone.

"Gene was our handler," Walker said. "He knew the personalities on the show and he put you in a position where you would have a chance to do whatever you wanted to do. He would never leave you hanging."

But what truly gave the show its tone of mischievous adult wit was its reliance on a class of celebrity that is all but extinct today: "the TV personality," as personified by two of the permanent panelists around whose chemistry the show revolved: Somers and Nelson Reilly (neither of whom was available for lunch). Somers, the show's den mother in huge tinted glasses and with a perpetual cigarette in hand, kept the set alive with a constant flow of chatter. "I don't think Brett ever stopped talking," said Walker. "I loved her stories about the stuff she did in theater. She was the best."

Nelson Reilly, reclining in Foster Grant glasses, pipe in mouth, brightly colored scarf around his neck, supplied the show's driest but most outrageous wit.

To viewers, it might have seemed like the most fun place for grown-ups to be on Earth. And perhaps it was.

"What we had," remembered Walker, "was a chemistry where nobody felt beyond anything. What we thought was, this was fun! And you're with friends! And you're rooting for everybody!"



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Thanks for the 'Match Game' article Fred, although that picture of Wallace and Walker on the L.A. Times website gave me the creeps. Time's not been kind to these folks.

A reminder that, after the 'Match Game' special airs on GSN in primetime this Sunday, a rare airing of one of the few surviving B&W kinescopes of the original 60's 'Match Game' will also air on GSN at 3:30AM ET/PT (Sunday night/Monday morning). Set your VCR's... or TiVO's... or DVR's... whatever!


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Does anyone have ratings for the last 2 episodes of Nip/Tuck? For me it went somewhere bizarre with jumping X many years in the future I just lost total interest in that episode and deleted it. I hope it was just one episode and I will pretend it never happened just like season 2 of desperate housewives.

Also is there a thread for Nip/Tuck because I couldn't find it I know its not this area because its not HD obviously.


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Originally Posted by dad1153
A reminder that, after the 'Match Game' special airs on GSN in primetime this Sunday, a rare airing of one of the few surviving B&W kinescopes of the original 60's 'Match Game' will also air on GSN at 3:30AM ET/PT (Sunday night/Monday morning). Set your VCR's... or TiVO's... or DVR's... whatever!
I'm regularly TiVoing the regular 70's run of the show, if only to catch three appearances by a friend on "MG '78".

Unfortunately, at the rate they're going, I'll be 78 years old before GSN airs her shows.


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TV Notebook
Real game begins on 'Survivor'
Associated Press November 24, 2006

NEW YORK - Now the chess game begins.

The exquisitely organized competition that has made "Survivor" so popular is starting to kick in with the number of players dropping, and it forced writer Jonathan into an agonizing decision on Thursday's episode.

The former Aitu and Raro tribes merged into a single tribe with nine members called Aitutong. At the merge, there were five Raro members still in the game, and four from Aitu, and each tribe's members have been fiercely loyal to one another.

Raro member Jonathan, who has switched loyalties more than once, was the key in deciding which former tribe would dominate the next few weeks, with the numbers to pick off the others.

Aitu members were courting him to knock off a Raro member. Since Jonathan had pulled a mutiny and left Aitu for Raro a few weeks ago, he figured he was in a lose-lose situation. No matter which way he went, pretty much everyone else in the game would figure he had betrayed them.

Jonathan was already starting to get annoyed with some lazy Raro members who wouldn't do chores while he was out fishing.

"I'm not going to lose because you kids can't get out of bed," he said in an aside.

The choices were between Raro's Nate and Aitu's Yul. Nate was considered untrustworthy. Yul was a target because other players considered the management consultant too smart.

"You don't want that clock tickin' there, homey," Nate said of his rival.

Yul, however, had a hidden immunity idol that he could use to save himself after a vote. It made the tribal council — tied 4-4 between Nate and Yul before the final vote was revealed — moot. However, that last vote would tell everyone where Jonathan's loyalty was.

He chose to get rid of Nate.



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TV Sports
Digesting some leftover tidbits on Theoharis, ABC, Musburger
Ray Frager's Baltimore Sun 'Medium Well' Column Nov. 24, 2006

Yesterday, you carved up your turkey. Today, it's a sliced-up column.

? Amber Theoharis will be leaving Channel 45 at the end of the year. Theoharis, who joined WBFF in September 2004 as No. 2 sports anchor/reporter behind Bruce Cunningham, doesn't have a new full-time gig lined up yet, she said.

She has appeared on CBS Radio's stations here, which include all-sports WJFK (1300 AM), and has been hosting a couple of shows on Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. Perhaps she could surface in a bigger role with MASN, which will be adding baseball programming for its Orioles and Washington Nationals coverage next year.

Theoharis said WBFF asked her to continue -- "I love Fox. I love the people there," she said -- but she wanted "to explore other options." Theoharis, a native Marylander, didn't rule out the possibility of going to another market.

? Man, those players in Saturday's Michigan-Ohio State game were fast. Several times, they would run off screen before ABC's cameras could catch them.

? Speaking of that game, it might be anathema to say anything nice about Brent Musburger, but few play-by-play men would bring strong -- and spot-on -- commentary as he did when Wolverines coach Lloyd Carr was protesting a Michigan touchdown called back on replay.

"What Lloyd should do is forget the controversy and call the play," Musburger said. "He's wasting time."

? On the other hand, Musburger offered this at the end of a terrific game: "Only in America, only today, until the stars align again." Which means what, exactly?

? Good move by CBS to protect the Indianapolis Colts-Dallas Cowboys from being moved to NBC Sunday. It drew a 14.7 national rating, the highest of the season. The game got a 17.6 in Baltimore.

? Speaking of ratings, Baltimore has a way to go to match the television devotion of the Steelers fans in Pittsburgh. On Sunday, the Steelers-Cleveland Browns game rated a 43.7 in Pittsburgh, compared with the Ravens-Atlanta Falcons' 25.6 in Baltimore. Even more impressive, the Steelers had a 73 share, meaning that nearly three-quarters of the TVs in use at the time were tuned to the football game. The Ravens had a 49 share here. (Yes, the Steelers were on the road, while the Ravens were home, meaning none of the fans at M&T Bank Stadium could be counted as TV viewers.)

? Is it the absence of Jillian Barberie? CBS' NFL Today has out-rated Fox NFL Sunday three times this season. Going into 2006, CBS' pre-game show had beaten Fox once since 1998.

? Flexible scheduling can only go so far. When NBC picked the Colts-Philadelphia Eagles game for Sunday night, the network pictured a Peyton Manning-Donovan McNabb matchup. But McNabb suffered a knee injury last weekend, so it's Manning vs. Jeff Garcia. Not exactly ratings gold.

? Phil Mushnick of the New York Post on the way "perspective" is an ephemeral part of football telecasts: "Every time a player gets laid out, motionless, we're told in voices suddenly switched to 'funeral home' that 'this puts everything into perspective.' Oh, and it does. For about two, three plays. By halftime, ESPN's back with its 'He Got Jacked Up!' segment."

? Maybe no one takes seriously anything Michael Irvin says. Or maybe hardly anyone listens to Dan Patrick's ESPN Radio show. In any case, this story has gotten little mention outside of a brief newspaper item and a few Web sites.

On Monday, while discussing Dallas quarterback Tony Romo's athleticism, Irvin, who is black, offered the explanation that Romo, who is white, might have had some African-American ancestry.

According to ProFoot- ballTalk.com, here is some of what Irvin said, though he was laughing through it: "He doesn't look like he's that type of an athlete. But he is. He is, man. I don't know ... some brother down in that line somewhere ... if great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandma pulled one of them studs up out of the barn [and said], 'Come on in here for a second.'"

Michael Irvin, heir to Jimmy the Greek.



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TV Notebook
WGN fills up on Canadian 'Corner Gas'
By Etan Vlessin The Hollywood Reporter November 25, 2006

TORONTO -- Canadian broadcaster CTV Inc. on Friday cracked the U.S. market by selling "Corner Gas," Canada's top homegrown sitcom, to Superstation WGN.

The two-year deal, brokered by Arthur Hasson's Multi-Platform Distribution Company, will see Tribune Broadcasting's Superstation WGN air four seasons of "Corner Gas," totalling 88 episodes, to around 70 million homes via cable or satellite beginning in 2007.

"This sitcom is very well written and the ensemble cast is very funny," Bill Shaw vp and president of Superstation WGN, said in a statement, adding "Corner Gas" would fit well with his channel's other program offerings.

The deal marks a coup for CTV, which fully financed the first two seasons of the ensemble comedy set in the fictional prairie town of Dog River, Saskatchewan, with no government subsidies. CTV then bank-rolled the third and fourth seasons of "Corner Gas" with The Comedy Network.

Terms of the deal with Superstation WGN were not disclosed, but CTV will split the proceeds of the U.S. distribution deal with the series' producers, Prairie Pants Productions.

"Corner Gas" is also available in 26 international markets, including Australia, Finland, Morocco and throughout the Middle East, as part of deals brokered on behalf of CTV by UK-based Minotaur International Ltd.

"Corner Gas" has consistently been the top-rated comedy on Canadian TV, beating out American competition and pulling in an average of around 1.5 million viewers weekly.

The series was created by Canadian comic Brent Butt, David Storey and Virginia Thompson. The ensemble cast includes Butt, veteran Canadian actors Eric Peterson Janet Wright, Cavan Cunningham, Gabrielle Miller and Fred Ewanuick.

Canadian-originated dramas have long aired in the U.S. market on cable channels. But homegrown sitcoms breaking through south of the border has been a rarity, despite the prominence of Canadian stand-up and sketch comedy talent working in New York City and Los Angeles.

"Trailer Park Boys," a comedy about low life in a Halifax trailer park, earlier became a cult classic on BBC America after bowing on Showcase in Canada.



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TV Notebook
'Rock' and a soft place
On '30 Rock,' macho Alec Baldwin is solid as an overbearing network exec. Now he's ready to show his gentler side
By Matea Gold The Los Angeles Times November 26, 2006

These days, if a part calls for someone to play brazen, caustic or swaggering -- in short, a real man's man -- one actor seems to have a lock on the role.

At least that's how it appears from Alec Baldwin's near-ubiquitous presence lately portraying men like Jack Donaghy, the bombastic and preening network executive on the NBC sitcom "30 Rock." Baldwin calls them "man of authority" characters, "something you need to do sort of unflinchingly," he said during a lunch break on the show's set in Long Island City, as he wolfed down a plate of rice and sauteed tofu.

Suddenly, he let out a delighted yelp. "30 Rock" creator Tina Fey had stopped in the lunchroom with her 13-month-old daughter, Alice, in tow. Baldwin leaped out of his chair, gushing over the child and her colorful outfit. (It was Halloween, and Alice was decked out as a peacock, the NBC mascot.)

"How are you?" Baldwin cooed, his gravelly voice an octave higher than usual. "I love your costume! Do you like your costume? Do you?"

This is Alec Baldwin, tough guy? "He's more like a small-town theater professor in real life than a dirty cop," Fey, who plays the frazzled head writer of the show's fictional late-night comedy sketch program, said later. "He is this very literate guy who loves the arts and goes to plays and opera and stuff. He's cultured."

Lout and clear

After a stint as a leading man in the 1990s, Baldwin has most recently re-emerged as a character actor who imbues the most hard-edged, loutish parts with subtlety and humor. His ability to avoid caricature while playing the likes of casino boss Shelly Kaplow in 2003's "The Cooler," a role for which he garnered an Oscar nomination, has made him more in demand than ever.

"Some people don't want to step up and fill that void," he said, explaining why these types of characters often come his way. "The role demands a certain amount of clarity, a certain amount of forcefulness, a certain amount of authority that other people can't do, quite frankly. And many of them who can do it, don't want to do it. And so people have asked me."

He's currently on screen as a macho, profane police official in Martin Scorsese's film "The Departed" and a remote, alcoholic father in "Running With Scissors." Up next month: Robert De Niro's "The Good Shepherd," featuring Baldwin as a CIA operative.

Lately, however, the 48-year-old actor has been itching to try his hand at a new kind of character.

"In truth, I'd rather do 'Little House on the Prairie' and play Michael Landon's role," he said without a trace of facetiousness. "I want to do something sweet." That doesn't mean he's looking to play Charles Ingalls, necessarily, but "something that stays with people."

"I want to play what I haven't played," he added, his clear, blue eyes fixed intently on his interviewer. "One thing about my career, I've done everything: TV, movies, theater. I really feel like I've done it all on one level. You become very conscious of being duplicative."

That's why Baldwin had some apprehension about signing on to "30 Rock," his first gig as a television series regular since playing Joshua Rush on "Knots Landing" in the mid-1980s.

"That is the great concern about doing a television series, that you get trapped into playing the same thing 22 episodes times however many years the thing winds up going," he said. "You can fall into these patterns where it's all pretty treadmill, you know?"

But Baldwin, who is unsparing in his criticism of the film industry ("We are now in the fully realized age of the no-risk movie"), was willing to take a gamble on a series, in part because television's more consistent schedule would allow him fly to Los Angeles every other weekend to visit his 11-year-old daughter. (He shares custody with ex-wife Kim Basinger.)

Fey actually had Baldwin in mind when she wrote the Donaghy character for "30 Rock," a show loosely based on her experiences as a head writer for "Saturday Night Live," but didn't think she had a shot at casting him.

"At the time, I was trying to think of the most masculine actor," said Fey, who had worked with Baldwin on the late-night program during his regular hosting gigs. "He's extremely manly. I thought I would use him as a writing template. I never thought we would actually get him."

Kevin Reilly, president of NBC Entertainment, said that "everybody in town was chasing Alec Baldwin. I think he was probably sent every script in town."

"It's been a blessing"

In fact, Baldwin was developing his own program for FX about a "Bill Clinton-like" mayor of New York when Lorne Michaels, executive producer of "Saturday Night Live" and "30 Rock," approached him about the Donaghy part.

Michaels' involvement in the show, coupled with Fey's writing, persuaded Baldwin to take a chance on it.

"It's been a blessing," the actor said. "It's a nice job, and I work with funny people."

On "30 Rock," Baldwin brought with him some definitive ideas of how to flesh out Jack Donaghy. "I didn't want them to make the character the negative value in the piece, a la Ted Baxter, the guy that's the least self-aware person in the room," he said. "I didn't want to be some male corporate pig."

In the past, Baldwin's tendency to come onto a set and "rearrange the furniture," as he has put it, earned him a reputation for being somewhat difficult. But Fey said she's welcomed his input, which has even included story lines for other characters.

"It's been a very good dialogue," she said. "You want someone who comes in and thinks of this character as a real person. He absolutely makes the guy three-dimensional and always wants to bring out his kinder side, his more knowing side."

So far this season, "30 Rock" has fallen short of the ratings NBC was hoping for, drawing an average of 6.2 million viewers. But the network still is bullish on the program. It has moved from its 8 p.m. Wednesday slot to Thursday night, where it will be part of a new comedy block with "My Name Is Earl," "The Office" and "Scrubs."

On a recent afternoon, Baldwin taped a scene that called for Donaghy to be on the phone in his office, speaking affectionately with a "Condoleezza."

Baldwin took it from there, ad-libbing his own lines as the producers -- watching on nearby monitors -- shook with silent laughter.

"Where is your hand now?" he murmured slyly. "You shouldn't be doing that while you're driving. Condoleezza? Are you there? I lost her."

It may not be "Little House on the Prairie," but for now, Baldwin said he's content.

"To be perfectly honest with you, if I do this show and that's all I do in the next few years, that would be enough for me," he said. "I'm not someone who is doing this to kill time while I'm waiting to revive my fortunes in the movie business. I don't think about it that way. This is where I'm at now, this is what I'm doing."



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Critic's Notebook
It's the most rerun-derful time of the year
Melanie McFarland's Seattle Post Intelligencer 'On TV' Column Nov. 24, 2006

You will appreciate the truth of "bah, humbug" by the end of next month.

Maybe you already do. The first hints of red and green and suggestions to spend, spend, spend crept into department stores soon after trees started dropping their leaves. If merchants had their way, we'd be seeing "It's a Wonderful Life" looping ceaselessly on the monitors near the back-to-school merchandise, or "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" sparkling away in a corner behind the Halloween displays.

By the time December actually rolled around, we'd all be yelling "Jump!" when George Bailey desperately dashes onto that bridge. Wait -- some of us already do that.

Really, isn't rampant commercialism counter to the spirit of holiday TV classics? Jangly advertisements aside, the best of these programs celebrate the joy of the season as opposed to the credit-card bills we run up. That's the reason "A Charlie Brown Christmas" still gets us. The animation may show its age, but it still drives home Charles M. Schulz's meaningful central message.

Whereas seeing John Goodman play a Santa Claus fed up at people for forgetting the true meaning of Christmas -- in an NBC Universal production complete with synergistic cameo from "Queer Eye's" Carson Kressley! -- perhaps rings a tad false.

But on this busiest shopping day of the year, resisting the holiday commercialism of it all is as futile as attempting to avoid yuletide programming. The fa-la-bleepin'-la TV siege has begun, and when it doesn't pre-empt your favorite series, it will invade their story lines. Even so, there are a few beloved movies and specials that don't make you want to put your eye out, and for your benefit we have listed them here -- and others you can check out or avoid like the winter flu.

Just be grateful that the running of the Rudolphs, the Frostys and the Grinches didn't start early this year -- you know, like everything else.

Making spirits bright

"A Charlie Brown Christmas." Proving once again that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, when Charlie Brown tries to mount a play that demonstrates the true meaning of Christmas he is met with near-universal scorn and awfully cute dancing. 8 p.m., Tuesday, KOMO/4.

"Miracle on 34th Street." Not only does this department store Santa have a real beard and jolly Christmas spirit, he isn't sneezy, wheezy or drunk. That is a miracle! 8 and 10 p.m., Dec. 3., AMC; repeats Dec. 4 and Dec. 5.

"Santa Claus is Comin' to Town." Once a year, we get to see the villain Burgermeister Meisterburger in action. And that makes everything worth it. 8 p.m., Dec. 5, KOMO.

"Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Santa proves he's the North Pole's version of Michael Richards by discriminating against Rudolph for having a shiny nose, and then, realizing he needs him for his career to go on, asking his forgiveness. While Richards' audience walked out on him, Rudolph accepts his apology and allows Santa to hook his butt up to a sleigh. Sucker. 8 p.m., Dec. 8, KIRO/7.

"Frosty the Snowman." Was that hat really magic? Or was there something not quite legal in that corncob pipe? 9 p.m., Dec. 8, KIRO/7. Followed by the lame-o "Frosty Returns" at 9:30.

"Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas." The heart-swelling tale of a straight-up jack. The Grinch swipes Whoville's gifts and food, then heroically rolls back into town in his whip to return it all. And that's what it is to be a gangsta. 8 p.m., Dec. 12, KOMO. Also airs at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 6, on Cartoon Network, repeating often.

"It's a Wonderful Life." Frank Capra's timeless, life-affirming message reminds us of the ways in which each person touches and changes the lives around him in profound and wonderful ways. Except for you, O.J. Never bother us again. 8-11 p.m., Dec. 16 and Dec. 24, KING/5.

24 hours of "A Christmas Story." Reliable respite from substandard holiday programming is once again available on TBS. Strange, you really can watch it over and over again, or be perfectly content with coming in on it at any point during the day. Begins at 8 p.m. Dec. 24, runs continuously for 24 hours.

Lesser classics

"Frosty's Winter Wonderland." Children play God to cure Frosty's loneliness, making him a wife named Crystal, voiced by "Bloody Mama's" Shelley Winters. 7 p.m., Dec. 1, ABC Family.

" 'Twas the Fight Before Christmas." The Powerpuff Girls slap around Princess, Townsville's spoiled, useless version of Paris Hilton, to demonstrate the true meaning of Christmas. Or something to that effect. 7 p.m., Dec. 3, Cartoon Network.

"Rudolph's Shiny New Year." Father Time puts out an Amber Alert on Happy, aka Baby New Year. With the help of a few odd sidekicks (1 Million B.C., Sir 1023 and 1776), Rudolph follows his nose to find Li'l Mr. Poopie Pants. 7 p.m., Dec. 4, ABC Family.

"Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer." "She'd been drinkin' too much eggnog/ and we'd begged her not to go." At last, an animated special unafraid to tell the truth about the darker side of family gatherings. 7 p.m., Dec. 8, Cartoon Network.

The Holiday Christmas Classic Marathon. This stop-motion animation parade of lesser-known entries from the Rankin Bass collection includes "Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey," "The Story of the First Christmas Snow," " 'Twas the Night Before Christmas" and a repeat of original version of "The Year Without a Santa Claus." From 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Dec. 9, ABC Family.

"Olive, the Other Reindeer." Dog channels identity crisis into helping Santa when one of his reindeer, presumably the one that ran down drunk Grandma, breaks a leg. 3 p.m., Dec. 17, Cartoon Network.

"Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol." Of course he can't see the true meaning of Christmas. 7 p.m., Dec. 19, Cartoon Network.

"I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown!" Lucy and Linus' little brother, Rerun, asks Snoopy to invite his no-good brother Spike over for Christmas. Bad move, because Spike is a dirty hippie. And you know the joke about how you know a hippie has slept over on your couch, right? Yeah. Because he's still there. 8 p.m., Dec. 19, KOMO.

Candy cane flicks

"Molly: An American Girl on the Home Front." Without The WB to host this annual sales pitch hidden within a sweet little movie, the story of World War II-era American Girl Molly McIntire and her British friend Emily has to air on the Disney Channel. Not to worry, parents. The Molly and Emily dolls are available, with accessories, for just over $100 each. 8 p.m., Sunday, Disney Channel.

"The Christmas Card." Hallmark's early Valentine to our armed forces serving overseas has Cody Cullen (John Newton), a handsome soldier returning from Afghanistan, track down the sender of a homemade Christmas card addressed to "a member of the U.S. Army." Fortunately she's a smokin', church-goin' babe, and the wine-swilling geek she's attached to isn't. 9 p.m., Dec. 2, Hallmark Channel.

"The Year Without a Santa Claus." I'm not sure what's worse about this film, witnessing Harvey Fierstein massacre the Heatmiser song, or the fact that the elves who try to save Christmas are largely inspired by a speech from Dr. Laura Schlessinger. 9 p.m., Dec. 11, KING. Better yet, catch the original animated version of "The Year Without Santa Claus" at 8 p.m., Dec. 4, on ABC Family.

"A Christmas Wedding." In this weird marriage between "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" and "Bridezillas," a harried workaholic bride is stranded far from her where she's supposed to tie the knot, and goes to great lengths to make it in time for her Christmas Day wedding. 9 p.m., Dec. 11, Lifetime.

"A Perfect Day." Rob Lowe is Robert Harlan, a man who loses his job, writes a novel, becomes famous and loses perspective. You know, mo' money, mo' problems. Anyway, a stranger enters his life, granting the film a "reason for the season" kind of message. 8 p.m., Dec. 18, TNT.

Garland with a Twist

"The Great American Christmas." It couldn't get more commercial than this docu -- er, unscripted movie from the producers of "Laguna Beach" -- narrated by "Deal or No Deal's" Howie Mandel and presented by Kmart. In it, six American families show viewers their supposedly unique takes on celebrating the holidays, bleaker moments included. 9 p.m., Tuesday, USA.

"Pee-Wee's Playhouse Christmas Special." The guest star list proves how popular Pee-Wee Herman was back in the day: k.d. lang, Magic Johnson, Whoopi Goldberg and, believe it or not, Oprah Winfrey all drop by the Playhouse for some yuletide fun. 10:30 p.m., Dec. 14; 1 a.m. Christmas Day, Adult Swim. The latter airing is preceded by "A Very Venture Christmas" at 12:30 a.m.

"South Park New Year's Eve Rockathon." As of this story's deadline, Comedy Central had no plans to air a marathon of "South Park's" holiday and Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo-themed episodes. For shame. However, it does have two marathons near Christmas, including a "Rewind" of the current run on Dec. 27 starting at 9 p.m., and a string of the most memorable episodes from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. on New Year's Eve.



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Critic's Notebook
Nothing special about sweeps month
By David Biaculli The New York Daily News November 25, 2006

It wasn't too long ago that ratings sweeps months -- those times set aside in February, May and November for networks to set advertising rates for the coming quarter -- were hugely competitive blood sports.

This month, except for a few music specials on NBC, it's hard to tell a sweeps month is here at all.

In other words, the whole idea of sweeps programming has been disbanded.

Movies, miniseries and specials used to be pervasive in sweeps, when presenting the exceptional was the norm.

"The Day After" aired during sweeps. So did "Lonesome Dove" and "Winds of War," "Gulliver's Travels" and all those Carol Burnett specials.

But now, miniseries made by the commercial broadcast networks basically don't exist, and the only movies being made -- usually outside of sweeps -- are tacky trash tossaways like NBC's "Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of 'Diff'rent Strokes.'"

For specials, NBC had an old-fashioned Tony Bennett special Tuesday and a diluted, crucifixion-free Madonna special on Wednesday.

And that's about it.

One reason sweeps specials aren't what they used to be is that the compilation of ratings for sweeps isn't what it used to be, either. Technological changes in the way ratings are compiled -- more samples, faster results -- have made the sweeps, especially in the major cities, less important.

In theory, that means the networks don't have to stockpile all their big-ticket items for sweeps months and can show them all year round.

Or the networks can go in another direction -- the road they chose to take -- and essentially stop making miniseries and telemovies at all.

Instead, for sweeps in the 21st century, we get the same old, same old. We get fresh episodes of weekly series, served up as a special treat, rather than what should be expected.

We get shows like "3 Lbs." and "Day Break," new weekly series meant to replace fall shows that failed, or they hold places for ones that succeeded but are vanishing for months anyway.

And most of all, we get instant quiz and competition shows. Shows like "The Rich List" on Fox, rejected so forcefully by viewers that it was canceled after only one showing. And "Show Me the Money" on ABC, which showed us that William Shatner's willingness to embarrass himself beyond belief didn't end with his vocal rendition of "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds."

This isn't programming fit for sweeps. It's programming fit to be swept -- under the rug.



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TV Sports
Coverage Minus All the Yelling
By Les Carpenter The Washington Post November 24, 2006

KANSAS CITY, Mo. Who knows where it began? Was it the bald basketball announcer always jabbering about "TOs"? Or maybe the rumpled anchor on the highlight show babbling in a strange language of nicknames? Somewhere in the early life of ESPN it became clear the path to success was filled with shouting heads.

It's a concept that has come to serve television well the past 25 years, yanking it from a sober Walter Cronkite world to a cacophony of faces working their contrived rage upon split screens, fingers pointing, eyes flaring, little counters on the bottom totaling up the insults until the words don't even matter. All that counts is the way you say them.

This must have bothered Steve Bornstein. Which is odd because Bornstein is something of the father of screaming television, having invented much of ESPN in its first two decades. Whenever there was yelling on the ESPN set in the 1980s and '90s, the chances were good it had bounced off his desk and straight into the control room.

Last night, he sent up into the skies the first live telecast of a game that his three-year-old NFL Network has ever done. For a fledgling channel it was a jolt of legitimacy. But it also served as a de-facto forum for his new mandate.

The mind behind screaming television now rejects the hollering himself.

It doesn't seem to be one thing; he just appeared to tire of all the voices screaming at once. Like his old ESPN anchor Keith Olbermann, who often compares himself to Robert Oppenheimer, the creator of the nuclear bomb, when pondering the flood of flimsy imitators who tried to re-create his snarky "SportsCenter" telecasts, Bornstein might have blanched at the shouting planet he helped to mold. So when he began his new network, in 2002, he was sure it wouldn't happen again.

The other day, while he sat in his office near Los Angeles, he was asked what separates the NFL Network from the soup of others spread across the cable box.

"Chris Berman [the anchor with the nicknames] is one of my dearest friends in the world but this wasn't going to be somebody shouting at you," he replied.

Bornstein has a theory about this business. It's one you learn when you are 54 and have run three networks. He figures anything in television, no matter how good, can last only about 15 years. After that it needs something new. CNN with its immediacy wowed everybody until Fox News came along with its larger-than-life personalities and bombastic talk shows, and CNN suddenly looked very old. This is the nature of an industry built around fake emotions and camera tricks with lights and cameras. The makeup can't hide tired, old acts.

"You have to reinvent yourself," he said. "Ultimately, Fox will have to reinvent itself. By the 20th year if you haven't sort of re-energized it you got real issues."

He was then asked if he thought the yelling had perhaps run its 15-year course.

He thought for a moment, then smiled.

"Possibly," he replied.

"You catch magic in a bottle a couple times," he continued. "We at ESPN caught it twice in my opinion. You put [Dan] Patrick and Olbermann together and that was a very dynamic combination. You put [Mike] Wilbon and [Tony] Kornheiser together and that has been a very dynamic combination. And they haven't figured that one out again. So they revert to smarmy, sometimes smart [expletive] stuff."

The NFL Network will not. From the beginning, he decided that the players would be the stars of this new venture. He sought on-air hosts who could step aside and let the games and highlights show get the spotlight. When he brought his lead anchor, Rich Eisen, over from ESPN, he did so knowing Eisen would come without headaches, able to extract information from interviews without preening for the cameras.

"I wanted to do something more than take the most popular catchphrase from the next big movie and make it my home run call every night," Eisen said.

Which isn't to bash ESPN. Neither Bornstein nor Eisen said they were interested in ripping the network that gave them their big chance. But there is a sense that the 15-year limit might be coming fast for screaming television. The NFL Network might just be a test case for another direction. As one league official recently said, "Sean Salisbury shouldn't be the star, Jason Campbell should be."

There are, of course, many problems with building shows around players. "The Best Damn Sports Show" -- a Fox Sports regional network program featuring ex-athletes -- is considered niche programming at best, coming off as a stage for old jocks too slow for the field but trying to prove they still got game at the bar.

The whole thing may flop. The NFL Network still isn't on in about half the homes it could be, including most of New York City. The league has been heavy-handed in its dealings with cable operators. And by the time people get the station, they might not care to watch more highlight shows and players interviewing players, especially when compared with the furnace roaring elsewhere on the dial.

But as long as it lasts, it will be an oasis from the shouting.



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Critic's Notebook
Filling in the Blanks on a Staple of Daytime
By Virginia Heffernan The New York Times November 25, 2006

You couldn’t say urinate. The word was ?tinkle.? You couldn’t say fornicate. The phrase, naturally, was ?make whoopee.?

Such were the strict language codes of ?Match Game,? the ribald game show of 30 years ago that introduced American housewives and children — anyone home in the afternoons — to the inscrutable stylings of Charles Nelson Reilly.

On Sunday, GSN, which has found increasingly successful ways to exploit its small window on cultural history, chronicles the rise and fall of this blockbuster program. In ?The Real Match Game Story: Behind the Blank,? we learn everything we’ll ever need to know about the wacky leerfest that modeled the promiscuous, drunken, risqu?, gender-bending behavior of ’70s celebrities for an unlikely daytime audience — under the guise of being a quiz show.

?Match Game ’76? was how I knew it then, because for some reason that particular year the series seemed to last forever. Maybe that was because I was 7: it came on after school, was broken up by ads for bicentennial memorabilia, and its mysteries — ?John always put butter on his blank? — stayed with me long after my parents had appeared with cocktails as the face of CBS dissolved from Gene Rayburn to Walter Cronkite.

The snickering, lascivious ways the regulars interacted — always hinting that the others were more depraved or druggy than they admitted — was more than a little scary to a kid. It was certainly a direct counterpoint to the after-school parables elsewhere on television. I now see that the show wasn’t planned that way. Mark Goodson’s original idea was for a kind of guess-what-I’m-thinking show that would take advantage of that era’s love of thought experiments; that soon proved boring, and matches were not frequent enough. Someone suggested turning to bluer material, or at least hinting at blueness, and the rest is history.

In ?Match Game? clues, Ed was always freezing his blank off; Susie always needed to find a guy who could blank in five minutes; Pete loved girls who had gigantic blanks. The giggles these blanks got from the audience were so sure-fire it seemed the show could never fail, though fail it eventually did — partly because nothing gold can stay, and partly because it lost the (loved and hated) star who gave it ballast, and a dash of seriousness: Richard Dawson.

The GSN back story plays Mr. Dawson as the evil foil to the sweet and fun-loving Mr. Rayburn, and indeed he comes off as sour and ego-driven. But he was clearly the best player at the silly ?Match Game?; contestants were always choosing him as their foxhole teammate — when it came right down to it, the jokes were over and it was time to win some money.

Mr. Dawson was tan, sideburned and not bad-looking. He played — I had forgotten this — a kind of Simon Cowell role in his ?Match Game? seat. But he had his eyes on what he thought of then as bigger things, by which he meant ?Family Feud,? the game show he went on to preside over, which went on to overtake ?Match Game? as the most popular daytime show.

?Family Feud? is nothing if not a populist show. Rather than guess at the habits of the Hollywood demimonde, with their life of blankety-blanks, contestants guess at only what others like them might say: it’s about being average. By the ’80s, the titillation of hearing the stars on ?Match Game? — many of whom were, the GSN program contends, drinking during the tapings — hint at unspeakable habits yielded to family values.

But, in the usual American way, those family values have yielded back. ?Match Game? is, apparently, the No. 1 show on GSN these days — in 30-year-old reruns. Never say there’s nothing to learn from game shows!


GSN, Sunday night at 8, Eastern and Pacific times; 7, Central time.

Steven Michaels and Frank Sinton, executive producers; Mark Monroe, producer; Andrew Fialkowski and Mr. Monroe, editors; Gabe Cunningham and Ben Darin, associate producers; narrated by Jamie Farr.



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I remember the original 60's version of Match Game, and if my mind isn't playing tricks on me, when it ran on NBC Daytime, it was called "The Match Game" and was no where as cool as the 70's version even though Gene Rayburn did a lot of the same stuff and the questions were along the same lines as the 70's version but no where as blue. They were pretty grey at best if I remember correctly. Of course you had celeb's such as Jan Murry and Bill Cullen and Tom Poston who made the rounds of the game shows in the 60's with Cullen and Poston mostly staying on To Tell The Truth (I think Kitty Carlise was exclusively on TTTT but for some reason I think I saw her on other game shows of the time), but if it was a Goodson-Todman game show, they might show up on any one of them.

I am not a huge fan of it now, but the wife and I will tune over to GSN if nothing else is on when Match Game is on and we seem to always come up with dirtier answers than the players and stars do. Their answers seem so "clean" these days but so outragous then. Boy, how times have changed!!


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Ah - interesting. I think "Match Game" was made in the UK as "Blankety Blank". (Format were two contestants and a panel of six celebrities. Contestants were allowed to chose a phrase with a missing word, had to chose one of their own, as did the six celebrities, and the contestant who matched the most with the celebrities won?)

The whole premise of the show was usually inuendo and double-entendre - but nothing outrageous. (Typical sentence : "The Good Mrs Wogan took me to the tailors the other day. The assistant asked if I wanted him to measure my "blank or blanks")

It was originally presented as a BBC show by Terry Wogan (a prominent TV and Radio personality who had - and has - a very popular morning show on BBC Radio 2), in the 80s. It was resurrected more recently with a new presenter (a well known and popular mainstream female impersonating comedian/enne "Lily Savage" - which sounds much stranger written down than it is to a Brit!) - first on the BBC, and then transferred to ITV.

I suspect that the UK version was very similar to the US format - apart from the name. We had a revolving set, and a radio-style jingle for "Super Match Game" - were they fixtures of the US version?


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The70's set had the two contestants on the left side of the stage:

In the center was a revolving "Super Match" set that showed the question and the three top answers and on the right side of the stage was a two tier riser that the celebs set at:

In the late 70's they added a points multiplier that came down from the lighting grid in this center area between the Super Match board and the celeb riser.

The 60's version was no where near as flashy as can be seen from this Wikipeidia picture:


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Originally Posted by foxeng
I remember the original 60's version of Match Game, and if my mind isn't playing tricks on me, when it ran on NBC Daytime, it was called "The Match Game" and was no where as cool as the 70's version even though Gene Rayburn did a lot of the same stuff and the questions were along the same lines as the 70's version but no where as blue. They were pretty grey at best if I remember correctly. Of course you had celeb's such as Jan Murry and Bill Cullen and Tom Poston who made the rounds of the game shows in the 60's with Cullen and Poston mostly staying on To Tell The Truth (I think Kitty Carlise was exclusively on TTTT but for some reason I think I saw her on other game shows of the time), but if it was a Goodson-Todman game show, they might show up on any one of them.
If I'm not mistaken the B&W 60's 'Match Game' episode GSN will show at 3:30AM ET/PT Sunday overnight/Monday morning is a celebrity edition featuring Jane Mansfield, either Kitty Carlisle or Peggy Cass (or both), Tom Poston, Bennett Cerf and Robert Q. Lewis. Either that or the pilot episode, which are the only two known episodes from the B&W 60's version to survive NBC's infamous tape purges of the 60's and early 70's.


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HDTV Notebook
Two Years And Counting
By Glen Dickson and John Eggerton Broadcasting & Cable 11/27/2006

The eventual success of high-definition television (HDTV) rides on the country's conversion to digital TV (DTV). Last December, when Congress voted to set Feb. 17, 2009, as the hard date for turning off analog TV broadcasts and completing the switch to DTV in the U.S., it set a finish line for the long slog that has been the digital transition. But local broadcasters, network executives and Beltway insiders all say the home stretch of this marathon will be a steep climb.

Since most digital sets sold now and in the future will be capable of providing HDTV, the analog-to-digital conversion is vital to the adoption of hi-def. And that in turn is vital to the economic viability of HD programming, which right now is growing but still a novelty. For example, all-HD cable networks generally don't get audiences large enough to be measured by Nielsen.

Most large broadcasting groups are confident that they will make the analog-to-digital deadline, but some smaller stations remain a question mark. Regardless of size and capacity, it'll be a fight for everybody, with every legal or commission decision or deadline facing a host of technical roadblocks. And if too many stations are not ready to pull the plug in February 2009, look for legislators to move the finish line rather than face the wrath of constituents, particularly if consumer-friendly Democrats are still in charge.

For many, the first problem is one of real estate. At present, more than 500 stations—roughly 28% of the country's broadcasters—are switching from their current DTV channels and returning to their original NTSC channel assignments as part of the FCC's ?channel-election? process, according to spectrum-watchdog group Association for Maximum Service Television (MSTV).?

Another 100 stations are waiting for new DTV assignments, most because both their analog and their digital channels fall ?out of core,? or outside of channels 2-51. UHF channels higher than 51 are being auctioned off to new users by the FCC.

?You're looking at a reasonable chunk of the industry that is going to have to move,? says MSTV President David Donovan.

The conversion, say engineers, will not be as easy as flipping a switch. Analog antennas at the top of a tower might need to be traded out for digital models, and transmitters and transmission lines may need to be changed. In cities where multiple stations broadcast from a single tower, that will require cooperation among local broadcasters.

That's hardly the only tower-related issue, especially for CBS. The broadcaster's owned-and-operated stations in both New York and Los Angeles have analog channel 2 assignments that they can't use for DTV, because of cable-interference issues, and out-of-core DTV assignments they will be giving up come that February day in '09.

And crowded urban transmission facilities, like the Empire State Building in New York, don't have the room to accommodate new equipment for the digital channels that will go live then. So broadcasters are looking for FCC guidance to help smooth the transition. ?You don't just put up a third antenna on towers,? says CBS VP of Advanced Technology Bob Seidel.

Cox Broadcasting also faces some tough issues, particularly in the San Francisco market, where its KTVU Oakland, Calif., is currently broadcasting on channel 56 but will be moving to channel 44 for its DTV assignment (its current analog home is channel 2, with cable-interference issues). But in the law-and-disorderly reality of this switch, channel 44 is currently occupied by an analog station, CBS owned-and-operated KBHK.

?How do we do this in blink of eye?? asks Cox Broadcasting VP of Engineering Sterling Davis.

KTVU currently broadcasts off Sutro Tower, a communal tower that supports multiple Bay Area stations. The tower company has built one DTV antenna as an interim solution—an antenna that wasn't designed to accept channel 44.

?The plan is to clean off all the analog antennas on top of the tower and build new digital ones after the shutoff date,? says Davis. ?That's the antenna part. But that doesn't solve the issue about KTVU being on channel 44 and one analog getting wiped off the top of the tower. Where does that station go temporarily?

?This is business clashing with reality and physics,? he adds. ?There's going to be a lot of herky-jerkiness going on. This is just one small example.?

The amount of tower work needed nationwide may be too much for the limited number of crews available, say some broadcasters. There are also questions over the manufacturing capacity of transmission vendors.

In northern climates, there are only two summers left to perform the necessary tower work before the winter of 2008-09 sets in.

Cox's situation at WSB Atlanta is easy by comparison. Since that station is giving up its analog channel 2 and sticking with its digital assignment on 39, it can take the time to swap out the analog antenna at the top of its tower while continuing to broadcast from a side-mounted DTV antenna. Once a new digital antenna is in place on top of the tower, WSB will switch from the side-mount, perhaps leaving it up as a backup.

Dave Converse, VP of engineering for the ABC station group, expects the switch to be fairly smooth, because ABC owns the facilities and, therefore, controls all the pieces of the puzzle. Nine of ABC's 10 stations have elected to return to their old NTSC assignments in the VHF band (2-13 for DTV) and the network's Fresno, Calif., station will move from a DTV assignment on VHF channel 9 to its old analog assignment, channel 30, in that UHF-dominated market.

The older analog antennas and transmission lines used for years may need maintenance to support DTV, but Converse is optimistic: ?I don't think I have any situation where I [can't] run a digital facility on analog with a very short outage.?

Davis says Cox is committed to meeting the FCC deadline and will ?figure out a way to do it.? But from a national perspective, he isn't sure all broadcasters will do the same.

?It's a volume thing,? he explains. ?How many of these things can you do? How many towers can you work on? For bigger station groups like Cox, they're doing their homework, and they'll pay the bucks.?

But Davis fears that some smaller stations won't be able to afford a similar approach. ?It's going to be a mess,? he says, adding that the FCC may have to issue some temporary rules to help stations make it through the transition.

Scripps Howard has three stations currently broadcasting DTV on an out-of-core channel, and they will be moving to a currently occupied in-core channel, says Scripps VP of Engineering Michael Doback.

?There are problems logistically,? he says. ?If you are assigned an in-core channel that is being used by a third party, it's virtually impossible to turn them off and turn you on Feb. 17. Sometimes you have to take down facilities, and there is red tape associated with that. The regulatory requirement could be onerous if the FCC doesn't expedite things like moving antennas from the side to the top.?

Doback is banking on the FCC's relaxing its criteria for tower changes to allow such upgrades to be quickly performed with a modicum of paperwork.

Even if the commission grants his wish, he doesn't expect channel-switching to be easy: ?It's still going to be a big deal, and there is a lot of work to be done by a lot of groups.?

It might make sense, Doback adds, for out-of-core DTV broadcasters to continue operations on their current channels until they remove old analog antennas and ready their digital facilities for their new channels. But with the out-of-core frequencies scheduled for federal auction, it is unclear whether broadcasters would be allowed to do that.

?A lot of people underestimated how difficult this is,? he says. ?It's a dance.?

Another hidden hurdle

Beyond channel election, other policy issues need to be resolved before the plug is pulled on analog, or ?you can forget HDTV,? says MSTV's Donovan.

One ?critical? HDTV concern, he says, is cable's ?involuntary downconversion? of the HDTV signal to standard digital. Telecommunications-reform legislation—now facing an uncertain fate after getting hung up on the issue of network neutrality—included provisions allowing cable to downconvert any must-carry station's HDTV signal to standard DTV.

?If cable is allowed to do that,? Donovan warns, ?it undermines the incentives to go out and buy new HD sets.?

NAB President David Rehr cautions that it also may hurt broadcast HD programming.

The cable industry argues that it needs the flexibility of downconversion to reduce the capacity strains of bandwidth-hungry HDTV signals. Broadcasters counter that cable could, instead, favor its own HDTV content by perhaps downconverting network HD while delivering cable shows in that format. ?It's a competitive issue,? says Donovan.

Rehr believes that some smaller cable systems without the technology might not be able to pass along the HD signal. ?We have a problem with the local cable operator offering Sopranos in HD but telling the broadcaster, hey, you can't do it.?

From an operational perspective, broadcast networks also have a ways to go before their HD conversion is complete. Only Fox has created a single transmission path to support both high-definition and standard-definition feeds today, with the hi-def signal being downconverted at the station level to support analog broadcasts. The other three broadcast networks still rely on completely separate transmission paths for HD and SD, although that may change by 2009.

Most primetime fare and major sports coverage are available in HD; of network news programs, only morning shows Good Morning America on ABC and Today on NBC are. Meanwhile, syndicated HD programming was introduced this fall with Sony Pictures Television's Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune, which are distributed by King World.

Both HD commercials and high-definition syndicated content have been held back by limitations in the file-based satellite delivery systems used to send content to stations. But ad-delivery firm DG Systems is rolling out HD-compliant ?spot servers? at its client stations and networks, and Pathfire is expected to come up with a similar system for syndicated fare.

Despite the industry's best efforts, a 100% HD world may be unrealistic.

?You are always going to have legacy programming that was shot 4:3 and will be standard-definition,? notes Seidel. ?When people say, 'When will everything be converted to HD?' you say, 'Never,' because some things won't. Gunsmoke, in 4:3 black-and-white, is going to stay that way.?

What about We the People?

With varying levels of attention given to legal and logistic issues in this uphill battle, there is a danger in forgetting arguably the most important group needing conversion to HD: the American public.

Consumer education about the DTV transition hardly appears to be a thumbtack on the national map. A lot of Americans still don't realize they're going to need a new TV set or converter come February 2009. Congress has allocated a paltry $5 million to the cause, but HDTV-policy maker Dick Wiley expects the industry to step up. He predicts the NAB will name a VP for digital transition and that Rehr will ?run this like a campaign.?

Rehr may need to if he expects to keep the DTV switch from becoming this decade's version of metric conversion.

These are all Herculean tasks, requiring cooperation between the government and the industry. Getting everybody on the same page may be the first best step to making the DTV deadline.

?We're planning on doing everything we can before Feb. 17,? says Doback. ?We read the FCC mandate to be that analog will be turned off, digital will be turned on, and out-of-core digital will cease to operate.

?People haven't considered, or maybe even understood, the mammoth scope of what we are undertaking,? he adds. ?None of us are trying to drag our feet. It's just that there are some physical realities that we have to live with that are incredibly difficult. In a lot of situations, you are at the mercy of a third party. If they don't have the same sense of urgency that we do, that can be problematic.?



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HDTV Notebook
Who Shall Get Converter Boxes?
By John Eggerton Broadcasting & Cable 11/27/2006

The new Democratic Congress may reframe the terms of the debate over the government's digital-converter-box program.

To help retrofit analog TVs to get digital signals, the government is going to subsidize consumers' purchase of digital-to-analog converters.

The boxes convert digital signals to analog so that analog sets not connected to cable or satellite won't go dark come February 2009, when the switch-over to digital is scheduled.

Republicans were looking to limit the program—there is $1.5 billion allocated—both due to the potential expense of covering all analog-only sets, which could exceed that figure, and for fear it would be gamed by a TV version of welfare cheats.

But now that Democrats will control the Energy & Commerce Committee, their leaders wasted no time telling the Bush administration not to short-change the DTV transition.

In a letter to acting National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) head John Kneuer shortly after the midterm elections, the Democrats, led by ranking members and soon to be committee leaders John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), made the wishes of the new majority clear.

They pointed out that they had voted against the Republican-backed transition plan's passage because it was ?highly flawed? and ?disadvantages the poor.?

The Democrats oppose limiting participation in the converter box program only to over-the-air households. Republicans only wanted to give converter boxes to those relatively few American households that only get over-the-air television, rather than extending the offer to second or third analog-only sets in cable households.

In essence, the two parties split along, well, party lines, over whether the program was necessary assistance to the poor and minorities or a corporate tax-and-spend program that could be too easily manipulated (Republicans envisioned something of a black market in coupons).

The Dems in particular argue that, since it is a government-forced march to DTV, there should be as little consumer disruption as possible, whether the consumer is rich or poor.

Thus, Democrats also oppose a means test, which NTIA proposed, for the up-to-two $40 coupons per household that could be redeemed for the boxes.

Conceding that Congress, in this case the Republicans, had given it ?a challenging task? while failing to provide enough money, Dingell, Markey & company said it would have to do the best it could, understanding that ?failure to devise a consumer-friendly converter-box program, or to inform consumers properly,? could jeopardize its success and derail the February 2009 deadline for the DTV conversion.

Given how much Americans like to watch TV, some wrong decisions could derail a few political careers as well.



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Originally Posted by fredfa
The "Ugly Betty" numbers were surely down. But so was everything else.

Heavily promoted "Grey's Anatomy" and "CSI" (with Roger Daltrey) were also far off their season averages.

Nonetheless, I agree with Marc Berman that "UB" is facing a major problem: the story line just becomes less than compelling. (How long can she face down all those adversaries week after week?)
I have sooo tried to watch and enjoy this show(UB), on the request of my better half. I just cant get into it.

The wife still enjoys it though.


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HDTV Notebook
HD Express For Local News
Broadcasting & Cable 11/27/2006

When Phoenix-area viewers tuned in for the late news on KPNX Nov. 2, the first night of November sweeps, the NBC affiliate offered a crisp, new view of the headlines. For the first time, Gannett-owned KPNX produced and broadcast its news in high-definition.

Lin Sue Cooney and Mark Curtis anchored from a glittering new set. The station's helicopter relayed images from its new HD camera, and new graphics complemented the look. The upgrades were all designed to show off the clearer picture and widescreen format that are the hallmarks of hi-def.

With the conversion, KPNX became the first station in Arizona to go hi-def, and it trumpeted the move in promo spots and in the news.

Despite the fanfare, however, its audience is limited. KPNX estimates that about a quarter of Phoenix homes have HD sets, above the national average of 10%-15% penetration but hardly a majority. KPNX General Manager John Misner says the station's early upgrade is a long-term effort for the station to keep up with technology and win new viewers.

?Our viewers are moving to HD at a rapid rate,? he says. ?We want to be there to serve them, and we want to be first to do it.?

KPNX is the eighth Gannett station to convert to high-definition local-news production but one of only two dozen or so nationwide to make the switch; about half of those have done so this year. The conversions are prompted by falling equipment prices and increasing household penetration. But given that the Radio-Television News Directors Association counts 772 stations that produce local news, the HD explosion is more like a pop gun at the moment.

It's a simple cost/benefit analysis. Stations have to weigh high costs against what are currently minimal returns. High-definition costs a station at least several million dollars for the new studio, field cameras and editing equipment necessary, as well as upgraded sets and graphics. So far, say many station managers, penetration is too small to justify the expense.

Currently, HD signals are being received by 10 million-15 million of TV sets, although that number is expected to climb quickly. Also, Nielsen Media Research currently does not measure HDTV viewership on stations' digital channels, so stations cannot even sell that potential viewership.

?Most broadcasters know it is the right thing to do and that they must do it,? says station consultant Bruce Northcott, of Crawford, Northcott and Johnson. ?Then the discussion turns to, Can we afford it? Is there any evidence we'll do better in ratings or sales??

Gannett's KUSA Denver and Capitol Broadcasting's WRAL Raleigh-Durham, N.C., were among the early pioneers in HD local news.

The latest crop includes major-market heavyweights NBC Universal's WNBC New York, ABC's WPVI and Fox's WTXF Philadelphia, and Cox Broadcasting's KTVU San Francisco. A handful of mid-market affiliates are upgrading, too, such as Landmark Communications' KLAS Las Vegas and Dispatch Broadcasting's WTHR Indianapolis.

In most cases, these stations are the first in their markets to go HD. Only Cleveland, Seattle and Atlanta have two HD-producing stations owned by different companies. Station managers say they want to be first in their market to adjust to technology and, hopefully, solidify a competitive advantage.

?When viewers have an HD set, they usually graze the HD tier first,? says KLAS General Manager Emily Neilson. ?We want them to sample us and come back.?

For now, station managers admit, they can rely only on anecdotal evidence from viewers who say they watch more TV because of the HD content.

Although advertisers may not yet be rewarding stations for going HD, media buyer Sue Johenning, executive VP of local broadcast for Initiative Media, says the content is an attraction for viewers, and she thinks that will be particularly true as more households buy sets this holiday season. ?I don't know if it gains a station viewers over time, but it does give them sampling,? she says. ?It gives you an opportunity to distinguish yourself from the competition.?

In Boston, Hearst-Argyle-owned ABC affiliate WCVB converted its venerable nightly local newsmagazine Chronicle to hi-def last month, and plans call for its news to go HD soon.

?Given the choice, we think people will watch more HDTV than analog,? says General Manager Bill Fine. ?We're going out ahead of the curve, but we know it is going to accelerate.?



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HDTV Notebook
At some stores, Hi-Def Confusion
By Craig Kuhl Broadcasting & Cable 11/27/2006

Just how well salespeople can answer crucial questions about a $2,000 HDTV investment depends on the store and, mainly, the person doing the selling. The two ?big-box? stores, Circuit City and Best Buy, won't talk about their sales training, but getting correct information out is important enough that Sony has 180 trainers on the go all year long. And the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is starting an educational campaign for consumers and merchants.

?We're required to take online training for all electronics, including TVs, but it's not technically very deep,? says one sales person, asking not to be identified. At another popular retail electronics store, the HDTV sales person says brand-name representatives sometimes visit, ?but,? he adds, ?for any deeper questions or technology, we're instructed to go online.?

Bruce Leichtman, principal, LRG Research, which follows the HDTV space, asks about the average sales clerk, ?Can they tell the difference between EDT [Extended Definition TV] and HDTV? Probably not. A recent study told us few people rely on salespeople for information on buying HDTVs. Most salespeople probably don't have HDTVs, so they don't know much about them.?

Customers do seem to have trouble with the learning curve. About 30 million HDTV sets will have been shipped by the end of this year. But it appears that only 10 million-15 million HDTV sets are actually receiving HDTV signals.

Some viewers, presumably, don't know that, to get HDTV, they need a separate converter box from their cable or DBS provider. Some may not care because the improved widescreen picture is good enough. These days, many retailers post signs explaining that simply buying an HDTV unit doesn't give a consumer an HDTV picture. (Because of employee turnover at stores, Sony now plasters sets with ?Key Selling Points? in case novice salespeople miss a set's best features.)

The CEA recently partnered with CNET, a consumer Website, for an interactive buying guide called MyCEknowhow (at MyCeknowhow.com) designed to introduce consumers to digital television.

The CEA also joined forces with the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and the National Association of Broadcasters. ?We're dealing with new audiences every day, with new consumers to educate,? says Megan Pollock, manager of public policy communications at CEA.

During the holiday buying season, the CEA will launch a marketing campaign to encourage consumers and HDTV salespeople to visit Websites dedicated to HDTV information.

?We're looking at new ways to reach out, especially to sales people, because you can't just swoop in, train, and it's done. It's a continuous process,? Pollock says.

Maybe retailers need to adjust their technique, some analysts say. ?For retailers, they need to start asking customers what programming they want to watch, so they can help them zoom in to the right choices. But they always start with the technology,? says Maryann Baldwin, executive director at Frank N. Magid Associates, a market-research and consulting firm that tracks HDTV. And when they start hearing the technical stuff, she says, ?that's when a consumer's eyes roll up into their heads.?



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HDTV Notebook
Pretty Pictures, And Much More
By Glen Dickson Broadcasting & Cable 11/27/2006

Providing stunningly lifelike images, HDTV has been a boon to documentary producers. Programmers like Discovery Networks, PBS and Voom HD Networks offer scores of high-definition documentaries on nature, wildlife or science topics.

But HDTV's advantages go beyond mere resolution. The ease of use of high-end HD video-production gear has won over many cinematographers who previously relied on film formats such as Super 16mm. And low-cost ?prosumer?-grade cameras have made it affordable for stations and videographers to make the leap from standard-definition production to high-definition.

Among the best-known HDTV nature franchises is Discovery's Sunrise Earth franchise, which uses HDTV to give viewers a first-hand look at how dawn appears in foreign locales. Next year, Discovery HD's Planet Earth will depict animal life around the globe in 1080-line-interlace (1080i) HD. The latest installment of the Nature series on PBS gives a high-definition glimpse of Yellowstone National Park in winter. And eight of Voom's 14 channel offerings are nonfiction brands, ranging from art to fashion to extreme sports to music.

One of the major advantages of high-definition video for documentary producers working in harsh or remote locations is the ability to immediately see what they've shot; with Super 16mm film, they had to wait until it was processed in the lab.

?There's a quite bit more instant gratification with high-definition cameras than with film,? notes Josh Derby, director of production technology for Discovery Networks.

Although the documentary world had been dominated by Super 16 acquisition, many producers began switching over to HD cameras beginning in the late '90s. By 2002, there was a ?sea change toward HD acquisition? from the Super 16 camp, says Derby.

?Obviously, you don't have to develop high-definition videotape,? he says, ?so you're working in a medium where you have more-immediate knowledge and control.?

HD isn't perfect. It lacks the distinctive grain of film, but documentary producers are enthusiastic about the more-expensive HD cameras like the Panasonic VariCam and Sony CineAlta HDW-F900, which have the ability to shoot in the film-like 24-frame-per-second progressive (24p) format. They also have innovative features like image ?overcranking? for slow-motion and ?undercranking? for a fast-forward effect.

?24p is really what drew the film folks into the HD world,? says Derby. ?It was a good compromise for people accustomed to film in using HD as a medium.?

WNET New York relied on Sony 24p cameras for the latest installment in its Nature series. ?Christmas in Yellowstone,? which premiered on PBS Nov. 19, follows the winter sojourns of nature photographer Tom Murphy through Yellowstone National Park and required some 120 days of shooting in the field by producer/cinematographer Shane Moore and another 35 days by a second cameraman.

Before switching to HD camcorders five years ago, Moore relied on the industry-standard Aeroflex Super 16mm camera. He admits to being ?pretty reluctant initially? because he wasn't sure the HD cameras could measure up to the rugged Aeroflex in the harsh environments he typically works in. But after using both Sony F900 and Panasonic VariCam units on several shoots for the BBC, he was won over.

?Natural-history [producers] adopted HD first because it has a real long shelf life, basically everything we shoot,? says Moore. ?Things don't change much in nature, so people are trying to maximize their libraries, whether they are independent filmmakers or Discovery or National Geographic.?

He records 24p onto HDCAM tape and gets 50 minutes of video per tape. ?When you compare it to film, where you had an 11-minute roll, that's a great asset,? he says. ?And changing tape is a delight compared to going into a black bag and changing film.?

Between the Sony camera and the various Fujinon lenses he uses, Moore's HD field acquisition setup is worth around $200,000. He tries to be extra careful to keep dust out of the unit and often covers the camera with a light jacket for protection. For cold-weather shoots like ?Yellowstone,? he has learned to keep camera batteries in his parka to keep them warm and will sometimes power the camera by running a cable from a battery inside his parka.

?It was really rugged backcountry work in extreme cold,? says Moore. ?These cameras are only supposed to work down to 32 Fahrenheit, but one morning I shot at -45 Fahrenheit, and the cameras never did fail. They do quite well in the cold.?

He still likes the look of film but says that HD images compare favorably and are ?lush and rich and incredibly sharp.? HD doesn't suffer from one of Super 16 drawbacks: movement in the image due to the film's weaving around the camera gate. And Moore has found HD to be better in low-light situations, such as capturing a wolf hunt at dusk for ?Yellowstone.?

?A lot of the best behavior with animals is in low-light conditions with a long lens,? he says. ?HD gives you at least another 20-30 minutes of good shooting conditions in the morning and in the evening.?

Voom will still accept content that is originated on 35mm film but is commissioning all new programs in HD video. Greg Moyer, general manager of Rainbow's Voom HD Networks, sees two big trends in HD technology—affordability and miniaturization—and says they are impacting both post-production and field acquisition.

Where it used to cost $250,000 minimum to build an HD edit suite, now the same functionality is available at a fifth of the cost, particularly since systems like Apple's Final Cut Pro allow broadcast-quality HD to be edited on a laptop. ?That's just a staggering notion,? says Moyer. ?Five years or 10 years ago, that would have been unthinkable in SD, much less HD.?

The trend of smaller and cheaper gear is making its way into the field, where $10,000 prosumer HDV-format cameras are occasionally replacing $100,000 professional units. While Moyer isn't suggesting that lower-quality HDV units are the equal of high-end 24p camcorders, he notes that they are now a viable option: ?These are amazing tools.?

Moore has successfully used HDV cameras for underwater shoots, where he says the relative lack of detail from the compressed images isn't an issue. And Discovery's Derby is suitably impressed after evaluating HDV units from several manufacturers and recommends them to his producers for particular applications.

?Until HDV existed, you had the big $100,000 camera, and that was all you had,? he says. ?But there are times in life when you have to wreck a couple cameras to make good TV, and there are tight spots you can't get into with a large HD camcorder. HDV lets the producer get all the shots they need.?

The affordability of the HDV and P2 formats has also made it feasible for some local broadcasters to upgrade their production of documentaries and other original programming from standard-definition video to HD.

KRON San Francisco is using a mix of Panasonic AJ-HVX200 P2 HD solid-state cameras and Sony HVR-Z1U HDV-format camcorders, both of which list in the $5,000-$6,000 price range, to produce all of its original programming as well as the occasional documentary in HD.

Its high-definition shows include Bay Area Backroads, a long-running travel show; Bay Caf?, which follows the gourmet scene; gardening show Henry's Garden; and Bay Area Living, a new series of infomercials on local home developments.

?All of these things lend themselves to shooting in high-definition,? notes Jim Swanson, executive producer of local programming for KRON. ?None of them are studio-based; they're all shot out in the field. Whether it's the Golden Gate Bridge in a wide shot or a beautiful shot of a restaurant where they are cooking up scrumptious food, it all looks really good in HD.?

The two cameras have their own distinct advantages and drawbacks, says Swanson. The Panasonic P2 unit has more high-end features, including a setting that gives a film-like look, but it requires shooting on memory cards that hold only 16 minutes of video. The Sony cameras don't have as many settings but record on removable tapes that hold 60 minutes each and allow producers to replicate ?an old-school workflow,? which many find convenient.

KRON tends to rely on the tape-based HDV camcorders when moving around at remote locations, while, in more-static environments, such as a new-home location in Bay Area Builders, Swanson will set up a laptop to ingest video from the P2 cards and store it on a cheap external hard drive (perhaps $99 for a 250-gigabyte unit).

One chance to get the shot

Since the P2 format stores video as files, the hard drive can be easily hooked up to KRON's Canopus Edius nonlinear editing software to begin post-production work, either on a laptop in the field or on a desktop unit back at the station.

Matt Feury, senior product marketing manager for editing giant Avid Technology, is also seeing cost-conscious documentary clients warm up to file-based formats like P2 HD, as well as to HDV tape. ?They are getting an HD picture that is certainly good enough and better-than-expected image quality, with much greater portability.?

Documentaries have stricter acquisition requirements than scripted shows, he notes. Where a sitcom producer can always return to the set and shoot a scene again, a documentary producer might have one chance to get the shot. For that reason, file-based HD formats such as Panasonic P2 HD are a great benefit in the field.

?You can literally pop the card out of the camera and have instant access to it, so you know you've got that shot before you break location,? says Feury. ?You don't have to wait until you get to an edit room.?



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Originally Posted by fredfa
HDTV Notebook
Who Shall Get Converter Boxes?
Finally some validity of what I have been saying for years.


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HDTV Notebook
Who Shall Get Converter Boxes?
Originally Posted by foxeng
Finally some validity of what I have been saying for years.
Well ... I hate to say that on this topic, I think the R's have it right. With the D plan, this is just going to a another "entitlement" for the wealthy class. Bizare twist of "traditional" roles.

The more TV's you have, the more the government gives away?


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Guys, I'm feeling really lousy. Tummy aching real bad, just like the last time I was forced to go to the hospital. Both times I ate KFC the night before, and here in NY all the KFC's have switched to a different oil and stopped using the transfatty stuff. Don't know how long I will be out but if you could post any articles you find online until Fredfa returns this Sunday I'd be eternally grateful. Sorry for being such a pig, back to laying face down on the sofa to moan in pain until the Maalox kicks in (ouch).

P.S.: click on the previous page (#611) for a dozen or so postings added in the past 12 or so hours, many with reactions to growing media coverage of GSN's upcoming 'Behind the Blank: Match Game' special on Sunday night. Hope I can live long enough to see it... ouch!


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Friday’s fast national prime-time ratings ? and Media Week Analyst Marc Berman’s view of what they mean -- have been posted just under the HD Football listings near the top of Ratings News the first post in this thread.


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Originally Posted by dad1153
Guys, I'm feeling really lousy. Tummy aching real bad, just like the last time I was forced to go to the hospital. Both times I ate KFC the night before, and here in NY all the KFC's have switched to a different oil and stopped using the transfatty stuff. Don't know how long I will be out but if you could post any articles you find online until Fredfa returns this Sunday I'd be eternally grateful. Sorry for being such a pig, back to laying face down on the sofa to moan in pain until the Maalox kicks in (ouch).

P.S.: click on the previous page (#611) for a dozen or so postings added in the past 12 or so hours, many with reactions to growing media coverage of GSN's upcoming 'Behind the Blank: Match Game' special on Sunday night. Hope I can live long enough to see it... ouch!

dad: thanks for all your Herculean efforts, which probably left your immune system exhausted.

Rest up, and I'll be back full bore late today.

Meanwhile, anyone else who finds items of interest to the thread, please post 'em when you find 'em!


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Critic’s Notebook
The Watchie Awards:
For 2006's wackiest and winningest TV
From Maureen Ryan’s Chicago Tribune blog ?The Watcher? Originally posted: December 5, 2006

Next week, I’ll list my Top 10 shows of the year. But this week, it’s all about the Watchie Awards -- my take on the most memorable, notable or just plain weird moments and people of the 2006 TV scene.

As always, feel free to share your favorite moments and characters of the year in the comment area below.

Most formidable team: Would you want to go up against the combined fierceness of ?Deadwood’s? Al Swearengen and Sheriff Bullock? Nope, me neither.

Most dynamic duo: Dul? Hill and James Roday on ?Psych.? Roday’s energetic irreverence and Hill’s pained, deadpan patience make for a delightful combo.

Most efficient way to kill a show: Schedule it very late on Fridays, don’t promote it and then yank the show entirely after a few weeks. That’s what A&E did with the fine British spy drama ?MI-5,? and it worked a little too well.

Best new ?Lost? character: The enigmatic Desmond, brutha, played by Henry Ian Cusick. Let’s hope we see more of him (and the slippery Benjamin Linus) when the show returns in February, and I’m crossing my fingers that they wait a while before they kill either of them off (speaking of that, I hope they kill off those annoying new Losties first).

Best network executive (non-fictional): Kevin Reilly. Not only is he the man who stuck by ?The Office? and was brave enough to put it on Thursdays, he also put his career on the line by giving full seasons to the entirely worthy (but ratings-challenged) ?Friday Night Lights? and ?30 Rock.? Which almost makes ?Twenty Good Years? forgivable.

Scariest network executive (fictional): Jack Rudolph, the fearsome head of NBS on ?Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.? Steven Weber is obviously having a great time playing this icy, ambitious executive. More screen time for him, pretty please.

Scariest movie executive: The fictional head of Warner Bros. on ?Entourage?: Actor Paul Ben-Victor gives the studio boss just the right amount of steely resolve and smiling, shark-like viciousness. You hated him for not letting Vince Chase make ?Medellin,? but you understood why even Ari Gold fears the guy.

Funniest network executive (fictional): Jack Donaghy, who does double duty on ?30 Rock? as the head of GE’s trivection oven division -- and he also oversees an NBC sketch comedy show. As masterfully played by Alec Baldwin, Donaghy is an unaccountably charismatic network suit, and the smirky spin Baldwin puts on every one of his lines makes him by far the best part of the show.

Best eyes: Hugh Laurie’s peepers continue to be among the most transfixing things about ?House.? Yes, the show has fine writing and acting and production values and all that. But if that all goes away, those blue orbs will keep me watching.

The go figure award: Who knew that ?Jericho,? a Midwest-set thriller about a post-nuclear society, would be one of the few serialized dramas from the fall roster to find a following?

Most gripping season finale: The final 90 minutes of ?The Shield’s? fifth season was so engrossing that the commercials came as jarring interruptions. The death of Lem -- at the hand of his anguished best friend, Shane -- is one of the most tragic, Shakespearean moments in TV history.

Most cheering news: ?The Wire? will have one more season to tell its impassioned stories. If you’ve watched any of the sterling HBO show’s previous four seasons, you know why this is a wonderful thing.

Most dead network trend award: Serialized dramas with a crime element. In 2006, ?Heist,? ?Runaway,? ?Smith,? ?Kidnapped,? ?The Nine,? ?Day Break? and ?Vanished? all tanked. Don’t expect to see more of these sorts of shows next year. Unless they also involve nuclear destruction. Or doctors.

Most charming new kids show: Playhouse Disney’s ?Charlie and Lola,? an entirely winning, distinctive import about two fanciful British kids. A few other recent pre-school favorites: ?The Wonder Pets!,? ?The Backyardigans? and ?Little Einsteins,? all of which have good music and stories parents won’t mind watching.

Most winning immigrant: The optimistic time-bender Hiro Nakamura of ?Heroes,? who, along with the mysterious HRG, gave even grumps like me (who sometimes wince at the show’s dialogue and story lines) a reason to watch NBC’s surprise hit.

TV personality enduring the most awkward holiday season: Thanks to a technical glitch, Kyra Phillips, a CNN anchor, called her sister-in-law ?a control freak? on national television -during a speech by President Bush, no less. But Phillips was a good sport and went on Letterman soon after to mock her inadvertent familial dis, which may have made passing the turkey a little tense this year.

The most welcome return to television: If ?Brothers and Sisters? was purely a vehicle for the sensational Sally Field, that would be enough reason to tune in. But the nicely ripening show is much more than that, and has grown into an engrossing family drama. Still, a big reason to tune in is because Field is turning in great work as widowed matriarch Nora Walker.

The ?Are you frakking kidding me?? award: In the January Season 2 finale to ?Battlestar Galactica,? the writers advanced the story by a year in the blink of an eye. Putting a big chunk of ?lost time? in the middle of this stunningly well-told story was a gutsy move, but no more than fans expect from this provocative, risk-taking drama, which has deepened and become even more satisfying each season.

Best dance routine: Donald Faison, who plays Turk on ?Scrubs,? did a note-perfect dance routine to the new-jack-swing classic ?Poison? in a February episode of the NBC comedy. Not only are his comedic chops impeccable, the man has footwork to die for.

Best cover song: Lane Kim’s band on ?Gilmore Girls,? fronted by none other than former hair-metal bad boy Sebastian Bach, did a version of Gwen Stefani’s ?Hollaback Girl? that was as sizzling as it was unexpected.

The why the hell did they do that to Kyle Chandler award: In the conclusion of the heart-stopping post-Super Bowl ?Grey’s Anatomy? two-parter, the show reached a dramatic high point. Too bad they had to do it by making ?pink mist? out of Chandler, who played a hunky rescue worker trying to defuse a bomb inside a patient. ?Grey’s? creator, Shonda Rhimes, had to adamantly insist on her blog that Chandler’s character really did kaflooey and was really not coming back (but thank goodness he did come back in another show, ?Friday Night Lights?).

Hottest romance: Forget McDreamy and Meredith. Tim Riggins and Lyla Garrity’s secret hookups nearly scorched the screen on ?Friday Night Lights.?

Best YouTube snippet from ?The View?: Oh golly, where to start with this one? There wasn’t just Star Jones Reynolds’ surprise ?I’m so outta here? announcement or Barbara Walters’ icy ?Don’t let the door hit you on your newly slender behind? rebuttal the next day. There were also any number of Elisabeth Hasselbeck meltdowns and a memorable claws-out encounter between Sandra Bernhardt and the entire ?View? crew. And that was all before the combustible Rosie O’Donnell joined the fray! Post-Rosie, there was Danny DeVito’s inebriated appearance, which didn’t really make me lose respect for Danny, it made me wish I could party with George Clooney.

Most enjoyable daytime talk-show moment: Delightfully subversive actress Amy Sedaris’ appearance on Martha Stewart’s show, in which Stewart didn’t react to any of Sedaris’ seditious comments, or at least pretended not to hear her subversive chatter, was frankly a classic. When does Sedaris, who’s written the demented ?I Like You,? an entertaining book of her own, get a show?

Most enjoyable nighttime talk-show moment: Conan O’Brien’s trip to Finland may be the most memorable thing he’s ever done. It’s certainly the funniest, and it showed him at his irreverent, spontaneous best.

Best fan campaign (network division): ?Office? creator Greg Daniels used an interview in the Tribune to plead for a supersize Season 2 finale. Within hours of that interview, ?Office? aficionados from the fan sites OfficeTally.com, NorthernAttack.com and GiveMeMyRemote.com had set up supersizedoffice.com -- and the thousands of pleas on the site worked - ?The Office? got a supersize finale. Well done, fans!

Best fan campaign (cable division): When word leaked out that ?Deadwood? might be going the way of the high-button shoe, the show’s vociferous fans made a ruckus, and thanks to sites such as savedeadwood.net, ?Deadwood? will be getting another four hours to wrap up its enthralling stories. Heng dai!

Best political satire (British division): Talk about laughing till you cry. ?The Thick of It,? a British faux reality show about a cabinet minister shot in the style of ?The Office,? makes you weep with laughter at the ineptness and arrogance of politicians and their minions. Then you just weep because the antics of these self-serving government types are probably more realistic than you want to believe.

Best bad boy: Logan Echolls of ?Veronica Mars.? Guys, next time you wonder, ?Why do all the girls dig the bad boys?,? rent this show to find out. Thanks to Jason Dohring’s magnetic performance, Echolls isn’t just a messed-up rich boy with a bruised heart of gold, he’s also quite a match for the title character of ?Veronica Mars,? played by the equally talented Kristin Bell. Too bad this on-again, off-again couple broke up, but their sparky post-breakup dialogue is often the best thing about the show.

The ?Oh, my ears, my ears -- make it stop!? award: The two singles unveiled during the ?American Idol? finale - ?Do I Make You Proud? and ?My Destiny? - were, I suppose, preferable to listening to six minutes of cats with laryngitis screeching at top volume, but then again, maybe not. Speaking of that finale, what was up with Clay Aiken’s hair? Did he have a bad encounter with some kelp?

Biggest reality TV upset: Chloe Dao’s win on Season 2 of ?Project Runway? in March. But never mind, the right person, Jeffrey Sebelia, won Season 3, so now I’m mollified.

The go away already award: ?The Apprentice.? It’s coming back next year. Why? We. Just. Don’t. Care. Anymore.

Biggest disappointment (cable division): After a wait of nearly two years for new ?Sopranos? episodes, this June blog post was my reaction to much of Season 2: ?Too many Season 6 stories on this once-great show are stone-cold boring, insignificant or glaringly obvious. Too many times this season, I’ve looked at my watch during an episode, wondering when it would be over. That shouldn’t happen.? Let’s hope the show amps things up for its final nine episodes, which begin airing next spring.

Biggest disappointment (network division): What the heck happened to ?Commander in Chief?? From promising drama to limp dishrag in less than a season. Only ?Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip? managed to go south faster.

Biggest acting revelation: Who knew that Gerald McRaney was capable of such a thunderously great performance as George Hearst on ?Deadwood?? All I can say is, wow.

Best commercials: ?Prison Break’s? Peter Stormare starred in VW’s hilarious ?Unpimp Your Auto? ads.

The ?Oh, snap? award: There was one character who made me believe in the virtue and selflessness of public servants -- Aaron Pierce (Glenn Morshower), the Secret Service agent on ?24.? When the evil President Logan tried to weasel out of his myriad crimes, here’s what Aaron said: ?There is nothing that you have said or done that is acceptable to me in the least. You are a traitor to this country and a disgrace to your office, and it’s my duty to see that you’re brought to justice for what you’ve done. Is there anything else, Charles??

Least inspired copycat award (cable division): ?Saved? was about a troubled, rakish, charming bad boy with women troubles and addiction problems. Where have we seen that before? Uh, everywhere.

Least inspired copycat award (network division): ?3 lbs.? We have a great show about a jerky doctor. It’s called ?House.?

The underhyped gem award: If you haven’t seen Sundance Channel’s ?Slings and Arrows,? go rent the first season now. That glimpse of the delicious backstage drama should get you salivating for Season 2’s DVDs, and for the third and final season, which should arrive on the cable network in 2007.

The blink and you missed it award: The ethnic divisions of the four teams on most on the most recent edition of ?Survivor? was, according to creator Mark Burnett, supposed to get us all talking about race and really take on the subject in a serious fashion. Or, maybe, just maybe, this racial edition was all about the hype, considering the ethnic experiment lasted all of two episodes.

Least enjoyable reality-show judges: Count the number of times the judges on ?Rock Star: Supernova? said ?dude,? ?that rocked? and ?rock on,? and … you’d have a really, really high number.

Least effective ?Grey’s Anatomy? character: Callie Torres. She irritates me less than she used to, but she has zero chemistry with George, and I’ve just never really liked her ?I’m a tough girl, back off? persona. Maybe if there was something else going on there, I’d dig her more. But, so far, Addison Shephard is by far the better addition to the cast.

The give me that hour of my life back award: Yes, I have the most enjoyable job in the world. But I’ve also had to not just watch but find something to write about these wretched new shows: ?American Inventor,? ?Happy Hour,? ?The Underground,? ?Heist,? ?Pepper Dennis,? ?Twenty Good Years,? ?Love, Inc.? It’s hard out here for a critic.

Most demented award: I usually feel like as if I’m breaking some kind of law by watching ?Wonder Showzen? and ?Moral Orel.? And that’s a beautiful thing.

The surprisingly not awful award: Tori Spelling’s ?So NoTORIous,? a faux reality show modeled on her life, wasn’t half bad. And the devastating portrayal of Spelling’s TV mom makes their real-life battles that much more understandable.

The Tricky Dick award for best villain: If Gregory Itzin wasn’t the most transfixing actor ?24? has ever had, then I don’t know what’s what. His querulous, commanding, absolutely riveting portrayal of a dastardly, self-serving president made a thrilling show even better, and was surely a big factor in the Fox drama winning the best drama Emmy in September. And in Jean Smart, Itzin’s President Logan had a more than worthy scene partner. It’s good to know they’re both back next season.

Most annoying ?comedic? moment: The talking va-jay-jay on the Showtime sketch series ?The Underground.? I don’t mind tawdry and gross comedy skits, as long as they’re also, you know, funny. This wasn’t (and besides, ?South Park? had the dubious distinction of doing this particular bit first).

Best new ?Daily Show? correspondent: As the show’s Resident Expert, John Hodgman’s unflappable inaccuracy never fails to produce a giggle or five.

Least effective public apology: James Frey’s appearance on ?Oprah? in January only made me despise the lying liar even more.

Best online contest: ?The Colbert Report’s? search for a fan-made version of Stephen Colbert’s light saber exploits drew dozens of hilarious and entertaining entries -- even a fancy one made by George Lucas, in which Jar-Jar Binks made an appearance. Lucas lost, and a terrific fan-created short film won. Me so happy!

Best award acceptance: Despite strong competition from Hugh Laurie and Gina Davis, Steve Carell was the most entertaining statue-accepter at January’s sprightly Golden Globes. In his deadpan speech, he thanked ?Nancy, my precious wife, who put her career on hold in support of mine and who sometimes wishes I would let her know when I’m going to be home late, so she can schedule her life, which is no less important than mine.? Trust me, Carell’s delivery made that speech hilarious.

Funniest Online Extra: The ?Psych-Outs? that accompany the winning USA series ?Psych.? Little more than improvised silliness between co-stars Dul? Hill and James Roday, they are unaccountably smile-inducing, especially the duo’s goofball take on ?Pass the Dutchie.?

Most revealing online extra: Dwight Schrute’s ?Schrute-Space? blog gives us possibly more insight into his mind than we wanted. But I must give him credit where it’s due. He had some good ideas about merging the casts of ?Lost? and ?Battlestar Galactica.? ?President Roslin would … have both casts mate in order to create more surviving humans.?

Best online presences: Most of the cast of ?The Office? blogs, and there are several terrific fan sites as well that cover the show in exhaustive depth (in addition to the ?Office? sites Office Tally and Northern Attack, check out Dunderball for the best quotes). And SciFi.com’s blogs and extras for ?Battlestar Galactica? are among the most extensive anywhere; to keep with general news on the show, I dig Galatica Sitrep. Finally, the "Project Runway" offerings at Bravotv.com are always worth a look, but the day after each episode I positively run to the computer to check out the witty commentary at Project Rungay.

Worst guest star (cable division): Sharon Stone on ?Huff.? When did overacting become an Olympic sport? Her scenes with Oliver Platt were veritable ham-offs. Yecch.

Worst guest star (network division): In Britney Spears’ appearance on ?Will and Grace,? the pop star proved she’s no better at acting than she is at picking husbands. By the way, I would have nominated Kevin Federline’s guest turn on ?CSI? for worst guest appearance -- if I could have brought myself to watch it.

Most shocking character deaths: They killed President Palmer! They killed Michelle! They killed Tony! They killed Edgar! Curse you people at ?24? for whacking some of my favorite characters, yet addicting me to your show anyway.

Most weaselly NBC move: Premiering ?Book of Daniel,? a fine and well-written series, on Friday nights in January, then yanking it as soon as humanly possible. It was a good show and deserved better. And ?Deadwood’s? Garrett Dillahunt was surprisingly empathic and funny as Jesus.

Best ABC move: Shifting ?Ugly Betty? to Thursdays, and building the most chick-friendly night on TV (and yeah, I know, lots of guys are addicted to the ?Betty?/?Grey’s? combo as well). Kudos to the network for giving this scrappy, terrific show a chance at the big time. And hey, even ?Men in Trees,? a new ABC Thursday entrant, is growing on me. A little.

Most literal title: As the title character of ?Shark,? James Woods is compelling (as he always is), but he makes the actors around him seem like timid guppies by comparison. They need to give him some co-stars that can stand up to his overwhelming energy.

Best serial killer drama on HBO: ?Epitafios,? a South American drama that was an elegiac, elegant film noir.

Best serial killer drama on Showtime: ?Dexter,? a black comedy with a gripping plot and a bravura, vulnerable performance by Michael C. Hall.

Best serial killer drama on the broadcast networks: There isn’t one. Yes, I know, ?Criminal Minds? is a big hit, but it’s so relentlessly grim and its characters are so thinly drawn that the only reason to tune in is to see whether any of the people on the show can wear an expression other than the ?I’m very serious and humorless? face.

Most heartbreaking series finale: ?Everwood’s? final moments in May were as classy, well-written and emotionally involving as its very first moments four years ago. We won’t dwell on the fact that the shows that the CW replaced ?Everwood? with tanked. We’ll just focus on the fact that the `Wood was very good right ’til the very end.

Best kiss: The smooch between Jim and Pam at the end of the second season of ?The Office? still ranks as one of my all-time TV moments. In a thousand ways, small and large, the savvy writers for this show earned that kiss, and the best part was that no spoilers spoiled the magic of that unexpected moment for the show’s loyal viewers. It was pure bliss, and the entire episode was fantastically played by John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer.

Best overall guest roster: Let’s hear it for ?Everybody Hates Chris,? which gave good roles to Antonio Fargas, Jackee, Tim Meadows and Whoopi Goldberg, among others.

Best music video: ?Robin Sparkles,? a.k.a. Robin from ?How I Met Your Mother,? was revealed to be a teen pop princess from Canada -- her secret past included a terrible single, ?Let’s Go to the Mall,? and an addiction to rubber bracelets and stone-washed denim. The video for her one hit was an achingly funny re-creation of ’80s tastelessness.

Worst ?Desperate Housewives? train wreck: There were many, but all I can say is, I hope the fine Alfre Woodard got a big paycheck for her wasted time on this ABC drama, considering her role as Betty Applewhite went nowhere. I wish I could say that that was the worst part of the show’s second season, but sadly, it wasn’t.

Most ?awk-ward? moment: Jon Stewart insulting the assembled glitterati at the Academy Awards. It may have played well to the college kids watching at home, but the icy response in the room to Stewart’s irreverence made the awards show seem even longer than it was.

The we’re not worthy, ma’am, award: Not only did Helen Mirren star as the Queen in, yes, ?The Queen,? a critically acclaimed Oscar-bait film, but she gave TV viewers two virtuoso performances in HBO’s ?Elizabeth I? and PBS’ final ?Prime Suspect? outing. Attention, aspiring actors: You could do no better than watching these mesmerizing, brutally honest performances.

Best ?Trek? tribute: The 200th episode of ?Stargate SG-1? featured a brief scene with Ben Browder as the captain of the old-school Enterprise. Maybe you had to be a total geek to get why that was so fun, but trust me, it was.

Worst new network comedy: Was it the short-lived ?Emily’s Reasons Why Not?? ?Twenty Good Years?? ?Big Day?? Networks are trying to make comedies better, but as these duds prove, they’re not trying hard enough. Making them funny is a good start, I always say.

Most necessary death: Marissa on ?The O.C.? But good heavens, it took her a long time to die! And curiously, for a woman who’d just been in a fatal car wreck, there wasn’t a scratch on her. Now, if they’d just whack the entirely annoying Kaitlin Cooper, we might just be getting somewhere.

Best loser brother-in-law/brother (Network division): Hamish Linklater on ?The New Adventures of Old Christine.? In a part that’s often a throwaway on network sitcoms, Linklater injects his sad-sack character with equal parts sly humor and pathetic fear.

Best loser brother-in-law/brother (Cable division): The hilarious Justin Kirk on ?Weeds? was a standout in a strong cast as the unwanted houseguest you can’t really kick out but don’t really want around your impressionable kids.



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Anybody get the feeling Maureen Ryan REALLY likes her job?


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TV Notebook
The 10 Best Episodes of 2006
As voted by Yahoo! readers

"Pilot" Originally aired Wed 9/20/06 on CBS

It's been an incredible fall season with a few freshman shows grabbing our attention with their very first episode. Jericho's Pilot makes the top of our list. (Watch the full episode now.) This CBS drama enacts the aftermath of nuclear bombs being dropped on U.S. soil, specifically focusing on how the small town of Jericho, Kansas reacts to the blasts. The pilot sucks us in right away with questions such as "who was responsible," "where did the blast originate," and introduces us to the mysterious character of Jake Green (Skeet Ulrich).

Veronica Mars
"My Big Fat Greek Rush Week" Originally aired Tue 10/10/06 on The CW

Our girl Veronica rushing a sorority? Say it ain't so?! Don't worry, of course Ms. Mars has an ulterior motive. Before you can say Tri Lambda Mu, Veronica goes undercover as like a totally perky freshman to look for clues to catch the Hearst campus rapist. Veronica Mars pretending to be a drunk co-ed was a genuine fall highlight.

Friday Night Lights
"Who's Your Daddy?" Originally aired Tue 10/24/06 on NBC

It's rival week in Dillon, Texas and it is sooo on. After the Tigers (longtime rivals) trash the Panthers locker room, Coach Taylor instructs the team against retaliation. He also instructs Matt (who is having a very bad week) to get "loose" with a girl in a backseat not knowing Matt is big-time crushing on the Coach's daughter Julie. Luckily nobody listens to the coach. Sounds soapy? Not with the genuine performances on display in this under-watched gem of a show. This episode sealed FNL's position in our Tivo queue.

How I Met Your Mother
"World's Greatest Couple" Originally aired Mon 10/16/06 on CBS

One of the best comedies on TV? Without a doubt. From Lily moving into Barney's bachelor palace and the horrors that ensue, to Marshall starting up a "bromance" with a fellow single guy (which ends disastrously), this episode will have your stomach aching from laughing so hard. If you haven't boarded the Mother train yet, it's time to get your ticket.

Grey's Anatomy
"From a Whisper to a Scream" Originally aired Thu 11/23/06 on ABC

Even with an extra 10 minutes on this special Thanksgiving night airing, this episode left us breathless for more. Why is Grey's Anatomy the most buzzworthy show right now? How about George's mom grilling Izzie about his sex life, Callie almost beating Meredith to a pulp in what would have been a very one-sided cat fight, and the final scene where Burke shuts the door on Cristina (and their relationship?) for her ultimate betrayal. Damn, that was good.

The Office (NBC)
"Gay Witch Hunt" Originally aired Thu 9/21/06 on NBC

In another uproarious 'outing' by the Dunder Mifflin gang, Michael finds another person to offend. This time the object is Oscar, who is unwittingly outed as a gay man by Michael. What follows is utter hilarity as Michael and lap-dog Dwight try to figure out who else in the branch might "swing that way." The episode ends with an uncomfortable, cringe-worthy kiss between Michael and Oscar (with Dwight jumping in as well) that cements this NBC sitcom as a worthy successor to its British namesake.

Battlestar Galactica
"Exodus, Part I" Originally aired Fri 10/13/06 on Sci Fi

Phew, we thought Laura Roslin was a goner for a second there. The former President survives a Cylon firing squad as the action on New Caprica heats up in anticipation of a rescue from the Galactica crew. And after all the care taken to hide baby Hera, of course she was bound to end up in Cylon hands. And look out for Boomer's wrath if she ever finds out that her child is still alive.

Desperate Housewives
"Bang" Originally aired Sun 11/5/06 on ABC

The Wisteria Lane Season 3 renaissance continues. When Bree tells Carolyn (guest star Jackie Metcalfe) that her husband is a big cheater, Carolyn snaps and takes the grocery store her husband manages hostage. Half the neighborhood happens to be inside the store, including Edie, Julie, Austin, Lynette, Nora and even the newest neighbor Art. The standoff brings Julie and Austin together and gives the much-maligned Nora a permanent one-way ticket out of our Sunday nights. For that alone, kudos! Admit it, how many of you cheered?

"Collision" Originally aired Mon 10/16/06 on NBC

The worlds of our super-powered average citizens start to intersect in this cruical episode. never fails to hook us with its jaw-dropping imagery. First we see a dead Claire return to life to find her chest ripped open mid-autopsy. Then we see a future Hiro, wielding a very cool sword and speaking perfect English, visit Peter to deliver the now-famous mantra: "Save the Cheerleader, Save the World." Hey, if she can survive an autopsy and still remain unscathed, we think the cheerleader just might be able to save herself.

Ugly Betty
"The Lyin', the Watch and the Wardrobe" Originally aired Thu 10/26/06 on ABC

It's a busy day for Mode's most style-challenged employee. Betty not only has to track down her boss' conquests of the past week to find out which one has his watch, but she also has to fight off her attraction for fellow-employee, Henry from accounting (Gasp, what would Walter think?). Bitchy, binge-eater Amanda finally shows some heart when she opens up to Betty about her real feelings for Daniel. This is the episode where we officially fell in love with Betty, ugly or not.

Prison Break
"Buried" Originally aired Mon 10/2/06 on FOX

And then there were six. After Tweener's vicious murder at the hands of Mahone, only six escapees remain on the run. We finally get a big payoff when the buried $5 million is found, but Sucre's shocking betrayal lays the ground work for yet another twist in this ever-changing, heart-pounding chase across America and freedom (we hope) for Michael and Linc. Will one of Michael's tattoos bail the boys out once again?

Boston Legal
"Trick Or Treat" Originally aired Tue 10/31/06 on ABC

Forget the fact that this episode had Michael J. Fox's head in a jar. Or the fact that Alan was dressed as Tracy Turnblad from "Hairspray." What makes this Halloween episode even more outrageous than the typical Boston Legal episode is the fact that Denny finds out the midget he's dating could in fact be his daughter. And that, my friends, is why we can't get enough of the shenanigans at Crane, Poole & Schmidt.



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Originally Posted by dad1153
Anybody get the feeling Maureen Ryan REALLY likes her job?

And given she is about the busiest TV critic/blogger around, how in the world does Mo ever get a chance to watch all that television?


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Critic’s Notebook
Networks reshuffle
Complex serial dramas flopped; game shows, reality shows will take up the slack
By Joanne Ostrow Denver Post TV Critic

Following the November sweeps and looking toward midseason, it's time to plug holes.

Quick, someone call NBC's "Dateline" and have them gin up a pile of predator stories.

Substitute a "20/20" for whatever is on the grid. Alert the folks at ABC's "Primetime" they can rush a five-part series onto the air.

Pump up the money-giveaway shows, where civilians grovel and emote on camera for the chance to win what amounts to a tiny percentage of the commercial take.

Grab the trowel and slap together a midseason schedule.

When all else fails, or at least when the year's ballyhooed trend to serialized dramas falls flat, the nonfiction hours of filler are cheap to produce and ready to take up the ratings slack.

The season that was supposed to mark a stellar shift in style and a renaissance for smart dramas, bringing an incursion of high-minded serials to primetime, has fallen back to earth.

A raft of literate, complex and sometimes overpopulated serial dramas have been yanked from the schedule after failing to live up to the hype. Some serials have been outright canceled, others sent to suffer quiet deaths in hiatus-

land, the television equivalent of being on interminable "hold" listening to tinny Muzak. As the expensive dramas depart, the usual reality drivel, tabloid news and titillating game shows assume their places.

As of this week, "The Nine" (ABC) joins "Kidnapped" (NBC), "Smith" (CBS), "Vanished" (Fox), "Runaway" (CW) and "Six Degrees" (ABC) on the roster of defunct serials. Both "Six Degrees" and "The Nine" officially are being held in that secure secret location called hiatus. Don't expect to see them again, unless it's online.

At the start of the season, Wednesday nights offered a serial showdown fit for the DVR: NBC's "Kidnapped" versus ABC's "The Nine," two suspenseful hours that required careful attention. They entailed a kidnapping, a bank robbery and hostage crisis, mysterious subplots, red herrings and an essential "Previously, on" at the top of each installment.

Previously on, currently off

This week, Wednesday will be a contest between "Medium" and "Primetime."

For the foreseeable future Wednesdays are awash in "Primetime: Basic Instinct," (the newsmag series about making ethical decisions), "Biggest Loser" and (beginning in January) "Deal or No Deal." After the midseason rejiggering, "Dateline NBC" will be trotted out for three nights a week, Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday.

Granted, some of the serials were unnecessarily convoluted. Some snared big acting talent (Dana Delany, Ray Liotta, Virginia Madsen) only to have them stand around in muddy stories that dared us to care.

And yes, it was asking a lot for viewers to follow so many plot lines and characters over so many weeks. Mindless entertainment is easier.

But "Show Me the Money"? Please. This was supposed to be the season when TV evolved. William Shatner is clearly shameless. Take heart from the fact that the ratings for that derivative mess have been as abysmal as the game itself.

ABC's "The Nine," one of the season's better dramas, seemed to play to an older audience than, for instance, NBC's "Heroes." The difference in texture was the difference between a traditional mystery novel and a fun comic book. Both started the season on my favorites list, only one remains. "The Nine's" interweaving of flashbacks and present time was clever at first, but the pace began to feel plodding. Ultimately, too few of us were paying attention.

"The Nine" was pulling roughly 8.6 million viewers, losing half the audience from the shows that preceded it, "Lost" and "Day Break." Network executives can't forgive an hour that squanders that kind of lead-in.

Now the question is, Will viewers forgive ABC for pulling "Lost" from the schedule for three months?

Unlike some seasons, there's still plenty to watch. We'll content ourselves with "Friday Night Lights," at 7 tonight on Channel 9; the series moves to Wednesdays on Jan. 10.

And we'll embrace a new mantra: Save the Cheerleader, Save the Reruns. Viewers who've fallen behind on "Heroes" can catch up with repeats until the series returns Jan. 22.



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Originally Posted by fredfa
And given she is about the busiest TV critic/blogger around, how in the world does Mo ever get a chanc to watch all that television?
I often wonder the same thing about you Fredfa! How you keep up with all this TV news and this thread updated every hour of every day it seems, amazes me!


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I do get away, VisionOn, and then dad1153 fills in better than I could hope.

(But thanks for the compliment!)


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Originally Posted by fredfa
I agree, and the Nielsen numbers have been very soft for "Lost" this year. I'd expect them to sink even lower after the long layoff -- and when the February sweeps offer even more stellar competition.

There just hasn't, IMO, been enough of a payoff to all the disparate storylines in "Lost" to reward all but the most avid viewers. Clearly millions this year think the show just isn't worth the effort anymore.
Originally Posted by rebkell
totally agree about Heroes smoking Lost, Heroes keeps things moving along, Lost is losing me, nothing but questions with no real answers. Heroes seems to run at a great pace, a lot of questions, but we're getting answers every week.
I get that "Lost" is primarily a character interaction type a drama, blah, blah, blah, as opposed to an action, mystery show. But when it first aired it was exciting and things actually happened, but pretty much the last season and a half have dragged on like a daytime soap opera. I mean, come on, 6 episodes of Jack, Kate and Sawyer being locked up? Gimme a break. At the end of last season we were introduced to some real-time(as opposed to flashbacks) people, off-island, who are actually tracking what's going on with the island, yet there's been nary a mention of it so far this season. Frankly, these first six episodes were boring, when it returns I'll probably stack them up on the DVR, and if I hear that it's starting to move along, then I'll watch them, otherwise, there's far more interesting stuff available to watch.


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'Lost' finds new timeslot
Shift ensures the show won't have to battle 'American Idol'

By Josef Adalian Variety Dec 5, 2006

ABC is moving "Lost" out of the way of the "American Idol" juggernaut.

Alphabet's January sked, set to be unveiled later today, has "Lost" moving to Wednesdays at 10 when it returns Feb. 7, insiders said. Shift ensures the third-year skein won't have to battle the Fox behemoth.

A year ago, "Lost" took a notable ratings hit once "Idol" returned. Skein has held steady in the ratings this fall vs. last spring, but ABC execs clearly don't want to take the chance of further slippage.

Net's affils should be happy with the shift. With "Lost" at 10 p.m., ABC will be delivering local stations their best numbers for the slot in years.

ABC isn't completely backing away from "Idol," however.

Net has decided to slot its buzzworthy laffer "Knights of Prosperity" Wednesdays at 9 p.m., directly against the "Idol" results show. It'll be paired at 9:30 with another new comedy, "In Case of Emergency."

New laffer block is set to debut Jan. 3, a month before "Daybreak" was set to end its run. Skein may shift to 10 p.m. Wednesday before "Lost" premieres, though it's more likely it'll simply be yanked at the end of December or moved to another night.

ABC will round out its Wednesday lineup with new episodes of "George Lopez" and "According to Jim" from 8-9 p.m. Net will double-pump "Jim" for a few weeks, with "George" bowing Jan. 24 at 8 p.m.

On Tuesdays, "Show Me the Money' will shift to 8 p.m. on Jan. 2. It'll be paired with "Big Day" and "Help Me Help You." Latter laffer may eventually be replaced by newcomer "Notes from the Underbelly," though no decision has been made.

ABC's Sunday, Monday and Thursday skeds will remain unchanged for now. At some point, net will have to make room for the return of "Dancing with the Stars."

On Fridays, ABC will continue to vamp with repeats. Saturday will be a mix of movies and specials.

Still on the bench: six episodes of "The Nine" and "Six Degrees."



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Originally Posted by fredfa
And given she is about the busiest TV critic/blogger around, how in the world does Mo ever get a chance to watch all that television?
"Time travel, somebody said..."


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good post rusty -- have you checked to see if the "Lost" thread has it yet?


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Originally Posted by fredfa
good post rusty -- have you checked to see if the "Lost" thread has it yet?
I just posted it, along with a link to this thread. Thanks Fred. I didn't think of it. Probably because I don't understand why everyone else doesn't compulsively check this thread daily like I do for all the latest TV news and info.

Keep up the great work, Fred.


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Nielsen Ratings
Peacock wins demo; CBS still No. 1 overall
By Nellie Andreeva, The Hollywood Reporter December 6, 2006

Led by "Heroes," "Deal or No Deal" and football, NBC was the demo champ for the week ending Dec. 3, which overlapped the final three nights of the November sweep.

Meanwhile, CBS extended its winning streak in total viewers to 11 weeks and CW posted its best weekly numbers to date.

The rookie superhero drama "Heroes" (15.6 million, 6.8/16) continues to be NBC's big success story this season with a No. 3 finish for the week among adults 18-49 behind established hits "Grey's Anatomy" on ABC (24.0 million, 9.5/23) and "House" (17.3 million, 6.9/17) on Fox.

NBC's Emmy-winning comedy "The Office" (9.1 million, 4.4/11) also had a strong week, hitting a season high in 18-49 in the Thursday 8:30 p.m. slot, but the news was not all good for NBC's newly launched two-hour Thursday comedy block.

Airing against a repeat of CBS' "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," NBC's new Thursday 9 p.m. anchor "Scrubs" got off to a slow sixth-season start with 7.2 million viewers and a 3.6/9 in 18-49, down from the 3.8/9 the show logged for its fifth-season premiere on a Tuesday in January.

The network's struggling new comedy "30 Rock" (6 million, 2.7/7) slipped even further at 9:30 p.m.

ABC also didn't get much traction with its new Thursday addition. In its debut in the Thursday 10 p.m. slot, freshman dramedy "Men in Trees" delivered 11.3 million viewers and a 3.8/10 in 18-49, down 60% from its big "Grey's" demo lead-in and 30% from the premiere in the same time period of the now-benched "Six Degrees." With the transplant from the less-watched Friday night to Thursday, "Men," starring Anne Heche, still delivered its highest numbers in all key demographics.

Also soft was the series premiere of ABC's new comedy "Big Day," which opened to 7.6 million viewers and a 2.8/7 among adults 18-49 in the Tuesday 9 p.m. slot, dropping 42% from its "Charlie Brown Christmas" robust demo numbers. Without "Dancing With the Stars" as a lead-in, ABC's freshman comedy "Help Me Help You" (5.0 million, 1.8/4) at 9:30 p.m. fell to its lowest numbers ever.

It was a strong week for dramas overall with several series hitting season highs: CBS' "NCIS" in total viewers (18 million), Fox's "Bones" in adults 18-49 (3.1/8), NBC's "Las Vegas" in total viewers (10.2 million) and adults 18-49 (3.2/10), the CW's "One Tree Hill" in adults 18-34 (2.6/7) and "Gilmore Girls" in adults 18-34 (2.6/8) and total viewers (4.9 million).

CBS' red-hot sophomore drama "Criminal Minds" broke another series record, drawing its largest audience ever (17.9 million). Meanwhile, the CW's drama "Veronica Mars" posted a series best in adults 18-34 (2.0/5).

Two serialized dramas -- Fox's "Prison Break" and CBS' "Jericho" -- had solid fall finales. "Prison Break" tied its highest 18-49 rating for the season, while "Jericho" posted its best numbers in a month.

Theatrical movies, a dying breed on broadcast TV, also had a good week with the broadcast premiere of "The Polar Express" (13.2 million, 4.1/12) on ABC logging the best numbers for a theatrical film on broadcast TV in almost three years.

For the week, NBC averaged 10.4 million viewers and a 3.7/10 among adults 18-49 to CBS' 11.8 million, 3.4/9. ABC (10.1 million, 3.5/9) was second in adults 18-49, followed by Fox (8.2 million, 3.3/9).

The CW had its best week yet with an average of 3.8 million viewers and a 1.8/5 in adults 18-34.



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Critic's Notebook
A doofus version of 'Entourage'
By Verne Gay, (New York) Newsday December 6, 2006

Dudes, man.

Everybody seems to want them. Or every advertiser does. That's where a show like "Twentyfourseven" comes in. Perfectly configured to that primitive and evolving life form known as the 17-year-old male brain, this one as well as others - and there are a lot of them out there, like MTV's "Rob and Big" - are engineered for speed and simplicity. Dudes talk in grunts. They're into chicks (but don't usually seem to know many). They party (a lot). They work (very little). Booze or at least beer? The very air that they breathe.

"Twentyfourseven" has been described (by MTV) as a real-life "Entourage," but the HBO show is Pinter by comparison. This wanna-be's as dumb as dirt, and, as a consequence, even makes Hollywood seem more toxic than it probably is. There are the aforementioned babes - lots of them, in very brief bikinis, and endowed with even briefer vocabularies. There are guys, stoned or drunk or simply zonked out. There's some drama, too, amid the endless parties, boozing and other assorted life-wasting routines, because the show features some real headbangers (or at least one) who have impulse-control problems. Meanwhile, there's a reasonably good band (The Prom Kings) in a starring role.

All of this - in other words - means MTV's got a big hit on its hands.

Advertisers? Back to them. "Twentyfourseven" is about a dude named Greg Carney who's a partner in a company called Freedom Beverage Co., which will use this show to somehow promote something called Freedom Energy drink. The company's motto is the famous line by German philosopher Hegel - "the history of the world is none other than the progress of the consciousness of freedom" - which I bring up for no reason other than the sheer lunatic pleasure of referring to both Pinter and Hegel in a review of something this brain-dead.

In Wednesday night's pilot, we meet Greg and his requisite Hollywood posse (each described by their chief respective talent, so to speak). There's Frankie, the club promoter; Cipes, a musician; Ty, a filmmaker; Matt, an actor; Whitman, a record producer; and Chris, Greg's brother, who's also the lead singer of The Prom Kings and headbanger-in-chief.

They are all making plans to launch a new club called Cafe Casablanca. The problem is, they want the ladies to attend the launch party and they also want to get the ladies blottoed on the big night. The perfect solution to kill both elusive birds with one stone? Open bar! Unfortunately, Greg's partner thinks that's a waste of money, while Chris decides last minute to go on a hunting spree back in Arkansas, where he and Greg come from. That means no Prom Kings for opening night festivities either.

Chris has a little run-in with the law back home - no reason to get into details - where we do eventually pick up one of the ruling ironies of "twentyfourseven": Chris and Greg's father is a preacher.

How far, indeed, the lambs have strayed. Is it Hollywood or is it a natural rebellious streak that has led Chris and Greg astray? That question could conceivably make for an interesting series. Don't expect one, though.

TWENTYFOURSEVEN. "Entourage" meets its reality counterpart, with a bunch of guys looking to score in Hollywood. Series debuts Wednesday night at 10:30 on MTV.



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TV Notebook
It's all in the game
On 'The Wire,' Andre Royo's 'Bubbles' is a reservoir of humanity
By Jake Coyle, Associated Press December 6, 2006

Walking back to his trailer while shooting the first season of "The Wire," Andre Royo was still in character as the homeless junkie and informant Bubbles - face scarred, hair a craggy black mess - when a real junkie approached with what Royo calls his "Street Oscar."

"He said, Yo, you need this, man. You look like you need a hit,'" recalls Royo. "I laughed a little bit and I got emotional. I was like, Wow, he thinks I'm a junkie for real.' I felt validated."

Royo had to discard his "Oscar" before flying home (airlines might not recognize a bag of heroin as an acting trophy), but the gesture was reward enough for Royo. It's also about as close as any actor on the acclaimed HBO series has come to awards recognition, even though the Baltimore drama has been hailed with hyperbole by critics.

On Sunday, Bubbles serves as an unusual reservoir of humanity as "The Wire" airs the fourth season's finale (10 p.m. EST). Bubbles has long been one of the show's most moral characters, captivating in his struggle to fight addiction and hopelessness on a show that revolves around futility.

This season has focused on a handful of young teenagers in West Baltimore's broken school system. The final episodes find various characters fighting for the futures of the kids - and none is more affecting than Bubs' unlikely mentoring of a homeless boy, which plays out tragically.

Bubbles' emotional scenes represent a climax for both the character and Royo, who has taken a role originally meant for just seven episodes and made it one of the show's most popular. But as always on "The Wire" - be it politics, police bureaucracy or the code of the street - Royo's acting career has been a long road of playing "the game."

The 38-year-old was raised in the Bronx, New York. After high school he wanted to act, but he had no idea how to pursue that career - all he had heard on TV were stories of various stars being "discovered." So he spent two years "just hanging' out in Manhattan" at the clubs, dressing weird, hoping that someone would "discover" him.

Royo eventually found acting classes, which led to off-off-Broadway plays, a job in TLC's "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" video and a small part on "Law & Order." His biggest breakthrough was a notable role in John Singleton's "Shaft."

Royo, whose father is Cuban, was often told he wasn't "black enough for the black roles" or "Spanish enough for the Spanish roles," and that he simply "looked Ethiopian." But he landed the part of Bubbles for the pilot of "The Wire" - not that he thought it was a big break at the time.

The dense plot and lack of standard cop show action made Royo think "The Wire" didn't have a chance. Besides, he says, "You get nervous. You go, How can I make this character not cliche?" So he spent time with junkies in New York and Baltimore - and found that every junkie is different.

"They were very stern on making sure that if you're a heroin addict, you're not a cocaine addict - they act differently," he says. "At the end of the day, it helped me remove myself from trying to find certain tricks and just be me."

Like so much of "The Wire," the character of Bubbles was taken directly from the street. Ed Burns, who helped create the show with David Simon (a former Baltimore journalist) and writes many of the episodes, was Baltimore police for years (later becoming a school teacher). For 15 years, Bubbles was one of his best informants.

"In his prime, whatever happened in West Baltimore, he knew about," Burns says of the real Bubbles, who he remembers fondly as an honest, unique person. "There's a lot of honor in the game, you just have to find it and sort of cultivate it."

When Bubbles died of AIDS in the late 80s, Simon wrote an obituary for him, but without Bubbles' name because his family wanted it kept anonymous. Burns still recognizes Bubs in Royo's performance.

"Andre has a very Chaplinesque way of being," says Burns. "There's a little walk that he does after the first time he's robbed and the guy takes his shoes off and takes the drugs. He picks himself up and he walks over to the cart and the kids laugh at him. That wasn't in the script - that was something he did as an actor. He looked like Quasimodo."

Burns largely credits the appeal of Bubbles to Royo's sympathetic portrayal.

"It's this feeling of loss that you have when you see a human being with such potential trapped in this world. He's more of our conscience," he says. "You can feel comfortable writing anything for (Royo). You know he can reach it."

At the same time, it's easy to wonder if the potential of Royo and much of the ensemble cast has been largely untapped because of either casting directors' unwillingness to try the actors in different roles or because of a subtle racist disinterest for a largely African-American program.

"After the first season, I got a lot of being-on-cocaine, being-on-meth" roles offered to me, says Royo. "Did it bother me? Not at all. I was stereotyped when I was waiting tables."

"You got to show Hollywood that you can play the game," he says. "I'll come into every scene or character 100 percent, and sooner or later, good acting will transcend."

Having moved with his wife and daughter to Los Angeles, where they have opened a restaurant, Royo is understandably ready for some new challenges.

"I've been snitching for a long time now. The first job I had on Law & Order' I was snitching," he says, also citing his roles in "Third Watch" and "Shaft." "For some reason, they look at me and think, That (guy) will tell. ... But I am Bubbles. There's a part of me that's invested and I want to make sure his story is fully told."

Royo is also disappointed that more of the mainstream media hasn't paid attention to his castmates - no late shows, no Oprah Winfrey.

"It's our loss," says Burns, citing the talent of Royo and a dozen other actors on "The Wire," from Michael K. Williams (Omar) to Wendell Pierce (Bunk Moreland).

"These guys clearly cut the mustard. They can act with anyone," says Burns. "I don't know why it has to be this You can play a drug addict; you can play the good sidekick.' These are the roles that these actors end up doing and it's a shame."

In March, "The Wire" begins production for a fifth and final season, which is expected to run in either late 2007 or early 2008 and will focus on the media of Baltimore. Will Bubbles still be a big part of the show?

"If you know my character well, you're going to have to put a little money on the table," jokes Royo. "If you want to find out that kind of information, it's gonna cost you a little bit."



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Video visionaries are melding traditional TV and Internet
By Mike Musgrove, The Washington Post December 6, 2006

Is TV moving onto the Internet or is the Internet moving onto TV? As the lines between the two begin to blur, it's getting harder to tell.

Fans of Comedy Central's "South Park," for example, can still watch the latest episode by tuning in on Wednesday nights. But they can also turn to Comedy Central's Web site to watch an ad-sponsored episode. If they're willing to cough up a couple of dollars, they can even download the shows for viewing through an Xbox or an iPod.

At iVillage, a Web site that caters to women, the push is toward the TV set. On Monday, the site, which NBC Universal acquired this year, launched a daytime TV show called "iVillage Live," which will be broadcast on some NBC stations, the Bravo network and the Web.

It's a nontraditional approach to broadcast television that's been growing in popularity in recent months: broadcasting shows on both the Internet and traditional TV to give advertisers as many viewers as possible. At the same time, the blurred line between traditional and online video is accommodating a growing variety of viewers: those who prefer to watch on a TV, those who gravitate more toward the Web and even those who like to watch on their mobile phones or TiVo recorders.

Thanks to popular sites such as YouTube and Google Video, video content has become one of the most popular offerings on the Internet. That's led to a flood of amateur sites that look more like cable TV services, complete with "channels" -- clickable icons on a Web page that bring up a lineup of shows to watch -- that accommodate different interests.

"This is definitely the Wild West in some ways," said Adam Berrey, vice president of marketing and strategy at Brightcove, an online video company based in Cambridge, Mass. "It's in the very early stages, and people are still learning."

So far, Brightcove customers have built online video programming networks dedicated to topics as varied as pet care and Miami night life. The channels are available only on computers, but Berrey hopes to soon offer viewers a way to watch on their TV sets.

One way Brightcove is trying to get on TV screens is to work with products connected to TV sets, such as the TiVo digital video recorder. Together, Brightcove and TiVo are creating a video portal that allows TiVo subscribers to upload homemade video clips and create unique channels -- a lineup of shows from various sources on TiVo's Now Playing list -- that friends and family members can watch through their own TiVo boxes.

"It's the democratization of video content," Berrey said.

Heavy.com, which shows racy programming targeted at college-age men, has teamed with Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel to offer video clips for the mobile-phone crowd. It has also partnered with TiVo to get its clips on TV sets.

The movement also helps TiVo broaden its reach beyond a DVR that stores traditional television shows. By offering amateur video channels alongside shows that come in from a Heavy.com or a CNET, as well as those recorded from ABC or HBO, the company offers a viewing experience that "otherwise wouldn't be able to exist due to the economics of television," said Tara Maitra, general manager of programming for TiVo.

Ultimately, the broader presence of programming on multiple formats could help traditional shows.

When CBS launched its channel on YouTube just over a month ago, the 300 video clips from its shows featured on the site got nearly 30 million views. Since then, ratings for the network have gone up, and viewership of "The Late Show with David Letterman," which got the biggest boost, was up by 200,000 over the past month.

"We're getting people who don't watch the show routinely to say, 'I'd forgotten how funny Dave is; I've got to go check him out again,'" said Dana McClintock, vice president of communications at CBS. "It's about exposing your content to new audiences -- and, of course, thereby making more money from it."

But putting TV shows on the Internet is only one part of the equation -- the easier part. Getting shows downloaded or streamed over the Internet to play on living-room sets has been more difficult.

Apple Computer is expected to announce a device early next year that will plug into a television set and pull in video from computers via home networks. Josh Bernoff, a technology analyst with Forrester Research, said he expected to see at least four new products that perform similar tricks at next month's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

"Now that there's all this video content on the Web, everyone is trying to figure out if there's any way to get it onto the television," he said.

These first attempts at melding TV and Internet video are a little lackluster; put a grainy video clip from YouTube on a television screen and it doesn't make for must-see TV, Bernoff said. So far the six-month-old TivoCast service hasn't been compelling enough to sell new TiVo units for the company, he said.

"For any of these things to get interesting, you have to have access to a large catalog of content," Bernoff said. "This is going to happen, but it will be quite a while before any of these collections are more than a curiosity."



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Critic's Notebook
Sugar-free TV
Let's hear it for prime-time shows that arefamily-friendly without being sickeningly sweet
By Matthew Gilbert, The Boston Globe December 3, 2006

Last month, Steven Spielberg complained to the board of the International Emmys about blood and guts. The networks need to be more cautious about what airs in those hours when kids might be watching TV, he said: "I'm a parent who is very concerned."

But a few years back, Spielberg did not put the kibosh on the pre-10 p.m. network airings of two of his most brutal movies, "Schindler's List" and "Saving Private Ryan." In fact, when "Schindler's List" first ran on NBC in 1997, Spielberg insisted it not be edited. And blood and guts aren't even that movie's most violent material.

The debate over what should be considered "family TV" is never-ending. We talk ourselves into spirals of contradiction, illogic, and subjectivity when we make big pronouncements about how to control a child's imagination. Oddly, if you ask the Parents Television Council what kids ought to watch, the answer is reality TV. In October, the socially conservative organization determined that of the 20 most popular shows among kids ages 2-17, the only truly suitable titles were "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," "Deal or No Deal," "American Idol," "Dancing With the Stars," and "American Inventor."

Frankly, I pity the children whose most prominent TV influences are Paula Abdul, a parade of fame-and-money seekers, Howie Mandel, and Howie Mandel's soul patch. And I pity the adults who can share only reality series with their kids, pushing themselves to be enthusiastic about watching yet another tragedy healed by the wonders of carpentry, Corian , and handyman Ty Pennington .

Then again, rooting for Taylor Hicks or analyzing Mario Lopez's footwork alongside your kids is preferable to being clubbed by the moralistic lesson-learning and happy endings of fictional fare such as "7th Heaven." If scripted "family TV" is going to exist, and thrive, it probably won't look like "Touched by an Angel." Promoting a hyper-wholesome show like "7th Heaven" as the best of family TV doesn't leave much hope for those families that want to avoid sugar.

But there is hope in a number of recent prime time shows that have found a way to appeal to teens and their parents simultaneously, without insulting either group with sap or stupidity. While probably no series can stay interesting to both 4-year-olds and 40-year-olds, the likes of "Lost," "Friday Night Lights," "Ugly Betty," "Everybody Hates Chris," "Gilmore Girls," "My Name Is Earl," and, to some extent, "Heroes," have found a middle ground that speaks to a wide range of ages above, say, 13.

These are FCC-friendly shows that offer a degree of social relevance as they cross generations, and none of them carries a stuffy Sunday-morning aura of sanctimony. None of them are pat, or flat, even when they lightly strum the heartstrings. Are they rigorously devoid of all sexual innuendo or fantasy-tinged violence? No, and parents do need to be vigilant in order to enforce their own standards on their children, just as they would for a feature film such as "The Break Up," or "X-Men," or "Superman Returns."

"Heroes," for example, demands parental pre-consideration, especially for younger teens. This was the show that Spielberg spoke about to the Emmy board, saying he was particularly troubled when a body was torn in half during an episode of the 9 p.m. show. "Heroes," which is about ordinary people uneasily discovering they have superpowers, probably wouldn't bother a teen accustomed to comic-book-based films or video games, but it does land on the more adult side of the family-TV border.

It's a wonderful show about what it means to be a hero, and how heroism ultimately isn't about magical abilities; and it's a cool show, as people fly and read minds. But "Heroes" does have edgier moments.

"Lost" is a similarly offbeat show that invites viewers of differing ages to think and wonder and ask questions about the universe. It's the TV equivalent of a board game or a puzzle, and it's an opportunity for people to share personalized theories and approaches. Watching the series is only half of the "Lost" experience; the rest takes place in the hours of conversation and speculation about what's happening on the island -- or islands.

There is violence, including murder, torture, and child abduction. Parents need to protect kids who are particularly sensitive. But the violence on "Lost" takes place in the context of an adventure-fantasy, unlike a gritty crime show such as "CSI." It plays like a contemporary iteration of the novels of Robert Louis Stevenson.

Another cross-generational series, "My Name Is Earl," operates something like "The Simpsons," or the "Looney Tunes" of yesteryear. It's embedded with risque jokes that are likely to fly over the heads of its younger viewers, who nonetheless enjoy its buoyant and wily tone. As Earl tries to rectify his karma with the help of his simple brother, Randy, the sitcom almost begs for a bold comparison to the old stop-motion animated series "Davey and Goliath," particularly since Randy can sound like the dog Goliath ("But Daaayveee"). But the morality of "Earl" is far more twisty and light-hearted, and the show doesn't appear to have a narrow agenda regarding social politics.

Clearly, some parents will object to sharing these series with their kids. And cable has provided us with hundreds of very specifically defined channels -- Spike for dudes, Fox News for conservatives, Sci Fi for geeks -- so that a parent can send a child to Nickelodeon or Disney Channel or the Discovery Channel without worry.

These niche boundaries, along with parental control devices and supervision, provide the kind of guarantees that the networks no longer offer. In the mid-1970s, the FCC created a policy requiring the networks to create a family-viewing hour from 8-9 p.m. It quickly proved legally unenforceable, and the family hour has dwindled away over the decades.

The old-fashioned but realistic "Friday Night Lights" does seem to hark back to the family hour, though. The terrific NBC drama, which airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m., has struggled in the ratings since its October premiere, which may explain why the networks tend to stay away from such openly cross-generational material. Even those who like the idea of a safe hour in prime time may not be interested in watching it. Fortunately, NBC president Kevin Reilly has expressed a commitment to giving the show a chance.

"Friday Night Lights" has the kinds of story lines that parents can help their children to interpret, but can also enjoy themselves. About high-pressure high school football in Texas, the show is a sociological look at small-town life as much as it is a soap opera about kids with nowhere to go. It can be as rousing as "Rocky" and then as gothic as "The Last Picture Show." Its resolutions are satisfyingly poignant, and rarely tidy.

As somewhat conventional comedies, "Ugly Betty" and "Everybody Hates Chris" do generally end happily and affirmatively. But each of them is fueled by off-kilter humor that doesn't embarrass you with "awww" moments. And they easily provoke conversation about family life, money, and the relevance and irrelevance of cultural differences.

Watching the Latina heroine of "Ugly Betty" expose the superficiality at a glossy magazine is particularly amusing, since her nemeses are such queens of mean, notably Vanessa Williams's Wilhelmina. The writers have made Wilhelmina human with a dab of pathos about her loveless childhood, but still her comic nastiness is relentless and ripe ("Poor people are so . . . cheap," she noted in the Thanksgiving episode). Her material is never dulled with a Big Message.

Neither is "American Idol," which does qualify as a kind of family TV. One of the promotional beauties of the basic "American Idol" concept is its shrewd cross-generational approach. Young teeny-boppers singing the songs of previous generations? It grabs Mom, Dad, sis, and bro away from their lone computers for an hour of pretending they're a record company trying to choose a singer, or a music critic writing a review. Of course, "American Idol," like "Dancing With the Stars," will not expand anyone's inner world. It's TV for the family, though not particularly enriching TV.

But when it comes to TV for adults and their kids, not every show needs to be an educational tool. If something inspires good dialogue about life, death, wealth, poverty, spirituality, race, religion, and/or gender roles, that's great. But if something only inspires the opportunity to laugh together, well that's not so bad either.



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TV Notebook
Ratings rise with Olbermann's anger
Broadcaster's commentaries, full of disgust and outrage, bring more viewers to MSNBC
By Matea Gold, Los Angeles Times December 3, 2006

The Democrats may have wrested back control of power in Congress, but that hasn't quieted the ire of Keith Olbermann.

Recently, he delivered one of his trademark blistering critiques of the country's leadership - this time charging that President Bush failed to learn the lessons of Vietnam by perpetuating the "monumental lie that is our presence in Iraq." And don't think the victors of the midterm election are going to escape his sharp tongue.

"If the Democrats don't undo a lot of the things that have been done, like the Military Commissions Act and many of the other infringements on freedom, as I see it, there will be a special comment with their name on it," Olbermann vowed on a recent afternoon, wearing a crisp, striped shirt and suspenders, his large frame hunched over his desk at MSNBC's Secaucus headquarters.

The 47-year-old broadcaster's "special comments" are not a regular feature on Countdown With Keith Olbermann, the dramatically intoned, fast-paced melange of politics and pop culture that he has anchored since 2003 and that recently emerged as the cable news network's top-rated show.

But Olbermann's occasional soliloquies - typically a no-holds-barred excoriation of the Bush administration - have dramatically elevated his profile in the last several months, especially in the liberal blogosphere, and helped drive up the ratings for the third-place cable news network.

The longtime sportscaster, who doesn't vote and eschews any political identity - "I may be a Whig, possibly a Free-Soiler," he quipped - has nevertheless become an unexpected folk hero for the frustrated left. One woman approached him in a New York restaurant recently and burst into tears as she thanked him.

"People just think, 'He speaks for me,'" said Jane Hamsher, a Mill Valley, Calif., author who runs a liberal blog at firedog lake.com. "There was no resonance within the media for their perspective, and suddenly Keith came on the scene and gave voice to these long-simmering feelings of disgust with the war."

Olbermann said he never set out to court disaffected liberals.

"But there's a time when what you're covering ceases to look like news and begins to look like history," he said. "And you say, 'Well, it doesn't matter how people might brand me or respond to this - I feel as if something very important is not being said.'"

Shift becomes ratings

It's perhaps a sign of the recent shift in the country's political mood that his message has translated into ratings.

Countdown's audience has grown by 21 percent this year compared with the same point last year, while its cable news competitors have lost viewers at that hour, according to Nielsen Media Research.

With an average nightly viewership of 464,000, Olbermann lags far behind Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, whose audience has averaged nearly 2.15 million viewers this year. But the MSNBC host is creeping up on second-place CNN. In October, Countdown edged out Paula Zahn Now by 11,000 viewers.

His gains come as all of MSNBC's ratings are on an upswing, a fact that has triggered no small amount of jubilation at the perpetually last-place network.

"MSNBC is now a player in the competitive world of cable news in a way that we have not been for many, many years, and that's a really big deal," said General Manager Dan Abrams, the network's one-time legal-affairs anchor who was tapped to run the channel in June.

Abrams said MSNBC is finally finding its identity, and he credits Olbermann with a large share of the network's recent success - so much so that he paired the longtime ESPN host with Chris Matthews to anchor the network's election-night coverage.

MSNBC more than doubled its viewership compared with the 2002 midterms. And its share of the cable news audience in prime time also increased, from 15 percent four years ago to 25 percent this year.

Olbermann is negotiating a new contract with MSNBC; his current one expires in March.

"It is, to some degree, a perfect setup," he said of his relationship with the network. "They leave me alone, I leave them alone, and I deliver what they need, both in terms of journalism and the money end of it, the ratings."

As his profile has risen, so has criticism of his provocative style. This summer, amid an on-air feud with O'Reilly, he addressed a gathering of television critics by donning a mask of the Fox News host and giving a Nazi salute.

A network spokesman said the gesture was intended as a satirical comment.
Robert Cox, who runs Olbermann Watch, a critical blog that monitors the cable news host's comments, said that Olbermann employs some of the same tactics that he decries.

"I think at the end of the day he has, by and large, become that which he has criticized - a demagogue like Bill O'Reilly," said Cox, a management consultant in New Rochelle, N.Y.

Urge to speak out

Olbermann rejects the comparison.

"I'm not trying to whip up a political frenzy," he said. "If I was out there every night beating people over the head with this, I would become a Rush Limbaugh. That's not my goal. I don't make the facts up to fit the political viewpoint that happens to parallel what it is I'm trying to express."

A longtime sportscaster who first got a show at MSNBC when he joined NBC Sports in 1997, Olbermann devotes nearly the same amount of time on Countdown to the tabloid stories, such as the latest Tom Cruise gossip, as to stories about Iraq.

When he's not lecturing Bush, he wears a perpetually amused expression on the air and casually tosses papers off his desk.

He said he doesn't vote because he doesn't want to be accused of having "a horse in the race." But he decided to give an on-air commentary last year after Hurricane Katrina, outraged by the lackluster federal reaction.

"We went on the air with it on Monday and got a response, and management was in here on that Tuesday saying, 'Could you do that on a regular basis?'" he recalled. "And I said, 'No, I have no intention of doing that on a regular basis.'"

The urge to speak out struck him again in late August, as he sat on a plane on the runway at LAX and read an account of a speech in which Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld equated critics of the Bush administration to Nazi appeasers.

Infuriated, he spent his flight scribbling out a response in which he compared Rumsfeld's attack on Bush's opponents to the way Neville Chamberlain attempted to marginalize Winston Churchill in the run-up to World War II.

His commentary was downloaded more than 300,000 times from the Web site Crooks and Liars, with liberal bloggers tagging it Olbermann's "Murrow moment."

When the cable host participated in a live chat at firedog lake.com last month, he was peppered with gushing messages, including one from former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, who thanked him for "all you are doing to re-energize the fourth estate and its role to be a skeptic of authority."

That includes the new Democratic leadership in Congress.

"They're serving as a balancing factor, a check and a balance against anybody being carted out of Gitmo without a hearing," Olbermann said. "But that's an interim measure. We have to do things to protect the Constitution.

"And if they don't," he added in a mock stentorian voice, "I will!"



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Good to see corruption, nepotism, abuse of the national airwaves and government-sanctioned media monopolism is still alive and well in the Latin American third-world part of the globe I come from!

The (International) Business of TV
Mexico’s Newest TV Drama Is a Bid to Block a Third Broadcaster
By Elisabeth Malkin, The New York Times December 6, 2006

Night after night for almost two weeks, Mexican television news has shown expos?s on how poor people suffer from the high cost of medicines.

The images of the ill and dying have been heart-wrenching. Legislators lament the lack of regulation. Corner pharmacies barely fend off failure. The new health minister concedes that high prices are a problem.

It may be merely a coincidence that Mexico’s two competing television companies, Televisa and TV Azteca, have each chosen to focus on this particular social problem at the same time.

Their separate reporting comes to exactly the same conclusion. The culprits who drive the prices so high are two pharmaceutical distributors who together control 70 percent of the market. And both news teams single out the same one for particular opprobrium: Grupo Casa Saba, a $2 billion company controlled by the reclusive octogenarian billionaire Isaac Saba Raffoul.

What neither Televisa nor TV Azteca mentions is that Mr. Saba has his eye on another business: television.

Mr. Saba is the Mexican partner of Telemundo, the NBC Universal unit that is the No. 2 Spanish-language television broadcaster in the United States. In September, Telemundo and another company Mr. Saba owns, Grupo Xtra, formally requested a license for a broadcast television network.

Both Televisa and TV Azteca say that their coverage is driven only by news judgment. ?The high cost of medicines in a poor country with great health needs is a real issue, and it is not related to Saba and his other businesses,? said Manuel Compean, a spokesman for Televisa.

Jorge Sanchez, a spokesman for Casa Saba, denied any accusations of price-gouging and pointed to profit margins of less than 10 percent on the company’s balance sheet.

Within weeks, the license request set off a nasty dispute between Telemundo and TV Azteca, leading to lawsuits and countersuits. Last week, Telemundo asked the Federal Communications Commission in the United States to deny the renewal of the broadcasting license to KAZA, the Los Angeles affiliate of Azteca’s growing network based in the United States. The dispute comes just as Felipe Calder?n takes office as president. Mr. Calder?n, who campaigned on a promise to increase competition, has said that Mexico should have a third broadcast company.

The decision over whether to authorize a new network, which would be awarded by public auction, could prove to be the new government’s first big test when it comes to taking on powerful business interests.

Many parts of Mexico’s economy are controlled by just one or a few companies that have succeeded in keeping out competition.

Televisa and TV Azteca control almost the entire broadcast television industry in Mexico, although Televisa is much larger, with about 75 percent of the advertising market. Last April, they won passage of a law that critics say gives them free space on the broadcast spectrum.

That law created a public uproar that has heightened pressure for more competition. ?There has to be at least one more open television channel,? said Mexico’s top antitrust regulator, Eduardo P?rez Motta, in an interview. Last week, he called on the government to auction off more spectrum quickly.

But both Televisa and TV Azteca declare that they are ready and willing to compete. ?Televisa has competed historically and competes every day in all of its businesses,? Mr. Compean of Televisa said.

For Telemundo, the effort to gain a distribution platform for its programming is simply a question of equality. Televisa, the world’s largest Spanish-language media company, distributes its popular telenovelas and reality shows through a licensing agreement with Univision, the top Spanish-language network in the United States.

TV Azteca is creating its own American network through agreements with stations in cities with large Spanish-speaking populations.

?The point is pretty basic,? said Donald Browne, Telemundo’s president. ?We want to do the same thing in Mexico that Televisa and TV Azteca do in the United States. They are able to distribute in the United States, and we would like to have an opportunity to distribute our own product.?

He added, ?We’re looking for just a reasonable playing field — not even even — just to be able to show our product in Mexico.?

The bad blood between Telemundo and TV Azteca particularly goes back more than a dozen years, when NBC first tried to enter the Mexican market. A deal with TV Azteca that would have allowed NBC to take a small stake in the company fell through after TV Azteca backed out, arguing that NBC did not hold up its side of the deal to provide programming and technical assistance.

A dozen years later, the dispute is even more bitter. After Telemundo hired a well-known producer, Alan Tacher, for its talent show ?Quincea?era,? in which 14- and 15-year-old girls live together as they study with voice and dance coaches, TV Azteca argued that it had an exclusive contract with him.

Azteca won an injunction from a Mexican judge to stop production, and Azteca lawyers accompanied the police on a raid on the studio where Telemundo was filming one of the final episodes. The production was eventually moved to Miami.

The raid is one of the main arguments in NBC’s filing last week with the F.C.C. It accuses TV Azteca of strong-arm tactics against Telemundo’s operations in Mexico to prevent it from ?competing lawfully against TV Azteca in its own country.?

The filing also raises the long-running fraud case against TV Azteca’s controlling shareholder, Ricardo Salinas Pliego, filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission in January 2005. Mr. Salinas Pliego first delisted TV Azteca’s shares from the New York Stock Exchange and settled with the S.E.C. last September, paying a fine of $7.5 million.

Rick Cotton, NBC Universal’s general counsel, said, ?If participation in the Mexican marketplace is foreclosed by the actions of TV Azteca in particular, then participation by TV Azteca in the U.S. marketplace needs to be re-examined by U.S. regulatory authorities.?

TV Azteca saw the NBC filing as a direct attack. ?We are outraged,? Azteca America’s chairman, Luis J. Echarte, said in an e-mail message. ?The filing has no legal fundamentals and is clearly a media ploy that attempts to damage the reputation of TV Azteca and its subsidiaries in the U.S., and put pressure on the Mexican government into auctioning new television licenses.?

The networks, meanwhile, can point to one accomplishment with their series on drug prices. Mexico’s antitrust commission plans to begin an investigation into the market for distributing pharmaceuticals.

Mr. Perez-Motta, the antitrust official, said: "There’s nothing strange about responding to media pressure."



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Originally Posted by dad1153
TV Notebook
It's all in the game
On 'The Wire,' Andre Royo's 'Bubbles' is a reservoir of humanity
Andre Royo's Bubbs and Michael K. William's Omar are my two favorite characters on The Wire. Maybe on TV. The show and it's actors gets entirely too little recognition and praise. The story is so intricatly entwined. The writing is sublime. The actors who have played the kids central to this 4th season have also done a fantastic job. It is a sin that The Wire does not have any Emmys or Golden Globes. Shame!


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Lots of good posts, dad1153. Thanks!

Now I don't feel so guilty about slipping away for a few hours to see a UCLA basketball game.

And glad to see you become a very active participant in the thread, too, rusty.


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NAACP should acknowledge TV gains
By Brian Lowry Variety Dec. 6, 2006

HERE'S A NOVEL THOUGHT: Before the NAACP launches another campaign against television's perceived ills, would it set the cause back to pause and savor the group's recent victories?

Apparently so. Because after fatuously contending that Michael Richards' comedy club tirade is "a symptom of a much bigger problem" and emblematic of "an underlying current of racism in America," the NAACP scheduled, then canceled, an event this week to assail the TV industry for insufficient minority representation.

Certainly, TV still exhibits its share of shortcomings regarding race, but the NAACP chose a dubious time to level such criticism against television, coming in the midst of a very good fall for people of color based on those symbolic measures where the medium ultimately wields the greatest influence.

Such calculations are invariably subjective, but the two breakout stars of the new TV season are "Ugly Betty's" America Ferrara, who is Hispanic; and "Heroes'" Masi Oka, who is Asian. My third choice would be Lennie James, the black Brit who is the most mysterious character on CBS' "Jericho."

NBC's restored Thursday comedy lineup, meanwhile -- once attacked for lily-white casts on New York-set shows like "Friends" and "Seinfeld" -- now showcases diversity on "My Name Is Earl," "Scrubs" and "30 Rock." As for "The Office," that series not only boasts a multi-cultural cast but has brilliantly lampooned racism, as it did last week when an African-American employee was revealed to have done time as a white-collar criminal.

Some programs have also gone global, a la "Heroes," featuring natives of India and Japan. That's especially noteworthy given the narrow view U.S. television has historically assumed looking beyond its borders.

THE NAACP has singled out low employment levels within TV's executive and producing ranks as its next potential crusade, while the Rev. Jesse Jackson pithily lambasted news for being "all day, all night, all white."

Whatever the raw numerical data, though, once again, the symbolic advances are hard to overlook. As a prime example, consider producer Shonda Rhimes, an African-American, who presides over TV's hottest series in "Grey's Anatomy" -- a program that effortlessly displays a thoroughly diverse universe.

Hiring levels are of understandable concern to those pursuing jobs within the industry, but evaluating minority gains requires a more contextual analysis. In the past, equal attention has been paid to the separate question of onscreen imagery, recognizing that while the industry directly employs thousands, from a cultural perspective its product is watched by tens of millions.

Because there are never enough entertainment jobs to go around, the business's insular nature makes breaking down barriers difficult -- one of the hard realities of any closely knit club where merit can be subjective, and nepotism and connections frequently dictate who receives keys to the kingdom. As a consequence, the NAACP and other lobbying organs have every reason to keep reminding industry honchos to cast a wider net than the children of golf buddies and those they encounter at private-school PTA meetings.

Lobbying groups diminish their moral authority, however, when they appear unwilling to acknowledge when real strides are made, including those programs that convey messages about our ability to live and work together.

THERE IS ALSO HARM done by overreaching to generalize an incident such as the Richards episode. Beyond proving that the former "Seinfeld" co-star engaged in an ugly moment worthy of condemnation, seizing upon those slurs as evidence of an "underlying current" of racism in Hollywood or anywhere else makes as much sense as suggesting that Mel Gibson's drunken rant against Jews is proof of anti-Semitism among action stars or Australians. Nor does it bolster anyone's credibility, frankly, when cash settlements magically help soothe any wounded feelings among the aggrieved parties.

By exaggerating the significance of transgressions and turning a blind eye to progress, the NAACP risks doing a disservice to its legitimate gripes -- among them the occasionally distasteful depictions of minorities, through the wonders of editing, within reality TV.

In terms of symbolism, those programs warrant discussion, precisely because the portrayals are often the opposite of "Ugly Betty" and "Heroes" -- series that, in the best sense, represent genuine advancements within TV toward people of color.



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TV Notebook
Hearst-Argyle's Barrett: ABC's 10 p.m. Needs Work
By P.J. Bednarski Broadcasting & Cable 12/5/2006

ABC's rejuvenation is making its affiliates happy, but at least one large group holder wishes ABC Entertainment chief Steve McPherson could spread some magic to the 10 p.m. hour.

Appearing at the Credit Suisse media week conference in New York Tuesday, Hearst-Argyle President and CEO David Barrett said that the issue of ABC's comparatively weak shows leading into local stations' 11 p.m. newscasts "is a cause for concern." He noted, for example, that Hearst-Argyle's WCVB Boston was on top in the November sweeps for every one of its newscasts in the early morning and at dinnertime-but finished third at 11 p.m.

Hearst-Argyle owns 12 ABC affiliates, and manages another one for the separate Hearst Corp., making it ABC's largest affiliate group. Altogether its 26 stations (10 NBC affiliates, two CBS affiliates among them) cover just over 15% of the country, well below the 39% FCC limit. So Hearst-Argyle could be in a buying mood. Barrett was coy on the matter, though he said the corporation is watching the action.

"I think there's a lot of inventory that's available," he said. "I don't know what you'd say about the Tribune stations," he added, referring to Tribune Co.'s very public deliberations about restructuring the company, selling parts of it piecemeal, or all of its stations. But adding a super-big market, like Tribune's stations in New York, Los Angeles or Chicago, would catapult Hearst-Argyle into a new universe.

One victory Hearst-Argyle toted to analysts was its success in securing retransmission consents, though mainly from a deal with EchoStar. Barrett made it clear the company would keep pushing cable companies to pay up--it has now taken its HD channels off of Cox Cable systems in six markets as part of the back-and-forth dance over fees.

Barrett said Hearst-Argyle will grab $16-$18 million in retransmission fees this year, and just $8-$10 million in compensation from networks its stations are affiliated with. Those figures, more than anything, show how stations are trying to replace their shrinking network comp piece of the pie with retrans money. Hearst-Argyle doesn't renegotiate retransmission fees with cable's big boys--Comcast and Time Warner Cable--until a span of time between 2008 and 2010. "That's the next horizon," Barrett said.

In a quirky note, Barrett, noting how important political advertising was to stations, said that he took a financial snapshot of the 26 stations on just one random day during the 2006 campaign. On that day, Oct. 19, Hearst-Argyle stations ran 768 local ads for candidates or issues--an eye-popping 26.16% of all the stations' inventory. In an earlier conference call with investors, Barrett said political ads poured $23.4% million into Hearst-Argyle's pockets during the third quarter.



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TV Notebook
Number's up for 'The Nine'
By Robert Bianco USA Today Dec. 6, 2006

Sometimes bad things happen to good shows.

Happenstance is, of course, hard to take as an explanation for TV failure. It would be far more comforting to think of "being awful" as a flop's defining characteristic.

Unfortunately, we all can name terrible shows that succeed. And this season we can name at least one terrific new series that seems to have failed: ABC's The Nine. Don't bother looking for it tonight; the show is off the schedule, moved to that TV netherland known as "hiatus."

No, it's not canceled, and ABC says it will return. But the odds of The Nine ever airing 22 episodes are remote. Even nine may be a stretch.

As is so often the case, part of the problem was timing. This wonderfully cast drama about the aftermath of a hostage crisis arrived in a fall filled with serialized shows. Each worked or didn't for different reasons; some of them rank among the season's successes, including NBC's Heroes, CBS' Jericho and ABC's Ugly Betty and Brothers & Sisters. But the cumulative effect of so many continuing stories opening at once was to make viewers draw a "this far and no further" line. The Nine never fell on the right side.

Oddly enough, it also probably suffered from what might look like a blessing: airing after Lost. Normally, new shows benefit by following an established hit. But Lost is proving to be a difficult lead-in. It well may be that too many people who watch Lost prefer to spend the hour after discussing what they just watched rather than watching something else.

Yet in any time slot, Nine was a tough sell for success, despite its quality. Building a show around a group of damaged people who are bonded by a traumatic experience was a risky proposition: The more honest the show was, the more grim it appeared.

For many viewers, the promised payoff may not have been worth the watch-each-week demands a serial imposes. Lost offers the immediate pleasures of its island adventure and the prolonged promise of island answers. Heroes hooks viewers with TV's best current cliffhangers, almost daring you not to come back to find out how, say, that cheerleader will bounce back from her autopsy.

Nine's main mystery was what the doctor did during the robbery to make his girlfriend so mad. Though that was compelling to those of us who loved the show, it wasn't the sort of story likely to pull in casual viewers.

Of course, the show isn't dead yet, and it could always have a ratings rebirth when it returns. But I wouldn't count on it. Blame creator error, network incompetence or sheer bad luck. But in the end the answer is still likely to be the same: a shorter run than the show deserved.

It happens.



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In reality, it's no 'Entourage'

Ellen Gray

TWENTYFOURSEVEN. 10:30 tonight, MTV.

MTV's "Twentyfourseven" wants so much to be HBO's "Entourage," it hurts.

You can hear the strain in the voices of the seven guys that producer - and central player - Greg Carney's lined up for his "reality" show about what it takes to make it in Hollywood.

As they talk about their pet projects, from club openings to albums, they sound like people trying to be more interesting than they are, or at least as interesting as they think they are.

And this, my friends, is why HBO has writers. Not to mention actors.

On paper, the "Twentyfourseven" guys are promising enough characters. Besides Carney, there's his rocker brother, Chris, lead singer of The Prom Kings, a club promoter named Frankie Delgado, a musician and voiceover artist named Greg Cipes, an indie filmmaker, Ty Hodges, a fledgling actor, Matt Baker, whose biggest role so far was in the direct-to-video "American Pie Presents: Band Camp," and a record producer, Greg Whitman, described by MTV as a "self-taught sound engineer and passionate music fan," who's trying to find a record deal for Cipes and in the meantime is living with the Carney brothers.

Because three is probably more Gregs than anyone should have to keep track of, "Twentyfourseven's" decreed that Cipes and Whitman should be known by their last names.

I might have simply assigned everyone on the show a number. But then I'm mean.

I know this because I started to get slightly more interested in the show in the second episode, after Chris flaked off to his native Arkansas, ostensibly for a hunting trip, and ended up in jail for drunken driving and aggravated assault. Whatever footage of this incident might exist is not being shared with the TV audience, which does get to meet the Carney boys' parents. Their father, Pastor Ken Carney, even opens his church up to the camera crew, perhaps not realizing that his sermon about the Bible telling "us to run away" from temptation would be intercut with footage from a Hollywood pool party and closeups of girls in bikinis.

Watching Greg lecture Chris on his DUI charge is particularly sweet because up until that point, Greg's biggest challenge was persuading his club partner to throw a party with an open bar just days after a similar freebie for Greg's then-girlfriend, Haylie Duff. Apparently to run a successful Hollywood club, you need to give away drinks.

Which explains so much about "Twentyfourseven."

"We go to every Hollywood party and it's always the same thing," complains Whitman (Greg No. 2) in an existential moment. "The girls are always the same... I've been out here for four years and I haven't done one that I really care about."

"You'll find a girl, man," promises Cipes (Greg No. 3). "She'll find you."

Not if "Entourage" finds her first.

Closure for 'Smith' fans

Thanks to NBC.com and MyFoxPhilly.com, I find myself surprisingly up to date on the season's two canceled abduction dramas, NBC's "Kidnapped" and Fox's "Vanished," something that once would have been impossible.

My PC and I are drawing the line, though, at CBS' "Smith," the Ray Liotta heist series that did its own vanishing act earlier this season.

But if you're missing "Smith," CBS.com's posted all seven episodes that were filmed, plus extremely detailed synopses of the five that weren't.

Just don't expect a happy ending.



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A King's ransom


Tonight marks the ninth-season premiere of The King Of Queens. As Faith Hill would say -- "Whaaaat?"

Not only is it still on, it is the longest-running, live-action sitcom currently on the air.

To refresh your memory, the series stars Kevin James and Leah Remini as a blue-collar couple living in Queens, N.Y. Their combative "To the moon, Alice" antics are reminiscent of The Honeymooners. The great Jerry Stiller (Seinfeld) plays Remini's oddball dad, who lives in the basement.

Honeymooners, Seinfeld -- no greater associations. Still, time for this King to abdicate. This series is more over than Michael Richards' career. Rent the first five seasons on DVD and thank me later.

This is one of those domestic sitcoms where you go -- how did that doofus wind up with that hottie wife? In that way it is like Jim Belushi's According To Jim, another shelved sitcom limping into a sixth season (ABC still hasn't scheduled its return).

Being on bad shows nobody watches pays well. James reportedly pulls down half a million U.S. per episode. He'll bank $6.5 million for the 13 final episodes airing this season.

Okay, please, how in the name of all that is holy do these hammerheads keep their overpaid jobs?

The King Of Queens returns with back-to-back episodes tonight (8 p.m., CBS). In the first, Carrie (Remini) frets that Doug (James) will blow their tax-return cheque. In the second, Doug ducks a stalker who claims they had a fling. Both sound like re-fried Roseanne.

The King Of Queens joins a long list of shows that lasted at least one season too long, including recent examples Will & Grace and That '70s Show. CBS knows this and is simply slapping this sucker into holes on its schedule. Two more episodes will air next Wednesday, with singles Dec. 20 and 27. Seven more will air in 2007, but CBS isn't sure where.

Meanwhile, what are some other shows that you probably thought were already cancelled?

Nip/Tuck is enjoying a creative revival in its fourth season on originating U.S. cable channel FX. Too bad CTV owns it and shelves it. Hopefully they'll air it again next May or June.

Teen detective drama Veronica Mars is into a third terrific season; you can find it Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on SUN TV.

Scrubs snuck back on to NBC's schedule a few weeks ago (Thursdays at 9 p.m.); it is in its sixth season. Las Vegas, Numb3rs, NCIS -- are all still on the air, we just never write about them. Should we? Let us know.


Here's hoping Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip becomes the next series that runs forever even though not many are watching. Last Sunday/Monday's episode was the best since the pilot. The baby news seems to agree with Amanda Peet, who has finally found her rhythm as programming babe Jordan McDeere. Quirky Mark McKinney is a welcome addition to both the real and fictional writer's room. Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford play those rarest of characters -- showrunners you care about.

There's still too much insiderish TV talk (last week's encyclopaedic ramblings about the origins of Christmas as it relates to sketch comedy was eye-glazing). The funny stuff on the show still isn't all that funny. But, after being on the fence about this series I'm prepared to accept the fact that I am hooked and that I'd rather watch writer/producer Aaron Sorkin fail on television than watch most others succeed.



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DirecTV to take NASCAR fans inside the car

Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - The sport that already offers unprecedented fan access is going one step further in 2007, allowing DirecTV viewers to watch an entire NASCAR race from behind the wheel.

NASCAR HotPass will debut on DirecTV at the Daytona 500 in February and offer fans at home the opportunity to watch a race from a driver's vantage point. Subscribers will have access to five channels dedicated to individual drivers, who will change every week.

Each channel will have up to six cameras and two isolated announcers focusing solely on one driver for an entire race. Viewers will have access to in-car audio communication, real-time statistics and cameras covering every angle from inside the race car to the pit box and all around the track.

HotPass is the brainchild of Fox Sports chairman David Hill.

"There was this moment for me when the lights went on, and I thought 'This is why NASCAR is so popular - because you can buy a seat and sit down and watch your guy go round and round,"' said Hill, who worried his network coverage was lacking because it didn't showcase the in-car conversations between a driver and team. That audio is available to fans at the track through scanners and FanView devices, but isn't offered to television viewers.

"In one fell swoop it was so obvious, and I couldn't believe I hadn't picked up on it before," Hill said. "We had to find a way for the fan to sit there and watch his car for an entire race."

He tried the idea in 2005 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway when he had multiple cameras follow winning driver Tony Stewart from flag to flag. He liked the results but still felt the effort was missing perspective.

So Hill tried it again at Las Vegas in March, adding two dedicated announcers to the Dale Earnhardt Jr. coverage. The announcers explained everything Earnhardt was doing, debated strategy, called pit stops and even chatted with the driver during cautions.

Pleased with the effort, Hill took it to NASCAR, which awarded DirecTV a three-year contract. But with NASCAR's TV ratings declining, Hill knows HotPass is a risky venture. DirecTV must persuade fans to pay $99 for a season pass with no guarantees on which drivers will be featured.

Hill is hopeful the behind-the-scenes access will entice fans to sign up for the venture, which will require an additional 70 at-track employees and 10 announcers.

"It's a big gamble," he admitted. "While we are quietly confident, the encouraging thing is that no one has said this is a really stupid idea. So we sort of believe it will be like pet rocks, hula hoops and yo-yos - brand new, but people will say 'I've got to have one."'

DirecTV isn't the only medium offering new access next season. Sirius Satellite Radio plans to offer 10 driver channels that will combine the overall race broadcast with driver-to-pit crew chatter in 2007.

"By layering the driver chatter over the race broadcast and alternating between the two, we'll provide a way to follow the race like never before," said Scott Greenstein, president of Entertainment and Sports.

Dick Glover, vice president of broadcasting and new media for NASCAR, said the DirecTV and Sirius deals show how committed the sport is to providing new and exciting ways for fans to enjoy it.

"We have always tried to be out front in bringing innovation into how our sport is covered," Glover said. "It's long been our tradition to work with telecasters to get our fans into the cars and closer to the action. This is the natural evolution."



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TV Notebook
BrandIntel: NBC Frosh Shows Generate Most Internet Chatter
By John Consoli Media Week

Despite that only one of NBC's five new fall shows, Heroes, can be considered a hit, the network's freshman series cumulatively are generating the highest amount of audience discussion on the Internet, while Fox's four ratings-troubled new shows are generating the least amount of discussion, according to a report issued by BrandIntel, a division of Brandimensions.

Thanks to Heroes, and ratings underperformers Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Friday Night Lights, and 30 Rock, NBC’s new shows have generated 42 percent of online discussion about the new fall TV shows. ABC’s new shows, buoyed by the strong ratings performance of freshman hit Ugly Betty, are getting 25 percent of the discussion, while CBS’ new shows, strengthened by ratings solid Jericho and Shark, are getting 23 percent of the discussion. Fox’s new shows trail with just 10 percent of the online chatter.

Heroes is dominating online discourse, which BrandIntel measures surrepetiously, with a 25.4 percent share of audience. Ugly Betty is next, capturing 14.1 percent of audience discussion, and Studio 60 is third, garnering 10.2 percent of audience discussion. CBS’ Jericho and Shark are next, with 6.1 percent and 5.8 percent of audience chatter, respectively, and Friday Night Lights (5.3 percent) and 30 Rock (4.4 percent) follow in sixth and seventh place among the 21 new shows that have aired so far this fall.

Two ABC shows, The Nine (3.7 percent), which has been pulled off the air, and Brothers and Sisters (3 percent), doing adequately in the ratings on Sunday nights, along with Fox’s Standoff (2.8 percent), round out the Top 10 most discussed new shows.

Heroes also leads the 21 new shows among audience sentiment, with a 3.97 rating as measured by BrandIntel. Ugly Betty is next with a 3.82 sentiment score, Studio 60 is third with a 3.72, followed by Friday Night Lights with a 3.62. Jericho and another CBS freshman drama Smith, which has already been canceled, are next with sentiment scores of 3.53. Another ratings challenged show, Fox’s Justice has a sentiment score of 3.52 for seventh place, followed by Shark (3.44), Standoff (3.43), and a tie among Brothers and Sisters and The Nine to round out the Top 10.

Studio 60 was the show generating the most buzz in the last Brandimensions report, conducted in July/August prior to the start of the new season, and has slipped to third, still an extremely high ranking considering the show has not drawn the TV audience levels it was expected to. Heroes ranked second in the summer report and is now generating the most buzz, while Ugly Betty was fifth among buzz this summer and is now second. Jericho was sixth this summer and has moved up to fourth, while Friday Night Lights was seventh and has moved up to sixth. Making the biggest jumps in the discussion/buzz category were Shark, moving up from 14th place prior to the start of the season, to fifth, and Standoff, moving up from 20th to 10th.

The BrandIntel report said the cast and writing are still driving Internet discussion for Studio 60, but many feel the show is still ?too inside Hollywood.? Amanda Peet is named as the cast member with the highest volume of negative comments, with many adults 25-54 not finding her role believeable.

Friday Night Lights is getting alot of support in discussions from men 18-49, which predictability of storylines being the biggest detraction.

James Woods, the star of Shark, has gotten positive reviews from audiences online, and audiences have commented positively on the clever writing and original concept of Ugly Betty. On Brothers and Sisters, audiences enjoy the performances of stars Calista Flockhart and Rachel Griffiths, although one criticism is that the show is sometimes too dark and there should be some lighter moments.

While Justice prior to the season was regarded as the best chance for a new show Fox hit, Standoff was able to capture more of the audience buzz, primarily because of Ron Livingston.

To put together its report, BrandIntel gathered data from 4.2 million Internet search hits.



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Tuesday's updated over night prime-time ratings ? and Media Week Analyst Marc Berman’s view of what they mean -- have been posted just under the HD Football listings near the top of Ratings News the first post in this thread.


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Critic’s Notebook
TV news you can use
'Smith' is gone, 'Heroes' gets a full season
From Maureen Ryan’s Chicago Tribune blog ?The Watcher? October 06, 2006

The new TV season is only a few weeks old, and already the networks are starting to shuffle their lineups and otherwise shake things up:

? The CW has shifted its two entire nights of programming: The network’s comedy block will now air on Mondays, and the former Monday lineup moves to Sundays. This Monday on WGN-Ch. 9, the CW will re-air the season premieres of ?Everybody Hates Chris? at 7 p.m., followed by ?All of Us,? ?Girlfriends? and ?The Game.?

? As of Oct. 15, Sundays on the CW will consist of an ?America’s Next Top Model? repeat at 6 p.m., followed by new episodes of ?Seventh Heaven? and ?Runaway.?

? CBS has also shifted its Monday lineup: ?How I Met Your Mother? will now air at 7 p.m. on WBBM-Ch. 2, and new comedy ?The Class? will follow. The unfortunate upshot of this change is that ?Everybody Hates Chris? and ?Mother? will now air against each other.

? Thanks to low ratings, NBC’s ?Kidnapped? has been exiled to Saturdays as of Oct. 21. According to news reports, the drama will wrap up its central mystery in a total of 13 episodes. ?Kidnapped’s? Wednesday spot will be taken over by ?Dateline NBC? as of Oct. 11.

? Speaking of NBC shows, ?Heroes? has been picked up for a full season. Everyone but me can rejoice now.

? ?Smith,? the heist drama starring Ray Liotta, is history. Its spot is being taken over by repeats of ?CSI? and ?Criminal Minds? for the time being.

? Fox has announced that ?24? will return with its usual two-night premiere Jan. 14-15 of next year (just to whip fans into an early frenzy, a snippet of the suspense-o-rama goes online at www.24trailer.com on Oct. 24).

? In far less interesting news, ?The O.C.? returns Nov. 2 (does anyone else think that they should just continue what they started last season and kill off the rest of the cast, one by one, as the new season progresses? Except Ryan. He may live). Here’s how much Fox cares about this show; it’s pairing ?The O.C.? with returning debacles ?’Til Death? and ?Happy Hour.? That’s love. And that’s a sign that Fox has completely given up on Thursdays -- for now. I wonder if it's preparing the way for a Thursday "American Idol" invasion, as has been rumored?

? When other Fox shows return from the baseball break, they’ll be shuffled around as well. As of Oct. 23, ?Justice? moves to Mondays. That week, ?Vanished? (from which star Gale Harold was vanished abruptly when his character was killed off) moves to a Friday death slot. Starting Oct. 31, ?Standoff? and ?House? switch spots, and ?House? returns to its previous 8 p.m. Tuesday berth.

? Speaking of ?House,? Hugh Laurie hosts ?Saturday Night Live? Oct. 28.

? Dr. Bashir in the hizzouse! When ?24? returns, Alexander Siddig, Dr. Bashir on ?Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,? will be part of the cast, along with D.B. Woodside, who’ll be back as Wayne Palmer. Also returning are Mary Lynn Rajskub as Chloe, Roger Cross as Curtis Manning and James Morrison as Bill Buchanan. Eric Balfour returns as contract worker Milo Pressman and Carlos Rota is back as Chloe’s ex-husband Morris.

Other members of the cast: Regina King as lawyer ?Sandra Palmer? (Wayne’s wife, perhaps? Just a guess); presidential advisors Karen Hayes (Jayne Atkinson) and Thomas Lennox (Peter MacNicol); James Cromwell snagged the prize part of Phillip Bauer, Jack Bauer’s ?estranged? dad (is there any family member Jack is not estranged from?); Kal Penn, Harry Lennix and David Hunt round out the cast. By the way, last July Kim Raver told TV critics that she might be back on Season 6 of ?24,? but I wouldn’t count on seeing her Audrey Raines too much, since Raver has a starring role on ABC’s ?The Nine.?

When Season 6 of ?24? starts, 20 months will have elapsed since Jack Bauer was put on a slow boat to China.



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Originally Posted by harley1
Do networks save money by pulling/ cancelling shows in Oct ?

Why would networks think viewers want to invest any time in a show with a continuous plot line, when it could be gone in the first few weeks ?
Networks have already committed whatever money they have to the first episodes of their shows (13 in the case of Kidnapped). So that money is gone.

What they hope to do is stop the ratings bleeding -- so that the season averages, which have been very close in recent years, don't get permanently scarred by one or two real trukeys.

As for your second question, it was a major topic of discussion at this summer Television Critics Tour. All the networks promised to bring serialized shows to some conclusion, even if the ratings tanked.

I think NBC moving Kidnapped to Saturdays (rather than just pulling it entirely) is the Peacock's reaction to the debate.


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Originally Posted by fredfa
I think NBC moving Kidnapped to Saturdays (rather than just pulling it entirely) is the Peacock's reaction to the debate.
And as someone who enjoyed the first couple of eps, for that I am grateful (especially since NBC Universal kept it on their flagship channel in HD).


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Ask Matt
(from the Ask (TV Critic) Matt (Roush) column at TVGuide.com
By Matt Roush TVGuide.com TV Critic Oct. 6, 2006

Question: How do you feel about all of the recent rule changes on Project Runway? On one hand, I'm glad to see all four contestants go on to the finals, but on the other, it's sort of a cop-out. The judges say three out of the four designs in last week's episode were bad, but everybody wins. Huh? Likewise, I'm not sure how I feel about the previous episode, where contestants who'd been kicked off could suddenly come back for a second shot. Maybe if the show had done one change but not the other, I wouldn't feel irritated. Since when did Project Runway — part of the fun of which has always been the surprising ruthlessness of the eliminations — suddenly start to feel like a Little League that doesn't want to damage someone's self-esteem by declaring a winner? I mean, heck, if we're gonna change the rules, why not just bring back audience favorites like Kayne and give them a shot at the finals, too?— Don C.

Matt Roush: I'm still a huge fan of Project Runway, but I absolutely hated the fact that they let all four finalists go on to Fashion Week. They kicked one player out this season for breaking the rules, then they go and deliver this twist, breaking all precedent? Both Michael and Jeffrey blew the penultimate challenge big time by not designing an outfit that expressed their "signature" style (whatever you might think of it). The only explanation I can think of for keeping them both in is that the show desperately wanted both in the finals, for whatever reason. If Laura or Uli had bombed, I bet either would have been sent packing. I'll still watch, but I feel much less invested in the outcome of the finale, since I feel it was compromised. I didn't mind the earlier twist as much, in part because neither Angela nor Vincent had a chance of making it through. But I do think that these recent decisions have lessened the value of Heidi's "You're out," because now it seems to mean, "Well, maybe not entirely out."

Question: I'm a fan of Without a Trace, and for the second week in a row, it was delayed for Sunday football. When I heard CBS had moved Trace to Sundays, I figured this would happen. What would you think if CBS were to bump, or at least reschedule, 60 Minutes and replace it with reruns or something else that they could cut as time dictated? I'm sure I'm not the only frustrated viewer who would prefer that shows start on the hour. The chances of someone tuning in on the hour and then changing the channel because the show isn't on yet would, I believe, take away many potential viewers. (Not to mention the frustration of trying to record it at the correct time!) Also, while we're on the subject of Without a Trace, why aren't they releasing any seasons after Season 1 on DVD in the U.S.? (Other regions have Seasons 2 and 3, at least.)— K.S.

Matt Roush: As always, I haven't a clue about the DVD situation — it's not my area of expertise. As for the Sunday overrun situation: That's a definite downside to the show's relocation, but one that regular viewers of CBS Sunday programming have dealt with for years. Fox has fixed its problem on Sundays by extending its postgame show (or leaning on cartoon repeats that can be joined midstream with little fuss) so that The Simpsons and the rest of the original lineup can run intact and on schedule. CBS doesn't have that luxury, with a night full of hourlong franchises. I suppose 60 Minutes could be trimmed some nights, but that show isn't as flexible (or disposable) as Dateline NBC, plus it's still a highly prestigious and profitable show for the network. My advice to fans of 60 Minutes, The Amazing Race, Cold Case and Without a Trace is to watch them live when you can, and when you must record, add at least 30 minutes to an hour of overrun time to capture the entire show. Not a perfect system, but so be it. (That's how I dealt with it last Sunday, when duty called on me to watch ABC in real time. Well, once The Amazing Race was over.)

Question: Any theories as to why Kidnapped is faring so poorly? I find it to be an interesting show that is well acted and fairly intelligent. Do you think it's just the serial nature of the show that is turning people away, or do you think viewers see it as another Vanished (which I find unwatchable)? Would NBC have done better to hold it till mid-season and show it uninterrupted, ? la 24? And what do you think are its chances of lasting the season? I can't see it picking up viewers unless NBC repeats it on Saturday for new viewers to catch up. Or am I assuming too much when I think viewers won't tune in to a serial show midstream?— Olivia J.

Matt Roush: It's always hard to explain why a show doesn't take off, but the best I can come up with in the case of Kidnapped is that it's a victim of serial overkill this season (too many for people to commit to), and that the premise itself didn't seem unusual enough (unlike more grandiose concepts like Heroes and Jericho) to draw a crowd. More than most, this seems like a movie or miniseries stretched out to fill an entire season. The show itself is better than that, in large part due to a first-rate cast. It's miles beyond Vanished in terms of quality and coherence, at least so far. I'm not sure holding it to mid-season would have made a difference, since the show barely even opened and appears to continue to slip. The fear of repeats has little to do with it at this stage of things. I'd be surprised to see Kidnapped still holding down that Wednesday time period during the November sweeps. (Welcome back, Law & Order?) What this means in terms of the producers being able to wrap up the story remains to be seen. (Michael Ausiello reports this week that the producers have already been given orders to wrap it up in 13 episodes, which would at least give some closure to what fans there are out there.) The networks have promised to deal with this issue more responsibly than in past seasons (with quick fades like Reunion and Heist), and this will be a good test case to see how they deal with the situation this season.

Question: As a fan of Gale Harold, I was shocked by the ending of this week's Vanished. It seemed that he was killed. Can you please tell me what's going on? I can't believe the producers would write him out of the story, since he is the main reason many of us watch. — Andrea M.

Matt Roush: Oh, he's a goner, all right. Why do you think Eddie Cibrian was brought on mere minutes before Gale Harold took a bunch of bullets to the chest? This was one of the worst-kept secrets of the young season. I'm not sure how to address this without seeming rude to a fan, but the bottom line is that Harold just wasn't working out as the lead of a suspense drama. He was miscast, and, frankly, looked miserable in the role. Honestly, I couldn't discern much difference in his demeanor, alive or dead. (And I had no real problems with him back in his Queer as Folk days.) I had to laugh at his famous final words to the senator: "But there's something else...." How hokey. I'm certain this desperate measure will alienate anyone who has been watching the show for Harold alone. But since the number of viewers has been getting punier by the week, as the story gets increasingly ludicrous, I imagine all issues involving Vanished will be rendered moot by the new year. For more on the story, here's Michael Ausiello's interview with executive producer Josh Berman:

Question: I just watched the first episode of Dexter, and boy, was I pleasantly surprised! I was hoping for it to be decent, but it by far exceeds decent. Since I am currently reading the second book in the series and just recently finished the first, it is still very fresh in my mind. I can tell that the show is just going to get better since they are sticking pretty closely to the book. How many episodes have you seen so far? Do you think Showtime is finally going to get the credit it deserves for putting on some of the best programs on TV over the past year or so? — Joshua B.

Matt Roush: Showtime is enjoying much more critical and media credit these days than it used to get, for shows like Weeds, Brotherhood, Sleeper Cell and now this. Whether that translates into ratings among the network's subscribers is another story. Certainly, the channel deserves a boost for such aggressive and provocative programming. As for Dexter: I've seen three episodes so far, and I'm desperately waiting for more to arrive. The main serialized plot does seem to be sticking quite close to the original (and very enjoyable) debut novel, Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay, although it seems to me that Dexter is killing more victims than he did in the book, in part to fulfill the needs of a weekly series. I'm loving it, but I'm not sure I'd use the word "decent" to describe this creepily fascinating show.

Question: What the frak happened to MI-5? Two weeks of outstanding shows and suddenly A&E yanks it in favor of awful CSI: Miami reruns? Is the show too smart for Yanks?— Lynne

Matt Roush: It's not that the show's too smart for us. It's that it's too good for A&E in its current state of affairs (which has next to nothing to do with arts, let alone entertainment, anymore). I can't count the number of e-mails I got about this, even after filing a Dispatch last Friday when I first caught wind that A&E was jerking around MI-5 fans yet again. Here's the deal, according to my A&E contact (I have yet to see an actual release confirming this): The remaining eight episodes of the season will be run off as a marathon on Saturday, Oct. 21, from 11 am to 7 pm/ET. I would suggest you set your recorders now, as I can't imagine A&E will be rebroadcasting them anytime soon. And I haven't a clue what this portends for MI-5's next season, currently airing in Britain (where it's known as Spooks). A&E has been a coproducer on this show from the beginning, but now that the network appears to have given up on it (and on any semblance of artistic credibility), I don't know what hurdles will be involved for another network (most appropriately, BBC America) to come to its rescue. I guess we'll have to wait and see. Getting MI-5 away from A&E could be the best thing that ever happened to it, or at least to its fans.

Question: Is it my imagination, or is Jonathan on Survivor: Cook Islands the same person who was on the show The Naked Truth with T?a Leoni? I think he played the part of Nick Columbus. On Survivor, they list him as a writer. I haven't watched enough to see if they ever mentioned him also being an actor.— Bryant

Matt Roush: As of this writing, Jonathan Penner is still being billed as a writer, and no one's recognized (or at least discussed on air) him also being an actor. You're right about his role in The Naked Truth, and he was also in the original version of the CBS comedy Grapevine, among other scattered credits. If you look him up, you'll find a few producer and writer credits. But it seems to me the main thing he's written where Survivor is concerned is a rewrite of his r?sum?. The guy should at least be identified as an actor/writer. Seems a bit dishonest.

Question: I thoroughly enjoy your column, but I feel the need to rant about something. I just saw the ratings for this Monday night, and they made me sick. I cannot believe that more people watched the second hour of The Bachelor than Studio 60! This almost sickens me. The Bachelor is a show about nothing more than a bunch of women throwing themselves at a man to get some cash. At least Flavor of Love has its funny moments (though I still refuse to watch). Studio 60 is a smart, character- and dialogue-driven show. What the heck is going on?— Jeffrey H.

Matt Roush: Oh, I know. Isn't it tragic? (And the truly bitter irony is that Studio 60's episode ended in triumph, with the show-within-the-show learning its ratings improved from week to week. Would that the actual series were so lucky.) I'm usually OK with mindless guilty pleasures as counterprogramming, but the fact that there's any life left in this ridiculous Bachelor franchise is appalling enough, without the added insult of it actually upstaging Studio 60 for a week. If last season's feeble also-ran, What About Brian, somehow manages to outdraw Studio 60 next week, that will be the last straw. The only consolation here is that NBC can still sell the quality (as in upscale demos) of Studio 60's audience, if not the size. I hope that will be enough to keep it around for a while. Read on to see more Studio 60 fans rallying to the show's defense.

Question: I just have to write and disagree with both your and TaMara's evaluation of the musical "Cold Open" from Studio 60's second episode. Since I grew up listening to Gilbert and Sullivan, when Matt and Danny said the name W.S. Gilbert, I was elated. I also assumed that we'd never get to see the sketch itself because it couldn't possibly be as good as promised, and I was, in my opinion, proved wrong on the second part. When it was finished, I actually clapped. Then I put the episode on disc and gave it to my mother, who was involved with a G&S musical-theater group during my childhood, and she thought it was fantastic. It may be that G&S is an acquired, or just very specific, taste, and I certainly don't watch SNL enough anymore to know how well the skit would have fit in there. But they've already referred to Lorne Michaels and SNL within Studio 60, making it clear that while Aaron Sorkin's show may be a "parody" of SNL, the show-within-a-show is not actually meant to be SNL. And in G&S terms, "We'll be the very model of a modern network TV show" was perfect. — Leilani

Matt Roush: Hey, don't confuse my views with the letters I print here. In my answer, I may have noted there were others in my office and elsewhere who agreed with TaMara, but I kind of liked the song myself, and felt it was very much in keeping with the kind of show the fictional Studio 60 is meant to be.

Here's another view on Studio 60-vs-Saturday Night Live, courtesy of Brenda: "I find Studio 60 one of the most watchable hours on TV this fall, a show I look forward to as soon as it's over! It is my opinion that after watching this week's SNL season opener, with no laughs produced whatsoever, Lorne Michaels should be taking careful notes. SNL has turned into an unwatchable, humorless show whose value seems highly inflated and based on what it used to be. Studio 60's cast seems to have chemistry, which is something SNL sorely needs. The 'Cold Open' sketch was hilarious, poking fun at its former/current management's problems, creating topical humor sorely needed on SNL. Lorne Michaels seems very afraid to push that envelope these days. I'm waiting for 30 Rock to get Tina Fey's take on the situation. What did you think of the SNL season opener? Did you think Dane Cook was funny? Did the Weekend Update work for you? Sadly, none of these elements worked for me, and I am choosing to catch up on my sleep this Saturday night. I think it's time SNL hung it up."

I don't remember cracking a grin during the entire first hour of Saturday Night Live's opener, which is all I made it through (up to Weekend Update, which also left me cold). Dane Cook in particular fell flat. I didn't like his HBO show, and I don't get him here, either. Talk about overrated. That monologue was enough to give a viewer flop sweat. True incident: When I turned the show off, I thought I was recording it. When I woke up Sunday, I learned the DVR didn't capture it after all, so I missed the last half hour. I can't tell you how happy that made me.

Question: Is this a great TV season or what? I'm loving Heroes, Ugly Betty, Help Me Help You, Men in Trees and even The Class. Who would have thought I would ever watch something on CBS? These, along with old favorites, make up for a really busy week. However, of all the new shows, the one I'm most surprised to like is Brothers & Sisters. How great is the cast? Sure, the premise has been done a million times, but man, it's such a delight seeing such great actors on the small screen. Last Sunday's scene between Sally Field and her troubled younger son was heartbreaking. The entire cast is on fire. However, I'm worried that the overall tone (which is very dark and depressing) plus the time slot (is it really a good companion for the soapy and hilarious Desperate Housewives?) will be its demise. This is not the typical show that watercooler talk is made of. What do you think? Can a show like this thrive, or does its future look even darker than its story lines?— Luis

Matt Roush: First off, kudos for the infectious optimism of your love for TV. Even though there are shows on your list I'm not nearly as fond of, I love that you love them so much. Case in point: Brothers & Sisters, a show that I feel has yet to live up to the promise of its terrific cast (at least the women, anyway; the guys are pretty much drips so far). The show has been a bit of a positive surprise, ratings-wise, in its first two weeks, doing better than I would have imagined, although it's far from a Grey's Anatomy-level blockbuster and bleeds quite a bit of its Desperate Housewives lead-in audience. I would think those who are sticking around have a deep love for soap opera, and don't mind that it's so much more glum, whiny and (face it) ordinary in its intrigues than Housewives is. It's certainly not the disaster it was rumored to be over the summer, but I don't find it particularly entertaining, distinctive or moving (in the manner of a classic Herskovitz-Zwick drama like Once and Again or thirtysomething). Still, I'm keeping an eye on it, and if the numbers hold up, you shouldn't have to worry about its fate any time soon.



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Originally Posted by fredfa
Networks have already committed whatever money they have to the first episodes of their shows (13 in the case of Kidnapped). So that money is gone.

What they hope to do is stop the ratings bleeding -- so that the season averages, which have been very close in recent years, don't get permanently scarred by one or two real trukeys.

As for your second question, it was a major topic of discussion at this summer Television Critics Tour. All the networks promised to bring serialized shows to some conclusion, even if the ratings tanked.

I think NBC moving Kidnapped to Saturdays (rather than just pulling it entirely) is the Peacock's reaction to the debate.
Thanks fredfa


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Critic’s Notebook
A Kinder Cancellation
Kidnapped Goes Gentle Into That Good Saturday Night
By James Poniewozik Time Magazine television critic in Time’s ?Tuned In? blog Friday, Oct. 6, 2006

Saturday night, Elton John and Bernie Taupin once told us, is all right for fighting. Unless you're a TV show; moving to Saturday means it's time to give up the fight. This is the fate of Kidnapped. Shortly after NBC announced that the much-touted, little-watched new serial would end after a run of 13 episodes, the network today said the show will move to Saturdays at 9 p.m. E.T., starting October 21. (With Fox's Justice and Happy Hour on mere "hiatus," that means you won your office TV death pool if you picked Kidnapped.)

If there's a silver lining to this situation, it's that it may herald an era of kinder, gentler cancellation, at least for certain shows. With the vast number of serial dramas this season (shows that continue their plot from episode to episode, a la Lost and 24), TV executives were worried about viewer backlash if new series were cancelled without a chance to resolve their stories. Why would anyone ever start watching a show, they reasoned, if there was a better-than-even chance of getting engrossed in a mystery that would never be revealed?

With Kidnapped, NBC has decided to placate its remaining fans, and thus protect the chances of future serials, by moving the show where it can do the least damage, to Saturdays, and giving it a baker's dozen episodes to finish its story. With the exception of Fox, the broadcast networks have basically given up new programming on Saturday. Now the night has a new role: a hospice for terminal serials.

As for Kidnapped star Jeremy Sisto? I'm sure his former Six Feet Under sib Rachel Griffiths can always use a new brother.



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Originally Posted by fredfa
Critic’s Notebook
TV news you can use
'Smith' is gone, 'Heroes' gets a full season
From Maureen Ryan’s Chicago Tribune blog ?The Watcher? October 06, 2006

? Thanks to low ratings, NBC’s ?Kidnapped? has been exiled to Saturdays as of Oct. 21. According to news reports, the drama will wrap up its central mystery in a total of 13 episodes. ?Kidnapped’s? Wednesday spot will be taken over by ?Dateline NBC? as of Oct. 11.
Has this been confirmed?


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I have seen several stories which say the producers have been told to wrap the story up in 13 (rather than 22 or 24) episodes. If they weren't going to do that, I would assume NBC would just have jettisoned the show completely.


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Originally Posted by fredfa
With Kidnapped, NBC has decided to placate its remaining fans, and thus protect the chances of future serials, by moving the show where it can do the least damage, to Saturdays, and giving it a baker's dozen episodes to finish its story.
It would be pretty funny (but almost impossible) if somehow moving it to Saturday not only increases it's ratings but starts making the Saturday timeslot actually worthwhile again.


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Originally Posted by fredfa
I have seen several stories which say the producers have been told to wrap the story up in 13 (rather than 22 or 24) episodes. If they weren't going to do that, I would assume NBC would just have jettisoned the show completely.
Good to know, thanks.


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Best thing? Seeing all the Deadwood actors showing up. It's not a show but I've enjoyed seeing them.

Moved up higher: Jericho - it's growing on me.

Holding: Men in Trees

Has me wondering: Studio 60 - but I like Amanda Peet, Chandler, and Josh...well you know who I mean.

Off the radar - nothing so far, anything that's already been canned never caught my eye anyway.


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Originally Posted by AAF
Has me wondering: Studio 60 - but I like Amanda Peet, Chandler, and Josh...well you know who I mean.
Me too, but I actually thought this weeks episode was pretty good, or maybe I was just paying more attention.


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The clumsy connecting to the heartland / Christians "okay we checked that box this week" pieces seem poorly done to me. Those audiences don't want to be pandered to, they just don't want to be insulted.

I'm also have a real hard time caring about the tribulations of network honchos (or is that honchettes?)...oh it's rough at the top trying to entertain the peasants.

But I'm still giving it a chance.


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Originally Posted by humdinger70
What are ABC's plans for the next run of "Dancing with the Stars"? Will there be another one in the spring, or do we have to wait until September 2007?
Originally Posted by fredfa
I believe they plan to start a new edition just in time for the February sweep, humdinger70.
Starting in March and ending in May sweeps would make more sense to spread it out more.


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TV Notebook
Fall Schedule Shuffle Begins
By Ben Grossman Broadcasting & Cable 10/9/2006 (Additional reporting by Jim Benson)

Despite a modest showing in Friday Night Lights' rookie outing, NBC is tentatively planning to back the show with a triple-header on Sunday night, Oct. 22, when its Sunday Night Football franchise takes a scheduled break during the World Series.

NBC will air the first three episodes of the football drama back to back from 8 to 11 p.m. ET, with additional airings on NBC and sister cable networks Bravo and USA.

The Tuesday 8 p.m. premiere of the high school football show, based on the book and movie of the same name, averaged a third-place 2.7 rating/8 share in the adult 18-49 demo in a highly competitive time slot against ABC's red-hot Dancing With the Stars, CBS' steady NCIS and Fox's coverage of a Yankees-Tigers playoff baseball game.

As NBC sought to salvage its new drama, pieces began to fall in place last week on all the networks' schedules.

CBS pulled new drama Smith after three weeks, replacing it with a rerun of CSI Tuesday, Oct. 10 and with encores of Criminal Minds the following two weeks. There has been no decision yet about which series will permanently replace Smith. It had steadily declined, from a 3.6 rating/10 share in adults 18-49 to a 3.3/9 and a 2.8/8 its third week.

The network also is looking to protect underperforming rookie sitcom The Class on Mondays, flipping it with sophomore How I Met Your Mother, which will now lead off the night at 8.

Fox is shaking up its schedule on four nights. The network's latest unscripted show, The Rich List, a quiz show hosted by English TV personality Eamonn Holmes, is slated to air Wednesdays at 9, replacing the relocated Justice.

Fox will flip its Tuesday-night schedule after the World Series, returning House to 9 and pushing Standoff up to lead off the night. Justice shifts to Mondays at 9 out of Prison Break, and Vanished gets banished to Fridays at 8.

Its rookie comedies 'Til Death and Happy Hour will return to the schedule on Thursday nights at 8, leading into The O.C., which returns Nov. 2 after baseball. With the changes, Nanny 911 goes to the bench from its Friday 9 p.m. time slot.

With Kidnapped off to a sluggish start, NBC will wrap up the serialized drama's storyline in the 13 episodes of the original order. Dateline NBC moves from Saturdays into Kidnapped's Wednesday 10 p.m. berth until the episodes run out, and the drama will move to 9 p.m. Saturday starting on Oct. 21.

ABC has decided to postpone the planned Oct. 17 launch of Knights of Prosperity indefinitely and will leave Dancing With the Stars at 90 minutes on Tuesdays.

On Tuesday, Nov. 28, ABC will bring rookie comedy Big Day off the bench for a 9 p.m. debut. It was originally scheduled to air Thursdays at 8, but the network decided to pull both it and Notes From the Underbelly off the schedule at the beginning of the season for Ugly Betty. Now it will be used to help boost Help Me Help You.

And The CW, in an effort to pump life back into Everybody Hates Chris, is swapping its Sunday and Monday schedules beginning Oct. 9. The network will re-air each of its comedies' season premieres on its new night and then return to new episodes the following week—in direct competition with sitcoms on CW co-owner CBS.

Beginning Sunday, Oct. 15, CW will use an encore of its returning power America's Top Model to kick off the night at 7, followed by 7th Heaven and rookie drama Runaway.—



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TV Notebook
Winners and Losers
Early results for the season's new shows
By Stephen Battaglio TV Guide

Fumble! You can bet that was one of the many football clich?s that rang through the halls of NBC's competitors when the ratings for the premiere of Friday Night Lights came in. Despite rave reviews and a promotional blitz (couldn't resist), the new series about Texas high-school football drew 7.2 million viewers and finished behind ABC's Dancing with the Stars and CBS' NCIS in the 18-to-49 demographic that advertisers care about most.

But every network has got some issues to deal with as new shows continue to roll out this fall. Here's an early run through the ratings winners and losers so far.


Heroes: Sci-fi fans have turned this into what looks like a breakout hit. Even though the show dropped more than two million viewers from its premiere, it was still very strong with younger viewers, especially men aged 18 to 49. The key now will be to keep pleasing the type of rabid but fickle fans that such genre shows can attract.

Jericho: The Biz didn't believe this show — about life in a small town after a nuclear holocaust — had any chance of surviving. But its ratings mushroomed in the second week, which is always a good sign, and made CBS competitive on Wednesdays at 8 for the first time since Bill Paley left this mortal coil.

Brothers & Sisters: Despite having the stench of failure all summer (cast changes, new executive producer, reshoots), this soapy drama is doing a better job of holding on to its Desperate Housewives lead-in than Boston Legal did, and that's the bar ABC execs are using to measure its success.


Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: NBC execs can talk all they want about upscale viewers who are tuning in to the new drama from Aaron Sorkin. But it doesn't matter how much money they have if the ratings continue to decline. This show has lost viewers in every half hour it's been on the air.

Kidnapping shows: Both NBC's Kidnapped and Fox's Vanished couldn't even get people in the door for their season-long yarns about missing people. You won't see anyone try this concept again soon. We think.

'Til Death: Fox was asking a lot of its new Brad Garrett sitcom to have it open in the very competitive 8 pm/Thursday time slot against CBS' Survivor, NBC's My Name Is Earl and ABC's Ugly Betty, which rode into the hour with a lot of preseason buzz. But Fox is being patient. Insiders say 'Til Death (and Happy Hour) will be back in November after baseball coverage is over. Hey, you can afford to be patient when you've got American Idol coming back...

Smith: We were dazzled by the cast in the pilot episode, but likable villains are a tough sell these days, even if John Wells is writing their dialogue. This CBS drama (became) the first new show to get yanked.



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TV Notebook
Televisory: Updated:
"Kidnapped" dumped on Saturdays, Fox revamps; "Heroes" gets 22
By Tim Goodman San Francisco Chronicle in his TV blog ?The Bastard Machine?

Though NBC had previously hinted that "Kidnapped" - a fine serialized drama that failed to launch - would be cut to 15 episodes and would have some kind of resolution built in to the conclusion, the network took the unusual step Friday of announcing that it would bump "Kidnapped" to Saturday nights.

It might as well have said, "We dragged it out back and shot it dead. Here's a map to its shallow grave."

Saturday nights are a graveyard for television. There's a reason the networks don't program that night with new shows - nobody watches. So now NBC is replacing the series with "Dateline NBC" and "Kidnapped" gets the 9 p.m. graveyard shift. Ah, but not next Saturday. That spot is already commited to the "NASCAR Nextel Cup Bank of America 500." So if you want to watch "Kidnapped," your next episode is Oct. 21. (Same day A&E burns off "MI-5." It's like some kind of weird "Bring Out Yer Dead" day.)

In other news, Fox announced that, post baseball, it would move "Justice" to Monday's at 9 p.m., starting Oct. 23. That's the old "Vanished" slot. "Vanished" is on the move as well, post-baseball. It will now air Friday's at 8 p.m., starting Oct. 27.

That puts "Justice" up against "Heroes" and "Vanished" up against "Ghost Whisperer" and the returning "Crossing Jordan." Good luck to both.

For those of you juggling serialized dramas this year - and that would pretty much be all of us - NBC has give you a safe harbor by announcing that "Heroes" has been picked up for a full 22 episode order. So if you're worried a show you love - complicated mysteries, unanswered questions - might get "Kidnapped" from the schedule before answers can be given, at least you know that "Heroes" is not going to be one of them.

Then again, what a full season pick up usually means to TV writers is this: "Oh, thank God, we don't have to come up with an ending." You can bet the "Heroes" writers are already hatching plans about stretching out or delaying any "reveals." Not to be cynical.

Other networks should put up or shut-up right now, too. If they had the audacity (read: balls) to back a boatload of serialized dramas, they ought to do wary viewers a favor and show some unflagging loyalty. Otherwise, unsure what's going to happen, more viewers are going to opt out. It's already happening. The trend can only be reversed one way: Put your mouth where your money is, and say you're standing by Show X for the full 22.

"Heroes" leads into "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip." And not enough of the audience is hanging around. I'd say "Heroes" is a bad lead-in - completely incompatible, but that ship has sailed. Now Aaron Sorkin is in a tough spot. NBC has re-upped (and raved about) the series in front of his. And no doubt Sorkin's phone did not ring today with news of the pick-up. (Well, you can bet it did, in the form of some back-channel heads up and/or maybe a pep talk from NBC.) But now every slip in audience share for "Studio 60" is damning. The show needs to move.



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