Friday, May 30, 2008

Glad We Had This Time Together

What a week. "Captain" Jack Duffy, Earle Hagen, Dick Martin, Sidney Pollack, now Harvey Korman. The guy who couldn't keep a straight face on The Carol Burnett Show passed away Thursday in Los Angeles. He was 81.
Check out his obit here in the Los Angeles Times and, if they haven't corrected it yet, check out the accompanying photo. It is a black and white shot from the Burnett Show with studly straight man Lyle Waggoner mis-identified as Korman. Damn, you want to get those things right if you are the newspaper of record in the industry town (the Times probably just downsized their photo department, they're cutting everywhere else).
Korman and his old pal Tim Conway appeared before critics at press tour a few years ago and it was just like old times. Conway could, and did, always crack Korman up. It was playful and genuine and always endeared them to viewers.
A good early example: The Dentist Sketch, something the duo performed live all across North America. Check it out below:

Four In A Row For American Idol

The final 2007-08 TV season ratings are in. Here is a link to the Top-20 U.S. network shows of the year as well as a link to the Top-20 demo hits.
The finish line for the annual ratings race, tracked since 1950 by Nielsen, is generally regarded as the end of the May Sweeps. American Idol (won last week by David Cook, above) easliy topped both lists for the fourth year in a row, tying Gunsmoke (1958-61) and one behind the five-in-a-row streaks of All In Ther Family (1972-76) and The Cosby Show (1986-90).
The list is dominated by reality fare unaffected by the writer's strike; American Idol and Dancing with the Stars took the Top-6 spots in U.S. households. Scripted shows, naturally, took the biggest hit. CSI dropped from 4 to 9 and Grey's Anatomy was down from 6 to 12 year to year.
The scariest drop, however, was among the networks themselves. ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, The CW and Spanish language broadcaster Univision were down 8.2% in households and 11.8% in the younger demo.
Absolutely factor in the damage done by the writer's strike, but there's more to this grim picture. Fox was the only net to break even year-to-year; ABC, CBS and NBC were all down double digits in the demos, with CBS plummeting as much as 23% among the youngest viewers.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

This Just In: CBC Run By Heels

A colleague called me out on a comment I made a post or two back about CBC executive director of network programming Kirstine Layfield (left). She objected to the way I described her at CBC's 2008 press launch Monday. I think the offending line was "kittenish programming mistress."
Looking back the line may have been a little catty. I did not, for example, describe CBC vice president Richard Stursberg as "doggish," or "master." I did sorta say he should duck out of rifle range next time he takes a podium in the CBC atrium. So far, nobody has objected to me writing that.
I guess I was reacting to the way Layfield dresses up for these things. A friend in this business uses the wonderful expression "cleaving for the media." Layfield doesn't cleave, but she does look runway stylish at these things, how is that. She has a striking figure, and with her long, blond hair makes a strong visual impression.
The other interesting thing is, almost every programming boss in network television these days, on both sides of the border, is a woman. In Canada, Susanne Boyce has been crafting the CTV schedule for over a decade. At Global, Barb Williams and Kathy Dore are in charge.
In the U.S., CBS CEO Les Moonves handed the keys to Nina Tassler several years ago, with Nancy Tellem even further up the corporate ladder. The CW is run by Dawn Ostroff. Gail Berman called the shots at Fox before Peter Liguori and Kevin O'Reilly took over.
The point is, after dozens of press tours and upfronts and network this's and that's, I have never once noticed what Nina Tassler was wearing, or Gail Berman, or any other female programming executive.
So maybe I just wanted Layfield to know I appreciated the effort. Or maybe, if there had been any new shows announced Monday, I wouldn't have been so fixated on the footwear.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

TV Music Man Earle Hagen Dies at 88

Earle Hagen, composer of The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Andy Griffith Show themes, died Monday in Los Angeles. He was 88, which is a sweet number to reach if you are a composer, especially if you play the piano (88 keys). Read his L.A. Times obit here.
A former big band trombonist, Hagen arranged a version of the old traditional tune "Londonderry Air" for producer Sheldon Leonard for Make Room For Daddy back in 1953. That led to an association which saw Hagen compose the theme songs for all of Leonard's TV shows, including Andy Griffith, Dick Van Dyke and I Spy. He also did the very evocative theme from That Girl for Van Dyke writer/producers Bill Persky and Sam Denoff. In all, he did the themes for 3000 TV episodes over a 33 year span.
What I never knew until I read a few of today's obits was that Hagen himself whistled the simple and unforgettable Griffith theme. Here's the story of how he came up with the ditty from the Times obit:

In his autobiography, "Memoirs of a Famous Composer -- Nobody Ever Heard Of," Hagen wrote that while sitting at home "wracking my brain for an idea for a theme for the Griffith show, it finally occurred to me that it should be something simple, something you could whistle. With that in mind, it took me about an hour to write the Andy Griffith theme."

That night, he and several musicians recorded a demo of the theme for the opening of the show, with Hagen doing the whistling and his 11-year-old son Deane doing the finger-snapping. The next morning, Hagen took a copy of the demo to executive producer Leonard's home.As Hagen recalled: "He listened and said, 'Great! I'll do [the show's opening] at Franklin Canyon Lake with Andy and Ronny [Howard] walking along the bank with a couple of fishing poles over their shoulders."


Pretty smooth. Click here and whistle along.

Maltin Helps Spread Rumours

Author, film historian and long time Entertainment Tonight correspondent Leonard Maltin just posted a mini-review of my book Truth and Rumors: The Reality Behind TV's Most Famous Myths. You can read it here on his engrossing blog for film fans, Leonard Maltin's Movie Crazy.
Maltin's love of movies and pop culture in general is infectious and you may find yourself spending as much time at his site as you would at a good book store. His DVD recommendations are the best place to get a round up of new and cool cinema treasures for home screens. Check out his review of Saved From The Flames (scroll down from his current reviews, including a bang on assessment of the new Indiana Jones flick), a wonderfully eclectic DVD collection of rare and lost films, and tell me you don't want to run right out and buy it.

CBC Goes From Momentum to Jeopardy

Ever have to throw a party when you are broke? You drag out last year's decorations, serve warmed-over appetizers. If you spend anywhere you spend it on a snazzy pair of new red shoes.

That was CBC's 2008-09 season preview yesterday, held in the echo-y atrium of the Toronto bunker. What is left of the Toronto newspaper press mingled with CBC staffers as the executives and talent mingled for a 20-minutes presentation.

The 10-storey space was draped in white curtains with giant banners hung from balconies depicting the usual suspects: Rick Mercer, Don Cherry, Peter Mansbridge. A dull clip reel was spun for the assembled, with scenes from The Tudors and This Hour Has 22 Minutes mixed in with shots of Gavin Crawford twirling near a highway cloverleaf to promote How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?
CBC boss Richard Stursberg took the podium first, despite the fact that the place was a sniper's paradise. I think he said something about the season just concluded being the network's biggest year ever, but I couldn't really hear it--the sound system was crap. Kittenish programming mistress Kirstine Layfield (above) then stood on the riser to show off her fabulous pins and red shoes.
Between the two of them, not one new show announcement. That's a first for a network upfront.
Hey, if you claim to be on a roll, and CBC did get a couple of new shows sampled this past winter thanks to the U.S. writers strike, keep it going with some news. Instead, silver trays of tarts were passed around to the crowd, and even those looked left over from last year. Your tax dollars at work.
Layfield gave a shout out to CBC talent standing closer to the stage. Good to see David Suzuki again, and Hana Gartner, and Wendy Mesley, but where was the new?
Was it that CBC will be showing Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune this fall? What is this--1983?

Alex Trebek was in the house, and I had a nice chat with him after the presentation. The Sudbury-native looks hale and hearty despite a recent health scare and is planning to take his kids on a road tour of Eastern Canada this summer.

Jeopardy! is still a huge draw in the country, cracking the Canadian Top-30 many weeks of the year on CTV. It could wind up as CBC's top-rated series next season, which is great if you covet viewers 55+. Trouble is, there's got to be a reason CTV is shedding them beyond the fact the series both skew old.

Which brings us back to the problem with yesterday's CBC bash. What's needed in television, besides a lot of money and luck, is a killer instinct. This is a rough, competitive business. When Global gave Mike Bullard a late night TV showcase after a six year run at CTV, CTV murdered him by programming red hot The Daily Show opposite him and starting it a full five minutes earlier. Bullard's show was dead before it opened.

Another example: here's what you see as you leave the CBC building heading west:

After an upbeat winter where new shows like The Week The Women Went, Heartland, The Border and Sophie found traction, if not spectacular ratings, the CBC needed to hit 'em with the left. Instead, they are once again sitting out the fall, coasting on same old until January and leaving already announced new offerings like The Wild Roses and The Session on the bench until 2009.

That is a missed opportunity. The U.S. networks are still reeling from the effects of the 100-day writers' strike. Fewer pilots were made resulting in way fewer new U.S. offerings this fall--translating into fewer new imports on CTV and Global. Aside from two, maybe three of those U.S. rookies, including the new Joss Whedon/J.J. Abrams shows, there is very little buzz about the fall.

If the CBC has something cool and new in development they weren't teasing anybody with it yesterday. Instead their schedule on paper is a photocopy of the one the year before, with 25-year-old game show Jeopardy! at 7:30 the only significant addition.

CBC will own the 7-8 p.m. hour next season--among seniors. Coronation Street is a consistent draw which had no carry over last season, so Jeopardy! will keep the grandparents glued (as will Wheel of Fortune, another CTV pick up, which will air on CBC at 5:30.). That might also give CBC's 8 o'clock shows a boost and there is some strength there with Dragon's Den, Mercer and Little Mosque.

CBC also wisely has ordered more episodes of favorite shows next season, with Little Mosque up to 20. The show has been back in production for a few months and Carlo Rota told me the new scripts are a better blend of the funny from last year and the cultural tweaks from the rookie season.

Yesterday's press interview sessions, comfortably set up in cozy little stalls by the Glenn Gould theatre, were friendly and efficient, nicely run all around. I spoke there with Amber Marshall of Heartland. Her Calgary-based horsey series restored some of that family vibe CBC used to own on Sundays. She's saddling up for 18 new episodes next season. The girl is way into horses and explained the difference between a quarter horse and a Nickelback.

Found Sophie's Natalie Brown (left) to be as cute and winning in person as she is on her series. The girl is self deprecating and unassuming, tossing credit for Sophie to costars. She readily agreed to pose for a digi snap and didn't care which one I chose to use, secure in the knowledge that it is impossible to take a bad photograph of Natalie Brown.

Chatted up a few cast members of The Border, who start back to work tomorrow in Toronto. Graham Abbey and producer Peter Raymont invited me down to the set. James McGowan said he was also a TV Feeds My Family fan. The show, I was told, was going to heat up in season two, have a darker edge, stay ripped from the headlines. The Border is a good show and easy to root for and will need to kick ass when it returns this October against the full strength of the U.S. lineup.

The comedians were all in the house, but they seemed a bit orphaned this year. Don Ferguson, joined by Farcers Craig Lauzon and Alan Park, was well into his summer beard already. Cathy Jones and Crawford were representing 22 Minutes. Ron James, who has another New Year's Eve special on the schedule (Manitoba Bound), was talking up his hosting duties at this summer's Just For Laughs closing gala.

Still, there was a sense that the current CBC brass saw its sketch comedy stars on posters hanging from the rafters, like relics of past glories, much as the Maple Leafs see their Stanley Cup days. Nobody said it, but you could smell it. Comedians are like dogs, they hear it first.

The question hanging over the room was who gets the Air Farce Live slot once that series packs it in after 16 seasons on New Year's eve. The answer seems to be Marketplace, with Dr. Who penciled in from 9-10 next fall on the official CBC schedule. Canada, go laugh someplace else.

There were rumbles in the room that scripts have been ordered and shows have been developed for that slot but CBC kept it all locked in the vault yesterday. It is a strange strategy--even if you really have nothing to announce, the rule is make something up, created some buzz at any cost, throw the press a bone. Instead we got tarts.

Say Goodnight, Dick

I have a real affection for comedy duos. Laurel & Hardy and Abbott & Costello always make me laugh. Wayne & Shuster were the dudes in Canada, while the Two Ronnies, Morecambe and Wise and Peter Cook and Dudley Moore were a stitch in England. Stiller & Meara and Nichols and May, took things in a smart, war between the sexes direction. In Etobicoke, of course, it was Bullock & Brioux, but no sense bringing the Civil War into this.
As a youngster, growing up watching TV in the '60s and '7os, the top comedy duos were pretty easy to name: The Smothers Brothers and Rowan & Martin.
The Smothers are still with us and you could write a book about their impact and influence, not just on comedy but on society. In fact, my pal David Bianculli is doing just that. Read about his Smothers book deal here at his terrific site, TV Worth Watching.
Rowan & Martin weren't as political or as provocative as the Smothers Brothers but they sure were popular. Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In was the No. 1 show two seasons in a row as the '70s began, launching several long-lasting comedy careers with Lily Tomlin, Goldie Hawn, Ruth Buzzi, Judy Carne, Arte Johnson, Alan Sues, Jo-Anne Worley, Teresa Graves and Henry Gibson becoming household names.
Dick Martin, the loopier half of the team (Ray Richmond in The Hollywood Reporter described him as an "adorable dork"), always looked like he didn't have a care in the world. He was adept at playing dumb, with well-tanned Dan Rowan serving as the laid-back, more sophisticated straight man of the team. They were almost peripheral to the zany sketch series, standing in front of joke walls and linking dozens of black out skits with Dick's little "I didn't know that?" or "Sock it to me" moments. "It was a well-structured, non-structured show," Martin was quoted once as saying. "I never thought of us as hosts. We were two guys walking through a mélange of madness."
While that was true the duo had great timing and chemistry and oodles of charm. They looked like they liked each other, they were fun to watch, and you can look that up in your Funk & Wagnalls.
Martin, who died Saturday at 86, went on to have a second career as a TV comedy director, working everything from The Bob Newhart Show to Family Ties.
His passing reminded me of a story I heard a few years ago from George Schlatter (left with Martin in 2003), the producer of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. Schlatter was prowling around Hollywood producer Bob Evans fabled retreat at a press tour party a few years ago when I thanked him for all the laughs back in the day. Schlatter, who has an aura of Orson Welles about him, talked about how NBC was always trying to revive the show, which went off the air in 1973. The young punks running the studios today wouldn't know a Laugh-In from a Show of Shows was the gist of his rant. He once took a meeting with a couple of NBC suits, who told him they would green light a revival of the show, but only if it was fronted again by both Rowan and Martin. Anything less would be a deal breaker, they told the producer. That's not going to be easy to arrange, said Schlatter, who informed the programmers that Rowan had passed away in 1987.
Now both comedians have passed away to the big bippy in the sky. Still, the way things are going at NBC, don't be surprised it they don't somehow wind up on some part of NBC's new 52-week schedule. The can't be any stiffer than the American Gladiators.
Here's a YouTube clip of Rowan & Martin in action:


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Departure Day for Denis And Gray

Marilyn Denis fans will want to catch today's CityLine (Citytv at 10 a.m.). After 19 years, it is her final show as host.
In the past, when CityLine needed a face lift, Denis would simply go out and get one! Not this time. Denis was caught in a corporate tug of war after CTV gobbled up the CHUM TV biz, then was forced to sell off Toronto flagship City when the CRTC ruled no doubling up in the T.O. market, bub. When Rogers acquired City, CTV claimed Denis as one of their stars thanks to her long-running CHUM FM morning radio gig (Roger, Rick & Marilyn).
So today's Fashion Friday is Denis's CityLine swan song. There will be no bells, whistles or fireworks, just a quiet departure as CityLine searches for a new host to carry on the series. Denis the total pro was downplaying the departure when I spoke with her two weeks ago, getting Rogers' concern that the show must go on. Still, as the kids say, WTF?? Where's the big sendoff?Even posts about her departure have been deleted at the CityLine website, which is ridiculous. Imagine the hullabaloo when Oprah finally walks off her show. There will be confetti dropped from a million helicopters all across North America. The U.S. president, especially if it is OBama, will declare it "Oprah Day." Tom Cruise will go on a couch jumping rampage. But Rogers could not take out one industry ad thanking Denis for 19 seasons and wishing her well in the future? What does a person have to do in TV these days to get a gracious salute?
There's some talk CTV might set Denis up with her own new afternoon series in the near future. Look for them to give her the profile she deserves.
Also departing quietly today are the gang over in Calgary who put together Newsworld's afternoon newscasts. The decision was made several months ago to close the regional office and centralize production in Toronto, which seems exactly opposite to the CBC mandate of being the eyes and ears of Canada. That meant relocate or bust for several CBC Calgary staffers, including newsanchor David Gray, who I"ve had the pleasure of chatting with over the past few years as a guest on the newscasts. Another pal, producer Sandra Mills, is also a Calgary casualty, although she told me she's welcoming a bit of downtime in the short term. Hope to hear from them both soon as they call in from whichever broadcaster is smart enough to snap them up. In the meantime, tune in the Newsworld's CBC News Today with David Gray at 3 p.m. E.T. for a final blast of fresh Calgary air.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Has Idol Jumped Shark? Yeah Yeah Yeah

This week's radio chat with CHML's Scott Thompson follows up on the preceding post: Jack Duffy's lost legacy on Party Game. Gardiner Westbound, again, we salute you. You can listen in here.
There's also a brief mention of tonight's big event, the finale of American Idol, the results of which can be found someplace else. Some guy named David won.
I was stumped on the radio when Thompson asked when Idol jumped the shark but I have the answer now: it was back in March when these bland wannabees booted all those Beatle songs. That was the last week I watched and apparently a lot of other viewers bailed then too. That wasn't how it was supposed to happen. After six previous Beatle-less seasons, the producers finally landed the rights to pop music's biggest catalogue. It should have driven the show to new heights. Instead, you can track the steep rating decline of Idol to the weeks following the Beatle bust.
More than any other moment, Idol's Beatle Week underlined the essential weakness of the singing competition: that it is a karaoke charade, a contest to see who can be the best pop poser.
In 1964, The Beatles didn't conquer America, they rescued it from the stale doo-wop repertoire gumming up the charts at the time. It was an era when music was fake and Payola ruled. The Beatles were real, genuine and inspired. They sidelined all those over-groomed and manufactured American Bandstand bands. They put their leather black boots to pop karaoke in the '60s. Their music spoke to a generation because it was real and now and connected in a very personal way. That's way too much reality for a reality show, especially in an era of musical shallowness and fakery. Mariah Carey beating The Beatles for most No. 1 records? It's a marketing and accounting trick, and nobody is fooled, certainly not the downloading public. Asking these kids to sing Beatle songs only drove home the reality that American Idol was getting tiresome because it was less and less about the music and more and more about getting kids to speed dial somebody named David to victory. Sitting through two hours of product placements for that is way worse than two hours you'll never get back, and more people seem to have finally come to that conclusion.
Where does the show go from here? Back to Barry Manilow? Back to Paula sleeping with the finalists? Idol will come back next January and Fox promises changes (Simon will start wearing coloured T-shirts?) but it will never get back to where it once belonged.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sounds Like: Local TV Icon Captain Jack Duffy Dead at 81

Mention the name "Captain" Jack Duffy and if the other person smiles, he or she is between the ages of 45 and 55 and lkely grew up in the Toronto/Hamilton/Niagara region.
Duffy, who died Monday in Toronto at 81, was one of the stars of Party Game, a fondly-remembered suppertime charades series produced out of Hamilton, Ont.'s CHCH. (The Toronto Star's Richard Ouzounian has a tribute to Duffy here.)
Party Game ran for 11 seasons, from 1970 through 1980, and was basically a swingers party disguised as a charades show. The crummy basement paneling, shag carpeting, bad art and cheap-ass couches pre-dated (and likely influenced) Wayne's World. The laugh track was loud, jarring and completely unnecessary. The announcer was billed as "Gardiner Westbound," which is still funny if you commute between Toronto and Hamilton.
Hard to express the appeal of Party Game if you didn't live through it, but there was something very cool happening amidst all that corniness.
Duffy's "Home Team" charade mates were Dinah Christie and the late Billy Van and they were practically unbeatable at charades. Van was all id, a leering loose cannon. Christie was always professional, girlishly glamorous yet one of the boys. Duffy kinda made it all seem legit. He was an expert player, but he also had a face that made you think he had worked his way up through a 1001 burlesque halls. The Montreal-native started out as a CBC radio singer and even toured with the famed Tommy Dorsey band.
You can check out a clip of Captain Jack in action on YouTube here. (Somebody has disabled the embedding code, unfortunately.) What a blast from the past, that bit where a member of the Home Team would get right to the word by finding a sound alike and then chopping one hand through the alphabet.
That YouTube clip is probably the only place you can ever catch a glimpse of Party Game because 'CH, like a lot of other local market stations back in the days of bulky 2-inch tape, erased almost the entire run of the series, re-using the masters by taping over them. Only one or two original master tapes exist, or at least that was the case a few years ago when I interviewed Stacey Case in Toronto. He was the entrepreneur who hosted the Hilarious House of Frightenstein reunion in 2005, an homage to another 'CH classic starring Billy Van from the early '70s.
Case had rooted around in search of old Frightenstein and Party Game tapes, tracking down the producer of both series, Rafe Markowitz. The rumour that the Frightenstein masters had all been destroyed turned out to be false, thankfully (it airs now on TVLand), but, except for a few snippets, Party Game is probably history, as is almost the entire run of another 'CH classic, Tiny Talent Time, victims of the same tape-over thriftiness which has stolen so many hours of NBC's early Tonight Shows.
Christie had only one hour of Party Game in her personal collection when I spoke with her in 2005. If I'm wrong and more Party Game tapes exist, somebody clue me in and please clue in programmers at TVtropolis, TVLand or Deja-View--this stuff is like crack to Boomers.
There was certainly something intoxicating watching all those weekday afternoon shows back in 1970, '71, '72 and beyond. I was just transitioning from grade school to high school and after years of racing home to kiddie fare like Buffalo's bizarre time killer Commander Tom, the suspiciously well lubricated tomfoolery on shows like Match Game and Party Game was like staying up till midnight while the adults partied in the other room.
The original host of Party Game, former CHUM radio morning man Al Boliska, seemed to be in on the joke, a bit of a co-conspirator. When he died (on his 40th birthday), Bill Walker took over. The epitome of tone and diction, Walker was more formally trained as an announcer but always seemed a bit of a principal in that room, which kinda worked opposite bad boy Van. Walker also sported those wild '70s plaid jackets long before Grapes brought them all out of the closet.
A rotating series of Canadian guest celebrities would be booked each week to play the other team. Jayne Eastwood got in on a few games, as did Dave Broadfoot, but few stand out as much as buxom Quebec actress Nicole Morin. Zut alors! I'm sure I wasn't the only horny 13-year-old tuning in each week to see if she was on the series.
What's missing more than anything on TV today is a sense of playfulness. Party Game had it in spades. Captain Jack set the tone. One syllable, sounds like "tank." Thanks Captain Jack.

It's Starting: First 90210 Promo

"You wanna live in the zip? You've gotta live by the code." That's the slogan for the new CW series 90210 (coming to Canada on Global). At least they kept the old theme song. Check it out below:



That's Shenae Grimes, first featured in the promo. She's the new Brenda Walsh. The 18-year-old Toronto lass is a grad of DeGrassi: The Next Generation. Lori Loughlin (Full House) plays her mom. (Why didn't they get Shannen Doherty?) Jessica Walter from Arrested Development plays "not your typical grandma." Where are Gob and Buster when you need them? Rob Estes has been added to the cast. OMFG! It's just like Gossip Girl!

Monday, May 19, 2008

House Hunting with Hebscher and Skelly

Heading to Hamilton, Ont., today to talk TV with Mark Hebscher and Donna Skelly on CHCH's Live @ 5:30. The topic? Big night of season finales tonight as May sweeps draws to a close Wednesday (with the finale of American Idol). Here are tonight's season enders and special events:
8:00 p.m.
Dancing With the Stars (ABC/CTV)
The Big Bang Theory (season finale; CBS/A-Channel)
American Gladiators (two hours; NBC, Citytv)
Bones (season finale; Fox/Global)
Gossip Girl (season finale; CW)
8:30 p.m.
How I Met Your Mother (season finale; CBS/E! )
9:00 p.m.
The Bachelorette (season premiere, two hours; ABC)
Two and a Half Men (season finale; CBS/ CTV)
House (season finale, part two; Fox/Global)
One Tree Hill (season finale; CW)
9:30 p.m.
Rules of Engagement (season finale; CBS/E!)
10:00 p.m.
CSI: Miami (season finale; CBS/CTV)
Medium (season finale; NBC)
The one to watch, of course, is House. Part I opened up last week with a bus crash involving Dr. House, who struggles mightily and dangerously to come up with one other passenger's name (trying not to spoil it here, but it sets up a pretty interesting House/Wilson dilemma next season). And what about that stripper scene with Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein)? That's not just House's fantasy. "Dance woman!"

Friday, May 16, 2008

Psst--Global's Got 90210 for 2008-09

Shhhh...don't let this get out, but Global just announced all their fall 2008 acquisitions. They've snagged some buzz shows, too, like the CW's 90210 remake (OMFG!), the new Joss Whedon/Eliza Dushku series Dollhouse and the Brit hit makeover Life on Mars.
You'd think they'd be excited about beating CTV to these hotties but its hard to tell by today's press release, slid under reporters doors after 5 p.m. ON THE FRIDAY BEFORE A LONG WEEKEND. This should ensure lots of play, maybe wedged between Family Circus and Zits on The Star's Saturday funny pages.
CanWest has picked up seven new dramas and four new comedies. Jennie Garth (above) is back as a recurring character on 90210, and Canadian Shenae Grimes (Degrassi: The Next Generation) is also on the CW series. Back in the days when Global was dominant (boasting hits like Seinfeld, Friends and Frasier), Beverly Hills, 90210 was one of their imported money magnets.
In past years, Global and CTV executives have thrown money around like drunken sailors, loading up on as many as 20 shows each in a crazy game of keep-a-way. This year, what with the cutbacks in pilots and readiness south of the border due to the writers strike, there were fewer shows to choose from. Which is good, because, in the last year or so, Global and CTV have spent billions acquiring specialty networks and other broadcasters like CHUM and, well, their money is kinda tied up.
Global has set some kind of speed record getting their 2008-09 announcement out there, just one day after the last U.S. network's upfront in New York. Traditionally, Canadian network buyers spend the next week screening and buying. This year, Global cut deals in advance, getting a jump on the NBC content when that network spilled the beans early. They've gone down to LA anyway. Some habits are hard to kick.
Global also had to be aggressive. That writers' strike killed them in December-through-March, and still hurts with shows like 24 and Heroes sidelined until September or January. Global's big dependence on scripted fare--combined with CTV's rights to reality hits like Dancing With The Stars and American Idol--have kept Global well back in the weekly Canadian Top-30.
Will these new shows help turn them around? Expectations are low so far but you never know in television.
Besides the above-mentioned shows, Global has picked up the mid-season series Harper's Island, a murder mystery starring Bill Pullman, and the comedy Kath and Kim, an Aussie makeover starring Molly Shannon and Selma Blair as a dysfunctional mother/daughter duo living in suburbia. They also have their previously announced NBC acquisitions Knight Rider, My Own Worst Enemy (starring Christian Slater as a split personality super spy), the Office spinoff and The Philanthropist, an hour drama about a vigilante philanthropist (he kills people with money?). They've also snagged the mid-season Fox animated series Sit Down, Shut Up, from Arrested Development creator Mitchell Hurwitz and featuring the voices of several Arrested stars, as well as Worst Week, a comedy about a couple on the verge of marriage, with Kurtwood Smith (That '70s Show) as a cranky dad.
There it is, but, please, don't tell anyone, it's a secret. Have a nice long holiday weekend. Global's official upfront pressapalooza takes place June 4 in Toronto, although, haven't they just scooped themselves? Maybe--gasp--they've saved up a couple of big new Canadian content announcements. Hey, things are a changin'.

The O'Reilly Factor

Okay, this is irresistible. Bill O'Reilly's Inside Edition temper tantrum (already a big hit on the Internet), dance mix version.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Olbermann Goes Ballistic

Whoa. There goes that Presidential Medal of Freedom for Keith Olbermann. Take a look at this two-hander from last night's show on MSNBC:



Olbermann has been pointing out that George W. Bush is a dummy for years, but even for him, this was turning up the heat. Sure, it is open season on Bush, especially now that he is a lame duck leader sidelined by one of the most stirring presidential elections in memory. But you can't accuse Olbermann of simply piling on with the pack. He, along with PBS veteran commentator Bill Moyers, have consistently been outspoken critics of the Bush administration.
Still, I can't recall anyone else on a U.S.-based all news channel ripping into Bush with phrases like "bone-headedly wrong," or basically telling the president of the United States to "shut the hell up."
What set Olbermann off if you haven't screened the clip (and you'll need to set aside 12 minutes, but it's worth it) is a recent interview where Bush told a reporter he gave up golf out of respect for the U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. It's a statement Olbermann calls "ludicrous, infuriating, holier-than-thou."
The one time ESPN sportscaster was at the last TCA tour in July of 2007, where he took questions from critics. When I caught up with him at the NBC after party I suggested he seemed out on a limb over some of the anti-Bush rants he had done up to that point. Olbermann said the real guy with guts was that commentator up in Canada at the CBC--meaning Rex Murphy! Olbermann said Murphy was saying things about the war in Iraq and the Bush administration that no U.S. commentator would dare express.
Olbermann may be a fan of Murphy but he is a disciple of Edward R. Murrow. It goes way beyond the shared "good night, and good luck" sign off, Olbermann's obvious homage to the master CBS newsman. In an era when Dan Rather is history and Walter Cronkite ancient history, it is good to see somebody like Olbermann give props to the past.
For my money, however, the devotion goes a little too far. Look at how Olbermann mimics Murrow's mannerisms, right down to the head down pauses between reads to the camera. All that is missing is the cigarette haze.
More admirable is Olbermann's careful use of language, another Murrow hallmark. Olbermann's rants are precise and well crafted, smart and fun at the same time. This one is punctuated with genuine anger and fearless rhetoric. It is good to see, especially coming from a network owned by a conglomerate which profits from Bush's ramp up of the industrial military complex. Olbermann may be borrowing stature from Murrow, but he is clearly also earning it on his own.

No Sign Of Intelligence At Fox

Arrested Development fans, rejoice. Fox has officially ordered a new series from Mitchell Hurwitz.
It is one of six new shows the No. 1 broadcaster in the United States unveiled today in New York at their annual upfront before advertisers.
There is no sign, however, of Intelligence on the network's new schedule. Creator Chris Haddock (above with Intelligence's Matt Frewer) had teamed with successful showrunner John Wells (ER, The West Wing) on a reversioning of his gritty CBC drug caper. Haddock said last week in a TV, Eh? podcast (find it here) that Hollywood was impressed with the actors and scripts. Not impressed enough, apparently, to find room for it on their 2008-09 schedule. (Maybe this means it could turn up where it belongs, on Fox's cable network FX, home of great, dark dramas such as Damages, Rescue Me and The Shield).
We'll also have to wait for the new Hurwitz show, which is a mid season pickup. Sit Down, Shut Up, an animated comedy, focuses on eight vain and egocentric high school teachers at a Northeastern fishing town who so don't care abut their students. Arrested holdovers Jason Bateman, Toronto-native Will Arnett and Henry Winkler will lend voice, as will SNL veterans Cheri Oteri and Wil Forte.
Bateman is also directing one of the two new shows premiering this fall: Do Not Disturb, set at a hip New York City hotel. Jerry O'Connell (Carpoolers) stars as the hotel manager. Robert Wagner (who plays "R.J.") owns the joint. Celebrity clients love the place, which leaves the door wide open for more of those Britney Spears-style guest shots.
Fringe, from cult show creator J.J. Abrams (Felicity, Alias), stars an eclectic cast (Blair Brown from Altered States, Boston Legal's Mark Valley, Dawson's Creek's Joshua Jackson) in a sci-fi tale about a doomed plane load of passengers who land at Boston's Logan airport. What the hell happened aboard flight 627?
Starting next January, when American Idol returns and things traditionally heat up at Fox, is a new series from the J.J. Abrams of the '90s, Joss Whedon (Firefly, Buffy The Vampire Slayer): Dollhouse stars easy on the eyes Eliza Dushku (Tru Calling) as a super agent who has her personality wiped out so she can be anybody the agency wants her to be, a pawn in somebody else's game. Where can I get me one of those machines?
Fox, naturally, also has a whopper of a reality series: Secret Millionaire will plant some actual rich person (Donald Trump without his lid? Joe Millionaire?) in with a bunch of needy folks in search of every day heroes. If one steps up they win at least $100 grand of the wealthy person's loot. It is the old '60s series The Millionaire (if anybody remembers that) done over as a reality series.
The other mid-season entry is The Cleveland Show, another animated newcomer headed for Sunday nights in 2009, from Family Guy's Seth MacFarlane. The spin off finds Cleveland Brown (get it?) broken-hearted after his girl dumps him for another guy. When her marriage goes sour, she runs back to Cleveland with her two odd kids. They move to Stoolbend, Va., meet up with some wacky neighbors, talking bears...you get the picture.
As reported earlier, Fox dumped last season's much-touted comedy Back To You, leaving Kelsey Grammar steamed and pleading with his old buddy Les Moonves at CBS to pick it up (not so far). A site has already been established to save this show, which is worth the effort if just to keep Fred Willard on the air. Saved from cancellation is Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Prison Break (returning August 25), 'Til Death and Don't Forget The Lyrics, which airs its season finale tonight. The Moment of Truth has also sleazed back on to the Fox schedule.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Psychics See Into CBS's Future

Unlike ABC, which could only ready two, CBS has five new series starting next fall. Missing from their upfront announcement at Carnegie Hall in New York this afternoon was a rumored, 11th hour pickup of the dumped Fox comedy Back To You, although CBS does have a new show titled The Eleventh Hour (not to be confused with the CTV series of the same name watched by dozens across Canada a few years ago).
This Eleventh Hour is from mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer. The Legend of Zorro's Rufus Sewell (above) stars as a science brainiac who roams the globe solving planet problems. Hey, isn't this a rip off of ReGenesis? If you're gonna steal a Canadian show, like Cold Case did with Cold Squad, at least steal the right title!
The Mentalist stars Simon Baker (from The Guardian) as a dude with psychic abilities who gives clues to the cops. Like Medium, only, well, exactly like Medium. Tim Kang, Amanda Righetti, Shaun Toub, Robin Tunney and Owain Yeoman also star.
The Ex List features another psychic, who tells a single woman in her thirties (Elizabeth Reaser) she has already met then man she is going to marry. The woman then sets out to re-visit every dude she ever dated. This chick is going to seem a tad skanky by the 100 episode mark.
Somehow there are no psychics in the two comedies CBS ordered:
Worst Week, a remake of a Brit hit, is a single camera comedy about a couple (Jericho's Kyle Bornheimer and Kitchen Confidential's Erinn Hayes) coping with clashing lifestyles and families before their wedding. The good news is that That '70s Show crank Kurtwood Smith (Red) is in on the fun.
Project Gary teams showkillers Jay Mohr and Paula Marshall as divorced parents who share custody of their two kids. Har-dee-har-har-har!
Another "interactive" drama, Harper's Island, is ordered for mid-season. it is about a serial killer lurking on an island off Seattle.
CBS gave The New Adventures Of Old Christine a full season order of 22 episodes after reports surfaced that ABC was waiting to scoop it out of CBS's trash bin. The Rules Of Engagement has also been rescued as a mid-season replacement series. The Unit has been spared but moved to Sundays.
Gone, as expected, is the rookie vampire drama Moonlight. Reports that it might resurface on The CW have been shot down. CBS also drove a stake through Cane, Jericho, Shark and Kid Nation.

Kimmel And Bits

The Hollywood Reporter has posted Jimmy Kimmel's best lines from the ABC upfront this week. Kimmel has hosted the Manhattan bash the past few years. Among his keepers from Tuesday's event: "Here at ABC we’re very excited about both our new shows." And: "NBC are calling it their 'infront' this year because they’re just in front of the CW." Read the rest of them here.

Nicotine Jones and the Temple of Walgreens

Some guests come on late night talk shows, work their movie, make with the nice friendly happy talk, move down the couch. Then there's Shia LaBeouf, a guest last night on Late Show with David Letterman:



LeBeouf turned an embarrassing situation into nine minutes of gold on Letterman. Somebody send this kid a carton of smokes. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull opens May 22.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Devil Made Them Do It

Finally a little good news for the Vancouver TV biz--Reaper has been renewed.
The CW announced their fall 2008 schedule at their upfront today in New York, and the Vancouver-based comedy, which features Ray Wise as the Devil as well as Ontario-native Tyler Labine, will return as a mid-season replacement. Several other Vancouver crews are out of work following cancellations of Aliens In America, Men In Trees and Bionic Woman. Each U.S. series typically employs between 100 and 200 Canadians.
The CW had such a horrible season in 2007-08, a U.S. station chain is blaming the fledgling network for forcing it into bankruptcy protection.
One new project already has some borrowed buzz: a remake of Beverly Hills, 90210. The new series, simply called 90210, will feature original series star Jennie Garth as a recurring character. Lori Loughlin (Summerland) and Jessica Walter (Arrested Development) are also on board. There was no mention of Tori Spelling on today's CW release.
And--OMFG!!--The CW has a new series called Surviving The Filthy Rich, which sounds like Gossip Girls in Palm Beach. Gossip Girls is back despite horrible national numbers. CW says it is a hit with dozens of teenage girls ;-) Like a lot of other shows launched last fall only to be cut short due to the writers strike, it is getting a second chance.
A new reality series, Stylista, turns the Devil Wears Prada into a weekly TV contest, with contestants vying for a job at a high end fashion agency.
WB holdovers Smallville and Supernatural will also be back, which is also good news for Vancouver crews. One Tree Hill, America's Next Top Model, The Game and Everybody Hates Chris have also clung to the CW schedule; sadly, Aliens In America did not.

ABC: 2008-09 A Do-Over

Today in New York, ABC unveiled its most passive fall launch schedule ever, with just two new shows joining the network.
And one of those is very seen-it-before: Life On Mars is a reversioning of the British hit. David E. Kelley was on board to write and produce but has handed off to the team behind October Road (which is canceled). Life On Mars is about a cop who gets whacked on the head and knocked clear back to the '70s, where he is now a Starsky and Hutch cop clone.
The other new show is the reality series Opportunity Knocks, which is produced by Ashton Kutcher. The series takes a game show to people's houses, setting up sets and cameras and prizes then quizzing the household about each other.
ABC also picked up Scrubs from NBC, where it bounced between 17 different days and timeslots in the last seven or eight seasons. It has always been produced by Touchstone TV, a division of ABC/Disney.
Shows that were launched last season--and then shelved due to the 100-day writers strike--are being re-launched like new shows, including Pushing Daisies, Dirty Sexy Money, Private Practice and Samantha Who?, along with mid-season entry Eli Stone. Bubble series Boston Legal (starring William Shatner and James Spader, above) will be back but just for a fifth and final season of 13 episodes. Desperate Housewives, Brothers & Sisters, Grey's Anatomy and Ugly Betty will also be back, as will Lost (starting in January).
Not being renewed are failed rookies Cavemen and Carpoolers, as well as Miss-Guided, Notes From the Underbelly Men In Trees, October Road, Big Shots, Cashmere Mafia and Women's Murder Club. Oprah's Big Give, along with Just For Laughs, are also toast at ABC.
Shockingly, According To Jim has been renewed, as was played out crap like The Bachelor, which shows you just how reluctant ABC was to order anything new. Entertainment president Stephen McPherson explained at the upfront that with the strike taking out the pilot season, he just didn't feel comfortable going forward on shows without pilots.
Still, ABC, like just about everybody else in broadcast television, has seen ratings crater in the past 15 months. The nets can't afford to be too passive, but they also can't afford to be too aggressive.
ABC also ordered The Goode Family, an animated series from King Of The Hill creator Mike Judge, as a mid-season replacement. Judge will also lend voice in this show about a family that just want to do the right thing.

Fraggles Crawl Out from Behind Rock

Remember Fraggle Rock? The Jim Henson-produced Muppet series, shot in Toronto in the early to mid-'80s, is being turned into a live-action musical feature according to a report in Variety. How successful was it? This CBC children's series regularly drew 1.5 million viewers--at 5:30 in the afternoon! CBC can't even get those numbers with NHL Stanley Cup playoff games anymore.
If you wanted to see Fraggle Rock's original run in the States you had to pay for it; all five seasons ran on HBO. Set to open in 2009, the movie will apparently take the colourful Fraggles--Gobo, Mokey, Wembley, Boober and Red--away from their nicely integrated surroundings and into the real world.
The series had a profound effect on the Toronto creative community with Henson & Associates coming north and training a team of Canadian puppeteers, many still in the business. Some went on to lampoon the conventions of the traditional puppet biz. Puppets Who Kill creator John Pattison is a Fraggle Rock grad, as was fellow PWK and Groundling Marsh puppeteer Gord Robertson as well as comedienne Sandra Shamus. Canadian poets bpNichol and Dennis Lee contributed words and lyrics to several episodes. Gerard Parkes was the Fraggles' resident human pal, an inventor named Doc; his big shaggy puppet dog was named Sprocket.
Me, I'm still waiting for the Chez Helene feature.

Leno Likely Leaves NBC: Silverman

NBC entertainment president Ben Silverman admits the peacock network will likely lose Jay Leno once he leaves The Tonight Show in 2009. "I think it's a reach," Silberman tells Bill Carter in today's New York Times.
Carter was reporting on yesterday's official announcement in New York that Jimmy Fallon will be taking over from Conan O'Brien when O'Brien takes over Tonight from Leno in June of 2009. Fallon and Late Night executive producer Lorne Michaels were also at the upfront announcement.
Silverman says what he's been saying all along, that NBC will try any way it can to keep Leno at the network, but the one job he would want--hosting the Tonight Show at 11:35 each night--is no longer an option. That has led to speculation that Leno will bolt NBC, where he has hosted Tonight since 1992, for an 11:35 late night talk show gig at either ABC or Fox. (See previous post.)
UPDATE: Meanwhile, on Fallon, follow this link to a hilarious little mashup combining Fallon's actual NBC press conference yesterday with some post-edited heckling. This dude is in for a rough ride.
UPDATE No. 2: Read Time magazine's James Poniewozik's hilarious and lethal take on yesterday's NBC Upfront "experience" here. It's all about the future of selling TV. "It is a claustrophobic, blaring and overstimulating experience," writes Poniewozik, "giving you a feeling simultaneously of overconsuming and of being consumed. Passing through congested arteries and through the occasional clearing, it feels like being eaten by the electronic media, passed through its digestive system, and excreted at the other end. Britney Spears' life must feel remarkably like this."

Monday, May 12, 2008

Cos And Effect: Huxtable Wins

The Cosby Show's Clair Huxtable (Phylicia Rashad, left middle next to Bill Cosby) was voted the Best TV Mom Ever in last weekend's TV Feeds My Family Poll. Huxtable wins an all expense weekend for two to Sauble Beach, Ont., plus passes to the Jumpin' Jiminy Centre. Guess she won for being a lawyer and raising five kids and never once breaking a sweat. Being on the biggest hit of the '80s also helped.
Ms Huxtable edged out runners-up Marge Simpson (Julie Kavner) and Loralie Gilmore (Lauren Graham). This is how the Democrats should pick their presidential candidate.
My pick would have gone to Roseanne Connor, she had less money and more laundry and really was a domestic goddess.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mothers We Salute You

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there today, including my mom, Margaret (above with two of her favorite men: my dad, Ross, right, and the best man at their wedding, Jack Taglietti, left). The three of them are still raising cane(s).
One other mom to single out is Sue Johanson, the grandmotherly sex educator from Toronto who, at 77, is getting out of the TV series biz. As noted before on this blog, her final Talk Sex with Sue Johanson airs tonight on the U.S. cable network Oxygen.
Spoke with her on Thursday and was able to add her to the list of "glorious Canadian women" featured Saturday in a special Mother's Day article in the Toronto Star. Forty-two women in all kicked in with the funniest, saddest, most embarrassing mistakes of motherhood. I wrangled nine TV moms, including Marilyn Denis, Cathy Jones, Anne-Marie Mediwake, Liza Fromer and Beverly Thomson for the piece. Checkout the Star article here.
Johanson's story is pretty hilarious, all about catching her daughter necking on the sofa and clobbering the rude dude on the head with a tennis racket. Not the kind of advice you normally get from Johanson on Talk Sex.
"Ah, but when it's your daughter, it's very different," she says. "You can be as liberal as you like with everybody else's kids, but no daughter of mine is going to be that kind of a girl."
Johanson has three grown children who she says pay no attention to her advice as Canada's most famous sex counselor.
Now that she is off the weekly TV grind, Johanson plans to keep busy teaching and writing (including a monthly column for The Star). She also hopes to continue dishing sex advice on the radio, where it all began for her in 1984 on Q107.
She hopes to sneak in at least one more appearance on David Letterman and says there are plans for her to take a bow on Conan O'Brien. Her new late night darling, however, is CBS Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson. "Oh my God is he funny," says Johanson. "Craig and I get together and it's just no holds barred because it is a late night show and I get away with murder."
Happy Mother's Day, Sue, many more.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Jimmy Fallon--Come On Down

NBC--the network that had sworn off upfronts, pilots, fall seasons and all other broadcasting conventions, will host a scaled down upfront this Monday in New York. They're calling it a presentation or something; there will be no party.
CBS, Fox, ABC and The CW are also down playing their upfronts a little, most of them have canceled the night time party. Belt tightening, dontcha know.
The one area NBC is keen to promote is late night, and the speculation is that Monday they will make official what Bill Carter of the New York Times broke way back in February--that Jimmy Fallon, the SNL comic who has since been in the witness protection program after a couple of flop films, will take over Conan O'Brien's Late Night spot in June of 2009.
Is that a good idea? In the immortal words of Homer Simpson, "What are you kids laughing at? And don't say Jimmy Fallon because I'll know you're lying."
I spoke with Carter this week who told me Lorne Michaels the Canadian-born SNL boss who also produces Late Night, told him himself that Fallon was his hand picked choice. You can read more about my conversation with Carter, along with an analysis of late night at the crossroads, in Saturday's Toronto Star.
Here at TV Feeds My Family, readers overwhelmingly voted Johnny Carson as the all time King of late night, which seems about right. But Jimmy Kimmel and Craig Ferguson seem to have all the momentum at the moment--something that must be giving NBC--which orchestrated this whole O'Brien for Jay Leno thing four years ago--fits.
Even our own Sue Johanson, who I spoke with today, told me her new late night sweetie is not David Letterman--who she visited often--or Leno, or O'Brien, but Ferguson. And if Sue says you're sexy, you're sexy.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

It's A Jonas World After All

It has been nearly a week since I was down in Walt Disney World. covering the promotional Olympics known as the Disney Channel Games. TV Feeds My Family's younger readers (not to mention the Family Channel publicists who flew me down) are probably asking: Where are the photos of the Jonas brothers (above, with their ubiquitous mouse mascots)? Why no shots of all the stars of Camp Rock on the Disney red carpet? This is so last week!
Well, wait no longer kids. With Miley Cyrus locked safely inside Vault Disney (she was let out briefly for her concert last Saturday), the Jonas lads certainly stole the show.
Loud screams went up the minute Joe, Kevin and Nick Jonas made the scene. The Jonas lads, who kick off their summer tour next month in Toronto, stopped and spoke with each and every reporter working the red carpet, even the cute seven-year-old girl from the family magazine. Nice lads, unfailingly polite after a long day, there was no evidence of any star trippin'. All three enjoyed shooting Camp Rock in Minden, Ont., last September/October--even if the place was a dead zone for their cell phones. That's worse than cutting off a teen's air supply!

Oakville, Ont.-native Jasmine Richards has a pivotal role in the summer movie. This is her first red carpet; she seemed as much into Mickey and Minnie as those Jonas boys. Fellow Canuck Michael Seater, from Life With Derek, also made the scene. You could tell the Canadian kids because they were the first at the press tables working the round robins on Friday morning. Those punks from The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, Dylan and Cole Sprouse, skipped the one-on-ones but worked the carpet. They've been there, done that, dudes. I was shocked to learn that both were in their forties. Well, surprised.

Those saucy Cheetah Girls worked the carpet along with Meaghan Martin (right), who plays the snotty blonde in Camp Rock. The dude with the mike is Cody Linley from Hannah Montana. Remember Cody, Cheetah's never prosper! The Camp Rock movie, which was screened last Friday is probably the next High School Musical, or as Disney refers to it, "Ca-CHING!" It's all singing and dancing, like Fame with primary colours and without swearing. Among the film's immortal lines: "Being popular is so not a so what."

This is what it's like working these deals. Here I am talking to young Jasmine. After a while you get tired of saying, "No, I'm not the Jonas dad." The Jonas dad was in the house, by the way. He was the guy standing behind the Jonas SWAT team, behind the Jonas barrier.

When you work the red carpet, you are assigned a spot. If you are People magazine or what's left of the U.S. TV Guide, you get near the front of the line. If you are from Canada or San Francisco, you get near the end of the line. That's why I was assigned a spot next to the folks from Common Sense Media, who brought along a clever green button which they asked the Disney kids to hold up for a photo. Every single Disney kid did, including the Jonas. The button, as you can see, has the word "on" on it. The problem, I'm thinking, is that now the folks at Common Sense Media can say, "Look who's back on drugs!" I'm pretty sure the folks at Common Sense Media have too much common sense for this, but I'm bringing my own sign next year, and its going to say "off." There are probably all kinds of words I can put in front of that.

Radio--Where Cheap Shots Are King

Paula Abdul's latest crack up on American Idol, the down low on next week's network "upfronts" plus the latest on all those crazy Disney Channel kids are the hot topics this week with CHML's Scott Thompson. Did those photos hurt Miley Cyrus among her core fans? Do five year olds read Vanity Fair? Listen in here.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

No More "Sex" For Sue

Sue Johanson, the Toronto-based sex educator, is bringing her series Talk Sex With Sue Johanson to a close after "six sensuous seasons," according to a release today from the Oxygen network. The call-in series will run out of Oxygen May 11.
Johanson, 77, has been holding up dildos and vibrators on Canadian screens since 1985 when her Sunday Night Sex Show premiered on Rogers (and later WTN). Before that, she was dishing sound advice on Q107 radio in Toronto.
"Rest assured I'm not giving up on sex!" Johanson says in the release. "I will continue talking sex to College and University students, and plan to do specials on television and radio."
The series remains Oxygen's biggest draw in late night and scored its best season ever among women 18-49.
Looks like Sue's going out just the way she likes it--on top.

Global Gets Out Front of Upfronts

We all knew that these upfronts would be different, and that the Canadian network buying spree would be more like an episode of Survivor this spring. The usual ways of doing business, due for a shake down anyway, are getting ripped up on both sides of the border. Tiki torches will be snuffed.
Take today's announcement from CanWest Global. A week before the NBC upfront, they are announcing that Global is buying a bunch of new NBC shows. They include that hokey new Knight Rider series (starring Justin Bruening and his Shelby Mustang, above), My Own Worst Enemy starring Christian Slater in a 24-like thriller, the new sitcom Kath and Kim starring Molly Shannon and Selma Blair and that top secret spin off of The Office. They've also renewed deals on NBC/Universal produced shows such as House, Heroes, the original Office, The Biggest Loser, Life and Friday Night Lights.
Striking deals and partnering with one studio brand by picking up an entire slate is nothing new in Canadian television. CTV buys most of what Disney and Warners has to sell each spring. Because NBC has broken away from the pack by getting the word out on their new season ahead of the upfronts, Global was able to do likewise.
Makes sense considering some networks are not going to have many pilots to shop to Canadian buyers anyway. This is especially true at ABC, which is ordering their new pickups straight from the creators, bypassing the pricey pilot step. It is a risk more networks are willing to take after watching too many ten million dollar pilots burst into flames upon impact. The economics of TV are changing and nobody in television has money to burn anymore.
Fox will have pilots but not many; they're No. 1, especially among 18-49-year-olds, and are expected to do little more than tweak their schedule. In an effort to keep everything cheap and cheerful (as well as spank those striking writers, although no one will admit it), all the nets will be heaping on the reality shows in 2008-09.
How much will the lights be dimmed on Broadway next week, where the upfronts kick off with NBC on Monday? “It’s going to be much more like a meeting,” says Mike Shaw, the president of sales and marketing for ABC, who is quoted in a sobering article by Virginia Heffernan in The New York Times. The party is so over, she reports. ABC, CBS and NBC, in fact, are not even having their usual upfront parties. With plunging ratings and audience share, the New York upfronts sound more like a wake. As Heffernan writes, "How do you celebrate your wedding anniversary the year that divorce is imminent? Do you drink alone? Toast to old times?"
Not everyone is convinced that the end is near for television. Fox will tell advertisers that TV, not the Internet, is still by far their best buy. Fox hired a marketing research firm to study buying trends, and they found that TV still accounts for 70% of the impact on consumers to make buying decisions. Read more in John Consoli's article today in Mediaweek, headlined, "Fox To Reinforce That TV is King."
CTV and Global will be selling the same message to advertisers at their upfronts at the end of the month. Which is funny, since they spun the exact opposite story when they went hat in hand before the CRTC over the last few weeks.

Not So Great Moments in Presidential Hopeful Speeches

"Canadian bacon, soggy and chewy. American bacon, crisp and delicious." As posted below, one of the gags Senator Hillary Clinton read last night on Late Show with David Letterman:



Even in this AP cut down posted on YouTube, the lamest Top 10 List ever. We'll find out later today how many votes it cost her in those two Democratic presidential primaries.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Kimmel, CSI In Busy Night of Crossovers

It's May sweeps, which means season finales, plenty of guest stars and cross over stunts. Two happen tonight, and they're both damn intriquing.
First, CSI and Two And A Half Men flip script writers, a cool idea given one is a dramatic police drama and the other is a studio audience sitcom. Most weeks they are TV's No. 1 drama and No. 1 comedy, in the U.S. if not in Canada.

Both showrunners--Carol Mendelson from CSI and Chuck Lorre from Two And A Half Men--were in Alberta last June where they were special guests of the Banff International Television Festival. I was there to moderate a panel of TV critics and spotted then the first night at an impromptu screening of the Sopranos finale, made possible when I brought the disc TMN had dropped off at my room to the attention of the Festival organizers. Miss the most anticipated TV finale ever? Fagetaboutit.

After the big Sopranos fade to black left everyone scratching their heads (and blaming me for getting a screener with a missing ending, which we al know now wasn't the case), Lorre mentioned this bizarre ambition of his to try his hand at a CSI script. He and Mendelson sealed the deal at Banff. The Two And A Half Men episode, where a body is discovered, airs tonight on CBS and A-Channel. Lorre's CSI, where the death of a sitcom star brings the Vegas forensics team to LA, airs Thursday night on CBS/CTV.

Actors from shows on the same network have pulled this stunt in the past, going all the way back to the '60s with Petticoat Junction, The Beverly Hillbillies and Green Acres. (That Sam Drucker got around.) In more recent times it has happened on shows desperate for a little publicity, such as Las Vegas and Crossing Jordan. This is the first time I can recall writers making the TV criss-cross. Should be worth a look.

Later tonight, check out Late Show with David Letterman, where ABC's Jimmy Kimmel will guest. Kimmel and Jay Leno did each other's show in LA in January during the writers strike. "He gave me a lot of good advice," Kimmel told me when I spoke with him on an ABC conference call in February, just days before shooting his 1000th show in late night.

While the two LA-based late night rivals bonded, Kimmel has always been an unabashed Letterman fan. He says he rarely missed watching Letterman before he himself became a late night talk show host. Asked in February which elusive guest he'd most want to have on Jimmy Kimmel Live, he singled out Letterman right away.

Kimmel is in New York to prep his gig hosting the network's annual "upfront" for advertisers. He's killed at these things in the past. There will be more than the usual scrutiny on him this week with so much speculation on how the whole late night deal is going to go down next year, what with Conan O'Brien taking over Tonight from Letterman and NBC about to announce Jimmy Fallon as O'Brien's replacement. Might ABC ditch Nightline and throw Kimmel head-to-head against O'Brien's revamped Tonight in 2009? Or will Kimmel, who seems to have already stolen a chunk of O'Brien's college crowd, wait and go for Letterman's chair at CBS once Dave's contract expired in 2010? And what of Craig Ferguson, fresh off his triumph at the White House correspondent's diner and his first-ever weekly win over O'Brien in the late late night ratings?

Kimmel and Letterman probably won't get too into it tonight, but count on them getting more candid than when O'Brien visited Leno a few months ago in what seemed like a shotgun visit.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Wayne & Shuster's Really Big Milestone


It was 50 years ago today that Wayne & Shuster made their first of what would stand as a record 67 appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show.
If you are asking a) what's a Wayne & Shuster b) who was Ed Sullivan and c) is Brioux, what, 100?, here are a few answers for you, wise guy.
Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster were quite simply the biggest Canadian TV stars of their day. Wayne was brash and outgoing, all eyes and ready grin; Shuster looked like a banker or a lawyer. He may have been more dialed down but this team did not really have a straight man, more like two comedians playing at different speeds.
Their long-running comedy/variety show was top-rated at CBC. But it was as Sullivan's "good friends from Canada" that they really made their mark. If Sullivan liked you, you got put into a six week rotation along with other comedy acts like Allen & Rossi and Stiller & Meara. And you became very, very famous overnight; just ask Paul McCartney and Ringo Star what Sullivan could do for your career.
I was a year old when the duo had their Sullivan debut. I remember many of their subsequent appearances; my parents would always remind me that they were from Canada. People took plenty of pride in their success.
Wayne & Shuster became our comedy ambassadors, representing Canada to a vast American audience. But it wasn't just that they were Canadian that set them apart. More important, probably, was the fact that they were college grads, two fellows from the University of Toronto. Most of the big TV comics back in the '50s, like Red Skelton, Milton Berle or Jackie Gleason, were from the school of hard knocks.
Which was probably why Sullivan was such a fan. Wayne & Shuster were funny, but they also had class. Sullivan couldn't tolerate a crude act. Their Shakespearean baseball routine ("Oh what a rogue and bush league slob am I who have 10 days hitless gone") aimed high but connected with everybody. Mixing the Bard with America's pastime was brilliant and very much at the heart of Wayne & Shuster's appeal. They aimed high but always right over the plate.
CBC News plans to salute the pair tonight on The National News at 10 p.m. Look for yours truly among those paying tribute, as well as the pride of Brampton, Ont., Russell Peters, who also knows a thing or two about what success in the States can mean to a Canadian career.
The CBC News producers even tracked down Sylvia Lennick, 92, the last surviving member of that "Big Julie" sketch that killed on Sullivan. She shares great memories of the pair.
I remember seeing the two of them in the sod-turning event at the site of the current CBC headquarters in Toronto. Wayne, who probably already knew he's never live to see it completed (he died in 1990), grumbled about how the duo had made do in 33 drafty old CBC buildings flung throughout the city. At least he didn't live to see the whole place go condo. Shuster outlived his partner by many years, passing away in 2002 at 85.
They were two funny men who made Canada proud and it is nice to see them saluted tonight.

Roger and Me

Hosting a little cyber chat today over at TV, Eh? Web mistress Diane Wild has this podcast deal up and running and today at 2 p.m. E.T. I'm chatting with one of the nicest men in Canadian broadcasting, Roger Abbott of the Royal Canadian Air Farce.
Just last month, Abbott and fellow Farce fave Don Ferguson announced they were retiring Air Farce after 35 years together in radio and TV. Luba Goy was their co-pilot for that entire ride; the late John Morgan for most of it. I'll try to get Roger to change his mind, but failing that, we'll discuss all things Farce, including what might be next for younger troupers Jessica Holmes, Craig Lauzon and Alan Parks and whether Goy is really going through with that "rent-a-goy" idea.
Log on to the podcast here.



Chis Haddock is also featured today, you might have heard or read that he's lobbying to be King of CBC or something, plus Intelligence is finally out on DVD. And I'm also going to blab about my book, Truth and Rumors: The Reality Behind TV's Most Famous Myths, which is really a better read than a listen, go buy it here.

Miley All Smiley at Disney Channel Rock Show

ORLANDO, Fla. --Miley Cyrus finally stuck her head out of that deep hole Disney had put her in this week--meaning six more weeks of world wide publicity.
The 15-year-old Hannah Montana star, who has been at the centre of a controversy ever since her arty Vanity Fair photo shoot surfaced last week, joined several other Disney Channel headliners for a concert Saturday night at the Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World.
An estimated 15,000 fans, some from as far away as Ontario and a suprisingly large number under the age of six, jammed the retro ballpark for the concert.
Besides Cyrus, new pop darlings The Jonas Brothers performed, as did Disney Channel stars the Cheetah Girls and Demi Lovato, a winning Texan who co-stars with heartthrob Joe Jonas in the made in Ontario movie “Camp Rock." Seen as the next "High School Musical," the summer fun movie premieres June 20 on Disney Channel as well as on The Family Channel in Canada.
Cyrus closed her set by alluding to her recent troubles. She pointed out the words on a home made sign one of her fans had brought to the concert: “Miley, I am praying for you!”
“Thank you, I couldn’t be more appreciative,” said Cyrus. “I love you and God bless you, each and every one of you.”
It was her one and only comment on the media storm surrounding the fallout from the notorious photo shoot. Cyrus ditched a scheduled Friday press conference this week at Walt Disney World and was whisked in and out of the Saturday concert. There were reports that her mother was spotted backstage at rehearsal Saturday, but there was no sign of her father, Billy Ray Cyrus, who co-stars on Hannah Montana and who joined Miley in one or two of the odd and arty Leibowitz snaps.
Cyrus sang three songs, two for the first time in public from her upcoming CD which drops July 22. Wearing a pure white dress, she opened with her hit “One World” and had every five, six, seven and eight-year-old in the house singing right along with her. She got physical on the next tune, “Fly On The Wall,” a Britney Spears-type number with talky then wailing vocals. Cyrus whipped off her red jacket and white fedora half way through the song; Disney execs breathed a sigh of relief when there was no wardrobe malfunction.
“Fly” had an edgy, rock vibe to it which might have surprised the many fans in the house who should have been in bed already. The concert, part of a “Disney Games” TV special, was marred by frequent stops and starts and a burst of rain. Many of the stoppages were due to fans who pressed the stage; they were told several times to back off or the show would be shut down for safety reasons. Where are the Hells Angels when you need them?
The down time seemed to work okay for the many vendors in the stadium who were selling Miley CDs, T-shirts, temporary tattoos and other gear along with a pile of merchandise for the Jonas brothers, who drew Beatlemania-level screams every time one or more of them took the stage or their names were even mentioned.