Saturday, July 31, 2010

Jimmy Fallon: NBC's Happy Ending in Late Night

BEVERLY HILLS, CA--Jimmy Fallon says he learned a valuable lesson from Conan O'Brien's bruising Tonight Temp experience. "Hosting Late Night," he says, "is a one way ticket to NOT hosting the Tonight Show."
So true. Both of Fallon's Late Night predecessors, David Letterman and O'Brien, sought and were ultimately denied the Tonight prize.
Fallon was in L.A. to promote the 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards, which he hosts Aug. 29. He was also there to take a bow for surviving a year as host of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. The former Saturday Night Live "Weekend Update" anchor drew praise from many critics for keeping his head down and putting on a fun, innovative show despite all the turmoil in late night over the past season.
Fallon was saluted by one Canadian critic for the graceful way he marked O'Brien's departure on-air. Immediately following O'Brien's final Tonight, Fallon's show followed with the host crossing the hall in Manhattan's Rockefeller Plaza to O'Brien's old Late Night digs (now Dr. Oz's studio). While The Roots played "Voice to the Man," he poured a 40-ouncer of Scotch onto the floor of the stage.
It was a classy move, putting Fallon exactly where he appeared to be at this press tour--well above the bitterness that stained the bungled Tonight transition. "We wanted to do something respectful because it's true, if it wasn't for Conan, I wouldn't have this job," says Fallon. "He kicked butt for 16 years, 17 years, whatever, and then I came in. So I owe him a lot. So we just want to treat him with respect."
Fallon's executive producer Mike Shoemaker says they felt the impact of the Leno/O'Brien fallout swirling around them, but were able to stick to the day-to-day task of putting a show together."It didn't really affect what we had to do," he says. "If you can't control it, you just kind of keep going."
Fallon says the job has been a dream gig, especially the week he got to hang with Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones. "That was one of the most surreal weeks of my life, just doing comedy with Mick Jagger."
Fallon says persuading notoriously prickly Jagger to just go with some out there comedy ideas turned out to be no big deal. "He's, like, 'Why am I yelling?' And I go, 'Because you are funny when you yell.' He's like, 'All right. I don't get it, but...'"
Fallon's Jagger impersonation really put the story over with critics, especially when he talked about getting Jagger to joke about selling out and sponsorship. "He was like, 'I don't want to do this joke about KFC Double Down.'" said Fallon. "I go, 'Trust me. You just saying that you like KFC Double Down will get a laugh.' And he's like, 'I don't think so.' I go, 'Mick, why are you fighting me on this? I swear, this will -- just try it.' So he did it, and everyone laughed. He was like, 'The Rolling Stones will not sell out unless it's for a KFC Double Down. I mean, it's two chicken breasts with bacon in between. Come on, man. That's crazy, crazy delicious.''
Fallon (centre) with bosses Angela Bromstad and Jeff Gaspin
Fallon was generous in his praise of late night rival Craig Ferguson, who he called a "friendly, positive, funny dude." The two men have a mutual admiration, with on-air shout outs and Ferguson recently tweeting "man hugs" to Fallon.
Then again, Fallon doesn't have a bad thing to say about anybody. He was great in the post session scrum, waving off the NBC publicist who tried to prematurely yank him off the stage. When he finally did have to go, Fallon told all he'd see us over beers at the NBC party. He was a man of his word, staying late at that event and remaining friendly and accessible throughout. He seems to be the Golden Boy among NBC senior executives, who got their kids next to the host for photo ops and happily sang his praises when approached. After the year they've had with the other guys, why wouldn't they love this kid?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Dick Wolf no longer howling mad at NBC


BEVERLY HILLS, CA--Hell hath no fury like a Dick Wolf scorned. The veteran executive producer really wanted to see Law & Order break Gunsmoke's longevity record and get picked up for a 21st season. It didn't, Wolf barked, but had calmed down considerably by the time he met with critics Friday to promote his consolation prize: Law & Order: Los Angeles. Sharing the stage with Montreal-born showrunner Rene Balcer (left), Wolf made the following statement at the start of Friday's NBC press tour session:
"Obviously Rene and I and the hundreds of people that have been associated with Law & Order over the past 20 years in New York were extremely disappointed that the show didn’t come back for a 21st season. That’s business. That’s life. Everything on television is born under a death sentence. They just don’t tell you the date of execution. We had one of the greatest runs in the history of the business with the mothership. And again, I want to thank all the people that were part of that. But we are here today to talk about the future, and basically the past is the past."
Wolf was happy to announce that he had landed Terrence Howard to join Alfred Molina as the twin District Attorneys at the Law end of this series. "I now feel like the manager of the ’61 Yankees because we’ve got our Mantle and Maris," he says. Molina and Howard will take turns week-to-week being this show's Sam Waterston. Skeet Ulrich and Salt's Corey Stoll work the cop half of the beat.
The series, which will premiere Sept. 22 with back-to-back episodes, will also feature Joan Cusack and Maria Bello among the guest stars.
Wolf tossed off plenty of twitterable quotes during the session. On L&O's ripped from the headlines formula, he said "we steal the headlines, not the body copy." Challenged on reports that a L&O 21st season deal went south because Wolf wouldn't budge on budget, the executive producer huffed that "Everything in life is a negotiation." He then declared that, "in the 25 years that I've been continuously on the air at NBC, we have never failed to make a deal when there was a deal to be made." Translation: none of your gawd damn business.
Wolf was also consulted on a style point: how do you spell the two chord sound so associated will all versions of the series?
Wolf refused to provide the definitive answer. "No, because I say 'ching ching' and people go 'dum-dum' or 'dong-dong.' Ask [theme composer] Mike Post."
Besides, there's only one sound that really matters to Wolf: "Ka-ching."

TCA 2010 Day Four: NBC gets past Tonight, looks to tomorrow

Photo by Chris Haston/NBC
BEVERLY HILLS, CA-- What a difference six months makes.
When last we left press tour, in January, the NBC executive session was like stepping into a shark tank. Critics smelled blood, with NBC Universal chairman Jeff Gaspin and entertainment president Angela Bromstad dead in the water after the Leno at 10/Conan the Tonight  temp fiasco.
Both, however, did an exceptional job difusing that bomb. Gaspin, in particular, put on a master class in grace under pressure, appearing forthright and unguarded, answering every question as directly as he could.
The elegant pair earned a measure of respect (not total respect, mind you--hey, we're critics), so the mood in the room was far less predatory this summer. Gaspin did get asked about Dick Wolf's reaction to being told the original Law & Order was toast after 20 seasons. He allowed it wasn't one of his most pleasant office encounters, but that Wolf was professional and they had moved on.
Getting a 13-episode order for the latest L&O brand extension, Law & Order Los Angeles (nicknamed LOLA), surely took some of the sting out for Wolf. (More about that session in a later post).
After all the hullabaloo last year, there was very little talk about late night. Gaspin came prepared with stats showing Tonight was 22% ahead of Letterman the last two quarters (in 18-49-year-old viewers). Not mentioned was the alarming errosion in viewers for both shows.
It made life easier for Gaspin and Bromstad that all the screwing up this week was happening at the other networks. Asked about reported rumours of sexual harassment being behind Stephen McPherson's swift exit from ABC, Gaspin actually had the balls to joke about it, dryly suggesting "I've had no experience with it personally." You could almost feel the heat coming off McPherson's red face even though he's a million miles from press tour.
Gaspin and Bromstad have their scrum faces on
As for Ellen DeGeneres surprise adios over at Fox and Idol, Gaspin did think that, with Simon also gone, the "Death Star" has taken a hit. He'll be less fearful trying out shows opposite it next winter, he suggested.
As for news Steve Carrell is exiting The Office when his contract expires at the end of this season, Bromstad gave assurances the plan is for the show to go on without him. Yanking ER off the air once Clooney left the show would have been a dumb move, she said. Besides, "I couldn't face my 14-year-old son if The Office went off the air."
Critics wondered how the kid felt about Conan O'Brien.
NBC had plenty of casting and programming news to spill. There will be a live episode of 30 Rock this season, with two versions performed to serve both coasts. Terrence Howard will join Alfred Molina as the new DAs on Law & Order: Los Angeles, or LOLA as the kids call it. And Rob Lowe is getting slapped into Community as a regular, recreating his guest role as a state auditor from last season.

Conan on Ellen

Conan O'Brien's twitter response to news Ellen DeGeneres is leaving American Idol:
"Ellen has walked away from a television institution after one year, but 'm sure it's the right decision. Now, back to my model rocketry."

Look! Up on the stage! It's Tom Welling being hauled away by a publicist!!

Tom Welling at press tour
BEVERLY HILLS, CA--Faster than a speeding bullet.
That's how fast Tom Welling was yanked off stage Thursday after The CW session for Hellcats. The 58-year-old actor is one of the executive producers of the new Glee rip-off cheerleader series, but is best known for playing Clark Kent on Smallville. That was why he was peppered with questions immediately after the session.
Smallville is going into it's 45th 10th and final season. How should it end, Welling was quickly asked. "I have my own ideas," he said. "In Season Three, I had the idea that it would be great if Martha give Clark the suit and he goes off to Metropolis." That happened in Seasons four or five, he says. "It's pretty much a Metropolis show now, so, my idea kind of went out the window."
A publicist broke up the scrum by insisting she had to whisk him back to the airport to get him straight back to Smallville's Vancouver set. What, he can't fly? Turn back time? Bend publicist's necks in his bare hands??

Dawg! DeGeneres Pulls Out of Idol

DeGeneres out: we hear Larry King is available
BEVERLY HILLS, CA--Now we get why there are open notebooks and buzzing Blackberrys at all those press tour sessions. The most compelling news keeps happening outside the confines of the Beverly Hilton.
Fox put out a release today announcing that Ellen DeGeneres (right) has stepped off the American Idol juggernaught. DeGeneres' quote from the release:
“A couple months ago, I let Fox and the American Idol producers know that this didn’t feel like the right fit for me. I told them I wouldn’t leave them in a bind and that I would hold off on doing anything until they were able to figure out where they wanted to take the panel next. It was a difficult decision to make, but my work schedule became more than I bargained for. I also realized this season that while I love discovering, supporting and nurturing young talent, it was hard for me to judge people and sometimes hurt their feelings. I loved the experience working on Idol and I am very grateful for the year I had. I am a huge fan of the show and will continue to be.”
DeGeneres' departure leaves two deck chairs to fill on this Titanic, which seems to be sinking faster than Stephen McPherson's chances for a comeback in the TV business.
Dawn Ostroff, the entertainment president of The CW (and, shockingly, the longest-serving U.S. network president dating back nine years to her UPN days) tried to get past the sudden McPherson departure with a simple "I wish Steve all the best." 
Pressed to get off script comment further, Ostroff told critics that anyone who programs a network knows they're sitting in a rented chair. "I've seen a lot of people who have come and go from these jobs and a lot of people who I really respect a lot, and everybody comes and goes for different reasons," she said. "So unfortunately for us, it's not that unusual."

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tom Selleck a Class Act at TCA

Tom Selleck (left) with Blue Bloods co-star Donnie Wahlberg
BEVERLY HILLS, CA--Television is ever obsessed with youth. The emphasis is always on the pursuit of younger stars, younger viewers. Once you age outside the 18-49-year-old demo, aloha.
So stop and think about this: the biggest star in the giant CBS press tour tent party Wednesday night turned 65 in January. He left the demo 16 years ago--not that you'd know it by looking at him.
Tom Selleck is one of those A-List TV stars who never wears out his welcome--with viewers or with press.
While other big name stars walked the CBS/CW/Showcase red carpet Wednesday night, turned tail and headed straight back to the limo, skipping the press party (yes you, David Duchovny), Selleck strode in and stayed. Parked at a table at the far end of the impromptu venue (a tented enclosure set up and nicely dressed on the Beverly Hilton parking lot), he welcomed reporters one at a time. There was no pushing or shoving, just a friendly publicist calmly keeping order. The individual chit chat gave everybody some face time with the very accessible and gracious star.
Selleck works these events but you never resent him for it. He brings two suits, one for the day session and one for the night party. He effortlessly slips in references to other projects (especially his Jesse Stone films, which he also produces) and makes sure to spread the credit around to his producers and costars. He's warm, professional, courteous, but also self effacing and humble, very mid-west in his manner.
And direct; he has no problem telling you why he didn't want to shoot his new CBS series Blue Bloods in Toronto, as was once considered. The cop drama is set in New York and had to be shot there, Selleck insisted.
Selleck with CSI: NY's Sela Ward and CBS CEO Les Moonves
He also dished up some pretty good stories. His full account of how he missed out on playing Indiana Jones was tossed away at his post-session scrum but had everyone leaning in. Read all about that and more at the Canadian press article I filed today on Selleck here.
He lit up when asked about Halifax, Nova Scotia, where the Jesse Stone films are shot. Selleck says he doesn't rent a house while working there, he just bunks at a hotel. "If I have a 15 hour day," he says,"I just kinda want room service."
I asked Jim Belushi, also at the CBS bash (he's starring on Vegas-based law drama The Defenders with Jerry O'Connell), what the deal was with Selleck. "The guy is all about class," says Belushi. "He's just a classy, classy guy." Exactly right.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

TCA Press Tour Day Two: Tassler on Dave, McPherson and those cross border co-pros

BEVERLY HILLS, CA--There were slot machines and Vegas show girls at breakfast this morning as CBS kicked off the first real day of press tour sessions. Were they gambling on familiar faces and stay-the-course programming to remain at the top of the network ratings race? Or were we gambling on the scrambled eggs and bacon?
Both repeated throughout the day. CBS is nothing if not consistent and their shows are distinguished, at this point, by being almost indistinguishable. The CBS schedule is still dominated by crime procedurals featuring male leads who seem to get that much older every year, almost in step with the age of CBS chairman Les Moonves. Coincidence? Whatever, the follow-the-Boomer-bulge game plan still seems to be working.
At the morning executive session, programming president Nina Tassler (above right) stepped around Tuesday's big news of rival Stephen McPherson's sudden departure from ABC, kidding that her initial response was, "Damn it, he got out of doing press tour." Her next well rehearsed line was that she would expect McPherson to send over "a case of chardonnay over the holidays," a reference to his stated plans to get more into the spirits business. "He's a good friend, and I wish him the best," she concluded. Next.
"Okay...if she doesn't renew us...take her out..."
Tassler didn't exactly have encouraging news on the Canadian-American co-pro front. The Bridge was swiftly yanked because "the show wasn't delivering the numbers that we needed," she said. As for future Can-Am co-pros, Tassler said "I think we'll continue to look at other ways to do other Canadian productions and other kinds of scripted shows during the summer." Will she order more seasons of Flashpoint? "Maybe," she said. "I haven't decided yet."
Which is sorta what she said last summer, when she waited almost until CBS's option ran out before reupping the Toronto-based cop drama.
Tassler was asked about rumours David Letterman, who has two years remaining on his contract, might start "playing by the Johnny rules," as Aaron Barnhart put it, by taking a couple of nights off each week. The idea, the Kansas City Star man suggested, would be to ease in a replacement host to a new generation.
Tassler gave terse "not right now" when asked if she had spoken to Letterman about this.
"And do you feel fairly confident that Mr. Letterman will be renewing with CBS?" came the follow-up. Tassler issued the usual "You know, as long as Dave is happy and Dave wants to stay around, we're very happy to have him there."
The network executive snuck in a plug for Craig Ferguson, saying CBS was thrilled to have both of them.
The idea of guest hosts sitting in for Dave twice a week seems odd. For one thing, Ferguson has what another critic down her characterized as a "Prince of Wales" clause in his contract. He has to be offered Dave's job when the time comes, or a penalty must be paid. It's the same kind of deal Tonight temp Conan O'Brien had at NBC.
Also Letterman has had to be practically dying to give up his job for even a day or two in the past. Then again, Carson was his idol and if it was good enough for Johnny, we might be near the point where it is good enough for the 63-year-old Letterman.
Tassler also announce that the next addition of Survivor would be kids vs. old people, or shirts vs. skins, something like that. Assurances were given that Charlie Sheen's "various off-job issues" were not expected to effect production this season of Two and a Half Men. She doesn;t expect any push back from parent councils for what one cheeky critic called "Feces My Dad Says." The fact that the part of the son has been recast on the William Shatner sitcom should not be seen as the kiss of death, she says, pointing out that both Big Bang Theory and Numb3rs were recast.
Tassler revealed that her just announced new ripoff of The View, headlined by Sara Gilbert (above left), Julie Chen, Sharon Osbourne, beat out four other daytime projects CBS had in development, including a remake of the old game show Pyramid with Andy Richter and another project with chef Emmeril Lagasse.

TCA Press Tour 2010: ABC Steals Day One

BEVERLY HILLS, CA--What's a TCA press tour without Stephen McPherson?
Critics are about to find out as the combative ABC programming boss abruptly announced his resignation Tuesday night. The move comes just days before he and other ABC officials were scheduled to meet the press at the semi-annual gathering of North American TV columnists.
The news broke Tuesday on Deadline.com while many TV critics were returning from a long day of Hollywood studio visits, including a tour of the set of NBC's Parenthood and a preview of the new Peter Jackson imagined King Kong ride at Universal Studios.
Paul Lee, head of the cable channel ABC Family, is set to replace McPherson as the alphabet network's programming president. ABC's been stuck in third place among the four main U.S. networks and could lose ground this fall with Lost out of production and an aging Desperate  Housewives out of gas.
The summer press tour began early Tuesday morning with a visit to the set of Desperate Housewives where executive producer Marc Cherry was apparently his outrageous, dishy self. But no hint of McPherson's resignation emerged.
McPherson released a statement Tuesday saying he would announce his future plans shortly, including "a new entrepreneurial venture in the spirits business" as well as "involvement in a new media company."
McPherson never found a hit to take the place of Lost--a series championed and developed by his predecessors--though Modern Family was a breakthrough comedy success last season. Too many misfires, including Happy Town, Hank and Caveman, kept ABC uncomfortably close to fourth place NBC.
McPherson in happier times
The fall ABC shows seem like a mixed bag to many critics. The cop drama Detroit 1-8-7 with Michael Imperlioni and Shaun Majumder, did not sell to a Canadian network, CTV bought No Ordinary Family, starring Michael Chiklis, and Citytv took the law drama The Whole Truth starring Rob Morrow and Maura Tierney. Some critics like what they've seen so far of My Generation. That McPherson resigned before taking these shows to market may reflect more on hardball contract negotiations than the merits of these shows. Or something else may be at play; speculation was running wild at the Beverly Hilton lobby bar Tuesday night.
Critics will miss McPherson's blunt, direct style in a scrum. The programming executive publicly ripped NBC a few years ago over what he considered shabby treatment of his pal Kevin Reilly, who wound up with the top programming job at Fox. His hothead reputation stuck throughout his six year tenure at ABC. Despite all that testosterone at the top, the network remains primarily directed toward women viewers with shows like Grey`s Anatomy and Dancing with the Stars among TV`s biggest chick picks.

Monday, July 26, 2010

TCA Press Tour: Still a Kick 25 Years Later

The Arizona Biltmore: scene of the crime
Egads! I'm heading down to the annual Television Critics Association summer press tour and I feel like I've stepped into Marty McFly's DeLoren. Tom Selleck, Jim Belushi, Cloris Leachman and William Shatner all have new series to sell. Didn't I already attend this press tour--in 1985?
Actually, 1985 was the year I really did first attend a TCA press tour. Way back then, I was a punk photo editor/writer at TV Guide Canada. Not sure why the late great Richard Charteris singled me out for the plumb TCA assignment, but it may have had something to do with the fact that the CBS/PBS leg of the tour that year was in Phoenix, Az., and nobody else was crazy enough to want to head down to the desert in June.
It was a fascinating, eye-opening, big time experience and probably has a lot to do with why I'm still typing about television. Networks were still in their king of all media glory, buoyed by the monster success of The Cosby Show. The only thing digital was the odd wrist watch. A blogger was what you call a bleer after you'd had a few. The room was a little smaller, with network heads calling critics by their first names. Instead of one gigantic ballroom, talent and TV columnists were gathered into smaller nooks and crannies. It was all very chummy.
The fabulously eccentric Arizona Biltmore hotel was like a great, ivy league college campus in the desert. Frank Lloyd Wright had a hand in designing the joint, although he apparently hated the final Textile Block construction. The hotel opened in 1929, just before the crash and the Great Depression. The Wrigley mansion, I'm told, still stands on a hill right next door.
Flip Wilson: Killer dug the derby
I'll have to ask Robert Conrad if he remembers that press tour. He made it memorable, heckling his boss, CBS chief Bud Grant, in a bizarre executive session ambush. Conrad, who was pointlessly promoting the forgettable series High Mountain Rangers at the time, had a rep as a hothead and he let it rip that sizzling summer. Grant didn't seem like a guy you'd want to cross and Conrad didn't work so much on TV after that.
Also at the '84 tour: Angela Landsbury, who was promoting the second season of Murder, She Wrote. Reporters were split into cozy groups of 10 or 12 for round robin sessions back then (care was taken to separate reporters from competing markets) and everything was on a much more intimate level. It was like sitting around a table with no food, just great conversation. Landsbury was lovely, but I remember Redd Foxx was so agitated he could barely sit down. He slammed his own tape recorder on the table and let everyone know he was recording us. The dude was so defensive, I thought the big one was coming and he would be joining Elizabeth.
Between sessions, it was easy to approach the stars (NO personal publicists were anywhere near the network gatherings then) and all seemed amenable to having their picture taken. Flip Wilson (left), then on the downside after being a A-List variety star in the '70s, insisted on keeping his sporty bowler on when I took his photo. That's me with Larry, Darryl and Darryl (William Sanderson, Tony Papenfuss and John Voldstad). Whatdyamean which is which?? Those three were like the Hansen Brothers without skates. Sanderson can still be seen in True Blood. The other two went straight into the witness protection program.
Darryl, Larry, Darryl and other brother Darryl from Canada
CBS had a "Big Chill" ripoff that fall called Hometown. I went to the session, then, to escape the smothering heat, took a quick dip in the hotel pool. To my shock, there in the deep end was one of the stars from the session that had just ended. Under the bathing cap was a very young Jane Kaczmarek (below), years before her Emmy-winning stint as Lois from Malcolm in the Middle. I remember being so shocked that an actual TV star would share chlorinated pool water with reporters and the rest of us great unwashed.
Hometown: Jane Kaczmarek and two Hal  wanabees
CBS had a terrible development that year, I think they went one-for-16 that season,with The Equalizer the only non dud. Edward Woodward, sadly, was only at that tour via satellite, which was a pretty neat (and expensive) trick back then. One of their misfires was Stir Crazy, a lame remake of the Richard Pryor/Gene Wilder feature starring Larry Riley and Joseph Guzaldo (below). It lasted a month; Riley later appeared on Knots Landing. Guzaldo, who knows.
Another bad idea CBS had that summer was hiring 89-year-old George Burns to host the anthology comedy series called George Burns Comedy Week. Steve Martin was among the producers and was at the press tour with Burns. The session was more memorable than the show. Hiring an 89-year-old for a network series seemed impossible back then, but then again, lookit Betty White.
Stir Crazy: why NBC rules the '80s
Press tour was much more leisurely back then. Nobody was filing off the floor from laptops. Nobody even thought to cover the tour itself as an event. Why piss off people who can't be here, we figured. 
Heavy IBM Selectras were set up in rows in a press room and the wire guys would be in there hammering away after executive sessions but that was about it. You could fax copy, I guess; I just brought it all home and spat it out for the September fall preview issue.
Many of the newspaper reporters were Watergate era guys, pretty no-nonsense and aggressive. It was good to see a few friendly faces. I was a Toronto Star reader and had enjoyed Jim Bawden's TV coverage for years as well as the late Eirik Knutsen who wrote the "Ask Starweek" column. The two of them welcomed me into the brotherhood and pointed out the characters to stay away from around the room.
Bawden's stories from earlier press tours are epic (he and the critic from the Buffalo News had a private dinner at Lucy's house in the '70s); please Jim, write that book.
The evening events were mind blowing; I remember being shuttled to a neighbouring ranch where we we invited to check out the Arabian horses. Magicians wandered around offering card tricks in case a report or two looked a little bored.
TCA Summer 1985: send a critic to camp
Each network took four days to present their shows (today, NBC, Fox, CBS and ABC do it in a day and even cram some of their cable station stuff into an hour or so). There was enough time during the PBS session for something called "River Journeys" to take a real river Arizona journey. About a dozen of us snuck off in a couple of vans and were turned loose in a river on giant inner tubes. The van guy picked us up about ten mikes down stream. Beer was available and lashed to the tubes, staying chilled in the water. Jim Slotek from the Toronto Sun and Bob Remington from Edmonton Journal went along for the ride. Former TCA presidents Rich Heldenfels, Babara Holsopple, Barry Garon and Bob Curtwright can also be spotted in this photo.
There won't be any river journeys this week and next at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles. But Robert Conrad will be there, dammit. Anything could still happen.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mad Men Season Four: Smart, Snappy Re-boot

Over the past couple of days, two friends commented that they don't watch Mad Men anymore because they find it kinda slow. Wait, I couldn't halp thinking, till they see Rubicon (AMC's new original series, a conspiracy theory drama starring James Badge Dale). Me, I'll take all the slowed down, measured, true-to-life moments both these series offer.
Tonight's fourth season premiere of Mad Men (10 p.m. on AMC), however, seems to zip by as far as I'm concerned. There is a lot to jump back into. The story picks up nearly a year later, in the fall of 1964 (although there isn't a single Beatles tune on the very evocative soundtrack--executive producer Matthew Weiner, composer David Carbonara and music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas stick with their cool, Nelson Riddle-meets-Bernard Herrmann back beat).
Maybe the friends were sick of the downer storyline involving the failed marriage of Don and Betty Draper (January Jones and Jon Hamm, above right). If that is the case, the good news is that the focus is off the dead-end marriage and fully on efforts to get the new ad agency up and running. The show seems more positive, with office dysfunctions set aside and everybody pulling together.
This won't last. But you sense that Weiner's plan to blow up the old Mad Men world and start again has had the desired effect to get everybody--including the viewer--back into it. Weiner's script crackles with sharp patter from the usual sources, especially John Slattery as cynical Roger Sterling.

Other characters seem to grow, especially Peggy Olson (Elizabeth Moss, above left), who has lost the bangs and seems determined to bang with the big boys.
A key part of tonight's storyline involves an interview between Draper and a reporter from Ad Age. The fall out from that awkward exchange is later parsed at the office and those scenes provide sharp insight into what publicists have to deal with all the time when a story goes wrong. Managing press is a controlled science in 2010, but even in the world of 1964, targets and expectations and outcomes all mattered. It is cool to be a fly on the wall for this snarky post mortem--not that I've ever put a publicist in a corner, mind you.
Hamm deserves plenty of attention for playing somebody who keeps everything in check, yet keeps viewers keen. It is a neat high wire act, and this episode challenges him to really take it to a higher level.
Wrote more about the Mad Men Season Four premiere for Sunday's Toronto Star. You can read the full story here.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Looking for Mad Men and other lost U.S. shows

Don Draper can see us. Can we see him?
Don't subscribe to AMC and vexed about missing Sunday's Season Four premiere of Mad Men? Wondering why CTV didn't pick it up again and give us our Don Draper fix? Looking everywhere for those new episodes of Futurama, even on the Internet, and getting nothing but dead ends?
Wrote a feature for The Canadian Press this week on American shows Canadians have read or heard about but have a hard time finding. Mad Men's not a great example--any basic plus cable package gets you AMC--but plenty of viewers who have read or heard about shows like Men of a Certain Age or Party Down may not realize they are available on way-up-in-the-300s Super Channel (channels 334-340 on Rogers in Brampton). Other shows just aren't available here yet at all, like Burn Notice (coming to Showcase in September), Louie (comedian Louis C.K.'s edgy new FX comedy) or Covert Affairs, a spy drama shot right on the streets of Toronto. These shows are all on the radar screens of Canadian show buyers, but for whatever reason--price, timing, potential ratings--they either haven't been picked up or simply haven't been announced.
The upcoming Television Critics Association press tour, which begins Tuesday in Los Angeles (check this site daily for reports and updates), will present a whole new crop of American cable fare to reporters. Every year, there are always a handful that never make the Canadian cut. Some of that is a very good thing (not getting some E! programming now is undeniably one of the cultural advantages of living in Canada), and some of that is a shame.
Fans of Damages may have read that Emmy-winning series starring Glenn Close has jumped from FX to DirecTV in the States. The good news is that Showcase, which carries it in Canada and buys it directly from Sony TV International, will keep right on offering it.
Read more about these Yankee dawdlers here.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Is the new Global National News anchor an alien?

Sharp-eyed TVFMF reader M. Mitchell posted a recent comment pointing out an eerie similarity between V's rat-gobbling alien high commander Anna (Morena Baccarin, left) and incoming Global National anchor Dawna Friesen (right). Both have that vacant, we-come-in-peace stare thing happening.
Friesen isn't even an illegal alien. The NBC London-based correspondent is in fact a Manitoba native. She begins her tenure behind the Global anchor desk in September.
Still, that doesn't explain the strange disappearance of any photos or bio of two-time Gemini-award winning Kevin Newman at Canwest's Global press web site. The dude doesn't even leave until Aug. 20 and you'd never know he was ever there. Does he know the truth? Did aliens steal his info?

Pillars of The Earth: Swords, Sandals and Sex

Sutherland senior: where's Jack Bauer when you need him?
What seems most jarring to these failing eyes are the sex scenes in today's modern miniseries. While The Thorn Birds seemed racy in its day, Father Ralph and that Aussie chick were merely playing patty fingers in the Holy water compared to the sword and sandal sizzle of Pillars of the Earth (premiering Friday at 10 p.m. on The Movie Network/Movie Central and Starz).
More than 30 years after Roots, there's plenty of rooting and rutting in aptly named Pillars. It's happening up against walls, in Sherwood forest, where ever.
Don't be fooled by ads showing old pros Donald Sutherland (above), Gordon Pinsent and Ian McShane as the bearded stars of this $50 million miniseries. They're all there, and excellent as usual. Much of the story, however, centres around Tom Builder, played by terrific Rufus Sewell (below). As explained in Ken Follett's bestselling novel, upon which this miniseries is based, he's the guy who wants to build a cathedral in the forest. He's brooding, and when he's not brooding, he's boinking. Shoulda called him Tom Buildup, as in sperm pressure. When he gets frisky with a witchy friend, he takes this tale from the Dark Ages to the Playboy After Dark Ages.
Ramping up the adult content is that fact that this is a cable miniseries, commissioned by premium specialty services The Movie Network/Movie Central in Canada and basic cable network Starz in the States. There are no U.S. broadcast network standards and practices to adhere to, and so let the boinking begin.
Not that I have anything against boinking, it just throws you when you pop in a screener with young family members in the room thinking harmless miniseries and out pops Caligula II. Pillars of the Earth isn't porn, but for a miniseries set in the 12th century be warned: there's more graphic sex, violence and adult language then at a candid Mel Gibson encounter. 
Think 12th century True Blood on an epic scale and hide the kids. I did a phoner with Sewell, who was in Italy playing a detective, about his role in the miniseries. He was smart and funny on the phone, and you can read that interview here in Movie Entertainment magazine.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

This Week's Podcast: Comic-Con or TCA?

CHML's Scott Thompson is confused. Am I heading down to Comic-Con or the semi-annual TCA press tour? And what's the difference?
It is getting harder to tell as Comic-Con grows into the big pop culture event of the summer. The deal takes place this week in San Diego (July 21-25) and I won't be there (please--summer is short enough) but you can follow Toronto Star critic Rob Salem's journey to and eventual report from the conclave here.
Comic-Con began as a celebration of comic book culture and has exploded into anything, over any media, remotely connected to pop culture (sort of the way Canadian networks have stretched their specialty licenses into one big lifestyle whatever--see previous posting). There are press and fan events featuring such non-sci-fi shows as Glee and The Big Bang Theory and even shows that haven't premiered yet and enough Hollywood A-Listers to make organizers at TIFF or Cannes envious.
Me, I'm heading down to Los Angeles next week to join other TV critics from across North American at the TCA press tour. The madness is more controlled, with the stars and producers of the 2010-2011 U.S. season coming to us at the Beverly Hilton hotel. I've done this for a long time, but this tour seems eerily familiar with the likes od Tom Selleck, William Shatner and Jim Belushi among the new show stars. PBS even has a Pioneers of Television panel including Mike Connors, Robert Conrad, Linda Evans, Martin Landau, and Nichelle Nichols. We'll party like it's 1975!
Conrad (centre) with Ranger lads Shane and Christian
Conrad, best known for his '60s series The Wild, Wild West, was among the talent at the very first press tour I ever attended. It was in the mid-'80s, at a Frank Lloyd Wright hotel out in Pheonix, Arizona.
The only thing hotter than the weather that June in Arizona was Conrad. I remember sitting next to him at a round-robin presser with about 10 other critics and being scared to death. Conrad was mad as a hatter, ranting about how his father was a better reporter than any of us ever were and all but challenging everyone in the room to knock a battery off his shoulder. A few hours later, he showed up at the CBS executive session, gooning then network boss Bud Grant and whinging about his stupid show's sorry timeslot. Wot a nut. Still, I can hardly wait to ask him about Battle of the Network Stars.
I didn't tell Scott that story but you can listen in here anyway.

Teens Follow Degrassi to MuchMusic. But What's Happening to Canada's Music Station?

Degrassi’s move to MuchMusic was a win-win for CTV. The 10th season premiere, kicking off a reformatting of the series as a nightly soap, drew 218,000 viewers to MuchMusic Monday according to overnight estimates. A quarter million viewers across Canada was about what Degrassi was down to Sundays at 7 on CTV. Overnight, the teen soap goes from being the lowest-rated show on the main network to one of the highest on the specialty brand. If you're Principal Skinner "Snake" (Stefan Brogren, right), that's gotta be a good thing.
Monday’s 10th season opener ranks as the fifth biggest single show audience on MM this year. New episodes continue this week tonight and Thursday night at 9 p.m. ET on the CTV specialty station.
Airing a teen soap on what was once known as “the nation’s music station” may just be the tip of the iceberg in how far CTV wants to stretch the MuchMusic brand. Degrassi, in fact, fits under the current licence definition. Thanks to "The Zits"? Take a look at the whoppers CTV sold the CRTC to justify jamming these non-music programs onto Much in the past:
Paris Hilton, one of CTV's favourite songbirds
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: "Anthony Head, who plays Rupert Giles, was in a band named "Two Way." The band released a 45 single with three songs."
Paris Hilton's My New BFF: "Paris Hilton has released her self-titled album 'Paris' and several singles, 'Stars Are Blind,' 'Turn it Up', 'Nothing in this World' and 'Screwed.'"
Vampire Diaries: "Candice Accola, who plays Caroline Forbes, released an album in 2007 titled, "It's Always the Innocent Ones" on the label Beverly Martel Music."
In other words, dig up any obscure music business link and you're in. Under these guidelines, Much could probably have rerun episodes of Baretta by citing Robert Blake's pet phrase, "And dat's da name of dat tune."
CTV has asked the CRTC to widen the limits of its MM licence in order to offer more non-music fare and turn it into more of a "lifestyle" offering. They’re seeking among other things, to cut the number of videos played in half and "relax" their Canadian content obligations. Opposition to this move from outside parties--especially from Rogers and various music associations--seems to be mounting at the intervention stage.
There has been a lot of brand busting on the specialty tier of late, as confused consumers are no doubt aware. TSN showed “Kingpin” Tuesday night, and while a Bill Murray movie is welcome anytime on any channel, it’s not exactly a live sporting event. It does seem at times as if the specialty tier has descended into a free-for-all, anything goes, wild west kind of place.
There are some rumblings that CRTC head Konrad von Finckenstein is losing patience with all the rule bending and may soon decide to make an example of somebody, similar to the swift smackdown of Quebecor’s brazen bid for a category one all news service licence. The Much application, coming less than a year before a full licence renewal hearing for the station, may be the example waiting to happen.
CTV argues that MuchMusic has been in steep decline over the past five years both in audience and revenue and a format shakedown has to happen now. The station was widely viewed as a cash cow in the CHUM/City days but still enjoyed a 14% profit before taxes in 2009, the worst year of the recession. The crazy big tune in for the recent MMVA's and the Degrassi number suggests, however, that the station can still pull the kids. Over to you, Konrad.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Salem & Salem Get Their Kicks on Route 66

Ever wanted to travel Route 66? The fabled U.S. highway, which more or less cuts diagonally from Chicago to California, was popularized in song and even a cool little TV series a half century ago. Bypassed by super highways and Interstate routes today, it is very much a broken path. That hasn't stopped Rob Salem (above) and his nephew Aaron from setting out this summer in their '89 T-Bird to navigate Route 66 all the way from where they cross the Canadian border in Detroit to Comic-Con in San Diego.
The Toronto Star TV critic and his young, pony-tailed sidekick are videotaping their adventures and are posting them on YouTube. Check out their fourth installment, somewhere in deepest mid-America, here. Along for the ride is a bobble head of Heath Ledger, who stares back at you from the dash while the words "HEATH VISION" are burned into the screen.
Salem, a big kid at heart who still collects Batman and Superman memorabilia (and insists on wearing it during press tours), stopped in Chicago to get the ultimate Superman souvenir: a classic "S" shield from the '50s Adventures of Superman series tattooed on his arm. Aaron gets a freakin' Batman mural on his shoulder that has to be seen to be believed.
Salem and Salem plan to stop at every zany road side attraction and record their adventures all the way to Comic-Con in San Diego and beyond. The trip is also being followed here at Space: The Imagination Station. Check it out, citizens!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Snake Charms Way to Principal's Office on Revamped Degrassi

Degrassi is no longer a generational thing. The series begins its 10th season on a new network (MuchMusic), in a new, nightly, serialized format (Mondays to Thursdays at 9 p.m.) and with a new title (just, plain, Degrassi, goodbye The Next Generation).
With the original franchise dating back to 1979, they'd soon have had to call it The Generation After That, or Generations, or Degrassi Senior Moments, so, good call. 
I spoke with the keeper of the flame, Stefan Brogren (right), for a Degrassi feature which ran in Sunday's Torontro Star. Read the full story here. Brogren's Degrassi days started in the '80s with Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High, two successful incarnations of the teen soap which ran on CBC.
Brogren has gone from playing tall kid "Snake" to becoming principal of the high school, which is cool I guess and probably a better choice than Joey (Pat Mastrioanni). That dude was always too busy trying to be a player and keeping his hat on back in his '80s prime.
Check out young Brogren trying to get fresh with Amanda Stepto ("Spike") back in the day (left). Damaged hair was such a turn on back then.
These guys are all in their late 30s now and so are the original viewers of the series, which saw a dramatic fall of in ratings over the last two seasons. CTV had it early Sunday evening where it just never fit. Degrassi was never your typical family hour, Heartland kind of Sunday night series, and its not compatible with The Amazing Race or Desperate Housewives. Over at MuchMusic, where a recent licence tweak allows for more scripted fare, Degrassi should find itself again as a daily teen soap. Having exhausted typical teen angst storylines after 200+ episodes, the big stretch this season is a transgender student. Didn't this show used to be about zits and periods? Forty-four new episodes are ordered for 2010-2011 with the gang about half way through production already.
Brogren knows all about that, too. Besides being an actor on the show, he's a producer and a director. Way to go, Snake.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

This Week's Podcast: Goodbye, Newman

This week Scott Thompson wanted to talk about all the changes with the Canadian network news anchors. First Global National News anchor Kevin Newman announces he is quitting his job (Aug. 20), then Lloyd Robertson gets called back to pyramid duty (the 76-year-old will retire in 2010 after a year-long victory lap).
I spoke with Newman (right) today for a Canadian Press feature. He was generous in his praise of Dawna Friesen (below), the Winnipeg-born NBC London bureau correspondent who will succeed him at the Global news desk in September. Newman pointed out that more women than men watch Global National at 5:30 and seeing themselves reflected in that job makes sense, he says. Read the full story here.
Newman says he has no immediate plans and, despite rumours to the contrary, truly never sought or was contacted about following in Robertson's footsteps at CTV. Having spoken to him on several occasions over the years, he was always friendly and accessible and dead serious about being a journalist. He took his job seriously, and after 30 years of chasing deadlines, he has earned the right to get off the crazy train that is TV news.
He has nothing but respect for Robertson, saying it is "almost unimaginable" to think there will be no more Lloyd at 11. Well, in a year anyway.
There were rumours that others had been in the running for Newman's job. CBC rushed out a release today that practically screamed "consolation prize" announcing Diana Swain was leaving CBLT's supper hour newscast (a.k.a. the witness protection program) to become "senior correspondent across all platforms." There have been rumblings Global Toronto anchor Leslie Roberts also was measuring the drapes in Newman's office.
Newman's not sure what he'll do next but he may not have to wait long for another anchor job opportunity. CBC's Peter Mansbridge, who turned 62 this month, has been in the big chair 22 years, ever since Knowlton Nash quietly stepped aside to prevent Peter from being poached by U.S. broadcasters.
This month, the high school drop out becomes chancellor of Mount Allison University, a role he will fulfill until 2013. He lives with his wife Cynthia Dale in Stratford, Ont., a good hike along the 401 from the CBC Broadcast bunker.
Maybe he can't stand standing. Maybe CBC looked at the latest news standing and went yikes. All we know is these anchor shifts usually happen in threes.
Scott also asks about the high ratings in Canada for Betty Whites' summer sitcom Hot in Cleveland and Global's even hotter rookie Rookie Blue. You can listen in here.

CBC‘s 18 to Life Gets New Life on The CW

Been up to the shores of Lake Huron lately at the decidedly unplugged cottage and behind in my blogging. Here are a few recent Canadian TV headlines of note:
18 to Life: The CBC sitcom (starring Stacey Farber and Michael Seater, right) has been picked up for a summer run in the U.S. The romantic comedy starts airing Stateside Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. starting Aug. 3 on The CW. The 90210 network describes it as "a modern day Romeo and Juliet." They plan to air all 12 episodes back-to-back over a six week run. The cast and crew are currently in production on a second CBC season in Montreal.
Haven: The Showcase series, set in Halifax, Nova Scotia, opened to almost 300,000 viewers Monday night, making it the highest-rated original scripted series ever on the Canwest specialty channel. The paranormal drama had a successful launch in the States as well, pulling over 2 million viewers for the premiere July 9 on NBC Universal-owned cable channel Syfy. The E1 series stars Emily Rose as an FBI agent tracking the unexplained in what is supposed to be a coastal community in Maine. Canadian Lucas Bryant also stars as her local cop partner.
Rookie Blue: The new Global cop caper, which airs episode four tonight, has earned a second season after arresting 1.9 million Canadian viewers in week three last Thursday.
That is the overnight, estimated BBM Canada tally and could wind up even higher. Global now says the premiere episode bowed to 2.1 million (up from the originally reported overnight estimate of 1.8 million), making it the highest rated premiere for a Canadian drama series in over a decade and the most successful Canadian drama ever commissioned by Canwest. Yes, it even beat Train 48!
Live! with Regis and Kelly: Monday's episode of the daytime talk show, the first of four from Charlotetown, P.E.I., drew an overnight, estimated 968,000 Canadian viewers. That's record for the show on CTV. Live! has averaged 417,000 viewers this season.
World Cup: It may be a stupid game, but a record 5.13 million watched Spain defeat the Netherlands Sunday on CBC for that soccer thingy. Another 685,000 tuned in to the french broadcast on Radio-Canada for a total of over 5.8 million. Almost 1.9 million watched Uruguay play Germany Saturday.

Monday, July 12, 2010

This Week: Reege & Kelly Go Live! in P.E.I.

Monday through Thursday this week, Live! with Regis and Kelly does Canada (9 a.m., CTV). The talk show is doing four shows from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, and Regis Philbin sounded pretty pumped about it when I spoke with him last week.
“After hearing everybody rave about the place I can’t wait to see it,” said Philbin (right with co-host Kelly Ripa), who worked in a stop at a Moncton, New Brunswick, casino before arriving in P.E.I. Among those raving was executive producer Michael Gelman, who flew out a few months ago to scout the place. Gelman was looking to travel the show, which hits the road three or four times a year, when "the folks in P.E.I. called," he said last week when I interviewed him, along with Philbin, for The Canadian Press (read the full story here).
Both the federal and provincial governments ponied up to cover production and travel costs to bring the show north. The same thing happened in Ontario five years ago when Toronto wooed Late Night with Conan O'Brien across the border. Toronto needed that investment in tourism post-SARS and O'Brien's Canadian shows were wildly successful, with packed audiences at the Elgin Theatre reacting like The Beatles were in town.
With recovery from the recession moving slowly, P.E.I. needed a little something extra to lure Americans across the border this summer. They're hoping four hours of Live! with Regis and Kelly will offer a wide open window on the province. For his part, Gelman plans to show off P.E.I. as much as possible this week. "Whenever we’ve gone on location, the people have been thrilled afterwards," he says. "I know that in New Orleans we were singled out for the great job we did helping their tourism economy."

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Toronto TV Boom Spreads Across GTA

The dollar’s at par, the weather is stinkin’ hot and the recent G20 summit reduced Toronto to a traffic-snarled lock down zone. So what’s with all the TV production trucks?
Hogtown has once again become Hollywood North. TV production is booming across the GTA and even beyond into Hamilton, Orangeville and Port Hope.
Some are American cable shows that may never air in Canada. The U.S. cable network Syfy, owned by NBC Universal, has two Toronto-based shows currently in production—Alphas and Warehouse 13—with another, Haven (which premieres July 12 on Showcase), based in Halifax.
Lost Girl (above right), which will launch in September on Showcase, is a Canada first effort. The series stars New Brunswick native Anna Silk (Erica’s same sex temptation last season on Being Erica) as a crime bustin' succubus. Spoke to co-showrunner and executive producer Peter Mohan on the set of the series in his stealth studio in south Etobicoke and he gave me plenty of scoop on the whole busy shoot-in-Toronto deal.
Part of it is due to the generous tax incentives provided through the Ontario Media Development Corporation, TV trucks have been clogging up Hamilton neighbourhoods, too. The sci-fi thriller Blood of Pegasus, starring Nazneen Contractor and Rae Dawn Chong, wrapped there in May with Shannen Doherty booking into Steeltown in June to shoot the Canwest/Syfy TV movie Witchslayer. Lost Girl was also found on some Hamilton streets this spring.
Have a story in today's Toronto Star listing all the activity. Read the full feature here.

Friday, July 9, 2010

LaFlamme to Replace Lloyd at CTV News

CTV announced Friday that Lisa LaFlamme will replace Lloyd Robertson as anchor of the CTV National News.
The move came after months of speculation. LaFlamme, a 20-year veteran at the network (she began her career as CKCO in Kitchener-Waterloo), was showcased to good effect on CTV's Winter Olympic Games coverage.
"To follow in the footsteps of Lloyd Robertson is an enormous honour and extremely humbling,” LaFlamme, 45, says in Friday's CTV release. “He is an institution, the very foundation that fair and honest journalism is built on, and has personally taught me so much about this business that I love.”
“I am so proud of Lisa and so very happy for her,” said Robertson. “She's an extraordinary talent and a wonderful human being. Canadians will appreciate it's the right choice.”
Speculation was running wild after Robertson told viewers he was stepping down on Thursday night's National News broadcast. Tom Clark and Sandie Rinaldo were also seen as logical successors.
The 76-year-old broadcaster will remain behind the anchor desk into 2011, marking 35 years as CTV's chief news anchor.
Before that, Robertson held a similar post at CBC News, covering everything from Expo '67 to the Moon landing. The Stratford, Ont.-native began his broadcasting career at CBC in 1954, just two years after Canada's first TV station went on the air.
I've goofed on Lloyd over the years, joking about his age, his changing hair colour, his early days at pyramid duty. The fact is, he outlasted all the great TV anchors of his generation and was a reassuring voice and presence for generations of Canadians. He consistently topped polls naming him Canada's most trusted newsman.
He also has a sense of humor. Once, when I took a shot at his age back when I was working at the Toronto Sun, he sent me an email: "Watch it or I'll sick Peter Worthington and Bob MacDonald on you."
Both Worthington and the late, great MacDonald were several years older than Robertson and still doing what they did best at the newspaper. Advantage Lloyd.
CTV's news scooped rival Global's plans to unveil their new news anchor Tuesday in Toronto. Kevin Newman is stepping down at the end of August. There had been some speculation that Newman might be CTV's big get today but his desire to jump off the news bus and spent more time with family must now be taken at face value.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Emmy Embraces Glee, Modern Family

The Emmy Award nominations were announced Thursday morning (for a complete list go here) and Glee is among the big winners so far. Maybe for the first half of the season, I'm thinking. If there was a category honoring shows that jumped the shark with blinding speed, Glee would vault to the top of that list, probably to the beat of Olivia Newton-John singing, "Physical."
Other than that, good to see rookie shows Modern Family break though in comedy and The Good Wife in drama. John Lithgow (right with Michael C. Hall), they should give him the Emmy for that dark star turn on Dexter now. Curb deserves that shout out for those great Seinfeld reunion episodes this season. And lookit Martin Short snagging a dramatic Emmy nom for Damages.
And what about The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien--and not Jay Leno--picking up a nom? Should make for the moment of the night if Team Coco takes the stage to accept the Emmy in September.
Gary Doyle went over the Emmy list with me today on Waterloo's 570News. I agree with Gary that Family man Ed O'Neill was an omission in the crowded comedy category but can't say Tracy Morgan from 30 Rock was ripped off. And, yes, why didn't Community get some attention? Listen here to the whole chit chat, although you'll have to skip ahead to the half way point in the file to get to TV Boy.
The 62nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will air live on NBC/CTV Aug. 29. Jimmy Fallon is host.
For more critical perspective on the Emmy nominations, check out what the gang has to say today over at TV Worth Watching.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

This Week's Podcast: Probert Remembered

CHML's Scott Thompson asked about my great skate with Bob Probert, the ex-Red Wing and Blackhawk who died earlier this week at 45. I wrote about it here earlier this week.
I've received word from a few of the guys who were in on that Deer Lake, Nfld., Rent-a-Goalie game over the past few days and they all have warm memories of No. 24, whether on the ice or sharing a smoke with the big guy outside of Langers.
I also tell Scott about my phone call today with my old pal Regis Philbin. The peppy one is heading to P.E.I. next week with Kelly Ripa and executive producer Michael Gelman to shoot four episodes of Live with Regis & Kelly (July 12-15 at 9 a.m. on CTV). I'll post more on that once I meet my CP deadline but in the meantime, for some scoop on the ol' Reginator, listen in here.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Betty White is White Hot in Canada, Too

Betty White's new sitcom Hot in Cleveland was a hot pickup for CTV, drawing an overnight, estimated 1,819,000 viewers across Canada Monday. The sitcom, which also stars Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves and Wendie Malick, has been a big draw for TV Land in the States but so far has done even better, proportionally, in Canada.
Monday's opener also provided a boost for a rerun of Hiccups, which followed Cleveland at 8:30 with 711,000 viewers. That was a 200,000 jump from the Hiccups season finale the week before. At 9, reruns of CBS comedy imports Two and a Half Men (1,483,000) and the night's highest-rated network entry, The Big Bang Theory (1,881,000), continued to power through another rerun summer. CSI Miami did an overnight, estimated 1,176,000 at 10 on CTV.
Hot in Cleveland put a dent in Global's first run summer import Lie to Me, which arrested 830,000 at 8 p.m. The new Fox buddy cop series The Good Guys slipped to 422,000 at 9.
Soccerless CBC went nil-nil Monday at 8 with reruns of comedies 18 to Life and Little Mosque failing to crack the More People Live in Brampton threshold--even if you added their totals together.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Remembering Bob Probert

Oct. 16, 2008, a date marked on a score sheet, a magical night in Deer Lake, Newfoundland. At the centre of it was Bob Probert, who died Sunday at 45.
Probert was the ex-NHLer, the draw in a charity hockey game between the local Deer Lake team and a rag tag bunch assembled to represent the Showcase series Rent A Goalie. Christopher Bolton, the star and driving force behind the series, remembered me from a skate a year or two earlier and invited me to be the token press dude on this East Coast romp. It was a hell of a trip, a night and day that blurs between the screech and the shinny but that night on the ice was one I'll never forget.
It seemed as if the entire town and then some had crammed into the local arena. Most were there to see Probert, who made his name in the NHL by fighting every challenger but who was transitioning into a post NHL career with grace and good humour. He seemed and indeed was willing to do anything to make the game one to remember for the kids at that rink, even allowing locals who put up ten bucks toward the local hockey program to shave a strip of hair off his head every time the opposition scored a goal. Probert's poorly razored noggin looked like a pack of hounds had been chewing on it after the game. You wouldn't see Wayne Gretzky doing that, I thought at the time.
Afterwards, in the dressing room, Probert explained that he needed to be bald for an upcoming Halloween party; I think there was an Addams Family motif and he was going as Uncle Fester. So there was method to his madness but, still, how many pro athletes would literally put their head on the line for a charity event?
Less than a year later, I was interviewing Probert for the CBC series Battle of the Blades. He and Tie Domi and Claude Lemieux--bitter rivals in their playing days--were talking up the series, which went on to be a monster hit last fall on CBC.
Probert's one concern was not getting kicked off the reality show too quickly. His kids told him not to embarrass them by getting booted off first. Probert's great height did not make his transition to pairs figure skating very easy and he was the first eliminated, but all the NHLers who participated in the series came out of it with plenty of respect and goodwill.
Domi, as usual, did most of the talking with reporters during the press sessions but I remember Probert (left with Kristina Lenko) chiming in at one point. The topic was fighting and keeping a hate-on for an opponent. Probert poo-poohed that notion, saying he'd lost count of the guys he fought on the ice and then had a drink with later after the game.
He hinted also that he felt trapped in that enforcer role. Probert was one of the most feared fighters ever, but the former Red Wing and Blackhawk also had a touch around the net. There did seem to be a "What if" about the guy, I want to say a bit of sadness to him but that sounds so much like what you write about somebody who just died.
He must have had one hell of a temper to have been the guy in all those fights but his good nature was all I saw in Newfoundland. He just seemed generous and humble and ego-less. To stand with him and with all those guys on that ice in Deer Lake, lined up at the blueline before the game, singing "O Canada" with 500 folks from The Rock, was my big "I Am Canadian" moment. Probert--who gave his time to many charity hockey efforts, including the annual Baycrest Hospital tournament--put that moment over the top. He did it by his calm, playful presence, just by helping to remind all of us that we were once kids and that this game is so damn cool.
News that he died this past Sunday is tragic and shocking and condolences to his friends and family.