Monday, February 28, 2011

Podcast: Oscars a dud. So did we still watch?

Did the morning after radio chat with my buddy Mike Miller at Lima, Ohio's WIMA this a.m. The subject, of course, was Oscars and despite a little mid-show Crystal correction what a drag it all was this year.
It's not just me saying it. Roger Ebert called it the worst Oscarcast he's ever seen. Salon's Matt Zoeller Seitz deconstructs co-host James Franco's "Oscars of Apathy." John Doyle rants that the Oscars are so over.

Billy Crystal: he knows Oscars

I'm not as articulate--Miller called at 7:05 this morning--but I think you'll get the gist. You can listen in here.
UPDATED OSCAR RATINGS: CTV pulled 6,113,000 viewers for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards according to overnight estimates. That's up in Canada over the 5.9 million who watched last year. CTV got 2,259,000 for the Oscar pre-show, with 897,000 watchig the eTalk Oscar special.
It was a different story in the U.S. where the Oscars shed 12% of its 18 to 49-year-old viewers compared to year-ago numbers, drawing 37.6 million on ABC.
EARLY REPORT: Overnight ratings are starting to trickle in and indications are that the numbers are down compared to last year, in the U.S. at least. TV By The Numbers reports fast affiliate ratings are off by about 15% so far, which would translate into an average of around 33.5 million ABC viewers, but the site says expect that to be adjusted upwards as more overnight data comes in. Check back here later Monday for updates and Canadian Oscar rating overnights.

Brett Wilson twit slip? Dragons drama drags on

Plenty of drama in CBC's Dragons' Den. Ousted Dragon W. Brett Wilson is hot on the spin trail, appearing on Calgary's Breakfast Television Monday morning to address his departure from the hit CBC reality series. The 53-year-old venture capitalist says he couldn't come to terms on a couple of key points, including availability (he had a trip planned this spring with his kids) and use of branding to promote Dragons' Den deals.
There had to be other factors. Wilson has vented to reporters in the past he was a tad fed up with being part of the Kevin O'Leary Show. There might not have been room for all those egos in the Den.
Wilson blamed "junior lawyers" as one reason for the impasse. Asked by BT co-host Tara Slone  if things were amicable over at the network, he cryptically cracked, "well, there's one person at CBC who doesn't like me but there's probably 1500 that probably do. So we're okay."
Is that one person CBC factual entertainment boss Julie Bristow? CBC programming chief Kirstin Stewart? Don Cherry?
At exactly the same time Wilson was on camera in Calgary, CBC issued a release announcing Bruce Croxon as Wilson's replacement on Dragons' Den. Croxon is cofounder of Lavalife, the Internet dating service. All four other Dragons'--Jim Treliving, Arlene Dickinson, Robert Herjavec and Kevin O'Leary--made welcoming statements to Croxon in the release. Only Treliving and Dickinson mentioned Wilson, with Treliving saying, "I've had a great time with Brett."
A bizzare Twitter post late last night from Wilson's account might have led followers to believe the Calgary-based entreprenuer might want to contact Croxon with a personal proposal or three. The following appeared on Wilson's Twitter feed during Sunday night's Oscar telecast:
"when we dine - I will show interest in you - and sex as rough as you like - new to me - but very open minded ....am quite attracted to you."
The posting sat there long enough for Wilson's many followers to start speculating that the Dragon had pushed "send" on the wrong account. After several minutes, another statement went up:
"I leave my computer for 5 minutes - a friend jumps on as a joke - and then hits send - major oops - and apologies from Terry - and BRETT!"
Who was this friend--Charlie Sheen? I mean, sure, plenty of plausable denial in the later tweet. Still, interesting how Wilson and his friend type in the same short bursts with dashes and all.
Wilson has a bit of a rep as a ladies man, at times romantically linked to Sarah McLachlan and actress Lisa Ray.
The twit-slip denial comes in the midst of a personal PR push by the former oil and gas tycoon. Besides the BT stop Monday, Wilson worked Calgary's Dave Rutherford Show on AM 770. He also posted a release on his web site Monday addressing the DD departure, positioning himself as the Den's top dealmaker:
"After three years on CBC's Dragon's Den doing 60 plus deals in the Den and personally committing over $4.5 million in final deals with 30 Canadian entrepreneurs, W. Brett Wilson, the lead deal making Dragon, confirmed today that he will not return for the show's next season. With his departure, Wilson is challenging both CBC and the Dragons to take encouraging Canadian entrepreneurship to another level and to constructively criticize, guide and sometimes finance the pitchers venturing into the Den.
Wilson also hinted at starting his own show to celebrate Canadian generosity through philanthropy and indicated he will continue to step-up his own work to raise money for Canadians in need."
Wilson lists the 30 deals he staked on the series on his site along with a couple of charity ventures he is currently backing. There are several hints he's looking to do his own TV series. How about Twitter Den? There seems to be a deal there for Lavalife sponsorship. Too steamy for CBC?

Franco, Hathaway bomb in dull, sloppy Oscars

Hathaway and Franco. Paging Billy Crystal
Boy did I pick a bad year to live tweet the Academy Awards. The snark was flying at the start of the annual film industry salute but most of the fun evaporated an hour into this boring train wreck. After a while, I'd look at my laptop and see 19 minutes had gone by between tweets. It was like James Franco had hypnotised the audience into phoning it in too.
Franco and Anne Hathaway were awkward at best as Oscar hosts. He looked like he was hung over, playing it too cool or perhaps taking a drink every time Hathaway went for another costume change--which, by the way, was the only way to enjoy this show. She was overcompensating for his total detachment, playing the wife who tried too hard when her husband arrives drunk at the party. At one point she even tried to coax the crowd into some affirmation for Franco, who was getting killed on the twitter feeds. These kids were not alright.
Rubbing it in was that loud standing ovation for Billy Crystal who arrived two-thirds in like the answer to viewer's prayers. Crystal struck just the right note, putting on a short clinic on timing and storytelling. He set up a tribute to long time Oscar host Bob Hope. As Bill Maher tweeted, "get to the part about how Bob Hope got a hooker every night."
After the film clip, "Hope" introduced the next two presenters. It was ex-SCTV mimic Dave Thomas at the mike. Would that he had hosted the entire night as Hope.
Everything from Franco and Hathaway seemed like rehearsal, including a mirthless opening montage of movie clips that pointlessly reached back to Back to the Future. Even in drag Franco was a drag, throwing on a dress without anything funny to say, although he did finally work in a Charlie Sheen joke--an hour into the broadcast. Were the writers stuck in traffic or could nobody see the TelePrompTer?
There was very little unintentional humour, unless you count the Men from Glad moment provided by white wearing Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin. They looked like bad guys in a Three Stooges short.

"I am Sparticus!"
 Kirk Douglas did wake up the room with his spirited antics. Brandishing a cane, the 94-year-old film legend brought some playfulness to the proceedings. So did Best Supporting Actress winner Melissa Leo with her F-bomb, which went out loud and proud all across Canada but was caught by ABC censors working the seven-second delay button. Was the button pushed at CTV packaged out along with Fecan? Asleep at that point like so many other viewers?
There was some attempted banter between presenters Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law but frankly it just lay there like Downey's last movie. Ben Stiller and Will Ferrell these two aren't.
Aaron Sorkin won for writing The Social Network and spoke over the orchestra for much of his long acceptance speech. Ask NBC about this guy getting his words in on time.
Some of the funnier tweets as the night wore on: when Crystal came out, Norm Macdonald quipped, "When Hairplugs Met Sally." Maher even joked about the "In Memoriam" segment, "or as I call them on this show the lucky ones."
It took so long to get to Natalie  Portman's win for Best Actress for The Swan that it looked like she was in her eighth trimester.
Anyway, it was three hours and eleven minutes I'll never get back. Thankfully, a nation can now turn its attention back to Charlie Sheen.
Rush, Bonham-Carter and Firth from The King's Speech
Jeff Bridges and clan on the red carpet
Best actress winner Natalie Portman

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Live snarking the Oscars this Sunday on Twitter

The 83rd Annual Academy Awards airs live Sunday night begining at 8:30 p.m. on ABC and CTV. I'll be like snarking on the annual Oscar deal over at Twitter. Follow me @BillBriouxTV. Let the 140 characters or less hilarity begin.
James Franco and Anne Hathaway host this year's Oscarfest, a departure from the usual stand up comedian approach. Franco and Hathaway are both easy on the eyes and like Hugh Jackman a few years ago will likely benefit from reduced expectations when it comes to comedy chops. Look for them to step up and make with the laffs. Rumor has them opening Sunday's show with a Billy Crystal-like opener featuring the duo jumping in and out of clips from nominated films. There's also a suggestion that Crystal himself will show up at the three-quarter mark and add some shtick to the event. Sadly, no Ricky Gervais sighting has been reported, although he did offer some unsolicited tips to the new hosts on his web site.
Oscar time means parties and office pools. Here's a head start, TVFMF's annual fearless forecast. Wager at your own risk and remember--the more films you actually saw, the less likely you will get this thing right:

Best Picture: Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter’s Bone
Inception was cool but confused the hell out of me and probably had Academy fogies scurrying into the lobby as fast as their walkers would allow. I saw The Kids Are All Right on the back of an Air Canada headrest.It was like a long, really dull episode of Brothers & Sisters with the most tacked on ending since Lost. 127 Hours is about a guy who chews off his arm—which is what I wanted to do sitting through The Kids Are All Right. Toy Story 3 was great fun but Best Picture? These extra nominations have gone to absurdity and beyond. True Grit was a great movie, just two hours of pure escape, but the Coen brothers and Bridges are not going to win again for a cowboy remake. Winter’s Bone sounds like a Canadian porn movie.
It comes down to Black Swan, The Fighter, The King’s Speech and The Social Network. Eliminate The Fighter, Academy voters will think it's The Wrestler and wonder why they're being asked to vote for it again. Black Swan is about ballet, come on. The Social Network was interesting but the Academy is not going to “like” a Facebook flick, those bastards are cannibalizing their customers by keeping them out of the cineplexes. That leaves The King’s Speech, which is a historical film (100 points) about a real English King (200 points) who has to overcome an affliction (350 points). The film is crammed with English actors (1000 points). It has more nominations (12) than any other film (100 points). There’s a Royal wedding this summer (a million points). So even though these points are just made up and don’t mean anything, The King’s Speech is a lock.

Best Actor: Javier Bardem, Jeff Bridges, Jess Eisenberg, Colin Firth, James Franco.
Franco may make a disarming host, but he doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Bardem is so good in Biutiful you just want to commit suicide immediately following this movie—which will cut down on votes. Bridges is awesome as Rooster Cogburn but John Wayne already won an Oscar for this role so who the hell does Jeff Bridges think he is? Jesse Eisenberg is so good playing a prick nobody will want to vote for him. Firth stutters throughout The King’s Speech—Oscar gold.

Best Actress: Annette Benning, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lawrence, Natalie Portman, Michelle Williams.
Benning should get an Oscar for not getting a face lift but not for this sitcom. Kidman can no longer move her face so no Oscar for you. Jennifer Lawrence? Is she the one that was on Friends? Michelle Williams I hear was pretty good in that movie I’ll never see and nobody in the Academy saw. That leaves Portman who is really pregnant and plays a total looney toon in that dance flick. Oscar double gold.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Out at CBC: 18 to Life and Dragon Brett Wilson

Couple of CBC things that make you go "huh" on a Thursday. First is the news that started to filter in yesterday that 18 to Life is officially dead. Odd this call was made the week the show took a major jump in the ratings. This Monday, 18 to Life pulled 381,000 viewers, up over 100,000 from recent weeks. It did better this week than InSecurity (356,000), the Tuesday night CBC spy spoof that made the CBC protected list over a week ago.
The second year comedy should have been tested at least once on another night. That's network TV 101.
The other news today is that Calgary entrepreneur W. Brett Wilson is departing Dragons' Den. “Unfortunately, we were unable to reach an agreement on the terms of his contract," says Julie Bristow, executive director, Factual Entertainment, CBC Television. Couldn't work out a deal? Isn't that what he does on the show??
Wilson's departure raises the question: do some dragons earn more than others? You'd think they'd all get the same deal. The other four Dragons will all be back next fall when the show returns for an sixth season.
As a viewer, I always found that Wilson brought a quiet dignity to the hit series as well as a social conscious to the table. The prostate cancer survivor just seemed like a decent guy, a solid counter point to that all-about-the-money showboat Kevin O'Leary. He also delivered on his deals--something that set him apart from some of his fellow Dragons according to at least one published report.
He'll be missed, although he did seem a tad bored at times this season.
Another possible factor: the Den is probably too small to hold all those egos. Wilson must have went "what the hell?" when O'Leary and Robert Herjavec got that short-lived Shark Tank gig on ABC.
"Haven't seen the CBC press release re Dragons Den," he tweeted Thursday. "am on a plane. Curious as to what they said...might comment later..." His previous tweets, some just hours earlier, seem to suggest he was very much into the show.
Who'll fill the empty seat? Jim Balsillie would be awesome, no? It's not like he has an NHL team to look after or anything.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rogers plays chicken with cable subscribers

Buckbuckbuckbwaaaat? Starting Monday, Rogers is offering cable subscribers in Ontario a 24 hour rotisserie chicken channel. This is no joke. Just endless shots of chicken roasting on a spit. And you thought Americans were pissed before because they couldn’t get Aljazeera.
The Chicken Channel is 100% sponsored by rotisserie restaurant chain Swiss Chalet. Always so good for so little.
It will join the Fireplace channel, the tropical fish channel, the sunset channel and the CBC News Network as static services already offered by Rogers. A camera will lock on two rows of chickens turning on a spit over an open-flame oven. Set oven to 350, channel to 208.
And why not? The Chicken Channel can’t draw fewer viewers than, say, OLN, TVO or SUN TV.
Think how much money P.K. Pelad’Oh could save transforming SUN TV into a 24/7 St. Hubert Station instead of Fox News North. He could kill two birds with one stone by roasting locked out Journal de Montreal employees on a spit.
Other well known Canadian brands are gonna want in on this. Stand by for these future TV channels:
  • The Air Canada Channel: a fixed shot of a conveyor where your bag never arrives.
  • The Canadian Tire Channel: an endless shot of somebody trying to pay for a snow blower with 20,000 five cent Canadian Tire bills.
  • The Tim Hortons Channel: a static shot of one endless, sheep-like line of cars at a drive through in winter with massive exhaust clouds. Good times.
  • The TTC Channel: an endless shot of an empty driver’s seat with the bus parked on the street in front of a doughnut shop (could be combined with The Tim Hortons Channel).
  • The Liberal Party Channel: No image whatsoever. (He didn’t come back for you.)
  • The Beer Store Channel: shots of empties constantly rolling along a conveyor belt. (In the U.S. could double as "The Charlie Sheen Channel").
  • The Shoppers Drug Mart Channel: shot of people waiting endlessly at a cashier while somebody fishes for her Shoppers Card out of her purse.
  • The RBC/BMO or any Canadian bank Channel: Shot of a constantly escalating number representing bank profit margins in Canada.
  • The Bad Boy Channel: shot of Mel Lastman shouting “NOOO-BODY!” over and over again until he is crushed by a heavy appliance.
  • The Hudson Bay Channel: an endless shot of salespeople trying to get rid of their overstocked Vancouver Winter Olympic merchandise.

This Week's Podcast: another YouTube sensation


CHML's Scott Thompson starts off our weekly chat with audio of Maria Aragon, the 10-year-old from Winnipeg who has suddenly become a viral superstar. The future American Idol winner was a guest on Ellen DeGeneres this week where she sang "Born This Way." Ten million people have so far checked out Aragon singing the Madonna-like Lady Gaga song on YouTube. Check it out below.

Aragon is poised as only a 10-year-old could be, taking the stage and nailing her vocal and piano performance. Ellen gave her a box of puppies or something after her segment. The kid probably thought, "Damn--I could have done Oprah and won a car."
Scott can't believe all the attention Aragon has received (Lady Gaga has invited the youngster to perform with her in Toronto) but that's YouTube, the worldwide, viral, star maker machine. Just ask that lady from Scotland who's name I already forget.
The impact of the new media came up on the weekend during an NBC Saturday Night Live special. The success of Justin Timberlake's "Dick in a Box" demonstrated how SNL is the perfect partner for YouTube, offering three minute sketches that slide perfectly over to Internet streaming. Jimmy Kimmel has very successfully mined new media to promote his show, as has Jimmy Fallon. CBS recently posted highlights of Howard Stern's appearance on David Letterman before it hit the air that night on CBS. (Letterman's talk show tapes six or seven hours before it airs in the East.)
The smart folks in TV have learned if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. The new media drives viewers to the old media and vice-versa.
Scott also asks about some famous stars who may or may not have started off on SNL (Jennifer Aniston? Robert Downey Jr?), Piers Morgan vs. Larry King, the latest edition of Survivor and this weekend's upcoming Academy Awards. Listen in to the whole shebang here.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ratings across Canada Feb. 14 to 20

UPDATED with Friday and Saturday and also Sunday network numbers.
That Jeopardy IBM infomerical was a hit (featuring Alex Trebek, Ken Jennings, Watson and Brad Rutter, above), topping two million viewers per day on CBC over the three-day challenge. Look for Jennings, Watson and Rutter next season on Survivor: Deduction Island.
Two and a Half Men, Survivor, American Idol the new Criminal Minds and The Big Bang Theory all also had big weeks. A look at Feb. 14-20, 2011, across Canada, overnight 2+ estimates:

MONDAY
Why does CBS tolerate Charlie Sheen? Big numbers for Two and a Half Men, that's why. The sitcom drew close to two-and-a-half-million overnight, estimated CTV viewers Monday night (2,405,000), topping everything else in Canada on this day. CTV saw ratings dip in Week Two for Matthew Perry's new rink comedy Mr. Sunshine (1,129,000), with new fellow Canuck Tyler Labine's new rom-com Mad Love premiering at 1,449,000. Mike & Molly expanded to 1,858,000 at 9:30. Castle crowned CTV's night with 1,746,000.
Global likes Mondays, too. House stood tall at 2.1 million+. Jennifer Beals' new Fox cop show The Chicago Code arrested 1,351,000. Hawaii FIVE-O remained consistently strong with 1,673,000 viewers.
That brain-bot Watson helped boost Jeopardy! to 1,862,000 to start last week. Not that it helped Little Mosque (485,000), 18 to Life (246,000) or Village on a Diet (359,000).

TUESDAY
Good Wife's Archie Punjabi
What topped Glee and everything else in the Canadian national ratings Tuesday? That would be Jeopardy!, Alex. The second man vs. machine episode soared to 2,081,000 viewers. Even Wheel of Fortune spun gold for CBC, hitting 1,422,000 at 7 p.m. The Rick Mercer Report enjoyed the bounce to close to 1.4 million at 8. CBC's night slid from there, with InSecurity (485,000) and Pillars of the Earth (465,000) both nudging past the Brampton Barrier.
In total households, Glee (1,714,000) didn't even beat NCIS: Los Angeles (1,783,000) on Global (although it cleaned up among the younger demos). A steamy episode of The Good Wife followed with close to 1.3 million overnight, estimated viewers.
CTV had an ordinary night with No Ordinary Family (966,000), Law & Order: SVU (1,032,000) and The Listener (884,000).


Survivor: Redemption Island
 WEDNESDAY
Global had to be glad to see Russell and Boston Rob back on Survivor. The well hyped Redemption Island premiere drew an overnight, estimated 2,659,000 viewers Wednesday, nudging past CTV's two hour American Idol take (2,633,000). As the Global PR team was quick to point out, the demo tally tilted even more in their favour. Survivor won 1,396,000 to 1,175,000 among 25-54-year-olds. Global sez they beat Idol by 28% in 18-49s and skunked everybody in Toronto and Vancouver.
All of which makes CBC's 8 p.m. take for Dragon's Den all the more impressive: close to 1.6 million viewers.
Republic of Doyle's numbers stayed strong at 9 with 843,000. Not bad opposite the premiere of CTV's new crime import Criminal Minds: Extra F'd Up Behaviour, which opened to 2,468,000.
Global followed Survivor with out-of-simulcast NCIS (678,000)and medical drama Off The Map (1,044,000). That final robot Jeopardy! tally? What is 2,035,000. A good week for IBM.

THURSDAY
Forget Survivor and American Idol--The Big Bang Theory is still the biggest show in Canada. The CBS comedy drew 3,462,000 to CTV Thursday night, with close to 2 million of those in the 25-54-year-old demo.
It was all part of a dominant night for CTV, starting with CSI at 7 (1,179,000) then S#*! My Dad Says (2,639,000), Grey's Anatomy (2,537,000) and The Mentalist (2,704,000) following Big Bang.
Global weathered the night with Wipeout (1,037,000) and Bones (1,238,000). The Office, which is slumping in the States (that Thursday night NBC comedy block is tanking) did just 412,000 on Global.
Jeopardy! said bye-bye-brainiacs and answer-bot and half the audience went with them. Just 1,048,000 tuned in to CBC Thursday to see the start of the Teen Tournament. A rare Thursday night hockey game drew 703,000.

FRIDAY
CTV crime dramas The Defenders (1,404,000), Blue Bloods (1,880,000) and CSI: New York (1,769,000) swept Friday as usual.
Marketplace continues to grab a fair share of the TV market on Fridays, attracting 923,000 viewers. A RMR repeat drew 629,000, followed by the fifth estate (475,000).
Global also airs programs on Fridays, including Haven (268,000).

SATURDAY
Hockey Night in Canada Game One: 2,283,000. No wonder CBC renewed Don Cherry's contract.

SUNDAY
Speaking of Grapes, he was back Sunday night for CBC's coverage of the Heritage Classic game in Calgary. Flames beat Habs 4-0, CBC scored 2,078,000 Sunday night viewers.
Otherwise things were pretty much back to normal on the private networks. CTV ran the table with Undercover Boss at 7 (1,479,000) followed by the premiere of the 18th (and first in Hi-Def) edition of The Amazing Race (2,664,000). Then it was Desperate Housewives (1,641,000) at 9, out-of-simulcast CSI Miami at 10 (1,680,000).
The Simpsons delivered their steady million-plus for Global (1,081,000), with Family Guy close behind (887,000). Bob's Burgers (535,000), The Cleveland Show (501,000) and Brothers & Sisters (609,000) were also rans.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Keeping up with The Chicago Code

The Chicago Code's Jennifer Beals: arresting
Holy crap! They pack a lot of action into The Chicago Code. I'm trying to blog about it and watch it at the same time. Can't be done, so I'm typing during the commercials
The mid-season Fox police drama is from Shawn Ryan, the impressive writer/executive producer behind The Shield and the short-lived FX critics'darling Terriers. Ryan packs a cable intensity into The Chicago Code. In tonight's episode, "Gillis, Chase and Baby Face," there are car chases, L-train chases, foot chases--I'm winded just watching and that was all in the first 15 minutes.
Jason Clarke's Det. Wysocki is shaping up to be the fearless action hero of this deal, the Jack Bauer of the Windy City. The street savvy career cop charges into danger protected only by his wits and conviction. His cop buddies don't trust him and barely have his back. They feel he's too cosy with the boss, Chicago police superintendent Teresa Colvin (Jennifer Beals). She's got her own problems fending off a corrupt city politician (played by the always formidable Delroy Lindo).

The Chicago Code is not groundbreaking drama. Many of the plot lines could have surfaced in the '80s on Hill Street Blues--tensions on the police force, corruption among city officials, life and death on the streets. What is impressive is the pace of the storytelling. A lot happens and it happens fast. The characters are off to a flying, compelling start.
Beals was in Toronto last week to promote the series, which premiered to 1,351,000 estimated viewers across Canada on Global. The network's PR team made the most of their day with her. Publicist Jacqueline Kendall had to ditch her pumps and slip on some Keds just to keep up with the former Flashdancer.
Beals looks at least a decade younger than her 47 years. She charmed her way through radio chats with CHUM FM and CBC's Q and then was whisked over to Marilyn Denis before an afternoon packed with print reporters.
Beals held up like a pro and was friendly and impressive, crediting Ryan with assembling a strong writing team, keeping them on task while at the same time giving them room to breathe. The Chicago native is a Yale grad and we touched on a lot of subjects, including her love of Vancouver, the city where she shot The L Word and met her husband, Ken Dixon. Wished I'd had more time to talk with her, but here's a link to the story I wrote off that interview for The Canadian Press.

Worth another look: CBC's 18 to Life

It's "Family Day" (at least in Ontario), so time for a second or third look at the CBC family sitcom 18 to Life. The 8:30 p.m. comedy has been lost on Monday nights, slumping in the ratings opposite House and import comedies on CTV. CBC left it off its recent list of renewals and its fate seems very much up in the air.
A shame since, on the weeks I've checked in anyways, it is a fun and original little show.
Tonight's episode is all about a battle of the sexes subject most families can relate to: leaving the toilet seat up or down.
The modern day Romeo and Juliet at the centre of the story--teen newlyweds Tom and Jesse (Michael Seater and Stacey Farber)--are at odds over the seat issue. Tom, like most dudes, can't stand sitting in the boys room and likes to leave the seat up. This despite the fact that the actor's name is Seater. Follow?
Jesse asks her mom and mother-in-law how they managed to train their partners on the seat issue and gets some surprising answers. The dads also take aim at the issue. Hilarity ensues.
Some might think this sitcom has bottomed out or is sunk to toilet humour but really, 18 to Life shines when it explores the everyday, relatable things. Brent Butt always said Corner Gas was at its best when it was about the "finding my pencil" moment, some little thing that allowed each character to rise to the bait. 18 to Life has that same comedy-in-the-character DNA.
Toilet humour aisde, CBC seems ready to wash its hands of this comedy. Given all the chances Being Erica got to find a so-so audience, the network should try 18 to Life out at least once on another night. Sunday nights at 8 after Heartland would be a nice fit, I'm thinking.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

This week's Podcast: Sorry Charlie

This week, CHML's Scott Thompson wants to know what a lot of us want to know: what the hell's up with Charlie Sheen? The 45-year-old actor is no lock to make 46 after a widely-reported string of William Holden weekends. The Two and a Half Men star's party boy behaviour finally forced his studio and network to force him into some sort of half-assed, stay-at-home rehab. Next thing we hear he's cold calling radio host Dan Patrick and banging at studio doors yelling, "Let me in."
I've had a few opportunities to speak with Sheen at several TCA functions over the years. In my limited experience, you never knew which Sheen you were going to get. One was standoff-ish with an eye on the exit and the other was like your long-lost brother from another mother. A big baseball fan, Sheen talked Blue Jays like a scout once he knew you were from Toronto. Another time, standing on the hallowed turf of the Rose Bowl at an especially memorable CBS party, he was the funniest, friendliest guy you'd ever want to meet, goofing on his old pals Kiefer Sutherland and Danny Bonaduce.
Charlie Sheen
I have no idea what demons this guy is fighting but I hope he gets the help he needs, and fast. He made Jennifer Lopez's ghost-hubby look like a hearty Olympian in the last Two and a Half Men I caught last week.
Being part of a Hollywood family either steels you or crushes you, I suppose. You'd have a hard time finding a more serene and chipper individual than Jason Ritter (The Event), son of John and grandson of Tex. Whether it is genetics, upbringing or environment, some second- and third-generation Hollywood stars are simply better adjusted than others.
Despite the money and fame, being thrust into the mad world of La-La land at an early age is extra tough, I'm thinking. You could look no further than Sheen and his brother Emilio Estevez for a fascinating case study.
A year-and-a-half ago now, I was on the set of a Disney Channel movie shot in Toronto, one of those Camp Rock deals. It was late, 11 p.m. or so when I was allowed past a third check point into this nondescript Toronto factory-turned-studio, where several Jonas brothers were trading lines on a large Muskoka Lodge set.
The publicist worked me through the young cast in quick order. I probably spoke to a dozen actors, including the bonus Jonas.
The one individual who stood out, however, seemed like the saddest little girl on the planet. I was introduced to Demi Lovato, who was playing the piano off in the corner. She played beautifully. I hated to interrupt her to begin the interview.
We spoke, but she seemed far away. Lovato was already a showbiz veteran. One of her first gigs was making big eyes at that purple dino Barney. We talked about her upcoming movie, her upcoming TV show (Sonny With a Chance), her upcoming CD. She had just turned 18 at the time. I think my big achievement at her age was trying to warp a plastic road hockey blade over a kettle.
Demi Lovato
For someone with so many exciting things on the go, she didn't seem that excited. Maybe one of these Jones' cads had broken her heart, I guessed. When I got up to leave, I just wanted to give her a hug and buy her a pony.
A year later, I'm half a world away, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and there is young Lovato up on a giant billboard with the same Jonas clan. The Disney girl was part of their World Tour, a pre-Bieber-palooza.
It might have been a week later I heard Lovato had left the tour and entered rehab. Somebody in her circle put a full stop to that circus. Shut her insane world down for six whole months. Good call.
Some of us who run around chasing these people for quotes sometimes forget that they aren't just punch lines on Leno, they are sons and daughters and brothers and sisters and moms and dads. Fame can be a bitch, whether you're Charlie Sheen or Demi Lovato. You hate to see anybody in distress, and you hold out hope that people can turn themselves around, or get help from those closest to them.
Cindy Ronsoni has had to hold a lot of celebrity hands over her career as a publicity specialist for Fox, Lifetime, GSN and others. She shares some insider insight about Sheen and the superhuman spin his publicist Stan Rosenfield has been forced to conjure these last few weeks. Check out her take over at her always thoughtful blog Honestly, a must-read for anyone in the P.R. business.
For the radio musings on Sheen and other TV topics, listen in here to the weekly CHML chat.

CBC ditch Jeopardy? Does not compute

Watson (left) with Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek
What is through the roof? The answer would be ratings for Jeopardy!
The three day match up of man vs. machine, which concludes Wednesday, has sent the numbers for the 27-year-old quiz show into orbit. Monday's supper hour offering drew 1,862,000 viewers to CBC, among the public network's biggest non-hockey draws of the year. The episode outperformed CBC's combined total for their entire 8-11 p.m. lineup (not that challenging considering the anemic scores for Little Mosque, 18 to Life and Village on a Diet). Even the 25-54-year-old Jeopardy! take took a giant leap forward over the half million mark. Watson, that big black slab of smartypants, has plenty of admirers.
Not everybody is a fan, however. TVFMF reader and old high school chum Gerard Mayne send an email dismissing the Man vs. Machine stunt as "one big IBM infomercial." Mayne feels Watson's hot-wired buzzer beater ability amounts to cheating, especially evident in Tuesday night's Double Jeopardy round when Watson roared past humbled brainiacs Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter 24-6. "Have a look at the normally inexpressive faces of Ken and Brad," writes Mayne, "eyes rolling in utter disgust." This is no contest of skill, it's "a week long IBM ad," says Mayne.
The one part he did like was when Watson was asked in Final Jeopardy to name the U.S. city with airports named for a war hero and a battle. Watson answered, "What is Toronto???" Wrong, circuit breath--the answer is Chicago (airports: O'Hare and Midway). Watson only wagered $900 and change out of his $30K+ winnings. More proof it's a cheat-bot, says Mayne.
The machine stands to win a million smackers Wednesday, with IBM giving it all to charity. You don't need a computer to figure this one out. $1M for 3 x 30 minute infomercials with a vast, national target audience of serial computer buyers = cheap.
To Mayne's point, though, isn't the only logical follow up to this fake tourney to hold another round pitting IBM vs. Apple? They could have those two guys from the commercials stand at the podiums. Or maybe just let those actors answer the questions.
Another suggestion I happened upon via Twitter: have William Shatner (coming north to host the 31st Annual Genie Awards in Ottawa March 10) face off against Watson and challenge him with a circular, humanly illogical question. Ka-BOOM!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"If Sheen outlives me, I'm gonna be pissed"

Lorre (left) with Sheen at a past TCA session
Sure he's super rich, but you've got to feel for Chuck Lorre. He is this generation's Norman Lear, the current King of TV comedy, the writer/producer behind The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men and Mike & Molly, but at what price? As a writer/showrunner on Cybill, Roseanne and Grace Under Fire, the 58-year-old former musician has survived Roseanne, Cybil Shepherd and Brett Butler, three women who shaved years off his life.
Now he has to deal with Charlie Sheen. Here's how he dealt with him Monday night, on the end credit "vanity card" where he shares a sneak hidden rant each week with viewers (you can read all of them here):
"I exercise regularly. I eat moderate amounts of healthy food. I make sure to get plenty of rest. I see my doctor once a year and my dentist twice a year. I floss every night. I’ve had chest x-rays, cardio stress tests, EKG’s and colonoscopies. I see a psychologist and have a variety of hobbies to reduce stress. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I don’t do drugs. I don’t have crazy, reckless sex with strangers.
If Charlie Sheen outlives me, I’m gonna be really pissed.”
UPDATE: Sheen responds, saying he will outlive Lorre; read it here.

Ratings across Canada Feb. 7 to 13

My dad used to have a shaving brush just like that
The 53rd Annual Grammy Awards was the top show of the week with an overnight, estimated average audience of 3,258,000 viewers Sunday night on Global. February is a busy month of Sunday blockbusters, with CTV scoring huge numbers for last week's Super Bowl and the Academy Awards coming up at the end of the month.
Big event programming is up this season on both sides of the border. Some old reliable series, however, are starting to show their age. Desperate Housewives seems to set a new low every week, with numbers down too for Grey's Anatomy and CSI: New York. CTV also has to be concerned about rookie shows that seem to perform well in Canada--S#*! My Dad Says and The Defenders come immediately to mind--that could wind up canceled in the States.
Live sports continues to score, too, especially if the blue and white are playing. The Toronto Maple Leafs drew close to 4.5 million viewers this week in four games spread over three networks.
Here's how it all played out across Canada in 2+ numbers the week of February 7 to 13, 2011:

MONDAY
Hey Charlie Sheen, another reason to party: Two and a Half Men was the No. 1 show on TV in Canada on this night, scoring an overnight, estimated 2,285,000 viewers. He should hammer on some studio doors in Canada, we'd let him in, get him on a strict Canadian beer diet.
No. 2 on the night was House with just under two million viewers at 8 on Global. Mike & Molly weighed in with 1,719,000 following Men on CTV. Castle at 10 scored close to 1.8 million for CTV. Hot in Cleveland stayed hot on CTV with over 1.5 million. The new cop drama The Chicago Code did 1,449,000 on Global, with Hawaii FIVE-O right behind at 1,470,000. Matthew Perry's new comedy Mr. Sunshine opened with 1,374,000 on CTV at 8, which was a drop of about 600,000 from Cleveland's take in that slot a week earlier.
A strong night for both CTV and Global kept CBC scores low. Little Mosque on the Prairie, which somehow made CBC's stealth renewal list last Friday, was down to 417,000 viewers. 18 to Life, which didn't make the cut, did 240,000. This family comedy should have been tested at least once on a new night. How many times did darling Erica get shifted away from timeslot turmoil?
The Week the Villagers Went and Dieted did 508,000. G. Stroumboulopoulos, renewed for life as it sheds pounds and viewers, counted 94,000.
City's high score was 688,000 for The Bachelor. Auction Kings on Discovery outdrew Little Mosque (438,000). So did a Leafs game (616,000) and a Canucks game (508,000) on regional Sportsnet broadcasts. So did SpongeBob SquarePants on YTV (467,000).

TUESDAY
Global had a big night, CTV not so much. Glee was the top show with over two million viewers, followed by NCIS Los Angeles (1.9 million). The Good Wife was good for 1,463,000 at 10.
CTV saw No Ordinary Family hit a new low at 8 with exactly a million estimated viewers. That led into Law & Order: SVU at 1,082,000. The Toronto-lensed drama The Listener returned for a second season at 812,000. Props to CTV for getting this on in season as opposed to tossing it into the summer mix, but how long will the network be patient at under a million on a Tuesday night? Especially when the night is launched with CTV supper hour newscasts which collectively draw a shade under two million viewers. Only Glee did better than the CTV Evening News Tuesday across Canada.
CBC had another strong outing from the Rick Mercer Report at close to 1.3 million. InSecurity, renewed on Friday, pulled 449,000. These early renewals seem more based on funding deadlines than numbers but good on CBC for giving this spy comedy more time to find its feet. Pillars of the Earth, no Tudors so far, came in at 563,000.
City's big gainer was The Biggest Loser at 608,000. American Pickers found 511,000 on History. A Leaf game scored 602,000 on Sportsnet Ontario.

WEDNESDAY
American Idol did 2,828,000, marked down from over three million the week before. It's slipped a bit last week in the States, too. Criminal Minds was strong at 2,380,000. CTV closed the night with 1,583,000 for Blue Bloods. The new Tom Selleck cop caper did better on Fridays, especially in the States.
CBC got off to a roaring start with Dragon's Den (1,668,000) followed by another solid tally for Alan Hawco's renewed cop caper Republic of Doyle (854,000).
Global found 1,037,000 Wednesday for Off The Map. Otherwise Wednesday they were off the map.
City got a robust 932,000 for TV's best comedy, Modern Family. Where'd everybody go for Cougar Town (301,000)? Maybe to catch the end of a Montreal/Boston game on TSN (725,000).
The Human Target season (series?) finale drew 610,000 Wednesday to /A\. Paula Abdul's forgotten Live to Dance came to a halt with 147,000 /A\ viewers. Dawg!

THURSDAY
Big Bang Theory, second only to the Grammy Award take this week, exploded to 3,123,000 overnight, estimated viewers. That drove CTV to another monster Thursday with big takes for S#*! My Dad Says (2,247,000), Grey's Anatomy (2,192,000) and The Mentalist (2,379,000). Tucked away at 7:30 p.m., CSI still found 1,318,000.
That rattled Bones (1,354,000) and Wipeout (742,000) on Global, with NBC 10 p.m. comedies The Office (394,000) and Outsourced (465,000) clinging to their decent demos.
American Idol's hidden results show did 1,368,000 on /A\. Man, CTV got screwed when Fox shifted Idol out of Tues-Wed. Those busy Leafs drew 923,000 over to TSN. Imagine if this team ever made the playoffs?
CBC did their usual 400,000 to 450,000 with Doc Zone and Nature of Things. That 30 Rock episode where they goofed on Canada did 384,000 on City.

FRIDAY
CTV does well on Fridays with The Defenders (1,610,000), with guest judge Dan Aykroyd, and CSI: New York (1,784,000). Doubling up on Blue Bloods in one week pulled 1,354,000 at 10.
CBC's Marketplace should investigate itself after another close to a million tally on Fridays. Rick Mercer Repeat did 727,000. that fifth estate Olympic finger pointer did 536,000.
Fringe Friday did 562,000 on /A\. Hannah Montana pulled 501,000 on Family. Global also airs shows Fridays. One of them, Haven, did 249,000.

SATURDAY
Hockey Night in Canada first game: Toronto @ Montreal 2,282,000. Second game Calgary @ Vancouver 1,446,000. Those all Canadian matchups are gold.
Saturday Night Live: 366,000.

Katy Perry: Silverlicious
SUNDAY
The Grammys on Global (3,258,000) put a dent in everybody else's night. With plenty of Canadians in the mix, the U.S. music award show was up 21% year-to-year nationally and in the Toronto market.
Even though it aired before the Grammys, CTV did just 798,000 for their Sunday night Olympic flag waver (memo to CTV: the Vancouver Games are OVER). Desperate Housewives did 1,297,000.
CBC managed 770,000 for Heartland. The movie Bookie's Crush got crushed (280,000).
Never underestimated America's Funniest Home Videos, which pulled close to 700,000 at 7 on City.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Are today's critics sitting too close to the screen?

Chuck: saved by Sepinwall?
Interesting story in Salon this week suggesting fellow TV critic Alan Sepinwall and others are changing the conversation when it comes to TV criticism. Sepinwall, formerly at the New Jersey Leader-Post and now at HitFix.com, has for years issued lightening fast analysis of weekly episodes of everything from The Sopranos to How I Met Your Mother over at his addictive column "What's Alan Watching." He reviewed four more shows just as I was typing that last sentence.
Sepinwall has build a large and loyal following of readers who look for his take on their favourite episodes. Other critics, notably Tim Goodman (formerly with the San Francisco Chronicle but now feeding The Bastard Machine at The Hollywood Reporter), are also known for taking an episode of Mad Men or The Wire and deconstructing it for the masses.
I take my hat off to these guys. Now and then I'll see an episode of Glee and have to weigh in, pro or con, here at TV Feeds My Family but to do this every week following up to 15 shows like Sepinwall? First of all, I'd have to watch 15 shows a week.
What's Slate's Josh Levin and others (notably Time Magazine's James Poniewozik, who is quoted in the piece and flagged the original article on Twitter) are beginning to ask, however, is at what point does this level of serial responsiveness turn a critic into a "fan-in-chief." Or, as Levin asks, "Is it possible that today's TV writers are sitting too close to the screen?"
Levin suggests that if you are writing every week about, say, Chuck, you can be perceived as having crossed over from critic to advocate. He cites former NBC programmer Ben Silverman as having actually credited Sepinwall with helping to keep that series on the air.
I think Silverman (and Levin) give critics too much credit. About 200 of us wrote every week that viewers should all be watching Arrested Development. It all came off as so much "eat your vegetables" and the series never cracked TV's Top-50.
What's missing from Levin's piece is an analysis of the migration of players like Sepinwall and Goodman from Old Media to New and what that says about voices, criticism, dialogue and the television business. That, to me, is the exciting and most promising part. I used to "overnight" episodes of Survivor for years at The Toronto Sun but nobody could click on a comment button holding their "ink on dead trees" edition (although I did get a few death threat phone calls and, later, on-line attacks). Sepinwall's thoughts can generate dozens of quick retorts from around the world tagged in minutes right onto the end of his article. He may be driving the bus, but it's a full bus and it's not always full of fans. Often, the chatter in the back is as illuminating at the original post. (Although, you know, there's always a few drunks on the bus).
This may be all too much inside baseball for people coming here to read about Barbra Steisand hiding all of Will Smith's prodigious offspring under her crazy dress at Sunday's Grammys but if you've read this far, head over to Salon for Levin's interesting take on this whole deal. Then, head on over to What's Alan Watching and read Sepinwall's well measured response to the Salon piece. He can see how some might see the line blurring between critic and advocate but argues the whole point of subjective criticism is that the critic's specific point of view is where the disscussion begins, dammit.
Addressing the whole blurring the line thing, Alan beats himself up a little for a quick cameo he did on Community. People please, we're in the fun business, everybody relax. If Bill Lawrence called an asked if I wanted to deliver wine on Cougar Town I'd be on the next plane.
And, yes, by all means, comment below. I'm off to take a rest.

Man vs machine tonight on Jeopardy!


Tonight begins the first of three Jeopardy! episodes where two human contestants battle a blank, passionless machine. It's sort of like a preview to the upcoming Canadian federal election leader's debate, except that would be three blanks and a Bloc.
Ken Jennings, who had that 74-game winning streak six seasons ago, and all-time Jeopardy! champ Brad Rutter (US$3.2 million+ in winnings over several tournaments) play against Watson, an IBM supercomputer four years in the making. The winner gets a million bucks, with runners up pocketing $300,000 and $200,000. Jennings and Rutter plan to give half their winnings to charity. The computer is donating everything he wins. How smart is this thing?
PBS had the guy behind the Watson project, IBM semantic analysis boss David Ferrucci, as well as Jeopardy! executive producer Harry Friedman, before critics at the last press tour. (Nova did a special on the whole quiz show experiment last week.) We saw clips of cocky Jennings talking trash and all sort of "no machine can whup me" swagger but I'm thinking Watson is going to smoke these geeks.
I set it up in a feature for the Canadian Press. You can read all of that story here.
Speaking of Jeopardy!, who is 70 years old? That would be host Alex Trebek. The silver-haired Sudbury native has been hosting this quiz show since 1984.

Friday, February 11, 2011

CBC renews 22 Minutes, Erica, Mosque, adds five

22 Minutes. The show's back, but look for cast changes
Shh--it's Friday, a good day to slip the following release into mailboxes: "CBC Television announced 17 returning shows for the 2011-2012 season."
Some are no brainers--Dragon's Den, Battle of the Blades and The Rick Mercer Report are all hits, as is Sunday drama Heartland and Wednesday's Republic of Doyle. 22 Minutes got a well deserved pickup after a shortened, rebounding season. Friday night comedy The Ron James Show is back.
Beyond that, there's a bunch of shows any other network would probably consider to be "on the bubble"--close to renewal but too early to call. CBC are calling them renewals anyway. They include Being Erica (which has slid steadily in the ratings for three years), Little Mosque (down to a fifth of its original audience) and George Stoumboulopoulos Tonight, which was tweaked to little effect in the ratings this season.
Marketplace, which is a bigger hit this season than Republic of Doyle--on Fridays--is also back, as are long-running magazine shows the fifth estate and The Nature of Things.
Left off this renewal list are 18 to Life, Men with Brooms, Village on a Diet and that Debbie Travis Extreme Makeover makeover, as is Just Four Laughs. The public network did not have a very successful fall or winter in terms of launching new hits. CBC is showing patience with another newcomer, InSecurity, a January start that opened well but has tailed off in the ratings. Renewing it now seems odd given its on-the-bubble status, but nobody wants to go 0-for when it comes to development. The spy comedy drew an overnight, estimated 449,000 viewers this past Tuesday, down slightly from the week before.
Network media relations boss Jeff Keay says its too early to say if 22 Minutes is back for 12 or 18 episodes or similar such details.
Two other talked about shows that will be back next fall are Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune. The network confirmed that both are under contract into 2012. Executive vice president Kirstine Stewart has said recently that both will go as the network sheds its few remaining imports. Shows are in development to replace the popular import gamers.
CBC has also ordered five new shows for 2011-2012. They include Mr. D, starring Toronto-based stand-up comedian Gerry Dee. Also new: Michael Tuesday and Thursdays, a comedy written by Bob Martin and directed by Don McKellar starring Martin, Martha Burns and Jennifer Irwin; the co-production Camelot, a sword and sandal epic starring Joseph Fiennes and Eva Green that premieres Stateside on Starz in April; a new show from cranky Dragon Kevin O'Leary titled Dealer to Leader and something called Cover Me Canada.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

This Week's Podcast: more Bowl blather

This week, CHML's Scott Thompson wanted my take on CTV's Super Bowl broadcast. "Could we have seen any more promos for Flashpoint?" Scott asks. He also wondered about that half time show. We both agreed Will.I.am's plastic Devo head was a nice touch.
The two of us also yak about the Super Bowl ads and why they're so lame in Canada. Just more "five dollar foot long" and bank ads with those two geezers on the bench. I mean, 7.3 million Canadians watched this thing. Why doesn't Chrysler Canada spend a few dollars and hire Russell Peters to spin around Brampton in a new Dodge Charger? It could have been our Eminem/Detroit ad.
We get into Stern slagging Leno on Letterman. Still Leno has the last laugh in the ratings. Some things just
can not be explained.
We talk a bit about the new shows starting this week. I didn't mind the new ABC comedy Mr. Sunshine starring Matthew Perry. The pilot was a little forced, crammed with elephants and clowns (Perry plays the manager of a California ice arena), but you can forgive a show for trying too hard to be funny if it does indeed produce a few laughs.
A friend who wishes to remain anonymous took a dimmer view of Perry's latest effort. "Mr. Sunshine resuscitates Chandler Bing and CJ Cregg - of two of television’s most annoying characters - so that they can walk among us, and play an undead version of themselves," she writes.
The guest critic is especially un-fond of Allison Janey (The West Wing), who plays the owner of the arena where Perry's character works: "The googly, unblinking Vincent Price/Marty Feldman eyes, and stone face return. The lower third of her face never moves. Great for comedy!"
There you go. Everyone's a critic. You can listen in here.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

It's bye bye Boyce as Bell cleans house at CTV

Boyce (right) with Dan for Mayor's Ewanuick
As predicted here last December, CTV programming boss Susanne Boyce will follow CEO Ivan Fecan out the door as Bell completes its housecleaning prior to the takeover of the network in March. Boyce's departure and several other top executive moves were announced to the troops Tuesday in Toronto. Paul Sparkes, the regulatory affairs specialist behind all that broken business model lobbying, is also leaving the network, as is CFO John Gossling. Read more about the CTV moves here.
The guys who get to go down and buy all those American shows next May will be Phil King and Rick Brace. BCE will never let them spend like Fecan/Boyce in their prime. Nobody spent like Fecan/Boyce in their prime.
Boyce has been CTV's main show fetcher since 1997. Under her watch, there were entire seasons, forget weeks, where CTV had 18 of the Top-20 shows in Canada.
The next upfronts could be a content catch up opportunity for Global, where Barb Williams is still calling the programming shots, but who knows if her new bosses the Shaw's have the stomach for this cross border game of high stakes TV poker? The playas at the table to watch next spring may be the team from Rogers/City, who now have had a couple of seasons under their belts and are starting to get this thing. They may be the ones who scoop up shows next May that CTV used to snap up at any price just to keep them out of Global's reach.
The Chicago Code: 1,449,000
That the Canadian TV scene is becoming more competitive by the week was evident again Monday night, with new imports being worked into the mix. CTV pick up Mr. Sunshine, starring Matthew Perry, had a so-so start, drawing an overnight, estimated 1,374,000 2+ viewers across Canada. That was a drop of 600,000 from the show CTV had in at 8 last Monday, Hot in Cleveland. If you're going to ask a rookie to anchor your night, make sure its a simulcast. Mr. Sunshine--CTV's lowest-rated prime time offering Monday night--is not, and if Boyce is still calling the shots, look fo her to flip Perry to 8:30 pronto.
Global's new Monday pickup, the Fox cop drama The Chicago Code, drew 1,449,000 although it did less well in the 25-to-54-year-old demo than Mr. Sunshine. City's top show Monday night was The Bachelor at 688,000. CBC? Little Mosque (417,000), 18 to Life (240,000) and Village on a Diet (508,000) have all found their levels.

Ratings across Canada Jan. 31 - Feb. 6

Once again, the big CTV marketing machine jacked a show over the two million mark in Canada. Too bad it was on Global.
CTV`s record Super Bowl audience was hit with dozens of Fox network nods to their after-the-game goodie, a supersized Glee episode. CTV`s attempts to get viewers to stick around for Flashpoint after the game fizzled, leaving one to wonder how many Canadians watch the game on the Fox feed--and leave it there rather than flip the channel. Or maybe Sue Sylvester and her Cheerios cannon was just a bigger draw than Flashpoint guest star Victor Garber. Say, isn't he also Mr. Shue's dad on Glee?
CTV, which has locked up rights to the next three Super Bowls, must be glad the game is not on Fox (Global's steady supplier) again until 2014.
Here's how the numbers stacked up the week of January 31 to February 6 in Canada according to overnight, 2+ audience estimates:

MONDAY

It’s not going to get any easier for CBC on Mondays. Little Mosque (487,000), 18 to Life (289,000) and Village on a Diet (380,000) are slipping to season lows before heading up against stiff import competition during the February sweeps.
On the other hand, CTV’s Monday night lineup seems far from settled. Hot in Cleveland, which is hot in Canada (1,950,000), makes way for the new comedy Mad Love next week. S#*! My Dad Says (1,514,000), which has done better in Canada all year, was a fill-in this week and airs its early season finale on CBS in mid-February. It is not a cinch to come back. Two and a Half Men (1,968,000) is a draw no matter where CTV puts it, although Charlie Sheen’s latest rehab stint leaves just one more new episode in the can. Mike & Molly (1.373.000) is no Big Bang Theory. A rerun of Castle (1,240,000) closed the night for CTV. Matthew Perry’s new ABC sitcom Mr. Sunshine premiered on CTV (out of simulcast) last night.
Without House, Global ran a repeat of Lie to Me (501,000) leading into a new episode (1,221,000). Hawaii FIVE-O did 1.1 million.

TUESDAY

NCIS was a huge draw Tuesday night on Global, with 2,240,000 overnight, estimated viewers. Mark Harmon has quietly become the top draw on CBS deep into an eighth season of this series. Global’s big Tuesday continued with NCIS: Los Angeles (1,811,000) and The Good Wife (1,230,000).
CTV was quieter than usual with reruns of No Ordinary Family (558,000) and Law & Order: SVU (855,000). Flashpoint at 10 drew 1,317,000, about what it does Sunday after the Super Bowl.
CBC went 825,000 for a repeat of Mercer followed by Insecurity (463,000) and Pillars of the Earth (643,000).
Rogers Sportsnet has a big night nationally with Hometeam Hockey (1,352,000). Criminal Minds drew 516,000 over to /A\; City gained 760,000 with The Biggest Loser.

WEDNESDAY

A one-hour American Idol stayed rock solid with 3,137,000 overnight, estimated viewers on CTV. Criminal Minds (1,742,000) and Blue Bloods (1,576,000) followed.
CBC got off to a roaring start with Dragon`s Den (1,904,000) followed by a rebounding Republic of Doyle (899,000). Global had a quiet night with back-to-back episodes of Raising Hope both under 300,000 and Glee rerun clocking 458,000. New drama Off the Map was located by 1,087,000 at 10.
/A\ scored 684,000 with Human Target. City managed 652,000 with Modern Family and 543,000 with Cougar Town. IRT: Deadliest Roads (699,000) beat them all over at History.

THURSDAY

With everything back as new episodes as the February sweeps commenced, CTV had a huge night. Big Bang Theory came close to 3.2 million, followed by S/*! My Dad Says (2,220,000), the return of Grey`s Anatomy (2,337,000) and The Mentalist (2,522,000).
Scores over at Global were less robust. Wipeout did 887,000, followed by old reliable Bones (1,482,000). The Office (393,000) and Outsourced (494,000) kept the lights on at 10.
/A\ had a big night thanks to the American Idol results show (1,427,000), followed by (386,000) and Private Practice (554,000). Carolina at Toronto drew 847,000 to TSN. CBC zagged with a Grizzly edition of The Nature of Things (585,000) and Doc Zone (394,000).

FRIDAY

CTV wins the night as usual with The Defenders (1,294,000), relocated CSI Miami (1,131,000) and a huge CSI New York (2,055,000). CBC has to be happy about Marketplace (908,000) and big numbers for a Rick Mercer repeat (728,000). Fifth Estate followed with 481,000. Global also airs television programs on Fridays.

SATURDAY

Hockey Night in Canada did 1,775,000 for Game One and 779,000 for Game Two. Saturday Night Live clocked 437,000 on Global.

SUNDAY

The Super Bowl was super big, with an overnight, estimated average audience of 6,537,000 on CTV plus 754,000 on RDS adding up to 7.3 million viewers in Canada, the largest audience since the Olympics. Last year`s final combined audience number was 6.9 million.
Still, Global was the big winner with their post-Super Bowl Fox follow-up Glee, which drew 2,161,000 starting at 10:38 p.m. ET. That`s about four times what the network normally gets from Brothers & Sisters at that hour. CTV had less luck getting viewers to stick around for the mid-season finale of Flashpoint, which drew 1,317,000 starting at 10:19 p.m. ET.
CBC sat out the Super Bowl with Heartland (549,000) and a movie (552,000).

Monday, February 7, 2011

Super Bowl hits new high; Glee beats Flashpoint

CTV scored a touchdown with Sunday`s Super Bowl XLV, scoring an overnight, estimated audience of 6,537,000 viewers. That`s up from last year`s record overnight tally of 6,025,000, also on CTV.
The pre-and post- Super Bowl spots were also huge for CTV, with 4,377,000 and 4,517,000 tuning in to each (although the post show trophy presentation, which CTV barely showed, was a mere 11 minutes).
Viewers hammered by all those promos on the originating Fox feed (or just alerted by stories like this) migrated over to Global at 10:38 ET, with the extended episode of Glee dancing off with 2,161,000 viewers in Canada. That easily bested the mid-season finale of Flashpoint, which CTV flashed to at 10:19 p.m. ET in Toronto to try and get the jump on Glee. It didn`t work; Flashpoint drew 1,317,000 across Canada, less than it normally nets on a weeknight.
Stateside, the overnight Super Bowl tally topped 111 million viewers, topping last year`s record 106 million-plus. Glee danced off with 26.8 million Sunday night on Fox, a series high in the U.S. as one would expect.

Super Bowl XLV: The ads you missed, Canada

Did you watch the Super Bowl on CTV Sunday night? The Canadian network blocked the much-hyped U.S. commercials and punted away the second the Vince Lombardi trophy was placed in the hands of the owner of the Green Bay Packers. CTV was probably fed up running Fox promos for that Glee after show carried in Canada by a competitor. The quick switch over to the TSN studio caught the feed flipper napping, however, allowing a few seconds of a winking TSN host to baffle Fox viewers. What followed in Canada was a rare, 20 minute window on the U.S. ads running on the Fox post show package. Canadians got to see one of the best last night after Green Bay QB Aaron Rogers was named game MVP and was awarded a spiffy new Chev. An ad for the sports car followed which looked like a cheapo local car dealer ad but quickly morphed into a big budget, special effects-filled Transformer movie plug:

CTV crammed in plenty of plugs for their Flashpoint season finale in their Super Bowl coverage, as well as flagging news shows Mr. Sunshine (which premieres in Canada tonight) and American Idol. They aired a few pep rallies for their upcoming Olympic anniversary replay, but don't expect eleventy billion-million to clamour back for that.
Otherwise CTV pretty much aired the same Five Dollar Foot Long Subway ads they usually run. Canadians can see the Super Bowl ads they missed on line, where YouTube has a channel dedicated to them. The ones I like best are posted below.
This VW ad seems like an instant classic. It is simple and beautifully set up, just charming without being forced. The John Williams score really sells it:

A well written, beautifully shot, two-minute long Chrysler ad featuring Eminem also rocked. It made you want to both buy a Chrysler and visit Detroit! The narration ("What does a town that's been to hell and back know about the finer things in life?") is by Michigan native Kevin Yon:

The NFL itself bought time and used it to connect generations of TV fans to the big game. The spot featured familiar faces from The Brady Bunch, Happy Days, Cheers, The Simpsons, The Sopranos, Seinfeld, Alf, Glee, Modern Family, The Office, 90210 and others, all getting together for their big Super Bowl parties, and wearing (through computer magic) gear from their favorite football teams. Everything was digitally manipulated; when Fonzie taps the TV screen, the big game comes on:

Another bull eye for me was a simple Fox promo for House. Hugh Laurie steps in for Mean Joe Green in an echo of a classic cola spot. Nice:

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Mad Men's Kiernan Shipka: from Sally to Smooch

Smooch stars Martin (left) and Shipka
The Hallmark Channel is famous at press tour for bringing critics face to face with some of the stars of the past. Those of us who grew up watching Ernest Borgnine as the skipper of McHale's Navy or the great Dick Van Dyke can't get enough of these Hallmark moments. We might be getting older together, but seeing these great stars from the past never gets old.
One such occasion was just last month in Pasadena when Hallmark hosted critics at the Tournament of Roses House, a stately residence packed with fine china and Rose Bowl mementos. A large tent was set up on the lawn and critics wined and dined with the likes of Jane Seymour (Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman), Touched by an Angel's Roma Downey (there with Survivor boss/hubby Mark Burnett) and Markie Post (Night Court), among other stars from the '80s and '90s appearing in current Hallmark projects.
The biggest attraction for me that night, however, was the youngest person in the room: Kiernan Shipka, the 11-year-old scene stealer who was so effective this past season as Don Draper's wide-eyed daughter Sally on Mad Men. Shipka is just as poised and impressive in person, all lady like in a grown up big girl dress that would have looked, as she pointed out, right at home, in Sally's world of the mid-'60s.
She admitted that she really isn't allowed to watch the adult AMC drama but she loves working on it. Jon Hamm, she says, is a very nice man, quick to laugh on the set.
Hallmark was showcasing Shipka as the young star of Smooch, a TV-movie airing tonight at 9/8c on the U.S. cable channel. (The service does not cross the border and no Canadian network has picked the film up so far.)
Smooch is a modern, light-hearted re-telling of the Brothers Grimm fable The Frog King. Shipka plays a girl named Zoe looking for a prince for her widowed mother (played by ex-child star Kellie Martin of Life Goes On and ER fame). A frog is found (in a science lab), is kissed, and fairy tale shenanigans ensue.
Shipka's character Zoe is more carefree in Smooched than the troubled Sally in Mad Men but that wasn't part of some carefully orchestrated career plan and anyway, says Shipka, its all fun at this point. Asked if she was aware that there is a groundswell among critics to get her name on the ballot as a best supporting actress in time for the next Emmy Awards, Shipka, said it would be an honor, it would be amazing, and then in the understatement of the press tour, said, "I am aware."
That she really is only 11 came toward the end of the Hallmark session when she admitted she was a Justin Bieber fan. "I like the Twilight series. I like Robert Pattinson. I like Justin Bieber," she said. "I don't know if I have Bieber Fever or not."