Thursday, May 31, 2012

CTV press day brings out the stars; boxed lunches

Arrow's Stephen Amell will help CTV pull up its socks
These Canadian network upfronts are micro-managed to within an inch of their lives. Studio publicists sit on stacks of screeners as well as talent releases for fear a Canadian journalist might be prepared for an interview, or, worse, stumble on any actual news.
Despite these stubbornly imported homeland security measures, the odd nugget of new sneaks out. Rogers/City buried the lead Tuesday with news that they have picked up the next installment of 24/7. The NHL reality series has been swearing up a storm on HBO and HBO Canada the past two seasons. The next one will feature the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings, and the two Original Six clubs will surely vault the four-episode series into the top of the Sportsnet heap.
Over at Shaw/Global's ad bash, it was announced Wednesday that Big Brother Canada is finally going before the cameras. Sixteen locals will be locked inside a Tim Horton's and fed nothing but crullers. Shaw wanted to wait until the Big Brother franchise had completely cooled out. They're airing it on Slice, just in case there is still any interest.
Thursday was Bell/CTV's turn to put on the press/ad industry wank. Things are a little more subdued than in the giddy heights of the Fecan era, when $20s and $50s were used as cocktail napkins, Tony Soprano star James Gandolfini gave out free piggy back rides and rows of Littlest Hobos barked out "We're in the Money." (Preceding graph contains gross distortions.)
Golden Boy's Chi McBride accepts fake award 
The CTV press folks welcomed early risers back for breakfast with the execs. This was an innovation they piloted last year that for me is the best part of the Canadian upfront week. Rogers copied them this year and the dishy off-the-record chat with their top executives was the coolest part of the tour so far.
Bell's top show snatchers worked this morning's breakfast, with Kevin Crull starting to find his stride after his second trip to the L.A. screenings. He and Team Blue vets Phil King, Mike Cosentino, Rick Brace and Catherine MacLeod returned with nine new dramas--including Kevin Bacon's mid-season thriller The Following--and four new comedies, including Charlie Sheen's much buzzed about Anger Management, a FX pickup CTV will save for fall. They'll be spread between CTV and CTV Two. Read more on these new shows here.
One major show shopping change this year was CTV's ability to cherry pick shows from several different Hollywood studios. Gone are the days when you had to take three of four shelf shows to get the one big buzz series.
CTV also announced an original new drama, Motive. Thirteen episodes of the Vancouver-based procedural have been ordered.
Once Upon a Time's Lana Parrilla
Talent trotted out all afternoon for press sessions included the gang from Flashpoint, back for a fifth and final season this fall. Exec. producer Bill Mustos promises that their 75th and final episode will be a two hour doozie.
Genial Kunal Nayyar from CTV (and Canada's) No. 1 show The Big Bang Theory, was also in the house, as was Megan Hilty from Smash, Toronto lad Stephen Amell from new Vancouver-shot series Arrow and striking Lana Parrilla from Once Upon a Time. Amell, a big L.A. Kings fan, put on his green socks for the occasion, a nod to his Green Arrow comic book character.
CTV also bought a show called The Mob Doctor, which is just what it says it is. Can't wait for the CTV Two spinoff The Mob Walk-in-Clinic. Take two bullets and call me in the morning.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Shaw/Global upfront Trumps others for venue

Shaw SVP's Williams and Robertson
Shaw Media has a lot of cheek holding their 2012-13 upfront in the new Trump International Hotel & Tower in Toronto. Especially after the way they shoved Trump's The Apprentice into exile this past season, airing it on Saturdays six nights after NBC. I swear, somewhere down the hall, I could hear The Donald bark, "You're fired!" at Barb Williams this morning. (P.S. Canada: Arsenio won.)
Plus the feeling was Global would have to offer a comb over schedule, given the loss of House and a bag full of rookie losers last season.
Still, Global gets points for picking the newest, hippest venue among the Canadian network upfronts this May. The breakfast vittles were better here than at Rogers' Massey Hall upfront Tuesday, although Rogers got the important part right--making their top programming executives, including Keith Pelley and Scott Moore, 100% accessible to the press.
Williams and fellow Shaw SVP Paul Robertson did most of their talking at the morning press conference, which was nicely set up with writing tables and, in the nick of time, power cords. Somebody's been taking notes from trips down to the TCA.
The pair announced five imported dramas and two new comedies will be added to Global's fall schedule. For details on the new shows, including Lucy Lui's buzzed about Sherlock Holmesian update Elementary and Dennis Quaid's retro drama Vegas, check out this CP report.
Williams acknowledged that there were a few "woo-hoos" that went up in Don Mills when it was learned that Fox was moving Glee to Thursdays at 9. Getting to simulcast both NCIS and Glee next season is a huge plus for Global.
A slide went up on the giant press room screen showing nothing but American content on Global's fall schedule (save for 16x9, which is either their newsmagazine or last night's Jays' score). As she always does, Williams defended her red, white and blue fall schedule, insisting the heavy hitters have to comes first. She feels she has to pick her spots with CanCon and that co-productions are the only way to get budgets up to the level where a Canadian scripted series can compete on a Canadian schedule.
Still, with no new Canadian development to announce, its small wonder ACTRA usually pickets Global's upfront. (No such demo was underway this year).
Thank Bomb Girls, which will return in January. Rookie Blue returned strong with 1.3 million viewers last week and Continuum's 900,000 eye opener on Showcase was an astounding opening. but Williams believes that the out-of-season, early summer window is a key factor in homegrown TV success.
LL Cool J: "Team work makes it dream work"
Further down the Shaw TV pipeline--where the big money is--changes are under way. Robertson announced that Shaw is going to rebrand their specialty channel Diva as Lifetime. This latest attempt to import the U.S. cable channel will bring Jennifer Love Hewitt's new cleavage drama Client List spilling into Canadian homes. Shaw is also launching a second History channel, H2 (H2O in Ontario?). Most weeks, History is the No. 1 non-sports specialty channel in Canada, pulling consistently big numbers for popular shows such as Pawn Stars and American Pickers. Another current specialty channel will probably get rebranded to make room for H2, but Robertson wouldn't confirm rumours that Global's RealityTV channel is about to get its tiki torch snuffed.
Missing from Global's fall sked is long running comedy The Office, a poor performer last season which has been booted to the bench.
Global brought Ricki Lake--taking a second shot at daytime fame--and LL Cool J to town to work the press event and meet and greet later with advertisers. LL Cool J had tweeted that he was hassled at the border coming into Canada. He downplayed the detainment when asked about it at the press session. "They just wanted to get better acquainted with LL Cool J," he joked.
Asked if he wanted to do any more NCIS cross over episodes with other CBS shows (he just did one with Hawaii FIVE-0), he singled out a surprise choice--The Big Bang Theory. "I could put a gun to a nerd's head," he joked.
That just added an hour to his next border crossing...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Upfront Week in Canada: comedy rules at Rogers

Max Greenfield: Schmidt was in the house
It's "Upfront" Week in Canada, an odd mix of American razzmatazz and Canadian reserve. Rogers' kicks off a week of these things with their 2012-13 upfront today at Massey Hall in Toronto.
In past years, the Canadian nets seemed to be trying to out do each other with pricey venues and big name guests. There seems to be less of that this year--or else they're just saving the real fireworks for the advertisers.
Rogers is announcing nine new comedies and four new dramas, including two Canadian comedies. I screened one of the comedies last night, Fox pickup The Mindy Project, which I think will be a perfect companion next fall to New Girl. Read Cassandra Szklarski's take on the news here at this Canadian press report.
The upfronts are mostly for the young ad kids who will be here later. Rogers will put on a big clip show and tell everybody they have the best news shows this fall. Global (tomorrow) and CTV (Thursday) will do the same.
Rogers struck gold last year with New Girl, 2 Broke Girls, Revenge and a few other winners. Terra Nova and The Playboy Club were expensive misses, but the expanding network had fewer holes to fill overall and were able to be a bit more picky earlier this month at the Hollywood show market. They liked Kevin Bacon's new mid-season show The Following, one Rogers exec told me at breakfast, but let it escape to another Canadian buyer. They didn't blow their brains out, and got very lucky with how things will be scheduled in the States next year, benefiting from the shift of Revenge to Sunday nights next fall, a simulcast they'll embrace.
City had all their cookies lined up for critics
Rogers, which drew flack for walking away from Murdoch Mysteries (the fifth season premieres in a week on City before migrating to CBC in the fall), has stepped up with two new Canadian scripted show orders. Package Deal, which will be shot in Vancouver, will be a rare Canadian try at a three camera, studio audience comedy. It's created by Andrew Orenstein and produced by Thunderbird Films, who's had success in the past on Malcolm in the Middle and 3rd Rock from the Sun. Seed, to be shot in Halifax, is about a guy who is a big volume contributor to a sperm bank who suddenly bonds with his many unsuspecting offspring. Both are 13-episode orders, with Seed created by Joesph Raso. He says the inspiration for the series came from a friend who had investigated sperm banks while planning a family.
City says both will premiere mid-season, which sounds like a fancy way of saying in about a year.
Talent brought across the border for the Rogers launch included Max Greenfield, who, as Schmidt, is one of the breakout stars from New Girl. New Canadian Bachelor host Tyler Harcott and former Lost regular Dominic Monaghan, who hosts Wild Things on OLN. The Manchester native has always been a wild animal and bug guy and says "after Steve Irwin died, my goal was to make a nature show a year."
Katie Couric is also making the Rogers' scene; the network has bought her upcoming daytime show.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Continuum blasts off to 900,000 on Showcase

Set phasers for stunning! The new sci-fi drama Continuum premiered to an overnight, estimated 900,000 Sunday night on Showcase. The specialty series, about a cop from the future on the hunt for a gang of terrorists, was the most watched TV show in Canada Sunday at 9, beating a movie on CTV, and topping both CBC (a rerun of Republic of Doyle) and Global (a repeat of The Good Wife) combined. More than twice as many Canadians watched Continuum on Showcase Sunday night as America's Got Talent on City (387,000).
Another 265,000 watched Continuum the same night at 11 p.m. The Vancouver-based series, which stars Rachel Nichols (right), got maximum exposure in the narrow window between season-enders and summer start ups. There was no Stanley Cup playoff game on opposite, no Desperate Housewives finale, just the one, new, well-crafted Canadian series, and viewers gobbled it up. More proof that, if you schedule it, meaning a Canadian, scripted drama, they will come.
The 900,000 start has to be a record for Showcase, where even a major hit like Lost Girl tops out around the 300,000 mark.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Continuum the pitch that stuck for Simon Barry

Rachel Nichols with creator Barry on the set of Continuum
Continuum, the new Showcase drama which premieres tonight, starts off in the near future--the year 2077. When I met creator/executive producer Simon Barry in March on the Vancouver set of the series, however, we wound up talking more about the past.
Specifically, the many series he tried to get off the ground before hitting pay dirt with Continuum. "I've written many un-produced pilots," says Barry. "I've been trying for ten years now to get a show on the air in terms of developing and selling ideas. So this feels like a ten year overnight success."
Barry was sitting in a drab police captain's office on the set for the interview. There was nothing futuristic about the set. The non-descript area, which overlooked the Vancouver waterfront down by the casino and sports arenas, was a perfectly bland facsimile of a modern day police office.
Barry had almost resigned himself to the notion that he was going to continue to make a pretty good living as a writer without ever actually having a series on the air. But after rejection after rejection, he was getting discouraged. When he sat down two years ago to create Continuum, he really tried to create something more marketable, a project he could throw himself into that would also be more likely to succeed.
"I knew that the police world was something I wanted to focus on, but I wanted to add a layer of mythology," he says. He had seen how shows like Prison Break and Life on Mars move into areas that kind of crossed genres, so he set about to combine a conventional cop show with science fiction.
Barry says he hasn't actually worked in television since the mid-'90s. Back then he was an assistant cameraman on Vancouver-based shows like The Outer Limits. The UBC grad branched out into screenwriting, penning the 2000 feature film The Art of War.
Now that he has his own series to produce, he didn't want to dwell too much about those projects that got away--partially because there are a few he'd still like to resurrect.
One was an adaptation of a Harlan Coben novel. "I was about ten years too early with that one," he says.
Another sounds like it could still make for a pretty kick-ass series. It even has a great title: Skunk.
It was based on the real life adventures of Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, a guitarist who toured and recorded with both the Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan in the '70s. 
"I met him, and found out that he had the highest security clearance of any civilian in the nation. He has a real brain for technology," says Barry.
The guy was basically a traveling musician by night, a consultant for the department of defense by day. "He had the perfect cover--rock star," says Barry.
CBS liked the idea and ordered a script. "My timing was wrong, or the script wasn’t what the network was looking for," says Barry. For whatever reason, Skunk stayed in the cage.
Cassar (between Nichols and Victor Webster) shamelessly
sports Leafs garb on the Vancouver set of Continuum
For Continuum, Barry wrote three of the ten scripts with Jeff King (Due South, E.N.G., Shattered) brought in to set the table and get the series on its feet. "I got very lucky that Jeff King came on board," says Barry, who knew networks would be very reluctant to let a rookie producer run his own show. King acted as both original showrunner and mentor, handing the series over to Barry when he had to move on to other projects.
Having a proven action/drama director like Jon Cassar (24, Terra Nova) helm the first two episodes hasn't hurt either.
The series is developed and produced by Reunion Pictures in association with Shaw Media. Instead of a pilot, Shaw went ahead and ordered 10 first season episodes.
Casting the right woman for the lead was key, they all agreed. Cassar, King and Barry had to move fast when Showcase put a hurry up on the series. To play a cop from the future who is sent back to 2012 along with a gang of terrorists, the producers knew they needed a very specific type. "We went through the top female actors in the world who might be capable of pulling this off," says Barry.
Rachel Nichols auditioned for the part in New York. Barry admits he was really only familiar with her feature work in Star Trek and G.I. Joe art the time. He and the others went back and watched her on Criminal Minds and Alias. "We realized she was a great talent who could hit all the numbers we were looking for," he says. "Once we had her on place, we could cast everyone."
Continuum premieres Sunday night at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Showcase.

PREMIERE: promising sci-fi cop caper Continuum

What if in the future the bad guys were really the good guys?
That's just one of the themes explored in Continuum, a slick, smart trip back to the future. The shot-in-Vancouver sci-fi cop show premiering Sunday, May 27 at 9 p.m. on Showcase.
Continuum stars Rachel Nichols (G.I. JoeCriminal Minds) as Kiera Cameron, a cop from the year 2077 vaulted back in time along with a posse of terrorists from the future. The terrorists, including revolutionary leader Travis Verta (Roger Cross), were about to be executed for attacks against the giant corporations which govern the world 65 years down the road. Herded into an execution chamber, the crafty no-goods somehow short-circuit the electrocution thingy and zap themselves into the past, along with Cameron. Will the criminals start causing trouble in our times, perhaps targeting the Haliburtons of 2012? Does that make them bad guys or good guys?

Stuck in the past and separated from her husband and child, Cameron lands a job as a cop with the Vancouver police department and, teamed with new detective partner Carlos Fonnegra (Victor Webster), sets out to round up the future felons. She also lucks into some valuable tech support from teen genius Alec (Erik Knudsen), who helps her power back up her cool cop costume and also is her best shot at getting back to the future.
Nichols is very good as this stranger in a strange land, projecting a tough police exterior while showing the emotion and vulnerability of a mom and wife separated from her family. There's a hint of savvy, skeptical Agent Scully in Nichols' Cameron, packed onto a combat ready frame. Young male viewers will dig her skin tight, copper-coloured super suit, basically a Mac made by Lululemon. She's wired right into the circuitry of her suit, allowing her to identify suspects, call for backup and show off her abs and taut tummy all at the same time. Nerds will identify with Knudsen, who gets to embody a lot of their game boy fantasies.
Continuum`s Nichols being directed by Jon Cassar
The sci-fi elements are first rate, giving Continuum a slick movie look. It helps that the first two of ten episodes are directed by Jon Cassar, the guy who cranked out a big effects show like 24 on a TV schedule.
First time creator and showrunner Simon Barry, a former cameraman and UBC grad, has carefully crafted a show that will appeal to more traditional police procedural fans but also to genre buffs. It's not too sci-fi that it might turn off, say, an NCIS fan. His pilot script provides plenty of action but also plenty to ponder, including notions of democracy, government and corporate agenda conflicts that resonate today. 
It's also just cool to see Vancouver's skyline dotted with even taller condos in the future. 
NEXT: Simon Barry spent ten years in the TV wilderness, making, as he says, a good living developing shows that never ran, before breaking through with Continuum.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

George Maharis recalls his wild ride on Route 66

Maharis (left) and Milner in that classic Corvette
George Maharis rode Route 66 in search of fame and fortune. Instead it led straight to hell.
I spoke with Maharis last week on the phone as he made himself available to promote the release of Route 66: The Complete Series, a 24 disc boxed set from Shout! Factory. I have a story about it here and in Saturday's Toronto Star.
The Los Angeles-based actor, long retired from show business at 84, spoke candidly about his days on the black and white CBS anthology series, which ran from 1960 to '64.
Maharis admits he was a virtual unknown before Route 66 began. "Marty [co-star Martin Milner, who had top billing] was much more established than I was. He started in movies as a child. I was fresh off Broadway."
He was spotted in a play by producers Herbert B. Leonard and writer/producer Sterling Silliphant and was cast as an occasional guest star on their previous series, Naked City.
The word on Maharis has always been that he became a handful, that somewhere on the road to Detroit or Cleveland or Chicago or Buffalo or Miami or to any of the 40 States Route 66 traveled he went all Hollywood. The truth is Maharis contracted hepatitis during the second season and could no longer cope with the grueling road schedule. He took time off under doctors orders, ventured back for part of the third season but finally decided the series just wasn't worth putting his life at risk. He could always get another show, he figured. Another kidney, not so easy.
As we spoke, he did not get specific about his reputation during the series, but hinted that he did get sucked into the fame game. "I guess the best way to put it is, when you’re an young actor, you’re flying a Piper Cub, and all of a sudden they stick you in the cockpit of a 747 jet. You really can get killed quick because, all of a sudden, you’re in the fast lane."
Maharis felt the producers never had his back when he got sick. "The mistake I made," he says, "is that when you're dealing with people on a higher level, you assume they are more honorable and trustworthy. I made the mistake of thinking that, as you went up the ladder, the morality got better."
Stories spread that Maharis wanted out of the series to make movies. The head of CBS at the time, James Aubrey, told producer Leonard that Maharis was vital to the series and had to return. Maharis says he rushed back and had a relapse in St. Louis "and the doctors told me to go home or you'll be dead."
There were lawsuits and a settlement out of court. Route 66 was renewed for a fourth season with Glenn Corbett suddenly in the passenger seat next to Milner but it wasn't the same. Ratings dropped without Maharis and the series ended.
Recently released medical documents from the time seem to vindicate Maharis's version of events. "The culprit in all of this wasn't 'Bert, wasn't Sterling, wasn't James Aubrey, wasn't George Maharis, it was hepatitis," he says. "That changed everything."
The chemistry between Maharis and Milner works on the series because they are so opposite. Maharis' Buz was the edgier guy, the roughneck from the streets of New York. Milner's Tod was the college kid driving his dad's cool car.
The series is fascinating today as a moving social history of the United States. A true anthology, every episode is set in a different city with different guest stars, including up and comers Robert Redford, Burt Reynolds, Gene Hackman, James Caan and Martin Sheen. But it is the train stations, hotels and downtown street scenes that add a lost America, documentary feel to the series. It is a portrait of Mad Men America at mid-century, a cruise Don Draper could have made with Roger Sterling.
The 'Vette, upgraded every season by GM, was the real star
Maharis did have some fun shooting Route 66. He says meeting movie legends such as Buster Keaton, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Lon Chaney, Jr., was a kick--although he was shocked at the language Lorre used on the set. "He swore up and down the line and the language that he used!" recalls Maharis. "I would never have suspected that."
Karloff, Lorre and Chaney appeared together in ther third season episode "Lizard's Leg and Owlet's Wing." Chaney really hams it up in full Wolfman gear. The appearance marked the last time Karloff wore his old Frankenstein's monster makeup.
A fourth season episode, with Corbett not Maharis, was shot in Toronto and provides a fascinating glimpses at the city in 1963. More about that in today's Toronto Star story.
Maharis had an older brother, Harold, practically a twin, who worked on the show behind the camera. Sometimes Harold would drive the Corvette to and from location shoots when the actors flew on ahead to do publicity work. Recalls Maharis, "He’d stop off someplace to eat, get the bill and the cashier would say, 'That's okay Mr. Maharis, it's on the house.' By the time I got to town there was nothing left!"
When George would confront Harold about it, the brother would say, "Well, I am Mr. Maharis..."

The Brioux Report: rare win for Grey's Anatomy

Grey's finale: "Help! The wreckage from Pan Am fell on me!"
Has been a short, crazy busy week, so here is an abbreviated version of The Brioux Report. Hope to have things back to their normal late Tuesday/early Wednesday release next week. (Although, with the Canadian private network upfronts next Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday, that might be a challenge, too.)
Short headlines: Stanley Cup playoffs still down (barely cracking the Top-20 for the week), Grey's Anatomy and Hawaii FIVE-0 finales on top. Here’s how all it all played out across Canada in prime time among adults 2+ the week of May 14 to 20 according to overnight estimates:


All three Global offerings Monday beat CBC’s hockey score: Bones (1,725,000), the second last House (1,671,000) and the biggest draw of the night, Hawaii FIVE-0 (2,152,000)
CTV stole the DWTS performance finale from CTV Two and waltzed off with 1,652,000. They squeezed in three other season finales: Two and a Half Men out of simulcast at 7:30 (1,064,000), Mike & Molly (1,361,000) and Smash (780,000).
New York/New Jersey ground it out to 1,453,000 CBC viewers Monday.
City can’t be happy with the numbers on Canada’s Got Talent. The finale drew 459,000 at 7 p.m. (repeating to 296,000 at 10 p.m.). America’s Got Talent, featuring the debut of Howard Stern, did 863,000 over two hours at 8 p.m.
Picked clean, CTV Two had nothing.


No hockey, no nothing on CBC.
CTV had the DWTS results show, with 1,651,000 seeing Maria Menounos get the boot. The finale of the cancelled drama Unforgettable drew 962,000.
Back-to-back Glee at Global drew 1,339,000 and 1,559,000. Canada Sings returned to 608,000.
TSN scored with L.A./Phoenix (1,135,000).
More America’s Got Talent on City fetched 951,000. Fashion Star twinkled to 228,000 on CTV Two.
Deadliest Catch landed 403,000 viewers on Discovery.

How the hell did Josh Ledet lose American Idol?
American Idol narrowed it down to the Top 3 contestants before 2,026,000 CTV viewers. Law & Order SVU followed with 1,218,000 at 10.
New York/New Jersey faced off before 1,502,000 overnight, estimated viewers Wednesday night on CBC. Is it just too hot out for hockey?
Global had reruns of NCIS (846,000) then two hours of NCIS Los Angeles (806,000).
CTV Two finally had a winner with the two-hour season finale of Criminal Minds (1,375,000).
City stuck with The Middle (333,000), Suburgatory (318,000) and Modern Family (799,000). Don’t Trust the B—in Apartment 23 drew 614,000 followed Revenge at 10 (451,000).
The Jays and Yankees batted 716,000 on Sportsnet. History scared 414,000 with Swamp People. The Real Housewives of Vancouver attracted 120,000 at 10 p.m. on Slice. TSN netted 115,000 for a Lakers/Oklahoma NBA playoff game.
No more Big Bang Theory for the season but CTV had three big season finales: Cancelled drama Missing ended with 1,622,000. Grey’s Anatomy went out strong with 2,671,000. The Mentalist finished with 2,128,000.
The American Idol results hour (1,321,000) was a shocker on CTV Two. America’s Top Model stumbled to 198,000. The season finale of Nikita drew just 58,000 at 10.
Phoenix/Los Angeles scored 1,049,000 on TSN.
Kiefer Sutherland’s Touch reached out to 658,000 on Global. Awake woke up 319,000.
City saw 261,000 tune in to Community. 30 Rock slid to 278,000. The Person of Interest finale interested 988,000 at 9, followed by Scandal (326,000).
No hockey no viewers on CBC.
The Jays and Yankees batted a robust 827,000 on Sportsnet. House of Bryan was open to 233,000 on HGTV.


Undercover Boss drew 778,000 on CTV, followed by the season finale of Grimm at 9 (995,000) and a repeat of Blue Bloods (1,271,000).
No hockey on CBC.
The Finder repeated to 678,000 on Global at 8. Harry’s Law replayed to 281,000, and specialty call up Lost Girl did 205,000.
CTV Two had the season finale of Shark Tank (463,000) plus repeats of CSI: New York (534,000) and Dateline (356,000).
City opened with Who Do You Think You Are (415,000). Mantracker tracked down 146,000 at 10.
King continues to get crowned Fridays at 9 on Showcase (87,000).


These early Saturday afternoon Stanley Cup playoff games are killing CBC. Rangers/Devils drew 648,000 at 1 p.m.
The season finale of Saturday Night Live, featuring Mick Jagger, soared to 656,000 at 11:30 p.m.

Another early afternoon weekend hockey game, this time between L.A. and Phoenix, drew 879,000 on CBC.
The season finale of The Simpsons drew 1,044,000 on Global. Bob’s Burgers (566,000), Family Guy (718,000) followed.
With CTV’s regular Sunday schedule done for the season, the network made do with the Billboard Music Awards (1,127,000).
Jays and Mets batted 605,000 on Sportsnet in an afternoon game. Shawwinigan vs. London netted 223,000 on Sportsnet’s Memorial Cup coverage. Bravo saw 163,000 turn up for The Borgias.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Late night joke of the week

From Wednesday's Late Show with David Letterman:

Eugene Polley, the guy who invented the TV remote control passed away. He will be buried between two couch cushions.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

This week's podcast: slowly I step, inch by inch...

This week, CHML's Scott Thompson wanted to know all about this nut bar Nik Wallenda and his bright idea to walk across Niagara Falls on a tightrope. Specifically what the deal was with ABC insisting the dude be tethered to the cable as a condition of their airing the stunt (June 15; CTV is also broadcasting the attempt).
The whole thing smacks of 1974, when Evel Knievel made his mega-hyped Snake River Canyon jump. That failed attempt was carried on closed circuit television after ABC refused to pony up for the deal. When it finally was shown on TV it looked laughably lame, with the chute opening on takeoff and Knievel's rocket-powered ride drifting down into the canyon. Frankly, I would rather have seen him jump Christy Canyon.
The mid-'70s also featured Bobby Riggs/Billie Jean King, Battle of the Network Stars and a host of other tacky yet cherished distractions. Maybe we're all in for another wild huckster ride.
Scott asks about a bunch of other stuff, including plans to launch Good Afternoon America and the release of the classic '60s series Route 66 on DVD. You can listen in here.

Driver a worthy Dancing with the Stars champ

Dance champs Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd. Adam Taylor/ABC
I'm sure there was a time when I would have said you'd have to pay me to watch every minute of a season's worth of Dancing with the Stars. Well, did, and have to admit that by the time this thing ended Tuesday night I was glad they asked.
Green Bay Packers' Super Bowl champ Donald "Double D" Driver ended up waltzing off with the Mirror Ball trophy, edging gutsy classical singer Katherine Jenkins at the end. Telelatino heartthrob William Levy finished in third place.
The long-running ABC series is a well produced variety show, features a talented house team of professional musicians and dancers and this season showcased celebrities who never took a week off or coasted through to the finals on the strength of their phone-in fan base. The judges are the best trio on the TV talent show circuit, and host Tom Bergeron is a nimble and witty ringleader.
In a season where celebrities gave their all, you had to give the edge to a trained athlete. Driver just have that much more drive, stamina and athletic ability at the end.
The  finale was a hit in America, drawing an overnight, estimated 17.5 million ABC viewers and beating the Tuesday performance finale of American Idol on Fox (14.4 million). CTV, which carried both shows, says the results were flipped in Canada, with 2.3 million watching Idol at 8 p.m. and close to two million catching the DWTS finale at 9 p.m.
You can find my recap of the dance finale here at

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Twenty years ago today: Johnny Carson's farewell

As pointed out on TV Worth Watching and a few other places, it was 20 years ago today that Johnny Carson took his final bow on The Tonight Show. Twenty years already?! You are correct, sir.
That excellent PBS American Masters' retrospective of Carson's career, which premiered earlier this month, is still up at Watch the entire two hour Johnny Carson: The King of Late Night here.
I asked David Steinberg, who was at the most recent TCA press tour in Pasadena in January to promote his Inside Comedy Showtime series --for a Carson story. Steinberg, the Winnipeg-born comedian who, among other things, helped torpedo The Smothers Brothers, talked about how he hated the "pre-interview," the first step all late night talk shows use to line up stories that will be told by their guests on their shows.
"When I started out with Carson in ’68," he said, "I wanted to improvise." Steinberg felt his Second City improv training was all he needed to prepare for Tonight or any other live-to-tape television.
"Carson said to me, 'This is a formula, and it's not for people like you, but it's for dull people. When they’re not working, and they don’t know whether they’re funny or not, I have to know what the out line is I have to know where they’re going maybe to help the story and all of that.""
Steinberg said it took him four years as a guest to get Carson to trust him enough to ditch the pre-interview. He was finally allowed to just provide bullet points--"Lakers, daughters, courtship" he said by way of examples. He told Carson "You can interrupt me whenever you want and I will find an out and you will know when I'm finished."
Steinberg says only a select few got this carte blanche guest segment treatment from Carson, singling out Bob Newhart as another guest nimble enough to just vamp with Johnny. Don Rickles, you'd have to guess, was also on that list.
What about the way Craig Ferguson just tears up the questions on the blue cards before each guest segment, another critic asked. "Not sure about that," said Steinberg. "Please don't get me into a controversy."

House finale: it's never too late to enjoy yourself

House creator David Shore with Hugh Laurie before the final ride
No matter how old you are, we all need this handy reminder: “Enjoy yourself. It’s later than you think.”
The jaunty and delicious Louis Prima version of the old Guy Lombardo tune Enjoy Yourself played under the conclusion of House. The series finale aired Monday night on Fox and Global.
SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t watched it yet, look away now. Details about the finale follow.

House (Hugh Laurie) and his pal Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard), the latter terminally ill but still sound enough to ride, are on their Harley’s in the middle of a trestle, about to head along a winding country road under a canopy of high-reaching trees. Wilson starts to float his usual note of caution, but House shuts him down with, “Cancer is boring.” The two set off to seize the day.
The positive ending came after a dark episode where House lies surrounded by flames in a burning warehouse. He goes through one last dark night of the soul, wrestling with demons within and without who debate him on the merits of suicide. House seems ready to end it all, finding his life meaningless with the impending death of Wilson compounded with his own unbreakable pattern of self destructive behaviour. Even saving lives no longer has any meaning for him, with “everybody dies” having replaced “everybody lies” as his mantra.
In what seemed like a dream sequence. House wakes up on the floor of the darkened warehouse next to his last patient, a heroin addict. Dr. Scrooge is visited by several ghosts from the past, including Kutner (Kal Penn) and “Cutthroat Bitch” (Anne Dudek). Living characters such as ex-wife Stacey (Sela Ward) and Cameron (Jennifer Morrison) also get inside House’s head.
Missing, sadly, was Cuddy (Lisa Edlestein). This would have been the dramatic cherry on top. But Edlestein’s failure to come to terms with the producers at the end of last season after being asked to take a pay cut must have been too much of a slap in the face. Too bad, she would have been the ultimate one to slap House out of it.
Instead, Wilson and Foreman (Omar Epps) seemingly arrive too late to save House. Rescue workers pull a body out in the early morning. Dental records are checked. A funeral is held and everyone pays their respects, including Thirteen (Olivia Wilde), Chase (Jesse Spencer), Taub (Peter Jacobson), Masters (Amber Tamblyn) and Park (Charlyn Yi).
Executive producer David Shore even found ways to sneak Andre Braugher back into the mix. There was even a glimpse of Shore’s old Hack pal David Morse. All of that just made Edlestein’s absence felt even sharper.
Wilson goes off page in his tribute, venting that House was really just a selfish ass.
Leonard and Laurie on set in the special, enjoying cognac
Just when it looks like “everyone dies” applies to House himself, there is redemption. Wilson gets a text mid speech to shut up. House is alive and—having risen—ready to head out on that last heavenly ride with Wilson.
The ending, for me, had echoes of Casablanca. It looked like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
While it seemed a bit too pat for House to get away with murder like that, that’s really what he did for eight seasons. Enjoy Yourself elevated the ending, a perfect note of joy over sorrow, optimism over pessimism, hope over despair. (Anybody else remember this song being co-opted as a beer jingle in the '60s: "Enjoy yourself, take time for 50 Ale"?)
Jeers to Global, however, which drowned out the final grace note--Warren Zevon singing Keep Me in Your Heart for a While over the end credits--with promotional blather. For all the millions of viewers this show deliver the past eight seasons, you'd think they could have shown 20 seconds of respect and restraint.
The preceding hour, a tribute to the series, was excellent. It saluted the actors and crew and gave fans a detailed glimpse into the inner workings of a hit show like no other series ending salute I’ve ever seen. Viewers got a real sense of how elaborate some of the shooting was, especially that upside down bus episode, shot inside a specially constructed cage that almost resembled a midway ride. When House had to spend money, they spend big money.
It ended with Laurie and Leonard in tuxes, shooting up the set with paintballs. Nice.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The doctor is out: No more House for Hugh Laurie

Hugh Laurie was always gentle with critics
Even though I think it's time, I'm going to miss House. The finale airs Monday at 9 p.m. on Fox and Global.
The eight year old medical drama will be fondly remembered for the tremendous performance of Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House M.D., a guy who didn't care about anything but the answer. Laurie was so good at playing a cranky A-hole he was intimidating to approach at press tour parties, but once you did you were rewarded with thoughtful answers and playful, almost shy humour.
Fox often hosts a summer press tour party at the Santa Monica pier, and I remember early on in the House run, first or second year, standing with Laurie in a corner tucked near the fence that separated the Fox talent and guests from the great unwashed mingling on the other half of the pier. Some British tourists spotted Laurie and pleaded with him to come over to the fence, which he was happy to do. To them he was a favourite son, one half of Jeeves & Wooster, the guy from Black Adder or just a pretty darn good rower at Cambridge. They were proud of the guy and cheering him on in America.
I remember Laurie being actor-nervous--perhaps superstitious--about the early positive reviews of House, how he was convinced it would never last six weeks let alone 13. How he put off moving his family to America because he never though it would all last this long.
He wound up making a big boatload of money, and good for him.
Laurie's ride, a 1966 Ford Galaxie 500
His last press tour appearance was to promote his music. Laurie is a jazz musician, adept at piano and guitar, and he sings with Tom Jones on his most recent CD. At the end of the session, which took place last summer, he scooted to the front doors of the Beverly Hilton Hotel where his fire engine red 1966 Galaxie 500 was waiting. He hopped into the classic convertible and spun off. Bloody cool.
Even though House aired on Fox it was produced by NBC/Universal. The folks there sent along the link below to Laurie, Omar Epps, Robert Sean Leonard and others attending the House wrap party, which was held a few weeks ago in Los Angeles. Watch Laurie struggle to find the exact right way to thank his loyal House viewers.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Grey's Anatomy season finale pretty darn reachy

Sandra Oh reads Grey's finale script, considers calling her agent
The Toronto Star asked me to recap Thursday night's eighth season finale of Grey's Anatomy. There was a plane crash, a death, a proposal, a firing and a lost shoe. This series really wants you back, but seriously? Thought I had tuned into a Lost/Walking Dead mashup. Read my recap here.
ABC has renewed Grey's along with spin-off Private Practice. I caught a minute of that series this week and thought it was some kind of joke parody about U.S. network television. On screen at the same time in the same scene were a bunch of actors who had all been recycled from recent shows. It really looked like if someone had rounded up as many of TV's familiar faces and threw them all together in hopes of a hit. Besides star Kate Walsh, there was Benjamin Bratt, Brian Benben and Taye Diggs all sitting around an office yakking. Tim Daly was in jail in another scene, Amy Brennemen was spotted in a courtroom. Seriously,they're all fine actors, but it  was kind of like watching the Yankees or some other club that could afford to round up a bunch of veteran free agents just to see if they could all still hit.
I've often thought some network should launch a show called Showkillers. You could cast Ted McGinley, Jason Gedrick, Paula Marshall, Tyler Labine, Eric Balfour and Amanda Peet. They go around derailing hit TV shows. It would be the best press tour panel ever.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The CW evicts L.A. Complex; adds five new shows

Beauty and the Beast's Kristin Kreuk and Jay Ryan
UPDATED WITH CLIP LINKS: The L.A. Complex failed to make the cut as The CW announced its 2012-13 schedule Thursday in New York. Despite underwhelming ratings on MuchMusic in January, there were high hopes for the mid-season replacement series, which depicted young Canadian hopefuls in Hollywood. Unfortunately, it opened to historically low ratings, even by The CW standards.
Still, usually nothing gets canceled on The CW, so Bell went ahead and ordered 13 more episodes of the Toronto-based production. Those plans, according to a spokesperson Thursday at Epitome Pictures, remain intact despite The CW's decision to dump the series.
This was a particularly aggressive scheduling shakeup for CBS's little sister station, which saw ratings take a double digit dip last season. Besides The L.A. Complex,  The CW also cancelled Ringer, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, and The Secret Circle. One Tree Hill is also kaput. Gossip Girl is back, but only for a final half season.
Careless extra casting tanks L.A. Complex
UPDATED: Replacing these shows are Arrow, based on the DC Comics Green Arrow adventures. The pilot was shot in Vancouver and stars Toronto native Stephen Amell (Hung) as well as Katie Cassidy, daughter of David Cassidy. Watch a preview here.
Also new to The CW is a modern update on Beauty and the Beast starring Vancouver-native Kristin Kreuk (Smallville). Check it out here.
and Emily Owens, M.D., a drama about a rookie doctor. The trailer is here.
The Carrie Diaries, a prequel to Sex and the City set in 1984, will begin in January, as will Cult, a paranormal series about a dangerous TV show (!) with Chuck's Josh Schwartz among the producers.
Other shows are shifting around. Vancouver-based Supernatural moves to Wednesdays, Hart of Dixie is also getting shifted.
It's quite possible The L.A. Complex failed to get picked up due to the sorry performance of one of the extras playing a doctor in a scene from the show within the show. Said extra gets his five seconds of fame on this coming Tuesday's episode.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Brioux Report: 4 Mil+ say "I do" to Big Bang

Howard and Bernadette are over the moon
You had to know a wedding finale on The Big Bang Theory was going to draw a crowd. The CBS sitcom zoomed back up over the four million mark to lead all shows in Canada this week, as it does most weeks.
There were several season and even a few series finales as the regular season came down to its second last week, with Desperate Housewives ending an eight season run on a strong if not spectacular note. Survivor continues to outlast, but City may have to re-think its Sunday strategy if it brings Canada's Got Talent back for a second season.
 Here’s how all it all played out across Canada in prime time among adults 2+ the week of May 7 to 13 according to overnight estimates:


Rangers/Capitals drew 1,657,000 CBC viewers Monday at 7:30 for a Round Two game.
Bones crushed the non-hockey competition with 1,615,000 Global viewers. A new House drew 1,777,000 as it heads toward a series finale. Hawaii FIVE-0 surfed up to 1,793,000 at 10.
CTV saw ratings go up slightly on another two hour The Voice (1,183,000). The season finale of Castle followed at 10 with 1,712,000 overnight viewers.
Another two hour Dancing with the Stars on CTV Two waltzed off with 1,230,000 viewers. Smash did the usual 417,000.
2 Broke Girls drew 795,000 at 8 on City. Canada’s Got Talent managed 326,000 for a 30-minute Semi-Final. Rules of Engagement—in limbo next season on CBS--did 139,000 at 9:30 and Showtime addition Shameless did 179,000 at 10.
Nashville/Phoenix drew 647,000 Stanley Cup fans at TSN.
Bering Sea Gold (278,000) was the big draw at Discovery. Top Chef Canada simmered to 240,000 on Food. WWE Raw bodyslammed 279,000 on Score.

Figgis (Iqbal Theba) gets funky on Glee

There was Glee at Global with 1,651,000 catching the "Prom-asauras" episode at 8 p.m. A new episode of NCIS: Los Angeles soared to 1,996,000 viewers. NCIS managed 1,101,000 at 10.
CTV found 1,433,000 with Missing, which is missing from ABC’s schedule next fall. A two hour, season finale of The Voice did 1,382,000.
New Jersey/Philadelphia drew 1,650,000 for their second round game on CBC.
CTV Two made room for Fashion Star (172,000) followed by a Dancing with the Stars results show (1,116,000), where Roshon Fegan was given the boot. CTV Two’s night ended with a rerun of Flashpoint (167,000).
City stuck to its Tuesday night comedies. The season finale of Last Man Standing drew 365,000, followed by Cougar Town (383,000). The season finale of New Girl charmed 585,000. Rule of Engagement did 139,000. Private Practice ended the night at 10 (277,000).
The Blue Jays were on deck at Sportsnet, pulling 438,000 against Oakland. Pawn Stars fetched 271,000 and 373,000 on History, where American Pickers picked up another 118,000. Deadliest Catch landed 4366000 viewers on Discovery.

Survivor One World aired its last Wednesday episode of the season to 2,341,000 Global viewers. Rookie Blue, which returns with new episodes in late May, was rerun to 355,000. Reruns of American Dad  and The Simpsons drew 203,000 and 252,000 at 10.
American Idol narrowed it down to the Top 4 contestants with exactly two million CTV viewers tuning in (according to estimates). The season finale of CSI followed with 2,167,000 at 10.
The round two NHL playoff series featuring New York and Washington heated up to 1,988,000 overnight, estimated viewers Wednesday night on CBC.
Back-to-back episodes of Betty White’s Off Their Rockers drew 412,000 and 404,000 on CTV Two. A new episode of Criminal Minds brought a huge audience (1,242,000) with Law & Order SVU fetching 549,000.
City stuck with The Middle (313,000), Suburgatory (320,000) and Modern Family (789,000). Don’t Trust the B—in Apartment 23 drew 515,000 followed Revenge at 10 (547,000).
The Jays batted 361,000 on Sportsnet. History scared 463,000 with Swamp People. The Real Housewives of Vancouver more than doubled to 170,000 at 10 p.m. on Slice. TSN netted 103,000 for a New York/Miami NBA game.
The Big Bang Theory ended another season with a wedding, which drew 4,035,000 to CTV. Two and a Half Men followed with 1,610,000. Grey’s Anatomy was next with 2,196,000, with The Mentalist pulling 2,028,000, but then again he knew that already.
The American Idol results hour (1,373,000) was up again on CTV Two. America’s Top Model stumbled to 225,000. A Nikita episode drew 103,000 at 10. The Vampire Diaries season finale put the bite on 346,000 viewers at 7 p.m.
Global had The Exes (214,000) followed by The Office (313,000). Kiefer Sutherland’s Touch reached out to 849,000. Awake woke up 497,000.
City saw 229,000 tune in to Community. 30 Rock jumped back up to 337,000. Person of Interest interested 818,000 at 9, followed by Scandal (294,000).
No hockey on CBC, just reruns of Doc Zone (169,000 and 186,000).
The Jays and The Twins batted a robust 715,000 on Sportsnet, with 432,000 of those in Ontario. House of Bryan was open to 244,000 on HGTV.


The season finale of Undercover Boss drew 1,101,000 on CTV, followed by Grimm at 9 (963,000) and the finale of Blue Bloods (1,618,000).
No hockey game on the public broadcaster, so CBC made do with an Anne Murray special (371,000) and a fifth estate repeat (370,000).
The Finder was a keeper for Global at 8 (1,208,000); too bad it’s been cancelled at Fox. Harry’s Law, also not coming back next year, pulled 838,000, and specialty call up Lost Girl did 252,000.
CTV Two went with Shark Tank (463,000), the season finale of CSI: New York (915,000) and Dateline (303,000).
City opened with Who Do You Think You Are (445,000) followed by Fringe (401,000). Mantracker tracked down 104,000 at 10.
Jays and Twins batted 374,000 on Spotsnet. Canada/Finland was the big preliminary draw at the World Hockey Championships on TSN, scoring 293,000 viewers. King continues to get crowned Fridays at 9 on Showcase (58,000).


It took a Game Seven between New York and  Washington to push these Stanley Cup playoffs back over the two million mark. CBC netted 2,389,000 with the Rangers’ victory.
The Blue Jays drew 506,000 on Sportsnet. Canada/Kazakhstan scored 440,000 on TSN.
TSN’s coverage of the Canada/USA World Hockey Championships preliminary game drew 399,000.
Buried Saturday at 8 and airing six days after its NBC broadcast, a two hour Celebrity Apprentice was found by 306,000 Global viewers. The Firm, cancelled by NBC, managed 326,000 at 10. A new Saturday Night Live scored 608,000 at 11:30 p.m. The Listener, which comes back for a third season May 30, repeated to 44700 at 10 p.m. on CTV.

"Finally! We can eat again!!"

Global fired 622,000 with their afternoon coverage of the PGA tour. Survivor won the night with its two hour finale, with 2,113,000 witnessing Kim take the crown in one of the most predictable finishes ever. The Town Hall after show drew 1,881,000.
On CTV, the finale of Once Upon a Time drew 1,532,000 at 7. Desperate Housewives went out with 1,599,000 catching the two hour final episode. Another 976,000 caught the salute at 8.
TSN had Los Angeles/Phoenix and scored 1,357,000 viewers.
Jays batted 580,000 for another game against the Twins on Sportsnet, with 332,000 seeing the game in Ontario.
Squeezed between the finales of both Survivor and Desperate Housewives, the best Canada’s Got Talent could manage on City was 521,000.
CTV Two’s big draw was the final episode ever of CSI: Miami (333,000).
No hockey, nothing over 300,000 on CBC.
Bravo saw 118,000 turn up for an hour and 15-minute episode of The Borgias.

This week's podcast: network House-cleaning, Kutcher's new contract and Stern Talent numbers

This week, CHML's Scott Thompson wants to know what's with the axe falling on so many U.S. network shows this week. Long running series such as House (exiting Monday), Desperate Housewives, CSI: Miami and One Tree Hill along with recent flops such as Alcatraz, Terra Nova, The Firm, Unforgettable, Ringer, Missing and GCB are making way for dozens of new shows. Comedy seems to be the big trend this fall.
Stern makes a perfect Talent judge. Mark Seliger/NBC
Scott also asks if I think Two and a Half Men will live beyond this coming season. Ashton Kutcher recently signed back on for $725,000 per episode. Odds are the Chuck Lorre comedy could continue given that CBS has moved it to Thursdays behind red hot The Big Bang Theory starting this fall.
Scott also wondered if Howard Stern will give America's Got Talent a ratings boost. Usually ratings gold, Stern had little impact Monday, with AGT premiering to about the same level it opened with last season (although it was a particularly competitive night). I think Stern's a perfect judge--he's blunt, smart and direct--but, really, this show isn't about the judges as much as some other star search shows. Consider who the big draw was on just concluded Britain's Got Talent--a dog!!
We yak about a bunch of other stuff. You can listen in here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Britney, Demi headline Fox's 2012-13 upfront

L.A. Reid, Britney Spears, Demi Lovato, Simon Cowell. Frank Micelotta/Fox
On Monday, Fox made more headlines at their upfront about shows they are fixing than new shows they're launching.
The X Factor, the show everybody thought was the next sure thing blockbuster last fall, fell well short of ratings expectations. Executive producer/star Simon Cowell spent big bucks luring Britney Spears and Demi Lovato to the judges table next season but why? Britain just crowned their latest Got Talent winner and it is a dog. Cowell maybe should have signed up the hound from The Artist instead of Spears--not known for her talking--or Lovato, who had to step away from the showbiz glare a year-and-a-half ago.
Besides The X Factor, Fox announced that Kate Hudson and Sarah Jessica Parker would both guest on the fourth season of Glee, which is moving to Thursdays at 9. This could work out well for Global, which had to juggle top-rated NCIS and Glee on Mondays (although they'll now have to make room for Bones) and now can follow Survivor with Glee.
The Following: Bacon and Purefoy
CTV, meanwhile, faces the same double booking problem Thursday at at 8 with The Big Bang Theory bumping  both American Idol and The X Factor to CTV Two.
Global programming boss Barb Williams should also send Fox's Kevin Reilly a basket of fruit for sliding the new Kiefer Sutherland drama Touch to Fridays.
New to Fox for 2012-13 are two half hour comedies:
The Mindy Project, starring Mindy Kaling from The Office as a single OB/GYN in search of the perfect mate. Several SNLers snuck into the pilot. See the trailer here.
Ben and Kate, a comedy about odd couple-ish siblings still looking out for one another, stars newcomers Dakota Johnson and Nat Faxon. Check it out here.
New dramas include The Following, starring Kevin Bacon as an ex-FBI agent lured out of retirement to help track down a sick, creepy serial killer (Rome's James Purefoy). From Kevin Williamson (Dawson's Creek). The trailer is here.
Glee kids Naya Rivera and Chris Colfer
Also new is The Mob Doctor, about a promising surgeon (Jordana Spiro) who has to sew up his Southside Chicago benefactors first, or else. See the trailer here.
Fox has another comedy, The Goodwin Games, slotted for mid-season. The series stars Scott Foley (Felicity) as one of three siblings who stand to inherit $23 million from their late father (guest star Beau Bridges) if they can win a special family edition of Trivial Pursuit. From the gang behind How I Met Your Mother. Preview it here.

Monday, May 14, 2012

TONIGHT: Johnny Carson King of Late Night

Ed McMahon and Johnny Carson at the start of their 30-year run
It always surprises me that the kids don't know Johnny Carson. My son is 19, born the year after Carson ended a 30-year run on The Tonight Show, and to him Carson is a footnote on The Simpsons. (A cartoon Carson is seen in an early season episode doing a Carnac gag, goofing on the B-Sharps).
When I was my son's age, Johnny Carson was the coolest guy on the planet, the guy you always wanted to stay up late to see. That's the Carson remembered tonight on the American Masters' special Johnny Carson: King of Late Night (9 p.m. ET, PBS. Check local affiliates).
There are some great insights into Carson, who seldom revealed himself despite those 10,000 hours on television. 
Al  Jean, who is the showrunner on The Simpsons, got his first job out of Harvard on Carson's Tonight Show and calls him "The Citizen Kane of comedy." Carl Reiner says he found Carson "standoffish" and "aloof" at times. Doc Severinsen, his bandleader, admitted he was intimidated by the boss.
Author Bill Zehme, who's been writing a book on Carson for, like, 60 years, describes him as Marshall McLuhan's prototype--"he burned cool in a hot medium."
Carson may have simply been savvy enough to sense that turning down interviews and shunning the Hollywood scene just made he and his show all the more intriguing.
Or maybe he just saved it all for the show. I attended a taping of Carson's Tonight Show in Burbank in the late '80s and was fascinated to see how he completely ignored his guest throughout the commercial break, turning away to draw puffs on a cigarette or have his makeup retouched. (I'll never forget, too, seeing the band assemble seconds before the show started--slipping on jackets and picking up instruments--and still hitting their cue pitch perfect with that Paul Anka-penned theme).
The special does a great job showing the reverence comedians had for Carson, the most powerful man in showbusiness, who could make or break a career with a gesture. Jay Leno, Drew Carey, David Letterman, Roseanne, Ellen DeGeneres, Jerry Seinfeld and Gary Shandling all talk about how Carson made their careers.
For more on Carson and the American Masters' profile, follow this link to the story I wrote for Thew Canadian Press.