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October 2009

Radio

Live ad reads on radio are nothing new. Why do some think they are?

Posted on Thu Oct 29 2009

I nearly fell off my chair when the headline from Ad Age (one of our competitors) hit my email: "Radio Industry Welcomes Return of Live Reads." What?? When did live reads ever go away? Live reads have been a staple of the radio business from day one. As far as I can tell, nothing has changed that, not even the death of Paul Harvey. Any good radio personality worth his/her salt does live reads. And, as the article reminds us, advertisers are willing to pay a premium to capitalize on the relationship strong personalities have with their audience. What troubles me is not that the Ad Age writer got suckered by some PR firm, but that the radio industry feels compelled to re-position live reads as something new. Guess times really are that desperate. 

—Posted by Katy Bachman

Digital

What will be scarier, MySpace's new Web series or its viewership numbers?

Posted on Thu Oct 29 2009

MySpace is trying to reinvent itself as a content hub, and it's turning to Paramount's digital group for some help. This week, the social-networking site launched a new Web-only series called "Circle of Eight," a spooky horror-movie-ish show about a girl from the farm moving into a mysterious building in L.A. Based on the first episode, it's not terrible—it's about on par with those movies you might see on SyFy on a Saturday night, such as the recent Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus. OK, maybe that's not fair. But you have to wonder who is going to watch this show, which is somewhat reminiscent of lonelygirl15 (an overarching mystery, good looking young people, a puzzle for viewers). Original scripted series on the Web have struggled to attract audiences, and advertisers have been wary. So far, the trailer (above) has generated only 1,700 views on YouTube.  But "Circle of Eight" has lined up solid advertisers, including Peter Jackson's upcoming movie The Lovely Bones. Plus, it's got star power, including the geeky guy from Road Trip. And judging by this screen shot, Will Ferrell apparently has a cameo!

—Posted by Mike Shields

Broadcast TV

Can someone help out the 'FlashForward' actors with their American accents?

Posted on Thu Oct 29 2009

Look, I'm no linguist. But if there's one thing that annoys me more than anything on TV and in the movies, it's when a non-native speaker of American English tries to mimic our accent and fails miserably. Whether it's the Southern drawl or the East Coast Bostonian or the surfer-slack Californian. To be fair, the opposite is true, too: Madonna, stop with the faux English accent already! You're from Michigan! (Gwyneth Paltrow does a fantastic British accent. Take pointers from her.) One of my new favorite shows, ABC's FlashForward, which takes place in L.A., features some actors who are absolutely butchering American accents. And it's hurting the show, because it's just distractingly bad form. Repeat offenders include lead actor Joseph Fiennes, who's a Brit, and supporting actor Brían F. O'Byrne, an Irishman who seems to be struggling not to sound like a gruff Michael Flatley at every turn. (That's Fiennes and O'Byrne chatting in the clip above.) On a happier note, supporting actor Sonya Walger—an Englishwoman, who actually plays one on ABC's Lost—appears to have taken the right America pills. Her accent is spot on. Go, Sonya! Attention, FlashForward speech coaches: Help your actors out.

—Posted by Will Levith

Film, Music, Television

Michael Jackson leads the pack in banner year for tasteless Halloween costumes

Posted on Wed Oct 28 2009

Creepyjackomask

Since Halloween is supposed to bring out the ghoul in us all, I guess it's no surprise that partygoers are planning to masquerade as dead celebrities this year. The high-profile recently departed from the worlds of music and TV seem to be the most popular, which means there will be lots of Michael Jacksons, Farrah Fawcetts, Billy Mays and Ed McMahons wandering around this weekend. Guess nobody's bothering to ask, "Too soon?" (Jackson, by the way, is the top costume choice in numerous polls.) Movie-ticketing service Fandango found in a survey that the much-anticipated concert film This Is It may be inspiring tons of Jackson wannabes, but Twilighters aren't far behind. (Neither is the comic-based Wolverine.) Trick-or-treaters will be drawing from movies based on graphic novels (Watchmen), toys (G.I. Joe), children's books (Where the Wild Things Are) and sleepers (Paul Blart: Mall Cop, The Hangover). Alice in Wonderland, Tim Burton's update of the acid-trip tale, doesn't launch until next spring but snagged the most write-in votes in Fandango's survey of more than 1,200 people. Media and pop culture continue to spawn the lion's share of dress-up ideas, like Kate Gosselin and her ridiculous hair-don't, the steamy True Blood vamps and President Obama. All I know is, I'd better not open my door to a blubbering Glenn Beck. No candy for him!

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Newspapers

Newspapers deserve to survive if only to tell a few more stories like this

Posted on Tue Oct 27 2009

Latimes

Back in journalism school, I learned this mantra: Always get the name of the dog, the brand of the beer, the age of the kid. It's the details, in other words, that make a story on the printed page come to life. So, to read a feature—in a daily newspaper, of all places—that explained to me the significance of Nextel cell phones, Snickers bars, Tecate beer and Jacuzzis in the lives (and deaths) of Mexican drug traffickers? Irresistible. (And written without the purple prose that would've been an easy fall-back? Refreshing!) The recent Los Angeles Times story profiles a gifted painter/sculptor named Jose Espinoza who's become the go-to artist-in-residence for the most notorious drug dealers in Sinaloa, the epicenter of Mexico's narcotics trade. What he does is fascinating: Without questions or judgment, he paints murals and frescoes, mostly religious icons, in homes so grand they make Scarface's Miami pad look like a hovel. (The local term for the palaces? Narcitecture.) What the reporter did was equally nervy: follow along with the subject, who also adorns the elaborate mausoleums of those felled in the trade, to illuminate a man who creates beauty amid violence. Not that stories like this are going to save dying newspapers—or even that this one sold any more copies that day—but it sure was a rare weekend gem. Take a look here.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Digital

Pandora, Hulu: What happened to free?

Posted on Mon Oct 26 2009

Free

I'm a big fan of free things. Free books and CDs on the sidewalk, free samples of cheese at the supermarket, free giveaways in Union Square. And up until a few weeks ago, free streaming radio via Pandora.com and free TV on Hulu.com. So, imagine the surprise when I found out last week that after 40 hours of free play per month, Pandora now charges you 99 cents to finish the month, or $36 to "upgrade" to all-day play all year. Gimme a break. (I'm off to free-for-now iTunes radio.) And now there are reports that Hulu might charge for some of its content by next year. For those of us who've found Time Warner Cable to be too expensive, Hulu has been a savior. I can keep up with my favorite shows (Fringe and FlashForward) without paying a cent. The questions poses itself: What happened to free? 

—Posted by Will Levith

Cable

The Weather Channel adds a movie night

Posted on Wed Oct 21 2009

Perfectstorm

The Weather Channel, already working to expand beyond rain reports and beach forecasts, has decided to start airing movies on Friday nights. The first selection is an obvious one: The Perfect Storm with George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg, coming Oct. 30. Later, expect to see the documentary March of the Penguins, the thriller Deep Blue Sea and the snow-bound horror flick Misery. Not sure yet where this idea hits on the Richter scale (is it the meteorological equivalent of MTV dumping music videos?), but the area's fertile if the network keeps steering in this direction. There are boatloads of disaster-porn choices, like Twister, Poseidon, Waterworld, The Day After Tomorrow and the upcoming 2012 (basically anything Roland Emmerich ever shoots). A little something for the kids: Ice Age, Ponyo and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Classics like Singin' in the Rain and The Wizard of Oz. The list is endless, especially when you count all those global-warming shockumentaries from the past few years. Depends on how far the Weather Channel wants to stretch the definition. If it's flexible (and let's face it, Deep Blue Sea is really about big-brained sharks), then I suggest Caddyshack to fill in any holes in the schedule. Moral of that story: Lightning and golf clubs do not mix. Now that's what the channel's faithful want to hear.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Broadcast TV, Cable

Don't be surprised if you hear a lot about volunteerism on TV this week

Posted on Tue Oct 20 2009

Matt Damon strong-armed Vincent Chase into giving a hefty chunk of change to his ONEXONE children's charity on the season finale of HBO's Entourage. Ugly Betty's star brought NothingButNets' malaria-prevention message into the recent launch of the ABC dramedy. Call it do-gooder TV, where creators stitch a real-world charity into a fictional storyline in the hope that it'll have more of an effect than some stiff PSA. This kind of feel-good product placement is already hot (like, during American Heart Month), but it's about to get a lot hotter. More than 100 shows on the major networks and cable channels like Lifetime, Nickelodeon and CNN are touting volunteerism this week as part of a link with I Participate, a campaign to encourage people to give back to their communities. A charity group called the Entertainment Industry Foundation has spearheaded the effort as a follow-up to last year's Stand Up to Cancer, which raised more than $100 million. The placements will pop up everywhere from morning news shows and soaps to prime-time and late-night series. As a result, some of your favorite TV characters will be putting in time at food banks, signing up to be Big Brothers and Big Sisters, saving animals from shelters and building parks and playgrounds. Sound like a valiant effort all around? Not to some on the far right, who are accusing the EIF and Hollywood of being mouthpieces for the Obama administration. For the record: I Participate is nonpartisan. And for the critics, who obviously have time to spare: Put down the laptop and pick up a hammer. Habitat for Humanity could use you.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Magazines

'Bon Appetit' covers fly fowl this fall

Posted on Mon Oct 19 2009

Ba

A feeling of déjà vu came over us when we got our November copy of Bon Appetit, with its scrumptious cover image of a roast turkey. The cover choice wouldn’t have been surprising—have you seen a food magazine that didn’t have a turkey on its November cover?—were it not for the fact that just two issues ago, Bon App seemed to run a nearly identical cover. When we double-checked, we found the September bird was not a turkey but actually a chicken, which Bon App told us its readers apparently can’t get enough of these days. Maybe so. But now that Condé Nast has put all its eggs now in the Bon App basket, so to speak, it could be one more reason for all those unhappy Gourmet fans to cry fowl, er, foul.

—Posted by Lucia Moses

TV Abroad

TV networks aimed at women all too often neglect the cross-dressing men

Posted on Mon Oct 19 2009

June1

Below is an odd promo for a new French TV network called June. The channel is aimed at women 20-30 years old, but apparently they don't want to exclude all the cross-dressing (and potentially cross-dressing) men out there. The slogan is: "June. The channel that makes you want to be a girl." Perhaps Lifetime could try something similar here in the U.S., now that Project Runway's ratings have begun to sink.

—Posted by Tim Nudd


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CONTRIBUTORS

  • Katy Bachman
  • Marc Berman
  • Michael Burgi
  • James Cooper (co-editor)
  • Anthony Crupi
  • Alan Frutkin
  • Will Levith
  • Lucia Moses
  • Tim Nudd (co-editor)
  • Craig Russell
  • Mike Shields

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