Network TV

With Tom DeLay on board, who else can ABC get for 'Dancing With the Stars'?

Posted on Tue Aug 18 2009

DeLay

OK, even for those who've never watched Dancing With the Stars, your curiosity had to be piqued on Monday when ABC announced that former Republican majority leader Tom DeLay is joining the cast for this season. That's a coup for the network, as DeLay's first dance has suddenly become the early must-watch moment this fall. The former congressmen was quoted as saying, "Conservatives can have fun too." We already know this, of course, based on the singing career of former attorney general John Ashcroft. According to The New York Times, DWTS producers have an even loftier goal: Getting Bill Clinton to jump in. We at MediaFreak don't see this as a good idea at all. Can you imaging throwing Bubba in with former Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover girl Kathy Ireland? Or Olympic swimmer Natalie Coughlin? Not a good idea. We think DWTS should go more global in its quest for dancing politicians. Say, Boris Yelstin? Oops, Yelstin died in 2007. Well, we do know that the most recent leader of the free world doesn't have that much to do, and he loves to get down.

—Posted by Mike Shields

Cable, Network TV

Charlie the Tuna is back, and still has an uncontrollable desire to be destroyed

Posted on Thu Aug 13 2009

Charlie220

Talk about burying the lede. Only after wading through 500-plus words of a press release touting StarKist's Tuna Creations (marinated albacore that comes in a pouch, like fishy Big League Chew) do we learn that the canned-fish purveyor is bringing back spokesfish Charlie the Tuna after a two-decade hiatus. Children of the '70s will remember Charlie as the StarKist mascot who wore a snappy red beret and chunky-framed Charles Nelson Reilly glasses—a cool, downtown type who was forever trying to get hooked by one of StarKist's trawlers. While the notion of a hipster fish with a death wish was always a bit jarring—Charlie's outlook was a bit myopic, given what awaited him at the cannery—an appetite for self-destruction is SOP for animals in ads. (Check out the Suicide Food blog for ample examples, and this SNL bit starring the late Phil Hartman and a plucky pullet is a gross-out classic.) Charlie will swim back into America's hearts in a supporting role, appearing at the tail end of StarKist's TV spots. But for many pop-culture enthusiasts, the scaly Daddio never really went away. In his latest paean to paranoia, Inherent Vice, author Thomas Pynchon devotes an entire page to a stoner's deconstruction of the piscine pitchman's death wish. According to Pynchon's wigged-out doper, Charlie's plight reflects America's "suicidal brand loyalty, man, a deep parable of consumer capitalism. … It's no coincidence that he has the same name as Charles Manson." Sorry, Charlie.

—Posted by Anthony Crupi

Network TV

Is smoking like a chimney a requirement for competing on 'Hell's Kitchen'?

Posted on Wed Aug 12 2009

Hells

TV is full of mysteries. Who shot J.R.? Why did the Gilligan's Island gang pack so much for their tour? And now, the latest big question: Why do so many people on Hell's Kitchen smoke like there's no tomorrow? After years of pressure from groups like the Parents Television Council, smoking has been all but eradicated from network television—except on Gordon Ramsay's Fox cooking show, where it practically seems like a requirement for the contestants. On every break, they all light up en masse. Perhaps even more surprising is that, aside from the occasional message-board thread, there's been very little outcry about this—or even mention of it. (The PTC hates the show, but ignores the smoking, probably because it's overwhelmed just keeping track of the profanity.) Smoking is said to be disproportionately high in the restaurant business due to stress, so maybe the producers allow (or encourage) the kids to puff away on camera to heighten the realism and further cement the program's gritty, anti-Top Chef vibe. But Ramsay himself, whose father died at 53 from smoking, seems baffled by it. "I've never smoked a cigarette in my entire life," he says. "It's a bitter pill for me to swallow, to sit and watch these guys smoke their lives away. ... But more importantly, I wish to hell they could understand the damage in terms of their palate."

—Posted by Tim Nudd

Cable, Network TV

In case there was any doubt, here's fresh evidence that this is a football nation

Posted on Wed Aug 12 2009

How much do Americans love football? Put it this way: Sunday night’s Pro Football Hall of Fame exhibition between the Buffalo Bills and the Tennessee Titans drew 7.92 million viewers to NBC from 8 p.m. to 11:04 p.m., making it the most-watched sporting event of the week. The game served as Terrell Owens' first appearance on a national stage in a Bills’ motley––in this case, both teams wore their American Football League throwback unis, in a nod to what would have been the AFL’s 50th anniversary––and while the flamboyant crybaby hauled in two catches in his one offensive series, the Titans went on to win by a 21-18 margin. As a scrimmage, the game was meaningless to anyone who isn’t a degenerate gambler (FWIW, the Titans just covered the -2.5 point spread, and you were golden if you took the over), and it had its share of goofy moments, including a hidden-ball trick by backup Tennessee punter A.J. Trapasso from the Buffalo 40 that netted 6 points. What’s fascinating about NBC’s ratings for the HOF skirmish is that the Peacock not only beat out CBS’ afternoon coverage of the final round of the Bridgestone Invitational, but it also bested ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball in head-to-head competition. The final game of a four-date series between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox delivered 4.7 million viewers, making it the most-watched Major League Baseball game on ESPN since 2007. The Yanks got out the brooms, and in doing so, took a commanding 6.5-game lead in the American League East. After having missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 1993, the Bombers look poised for an October run, and while there’s always a good chance that A-Rod’s bat will up and die like Spock at the end of Wrath of Khan once the leaves turn, for now, it appears as if everything is right in the world.

—Posted by Anthony Crupi

Network TV

NBC gets into WrestleMania 25, which happened in April and is on YouTube

Posted on Tue Aug 11 2009

NBC has recycled a lot of ideas lately (The Bionic Woman, Knight Rider), and now it's even reusing programming to try to get a ratings bump. The network, mired in fourth place after its now-canned entertainment chief, Ben Silverman, didn't deliver on his promise to "bring sexy back," will air a clip show of WrestleMania 25 this month. That pay-per-view event happened in April, so it's safe to say there's no big reveal here for WWE fans (nearly 1 million of whom shelled out $50 to watch it live, and 76,000 of whom packed Reliant Stadium in Houston). Besides, you can always watch the highlights on YouTube (see above). Thumbnail: The Undertaker won, that chick from the Pussycat Dolls sang, Mickey "The Wrestler" Rourke had an in-ring meta-moment, and somebody hit somebody with a briefcase. Seeing that WWE shows like SmackDown and Raw are some of the best-watched programs on TV, especially among young men, it's hard to blame NBC for wanting to get in on the action. What else do they have to air on a Saturday night in late August? More completely original disaster miniseries? Yeah, those aren't getting old at all.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Network TV

Octomom set to return in Fox special we'll all condemn and then watch avidly

Posted on Tue Aug 11 2009

Octomom copy

Just when you thought Octomom was slipping out of the zeitgeist and off your TV set comes news that Fox will air a two-hour documentary about her journey from "miracle birth woman to tabloid fodder." "It's a little bit of a train wreck, and it's really entertaining to watch," Fox's reality-programming guru Mike Darnell says of the Radar-shot footage. Oh, bless you, Darnell. At least you're honest—and always have been—about the relentless drive for ratings and the pandering you're willing to do to get them. To wit: The Swan, Temptation Island, Moment of Truth. This ain't HBO—it's ad-supported network TV, after all. It's all about the eyeballs. Octomom: The Incredible Unseen Footage is sure to draw big numbers and, no doubt, advertisers with stomachs strong enough to withstand the criticism. Wish I could say that I won't be among those glued to the tube as Nadya Suleman's "emotional struggles, physical complications and financial burdens" are splayed out for our collective prime-time amusement. I'm setting the TiVo now. Who's with me?

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Network TV

The networks' rope-a-dope upfront inventory strategy could backfire

Posted on Mon Aug 10 2009

Leslie_Moonves The upfront has wrapped for the most part, and most of the major networks plan to hold back more inventory for the scatter market in hopes of finding better pricing. Good luck guys! It’s going to be ugly out there for the nets with extra inventory over the next few quarters of scatter selling. For one, there is going to be A LOT more inventory available to buyers, making it difficult for any net to drive pricing up over upfront rates (which admittedly weren’t great but come on, we’re in a recession). For another, if the fall season turns out to be solid ratingswise—and most buyers and analysts felt this was one of the strongest development periods in years—then the networks won’t need to use up as many audience deficiency units (makegoods), further adding to the inventory glut in scatter. Throw a few more logs on the fire—the continual improvement in selling digital as an alternative to TV, confusion sown by the increased use of DVRs—and the networks could follow this soft upfront with a few of the worst scatter quarters since the 1990s. To be fair, the networks aren’t dumb: they have their reasons for this strategy. They really believe a lot of marketers held back dollars that need to get spent. The sales chiefs (and their corporate task-masters like Les Moonves, pictured) also have their fingers crossed for a recovery of sorts for the domestic auto category. If that all turns out to be true, and the economy somehow recovers magically, then I’m wrong. Sadly, I fear I’m right… 

—Posted by Michael Bürgi

Network TV

Mischa Barton MIA at TCA panel for The CW's 'The Beautiful Life'

Posted on Tue Aug 4 2009

Writers waited in droves at The Summer 2009 Television Critics Association Press Tour at the session for upcoming CW drama The Beautiful Life, wondering if troubled star Mischa Barton would appear. Barton was recently on the gossip sheets after being escorted to a Los Angeles hospital for an undisclosed medical problem on July 15. "Mischa's in New York working today on the show," claimed Ashton Kutcher, one of the creators of the series. "She was never unavailable for a day of work." But wouldn't Mischa's recent hospital stay have temporarily impacted her participation? "The wonderful thing about having Mischa in the cast is that she's done it before" added Kutcher. "She was one of the leads in The O.C., so her sort of navigation and guidance for the rest of the cast, I think, is essential for us as a unit." If Barton the "dramatic actress" is essential for The Beautiful Life, trouble could be brewing already.

—Posted by Marc Berman

Cable, Network TV

Omarosa has no regrets (well, maybe just a few) about her reality-TV life

Posted on Mon Aug 3 2009

Omarosa

Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth, the outspoken reality star who's so big she goes by just the one name, has appeared in more than 20 reality series, starting with The Apprentice back in 2004. Why has she done so many? It's a no-brainer, she told a session on TV One's upcoming show Life After at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour. "I was working in the White House, $56,000 a year, 18-hour days, and I did not see my family," she said. "I come out to L.A. and do a reality show for $100,000, and we shoot for 12 days. Why shouldn't I do it? My first show with Mark Burnett I signed blindly, but follow-up, The Surreal Life, was $75,000 for eight or nine days of shooting. Really, I love the government, but seriously, reality TV is so much more economically satisfying." Still, the "Reality Queen of Mean" had a few people she wanted to make amends to. "I would like to apologize for Janice Dickinson for calling her a crackhead and saying that she was cuckoo," she said. "And saying she was the oldest supermodel and talking about her jowls and her bad plastic surgery. I might want to also apologize to Piers Morgan for saying he was a British idiot. And maybe to Wendy Williams for calling her a man. I just felt like having a holistic moment." Too bad Omarosa chose not to address the TV audience that suffers through her obnoxious antics. We're the ones she should really be apologizing to. When will her 15 minutes finally end?

—Posted by Marc Berman

Network TV

William Shatner does his best Sarah Palin

Posted on Tue Jul 28 2009

Sarah Palin's final speech as the governor of Alaska had some people confused. Who better than William Shatner to smooth out the nuances with one of his patented dramatic interpretations? The pop-culture moment from Monday's Tonight Show was not quite as inspired as Shatner's twisted takes on "Rocket Man" or "Mr. Tambourine Man," but he was a lot younger back then, and those words made far more sense than Palin's drivel. It's about on par with his early Priceline ad performances. Bill's from Canada, which is close enough to Alaska to provide him with some frozen-brained insight into what the former vice-presidential candidate had in mind. He makes the speech ... well, not poetic, exactly, nor especially coherent. In fact, the text sounds more baffling than ever. Still, Shatner's not half as frightening as Palin, and he looks almost as cute in a wig.

—Posted by David Gianatasio


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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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