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post #3151 of 25503 Old 05-27-2005, 09:07 AM - Thread Starter
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Thursday's prime-time ratings have been posted at the top of Latest News the first item in this thread.
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post #3152 of 25503 Old 05-27-2005, 09:28 AM - Thread Starter
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+ + + DVR/TiVo Spoiler Alert ! ! + + +

One finale look as the season sails away
All good things must come to an end

This week, that good-thing-going rule includes the 2004-05 TV season, which ended with a flourish of finales. Some finales, of course, were more final than others: Many of the networks' top series once again left us cliffhanging. And as always happens, some were better than others.
So who made the final grade and who didn't? USA TODAY's Robert Bianco leads you through the last episodes of some of TV's best series with an emphasis, on the scripted side, on those shows that had old questions to answer and new what-happens-next questions to pose.

24 (Fox)
Rating: * * * 1/2

What happened: Once again, Jack saved the day, finding the missile before it could hit its target, which turned out to be L.A. (Good thing Marwan hadn't targeted the closer-to-the-launch-site Chicago, huh?) And what thanks does Jack get? His own government tries to kill him, forcing him to fake his death and walk off into the sunrise as a man with no name.

Critical report: Here's how you end a great season, with a fast-paced two-hour special that included one of the series' biggest shockers: Tony didn't bite it. (Admit it, you thought he was a goner the minute Michelle told him she loved him.) His survival was a welcome surprise, as was the clever setup for 24's next day, with our hero a presumed-dead man walking. But tell me, who broke the news to Kim? Drawbacks? As often happens when you build this long to a climax, the destruction of the missile was, well, anticlimactic. And, uh, guys Behrooz? The show just seemed to forget about our poor little teenage terrorist.

Next year, why not: Give Jack a viable romantic relationship. I'm thinking "hot secret agent partner," but I'll settle for anyone who isn't a whiny, ungrateful pain in the tuchis.

Alias (ABC)
Rating: * * * 1/2

What happened: Sydney destroyed the Rambaldi device, a big red ball that made humans rabid, but not before her sister Nadia was infected and shot. Safely back home, Syd and Vaughn were in a car planning their wedding, which led to the season's most heart-stopping cliffhanger. As Vaughn started to reveal some dark secret about his life and his name another car blindsided them and us.


Critical report: So this is what Rambaldi invented: a device that would drive the whole world nuts. It's only fitting, because the entire prophecy plotline has always been a little nuts, and the show knows it. But as that shocker of an ending indicates, Alias doesn't want you to stand outside its story at a safe, ironic distance. It expects you to plunge on in, craziness and all. The reason fans are willing to do so is because the often fanciful plots are tied to an identifiable family dynamic. Alias is a shifting web of lies and secrets, loyalty and betrayal. In the finale, soapier elements a husband letting go of his wife, a mother saying goodbye to her daughter, a bride-to-be being told the truth by her groom comfortably coincide with the darker strains of Greek tragedy. Not many shows would have a sister kill her sister and a father shoot his daughter all in the same hour.

Next year, why not: Spread the "mythology" episodes out. They all came at us in a Rambaldi rush over the last half of the season.

The Amazing Race (CBS)
Rating: * * * *

What happened: Uchenna and Joyce won, Rob and Amber didn't. That's four stars right there.

Critical report: The happy ending was just the topper to a near-ideal reality final. Forced to beg for cash from some remarkably uncharitable folks, Uchenna and Joyce Agu rallied from third to first, thanks to a cooperative pilot and a cab driver who asked for directions in Little Havana in Spanish. (Take that, English-only advocates.) Then the same cab driver seemed set to cost them the race, as a short-of-cash Uchenna refused to leave for the finish line before he paid his bill. Rob and Amber were last heard complaining that Uchenna and Joyce got outside help to get on that departing plane because neither Rob nor Amber is bright enough to make the obvious pot-meet-kettle logical leap.

Next year, why not: Stage a gimmick-free race, without reality castoffs. Rule tweaking also is in order to ban outside interference and internal partner-abuse.

America's Next Top Model (UPN)
Rating: * * *

What happened: Naima won a three-way contest, easily topping Keenyah and then edging out Kahlen in what Tyra Banks called the closet Model dash yet.

Critical report: My choice didn't win and I still enjoyed the show, which is a testament to Model's ability to maintain goodwill. Indeed, the editors did such a good job of slanting the episode toward Naima, they almost had me rooting for her. Though Model's judges may not be as famous as their Idol counterparts, their comments are almost invariably more honest, intelligent and useful. Still, they could learn one lesson from Idol: to stop acting as if Model has to be a winner-take-all contest. If Idol can get record contracts for both Ruben and Clay, surely Model can find jobs for Kahlen as well as Naima.

Next year, why not: Give a plus-size girl a real shot at the prize. Oh, and Tyra, could you please stop running through the list of prizes before every elimination?

American Idol (Fox)
Rating: *

What happened: Country Carrie won in a 10-second "Here's your American Idol" announcement stretched over two hours.

Critical report: Surely America's top-rated series can find a way to crown a winner without torturing its fans. We expect the show to be padded. We don't expect it to be so cheesy and phony it makes us ashamed of ourselves for caring who wins. You knew you were in trouble from the moment the show opened, with the off-key castoffs butchering one of those jive variety show medleys of which Idol is so fond. From there, it was two hours of near unendurable filler, from the constant recaps and idiotic banter with the judges, to that witless dig at ABC's Paula expose. The capper was another round of painful performances from the runners-up, this time backed up by stars. The memory of Mikalah singing with Babyface is enough to make you want to tear your eardrums out. As for the result, while some producer may someday turn Carrie into a decent country recording artist, for the moment she is indisputably the weakest Idol yet.

Next year, why not: Hire arrangers who won't turn every other song into over-orchestrated mush. And the show might want to shift its audition focus to finding more-talented singers, rather than mocking bad ones.

Desperate Housewives (ABC)
Rating: * * *

What happened: What didn't? Desperate used up more plots in an hour than Dynasty used to use in a year. Start with the answer to the big season-long mystery: It was Mary Alice, not Paul, who murdered Deirdre to stop her from taking back Zach. Note to Mary Alice: You probably could have sold the police on self-defense if you hadn't chopped the body up and stuffed it in a toy chest. It's always the coverup that gets you. Elsewhere, Tom quit his job and ordered Lynette back to work; Gaby lied for Carlos on the witness stand, which did no good because Carlos snapped immediately afterwards and attacked John in court; Mike was set to kill Paul, and then relented when Paul told him Mary Alice killed Deirdre; new neighbors made a brief appearance looking suitably next-season mysterious, and Zach held Susan and Mike at gunpoint. Oh, and Rex died or so Bree thinks.

Critical report: While I'm grateful to Desperate for delivering on its promise to solve the Mary Alice mystery, it still tried to pack an awful lot of plot into one hour too much, I fear. As usual on Housewives, the cast was great and the hour had a host of terrific, over-the-top moments. (Zach whacking Huber's sister on the head; didn't see that coming.) But it felt rushed, and Rex's death was too perfunctory to register. The show needs to learn how to stop and let a moment land. As for the speculation that Rex isn't dead and the hospital lied to Bree: It's possible, I suppose, because on this show, anything's possible. But it would be a stretch, even for Desperate, and something of a cheat.

Next year, why not: Catch your breath. Desperate was one of the season's great joys, but it does sometimes tend to mistake frantic for funny. The race, as they say, is not always unto the swift.

Lost (ABC)
Rating: * * * *

What happened: The island's mad Frenchwoman stole Claire's baby, but Charlie and Sayid got him back; Locke survived the monster and blew the lid off the hatch, though we didn't really get to see what's inside; and the raft was attacked by the "others," who kidnapped Walt and left the rest to drown.

Critical report: Ending the year as impressively as it began, Lost produced a gorgeously shot, brilliantly structured stunner that propelled the plot forward while expanding our understanding of the castaways. Exciting, moving, humorous and horrifying in turn, it may just have been the best two hours of series TV this year. And may I just add that if sitcoms could come up with a few more characters as funny and endearing as Hurley, that troubled genre would be in a lot better shape. No, the show didn't provide any answers to any of the island's big questions. But it did attach us even more strongly to these people and their fate. Like Alias, Lost uses action-adventure conventions to take us out of our everyday lives while using its characters to navigate deeper emotional waters Claire's grief over her stolen baby, Sun's fear that they're all being punished; Walt and Michael's terror as Walt is kidnapped. When a series is this good, you should stop worrying about where it's going next and just enjoy where it is now.

Next year, why not: Just keep doing what you're doing.

Survivor (CBS)
Rating: * * 1/2

What happened: Tom won, but not before making us sorry that we were rooting for him.

Critical report: Everything went right for Race, including the things the producers couldn't control. On Survivor, everything went south, as a fine season collapsed into off-putting acrimony. Some of the blame goes to Katie, who had no room to complain about anything, considering she just lounged her way into the finals. But the big problem was the out-of-character tantrum from Tom, who accused Ian of lacking "honor" and went into a childish rant about their need to "duke it out like men." In the end, Tom was still far and away the right choice, and he can be forgiven for letting time and pressure get to him. Still, his behavior did make for a surprisingly sour finale, nearly undoing a season that had been one of the show's better efforts.

Next year, why not: Lighten up, people. You're not lifelong friends joining to find a cancer cure. You're strangers playing a game. What's required is less emotion, more sportsmanship.
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post #3153 of 25503 Old 05-27-2005, 11:44 AM - Thread Starter
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Some Summer TV series news
I am not going to spend a lot of time or space here detailing summer TV fare, but here is a summary of some of the top network programs courtesy of Cynthia Turner's Cynopsis:

Fox: Hell's Kitchen debuts May 30 with head chef Gordon Ramsay and a team of apprentices
WB: Beauty & the Geek premieres June 1 where one geek and one beauty team up to win $250k
ABC: Dancing with Stars begins June 1 and features celebs taking on ballroom dancing
ABC: The Scholar where really smart kids compete for a college scholarship, starts June 6
CBS: Fire Me ... Please begins June 7 where two people work to get fired by 3pm, the closest wins the cash
CBS: The Cut from Tommy Hilfigier features clothing designer wannabes, starts June 9
NBC: Average Joe - The Joe Strikes Back is sked to return on June 21
NBC: I Want to be a Hilton with Mrs. Hilton overseeing the living-large wannabes, where one gets to live as a Hilton for one year, starts June 21
Fox: Princes of Malibu chronicles the daily lives of music producer David Foster and family, starts July 10
CBS: Rock Star: INXS is Mark Burnett's latest with contestants looking to win a 1 yr gig with the band, begins July 11
ABC: Brat Camp kicks off on July 13 from a troubled teen wilderness camp in Oregon
Fox: So You Think You Can Dance is American Idol for dancers, or those who think they're dancers - premieres July 20
NBC: The Law Firm from David E. Kelley where a young lawyer tries real cases in hopes of winning a spot at a top lawfirm, starts July 28
NBC: Meet Mister Mom begins on August 2, puts unwitting dads in charge of the house and kids
NBC: Tommy Lee Goes to College follows Tommy Lee at Univ of Nebraska doing what students do, studying and goofing off, begins August 16
ABC: Welcome to the Neighborhood where the winning family gets a new home in a neighborhood cul-de-sac which has its own ideas of what good neighbors should be - no start date yet
UPN: Are You the Girl features the two remaining members of the music group TLC looking for a new third - no start date set yet
NBC: The Biggest Loser premieres this fall on September 13 at 8p with a special 90m premiere ep.

New scripted (limited) series starting this summer include
Fox: The Inside, a procedural cop drama, starts June 8
ABC: Empire - six parts - set in Ancient Rome, begins June 28
NBC: Psychic Detectives (off Court TV) begins in June, airing on Wednesday nights as a 1 hour lead-in to L&O. The show continues on Court TV on Wednesdays at 10p.
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post #3154 of 25503 Old 05-27-2005, 04:16 PM - Thread Starter
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Discovery, ESPN Reach 90 Million Subs

By James Hibberd TVWeek.com May 27, 2005

Discovery Channel and ESPN are the first cable networks to cross the 90-million subscriber threshold, according to estimates by Nielsen Media Research for June 2005.

Discovery Channel, which launched in 1985, will have 90.1 million U.S. households; ESPN, which launched in 1977, did not provide an exact figure. Both channels touted the event as crossing a major milestone.

"In 1985, Discovery Channel launched in just 156,000 homes, with affiliate partners who believed in John Hendricks' vision for a factual documentary channel," said Bill Goodwyn, president of Discovery Channel's affiliate sales and marketing. "Today, built on the early trust of our distributors and our continued focus on high-quality programming, we have created a network with brand affinity that spans the globe and continues to earn high marks among viewers and business partners alike."
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""""The funny-yet-under-watched "Arrested Development" will be back (why, oh why, won't you watch it?!)""""

because i don't find it particulaly funny.
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post #3156 of 25503 Old 05-27-2005, 04:43 PM - Thread Starter
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Actor Eddie Albert Dies at Age 99

By Dennis McLellan Los Angeles Times Staff Writer May 27, 2005

Eddie Albert, the versatile stage, screen and television actor who co-starred as the Park Avenue lawyer who sought happiness down on the farm in the popular 1960s' sitcom "Green Acres," has died. He was 99.

Albert, an outspoken environmentalist and humanitarian activist, died Thursday night at his home in Pacific Palisades of pneumonia, according to his son Edward Laurence Albert.

According to his son, Albert was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease about 10 years ago, but still lived an active and happy life and remained at his home throughout.

In an acting career that spanned more than six decades, the blond, blue-eyed Albert was initially typecast as what has been described as an amiable fellow with a "corn-fed grin."

As Gregory Peck's news photographer pal in "Roman Holiday" (1953), Albert earned the first of his two Academy Award nominations for best supporting actor.

His second Oscar nomination came two decades later playing Cybill Shepherd's wealthy, exasperated father in "The Heartbreak Kid," the 1972 Neil Simon-Elaine May comedy.

Among Albert's nearly 100 film credits a mix of comedies, dramas and musicals are "Oklahoma!," "I'll Cry Tomorrow," "Teahouse of the August Moon," "The Sun Also Rises," "The Joker Is Wild," "Beloved Infidel," "The Young Doctors," "The Longest Day," "Captain Newman, M.D." and "Escape to Witch Mountain."

Albert, who scored critically acclaimed dramatic performances on live television in the 1950s, was particularly memorable when he turned his good-guy screen image on its head as he did playing the sadistic warden in director Robert Aldrich's 1974 comedy-drama "The Longest Yard," starring Burt Reynolds.

"There's no actor working today who can be as truly malignant as Eddie Albert," Aldrich told TV Guide in 1975. "He plays heavies exactly the way they are in real life. Slick and sophisticated."

At the time, Albert was co-starring as a retired bunco cop opposite Robert Wagner as his former con man son in "Switch," a private-eye drama that ran for three seasons on CBS.

But Albert is best remembered for "Green Acres," which aired on CBS from 1965 to 1971 and continues to have an afterlife on cable TV. In it, Albert played Oliver Wendell Douglas, the successful Manhattan lawyer who satisfies his longing to get closer to nature by giving up his law practice and buying sight-unseen a rundown 160-acre farm near the fictional town of Hooterville. Eva Gabor co-starred as his malaprop-dropping socialite wife, Lisa.

A spin-off of "Petticoat Junction," "Green Acres" featured a zany cast of hayseed characters, including Mr. Haney (Pat Buttram), the con man who sold the tumbledown farm to the big-city couple.

Albert previously had turned down series offers, including "My Three Sons" and "Mister Ed," unwilling to forgo his movie career for a medium he felt was "geared to mediocrity."

But then his agent told him the concept of the proposed CBS comedy series: a city slicker comes to the country to escape the aggravations of city living.

"I said, 'Swell. That's me. Everyone gets tired of the rat race. Everyone would like to chuck it all and grow some carrots. It's basic. Sign me,'" Albert told TV Guide. "I knew it would be successful. Had to be. It's about the atavistic urge, and people have been getting a charge out of that ever since Aristophanes wrote about the plebs and the city folk."

Of course, the ancient Greek playwright didn't create characters like pig farmer Fred Ziffel (Hank Patterson), whose scene-stealing pet pig, Arnold, watched television.

"Eddie Albert had an easy-going, friendly, guy-next-door appeal, and it translated perfectly to television," said Ron Simon, curator of television at the Museum of Radio and Television in New York. "His personalty was exactly the sort of laid-back charm that is necessary to succeed in television for a long time."

Indeed, Albert not only starred in his own TV series in three different decades the `50s, `60s and `70s he hosted two variety shows and a game show in the early `50s and frequently showed up through the years as a guest star in comedy and drama series, as well as variety shows. At the close of the 1960s, Albert even appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show," reading legendary radio writer Norman Corwin's "Prayer for the `70s."

"His versatility and likability," Simon said, "were his major emblems on television."

The son of a real estate agent, Albert was born Edward Albert Heimberger on April 22, 1906, in Rock Island, Ill. When he was a year old, his family moved to Minneapolis, where he developed an early interest in show business.

To pay his way through the University of Minnesota, where he studied drama, Albert washed dishes and worked nights managing a movie theater, where he served as master of ceremonies for a weekly magic show.

Albert, who also sang at amateur nights, left the university in his junior year and joined a musical trio that performed on a local radio station. After the announcers kept referring to him on the air as Eddie Hamburger, he dropped Heimberger and adopted his middle name for his last.

The singing trio performed in Chicago, St. Louis and Cincinnati, but broke up after playing small clubs in New York. Albert eventually teamed with a singer named Grace Bradt and they spent a year as the singing stars of "The Honeymooners," an NBC morning radio show.

After working in summer stock, Albert landed his first Broadway role in "O Evening Star" in 1935. The play closed in less than a week, but Albert was back on Broadway in 1936, co-starring in producer-director George Abbott's production of "Brother Rat," a hit comedy about three friends at a Virginia military academy.

The now-established Albert appeared in another Abbott comedy production, "Room Service," in 1937 and, in 1938, co-starred in the Rodgers and Hart musical "The Boys from Syracuse."

The same year, he made his movie debut re-creating his stage role in the Warner Bros. film version of "Brother Rat." While signed to the studio, the restless Albert would take long sailing trips down the California coast in a ketch.

In 1939, while sailing off the coast of Baja California, he heard rumors of secret submarine fueling stations, and when he returned home he reported to Army intelligence that Japanese "fishermen" were making hydrographic surveys of the coast.

On later sailing trips, he made reports of German Nazi activities in Mexico. Prior to Pearl Harbor, he joined a Mexican circus owned by his friends, the Escalante Brothers. And while touring Mexico as the "flyer" in a six-man trapeze act, Albert gathered even more intelligence.

"Between shows, I'd be able to wander around and pick up information," he said in a 1947 interview. "I had the perfect disguise, of course. It was a very profitable trip. Despite the Rover Boy overtones, I got solid satisfaction whenever I sent a tip in."

Seven months after the war began, Albert joined the Navy. After graduating from officers training school, he was assigned to an amphibious transport ship and saw action in the South Pacific. Later, he was assigned to the Navy's training films branch.

After the war, Albert returned to Hollywood "utterly forgotten, and rightly so," he told the Toronto Star in 1988. "What had I ever done? I took everything they could throw at me. Pictures like 'The Dude Goes West' and 'The Fuller Brush Girl.' I worked myself back up, but I never wanted to be a star. I was aiming to play the star's best friend."

Inspired by his experience with military training films, he launched Eddie Albert Productions in 1946. The company made 16-millimeter industrial films and educational films for schoolchildren, including two then-controversial sex-education films.

Albert also returned to Broadway in 1949, singing and dancing as the leading man in the musical "Miss Liberty." It ran for 308 performances before Albert returned to a Hollywood that was being transformed by a new thing called television.

Albert, who had made his television debut in 1948, appeared in numerous live dramatic showcases throughout the 1950s such as "Playhouse 90," "Studio One" and "General Electric Theater."

In 1952, he starred in a short-lived family situation comedy for CBS-TV, "Leave It to Larry." He later hosted a live musical variety series ("Nothing But the Best"), hosted and sang, danced and acted in another live NBC variety series ("Saturday Night Revue") and hosted a CBS game show ("On Your Account").

In 1954, Albert and his former actress-singer wife, Margo, whom he married after his Navy discharge in 1945, had a successful nightclub act that played New York and other cities around the country. In 1960, Albert returned to Broadway, replacing Robert Preston in the title role in "The Music Man."

Over the years, Albert explored remote parts of the world. In the 1930s, he spent time on a tiny, deserted island in Nova Scotia as well as in the Mexican wilderness. In the 1950s, he visited the Congo to discuss malnutrition with Albert Schweitzer. He stayed with Schweitzer for several months and later wrote about the experience. And in 1969, Albert flew to the Klondike with an expedition trying to find the arctic cabin where Jack London searched for gold and did some of his writing. They found the cabin, which was dismantled and reassembled in Oakland's Jack London Square.

In the late 1960s, Albert's attention turned to ecology. He did extensive reading on the subject as well as talking to experts in the field.

In 1969, he accompanied a molecular biologist from UC Berkeley to Anacapa Island off the California coast to observe the nesting of pelicans. What they found were thousands of collapsed pelican eggs

"The run-off of DDT had been consumed by the fish, the fish had been eaten by the pelicans, whose metabolism had in turn been disturbed so that the lady pelican could no longer manufacture a sturdy shell," Albert told TV Guide in 1970.

After learning more about the effects of DDT, he said, "I stopped being a conservationist I became terrified. The more I studied, the more terrified I got."

Sharing his ecological concerns on the "Tonight" and "Today" shows, he became, in the words of a TV Guide reporter, "a kind of ecological Paul Revere." The TV appearances led to speaking engagement requests from high schools, universities and industrial and religious groups.

Albert formed a new company to produce films to aid in "international campaigns against environmental pollution."

Home base for the actor-activist was an unpretentious Spanish-style house on an acre of land in Pacific Palisades, where Albert turned the front yard into a cornfield. He also installed a giant greenhouse in the backyard, where he grew organic vegetables.

But a reporter learned better than to call Albert an ecologist.

"Ecologist, hell!," he scoffed in the 1970 TV Guide interview. "Too mild a word. Check the Department of Agriculture; 60% of the world is hungry already. With our soil impoverished, our air poisoned, our wildlife crippled by DDT, our rivers and lakes turning into giant cesspools, and mass starvation an apparent inevitability by 1976, I call myself a Human Survivalist!"

Albert, who in 1963 served as special world envoy for Meals for Millions a philanthropic project providing nutritious, low-cost meals to the underprivileged around the world helped launch the first Earth Day in 1970 and served as a special consultant at the World Hunger Conference in Rome in 1974.

He also served stints as director to the U.S. Commission on Refugees, national conservation chairman for the Boy Scouts of America and chairman of the Eddie Albert World Trees Foundation. He was a trustee of the National Recreation and Parks Assn. and a consumer advisory board member of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Margo, Albert's wife of 39 years, died in 1985.

In addition to his son, Albert is survived by a daughter, Maria Zucht; and two granddaughters. Services will be private.
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post #3157 of 25503 Old 05-27-2005, 04:44 PM - Thread Starter
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Private to MyGrain:
(I'm with you on AD.)
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post #3158 of 25503 Old 05-27-2005, 05:02 PM - Thread Starter
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TV's Gender Gap

The Wall Street Journal---Men might still rule the universe, but the X chromosome holds sway on network TV. Adult women watch an average of 5 hours 33 minutes of TV a day, according to Nielsen Media Research, while men clock in at 4 hours 44 minutes. It's no surprise, then, that broadcast offerings skew female, whether it is ABC's "Desperate Housewives" or "Supernanny."

Only some 10% of the 150 or so shows this season drew more male viewers.

What are men watching?
Fox's Sunday night line-up.
Counterprogrammed against ABCs' femme powerhouses "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (64% female viewers) "Desperate Housewives" (63%), and "Grey's Anatomy" (63%), Fox's Sunday offerings, including "Arrested Development" and several animated series, are a veritable fraternity party.

While none of these shows can challenge ABC, their preponderance of less-accessible male viewers make them appealing to advertisers. "If you have found a way to reach a very-difficult-to-reach audience, you stay with it." says Aaron Cohen, director of broadcast at media buyer Horizon Media.

Program/Net/% Male Viewers/Overall Ratings Rank
Monday Night Football ABC 67% 12
WWF Smackdown! UPN 67% 129
American Dad FOX 61% 67
Family Guy FOX 60% 81
Simpsons FOX 59% 52
Sketch Show FOX 58% 139
Enterprise UPN 57% 178
King of the Hill FOX 56% 133
Malcolm in the Middle FOX 56% 118
Arrested Development FOX 56% 112
Source: Nielsen Media Research
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post #3159 of 25503 Old 05-27-2005, 08:26 PM - Thread Starter
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2004-05 Season Roundup
BroadcastingCable.com May 30, 2005
What Worked

ABC's Sunday night: With Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy, ABC became the hot place to be on Sunday nights, says Shari Ann Brill, VP/director of programming for Carat.

Blue-chip reality: Of Nielsen's top 20 for the season, five were established reality franchises: American Idol, Survivor, The Apprentice and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, along with flourishing The Amazing Race.

Psychic and thriller dramas: ABC's island thriller Lost, NBC's psychic drama Medium and Fox's House riveted viewers. Success breeds imitators: Next fall's schedule includes seven new dramas with supernatural twists.

What Didn't

New sitcoms: The networks failed to produce even one breakout comedy hit and had some notorious failures, including CBS' Listen Up! and NBC's animated stab Father of the Pride. Two high-concept but ratings-challenged shows, Fox's Arrested Development and NBC's The Office, managed to survive.

Humiliation TV: Viewers were turned off by mean-spirited reality shows and anything that smelled cynical, such as CBS' short-lived The Will and even ABC's The Bachelor, which was particularly catty this season.

Boxing shows: Punches starting flying last year after NBC unveiled its Mark Burnett-produced The Contender and Fox followed suit with its version, The Next Great Champ. Nielsen's decision: They both lost. The Next Great Champ posted dismal ratings, and The Contender managed a small though loyal following. Asked what went wrong, NBC Universal Television Group President Jeff Zucker offered, At the end of the day, it was about boxing.

Mixed Results

Spin-offs: Despite decent ratings, NBC cancelled Law & Order: Trial by Jury, its fourth Dick Wolf drama. Friends offspring Joey steadily lost ratings throughout the season. It is getting a tune-up for this fall. CBS had better luck with its CSI: NY, which out-rated NBC's original Law & Order on Wednesday nights. ABC's follow-up to The Practice, David E. Kelley's Boston Legal, performed well, but it will be tested this fall when it moves to Tuesdays at 10 without Desperate Housewives as a lead-in.
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post #3160 of 25503 Old 05-28-2005, 10:04 AM - Thread Starter
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Friday's prime-time ratings have been posted at the top of Latest News the first item in this thread.
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post #3161 of 25503 Old 05-28-2005, 10:19 AM - Thread Starter
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Why 'Grey' Seems So Bright
Creator Shonda Rhimes never meant to be a TV writer
By Paige Albiniak Broadcasting & Cable

The most amazing thing about ABC's Grey's Anatomy is not that a serial medical drama managed to break out and become one of this season's biggest hits. It is that its creator, head writer and showrunner is a 34-year-old woman who, prior to this, had never written, run or even worked on a television series in her life.

Shonda Rhimes already had several feature films under her belt. She penned Crossroads, starring Britney Spears; The Princess Diaries 2; and HBO's Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, starring Halle Berry. But working in series television never occurred to her.

I always thought I would write movies. But I adopted a baby, and you can never leave the house again when you have a baby. So I was home in the evening, and I was falling in love with shows like Felicity and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Rhimes' first shot at a TV pilot revolved around female war correspondentsa bunch of feisty women covering an imaginary war while having a lot of sex and fun along the way. But then the real war broke out, she says, and that wasn't such a good idea anymore.

Her next attempt kept the intensity but changed the setting: surgical interns making their first rounds in a teaching hospital. My sisters and I had always been addicted to surgeries. I'd be watching one on Discovery Health, and inevitably the phone would ring. It would be one of my sisters saying, 'Are you watching this?' The inadvertent research paid off. Grey's Anatomy was born.

SOMETHING SEXY ABOUT SURGERY

There's something very sexy about surgery, Rhimes says. You actually have your hands in someone else's body. That's a rare and amazing job. And it is like war correspondents: They are both groups of people who work and play together in an unbelievably competitive and intense environment.

Part of what works so well about Grey's is the show's sex appeal. The cast members are individually charismatic, but they have great chemistry. The show was written as cast-colorblind, so Sandra Oh's hyper-competitive Christina Wang initially had no last name, and the Nazi, played to gruff perfection by African-American Chandra Wilson, was first conceived as a petite blonde.

It never occurred to me to do it in any other way, Rhimes says. My age group is post-civil-rights, post-feminist babies, and we accept that we live in a diverse and interesting world. We don't sit around talking about race, so Grey's doesn't feel particularly fresh or special to me. It feels like the world.

Actor Isaiah Washington initially auditioned to play Dr. Derrick Shephard, love interest of title character Meredith Grey (played by Ellen Pompeo). When Patrick Dempsey won the role, there was no part for Washington. It left him sick, he says. But Rhimes kept Washington in mind, and when the actor originally cast as surgeon Preston Burke fell out, Washington got a callback. I knew I could never be wrong in my heart about something so good and so genuine, he says. Her writing just seemed very complex, very honest.

BIG NUMBERS OUT OF THE GATE

Steve McPherson, president of ABC Entertainment, discovered Rhimes early, giving her a deal at Touchstone when he was still running the studio. And he championed Grey's Anatomy from the beginning, purposely holding it to midseason so the pilot could be perfected and ABC could launch the show with the network's full marketing arsenal behind it.

In March, Grey's posted big numbers in its first outing, airing after mega-hit Desperate Housewives; it finished the season bigger than ABC's other hot show, Lost. Grey's was similar to Desperate Housewives, McPherson says. Both shows are about the human condition, and they are accessible. They also both appeal to female viewers, and research shows that women respond earliest and then bring other audiences with them.

SHE UNDERSTANDS STORY

Adds Debra Chase, producer of Princess Diaries 2 and other films, for whom Rhimes interned while getting her master's degree at USC Film School, She understands story. She understands how to handle emotion, action and humor and how to meld all of those pieces into one. She understands structure, which is critical to development, and she's good with dialogue. Most writers can't do all of that. But Shonda just gets it.

The success of Grey's has changed much for Rhimes, who just signed a two-year development deal with Touchstone and is penning two movies for Disney. I went from sitting at home and writing in my pajamas to going into an office every day and working with a team of writers. Besides writing and editing Grey's scripts, she makes decisions in all areas of the show, from costumes and hairstyles to editing and music.

When some writers come out of features, they are blindsided by the pace of TV, says James Parriott, a TV vet who shares show-running responsibilities with Rhimes. Shonda thrives on it.
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post #3162 of 25503 Old 05-28-2005, 09:06 PM - Thread Starter
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This Is the Way the Season Ends: Bang!

By ANITA GATES The New York Times May 28, 2005

It's over.

Bree's husband, Rex, is dead, and Susan is being held hostage by a teenage boy. Little Walt has been kidnapped, and the castaways' raft trip has failed to bring about a rescue. Dr. Derek Shepherd is married (the cad!). Jack Bauer has saved the world from nuclear disaster but now has to disappear. Lorelai has proposed to Luke, and Rory is dropping out of Yale.

On Wednesday night, sweeps month and the network television season ended pretty much simultaneously.

The big season finales over the last month did their job, garnering high ratings and leaving viewers slightly on edge until fall. If the ratings of Fox's monster hit "American Idol" are any indication, though, the announcement of a big real-life winner trumps the death of a lead character or any cliffhangers that the writers of fictional shows can devise.

On Wednesday night, an average of 30.3 million viewers watched Carrie Underwood defeat Bo Bice on "American Idol," compared with the 20.7 million who tuned in to see what would happen to the brave plane crash survivors on ABC's hit drama "Lost." Not that 20.7 million is anything to sneeze at.

A look at Internet message boards shows few fans complaining about final episodes. Instead, viewers are debating about who killed Rex (Steven Culp) on ABC's "Desperate Housewives," whether Rory (Alexis Bledel) on WB's "Gilmore Girls" is a rich brat or just coming into her own, just how married the dreamy Derek (Patrick Dempsey) is on ABC's new medical drama "Grey's Anatomy" and whether the deranged Frenchwoman (Mira Furlan) who took Claire's baby on "Lost" is really French.

Television writers appear to have succeeded at a challenging task: concocting finales that satisfy without giving away too much.

"People go into them with such high expectations," said Carlton Cuse, an executive producer of "Lost." "There's always going to be a segment of the audience that will be frustrated" by not being told everything.

Like, for instance, where that broken ladder inside the mysterious hatch goes and who broke it.

"The thing about narrative television - you make incremental progress," Mr. Cuse said. "Maybe you go from A to B in a typical episode. In a finale, maybe you go from B to G. You're never going to go to Z, but you get a big chunk of narrative."

"Desperate Housewives" fans were rewarded with an enormous chunk. In the last episode, viewers learned the answer to the first season's overwhelming question: why Mary Alice (Brenda Strong) committed suicide. It seems she murdered Deidre (Jolie Jenkins), the drug-addicted biological mother of her son, Zack (Cody Kasch), and past lover of Mike (James Denton), the handsome plumber who is now the lover of Susan (Teri Hatcher), who is being held at gunpoint by Zack just as Mike is about to walk in the front door and possibly have his head blown off.

The finale left the other major characters' lives turned upside down. Gabrielle (Eva Longoria) is unwillingly pregnant, Lynette (Felicity Huffman) is faced with the prospect of going back to her high-powered job, and Bree (Marcia Cross) is suddenly a widow. And to top it off, a strong-willed new neighbor (Alfre Woodard) - forceful enough to tell Edie (Nicollette Sheridan) where to go - has just moved into the neighborhood.

In number of cliffhangers, "Desperate Housewives" may have been topped only by "One Tree Hill," a WB drama series popular with (and mostly about) teenagers. Mark Schwahn, the show's creator, says he counts at least seven. Among them, there is a rift between Chad Michael Murray and James Lafferty, the half-brother lead characters ("We're not brothers," Nathan, played by Mr. Lafferty, said. "We're not even friends."); a supposed journalist's announcement to young Peyton (Hilarie Burton) that she is her long-lost mother; and a raging fire set by some shadowy figure, threatening to consume the detestable Dan (Paul Johansson), the boys' father, who has also just been poisoned. Almost everybody in the show has a motive.

"It's very 'Who Shot J. R.?,' " Mr. Schwahn said, referring, of course, to the mother of all cliffhanger episodes, the attempted murder of the back-stabbing oil tycoon J. R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) on "Dallas" in 1980.

"We have so many story lines in play that I feel like rather than putting all of our eggs into one basket, it's only reasonable to honor all of those story lines," Mr. Schwahn said.

Some series, on the other hand, deliberately kept things low-key. CBS's "Everybody Loves Raymond," the season's most anticipated series finale, did a one-hour cast-and-crew retrospective but ended its nine-year run with a regular half-hour episode that had only a moment of big drama: a doctor announced that the title character (Ray Romano) was having trouble coming out of anesthesia after minor surgery. But everything worked out fine, and the other characters loved Raymond anew.

Fox's "24" kept things quiet too.

"We have a tradition of ending with explosive events," said Evan Katz, a consulting producer for "24," which stars Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer, sensitive terrorist hunter. "But we couldn't keep topping ourselves. How do you top a nuclear bomb and a virus?"

So the show went for a "softer end," Mr. Katz said. A foreign government demanded Jack's execution, but his death was faked and he walked off into the sunset, his future unclear. Mr. Katz said he believed this semi-cliffhanger sat well with viewers who are just as interested in Jack's emotional development as his adventures.

"You really want to know how this is going to work out for him, where's he's going to go in his life," Mr. Katz said.

Fans of WB's "Gilmore Girls" share that feeling about its characters, who staged the ultimate nonviolent cliffhanger.

In the last moment of the last scene of the last episode, Lorelai (Lauren Graham), listening to her boyfriend, Luke (Scott Patterson), enthusiastically express his devotion to her daughter, blurted out, "Luke, will you marry me?" The end.
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post #3163 of 25503 Old 05-28-2005, 09:15 PM - Thread Starter
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A TV Hit Parade
Celebrating a season with character
By Matt Roush TVGuide.com

Bree. Lynette. Gabrielle. Susan and Mike. Kate, Jack and Sawyer. Locke and Boone. Sun and Jin. Dr. House. Meredith, Izzie, George and "the Nazi." Allison DuBois. Veronica Mars. Just to name a few.

When you make this many new friends in a single TV season and you could add 24's ill-fated Dina Araz and Boston Legal's sleek Shirley Schmidt to the list you know something has gone right.

In our Fall Preview issue last September, I wondered if the days of instant hits were over. "The next smash could be a touch of the remote away," I speculated. "And I have no doubt that we'll know it when you see it."

You saw it, we knew it, and the rest is future TV-classic history. The remarkable 2004-05 season got off to a roaring start and was largely defined by ABC's two-fisted breakthrough with Desperate Housewives and Lost one redefining the prime-time soap with satirical humor, the other refining the castaway thriller with psychological depth.

And then came two unexpected medical hits: Fox's sardonic House and ABC's sudsy Grey's Anatomy (a steadily improving companion to Housewives). Throw in NBC's offbeat Medium, with its psychic twist on crime procedurals and refreshingly authentic at-home scenes. Plus the first genuine post-Buffy cult item in UPN's edgy teen mystery Veronica Mars.

These shows share critical elements of character, chemistry and originality (in execution if not always in premise). They became must-sees, joined by faves like 24 and Gilmore Girls, which kicked back into high gear this year.

All that was lacking: a great new sitcom. Is that too much to ask?
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post #3164 of 25503 Old 05-29-2005, 10:21 AM - Thread Starter
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Saturday's prime-time ratings have been posted at the top of Latest News the first item in this thread.
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post #3165 of 25503 Old 05-29-2005, 03:12 PM - Thread Starter
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The May sweep results - from a cable programmer's point of view:

SHARE SQUABBLE

By R. Thomas Umstead Multichannel.com 5/30/2005

Carrie Underwood may be America's new idol, but cable remained the top choice among American viewers during the May sweeps and the 2004-05 TV season overall.

The broadcast industry, though, is not ready to concede defeat. Far from it, in fact.

Household Hubbub

Factoring in results from Spanish-language broadcasters like Univision and Telemundo, the Television Bureau of Advertising claims that ad-supported broadcast topped basic-cable in terms of household viewership during the just completed 2004-05 TV season.

Stations--03-04 Rating/Share 04-05 Rating/Share
ABC-------5.92 9.71 6.52 10.58
CBS-------8.43 13.83 8.33 13.51
NBC-------7.29 11.96 6.55 10.63
Fox-------5.49 9.00 5.50 8.91
UPN-------1.73 2.85 1.77 2.86
WB--------2.09 3.42 1.90 3.08
Pax-------0.65 1.06 0.42 0.68
Independent*-2.92 4.79 3.79 6.14
4 Nets---27.13 44.50 26.90 43.63
7 Nets---31.60 51.83 30.99 50.25
Total Bcast-34.52 56.62 34.78 56.39
Ad-Supported Cable 30.38 49.83 32.09 52.04

* Includes Spanish language network affiliates.
Source: Television Bureau of Advertising analysis of Nielsen Media Research, Galaxy Explorer, Primetime Viewing Source Report data.

Cable racked up a 52.0 primetime household share during the recently completed season, which spanned Sept. 20, 2004 through May 25, topping the seven broadcast networks by 6.5 points, according to a Turner Research analysis of Nielsen Media Research data. The win marks the second consecutive year cable has bested the seven broadcast networks during a full TV season and that's as the two media vie for advertisers' dollars in the upfront marketplace.

But a broadcast-industry organization says Turner's research doesn't tell the whole story. Calling Turner's broadcast methodology flawed, the Television Bureau of Advertising says that broadcast beat cable when local station programming and independent broadcast affiliates, which include Spanish-language networks like Univision and Telemundo, are factored into the calculations.

Bolstered by a 6.14 household share from those independent stations, which was up 28% from the 2003-04 season, the broadcast networks' collective household share jumps to 56.3, according to TVB's analysis of Nielsen data. That number, however, was slightly down from 2003-04, according to the TVB.

Since Turner's data incorporates results from local programming like regional sports networks and regional cable-news networks like New York 1 News, TVB spokesman Gary Belis said the inclusion of independent numbers provide for a more accurate comparison between the media.

The Hispanic numbers in particular are such a growth story that [Turner] has to start acknowledging them before the 'Don't Count Us Out' people will be at his door, he said. (Don't Count Us Out is a coalition of minority, community and industry groups who've lobbied against Nielsen's Local People Meter system as one that undercounts minority viewers.)

But Turner Broadcasting System Inc. chief research officer Jack Wakshlag said Turner compares the national broadcast networks with ad-supported cable based on the computations that Nielsen provides, noting that local and regional cable networks only represent about 10% of the total cable figure. He also said the Spanish-language networks do not use the national Nielsen system to measure viewing, but instead use the National Hispanic Television Index.

We look at what Nielsen calls national broadcast networks and the hours that the networks are on, because that's what [the networks] are responsible for, he said. The 90% of [national] ad-supported cable networks are not competing with the local Fox affiliate [from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m]. Fox [network] is not responsible for that programming and does not sell that content, so it doesn't matter.

Cable also proved superior during the May sweeps period, according to the Turner analysis. Despite strong ratings from the finales of Fox's American Idol and 24; ABC's Desperate Housewives and Lost; and CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, basic cable's 50.7 primetime share for the April 28 through May 25 period outpaced broadcast's 46.8 share, according to Turner.

Cable has now beaten the seven broadcast networks in every sweeps period since Feb. 2004, according to Turner.

The TVB analysis, however, finds a different outcome. In TVB's definition of total ad-supported broadcast figures, that medium comes out ahead with a 57.9 share.

But Wakshlag said no matter how you slice the numbers, cable will continue to increase its viewership at the expense of the broadcast networks.

A year from now, no matter how they calculate, cable will continue to outdeliver the broadcast networks, he said. Broadcast numbers are still worse than they were a year ago, while cable continues to grow.

More importantly for cable, the industry continued to made strides over the broadcast networks in attracting more 18-to-49-year-old viewers. Turner reports that cable gained 1.17 million subscribers during the 2004-05 season, while the seven broadcast networks lost 264,000 viewers within the advertiser-coveted demo.

Even TVB's numbers show that among the 18-to-49 demo, the collective rating for the seven networks fell to 17.1 from a 17.3 a year ago. With all of broadcast combined, though, the medium scored a 19.5 rating against the demo in the May 2005 sweeps period, compared to a 18.6 during the same period last year.

Wakshlag also said cable's share of primetime ad dollars continue to grow, from 22% in 2000-01, to 30% for the 2004-05 season. But those outlays still remain out of balance compared to overall viewing patterns, he said.

In other trends, Wakshlag said overall TV viewing has never been higher. Despite an increase in Internet usage, viewers tuned in an average of 32.4 hours per week during the 2004-05 season, versus 30.3 hours spent in the 2000-01 campaign.
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post #3166 of 25503 Old 05-29-2005, 03:25 PM - Thread Starter
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And a contrary view

Nets back in the game
B'casters broke rules and grabbed viewers
as cable stumbled through a ho-hum season


By JOSEF ADALIAN, MICHAEL SCHNEIDER Variety.com

Network TV elbowed its way back to the water cooler last season -- and it paid off in the ratings.
The big four networks finished the 2004-05 year -- which officially wrapped May 25 -- up vs. the previous season, an almost unheard-of feat in this age of viewer erosion.

And they did it thanks to new and returning megahits like "Desperate Housewives," "American Idol," "Lost" and "Survivor."

People were talking about broadcast TV again -- just as they weren't talking about cable. After several years making most of the noise, cable is facing a dud of a year.

"The Sopranos" won't return for another year; "The Shield" saw its viewership decline, even with the addition of Glenn Close; "Sex and the City" is long gone; and Showtime didn't get much traction with hugely hyped series like "Fat Actress."

Then, to add insult to injury, cable's big comedy hope -- "Chappelle Show" star David Chappelle -- went AWOL.

Now, as they head into summer, network execs -- with a few exceptions -- are feeling more optimistic than they have in a long time.

"I believe there's a great hope that there's another 'Idol' or 'Desperate Housewives' out there," says Fox Entertainment prexy Peter Liguori. "History does repeat itself -- and recent history does say you can deliver breakout hits, you can deliver huge audience numbers."

That's not the only lesson webheads gleaned from the just-completed season. Other messages that came through:

Sudsers can still sizzle. Not long ago, webheads had all but declared serialized skeins dead. The thinking: Viewers had too many choices and not enough time to keep up with continuing storylines. Much better to fill up on self-contained procedural dramas like "CSI" that viewers could pop in and out of throughout the season.

Not so this year.

Season's biggest drama hits all contained soapy elements, cementing a trend that began two seasons ago with Fox's "The OC." Even shows that weren't immediate smashes (think UPN's "Veronica Mars") were able to generate some buzz with their ongoing plots.

ABC topper Steve McPherson says auds are simply looking to bond with the shows they watch.

"There's such a thirst for appointment television, and that's what serialized shows become," he says. "You want that shared experience, that show everyone can talk about the next day."

Stars don't make TV shows; TV shows make stars. It's the TV biz equivalent of "2 plus 2 equals 4," and yet it's a lesson execs never seem to get. Nets pay big bucks for big names and always seem shocked when viewers don't respond.

Among thesps humbled last season: Jason Alexander ("Listen Up"), Heather Locklear ("LAX"), Taye Diggs ("Kevin Hill"), Sylvester Stallone ("The Contender"), Rob Lowe ("Dr. Vegas") and Matt LeBlanc ("Joey").

Poor John Goodman actually struck out with two shows: "Center of the Universe" and "Father of the Pride."
By contrast, when this season started, few people knew who Eva Longoria, Evangeline Lilly or Ellen Pompeo were. Now all three have hit shows to their names.

Being bold pays off. ABC's comeback was engineered by a team of execs who had nothing to lose. That made it easier for the net to try supposedly "crazy" ideas like launching a Sunday night suburban sudser or spending most of their fall marketing budget on just two shows.

Likewise, Fox stuck by early underperformer "House," only to watch it blossom into a hit once "American Idol" brought in auds to sample it.

Liguori says the lesson of this season is, "in a strange way, the only thing you have to fear is fear itself. This is a business of managing failures more than managing successes," he says. "But you can't let the failures wear you down. You've got to display a little bit of bravado, a little bit of swagger. And the people who did that this year were rewarded."

TV 101 still applies. For all the talk of a changing marketplace and the impending revolution about to hit network TV, some basic rules still apply.

Lead-outs, for example, are still valuable, even in the era of TiVo and 500 channels. It turned "Grey's Anatomy" into a hit and helped "House" take off.

Another obvious pointer: Marketing -- sometimes the first thing to go in belt-tightening eras -- can still make or break a show; witness how strategic promotion helped turn around ABC.

And, in a sea of testosterone-led procedural dramas, Alphabet web found a hunger for shows that hadn't been seen in several years on a mainstream web.

Don't believe the hype. As much as they'd like to, network execs can't will hits. Buzz was loud on new skeins such as UPN's "Kevin Hill," WB's "Jack & Bobby," NBC's "Father of the Pride" and even the Peacock's "Joey."

Yet, for a variety of reasons, viewers mostly took a pass. ("Joey" squeaked by with a soph pickup, but both NBC and Warner Bros. TV admit the show needs an overhaul.)

The "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost" axiom is clear: If the show lives up to the hype, then the viewers will come.

"You've got to have the most distinct, original and best quality shows," says WB Entertainment prexy David Janollari. "The lesson duly noted is from ABC. They had original, fresh and incredible voices behind them that connected with an audience.

"Now, what's the next show that will not just get buzz or good reviews, but will connect with an audience?"
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Hmmm, who to believe, Cable booster or Variety.com?

I think Networks did very well this sweeps, at least from my casual review. And it seems like to me, much as the Variety article pointed out, people are talking about Network television much more than say this time last year. If Network HD starts to be adopted as well, I think Network television has probably troughed.

OTA Only since 2/05!
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post #3168 of 25503 Old 05-30-2005, 10:25 AM - Thread Starter
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Sunday's prime-time ratings have been posted at the top of Latest News the first item in this thread.
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post #3169 of 25503 Old 05-30-2005, 11:07 AM - Thread Starter
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Fall skeds ripe for slot shifts
Sked-swaps likely before season starts

By RICK KISSELL Variety.com

HOLLYWOOD -- The nets have trotted out their fall skeds for advertisers, but they're hardly etched it stone.
With the ratings races tighter than ever, and each network looking to give its new shows their best chance to shine, we may see some sked-shifting in the next few weeks.

Under particular scrutiny are hours loaded with dramas like Wednesday at 9 (including ABC's "Lost" and NBC's promising new "E-Ring") and Thursday at 8 (with "Alias" and "Smallville" moving in).

Here are some early thoughts on the fall skeds:

NBC must not have thought much of its comedy development or it would have gone with a four-pack on Tuesday and shaken the cobwebs out of its tired Thursday twosome of "Joey" and "Will & Grace."
Outside of maybe Saturday, Tuesday from 8 to 9 in the fall (before "American Idol") is the only logical place for the Peacock to give new laffers a shot.

With CBS and Fox shifting from comedy to drama, all six broadcast nets will air dramas in Wednesday's middle hour. ABC's "Lost" is at the head of the class, meaning newbies "Criminal Minds" on CBS and "E-Ring" on NBC will battle it out for second.

NBC has probably looked at moving its high-profile "E-Ring" out of the slot, but this remains the best spot for it, and it figures to get the strongest lead-in (from the Martha Stewart "Apprentice"). But how about a name change?

Most likely shift would come at Fox, where "Head Cases" might best be replaced by a reality skein like "Trading Spouses" or "Nanny 911."

While there's a drama glut on Wednesday, there's also a rare sitcom surplus on the night. Of the 27 comedies the Big Four have skedded for fall, six of them (two apiece on ABC, CBS and Fox) air in the night's opening hour.

CBS seems to be the odd net out at 8 with "Still Standing" and "Yes, Dear." But since there's no other logical slot on the Eye sked for them, and CBS is asking them to merely improve upon the numbers for "60 Minutes" in the slot, they could stick around awhile.

UPN's decision to slot a repeat of "America's Next Top Model" had some insiders scratching their head, but it figures to provide the best lead-in possible for new drama "Sex, Lies and Secrets" (another lame title).

Net can always shift the "Model" repeat to Thursday if its revamped comedy lineup there fails to click, but if "Sex" bombs, the net could be in real Tuesday trouble.

NBC's best hope for the fall may be Monday sea-monster drama "Fathom," which slides in the "Fear Factor" slot and could do decent biz with young adults and families. If it can click and provide a more compatible lead-in for "Las Vegas," the Peacock could be very competitive on the night.

Three dramas with loyal but small overall audiences -- Fox's "The OC," ABC's "Alias" and the WB's "Smallville" -- will do battle in a tough Thursday 8 o'clock showdown. Don't expect any bailouts here, as each smells blood with NBC's laffers struggling in the hour and CBS' "Survivor" past its peak (though still a top-10 hit).

"Alias," more of a 25-54 show, would seem to be new competish for "Survivor," while "Smallville" will cross paths more with the "OC" aud.

At the WB, the return of "Charmed" to its Sunday-at-8 slot was a mild surprise, but it still performs well enough and deserves a sendoff season.

Still, with "Reba" repeats at 7, "Blue Collar TV" at 9 and the Frog's comedy development looking better than recent years, a switch to femme-focused laffers at 8 sometime soon is definitely a possibility.

Ace in the hole for the Frog, though, might be unscripted skein "Beauty and the Geek," a delightful entry that bows this week. Net may at long last have the reality show it needs to boost a troubled timeslot.
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post #3170 of 25503 Old 05-30-2005, 11:25 AM - Thread Starter
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Must-Flee TV

By Marc Berman Mediaweek.com May 30, 2005

Now that the frenzied network upfront presentation week is over, and we have 31 new prime-time series to look forward toor not look forward toI am already wistful for the traditional programming season. Although not every scripted series is a must-see, I'm counting the days

Until Lost, Desperate Housewives, Two and a Half Men, CSI, Gilmore Girls, The King of Queens and countless other series return. As much as I do like reality (you can add Survivor, American Idol and The Apprentice to the shows I will be pining for all summer), as the heat rises, so will the number of new nonscripted programs in June, July and August.

All of which means you can take off your thinking caps for the summer. Although the networks would like you to believe they aggressively program on a year-round basis, let's be honest. They don't.

Aside from burn-off episodes of canceled series (like the WB's Summerland and ABC's Complete Savages); new scripted series that were so bad they did not make it on the traditional season schedule (Fox drama The Inside, UPN sitcom The Bad Girls Guide); as well as repeats, repeats and more repeats, reality will dominate the broadcast networks. You could call that the reality of summer TV, and it is certainly not subject to change anytime soon.

Last year, Fox boldly claimed it was beginning the new fall season in the summer, but the failure of the network's Method & Red, Quintuplets, The Jury, The Casino and North Shore quickly changed its strategy. No matter how aggressive any network is toward the end of the traditional season once the May sweeps is over and the networks announce their new fall lineups, viewers are programmed to believe that the "Gone Fishing" sign is up until September. Lower HUT levels in the summer mean fewer viewers tune into network TV. And the networks are not about to waste their A-list product when there is a limited audience available.

Some of the worst original series in the history of television have aired in the summer. As a kid, I remember The Ken Berry "Wow" Show (with a young Teri Garr and Steve Martin), The Hudson Brothers Show (hosted by three brothers who seemed to think they were the Marx Brothers) and Shields and Yarnell (mimes hosting a variety show). As an adult, I am still horrified that the multitalented Cloris Leachman donned a Pilgrim outfit for a stint in the August 1999 CBS sitcom Thanks. Phyllis, how could you?

Though cable has been known to use these low HUT-level months to its advantage, that hasn't stopped some quality network series from finding their footing in the summer (think Sonny and Cher and Northern Exposure). But giving viewers' brains a rest in the summer has been a network strategy since the early days of television. No matter how the networks spin it (nice try last year, Fox), that ain't gonna change.

As evidence, look at this summer's network lineup. Including new seasons of CBS' Big Brother and NBC's Average Joe: The Joe Strikes Back and new episodes of ABC's Wife Swap and Supernanny, we will see at least two dozen new nonscripted series within the next three months.

Kicking in this week are ABC's Dancing With the Stars (if you can call someone like former Bachelorette Trista Rehn a star) and The Scholar; NBC's Hit Me Baby One More Time; Fox's Hell's Kitchen; and the WB's relationship-oriented Beauty and the Beast. In subsequent weeks look for CBS' Fire MePlease, The Cut (hosted by fashion's Tommy Hilfiger) and Rock Star INXS from reality guru Mark Burnett; NBC's I Want to Be a Hilton (with Paris' mama, Kathy), Tommy Lee Goes to College (yecch!), Meet Mr. Mom and The Law Firm (from Boston Legal creator David E. Kelley); and Welcome to the Neighborhood and Brat Camp on ABC.

Fox will also introduce Idol wanna-be (but not gonna-be) So You Think You Can Dance as well as The Princes of Malibu, about two adult brothers (Brandon and Brody Jenner, sons of Olympian Bruce Jenner) who live at home with their mother and stepfather. UPN's abysmal (and career-killing) Britney & Kevin: Chaotic is, of course, also underway.

(If you plan on watching Britney & Kevin, by the way, here's a word of warning: You'll need a Dramamine or two and a bucket to barf into. This is what you would call "must-flee" reality TV.)

Although the couch potato inside of me will always find something worthwhile to watch, even in the summer, I am particularly thankful that some of my favorite old shows are now on DVD.
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post #3171 of 25503 Old 05-30-2005, 11:31 AM - Thread Starter
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A TV Duel at Sunrise

By JACQUES STEINBERG The New York Times May 30, 2005

As soon as the digital clock in the control room of "Good Morning America" struck 7:20 last Wednesday, signaling the first commercial break of the day, Ben Sherwood bolted out the door.

Mr. Sherwood, the executive producer of the ABC program, was heading for the anchor desk occupied by Charles Gibson, Diane Sawyer and Robin Roberts. In his hand was a printed form with three columns - one each for ABC, NBC and CBS - that he used to chart the story selection on the competing morning programs, as gleaned from monitors overhead.

"What'd they do?" Mr. Gibson asked, referring specifically to "Today" on NBC. Mr. Sherwood told Mr. Gibson that unlike "Good Morning America," which had led its main news segment with rising home prices, "Today" had brought on Tim Russert for a sober discussion of the Congressional fight over judges and stem cell research. Mr. Sherwood then said that "Today," like "Good Morning America," had done a segment on Jennifer Wilbanks, the so-called runaway bride in Georgia.

"They have the stuff Mike had?" Mr. Gibson asked, in reference to the ABC reporter, Mike Von Fremd. No, Mr. Sherwood said. Mr. Von Fremd had reported that Ms. Wilbanks's family was prepared to offer as much as $14,000 to reimburse the authorities for some of what they had spent looking for her.

Mr. Gibson, peering at Mr. Sherwood through reading glasses, allowed himself a small smile.

For decades now, "Today" and "Good Morning America" have gone at each other like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, tracking each other's performance in the Nielsen ratings as if they were morning box scores (CBS's "The Early Show," the Cleveland Indians of the network morning shows, remains a distant third). But lately, "Good Morning America" has been displaying an aggressive feistiness - both on camera and, judging by a visit last Wednesday, backstage as well -drawn at least partly from a recent rise in its fortunes.

More than just bragging rights are at stake. The two programs routinely square off over interviews with the biggest newsmakers and Hollywood stars; concerts by the biggest acts and, ultimately, advertising dollars. Generating an estimated $250 million in profits, "Today" is believed to be the most lucrative program on television

Over the last decade, "Today" has always won, not only on an annual basis (by an average of nearly two million viewers a week in 2000-01), but week-to-week. As of the week of May 16, the last week for which final figures were available from Nielsen Media Research, "Today's" winning streak stood at 493 consecutive weeks.

And while the ABC program has yet to win that elusive week, and has drawn an average of 592,000 fewer viewers than "Today" on a weekly basis this television season (5.4 million to 6 million), it has gained sufficient momentum to force some changes at its rival's headquarters, just five blocks uptown.

In recent months, the margin separating the two programs during a given week has narrowed considerably, so much so - at one point this month to just 40,000 viewers - that Jeff Zucker, a former "Today" producer who is now president of NBC Universal Television Group, helped broker the firing in April of the NBC program's executive producer, Tom Touchet.

By the accounts of several executives last week, Mr. Zucker's disappointment with "Today" was also a factor in the recent decision by the president of NBC News, Neal Shapiro, to tell his bosses that he wished to leave his job.

In expressing his displeasure with "Today" under Mr. Touchet, Mr. Zucker characterized the program (led on camera by Katie Couric and Matt Lauer) as needing "a jolt." Others at NBC News have lamented that ABC's reinvigorated prime-time schedule - "Desperate Housewives" and "Grey's Anatomy" on Sunday, and "Lost" on Wednesday - has given "Good Morning America" a residual lift that NBC's suddenly low-rated evening lineup (for which Mr. Zucker is ultimately responsible) could not match.

But lost in such analyses is any suggestion that "Good Morning America" has helped make its own luck, which some veterans of the morning show wars believe it has.

"It isn't all about what gets put on the night before," said Steve Friedman, a former executive producer of "Today" (1979-87; 1993-4) and the CBS "Early Show" (1999-02). "If it was, CBS would be No. 1 in the morning." (CBS is currently ranked first in total prime-time viewers.)

"You've got to be good enough to hold them," Mr. Friedman added. "For whatever reason, after six years of being together, Charlie and Diane are now clicking."

As an example of how he has tried to stimulate that clicking, Mr. Sherwood, who became executive producer a year ago, said that he had seized on an existing effort to make segments shorter - and had made them shorter still, particularly in the first half hour. An interview that might have stretched to seven minutes a year ago, he said, might now end after three and a half minutes.

"People live their lives at warp speed in the morning," said Mr. Sherwood, 41, who was previously the second-ranking producer on "NBC Nightly News" before taking a two-year break to write novels. "They're brushing their teeth, making a school lunch, changing a diaper. The program is pitched now to the way people live."

Like a fast-paced cable news channel, Mr. Sherwood has been decorating the screen with colorful graphics in which practical information (like how to sell your house) is pulled from segments in easy-to-digest bites.

The program has also moved aggressively, particularly on the last few Mondays, to retain the enormous audience of "Desperate Housewives" by offering so-called secret scenes, cut from the episode shown the previous night. After the May 22 season finale, "Good Morning America" drew an estimated 600,000 more viewers than "Today," according to preliminary figures provided to the networks by Nielsen. (The next day, without that "Desperate" lift, the ABC program lost by more than 800,000 viewers, according to early estimates.)

Asked last week how he reconciled the use of such material on a program operated by the news division, David Westin, president of ABC News, said he had no qualms.

"It's always been the case in the morning programs that there is an entertainment element," he said. "I have no doubt our audience is very happy to see those 'Desperate' outtakes."

Meanwhile, in the battle over "gets" - those interviews or concerts that each program seeks exclusively - "Good Morning America" can point to several in recent weeks that might not have come its way a year ago. Early this month, for example, it broadcast exclusive concert footage from a U2 performance in Chicago that the program's entertainment producer, Mark Bracco, had been pursuing for more than three years.

Mr. Bracco also landed a longtime "Today" guest, the singer Mariah Carey, who introduced her new album with a concert outside the "Good Morning America" studios in Times Square. Ms. Carey was so pleased - she credits the concert with helping her single reach No. 1 on the pop chart - that last Wednesday night her representatives called Mr. Bracco to seek a walk-on during the next day's program to say thank you. She got her wish.

The ABC program has also made gains in securing access to those less famous. Last Wednesday's program featured a live interview from the neonatal unit of a Texas hospital with the mother of a rare set of identical quadruplets. Asked why the mother had chosen to go with "Good Morning America," Kris Muller, a spokeswoman for The Woman's Hospital of Texas in Houston, said the reason was simple: a "Good Morning America" producer had called the hospital five hours before a "Today" producer had.

"The people from 'Today' were very nice about it," she said. "They weren't rude. They didn't say, 'That's not fair.' "

Which is not to say that the principals are not sniping at each other.

Asked to size up the recent performance of "Good Morning America," Jim Bell, the new executive producer of "Today," said in a statement: "The 'Today' show is still the gold standard in morning television, and despite all the noise, the competition still follows us."

In an interview, Anne Sweeney, president of Disney-ABC Television, made a veiled reference to what some reviewers have called an on-camera awkwardness between Ms. Couric and Mr. Lauer on "Today."

Of the chemistry between Mr. Gibson and Ms. Sawyer, as well as Ms. Roberts (recently elevated to co-anchor), and Tony Perkins, the program's weatherman, Ms. Sweeney said: "They bring a real humanity to television in the morning. I don't see that elsewhere."

For now, the immediate goal at "Good Morning America" remains to break the nearly decade-long ratings winning streak of "Today," and to capture a week. It is a prospect so tantalizing that Ms. Sawyer, in an interview, would not even allow herself to muse about how it might feel. "You'll have to ask me if it happens," she said. "Call me if it happens."
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post #3172 of 25503 Old 05-30-2005, 11:36 AM - Thread Starter
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This is CNN ... still settling on its voice

Rivals, led by Fox, have forced the 25-year-old channel
to find new ways of luring -- and keeping - viewers

By Matea Gold Los Angeles Times Staff Writer May 30, 2005

NEW YORK -- When 22-year-old Jim Walton began at CNN as a lowly video journalist in 1981, a year after its inception, he got a lot of blank stares when he mentioned his employer.

"Most people didn't know what CNN was," Walton recalled. "'They said, 'CNN what's that? A bank?' "

The few who did derided the new cable channel as the "Chicken Noodle Network" because of its cash-strapped beginnings and scoffed at founder Ted Turner's notion that viewers would tune into a 24-hour news network.

CNN celebrates its 25th birthday Wednesday in a decidedly different landscape.

Walton is now president of the CNN News Group, an international news organization that distributes stories in seven languages through 14 cable and satellite television networks, six websites, two radio networks and a syndication service.

But for all of its success in hitting on a new formula for a 24-hour television network, the original CNN channel has struggled to maintain its standing in the very niche it pioneered. A slew of rivals most notably Fox News, another upstart channel that was initially disregarded has substantially eroded CNN's viewership.

"It used to do huge ratings, but now it's facing not just competition from Fox News but regional news networks and the Internet," said Brad Adgate, a former CNN sales researcher who now directs corporate research at Horizon Media. "The concept of around-the-clock, all-day news that CNN invented in this country they're not the only source for it anymore."

Meanwhile, two turbulent mergers and a succession of corporate executives created a sense of constant upheaval at the network in the last decade.

More change is in the works as CNN enters its 26th year. Six months into the job, Jonathan Klein, CNN/U.S. president, is undertaking a wide-ranging evaluation of programming.

He has added an hour of international news from CNN's sister channel to the midday schedule, beginning next week. Klein is also revamping the 3 to 6 p.m. hours, canceling afternoon staples such as "Crossfire" and "Inside Politics" in favor of a three-hour block of news anchored by veteran correspondent Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

The new format won't begin until midsummer, but Friday is the last day for both "Crossfire" and for "Inside Politics" host Judy Woodruff, who is leaving the cable network as a full-time anchor.

Despite Klein's assurances that hard news remains CNN's mainstay, the latest shake-up there has ushered in a familiar sense of wariness among CNN veterans, according to current and former editorial staffers.

"It's safe to say there is at least a component of CNN employees, particularly those of long duration, who are still wondering what the sense of direction is," said Charles Bierbauer, dean of the University of South Carolina's College of Mass Communications and Information Studies, who worked as a CNN correspondent for 20 years.

"The challenge is to get back to the things they have learned to do so well and in some way distance themselves from what Fox and other followers are doing," Bierbauer said. "They need to stand out as unique again."

CNN made its mark with its coverage of major news stories in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s. In 1986, it was the only network airing live coverage of the Challenger launch when the space shuttle exploded. Five years later, the world tuned in to watch CNN correspondents Bernard Shaw, Peter Arnett and John Holliman as they reported live from Baghdad on the first night of the Gulf War. In 1995, the network's ratings soared when it devoted massive coverage to the O.J. Simpson trial.

Flush with success, the news channel's executives paid little mind when Fox launched in October 1996. But in 2002, Rupert Murdoch's network with its fresh brand of personality-driven programming pulled past CNN in the ratings and has regularly beaten the competition ever since.

Walton maintains that he's pleased with CNN's performance, adding that the overall news group had record profit growth in 2004. (According to Kagan Research, CNN remains more profitable than Fox News, although the margin has shrunk in recent years.) The news group president insists that the CNN name is unparalleled and draws the kind of affluent viewers that advertisers want to target.

"There's a brand promise recognized the world over," he said.

Still, while Walton noted that CNN continues to pull in a higher number of cumulative viewers a month, Fox's viewers watch longer.

Fox has pulled an average prime-time audience of more than 1.5 million viewers this year, while CNN has drawn an average viewership of 789,000, according to Nielsen Media Research. Across the entire day, Fox has averaged 831,000 viewers, compared to CNN's 449,000.

While both networks are faring about the same in their overall daytime numbers compared to last year, Fox has seen a spike this year in its average prime-time viewership, which has increased 15% over the same period last year.

Meanwhile, CNN's average prime-time viewing has risen about 1%. CNN noted that it made gains in prime time among 25- to 54-year-olds, the key demographic for advertisers.

"I would like to see the numbers on CNN/U.S. go up, and I'm confident that Jon and his team are working really, really hard," Walton said of the network's new president.

Klein's challenge is a perennial one for CNN executives: getting viewers who flock to the channel for breaking stories to stick around afterward.

"That's a problem," admitted Walter Isaacson, a former CNN chairman who is now president of the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C. "When you're basically a hard-news reported network, there are going to be periods when the news isn't as compelling."

Isaacson believes the answer is filling those hours with "good storytelling," and Klein agrees.

Rather than ape Fox's successful talk formula, the CNN/U.S. president said he is focusing the staff's energy on generating pieces about topics essential to people's daily lives: their security, health, employment and families.

"It's terrific that Americans know to run to CNN whenever there is breaking news," Klein said. "But we want to create a new habit, which is to turn to us every night before they go to sleep to find out what's going on in their world."

Some observers are skeptical, noting last week's "Survivor Week" theme, in which the network's prime-time shows featured a spate of stories about people who survived the likes of plane crashes, chimp maulings and storms at sea. (The week before, CNN promoted "Crime Scene Week," with similarly themed programming.)

On "Anderson Cooper 360," correspondent Rick Sanchez sought to demonstrate survival techniques for viewers, allowing himself to be submerged underwater in a car, dumped out at sea with only a life vest and trapped in a smoke-filled room.

"What we learned is that there's a common thread through all of these and that is simply this: If you practice ... it's not going to guarantee that you're going to survive, but what it certainly will do is, it will increase your odds," Sanchez reported.

CNN spokeswoman Christa Robinson said the survivor stories made up a small portion of the week's programming.

Still, Deborah Potter, a former Washington correspondent for CNN who now runs NewsLab, a nonprofit journalism training and research center in the nation's capital, said the promotional gimmicks indicate that the network is still searching for its identity.

"They're basically trying to get their ratings up in any way possible," Potter said. "If you watch what they're doing on the air, it seems softer, rather than harder. It seems to me they're casting about."
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post #3173 of 25503 Old 05-30-2005, 02:21 PM - Thread Starter
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Cable girds for summer battle
Scripted series are where execs are placing their bets

By DENISE MARTIN Variety.com

This summer boasts more original programming on cable than ever before -- and many of them will compete head to head. Events will be plentiful, among them TNT's heavily marketed oater "Into the West," from exec producer Steven Spielberg, and Discovery Channel's "Greatest American," a four-part countdown that culminates in the viewer-chosen No. 1 American icon.

USA programming chief Jeff Wachtel says, "We all just have to take our shots and know that everyone will be counterprogramming."

But scripted series programming is where most execs are placing their bets.

For the first time since "Witchblade," TNT will debut a pair of original hours, "The Closer" and "Wanted." FX is premiering "Over There," an Iraqi war hour from Steven Bochco. Reality hasn't gone anywhere -- Bravo promises "Being Bobby Brown," while FX offers up doc-series "30 Days" from Morgan Spurlock -- but with the plethora of scripted comedy and drama about to hit, cable execs say this summer is as close to a broadcaster's "fall season" as ever.

"We used to be able to find a completely clear week to premiere a show and pretty much lock in the lion's share of buzz and attention," FX president-general manager John Landgraf says. "That's not possible anymore. Also, our competitors, in some cases, are spending significant more dollars than we are. So it's definitely tough."

A few cablers are counting on creating buzz by being different -- and for some, that means diving into comedy.

While the nets have struggled with laffers, so too has cable, with the exception of animated staple "South Park." Still this year, heavy-hitters HBO, FX and Showtime are all debuting comedy blocks in hopes of bucking the trend.

"I think we all want to try and do things the networks aren't doing," Landgraf says. "That said, any network that wants to be the best can't not be in the comedy game."

HBO will devote its Sundays to new laffer "The Comeback," starring Lisa Kudrow as a has-been sitcom star who's documenting -- via a reality show, natch -- her path back to fame.

Meanwhile, Showtime is launching "Weeds," about a pot-selling suburban mom, alongside the small-screen version of "Barbershop."

Then there's FX, which will make its first comedy foray since "Lucky" crapped out with "Starved," revolving around urban-types with eating disorders, and "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," about four friends who own a bar.
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post #3174 of 25503 Old 05-30-2005, 02:23 PM - Thread Starter
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Dick Wolf Lays Down the Law, Keeps Order

By Alex Ben Block TVWeek.com May 30, 2005

A little more than a year ago, the union of NBC and Universal had to wait until one producer renegotiated his contract, which tied him to both partners in the merger. Of course, he wasn't just any producer. For two decades, Dick Wolf had been a mainstay of both Universal Studios and the Peacock Network. His "Law & Order" franchise was and still is central to the success of both companies.

A year later, Mr. Wolf isn't pleased. Though he will have three "Law & Order" shows on NBC in the fall, the network's new schedule does not include his latest spinoff, "Law & Order: Trial by Jury," which has been on only one season. "I don't understand the decision. I've made that clear to anybody who has asked," Mr. Wolf said, his anger still smoldering more than a week after NBC announced its fall schedule in New York.

Mr. Wolf would like to remind NBC of its own history. In 1990, when the late, legendary Brandon Tartikoff, then head of the network, put the first "Law & Order" on the air, it wasn't an instant success. Mr. Tartikoff kept it on and nurtured it into a hit. That spawned a television empire. The most successful of the "Law & Order" shows at present is "Special Victims Unit." "To have the history they [NBC] have to draw on," he mused last week, "this is the exact profile all the shows have had in their first year, and then they grow. ['Trial by Jury'] would have settled into that time slot very comfortably, I am quite certain."

Mr. Wolf says that by his count Kevin Reilly is the 31st head of programming with whom he has dealt. His count may be questionable, but there is no question Mr. Wolf has been a key to the success of NBC for two decades. For the most part he has great creative freedom. He has earned that trust. That is why it seems likely NBC will eventually find a way to make him happy once again.

Already there are rumors. Though it isn't on the fall schedule, Mr. Wolf has heard through back-channel network sources that "Trial by Jury" may not be dead. "I keep hearing tangentially the door is open," he said late last week, "but nobody's called me."

Mr. Wolf's logic is that the "Law & Order" shows make the company a lot of money, not just on the network, where they remain profitable even if the ratings have been down on two of the three remaining shows (the original and "Criminal Intent"), but also because they have proved extremely strong in reruns and on cable channels such as A&E (which lost the rights), TNT and the USA Network.

After his deal was renegotiated last year by NBC and Universal, he said it became more of a "partnership."

Mr. Wolf thought the parties were in agreement. "Since everybody's in the same company and eating out of the same bowl, we should work together," he said. "The long-term planning is much more in agreement, which is to keep the shows on as long as possible."

Due to its Wolf-designed economic model, "Law & Order" doesn't have as big a problem with soaring star salaries as the show ages. Over time, star salaries soar and production costs mount. On "Law & Order," the show is the star. While there may be recognizable performers, none stay on forever. "In its 16th year, 'Law & Order' on a cost basis is still less than most third- or fourth-year shows, because of the ensemble nature and the fact that we do things much more efficiently than most production companies. We know how to control costs," he said. "You're also dealing with stuff that was billed years ago. A lot of costs on new shows, in terms of getting it up and running, has all been taken care of."

Mr. Wolf likes to freshen up his casts, and by doing so keeps salaries under control. "The fact is on a revenue basis these shows are making more money than they ever have," Mr. Wolf said. "This is not a secret. In 2004 the three shows on the air generated more than a billion dollars in advertising revenue. Not many groups of shows that are part of network schedules generate that kind of revenue."

Mr. Wolf grew up around show business. His mother worked in TV publicity. His father was head of production at two ad agencies in the days when agencies produced many of the shows. He found his first success in advertising, where he authored lines like "Scope fights bad breath without medicine breath."

He learned about branding by observing companies such as Procter & Gamble. Just as P&G can sell numerous versions of Crest toothpaste, his vision was to extend the brand of his franchise shows and sell it on multiple platforms on a global scale.

He moved west in 1977 and started writing for "Hill Street Blues" and "Miami Vice," which led him into producing. He has had flops, but Mr. Wolf has been able to build on his successes, spinning off more shows. He is currently developing an untitled comedy for NBC, to be directed by the legendary James Burrows, whose touch has helped launch shows such as "Cheers" and "Two and a Half Men." It could be for midseason on NBC.

"When you come out of advertising you understand the programming," Mr. Wolf said. "Television is free because of advertising. Commercial television is merely a life-support system for commercials."

That is cause for concern these days, Mr. Wolf added, because of new technology such as TiVo: "It affects everything. It's one of those things that is an increase in technology that may not accrue to the benefit of the people who are pushing for it right now."

That doesn't mean Mr. Wolf is ready to give up on network TV. He said the success of "Desperate Housewives" proves broadcast remains vital. "The thing I found exhilarating about this season is that it shows once again that the imminent demise of network television has been overreported," he said. "There are troublesome things on the horizon, from TiVo to video-on-demand. How do you monetize this? What are advertisers going to do? But it's still out there. There's still no other way to consistently reach 20 [million] or 30 million people at a pop."

"And the good news," he added, "is when good shows are on, even at the same time, people will come. It's still the 800-pound gorilla, and on some nights it can be the 900-pound gorilla again."

Among producers, Mr. Wolf remains one of TV's 900-pound gorillas. Whoever is on screen in his ensemble shows, the real star is Mr. Wolf himself.
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Originally Posted by fredfa View Post

Cable girds for summer battle
Scripted series are where execs are placing their bets

By DENISE MARTIN Variety.com

FX is premiering "Over There," an Iraqi war hour from Steven Bochco.

Still this year, heavy-hitters HBO, FX and Showtime are all debuting comedy blocks in hopes of bucking the trend.

When, oh when, will FX go HD? FX is easily my second favorite cable channel after HBO.
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post #3176 of 25503 Old 05-30-2005, 04:21 PM - Thread Starter
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Ruminations on a Bygone Season

By Tom Shales TVWeek.com May 30, 2005

Here we all are-another TV season older. Time flies even when you're not having fun, though the 2004 TV season did have a higher excitement quotient than many a recent previous season had. A few showy shows, new to the airwaves, made the networks resurgently prominent in American conversation; network TV seemed "hot" again, and 'round the water coolers there was beaucoup buzz over the intricate intricacies of "Desperate Housewives" and the myriad mysteries of "Lost."

I wish I'd had the perspicacity to predict, at the season's start, that ABC would use those two beautifully produced series to make the most fantastic comeback since any of Judy Garland's. I did write back in September that ABC "had the most to prove"-and the network proved it-and that it had "the largest number of good if not great new shows" on the roster.

NBC's fall from first to fourth, meanwhile, may have been God's way of punishing those peacocky programmers for "Fear Factor." After so many years of NBC at the top, the slip was not the kind of thing to elicit tears of sympathy. Network executives appeared to have grown smugly superior, and they flogged that "No. 1" status to bits. They hit everybody over the head with it; now it's bounced back and hit them.

Clearly some of what happens in the competitive arena of the broadcast networks is the result of sheer luck, good or bad. But you didn't have to be a programming genius to see early on that the producers of "Joey" were trying to coast on fond memories of "Friends" rather than risk anything resembling a new or innovative idea. The show wasn't quite an outright flop but could hardly propel the juggernaut that NBC's Thursday nights used to be.

And "The Contender"? Come on, there's no way to dress up boxing in prime time without it looking exactly like boxing, and however bloodthirsty viewers may be, they don't want that in their homes any more than they yearn for more exposure to arena football. That one of the fighters died by suicide during production of the series was very sad, but also served as an omen. And Sylvester Stallone's star has faded to the point where he may be ready for the sitcom circuit but isn't enough of a draw as a host and entrepreneur.

Is he really making another "Rocky" picture? What, "Rest-Home Rocky"? "Rocky Goes 'Wrestlemania'"? "Rocky Buys a Walker"?

CBS won the season in total viewers, and with no asterisks about failing to dominate one demographic group or another. Some in the industry insist on ranking shows primarily according to how well they do with that infernal 18 to 49 demographic, as if nobody outside those boundaries mattered (or ever bought anything). That's such crap. As a wise critic emeritus said to me the other day, "Never mind all that 18 to 49 nonsense. The networks are grateful for anybody they can get." First-place CBS had a season average of just 13 million viewers and Fox won in the 18 to 49 race with a seasonal rating of only 4.1.

Somehow a 4.1 just doesn't sound like it merits busting out the Dom Perignon or even the Grey Goose-except that it meant Fox was in first place. Ah yes, first place. Every week, when newspapers and "Entertainment Tonight" report on weekend movie grosses, some picture has to come in first, even if it only grossed, like, 5 million bucks and cost 20 times that to make. The studio can still run newspaper ads calling it "The No. 1 movie in America!" Numero Uno mania can lend itself to inane absurdities.

Rankings in such a competitive business are, of course, as inevitable as a scoreboard at a basketball game. One thing that the season's rankings, top 10 and top 20, support this year is a pet notion of mine, which is that the tastes of the public and critics are not very far apart, even though network executives love to fall back on the myth that critics are out of touch with the common person (then the execs get in their S600s or Aston Martins and drive away). Critics for the most part looked very favorably and lavished loads of praise on such populist hits as "Desperate Housewives," "Lost," the "CSI" shows on CBS and most of the 46 or 47 "Law & Order" shows on NBC.

The disconnect, to use a currently inescapable term, comes with such shows as Fox's "Arrested Development." Critics have loved it, adored it, swooned over it, mooned over it, done everything but put a dress on it and taken it home to mother. But the public still snores. The suspicion hovers, since Fox seems to sacrificially slaughter one critical success each season, that some shows are just "too good" for that network, that they can't co-exist with pulpy pap like "Cops" and tabloid tattlers like "America's Most Wanted."

On the other hand, "House" is pretty esoteric stuff for Fox, and it has managed to hang in there. Two caveats: It did OK riding a wave of critical raves, but its numbers improved markedly when it got "American Idol" for a lead-in. So viewers aren't seeking it out so much as failing to turn it off. And as the season ended, there were signs that the producers were really hoking it up to make "House" more secure, compromising the misanthropic lead character and even perhaps turning him cute. This victory could turn out to be pretty Pyrrhic.

Not only last season but the upfronts for next season are behind us now. Among the less-savory developments was the cancellation by CBS of "60 Minutes II," or "60 Minutes Wednesday" as it was occasionally called in promos. That series came out of the gate with great ratings and then leveled off. Its ratings ebb and flow depending on how promotable the stories were on each episode, how much juice and buzz they generated in advance. I think CBS executives, one in particular, canceled it out of spite and as a rebuke to the news division itself. Pretty damn shoddy.

Nevertheless, while the ABC comeback is the hot story of the moment, the continuing CBS comeback remains an admirable achievement. When something like that happens, one always has to ask, "How low did they have to stoop?" to turn things around. Some episodes of "CSI" and "Cold Case" get pretty gamy and sordid, but at least it's well-acted, well-shot and well-produced gaminess and sordidness. One trick to being a successful network programmer is to be able to take pride in the numbers (even a 4.1), while not having to be ashamed of the shows that earned them.
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post #3177 of 25503 Old 05-31-2005, 09:23 AM - Thread Starter
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Monday's prime-time ratings have been posted at the top of Latest News the first item in this thread.
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post #3178 of 25503 Old 05-31-2005, 09:28 AM - Thread Starter
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(From Marc Berman's Programming Insider column of Tuesday, May 31st, 2005 at Mediaweek.com)
Final Traditional 2004-2005 Season Ratings
CBS and Fox Win; ABC Up; NBC Sinks

Based on the traditional September through May season, which always ends on the final night of the May sweep, stable CBS scored a hefty victory in households, total viewers and adults 25-54, while Fox won its first season ever among adults 18-49. The home of American Idol and The Super Bowl also ranked first in adults 18-34, and both CBS and Fox were close to year-ago levels.

In a season of momentum courtesy of Desperate Housewives, Lost, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and, more recently, Grey's Anatomy (which I predict will all grow even stronger next year), ABC ended the traditional season on the double-digit percent plus side. Comparably, growth for ABC was 10 to 16 percent in the five below surveyed categories. On the flipside was NBC, which finished third in households and fourth in the remaining categories (including key adults 18-49). Year-to-year, the failing Peacock net was down by as much as 19 percent.

UPN and the WB, meanwhile, were neck-and-neck, with UPN flat in four of the five categories, and the WB down by 6 to 8 percent.

What follows are the final ratings for the traditional Sept. 20, 2004 to May 25, 2005 season (with change versus the comparable year-ago period in parentheses):

Households:
CBS: 8.4/14 (no change)
ABC: 6.5/11 (+10)
NBC: 6.5/11 (-11)
Fox: 6.1/10 (no change)
UPN: 2.3/ 4 (no change)
WB: 2.2/ 4 (- 8)

Total Viewers:
CBS: 12.92 million (- 1)
ABC: 10.05 (+11)
Fox: 10.04 (+ 3)
NBC: 9.78 (-12)
UPN: 3.35 (- 1)
WB: 3.35 (- 8)

Adults 18-49:
Fox: 4.1/11 (no change)
CBS: 4.0/11 (+ 3)
ABC: 3.7/10 (+16)
NBC: 3.5/ 9 (-17)
UPN: 1.4/ 4 (no change)
WB: 1.4/ 4 (- 7)

Adults 18-34:
Fox: 3.8/12 (- 5)
ABC: 3.0/ 9 (+15)
CBS: 2.9/ 9 (+ 7)
NBC: 2.9/ 9 (-19)
WB: 1.5/ 4 (- 6)
UPN: 1.4/ 4 (no change)

Adults 25-54:
CBS: 4.9/12 (no change)
ABC: 4.3/10 (+13)
Fox: 4.3/10 (+ 2)
NBC: 4.2/10 (-12)
UPN: 1.4/ 3 (no change)
WB: 1.4/ 3 (- 7)

Source: Nielsen Media Research data
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post #3179 of 25503 Old 05-31-2005, 10:04 AM - Thread Starter
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In all reality, it's 'Beauty and the Geek'
Buzz is over WB's competition of unlikely pairs
By Abigail Azote medialifemagazine.com

With the coming of summer comes another deluge of reality TV shows, some 15 new series and such returning shows as "Big Brother," leaving America very much at risk of reality burnout.

It's become almost impossible to handicap the performance of such shows the past few years. Dumb ideas often catch, but the next year viewers pay them little attention, as in the case of NBC's For Love or Money.

But amid the soon-to-arrive muck of reality, the WB's "Beauty and the Geek" could be the most promising. That's certainly the early buzz. The show's also getting a huge bluster of promotional noise from the WB, which ought to get at least initial tune-ins.

"Beauty and the Geek" pairs seven brilliant but socially-inept guys with a like number of beautiful but dim-witted girls to compete for $250,000 in a mix of brain-buster and social skills tests. In episode one, airing tomorrow night at 8, contestants face their first two challenges: a spelling bee for the ladies and a dance contest for the guys.

If nothing else, the series, which is billed as the ultimate social experiment, ought to deliver laughs. As with all reality shows, it's about the characters, and here they look to be a hoot. There's the geek who is too busy with the "Dukes of Hazzard" fan club to meet women teamed up with a beauty who says she's so smart that her IQ is 500.

The gimmick? In an experiment in stereotype busting, the mismatched pairs help each other to win, the geeks pitching in as the beauties tussle with the brain-busters and the beauties guiding the geeks in the social skills exams.

Critics are surprisingly amused.

"The show is offensive on many levels, of course. The clips looked lowbrow, crass and stereotypical. They were also hilarious, good-natured and surprisingly sweet. I'm putting the show on my TiVo list first chance I get," writes Time magazine's James Poniewozik.

This early buzz certainly has to please the WB. The youth-skewing network traditionally has not done well with reality series, with the forgettable "High School Reunion" and "Superstar USA." It also doesn't do all that well during summers anyhow, presumably because its target viewers are spending that many more hours outside and active.

"Geek" is produced by Ashton Kutcher, the man behind "Punk'd" and former star of "That '70s Show," as well as the notoriously younger squeeze of Demi Moore.

Rising to the top of the reality pile this summer may not be all that hard. The many mediocre network offerings include "Tommy Lee Goes to College," "Dancing With the Stars," "Scholar," "I Want to Be a Hilton" and the disturbingly titled "Hit Me Baby," featuring musical has-beens attempting a comeback.

Against such likely stinkers, "Geek" should do well, perhaps attracting 3.5 million viewers to its premiere. That would put it in the league of "Summerland," last summer's hit on the WB.
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(In case you missed it over the long holiday weekend. This story was reported first by the Los Angeles Times on Saturday.)

ESPN ices $60M option on hockey for next year
medialifemagazine.com

Hockey may be back next season, but it probably won't be on ESPN.

The network has refused the $60 million option to carry the NHL next season, after seeing better ratings for its replacement programming during this season's lockout. Though the NHL may try to change ESPN's mind before tomorrow, when a new deal would need to be reached, it probably wouldn't be a lucrative one for the NHL.

ESPN gained a major bargaining chip when NBC secured hockey rights via a deal where it pays nothing in fees and splits ad revenue after production costs have been paid.

Ever since the lockout began last year, ESPN has hinted that it was not interested in extending its deal.

NHL ratings have fallen the past few years, and a deal between the league and the labor union remains on hold. Until one is reached, few networks will be interested in succeeding ESPN.
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