(From Marc Berman's Thursday, July 20, 2006, Programming Insider column at Mediaweek.com
)On the ABC Panel FrontTHE KNIGHTS OF PROSPERITY
Tuesday 9 p.m.The Premise:
In the wake of a co-worker's death, an aging janitor (Donal Logue) who dreams of opening a bar recruits a group of misfits into his gang - the Knights of Prosperity - for a heist to finance their dreams. The initial target: rock legend Mick Jagger.Lead-in:
Dancing With the StarsCompetition:
The Unit (CBS), Law & Order: Criminal Intent (NBC), House (Fox), Veronica Mars (CW)Who Was on the Panel:
Donal Logue, Josh Grisetti, Maz Jobrani, Kevin Michael Richardson, Sofia Vergara, and executive producers Rob Burnett and Jon Beckerman.The Scoop:
Since you all must be wondering what is was like to shoot the pilot with Mick Jagger, according to Rob Burnett:
He was great. To his credit, we flew to New Zealand to shoot his stuff there because they had just finished a huge tour in that part of the world. I believe he delayed his vacation a day or two for us, so he had all the reason to be cranky and exhausted, but he couldn't have been nicer, couldn't have been more professional. And most of the stuff that he did was, you know, was really kind of a framework.
Some of the gags came from him, and he ad-libbed. He had a lot of energy. He seemed to have a fun time doing it, and he was great. I remember when we were shooting it we had a very short amount of time, about five hours, which was not a lot to shoot all we had to. As Jon and I were standing there we wondered whether this was going to be good or bad. As soon as he did the first thing, we just looked at each other and smiled and said this is going to be a breeze, which it was.The Reality:
The Knights of Prosperity (which was originally called Let's Robb Mick Jagger, then Let's Robb) could certainly benefit by airing out of the red-hot Dancing With the Stars. But the severity of the competition and the absence of Mick Jagger after the pilot makes this creative, but potentially limited looking sitcom a definite long-shot. Although ABC could benefit by the absence of other comedies in the time period, sometimes it's safer to go with something more familiar, and The Knights of Prosperity is anything but. Plus, after Mick Jagger leaves the novelty might quickly wear thin.Chance of Survival for Let's Rob
(Based on a scale of 1-1 to 10-1): 6-1Did You Know?:
Legend has it that Mick Jagger tried out for the role of Dr. Frank N' Furter in 1975's The Rocky Horror Picture Show.NOTES FROM THE UNDERBELLY
Thursday 8:30 p.m.The Premise:
After a couple (Jennifer Westfeldt and Peter Cambor) finds out they are going to have a baby, they have a difficult time keeping it a secret from their family and friends. Embarking on the journey of pending parenthood, their carefree lifestyle is now a thing of the past.Lead-in: Big DayCompetition:
Survivor: Cook Islands (CBS), The Office (NBC), Happy Hour (Fox), Smallville (CW)Who Was on the Panel:
Sunkrish Bala, Peter Cambor, Rachel Harris, Melanie Paxson, Michael Weaver, Jennifer Westfeldt, and executive producers Kim Tannenbaum, Eric Tannenbaum and Stacy Traub.The Scoop:
Since Notes From the Underbelly is a sitcom about a woman having a baby, what happens to the series after he or she is born? According to executive producer Stacy Traub:
I think there are a lot of funny things that happen when you are pregnant, so that's the arc, kind of, in the first season. That's where some of the stories will come from. Once they have the baby, I think your life gets even crazier and funnier, and what happens to your relationship when there's a kid in it and you haven't slept in weeks and your sex life isn't what it was right away -- all of those things. So that's what we'll be looking at. I mean, the show as a whole is always going to be looking at the relationship between the couple and between their friends and where they are in their life. That's universal.The Reality:
Without the benefit of proven lead-in support, and opposite two competing comedies (not to mention CBS stalwart Survivor: Cook: Islands), the limited Notes From the Underbelly is likely to be history by November, seven months short of a full-term pregnancy! Don't get too used to this.Chance of Survival for Notes From the Underbelly
(Based on a scale of 1-1 to 10-1): 10-1Did You Know?:
The last series to focus on the stork was failed ABC medical drama Having Babies, which briefly aired in the spring of 1978.MEN IN TREES
Friday 9:00 p.m.The Premise:
During a speaking engagement in Alaska, a relationship coach and successful author (Anne Heche) discovers that her fiancé is cheating on her. After canceling the wedding, and getting caught in an Alaskan snowstorm, she begins to enjoy her new surroundings. James Tupper, Abraham Benrubi (ER), Suleka Mathews, Derek Richardson and former Good Times Dad John Amos co-star.Lead-in:
Close To Home (CBS), Las Vegas (NBC), Duets/Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy (Fox), Friday Night Smackdown! (UPN)Who Was On the Panel:
Anne Heche, John Amos, Suleka Matthews, James Tupper, and creator/executive producer Jenny Bicks.The Scoop:
Although you might think leading out of an unproven lead-in could be problematic, according to creator/executive producer Jenny Bicks:
I'm thrilled, and I think we couldn't ask for a more fun lead-in with Ugly Betty. And I think there's a whole world of women at home on Friday nights that will really enjoy this show, and it's a great opportunity to build a really loyal audience, and it's going to be fun. It's going to be a fun kind of real female-driven block.
(Editor's note: Make that a very short-lived female driven block.)The Reality:
What might sound reminiscent to Northern Exposure looks like nothing more than a pale imitation. While the competition is not necessarily steep, without the benefit of any lead-in support or a strong lead acting presence (sorry Anne Heche, but you will always be your alter-ego Celestia in my book), Men In Trees will be up a tree on the low HUT level Friday.Chance of Survival for Men Trees
(Based on a scale of 1-1 to 10-1): 9-1Did You Know?:
John Amos, who is fondly remembered as struggling father James Evans on sitcom Good Times, initially played the same role on parent sitcom Maude. But his name on Maude was Henry Evans.BROTHERS & SISTERS
Sunday 10:00 p.m.The Premise:
After the patriarch of a large but scattered family dies unexpectedly, the children must work to balance their personal lives with family business, including the trials of raising an autistic child. Former Ally McBeal star Calista Flockhart leads an ensemble cast that now includes two-time Academy Award winner Sally Field in place of former Eight is Enough step-mom Betty Buckley.Lead-in:
Without A Trace (CBS), Sunday Night Football (NBC)Who Was on the Panel:
Calista Flockhart, Sally Field, Dave Annable, John Pyper-Ferguson, Balthazar Getty, Rachel Griffiths, Sarah Jane Morris, Matthew Rhys, Ron Rifkin, Patricia Wettig, and executive producers Jon Robin Baitz, Ken Olin (Wettig's husband and former thirtysomething co-star) and Marti Noxon.The Scoop:
Although some theatrical stars balk at the small screen, Sally Field is embracing it, with an ongoing Emmy winning role on NBC's ER and a short stint on ABC legal drama The Court. Here is what she had to say about the medium:
Basically, I think it's a very interesting time in television. It really is. I mean, television obviously has to compete with a lot of other things and is having to change and grow and try new things. I think, without sounding like I'm kissing somebody's behind, ABC has really just absolutely rethought the whole thing. And it's very interesting to see how much creativity they are inviting in, how many chances they are taking.The Reality:
Although leading out of Desperate Housewives (which had better improve in quality next season or more viewers are likely to head south) is certainly a plus, facing CBS' relocated Without A Trace could be an obstacle. With NBC expected to attract many of the available male viewers courtesy of Sunday Night Football, Brothers & Sisters is gunning, no doubt, for the available females. But will there be enough left opposite Without A Trace? While there is room for more than one hit series in a time period, Grey's Anatomy this isn't.Chance of Survival for Brothers & Sisters
(Based on a scale of 1-1 to 10-1): 4-1Did You Know?:
Brothers & Sisters was also the title of a short-lived NBC comedy in 1979 with Chris Lemmon and J.R. shooter Mary Crosby that tried to capitalize on the then red-hot Animal House fever. It lasted barely three months.Press Tour Tidbits: Notes of InterestABC Renames World News Tonight:
ABC's evening newscast, World News Tonight, has changed its name to World News with Charles Gibson to reflect the arrival, of course, of the new anchor. Historically, ABC renamed its evening newscast World News Tonight in July 1978 with the debut of anchors Frank Reynolds, Peter Jennings and Max Robinson. In September 1984, it became World News Tonight with Peter Jennings. After Jenning's death in August 2005, it morphed back to just World News Tonight.More on ABC News with Charles Gibson:
At a session with Charles Gibson and executive producer Jon Banner via satellite from Cyprus, here is what each had to say about the totally changed network newscast environment. Although the buzz will be on Katie Couric this fall, once the early curiosity factor dies down, keep an eye on the well-respected Charles Gibson.
I won't speak for Charlie, but I am very excited. Two morning powerhouses going to the evening news shows that the evening news is a vital part of driving news and information to Americans. And I think competition has always helped the evening news from the days of Tom and Dan and Peter, and I think it will help all of us again. And the renewed focus sort of makes all those questions about the vitality of the evening news disappear in my mind.
I know that all of you -- and I understand why -- focus on the competitive aspects of this and make it sort of "Brian vs. Katie vs. Charlie." But I really don't look at it that way. I have been a consumer of the ABC evening news. I watched it really since it began. I watched it even under different names before World News Tonight. And I go back to watching Huntley-Brinkley when we first got a television set, and I fell in love with politics and evening news programs.
I just think these are great programs. And they are the end-of-the-day product of extraordinary news organizations. I happened to have worked for this one for almost 35 years, and I love this organization, and to be able to anchor what I consider is its signature news broadcast is -- I don't want to sound like a boy scout -- but it really is an honor.The Path to 9/11:
In a panel focusing on upcoming ABC miniseries 9/11, which airs on Sept. 10 and Sept. 11, here is how Gov. Thomas H. Kean, Chair of the 9/11 Commission/Senior Consultant describes the project:
It was five years ago this September that the United States was attacked on its own mainland soil for the first time since the War of 1812. On that day more people died than died at Pearl Harbor. The commission I headed was given a job by the Congress of the United States to tell the story of 9/11, and, secondly, and just as important, to make recommendations that we learned from that story of ways in which we could make the American people safer.
What we found in that report as we told our story was 19 people who came into this country to do us harm, and our United States government failed in every way to stop or even slow down the plot at any stage. We never thought that our report -- we looked over two million documents, interviewed over 3,000 people -- we never thought it would become a best-seller, but it did. But what I like so much about this project is it tells a story of the conspiracy, and more people will see this than will ever read our report.
So my hope is that if people see this and understand the plot and understand the recommendations that need to be implemented that we learned from the plot, it will be a better and safer country. So I'm delighted to be part of it and glad to be here today.http://www.mediaweek.com/mw/newslett...ider/index.jsp