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TV Review/Notes
NBC turns to another comic book hero
By Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's 'Tuned In' Column - Oct. 23, 2014

Another comic book hero comes to TV, but this one lacks a costume beyond a simple trench coat and perpetual five o’clock shadow.

The DC Comics character John Constantine (Matt Ryan), star of a comic once titled the more evocative “Hellblazer” and now simply “Constantine,” like this TV show, is a self-described exorcist “who needs to forget.”

Viewers of NBC’s “Constantine” (10 tonight, WPXI) meet the title character after he voluntarily checks himself into a British psychiatric facility “for the mentally deranged” for electroshock therapy. He’s trying to forget a job that went sideways, resulting in a girl being murdered by a demon and now she’s in hell (or something like that, the show is not always clear).

In addition, Constantine’s soul has been damned to hell — or would that be pre-damned since he’s still alive? — although the pilot dangles the possibility that this damnation can be undone.

An entertainingly raucous encounter with a demon sends Constantine to Atlanta to aid Liv (Lucy Griffiths), the daughter of an old friend. Constantine introduces her to her father’s creepy hideaway after a demon attempts to attack her.

The pilot sets it up that Liv is going to team with Constantine but then pulls the rug out from under viewers at the end of the premiere because producers fired Ms. Griffiths and will replace her with a new actress and character, Zed (Angelica Celaya), in a future episode.

These after-the-fact changes to the pilot make it difficult to get a good sense of what “Constantine” will be on a weekly basis.

In the pilot, there’s a lot of Constantine fighting demons — or humans possessed by demons — and lightning, special effects, explosions, etc. There’s some sense of Constantine the man — he’s sarcastic, worn down by his losses — but not enough.

The show’s supporting players include Constantine’s possibly immortal best friend Chas (Charles Halford) and the winged angel Manny (Harold Perrineau), with whom Constantine appears to strike a truce when Constantine agrees to rejoin the fight to protect the innocent.

“Constantine” seems like a good fit tonally for Friday night companion series “Grimm,” but “Constantine” will need to more clearly establish its world — and the rules of its world — and better define its characters if it hopes to become a fanboy favorite.

Changes at ‘The Americans’

FX’s excellent, under-watched “The Americans” will introduce Frank Langella as a new minder for the show’s lead Russian spies in season three, debuting in 2015. Mr. Langella’s character will replace Claudia, the character played by Margo Martindale who is tied up starring in CBS’s fairly awful sitcom “The Millers.”

“Americans” executive producer Joel Fields told, “We hope to have [Ms. Martindale] back, but don’t have it in a script yet. Claudia is secretive and unpredictable!”

Winning ‘The Chair’

Starz’s “The Chair” (10 p.m. Saturday), which became pretty boring in its fifth episode (we’re driving to location, we’re driving to location), will wrap up its first season Nov. 8. Audience voting for which director deserves the $250,000 prize begins Saturday at and runs through Nov. 2.

Both critically reviled “Not Cool,” directed by decisive Shane Dawson, and the well-reviewed “Hollidaysburg,” directed by bundle-of-insecurities Anna Martemucci, will be available for Starz subscribers to view via StarzPlay or Starz On Demand beginning Saturday. In addition, “Hollidaysburg” will air on Starz at 10 p.m. Monday and “Not Cool” will play at 10 p.m. Tuesday.

Local VOD rankings

It’s not the Nielsen ratings, but looking at Xfinity On Demand’s most-watched national shows versus the most popular on-demand series among Xfinity customers in Pittsburgh between Sept. 22 and Oct. 5 shows the expected over-performance of CBS series and one out-of-nowhere oddity: the presence of an MTV series on the local list.

Top VOD shows nationally:

1. “Gotham” (Fox).

2. “How to Get Away With Murder” (ABC).

3. “The Blacklist” (NBC).

4. “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS).

5. “Madam Secretary” (CBS).

6. “Scorpion” (CBS).

7. “Black-ish” (ABC).

8. “Scandal” (ABC).

9. “The Good Wife” (CBS).

10. “The Voice” (NBC).

And the top VOD shows in Pittsburgh:

1. “Gotham” (Fox).

2. “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS).

3. “How to Get Away With Murder” (ABC).

4. “Madam Secretary” (CBS).

5. “The Blacklist” (NBC).

6. “The Good Wife” (CBS).

7. “Scorpion” (CBS).

8. “Teen Mom 2” (MTV).

9. “NCIS” (CBS).

10. “Black-ish” (ABC).

‘Choir’ at Brashear on hold again

That USA reality show “It Takes a Choir,” which has been set for and scrubbed from the cable network’s schedule at least four times already, has been pulled yet again.

The series, which features an episode filmed at Pittsburgh Brashear High School in December 2012, was set to debut tonight. A new air date was not announced.

CBS to launch Decades

With ME-TV and RetroTV already up and running, CBS is a little late to the digital sub-channel game but they’ll launch Decades on CBS-owned stations, including on Pittsburgh’s KDKA-TV as Channel 2.2, in the second quarter of 2015.

Decades will feature programs from the CBS library, including “I Love Lucy,” “Star Trek,” “Happy Days” and “Cheers.”


USA renewed “Chrisley Knows Best” for a third season.

DirecTV renewed its MMA drama “Kingdom” for 20 additional episodes with 10 airing in fall 2015 and the other 10 airing in 2016.

Syfy ordered a second season of zombie drama “Z Nation.”

The CW ordered full first seasons of “The Flash” and “Jane the Virgin.”

Bravo renewed reality show “Below Deck” for a third season.

Lifetime canceled its summer drama “The Lottery.”

FX canceled “The Bridge” after two seasons.

Channel surfing

Disney XD will launch an animated spinoff from “Guardians of the Galaxy” in 2015. … Netflix’s “Lilyhammer” launches its third season on the streaming service Nov. 21. … FX’s Simpsons World debuted Tuesday via the FXNOW app and at … Christina Ricci will reprise her starring role from Lifetime’s Lizzie Borden movie for a six-episode 2015 series, “Lizzie Borden: The Fall River Chronicles.” … The reality TV version of “Law & Order: SVU” is coming to TNT as a spinoff of the network’s Dick Wolf-produced “Cold Justice,” which follows crime experts closing long-unsolved homicides. The new series, like “SVU,” will focus on sex crimes... ABC is developing a "Shark Tank" spinoff, "Beyond the Tank," following "Shark Tank" entrepreneurs after they appear on "Shark Tank." … Fox ordered the first season of a 15-episode comedy-horror series “Scream Queens” from “American Horror Story” creators Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan for fall 2015. Like “AHS,” each season will tell a new story with the first one centered on a college campus rocked by a string of murders. … A&E revisits “Growing Up Gotti” in a 10th anniversary reunion special at 9 p.m. Nov. 10. … PBS’s “Frontline” explores “The Rise of ISIS” next week at 10 p.m. Tuesday on WQED-TV. … “Ice Warriors: USA Sled Hockey,” a 60-minute documentary featuring Fox Chapel high school grad Dan McCoy that premiered earlier this year on PBS, has been re-edited to a 90-minute version that will air on WQED-TV at 10 p.m. Nov. 14. … WQED-TV debuts the new documentary “Will’s Story: A Steeler’s Stand Against Domestic Violence” (8 p.m. Thursday) following Steelers cornerback William Gay as he tries to raise awareness about violence in the home.
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TV/Business Notes
Don Draper, meet Doctor Who: AMC Networks buys stake in BBC America
By Tom Huddleston, Jr., - Oct. 23, 2014

A long-rumored marriage of AMC Networks and BBC has finally been confirmed as AMC, the network behind hit cable programming like Mad Men and Breaking Bad, has agreed to take a 49.9% stake in the BBC America cable channel.

The deal, which was announced Thursday, calls for AMC to pay $200 million to BBC Worldwide, the government-backed U.K. broadcaster’s commercial arm, for a minority stake in the cable channel that is home to the sci-fi icon Doctor Who, the critically-acclaimed series Orphan Black and BBC World News. The deal leaves BBC with a 50.1% stake in BBC America, though AMC will have operational control of the channel while also handling advertising sales and distribution in the U.S., where BBC America is currently available in more than 80 million homes.

“The BBC is one of the most recognized, trusted and respected brands in the world and we are proud to partner with it to create a content offering unmatched in the industry,” AMC Networks CEO Josh Sapan said in a statement.

Rumors of a potential partnership between the two networks surfaced over the summer, with reports suggesting that AMC – which has been considered to be a potential takeover target for larger media companies – was looking to get bigger in order to improve its leverage in programming fees negotiations with pay-TV companies. That need for leverage stems from the rash of consolidation in the industry like Comcast’s pending $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable and AT&T’s $48.5 billion deal for DirecTV.

The agreement with BBC comes almost exactly a year after AMC announced its $1 billion acquisition of Liberty Global’s international network, Chellomedia. AMC used that acquisition to create its global division, AMC Networks International, which has a presence in 140 countries. AMC also owns the IFC, WE tv, and SundanceTV cable channels.

AMC and BBC have collaborated in the past, having worked together to create the television series Top of the Lake and The Honourable Woman, as well as the upcoming show One Child.
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TV Notes
On The Air Tonight
FRIDAY Network Primetime/Late Night Options
(All shows are in HD unless noted; start times are ET. Network late night shows are preceded by late local news)

8PM - Last Man Standing
8:30PM - Cristela
9PM - Shark Tank
10PM - 20/20
* * * *
11:35PM - Jimmy Kimmel Live!
12:37AM - Nightline

8PM - The Amazing Race
9PM - Hawaii Five-0
10PM - Blue Bloods
* * * *
11:35PM - Late Show with David Letterman (Jerry Seinfeld; a performance from "Michael Jackson ONE")
(R - Sep. 25)
12:37AM - Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (Tenacious D performs)

8PM - Dateline NBC
9PM - Grimm (Season Premiere)
10PM - Constantine (Series Premiere)
* * * *
11:34PM - The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (Claire Danes; Little League Baseball pitcher Mo'ne Davis; Fences and Macklemore perform)
(R - Sep. 5)
12:36AM - Late Night with Seth Myers (Sarah Silverman; John Mulaney)
(R - Oct. 2)
1:37AM - Last Call with Carson Daly (Melissa Fumero; The Front Bottoms perform; "Last Hijack")
(R - Oct. 2)

8PM - 2014 World Series, Game 3: Kansas City Royals at San Francisco Giants (LIVE)

(check your local listing for starting time/programming)
8PM - Washington Week With Gwen Ifill
8:30PM - Charlie Rose This Week
9PM - Great Performances - Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga: Cheek to Cheek LIVE!
10PM - Art in the Twenty-First Century: Investigation (Season Premiere)

8PM - Mi Corazón Es Tuyo
9PM - Hasta El Fin del Mundo
10PM - La Malquerida

8PM - Jane The Virgin
(R - Oct. 20)
9PM - America's Next Top Model

8PM - Reina De Corazones
9PM - Los Miserables
10PM - Señora de Acero

10PM - Real Time with Bill Maher (LIVE; Journalist James Risen; climate activist Chloe Maxmin; journalist John Avlon; political consultant Mary Matalin; educator Cornel West)
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TV Notes
There goes ‘Honey Boo Boo?’ Show may be done
By Media Life Magazine Staff - Oct. 23, 2014

This week TMZ broke some disturbing news, if it’s true.

The gossip site claims Mama June, mother of the titular star on the TLC reality show “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” has been dating a registered sex offender, who was convicted of molesting one of June’s relatives.

At this point June has not said anything about the allegations. But TLC is evidently (and rightly) wary of a convicted child molester being associated with one of its shows, especially one as high profile as “Boo.”

No advertiser would want to be associated with such a program.

“TLC is not currently in production on ‘Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,’” the network said in a statement. “We are very concerned about this new information and are reassessing the future of the series.”

TMZ reports that June was dating the man a decade ago, when he was found guilty of aggravated child molestation of an 8-year-old. The relationship began again after he was released from jail earlier this year, TMZ claims.
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TV Notes
Modern 'Phantom of the Opera' Set Up at ABC With Marc Cherry
By Lesley Goldberg, The Hollywood Reporter's 'Live Feed' Blog - Oct. 23, 2014

ABC is poised to remake one of the most beloved and successful musicals of all time.

The network is reteaming with Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry for an adaptation of Phantom of the Opera, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

The project, which received a script commitment from the network, is described as a drama with musical elements in the same vein of ABC's Nashville. The new Phantom is described as a contemporary reimagining of Gaston Leroux's gothic novel and set in the sexy and cutthroat world of the modern-day music business. The hourlong scripted drama will be written by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner (Broadway's First Date, Secondhand Lions, 17 Again) with Cherry and his ABC Studios-based Cherry/Wind Productions topper Sabrina Wind on board to exec produce.

First published in 1909, Phantom has been adapted numerous times in books, comics, film, TV, radio and the stage. Andrew Lloyd Webber's Tony-winning stage musical starring Michael Crawford is the longest-running show in Broadway history with more than 10,000 performances and ranks as the second-longest-running production on the West End. Its worldwide gross is more than $5.6 billion, the second-highest in history, with its Broadway haul of $845 million topped only by The Lion King.

On the small-screen, Phantom was most recently a two-part miniseries that aired on NBC in 1990. The mini won two technical Emmys and was nominated for a Golden Globe. On the big screen, Joel Schumacher adapted the musical with Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum in 2004.

ABC's Phantom take arrives as musical series have seen a resurgence on the small screen following the success of Fox's global hit Glee. ABC's Nashville has been steady for the network in its third season and musical fairy tale Galavant will bow midseason. Fox will also launch hip-hop drama Empire come midseason along with the final season of Glee. NBC, for its part, explored the Broadway world with two seasons of Smash and found massive success with its live musical production of The Sound of Music. The network will follow that with a live performance of Peter Pan in December, with Fox also plotting a live broadcast of Grease for 2015. Phantom will, like Nashville, also come with the added incentive of music sales — a further financial bonus for the network and studio.

For Cherry and Wind, this is the duo's second sale of the development season. The banner also set up Cheerleader Death Squad at The CW, from CBS Television Studios. Phantom reunites Cherry with ABC and ABC Studios, the companies behind Desperate Housewives. His Lifetime drama Devious Maids, which he exec produces, was originally developed at ABC Studios for ABC before moving to the cable network. Cherry, who previously had an overall deal with ABC Studios, does not currently have a development pact with a studio.

Cherry, Wind, Zachary and Weiner are repped by Paradigm. Cherry is additionally repped by Del Shaw; Wind is with Michael Gendler and Zachary and Weiner are with Michael Shenkman.
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Business Notes
Amazon posts huge loss, warns of more
By Jefferson Graham, USA Today - Oct. 23, 2014

LOS ANGELES — Amazon had warned that it would lose bundles of cash in the third quarter, and it didn't disappoint.

But the size of the loss and a forecast that warned of more red ink by year's end chilled investors, who had already sent shares sharply lower for the year.

The Seattle-based online retailer (TICKER: AMZN) said it had a net loss of $437 million for the quarter, or 95 cents a share, compared with $41 million, or 9 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter. Analysts had forecast a loss of 74 cents a share.

Revenue rose 20% to $20.6 billion, short of the $20.84 billion projected by analysts. Amazon shares tumbled 11%, to $278.89, in after-hours trading. Ahead of the report, shares had lost 23% year to date, singed by prior big losses.

Huge losses will continue in the fourth quarter, Amazon said. The company projected losses as deep as $570 million for the fourth quarter, and revenue of $27.3 billion to $30.3 billion. That's shy of the average $30.9 billion analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had forecast.


Amazon in the third quarter launched a highly publicized smartphone, the Fire, which attempted to take on the iPhone, but was a massive flop. The Fire was originally priced at $199 with a two-year contract, but it has been marked down to $1.

The company has a new line of Kindle tablets that have been better received, and it is looking to make a bigger splash with consumers by opening pop-up stores in San Francisco and Sacramento.

"The challenge will be in their ability to focus the selection of products around the needs of the market since it's impossible for Amazon to carry even a fraction of their online inventory in an actual store," says Michael Dill, Match Marketing Group's managing partner.


Amazon made a huge addition in the quarter, buying the popular video game tips and tricks site Twitch for $970 million.

As Amazon heads into its biggest time of the year, e-commerce is expected to hit $305.7 billion this year or 6.5% of all U.S. sales, up 16.5% from $264.3 billion in 2013, according to tracking firm eMarketer.

During the 2014 holiday season, eMarketer estimates e-commerce will account for $72.4 billion in the U.S., or 8.4% of all holiday season retail sales, compared with a 6.5% share of total retail throughout the entire year.

* * * *

Business Notes
Microsoft sales lifted by the cloud to $23.2B
By Nancy Blair, USA Today - Oct. 23, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO — Lifted by strong momentum in its Internet cloud-based offerings, Microsoft on Thursday said its fiscal first-quarter revenue jumped to $23.2 billion, topping Wall Street estimates.

The company said it earned 54 cents a share, or $5.84 billion. Analysts had expected Microsoft to earn 49 cents a share, down from 62 cents, or $5.2 billion, a year ago, according to Yahoo Finance. Revenue expectations were $22 billion.

The results included the impact of restructuring related to deep cuts announced in July at its Nokia division.

"We are off to a great start to the year," Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said on a conference call with analysts.

Shares of Microsoft MSFT popped after hours, trading up as much as 4%. The stock closed in regular trading Thursday at $45.02.


The consumer division, which includes devices, saw revenue growth of 47% to $10.96 billion, Microsoft said. Among highlights, Office 365 Home and Personal subscribers totaled more than 7 million, up more than 25% over the fourth quarter of 2014.

The company said sales of its Surface Pro 3 tablet/laptop hybrid drove revenue of $908 million for Surface tablets.

Commercial revenue grew 10% to $12.28 billion from a year ago. Importantly, commercial "cloud" revenue grew 128%, driven by Office 365 and the company's Azure cloud-computing platform.

Ahead of the announcement, Forrester analyst Frank Gillett said such growth is key as Microsoft moves "away from the old PC and software licensing model."

Indeed, cloud offerings are providing "major jet fuel in the engine for Microsoft," said FBR Capital Markets analyst Daniel Ives.

In July, the company announced its fourth-quarter earnings less than a week after making public plans to cut 18,000 employees, or about 14% of its workforce, mostly from its Nokia smartphone unit.


Lifting its share of a smartphone market dominated by Google's Android platform and the Apple iPhone juggernaut is also crucial for Microsoft. Its Windows Phone had a 4.8% share of the U.S. market last year and is expected to decline slightly, according to eMarketer.

For the quarter, Microsoft said it sold 9.3 million Lumia smartphones, describing that as modest growth driven by European sales.

IDC analyst Al Hilwa called it a "much better quarter for Microsoft than many expected."

"Multiple parts of the business appear to be doing really well," he said, while calling the overall mobile strategy "still a work in progress."
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TV Review
‘Celebrity Name Game,’ bubblegum
The syndicated game show is a comforting chew for the eyes
By Tom Conroy, Media Life Magazine - Oct. 23, 2014

It’s always fun to know the answer to a question on a game show that no one on the show manages to guess. Game-show producers are aware of that, so many shows just go ahead and let viewers see all the answers.

The syndicated game show “Celebrity Name Game” makes things even more accessible by mostly limiting its topics to, as the title suggests, celebrities, a subject that is perhaps unique in that we can feel proud of both our knowledge and our ignorance of it. Fast-paced and featuring an amusing host, the show isn’t quite a perfect time waster, but it isn’t quite a perfect waste of time either.

The show follows in the footsteps of “Password” and “The [Top Prize Money Goes Here] Pyramid.” Two teams of two regular folks compete with the help of celebrity guest stars.

Working against the clock, one participant provides clues to another. We viewers at home know the answer because it’s shown on-screen.

The rules change slightly in various rounds, but the process is essentially the same. The top prize is $20,000, which “Pyramid” was giving away back in the late ’70s.

The host is the soon-to-be-former star of “The Late Late Show,” Craig Ferguson, who treats both the gig and the contestants with the right balance of respect and mockery. Although none of his witticisms in two recent shows are worth quoting, he always made them seem funny.

Both Ferguson and we at home get to smirk when the contestants or their celebrity helpers say something stupid. In one recent episode, when the actor David Alan Grier tried to get his contestant partner to guess Robert De Niro by saying, “The greatest actor in movies — Italian,” she said, “Count Chocula?”

In the same round, Grier seemed to think that his partner would guess Barbara Bush simply because he said that she was married to a white president.

The most enjoyable round is the one in which Ferguson himself provides clues to one contestant from each team. He seems to relish making the contestants sweat by starting out with obscure clues.

In one episode, the category he presented was actors who have played the devil. The clue that puts Jack Nicholson over the top was that he goes to Lakers games.

In the final round, the words “salad dressing” were enough to prompt the correct response: Paul Newman.

The celebrity angle makes the show guilt-free. We can feel smart because we remember that Billy Crystal played the devil in Woody Allen’s “Deconstructing Henry,” and we can also feel smart because we don’t remember that Jennifer Love Hewitt played the devil in some obscure movie that no one saw anyway.

It’s also fun to feel superior to the celebrities. Although Grier proved to be incompetent at giving clues, he was good at guessing answers. In another recent episode, the actor David Arquette proved to be vice versa.

It’s unclear why “the moon” appeared in one round as an answer, but to try to figure that out would be taking “Celebrity Name Game” more seriously than the people involved in it do. The lack of seriousness is the whole point.
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