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TV Notes
On The Air Tonight
SATURDAY Network Primetime/Late Night Options
(All shows are in HD unless noted; start times are ET. Late night shows are preceded by late local news)

8PM - Movie: Despicable Me (2010)
10PM - 20/20: Designing Women

8PM - Hawaii Five-0
(R - Apr. 11)
9PM - Criminal Minds
(R - Oct. 1)
10PM - 48 Hours

8PM - Saturday Night Live: SNL's Sports Spectacular
9PM - NFL Honors (Special, 120 min.)
* * * *
11:29PM - Saturday Night Live (J.K. Simmons guest hosts; D'Angelo and the Vanguard perform; 93 min.)

8PM - Backstrom
(R - Jan. 22)
9PM - Red Band Society
* * * *
11PM - Animation Domination High-Def

(check your local listing for starting time/programming)
8PM - Austin City Limits: The Black Keys; J. Roddy Walston & the Business

8PM - Sábado Gigante (Three Hours)

7PM - Movie: Quantum of Solace (2008)
9PM - Fútbol Mexicano Primera División: Club León vs. Jaguares de Chiapas (LIVE)

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TV/Business Notes
Netflix's success sprouts tech-entertainment startups
By John Shinal, USA Today - Jan. 30, 2015

SAN FRANCISCO -- The business of distributing movies and TV shows online – via Netflix,, Google's YouTube service and other digital channels -- is sprouting start-ups.

This intersection of technology and entertainment has greatly expanded distribution options for creators of long-form visual content.

Now one of the newest entrants in this burgeoning market has partnered with one of the oldest names in the news business in hopes of finding stories that "grab you by the heart and pour some sense in your head."

Aspire Entertainment, launched last year by veteran movie producer Mark Ciardi, has signed a licensing deal with Newsweek for access to the magazine's stories, including its archives.

Ciardi was a producer on a raft of money-making sports movies for Disney over more than a decade, including The Rookie (2002), Invincible (2006) and Secretariat (2010).

With headquarters in Los Angeles and another office in San Mateo, Calif., Aspire wants to plug a pipeline of feel-good stories into the opportunity.

"Silicon Valley used to look to Hollywood and say, 'They do content.' Now these digital powerhouses have shown that if you make smart bets on quality stories, you can distribute anywhere," says Ciardi, CEO and co-founder of the seven-person firm.

"We're platform agnostic," he says.

Ciardi's Silicon Valley-based co-founders include Ash Vasudevan, one of his partners on the Million Dollar Arm (2014) -- the story of an agent's search for major league baseball pitcher from among India's hardest-throwing cricket players.

"Mark has a reputation for getting things done, which is hard to do in Hollywood," where so many projects never get made, Vasudevan says,

Aspire Chairman William H.C. Chang is a venture capitalist, a general partner of the MLS' D.C. United soccer team and an investor and executive of the World Series champion San Francisco Giants.

Co-founder Tom Duterme is a former executive at YouTube and Google.

Ciardi has beefed up the television side of the house by wooing to Aspire a former top content executive at ESPN.

Teri Katherine Flynn, whose projects for that Disney-owned sports channel included college football's Bowl Championship Series and ESPN's long-form documentary series, 30 for 30, will move to Aspire's L.A. office in early March.

"The number of (distribution) platforms is 10 times what it used to be," Flynn says. "It's a great time to be a content creator."

The story of successful executives leaving cushy jobs at big firms to join a start-up is an old one in Silicon Valley.

As more content goes digital, look for that career jump to become more common in the entertainment industry.

Ciardi's success in sports movies grew out of his own athletic career, which included one year as a pitcher in major league baseball.

Soon after, he discovered the story he made into The Rookie – about another pitcher's brief-but-inspiring pro career -- via a news item in Sports Illustrated.

Flynn, a veteran of Time magazine and sports radio, used to work with Jim Impoco, the Newsweek editor-in-chief who signed the deal giving Aspire the rights to its stories.

Founded in 1933, Newsweek quit the print magazine business in late 2012 but re-entered it in early 2013 as an expensive, perfect-bound glossy. Its website gets 7 million monthly unique visitors and the magazine is profitable "on a GAAP basis," Impoco says.

The licensing agreement gives the news organization the chance to do more lengthy, investigative stories that Impoco calls "deep dives."
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If you're interested in The Blacklist and not sure about recording it Sunday, wait for Thursday as it's a two-parter and they will be re-airing it then.
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I love smart men. In other words, I'm attracted to brains like a friggin' zombie. Crap I say
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TV Notes
Bianculli's Best Bets
By David Bianculli, - Jan. 31, 2015

NBC, 8:00 p.m. ET

This SNL clip special looks at the comic side of sports, compiling various sports-related sketches it’s done over the years. These could be as recent as last week’s Saturday Night Live opener, a spoof of the Deflategate scandal – and, most assuredly, will include the Peyton Manning mini-film from 2007, spoofing his charity work with young boys.

PBS, 8:00PM

Headlining tonight’s concert, and certainly worth hearing and watching: The Black Keys. Check local listings.

HBO, 9:00 p.m. ET

For his third HBO special, Mel Brooks drops the Q&A format and does stand-up instead, singing songs, telling jokes and unfurling some of his favorite Hollywood stories. It looks like Brooks has been doing standup all his life – but he stopped about 70 years ago. I guess some things you just never unlearn – it’s like riding a penny farthing.

Cinemax, 10:00 p.m. ET

Jason Bateman both stars in and directs this 2013 comedy movie about a man who discovers a loophole in the entry rules for a spelling bee, and signs up, as a bitter adult, for the contest at which he fared so poorly as a child.

NBC, 11:29 p.m. ET

J.K. Simmons is the guest host – so expect some skits about not only his fierce music instructor in Whiplash, but maybe his insurance ads and even his neo-Nazi bully in Oz. D’Angelo and the Vanguard are the musical guests.

* * * *

TV Notes
Mel Brooks: The TV Worth Watching Interview, Take 4
By David Bianculli, - Jan. 31, 2015

Saturday night at 9 ET, HBO presents Mel Brooks: Live at the Geffen, which is his third TV special for the network, but the first one in his entire career where he’s doing standup. So why now, at age 88?...

“That’s a very simple, big question,” Brooks said when I asked him this by telephone the other day. (He’s such a nice guy, he makes himself available for occasional chats with TV Worth Watching.) “Nobody ever asks this. How did this come to be?”

How it came to be, Brooks explained, was that he got a call from the Geffen theater management in Los Angeles. Sundays traditionally were dark at the Geffen, but they were considering an experimental 10-week festival, booking comics and musicians to expand their events calendar. Brooks was asked to kick off the festival with a show, maybe getting someone to interview him – as he had, successfully, on previous HBO specials, sharing the stage with Alan Yentob and Dick Cavett, respectively. Brooks countered with another idea.

“I said no, I might broaden it by singing a few songs, I’ll just get a piano player, and do some questions from the audience – but I really don’t need an interviewer, you know?” Brooks said he told them. “I’ll just go back to being a standup, a comic in the mountains.”

Those “mountains” were the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York, where Brooks worked as a teenager, amusing the vacationing Jews poolside, and on stage – the last time he’d done standup until now, at age 88. And fittingly, on Mel Brooks: Live at the Geffen, the first story he tells, in his first official solo standup act in about 70 years, is about those days on the Borscht Belt. After that, Brooks flashes back even more, to early childhood memories in Brooklyn, before settling in for another delightful round of show-biz anecdotes. The structure, he told me, was intentional.

“I was going to start when I was born, and go chronologically through,” Brooks said, then said he reconsidered. “No. I’m going to start with the Borscht belt, because I know I can get a generous amount of laughs, and then I’ll go back to Williamsburg and my mother…

“I always say, hit them hard in the first five or 10 minutes, then relax and begin to tell your story.” It’s the same approach he used in his hit movies, including The Producers and Blazing Saddles. (“You could teach screenwriting with Blazing Saddles,” Brooks said. “You need a mashugena, wacky, noisy, crazy beginning – then take the next 10 minutes and tell us what it’s all about. Why are we watching? What are we watching?”)

On Live at the Geffen, it’s all effortlessly entertaining, and consistently funny. Brooks makes it look easy – and Friday night, during his appearance on live TV on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, he made that look easy, too, joking not only with his host, but engaging members of that night’s roundtable panel, with both jokes and political observations.

Asked, however, if he would consider taking his act to today’s premiere live comedy TV show, NBC’s Saturday Night Live, Brooks expressed little interest, though he was a key writer on one of the first and best live variety shows in TV history, the Sid Caesar showcase Your Show of Shows.

“Pass,” Brooks said. “If they had asked me earlier – say, 25 years ago – I think I would have jumped at it.” Then he added, almost parenthetically, “My son Max [bestselling author of World War Z] worked there for two seasons on it. Won an Emmy.”

Mel Brooks does have one other thing to say about Saturday Night Live, however.

“When we wrote the Sid Caesar show, it was three people writing in a room. They have 18 to 21 people, and they never have an ending! They end when they run out of steam: that’s the end of that sketch. We always wrote a little playlet: a beginning, a middle, and a beautiful finish, to make sense out of the whole 10-minute sketch.”

The elder Brooks, like his son, also has won an Emmy – as well as a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony. As Maher pointed out Friday night, that made Brooks one of the few people in show biz history to belong to the EGOT club – but Brooks trumped him, saying he was an EGOTAK, adding to the acronym the initials of lifetime achievement awards he’d won from the American Film Institute and the Kennedy Center Honors.

So what’s next for Mel Brooks, besides turning 89 this summer?

“I’m seriously thinking of doing this kind of show,” he said, referring to his new HBO standup act, “with maybe a third of it changed, in London…

“I’m trying to stir up enthusiasm for a production of the Young Frankenstein musical in the West End of London. It never played there. It’s got to play the West End… So if I’m there, maybe I can stir up some excitement for it.”

Other things on Mel Brooks’ front and back burners:

A Broadway musical version of Blazing Saddles – “That’s always running around in some track on the back of my head.”

A movie sequel to Spaceballs – “I might do it. I have a good title, too: a good title for the idea I have would be in the title: Spaceballs 2: Frakking the Universe. They stick straws into every planet… rob the universe of all of its goodness.”

And finally, some comments by Mel Brooks on comedy-related issues of the day:

On the costly reactions to satire, from the slaughter of French satirists to the hacking of Sony computers because of lampooning North Korea in The Interview – “Just get a regiment of shock troops and rangers to surround everybody – the filmmakers, just protect them. Say whatever you want. Just get more guys with guns around you, that’s all, but say whatever you want.

To say [of the satirists], ‘That wasn’t so smart,’ even one inch in the wrong direction is really a sin. You say we can’t make fun of this guy because he’s liable to take vengeance upon us – we, the jesters of the world, you’ve got to be unfettered completely. I don’t think it’s ever smart to be wise and smart about these things. Don’t be smart. Be totally childish and foolish and honest. Say what’s in your heart, and let the chips fall where they may.”

On his reaction to fellow Sid Caesar writer Woody Allen’s headline-generating deal to make a TV series for Amazon, without knowing what it would be: “Really, honestly? I didn’t know why Woody would do that. The only reason to do that – nothing should ever start with a deal or money, ever. It should always start with an idea. ‘I see a fat guy and a skinny guy. And the skinny guy is timid, and the fat guy is overbearing, but they love each other.’ The idea is critical. It’s everything.

“So I read where Woody said, ‘I have no idea what it’s going to be about.’ Well, why would you waste a minute of your time? Time is a lot more important than money. And the joy of doing something you love is a lot more important than just working on something. So I don’t get it… It ain’t going to do him any good unless he has something to say."
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FRIDAY's fast affiliate overnight prime-time ratings -and what they mean- have been posted on Analyst Marc Berman's Media Insights' Blog.
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Washington/Business Notes
New FCC definition of high-speed Internet may affect Comcast-TWC deal
By Meg James, Los Angeles Times' 'Company Town' Blog - Jan. 31, 2015

The Federal Communications Commission's new definition of high-speed Internet service could become a factor in Comcast Corp.'s proposed takeover of Time Warner Cable.

The FCC and the U.S. Department of Justice are reviewing the Comcast-Time Warner Cable tie-up, which would include nearly 1.8 million homes in the Los Angeles region. The government agencies are working to determine whether the combination of the nation's two largest cable companies is in the public interest and whether it poses a threat to competition.

Separately, the FCC this week approved a new benchmark for broadband Internet download speed at 25 megabits per second, up from 4 megabits per second.

The Thursday vote by the FCC was part of the agency's 2015 Broadband Progress report, which found that deployment of high-speed Internet in the U.S. — particularly in rural regions — was not keeping up with current needs, including "high-quality voice, data, graphics and video offerings."

The FCC is trying to prod telecommunications companies to extend and upgrade their networks.

Comcast was one of the few companies that provide customers with Internet speeds of 25 megabits per second or higher, which means the company already had a large percentage of broadband homes.

But the FCC's move to raise the benchmark had the effect of increasing Comcast's broadband penetration to about 50% of the nation's broadband homes. The percentage could be higher, depending on the estimate.

Opponents of the deal said Friday the FCC's new benchmarks could make it tougher for Comcast to win the government's blessing for its merger.

"The FCC is taking broadband Internet very seriously," said John Bergmayer, senior staff attorney for the advocacy group Public Knowledge, which opposes the merger. "The notion that Comcast has a dominant share of broadband is definitely relevant — it shows there is a lack of broadband competition."

Whether Comcast's high-speed Internet penetration becomes a pivotal issue depends on whether the government determines that Internet service is a national, rather than local, market. In past reviews, the government has looked at the number of options that consumers have in individual markets.

Comcast declined to comment Friday.

Comcast has argued that the proposed merger should not be considered anti-competitive because Comcast and Time Warner Cable offer service in different geographic markets.

The Philadelphia giant also has rejected assertions that broadband providers compete nationally.

"Consumers choose broadband providers at the local — not national — level," Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen wrote in a Dec. 23 blog post. "The transaction will have no impact on local broadband shares and will in no way reduce the number of broadband choices available to consumers."

Cohen noted that observers should not ignore previous FCC and Department of Justice determinations. And even if they did, he said, the addition of the Time Warner Cable homes would increase Comcast's broadband market share by "only 1%."
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Nielsen Overnights
‘Constantine’ & ‘Shark Tank’ Ratings Down, ‘Glee’ Even & ’20/20′ Jumps As ABC Wins Night In Demo
By Dominic Patten, - Jan. 31, 2015

The first Friday of the February sweep saw ABC taking the top spot of the night with a 1.5/5 rating among adults 18-49 and CBS snagging No. 1 with total viewers and an audience of 10.31 million. For the most part, that’s the Friday pattern this season. And accordingly, for the 14th consecutive first run this season, Shark Tank (1.9/7) was the highest rated show of the night even though it dropped 13% from its last original of January 16. Blue Bloods (1.3/5) was, as it is almost every Friday, the most watched show of the night. The Tom Selleck-led family cop drama had 11.86 million watching even though it was down a tenth among the key demo from its last new show two weeks ago and down from the 12.73 million who watched that show.

Still, with Shark Tank and BB taking their usual spots, that’s the more of the same part of Friday night. Otherwise there was a fair degree of flux on Friday night as the Big 4 all had original slates on.

With only two episodes left in its 13-show run and in its third week at 8 PM, NBC’s Constantine (0.8/3) felt the pain as it lost the long sought upward momentum it caught last week. This week, the demon detective series based on the acclaimed DC Comics owned publication was down 11% from January 23 to match its worst result since it debuted on October 24. Once again, Constantine was last among the Big 4 in its time slot. It was behind Undercover Boss (1.3/5), which slipped 7% from last week, Last Man Standing (1.3/5), even with its last original, and Fox’s World’s Funniest Fails (1.1/4). The latter was the only show to rise, along with 20/20 (1.5/5) at 10 PM, last night. Fails had a 10% uptick from last week. While that was good news for the freshman Fox show, the ABC News mag show was the real rocket of the night – it took off 36% from last week.

For Fox’s other original of the night things were neither up nor down as Glee (0.7/2) matched last week’s show and the week before that for that matter. ABC’s freshman 8:30 comedy Cristela (1.1/4) was also even with its last original of two weeks ago. In the 9 PM slot, and receiving no favors from lead-in Constantine, NBC’s Grimm (1.2/4) was down a tenth from last week as was its CBS rival Hawaii Five-O (1.4/5). Ending the night for NBC and up against Blue Bloods and 20/20, Dateline (1.2/4) dipped 7% from its January 23 broadcast.

On the CW, Hart Of Dixie (0.3/1) was down an avalanche of a 40% from last week’s double-digit rise. Masters Of Illusion (0.3/1) was even with its January 23 show.
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TV Sports
Behind the Scenes, Network Production Crews Find a Friendlier Belichick
By Richard Sandomir, The New York Times - Jan. 30, 2015

Bill Belichick’s funereal demeanor is so rooted in the public imagination that any smile or moment of loquaciousness is like finding a great prize in a Cracker Jack box. You cherish little diversions like the one at Super Bowl media day on Tuesday when he talked about a hand-held monkey puppet.

For most of us, it was more fun than watching him dolefully deny the involvement of his New England Patriots in the deflation of 11 footballs used in the A.F.C. championship game. But the scandal did allow him to play Mr. Wizard by giving his summary of the effects of climate change on football air pressure.

Melancholy Bill isn’t always present, or so network production crews have found when they meet with him a day or so before each game. At times he can be downright friendly.

“Most people would assume that Belichick would be the worst,” said NBC’s Cris Collinsworth, who will call Sunday’s Super Bowl with Al Michaels. “But in many ways he’s the best.”

The privileged access to Belichick, as well as other coaches and players, derives from the billions that the networks pay to carry N.F.L. games. In these private gatherings, announcers, producers and directors ask coaches about the directions their teams may take and what story lines could be emphasized.

In exchange, they implicitly guarantee that they will not use their knowledge before a play or formation is deployed.

“We saw that pass that Julian Edelman threw in practice,” Collinsworth said, referring to the surprise touchdown pass that Edelman, a receiver, tossed in the Patriots’ divisional playoff game against Baltimore. “But the last thing I’m going to say is, ‘Oh, boy, they like to do this with their receivers.’ So you can’t tip your hand. You only get one chance if you bury these guys.

“What probably helped me most was going to law school,” Collinsworth said, “knowing the obligation of what you can and can’t say, the attorney-client privilege. That’s probably nothing that we take more seriously than that.”

How much the networks learn about strategy or game calling depends on the cooperation of the coaches. Belichick would seem to be a reluctant, difficult, willful subject, Dick Cheney in a hoodie.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, Bill is a 1 sometimes, and a 10 some others,” said Phil Simms, CBS’s lead N.F.L. analyst. “The bigger the game, the better his spirits, friendlier he is and the more he tells you.”

As long as you understand Belichick’s ground rules, he said, the meetings can be illuminating, even fun.

“He won’t tell you his game plan or his injury situation,” Collinsworth said. “But if you want to want to talk about football, he’ll talk to you in a wide-eyed, energetic, enthusiastic way.”

When Belichick met with NBC before the New England-Baltimore game, Belichick gave Collinsworth a mini-tutorial on blocking that was “15 minutes of the most brilliant football stuff you ever want to hear.”

The Seahawks and Patriots and all their fans are preparing for the Super Bowl and The New York Times has you covered. Get a regular digest of news, highlights and context from Times reporters and editors delivered to your inbox.

But Belichick is also likely to tease network personnel or vent about a remark made by an announcer during a game.

“You go into these meetings, you put your reputation on the line,” said Collinsworth, who recalled Belichick castigating him for comments he made about Spygate — when New England clandestinely videotaped the Jets.

Simms has known Belichick since 1979 and has called, with his partner, Jim Nantz, about as many Patriots games as anyone.

“I do find him forthcoming about game plans — not often, but when the situation is right,” he said. “I’ll move around in practice, he’ll walk by and we’ll talk about what will happen in the game and he’s honest in his assessment of the other team. He’ll give credit to them or he’ll say, ‘Come on, Simms, they’re not really good.’ ”

Simms said that one of his strategies — given his film study and knowledge of teams’ offenses and defenses — is to avoid asking Belichick anything about a coming game.

“I’ll ask him about football history,” he said. “I’ll say, ‘Bill, I saw a game on TV and they were playing the single-wing formation and he’ll say, ‘Oh, the single wing was created in 1942,’ and we’ll get into these unbelievable discussions.”

He added: “With all coaches, I don’t ask pertinent questions too often. I’ve gone years without asking Bill a serious football question. I don’t need to.”

Jay Rothman, the producer of ESPN’s “Monday Night Football,” said that Belichick had a comfort level with the network’s analyst, Jon Gruden, a former coach. “He knows he’s talking to one of his own,” Rothman said.

But respect for a fellow coach can advance the relationship between Belichick and ESPN only so far.

“Bill will never give it all up,” he added. “He is very guarded. Some meetings are better than others. He’s cordial. He’s not a monster. He’s got a huge passion for the history of the game. One time, we gave him a ‘Monday Night Football’ game ball that we had for the 40th season. He loved it. It was like I’d given him the Lombardi Trophy.”
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TV Notes
Honeysuckle Weeks Discusses Eighth And Final Season Of 'Foyle's War,' Debuting In U.S. February 2
By Jane Levere, - Jan. 31, 2015

As British mystery series Foyle’s War begins its eighth and final season Monday, February 2, Honeysuckle Weeks, one of its stars, looked back nostalgically this week at her work on it, a period she said took up one-third of her life.

Weeks–who appears in Foyle’s War as Sam Stewart Wainright, the ever-faithful driver/assistant of former detective chief inspector, now senior intelligence officer Christopher Foyle (Michael Kitchen)–said she felt “a mixture of things” at the ending of the series, “quite nostalgic. I’ve spent one-third of my life on it, from 21 to 35. There’s pride, satisfaction. I left it on a high. I’m exceptionally proud to be part of such a well-made show, to be in a production with such a wonderful actor, Michael Kitchen, one of the greatest.”

She said series creator Anthony Horowitz had done a “spectacular job writing me a part that was unique, allowed me to display a range of emotions, be in a variety of situations. This allowed me to leave on a high. I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity.”

Wainright becomes pregnant in the eighth season; Weeks had a son, now three, during the filming of the previous season. Asked how being a mother in real life had affected her portrayal of Wainright, Weeks said, “I look exhausted.”

“Initially my character was a fresh youth, but I’m no longer a fresh youth. I was fresh out of university when the pilot was made in 2001. I had a kind of enthusiasm, naivete. But as the part got bigger, (Horowitz) gave the character a bit more of a dramatic arc, she became a bit more serious character. She can’t be the bumbling innocent she was at the beginning of the series,” Weeks said.

In the first of the eighth season’s three episodes, premiering February 2, in which John Mahoney guest stars, a university professor who had been working as a translator at the Nuremberg trials is stabbed to death. As Foyle investigates, he delves into the world of international oil politics and corrupt Nazi businessmen. Sam assists the murder inquiry by going undercover, despite her pregnancy.

In the second of the three new episodes, airing February 9, as Britain debates the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, the son of a wealthy Jewish businessman is assaulted. The flames of anti-Semitism have recently been fanned in London by Charles Lucas, a right-wing writer, and Foyle suspects the attack was racially motivated.

In the third and final series episode, airing February 16, after an attempt on the life of Hilda Pierce, Foyle’s MI5 boss, he scrutinizes her work for the Special Operations Executive during the war.

“What’s interesting about war is that it throws into relief how difficult it is to make the right moral choice,” Weeks said.

The issues discussed, even in the final episodes, “have relevance today,” she added.

The series, and Weeks’ character, were inspired, in part, by stories Horowitz was told as a child by his nanny, a driver for the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force during World War II. “She regaled me when I was eight or nine with stories about the Blitz. I grew up with World War II in my blood. The character of Sam Stewart (Wainright) is based on my old nanny,” he said.

Although Foyle’s War first aired on PBS in 2002, its eighth season will debut on Acorn TV, a British TV streaming service in North America; Acorn’s owner, RLJ Entertainment, acquired rights to the series in 2010. The eighth season will be released on DVD and Blu-ray in April, and syndicated to public television stations nationwide in May.
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Critic's Notes
“Parenthood” and TV’s Emotion Revolution
By Sarah Larson, New - Jan. 30, 2015

The hour-long NBC drama “Parenthood,” which ended last night after six seasons, was famous for its ability to make us cry—with joy, with sadness, with relief. So much so that last night, when Adam Braverman (Peter Krause) taught some kids at his son’s charter school how to chop onions without crying—Wear onion goggles!—it felt like an in-joke from the showrunner, Jason Katims. Last night, I knew that I was done for when I was moved to watch—not forward through—the opening credits, which were scored to “Forever Young,” by Bob Dylan, a song I find grating. Suddenly it hit me that the series was ending, and I didn’t want it to.

“Parenthood,” an unlikely contemporary update of the 1989 Steve Martin movie, was about the Bravermans, a big Berkeley family: two baby-boomer parents, their four grown kids, and their zillions of grandchildren—almost everybody vaguely liberal and artistic. The movie was a comedy that delighted in goofiness yet had real dramatic pull, and a little bite; the TV show was bighearted and softer around the edges, but daring in its emotional sensitivity, almost to the point of sentimentality. As we expected they would, the zillions of Bravermans got happy endings. (Warning: spoilers galore.) Sarah (Lauren Graham) and Hank (Ray Romano) got married; all of the Bravermans danced together, rather funkily; the young single mom, Amber (Mae Whitman), and her infant moved in with her adoring grandparents; Crosby (Dax Shepard) saved his recording studio, and life’s dream, the Luncheonette. The patriarch, Zeek (Craig T. Nelson), died peacefully, at home, after everything had worked out for his family. In the show’s staggering final sequence, a baseball montage that followed a memorial for Zeek, we saw flash-forwards to the future, even more joyous: Joel (Sam Jaeger) and Julia (Erika Christensen) had four kids, and gave them a golden-retriever puppy at Christmas; Camille went to the café in France that Zeek had dreamed of taking her to; and Amber was married—not to the hunky, troubled father of her son, known to many of us as Luke Cafferty from “Friday Night Lights,” but to Jason Street from “Friday Night Lights.” Onion goggles all around!

Jason Katims also created “Friday Night Lights,” and throughout “Parenthood” ’s run, everybody from Vince Howard to Lyla Garrity to Crucifictorious showed up, quite welcomely. The two shows shared a soul, if not an aesthetic. Part of the pleasure of “Friday Night Lights” was its empathetic portrayal of a crowd you don’t always see on television: West Texas high-school football players, mostly white, many black, often proudly Christian, and their parents, coaches, and teachers. If they won a big game, they had a parade; the meddlesome local used-car dealer played a big role. Poverty and missing parents did, too, and the football coach and his wife seemed to care for the whole town. “Parenthood,” set in Berkeley, in a whiter, more affluent, more suburban world, looked more like dozens of other American TV shows. But both shows were groundbreaking in their emotional realism and power.

In her recent Times Magazine article “TV’s New Girls’ Club,” Lili Loofbourow wrote about several shows, created mostly by women, like “Transparent” and “Orange Is the New Black,” that defy the “glib bleakness” in “Sopranos”- and “Mad Men”-style programming, and which “mark the dawn of promiscuous protagonism: a style of television that, rather than relying on the perspective of one (usually twisted) character, adopts a wild, roving narrative sympathy.” “Parenthood,” a network show about family life, has often been overlooked in conversations about so-called prestige television, and it’s not a member of the girls’ club, but it, too, exhibits promiscuous protagonism and roving narrative sympathy. It was brave in its foregrounding of emotional honesty and its resistance of melodramatic story lines. Mae Whitman, the best crier of her generation, played Amber, who made plenty of mistakes—falling for her cousin’s ex-boyfriend, messing up the college process, getting pregnant under the wrong circumstances—and always kept our sympathy and trust. (And she made us cry. With Whitman, it’s not just her tears, it’s everything around the tears—the helplessness, the love, the honesty. Watch her cry about a kitten, at age seven, in the not-great 1996 Clooney-Pfeiffer rom-com “One Fine Day,” and you’ll see what I mean.) Even at her most lost, Whitman’s Amber was never an out-of-control cliché. You trusted the show to avoid cliché. If Crosby got mad and rode his motorcycle fast, in the rain, he fell off and hurt himself, but just a little—he didn’t end up in a coma.

Even characters who could be difficult—stubborn, old-school Zeek; blunt Max, who has Asperger’s; proud, protective Kristina, who ranged from wonderful to aggressive; Crosby’s somewhat judgmental mother-in-law—were portrayed lovingly and with respect. Most people were shown to be trying their best, which, as we all know, leaves plenty of room for drama and conflict. Like a Horton Foote play, “Parenthood” found drama in realism—feelings, life and death, the desire to be an artist or to run for office, the desire for one’s kids to be healthy and happy, the best way to be a parent to help achieve that.

Such work, on television, tends to be admired by critics and by small, fervent audiences. Emily Nussbaum, in her 2012 review, mentioned that the acclaimed shows in the orbit of Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick, who created “thirtysomething” and produced “My So-Called Life,” where Katims had his first writing job, were always on the verge of cancellation. That would also describe “Parks and Recreation” and “Freaks and Geeks,” shows with different tones and different teams, but which also portrayed their characters with empathy, amusing or agonizing you while doing it. Shows like this reward sensitivity, and don’t provide much in the way of Mob hits or meth labs. Consequently, they tend to have to fear for their lives, and anything beyond a season or two causes amazement. “Parks and Recreation” ’s co-creator Mike Schur once said that the show’s writers had to write a series finale every season, because they never knew their fate. “Parenthood” had a similar trajectory; and because emotional resolution was at their core, Katims and co. created big, satisfying season finales, year after year.

Of course, there could be yelling. “Oh, God, Sarah, there’s so much yelling,” Zeek said to his daughter, after retreating from the dining-room table, in last week’s episode. It was as if, after six seasons, he’d had somehow heard what I’d been thinking. If I were a Braverman, I’d go to every family party, I’d appreciate the hell out of everybody, and I’d take plenty of restorative time-outs. The Bravermans could go from calm to yelling in a matter of seconds, clusters of anger and words fogging up the scene, your sanity fogging up with it. The tendency to indulge this was my chief complaint about the show, which seemed almost charmed by its characters’ occasional inability to listen or have patience, and it threatened our ability to do the same. The everybody-yell scene was the equivalent of a Sorkin walk-and-talk, a somewhat proud display of dramatic verbal excitement.

But it showed parenthood, the institution, to be the crucible in which adults were transformed. Its challenges and rewards and the sanity it brought about made the yelling and misunderstanding stop. Other shows, and life, sometimes feature uninvolved parents, selfish parents, bad parents. “Parenthood,” for the most part, did not. Amber and Drew’s dad wasn’t great—loving but inconsistent, often drunk—and the show’s time line began when Sarah and the kids moved home to get away from him. Crosby fell in love with his young son, Jabbar (Tyree Brown), when he met him, and quickly wanted to be a good father. Amber’s former fiancée, a struggling Army veteran with addiction problems, was left behind to cope on his own, away from their baby. The Bravermans always put parenting first. The show’s presentation of the fantasy of near-universal good parenting, or the will to attempt it, felt like a justifiable choice because the challenges and struggles within that were so painful and real. Even when the show wobbled a bit, as with a story line involving trouble in Joel and Julia’s marriage that didn’t always make sense, it always righted itself and kept your faith. Just when you thought you’d had it, there’d be a scene of unexpected reconciliation, or a connection between a parent and a child, or loving wisdom and advice, and you’d cry cry cry, and remember what it’s like to feel fully human. “Parenthood” was so lovable that everything it did wrong felt like an exasperating yet predictable outrage—in other words, it felt like family.
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TV Sports/Business Notes
Super Bowl wasn't always the audience magnet it is now
By Stephen Battaglio, Los Angeles Times' 'Company Town' Blog - Jan. 31, 2015

NBC sports executive Dick Ebersol was unhappy about the matchup for Super Bowl XLIII in 2009.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were always a desirable draw. But the Arizona Cardinals? The franchise had a long history of futility in the NFL, and some embarrassing losses in the regular season.

Veteran sportscaster Al Michaels said he tried to allay Ebersol's concerns of a ratings dive: "Dick, do you think that anybody in America wakes up on Super Bowl Sunday and says to his wife — 'The Arizona Cardinals are in the Super Bowl, let's go to the movies today,'" he said. "It just doesn't happen."

The Steelers' 27-23 victory in the final minute was watched by 98.7 million viewers, the second consecutive year that the Super Bowl's audience hit a new high. That record has since been broken four more times, with last year's Seattle Seahawks' 43-8 rout of the Denver Broncos the most-watched television event in history with 112.2 million viewers.

No matter who plays or how lopsided the score is, the Super Bowl is the only television event considered bulletproof for the three networks that take turns carrying the game: NBC, CBS and Fox. Even the Oscar telecast has down years.

Tuning into the perennially No.1-rated TV event of the year is no longer just about football. It's a way for Americans to be part of a national conversation, whether it's about the puppy in the Budweiser commercials or debating Katy Perry's performance at Sunday'shalftime show.

Social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook have increased interest in the broadcast, which draws non-football fans and casual viewers in front of giant flat-screen televisions across the country. The Super Bowl is growing at a time when the proliferation of viewing choices and the ability to watch shows on demand are making mass audiences scarce.

Since 2003, the Super Bowl audience has risen 30%, far outpacing the increase in the number of the nation's TV households. Women made up 47% of the audience last year compared with 35% during regular-season NFL games.

The price of commercials on the broadcast continues to climb while overall TV advertising revenue growth is stagnating. NBC said Sunday's game is sold out, with advertisers paying a record $4.5 million for a 30-second spot — topping the $4 million that Fox commanded last year.

Many advertisers make their commercials available for viewing before their Sunday TV debut, and YouTube said this year's entrants have already been streamed online 80 million times — 75% more than last year.

"You're extending the exposure of your spot long before and after the game," CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus said. "That would have been unheard-of 15 years ago."

The overall popularity of the NFL has also helped.

Higher-quality picture on HDTV sets and technical improvements to the broadcasts have made live sports, especially the NFL, a hot TV ticket. Fantasy leagues keep fans tuned in during blowouts. Even live televised coverage of the NFL draft hit a new high, with 12.4 million viewers watching the first round last year.

It's hard to remember a time when the Super Bowl was not the indomitable TV spectacle it has become. But there was a wake-up call in 1992 that helped lay the groundwork.

Fox was still an upstart network at the time. It had been programming prime time for only a few years and did not yet have the rights to NFL games. The Super Bowl rotated between the old-guard Big Three broadcast networks: ABC, CBS and NBC.

"In Living Color" was one of Fox's hottest Sunday night shows in those early years. Fox executives decided to use the sketch comedy series that featured Jim Carrey and Keenan Ivory Wayans to yank ratings away from that year's Super Bowl broadcast on CBS. Their way in was the halftime show, considered the soft underbelly of the broadcast.

None of the major professional sports leagues was savvy about contemporary pop culture at the time. While a generation of TV viewers grew up watching music videos, the Super Bowl halftime still included such acts as Up With People, the squeaky-clean vocal group that first came to prominence as an establishment answer to the counterculture youth movements of the 1960s.

"The halftime show was considered one long bathroom break," said Sandy Grushow, who was marketing chief for Fox at the time. "It seemed to us an opportunity to speak to a massive audience with something that was far more compelling."

It was easy for Fox to establish itself as an alternative that day. The halftime entertainment planned for Super Bowl XXVI in Minneapolis was a musical performance set on stages shaped like giant snowflakes and featured Olympic ice skaters Dorothy Hamill and Brian Boitano. "It was called 'Winter Magic,' " Grushow recalled. "It tells you everything you need to know."

Fox relentlessly promoted the "In Living Color" stunt with on-air spots that showed an off-key, inept marching band falling over.

The show's cast was signaled to go on from Hollywood right after the whistle blew to end the first half. Fox had a digital countdown clock ticking off in the corner of the screen, letting football fans who switched over know exactly when the game resumed.

The effect showed up in the Nielsen data that came out the next morning. "In Living Color" scored 25 million viewers while the viewing level for the CBS telecast took a pronounced dip. The Super Bowl drew a still potent 40.3% of U.S. TV households and reached 79.6 million viewers. But it was the second-lowest rating for the game in 22 years and ranked below that year's Academy Awards telecast.

The NFL reacted decisively the following year: Michael Jackson headlined the halftime show at the Rose Bowl produced by Radio City Music Hall. Even though the King of Pop had been a megastar for years, the NBC Sports press department found itself fielding reporter queries about his provocative dance moves.

But Jackson delivered. NBC's Super Bowl ratings were up 12%, and a new bar was set for Super Bowl halftime talent. The biggest stars in every popular music genre have been featured in the shows ever since (Bruce Springsteen, U2, Madonna, Beyonce and the FCC fine-worthy performance of Janet Jackson).

"The ratings do not go down during the halftime of the Super Bowl, which is unheard-of at a sporting event," McManus said, who credited Jackson's appearance with changing the dynamic.

Sportscaster Michaels said: "We all know if you have 100 people at a party, 20 or 30 of them are not going to be watching the game. But then at halftime they'll come in and watch the entertainment."

The performance by Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers last year drew 115.3 million viewers, outperforming the rest of the game.

Now that Fox is a broadcast partner with the NFL, none of the networks puts up much of a fight against the Super Bowl. Doing so would work against them because CBS, NBC and Fox have to sell ads based on the previous year's numbers.

ABC dropped out of the rotation when its NFL "Monday Night Football" package went to ESPN. But since both networks are part of the Disney family, ABC has no incentive to rock the boat.

There are attempts by smaller channels to go after the audience that has absolutely no interest in the game. Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl draws more viewers each year, but hasn't cut into the NFL's turf.

And Super Bowl XLIX might lure even more viewers thanks to some controversy.

The run-up to the game between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks includes allegations that the Patriots' used underinflated footballs in their victory over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game.

Discussion of how the team's footballs were handled has been gold for late-night comedy hosts and morning show banterers. It's likely to be buzzed about at Super Bowl parties.

"This won't diminish interest in the game to any degree," Michaels said. "If anything, there might even be more interest."[/QUOTE]
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Business/Washington Notes
Online Political Ads Have Been Slow to Catch On as TV Reigns
By Derek Willis, The New York Times' 'The Upshot' Blog - Jan. 30, 2015

After being hit with a television advertisement attacking his position on women’s issues, Mike Coffman, a Colorado Republican running for re-election in 2014 to the House of Representatives, did the natural thing: His campaign responded with an ad of its own.

But its first response did not appear on TV screens. Instead, the campaign used an online video ad aimed at the likely audience of the original ad from Andrew Romanoff, Mr. Coffman’s Democratic opponent. Choosing digital ads was a way to avoid spending large sums of money on a TV commercial in the expensive Denver media market. It had the added advantage of focusing on the people who might have seen the first ad and spent more time online. But it was also something of a calculated risk in a competitive political environment where organizations talk a lot about digital campaigns but still spend the bulk of their funds on television. (Mr. Coffman ended up winning his race by nine points.)

“It changes the way you think about ad strategy,” Tyler Sandberg, Mr. Coffman’s campaign manager, said of the option to use targeted online ads. “You have six different screens that are up in a room sometimes. You need to rethink about where the digital audience is.”

But the strategy has been slow to catch on. The question is how many candidates will follow Mr. Coffman’s lead and feel confident to opt for spending more on online ads and less on television. For digital companies like Targeted Victory, which was paid $340,000 by the campaign for digital and television work from August to November, the answer is important, too.

For all of the advances in the use of data and digital tools, broadcast advertising still claims the largest share of campaign budgets. Digital advertising is still a work in progress, especially at the level of House races and further down the ballot. Targeting voters with online ads is difficult, messy work, even under ideal circumstances. It can be easier to accomplish in statewide or national campaigns, where building a large enough audience is less of a problem.

“It’s never quite as smooth or seamless as it sounds,” said Zac Moffatt, a co-founder of Targeted Victory. But like a lot of other data-intensive campaign tasks, such as matching absentee ballots to a campaign’s email list, it has improved over time. That message is echoed by other digital advertising professionals: The technology to make it happen is available, but the process is not perfect.

Here is how it worked in the Coffman-Romanoff contest: Targeted Victory bought television set-top box data from Rentrak, a company that collects viewership information from more than 31 million televisions in the United States. That is obviously not even a majority of TVs, but it is more than enough to help define and target specific audiences. The use of Rentrak is not particularly new; the 2012 Obama campaign made a big splash in political advertising by using it to target its advertising buys.

The Rentrak data and details on broadcast television buys from reports filed with the Federal Communications Commission can help define the likely audience. Then Targeted Victory seeks to match potential audience members using cookies from voters’ web browsing, in a way that anonymizes personal information for the campaign. Again, there is some messiness in this process: It is hard to match individuals or households based on cookies, so the resulting audience is typically smaller than the original television one. But it is then possible to deliver online ads to that audience, even if there is no guarantee that the specific person a campaign wants to see the ad is the one using the computer when it runs.

A look at campaign spending data reveals that most competitive House races are not emphasizing that kind of spending.

It is hard to find evidence of a shift from broadcast spending to digital in the 10 most highly contested House races in 2014. Spending that clearly went toward digital efforts (sometimes it is hard to tell) accounted for a small portion of the money spent by candidates, even in the Coffman-Romanoff race.

Candidates in those 10 most competitive races spent more than $34 million on television and radio advertisements and production, according to Federal Election Commission data. They spent less on digital efforts (about $1.1 million) than they did on direct mail or polling.

This shows a reluctance on the part of campaigns and consultants to move away from television, and uncertainty about the effectiveness and accuracy of online targeting.

But congressional races often cross media market boundaries, and media campaigns can involve reaching tens of thousands of voters rather than hundreds of thousands. The process of matching offline data and online data is hard enough, and toward the end of a campaign, pre-roll ad inventory — those ads that run before a video begins — can become harder to find, several digital political consultants said.

Television is not always much better and can be much less efficient, although technology can help with that problem, too. But it provides reach to a mass audience, which campaigns like, and it is straightforward. The problem for campaigns, and for advertisers working in other industries, is that fewer people are watching live television, and for those who do, there are many more choices of networks and programs. And the consumption of media on phones, tablets and other devices is increasing.

“Digital is going to get more pervasive,” said Ray Kingman, the chief executive of Semcasting, a company that matches voters not with cookies but with neighborhoods. “Maybe these campaigns are getting a little more sophisticated in the sense of knowing what to ask for.”
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