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TV Review
USA's new 'Dig' is a crazy mess
By Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's 'Tune In' Blog - Mar. 5, 2015

Attempt to dig into USA's "Dig" (10 tonight) and it might feel like you've hit impenetrable rock. It's one crazy mess of a TV "event series" that doesn't make much effort to clarify what it's about in the early going, plopping viewers into two concurrent plots that will presumably intersect at some point.

Story one follows FBI agent Peter Connelly (Jason Isaacs), who's stationed in Jerusalem, estranged from his wife back in America and sleeping with his boss (Anne Heche). Peter is tasked with recovering an international fugitive, Yussef Khalid (Omar Metwally), but Peter butts heads with an Israeli police detective (Ori Pfeffer) who's also after Khalid.

Peter, smarter than everyone else around him (of course!), is also on the receiving end of disapproving glares from the U.S. ambassador to Israel (Regina Taylor, "I'll Fly Away") because he likes to go rogue (like all law enforcement heroes on TV do!).

In tonight's 90-minute premiere, Peter also gets caught up in events surrounding an American archaeologist, Emma Wilson (Alison Sudol), who works in a secret archaeological dig beneath Jerusalem.

The Peter story is the more conventional thriller plot that brings to mind a gloss on "24" or "Homeland" ("Dig" was co-created by Gideon Raff, an executive producer on "Homeland," and Tim Kring of "Heroes.") The other, crazier conspiracy plot is even more credulity-straining.

The story begins in Norway as a group of Orthodox Jews tend to the birth of a red heifer, a possible sign of the apocalypse. Then the story jumps to a compound in New Mexico where evangelist Tad Billingham (David Costabile, "Breaking Bad") menacingly leads his flock, including dedicated-but-questioning Debbie (Lauren Ambrose, "Six Feet Under") and 13-year-old Josh (Zen McGrath), who is being held to rigorous standards (his feet are never allowed to touch the ground).

"Ours is a God of miracles, and you, son, are a miracle," Tad tells Josh, who creepily quotes scripture back to Tad before the boy is forced to slaughter a calf.

Maybe it's just burnout from one too many "DaVinci Code"-esque conspiracy thrillers, but the crazy religious zealots plot is both eye-rolling and tired. Coupled with the police chases, this event series is less something to "Dig" and more a rehash of stories previously dug up.
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TV Review
'American Crime': A downbeat but powerful drama, as timely as tomorrow's news
By Kristi Turnquist, The Oregonian - Mar. 4, 2015

If you want to be reassured that all's right with the world, there are plenty of TV shows you can watch. But if you're willing to go along on a dark, downbeat journey that speaks to what's broken in contemporary American society, "American Crime" is the series you've been waiting for.

Which isn't to say it's easy viewing, for anybody. The brainchild of John Ridley, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of "12 Years a Slave," "American Crime" is resolutely grim. Pretty much everyone involved in, or touched by, the crime that sets the story in motion has made mistakes. Nobody is noble. One person's conviction that they're doing the right thing looks to somebody else like prejudice, intolerance or lack of understanding.

Ridley understands that everyone has their reasons, and that their self-justifications can be tragically short-sighted, misguided or dangerous.

The limited-run, 11-episode series begins with the report of a home invasion, in Modesto, California. Dead at the scene is Matt Skokie, an Iraq War vet. His wife, Gwen, has been assaulted, and is in a coma.

But rather than tell the story of the investigation from the cops' point of view, Ridley goes deep into the perspectives of those who are affected by, and implicated in, the crime.

All the players in the "American Crime" drama are flawed. Matt's bereaved parents, Russ (Timothy Hutton) and Barb (Felicity Huffman) got divorced years ago, after Russ' gambling addiction left the family in ruins. Barb remains bitter about struggling to raise their two sons on her own as a low-income single mother. And when she hears that the police have a Hispanic suspect, Barb's first response is to assume he's "an illegal."

While Gwen lies in a coma at the hospital, her parents, Tom (W. Earl Brown) and Eve (Penelope Ann Miller), try to inflict their religious beliefs on Russ and Barb.

The police, meanwhile, bring in four suspects: Tony Gutierrez (Johnny Ortiz), a teen-age boy who made a stupid mistake, and was rebelling against his father, Alonzo's (Benito Martinez) strict discipline and stay-away-from-gangs-and-drugs rule-making; Hector Tontz (Richard Cabral), an undocumented Mexican immigrant who was using the dead man's credit card; dead Matt's credit card; and Carter Nix (Elvis Nolasco) and Aubry Taylor (Caitlin Gerard), a pair of meth addicts who may be involved.

At times, it feels like Ridley has drawn up a scorecard of Today's Divisive Issues, and crossed them off, as characters argue about bigotry, drug addiction, immigration, Muslim and Christian faith, racial profiling and more.

But when Ridley's narrative threatens to get too heavy-handed, the individual struggles and tragedies of the characters keep the story grounded. Especially affecting, for different reasons, are Huffman's Barb, who falls back on resentment and racial prejudice as a way of trying to understand what happened; and Martinez's Alonzo, whose heartache at seeing his family torn apart is shattering.

On one level, they're symbols. But on another, they're people, divided by their differences, and united by pain.

"American Crime"
Premieres at 10 p.m. Thursday, March 5 on ABC (2)
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TV Review
Ellie Kemper finds the joy in Tina Fey's dark, funny 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt'
Made for NBC, debuting on Netflix, it makes 'The Office' alum a star
By Alan Sepinwall, - Mar. 5, 2015

Early in the first episode of "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," the title character, played by Ellie Kemper, smiles as she explores New York City for the first time. It is among the biggest, widest, happiest smiles I have ever witnessed, on screen or in real life, Kemper opening her mouth so widely that you can practically count all her teeth.

It is a smile that holds nothing back, and it's emblematic of the rest of "The Office" alum's performance. Whatever Kemper is asked to do by "Kimmy Schmidt" creators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, she commits to fully, like a scene at a club where she hurls her body across the dance floor with abandon. It is a great, overjoyed lead performance, and I can't imagine this show working at all — even on Netflix which scooped up the 13-episode first season (all episodes will be released after midnight Pacific tonight) after NBC decided it was too weird to air — with anything less than the energy level Kemper brings.

With her, though, it's terrific: a comedy so funny and silly and brimming with unexpected jokes that after an episode and a half, I stopped taking notes altogether because I wanted nothing to distract me from the experience of it.

Before Kimmy came to New York, you see, she spent 15 years trapped in an underground bunker run by a cult leader who convinced Kimmy and the other three women inside that the world above had been destroyed. She was in the eighth grade when she was abducted, and as she admits to her new roommate Titus Andromeddon (Tituss Burgess), "Yes, there was weird sex stuff in the bunker." Finally rescued (and dubbed one of the "Indiana mole women" by the news media), she decides to start her life over in New York.

This is an incredibly dark, sad backstory to hand a sitcom character. The show doesn't exactly use Kimmy's ordeal as its primary subject, but nor does it hide from it, either; to survive in the big city, she often flashes back on lessons learned in the bunker, like her belief that you can stand any bit of suffering if you view it as a bunch of 10-second increments all in a row. Without Kemper's irrepressible sunniness, Kimmy's origin would probably too much to allow the show to function even as a black comedy.

With her open, giddy presence, though, the series is a showcase for the kind of quick, absurdist writing that Fey and Carlock did so well for years on "30 Rock." It's at once a twisted parody of every "plucky single gal in the big city" story ever told, and an often hilarious version of the real thing.

In short order, the pilot episode gives her a roommate in the theatrical Titus (Burgess had a recurring role on "30 Rock" as Angie Jordan's sidekick D'Fwan), a kooky landlady in Lillian (played by Carol Kane, who somehow never appeared on "30 Rock" despite her acting style being a perfect fit for Fey and Carlock's sensibilities) and a boss in unhappy trophy wife Jacqueline Vorhees (Jane Krakowski, playing to her strengths, even if Jacqueline's not a huge leap from Jenna Maroney), who needs Kimmy to play nanny to the kids she'd rather not deal with. (When her son complains about his birthday party, she tells him, "Actually, Buckley, this isn't your worst birthday ever. Your worst birthday ever was when you busted my genitals.")

It's a pretty small cast (Buckley all but vanishes after the second episode, which seems like a wise move), and that allows the focus to remain on the title character and the off-kilter way she views the world. She's not only missed 15 years of current events and changes in technology and popular culture, but grew from girl to woman in extreme, isolated circumstances. She's not quite Unfrozen Cavewoman Nanny, but our modern world both confuses and delights her — "Titus!" she announces during the club scene, "Dancing is about butts now!" — and the fact that she's thrown in her lot with a group of exaggerated characters like Titus (Burgess and Kemper are a terrific study in contrasts both physically and in demeanor, yet it makes sense that they so quickly become friends) and Jacqueline only enhances that sense of displacement.

There are some bumps and inevitable growing pains in the six episodes Netflix made available to critics, just as there are in most young comedies. ("30 Rock" didn't really turn into the show we know and love until around the half-dozen mark.) But they establish two things: 1)This is by far funnier than any of NBC's current or upcoming sitcoms (especially with "Parks and Rec" retired), and 2)It's so idiosyncratic, and with such a potentially off-putting backstory (a friend I watched a few episodes with laughed a lot, then said she'd rather not keep going because the compound flashbacks made her sad), almost surely would have been canceled in a season, if not within a few weeks, if the network had actually gone ahead with airing it. NBC has no comedy brand at the moment and minimal ability to launch half-hours, so this becomes a strange win-win: Netflix ordered a second season as part of the deal, which means NBC gets to own a show that it would have otherwise killed, and Fey and Carlock get to keep making it without the pressure of trying to succeed where the likes of "Bad Judge" and "A to Z" failed.

As good as this version of "Kimmy Schmidt" is, I'm actually more eager to see the second season, which won't be produced with a broadcast network timeslot in mind. These episodes suggest an even darker, weirder show lurking just under the surface of this one, which NBC standards and practices never would have allowed, but which I suspect Fey and Carlock could pull off, given the bright, endearing and extremely funny star they've placed at the center of things.
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TV Notes
On The Air Tonight
THURSDAY 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 - Grey's Anatomy
9PM - Scandal
10PM - American Crime (Series Premiere)
* * * *
11:35AM - Jimmy Kimmel Live! (Naomi Watts; Carly Rae Jepsen performs)
12:37AM - Nightline

8PM - The Big Bang Theory
8:30PM - The Odd Couple
9PM - The Big Bang Theory
(R - Dec. 11)
9:30PM - Mom
10PM - Elementary
* * *
11:35PM - Late Show with David Letterman (Will Smith; Grizfolk performs)
(R - Feb. 18)
12:37AM - The Late Late Show (Drew Carey guest hosts; Jane Lynch; biologist Dan Riskin; magician Ed Alonzo)

8PM - The Slap
9PM - The Blacklist
10PM - Allegiance
* * * *
11:34AM - The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (Hugh Jackman; Tiffani Thiessen; Hozier performs)
12:36AM - Late Night with Seth Myers (Jada Pinkett Smith; Ginnifer Goodwin; Robert Smigel; Kate Pierson sits-in with The 8G Band)
1:37AM - Last Call with Carson Daly (Freddie Highmore; Caribou performs; singer-songwriter Alison Sudol)

8PM - American Idol (LIVE)
9PM - Backstrom

(check your local listing for starting time/programming)
8PM - The 'This Old House' Hour (R - Feb. 5)
9PM - The Great British Baking Show: Final
(R - Oct. 8)
10PM - Antiques Roadshow: Des Moines
(R - Feb. 14, 2011)

8PM - Mi Corazón Es Tuyo
9PM - Hasta El Fin del Mundo
10PM - Que Te Perdone Dios... Yo No

8PM - The Vampire Diaries
(R - Jan. 29)
9PM - Supernatural
(R - Feb. 3)

8PM - Los Miserables
9PM - Tierra de Reyes
10PM - Dueños del Paraíso

11PM - The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (Author Gerald Posner)
11:31PM - The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore
12:01AM - At Midnight (Trevor Moore; Heather Anne Campbell; Nick Thune)

11PM - Conan (Adam Sandler; Jonathan Banks; music duo Broods)
(R - Dec. 1)
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TV Notes/Profile
James Corden on Taking Over ‘The Late Late Show’ and Winning Over America
By Debra Birnbaum, - Mar. 3, 2015

James Corden is nervous.

The launch of his “Late Late Show” on CBS is just weeks away, and he’s questioning everything. The set. The logo. His wardrobe. Himself.

“There’s good nerves and there’s bad nerves,” he says. “It’s good nerves that spur you on, and bad nerves that debilitate you. If I can find the good nerves, I’ll be very grateful.”

The 36-year-old British comedian knows he’s facing an uphill battle to win over American audiences — make that even introduce himself to them. He may have nearly 5 million Twitter followers, but as he is quick to point out, “They’re all back in the U.K.”

He also has to win over celebrities — and more crucially, publicists, so that he can land key bookings for his couch. Despite his many talents, he’s never hosted a talkshow of this scale before, so reps are understandably skittish, wary of potential snark.

“I don’t know if I’m making a huge mistake,” Corden admits. “But I’d rather regret doing something than not doing something. I think we have a real shot at enjoying ourselves for a bit, which is ultimately all you ever really want, isn’t it?”

With all the changes in latenight TV during the past 16 months, there’s still plenty of room for a new voice in the wee hours. The challenge for Corden will be finding his.

The “Late Late Show” team in recent weeks has ventured out into the Grove shopping center across the street from his studio at CBS’ Television City to work out some field pieces in preparation for the March 23 premiere. “James is new to L.A., so he has to meet his neighbors,” explains Nick Bernstein, the CBS latenight programming executive working with Corden’s team.

The pudgy star decides to play up his anonymity, and his naturally self-deprecating wit, by asking people, “What do you think of the new host, James Corden?” One woman says she doesn’t like the man, so he pushes her on her reasons: “Is it because he cut his long hair? Is it because he’s so thin?” “Yes, he looks like he’s wasting away,” she replies. Suddenly suspicious, she asks, “He’s not behind me, is he?” With a wink to the camera, Corden says, “No, we would never do that to you.”

Indeed, Corden is barreling onto the scene at a time of unprecedented upheaval in latenight. Jay Leno is gone. Jimmy Fallon is killing it. David Letterman and Jon Stewart are preparing for their final bows. Stephen Colbert has retired his faux-right-wing persona and is preparing to unveil an entirely new animal — himself — in the fall, while Jimmy Kimmel and Conan O’Brien redouble their efforts to woo new viewers. Larry Wilmore is still in his first inning. John Oliver has impressed by taking the form in a different, substantive direction on HBO. And Chelsea Handler promises to break the mold next year with her show for Netflix.

In the post-Johnny Carson era, the ups and downs of the latenight TV arena command outsized attention in pop culture, given the overall size of the audience in the day*part. According to Nielsen, the latenight shows airing in the 11 p.m.-2 a.m. frame are averaging a total of about 12.1 million viewers, led by “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon,” with an average of 3.7 million viewers for the season to date. Time-shifted viewing is expanding that audience, but not at the same rate as it is growing viewership of primetime shows.

Success in latenight is a lucrative proposition for major networks. The shows are typically less expensive to produce than most primetime series — although Fallon’s “Tonight Show” is fortified with a hefty budget that is the envy of his rivals — and when a show clicks, its tenure is usually measured in decades, not season to season. According to Kantar Media, advertisers spent $1.9 billion in the 11 p.m.-1 a.m. daypart from January to September of last year, including $422 million on the four broadcast networks and $1.4 billion across dozens of cable nets.

Having a strong presence in the daypart is one of the key elements that feeds into a network brand — just ask Fox, which has struggled through its nearly 30-year existence to crack the code (and recover from the Joan Rivers and Chevy Chase debacles).

“There’s a unique connection between viewers and hosts in this time period,” says Rick Ludwin, the former NBC exec who steered the net’s latenight efforts for more than 20 years. Some of it has to do with the fact that viewers tend to watch as they’re winding down the day, and some of it comes from the Monday-Friday frequency, just as it is with network morning shows. Whatever the reason, the relationship is powerful and undeniable, says Ludwin, who helped Leno through his rocky first years on “The Tonight Show,” and did the same with O’Brien, Fallon and Seth Meyers, among others.

“It’s a more personal experience for people than they have even with their favorite primetime shows,” says Ludwin. “People connect with these hosts, and they almost become a member of the family. If someone announces they’re leaving, it becomes a personal matter.”

Building that relationship with viewers is the highest hurdle for Corden, who comes to the “Late Late Show” with virtually no name recognition over the vast expanse of America. When CBS announced in September that Corden would be taking over for Craig Ferguson at 12:35 a.m., you could hear the resounding “Who?”

“It’s madness, really. When I got the job, I’d never even been on an American talkshow,” Corden says. “It’s a bold choice. A really bold choice.”

Corden, who grew up in Buckinghamshire, began his career with small TV roles as well as stage work in “The History Boys,” then shot to fame as the co-creator, writer and star of the hit Brit sitcom “Gavin & Stacey.” It was his role in the play “One Man, Two Guvnors” that attracted international attention, especially once the show transferred to Broadway — and he won the Tony in 2012. Since then, he’s added a bit more Hollywood buzz with his star turn alongside Meryl Streep in “Into the Woods.”

CBS honchos Leslie Moonves and Nina Tassler had been casting a wide net for Ferguson’s replacement. Corden went in pitching a sitcom — and ultimately walked out with the latenight gig.

“I just could not stop laughing.” recalls Tassler. “His wit and sense of timing are impeccable; his charisma is undeniable.”

Tassler did a deeper dive into Corden’s background, and was won over by his gig hosting “A League of Their Own,” a British gameshow with rotating panelists.

When she told him she was considering him as Ferguson’s replacement, he was stunned, telling her, “I would swim across the Atlantic Ocean and walk across the United States barefoot on broken glass to get this job.”

His first call — other than to his wife of 2½ years, Julia — was to his producing partner, Ben Winston. They’d met back when they were teenagers, and Winston was a PA on a show in which Corden had a small part. They’ve teamed up on countless projects since, including the Brit Awards and “James Corden’s World Cup Live.” But they knew they needed someone with latenight credentials, and so they lured Rob Crabbe away from the “Tonight Show” to join them as exec producer.

There’s no question Corden has talent to spare: He can sing. He can dance. And he’s got an infectious laugh that makes it impossible not to smile in his presence.

But there’s one thing he’s not, which has pretty much been a prerequisite for anyone aspiring to a latenight job: “I never will be a standup comedian,” he says. “It’s just not in my skill set.”

Which is why he, along with Winston and Crabbe, have been tinkering with every part of the latenight format; they want to play to his strengths.

“We’d be fools if we said that we’re going to just dynamite the entire idea of that format, but we also don’t want to marry ourselves to it,” Crabbe says.

As they consider every aspect of the show — “Is this the best use of our time? Is this the best use of me?” asks Corden, again and again — the word experiment comes up a lot.

Where the experimenting starts is with their choice of band leader: Reggie Watts (IFC’s “Comedy Bang! Bang!”), a musician and comedian known for his off-the-cuff improvisations, musical and otherwise (cue monster headaches for the clearance team). You’re never sure what you’re going to get with him — and that was the appeal for the “Late Late Show” team.

“He was on a list of one,” Corden says. “I just couldn’t get it out my head that this wasn’t the best idea for our show.”

Similarly, the structure of the program itself, which will air four nights a week (with reruns on Fridays), isn’t going to be traditional — starting with the monologue, or lack thereof.

Yes, Corden will greet the audience and say something funny — but producers aren’t planning a lineup of 20 jokes in classic latenight fashion.

“James is not going to be able to go out and do six minutes on Isis,” Crabbe says. “I just don’t think that’s going to be his style.”

The goal is to get to the guests faster. There’s a debate with CBS over how long the first act will be. If the producers get their way, the guests will be coming out in the initial part of the program — all at once. They’re modeling the show on Graham Norton’s U.K. series, in which all the stars come out at the same time and chat together on the couch.

But booking guests, the “Late Late” team admits, has been a challenge. “The hardest struggle is trying to convince people that this is a place where no one is ever going to be the butt of the joke,” Corden says. “All we want is our guests to shine, because if the guests shine, the show shines. If the show shines, then I shine.”

That said, thanks to booker Sheila Rogers, Corden did land an impressive lineup for his first week, including inaugural guest Tom Hanks, as well as Kerry Washington, Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart.

Getting top talent was the reason producers decided the show needed to be in L.A., which meant they all had to move their families here — including Watts, who pulled up stakes in Brooklyn. The team did a reality check concerning where they sat vs. the competition in New York and L.A.: They could be sixth rung in Gotham, behind Fallon, Letterman, Meyers, Colbert, etc. — or third on the left coast, behind Kimmel and Conan. It was an easy call: “We’ll take third,” says Corden.

What happens once everyone is settled comfortably on the “Late Late Show” couch is anyone’s guess. “We’re not just going to sit and talk to our guests,” Bernstein says. “But the great thing about James is he can do it all. If he wants to do some fun game with all of his guests, he can. And if he wants to sit and have an in-depth conversation with someone, he can do that, too.”

Corden points to a story that was in the news that day of a dog that walked 20 blocks to find its owner in the hospital.

“That’s the single greatest news story I have ever heard,” he says. “Maybe it’s our job as people go to sleep, to (feel) it could be better, but it could be a lot worse. Nothing would make me happier than just to have one person in one living room get me and get the show. It wouldn’t be enough for Les (Moonves), but it would be enough for me.”

Corden and Co. are inheriting a timeslot where Ferguson was consistently third to Meyers and “Nightline,” in both total viewers and the key 18-49 demo.

“The ratings are going to be what they are,” says Bernstein. “The most important things are getting people to sample the show, and continuing to make the shows better as they go on.”

Corden says CBS has been supportive, without setting any rating benchmarks to meet. “Of course, if I had my way, I would give anything to have the budget of ‘The Tonight Show,’ ” he says. “And it will be a constant frustration that we don’t.”

Even more critical to “Late Late’s” success will be timing. While the March 23 launch will attract a fair share of buzz, Corden and his team admit that the show won’t immediately find its feet. “It’s like eating a souffle after it’s been in the oven for 10 minutes,” he says. “These things are going to take time to rise.”

Their plan is to keep experimenting — there’s that word again — post-launch and beyond.

Says Winston, “If we come to a place in three months’ time, and we’re like, ‘act one looks like this, act two looks like that, act three looks like this,’ I think we would have wasted the opportunity of having real experimental fun at 12:30, which is what this show should be.”

Letterman’s send-off at the end of May will certainly bring another round of attention — followed by a long summer run without a lead-in. The “Late Late” team sees the show’s true launch as September, when it gets a crucial hand-off from Colbert at 11:35 p.m.

Despite the hyper-competitive climate, the producers don’t consider the other talkshow hosts as rivals: “Our competition is people choosing to fall asleep,” Corden jokes.

The fraternity of latenight hosts has reached out to Corden to offer support: A night out with Fallon. Dinner with Meyers. Texts from Colbert. A call from Leno.

The Scottish-born Ferguson phoned as well, to say, “There are only two people in the world who know what it’s like to come from a tiny island, move to Los Angeles and host a late-night talkshow,” recounts Corden, adding that Ferguson said it would be remiss of him not to offer his advice.

They all offered the same bit of wisdom: Be yourself. That’s terrifying, he admits, “because I’ve never been open.”

There’s one name missing from the list of well-wishers: Letterman.

Talking to Regis Philbin, who was filling in as a guest host on the “Late Late Show” during the Ferguson-Corden transition, Letterman last month criticized the Brit for not starting earlier. “Where’s the tubby kid who’s taking over the show?” he asked Philbin. “How bad does he want to do a show?” (Sources insist Letterman was joking.)

“I think he was just messing around,” Corden says. “I don’t fancy our chances of starting with a staff of four, including the host, on a set that doesn’t exist. I think he’s bright enough to never say it seriously, because to say it seriously would be absurd.”

Letterman may have been ribbing the new guy, but the issue of the workload in latenight is no laughing matter, industry vets say.

“The work ethic of the host is every bit as important as how funny they are,” Ludwin says. “If the show is not the first thing you think of in the morning and the last thing you think of at night, you’re not going to be successful. The audience has come to expect more than ever. You need to give up part of your personal life.”

Corden’s family has already made sacrifices, although his wife is hoping his new day job eventually will provide some stability compared with the itinerant life of an actor. Once the CBS deal was done, Julia gamely packed up the couple’s two young children — including a newborn — and relocated to L.A. Her perspective was that she’d finally get to see her husband on nights and weekends. As she put it, “That’s just not been our life for quite a while.”

Ever grateful, Corden is trying to take it all in stride, whatever the outcome.

“I just know that this is a moment in my life,” he says. “Good or bad, it is a moment. ‘Do you remember that time we moved to Los Angeles and I tried to host a latenight talkshow?’ ‘Oh yeah, that was ropy, but it was a fun ride.’ ”

Cynthia Littleton contributed to this report.
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TV Notes
Oprah Winfrey's Chicago studio, former home of her talk show, to be shut down
By Denis Slattery, New York Daily News - Mar. 4, 2015

Maybe they’ll rename the street “Oprah Winfrey Went Away.”

Winfrey plans to shutter the Chicago studio where she filmed “The Oprah Winfrey Show” for more than 20 years, Harpo Studios and the Oprah Winfrey Network said Tuesday.

OWN recently moved into a new studio in West Hollywood, Calif., and nearly 200 employees at the Chicago site will be out of work by the end of the year.

City officials named the street outside Harpo Studios “Oprah Winfrey Way” in 2011.

The four-building property, in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood, was sold to developer Sterling Bay Cos. last year for about $32 million.

Winfrey, 61, said in a statement Tuesday that Chicago had been a “blessing” in her life, but she’s now “looking ahead” to her new digs in California.
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TV Notes
6 Ways a TV Binge Affects Your Body, and How to Fight Each One
By Amanda MacMillan,

The third season of House of Cards just dropped on Netflix, which means all 13 episodes—each about 50 minutes long—are ready and waiting for you to devour. Fan of the show? Well, we have an idea what you’ll be doing this weekend (sitting on your couch, engrossed). And you probably won’t be alone: According to a 2014 poll by research firm Miner & Co Studio, 70% of U.S. television watchers self-identified as binge-viewers.

But before you settle in for a delightfully dark weekend with the Underwoods, let’s talk about what a TV binge can do to your body. You know that a habit of sitting for prolonged periods has been linked to everything from obesity to early death, but you may wonder: What harm can one or two lazy days really do?

Well, let’s just say there are some good reasons to try to split up your TV or movie binge.

“Even one long television session can certainly cause some immediate side effects,” says John P. Higgins, MD, associate professor of cardiology at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and a certified personal trainer. “And the more you do it, the more you’ll be at risk for longer-term problems.”

Here are all the ways your body is affected while you binge-watch, plus how to fight each one.

Your appetite

Watching television often goes hand in hand with mindless overeating and unhealthy snacking, Dr. Higgins says, and watching episode after episode can make that worse. “You probably don’t want to stop for an hour to cook yourself a healthy meal, so you order pizza or fast food, or you snack on junk food the whole time.” And if you think that one bad-for-you dinner can’t hurt, think again: A 2012 study from the University of Montreal found that a single meal high in saturated fat can can damage arteries and restrict blood flow in the body. Furthermore, watching high-paced, action-oriented programs also triggers more distracted eating than less stimulating news or talk shows, according to a 2014 study by Cornell University.

Simply seeing characters eat on TV may make you consume more calories, Dr. Higgins adds, just as watching them drink alcohol may trigger you to crave a cocktail, or seeing them smoke (ahem, Frank and Claire) may tempt smokers to light up.

Fight it: Prep healthy food in advance
Make a healthy meal before you indulge in one (or more) episodes, and have pre-portioned healthy snacks (think popcorn or almonds) at the ready.

Your muscles

It’s unlikely that you’ll gain five pounds or sabotage your fitness goals in one sitting, but spending all day on your butt can have more immediate consequences, including stiffness, back pain, and muscle cramps.

Fight it: Watch on the go
Download the Netflix app, so you can watch from your phone or tablet on the treadmill, stationary bike, or—Frank’s personal favorite—the rowing machine. At the very least, you should take a stand and stretch break between each episode.

Your mood

A recent study by University of Texas at Austin researchers found that binge-watching is linked with feelings of depression and loneliness. People often try to lose themselves in TV to distract themselves from their negative feelings, the authors say, but often they’re unable to stop—even when they know they are neglecting work and relationships. Spending a whole weekend watching TV may also cause feelings regret and guilt, says psychiatrist Grant Brenner, MD, adjunct assistant clinical professor at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, but those are usually temporary.

For viewers with pre-existing mental health conditions, however, a binge session may have bigger consequences. “Perhaps they’re in a vulnerable state and the material triggers a negative reaction—such as activating trauma or amplifying irrational beliefs of some sort,” Dr. Brenner says.

Speaking of trauma, House of Cards has some dark subject matter. “Being exposed to any sufficiently intense or resonant emotionally-laden experience can potentially affect a person’s disposition and outlook,” Dr. Brenner adds, at least for a few days.

Fight it: Watch with friends
You need to talk to someone about Frank and Claire, and why that thing that was so crazy was just. so. crazy!

Your sleep

And not just the sleep you lose by watching straight through the night (you probably already know you shouldn’t do that); it’s possible that your shut-eye schedule in the days after your binge session could be affected as well, Dr. Higgins says. “If you watch in a dark room with a lack of sunlight it can screw up your circadian rhythm and disrupt sleep-wake cycles.” On top of that, research suggests that the blue light emitted from televisions, computers, and smartphones can impair the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps promote sleep. (Not to mention, it can cause headaches and eye strain.)

Fight it: Avoid a binge that’s too close to bedtime
You need at least an hour away from the blue light to appropriately wind down. Also: watching on a screen that’s close to your face may have the biggest impact, so be sure you really “sit back” and relax.

Your circulation

Staying in one position for too long can contribute to deep vein thrombosis and the formation of potentially fatal blood clots, even in otherwise active individuals. “I’ve seen young healthy people who have been laying around all day surfing the web or watching movies get blood clots,” Dr. Higgins says. “When you’re watching TV, you may be moving your hands a bit but usually your feet are just laying there.”

Fight it: Get up at least every 30 minutes
“It’s another important reason to get up every 30 minutes or so, even if it’s just to stand and pump the calves and keep the blood flowing,” Dr. Higgins says.

Your metabolism

Studies show that spending long periods of time in a chair or on a couch do slow metabolism and cause the body to store more fat, which can lead to a slow, steady weight gain. Plus, you’ve heard it before, but it’s worth repeating: prolonged sitting has been linked to certain cancers, diabetes, disability, and heart disease—and the more time people spend watching TV, the more likely they are to die prematurely. In many cases, these associations hold true even if you’re getting the recommended amount of exercise during the day.

Fight it: Don’t make it a habit
Thankfully, it’s not every week that Netflix releases an addicting show.

The bottom line

There are ways to make the occasional marathon TV session healthier. “If you decide you’re going to watch five episodes in one day rather than one episodes every night of the week—and you use that hour each night to work out when wouldn’t otherwise—you can treat a weekend binge as a reward,” Dr. Higgins says.

Brenner agrees. “For a lot of folks, binge-watching might be a form of relaxing ‘stay-cation,’ especially if it is viewed as a valuable recreational experience and not as an excessive indulgence,” he says. “As with most things, moderation is the key to avoiding problems.”
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TV Sports/Business Notes
M.L.S. and Union Reach Deal Giving Free Agency to Veterans
By Richard Sandomir, The New York Times - Mar. 5, 2015

Major League Soccer agreed to a five-year collective bargaining agreement with its players union Wednesday that gives veteran players a measure of free agency for the first time. The agreement in principle, reached two days before the start of the league’s 20th season, prevented the first work stoppage in M.L.S. history.

Free agency is a victory for the players, who had pledged to reject any agreement that did not include it, but it will come with significant caveats: Players will need to be at least 28 and have eight years of experience in the league to be eligible, and there will be a cap on their raises if they move on, according to an executive familiar with the terms of the deal.

As a limited form of free agency, the system will let players move without multiple teams bidding for them.

But the league protected itself from salary inflation with age limits that seriously limit the number of players who qualify for free agency, and with the caps on free agents’ raises. In some cases, those will max out at 20 percent of a player’s previous salary.

The league’s minimum salary, another point of contention, will be increased more than 60 percent, to $60,000 from $36,500, and the league’s salary cap is expected to rise modestly. The current system bound players to their clubs even after their contracts expired or they left the league.

“The players were very focused on having more freedom of movement and we’ve been able to provide that,” Commissioner Don Garber said. “Everyone wins. Our owners are able to protect their system and players are able to achieve more movement.”

The deal suggests that the league and its owner-investors decided that substantial changes were necessary to save, at the very least, the start of the new season. Two new expansion teams, Orlando City S.C. and New York City F.C., will make their league debuts Sunday night in a nationally televised game on ESPN2 in front of more than 60,000 fans at the sold-out Citrus Bowl.

Under the old system, players with expired contracts were allowed to be redrafted by other M.L.S. teams, but only at their current salaries and with no say about which team they would be assigned to. The league, which says it is losing $100 million a year, has argued that it needed to control player movement, and salaries, to keep costs down.

But players were aware that more money is flowing into the league from new television deals with Fox, ESPN and Univision that are worth $90 million a year (a portion of which will go to U.S. Soccer). The league also is expected to announce several new corporate sponsorships; one of the new deals, with Audi, leaked out Wednesday during the final stages of talks, surely an uncomfortable moment for league negotiators.
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TV Notes
Door may open for Brian Williams if former NBC News exec Andrew Lack returns
By Stephen Battaglio, Los Angeles Times' 'Company Town' Blog - Mar. 3, 2015

Embattled NBC News anchor Brian Williams has a potential lifeline in Andrew Lack's expected return to NBC News.

Lack is in advanced negotiations to take the top news post at the network, where he worked from 1993 to 2001, according to NBC executives not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. He would replace current NBCUniversal News Group Chairman Pat Fili-Krushel, who is set to take another corporate role, the executives said.

Several TV news executives who worked under Lack's previous tenure at the network say Lack's becoming the new head of the news group provides a path for Williams to return from his six-month suspension. Lack was responsible for grooming Williams to take over the anchor chair on "NBC Nightly News" from Tom Brokaw.

I'll make a prediction. Not only will Williams come back to Nightly News, I'll predict his return will be sooner than 6 months.
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WEDNESDAY'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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Nielsen Overnights (18-59)
You guessed it, another record for ‘Empire’
Fox juggernaut grows to a series-high 5.7 in 18-49s in ninth episode
By Toni Fitzgerald, Media Life Magazine - Mar. 5, 2015

“Empire” continues to be the most impressive show on broadcast in years, hitting a new series high in its ninth episode last night.

The Fox drama posted a 5.7 adults 18-49 rating at 9 p.m., according to Nielsen overnights, up 6 percent from last week.

That was the best rating for any broadcast drama since the series finale of “Lost” on ABC in May 2010.

It also drew a series-best 14.2 million total viewers.

Since the series premiere, “Empire” has grown 50 percent in 18-49s, better than any broadcast show since 2004’s “House.”

“Empire” was easily the highest-rated show of the night and led Fox to another Wednesday night victory.

Elsewhere on broadcast, CBS’s new drama “CSI: Cyber” debuted well, winning its 10 p.m. timeslot with a 1.8 in 18-49s and holding nearly all of lead-in “Criminal Minds’” 1.9.

It also drew 10.2 million total viewers and topped “CSI’s” ratings in the hour the same night last year in every demo.

ABC’s comedies continued their strong performances. “The Middle” grew 10 percent from last week, to a 2.2, while “The Goldbergs” tied last week’s season high with a 2.5, its second-best rating ever.

“Modern Family” was the night’s No. 2 show behind “Empire” with a 3.4, even to last week, while “black-ish” climbed to its best rating in three months.

Fox was first for the night among 18-49s with a 3.9 average overnight rating and a 12 share. ABC was second at 2.2/7, CBS third at 2.0/6, NBC fourth at 1.8/5, Univision fifth at 1.2/4, Telemundo sixth at 0.6/2, and CW seventh at 0.4/1.

As a reminder, all ratings are based on live-plus-same-day DVR playback, which includes shows replayed before 3 a.m. the night before. Seven-day DVR data won’t be available for several weeks. Forty-nine percent of Nielsen households have DVRs.

ABC began the night in the lead with a 2.4 at 8 p.m. for “Middle” (2.2) and “Goldbergs” (2.5), followed by CBS with a 2.3 for “Survivor.” Fox and NBC tied for third at 2.1, Fox for “American Idol” and NBC for a “best-of” episode of “The Voice.” Univision was fifth with a 1.3 for “Mi Corazon es Tuyo,” Telemundo sixth with a 0.6 for “Los Miserables,” and CW seventh with a 0.6 for a repeat of “Arrow.”

At 9 p.m. Fox jumped to the lead with the 5.7 for “Empire,” while ABC was second with a 2.8 for “Family” (3.4) and “black-ish” (2.3). NBC was third with a 2.1 for more “Voice,” CBS fourth with a 1.9 for “Criminal Minds,” Univision fifth with a 1.2 for “Hasta el Fin del Mundo,” Telemundo sixth with a 0.6 for “Tierra de Reyes,” and CW seventh with a 0.5 for “The 100.”

CBS took the lead at 10 p.m. with a 1.8 for “CSI: Cyber,” with ABC second with a 1.4 for “Nashville.” NBC was third with a 1.1 for a repeat of “Chicago P.D.,” Univision fourth with a 1.0 for “Que te Perdone Dios” and Telemundo fifth with a 0.6 for “Dueños del Paraiso.”

Fox also finished first for the night among households with a 7.0 average overnight rating and an 11 share. CBS was second at 6.2/10, NBC third at 4.5/7, ABC fourth at 4.4/7, Univision fifth at 1.6/3, CW sixth at 0.9/1, and Telemundo seventh at 0.8/1.

* * * *

TV/Nielsen Notes
For ‘The Odd Couple,’ a good fit
The new CBS comedy held up well in its second week
By Louisa Ada Seltzer, Media Life Magazine - Mar. 5, 2015

It’s possible “The Odd Couple” might finally be the show that keeps Matthew Perry back on television.

“Couple,” which airs tonight at 8:30 p.m. on CBS, held up well in its second episode last week, posting a strong 2.8 adults 18-49 rating, according to Nielsen.

That was down just 10 percent from the previous week’s debut, a very good retention rate.

Of course, “Couple” benefits from having CBS smash hit “The Big Bang Theory” as a lead-in. But that could still result in a renewal, which would be a big deal for Perry.

The former “Friends” star has been trying to find the right show since his NBC sitcom ended 11 years ago.

He returned to TV two years after “Friends” with “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” which started with promise but fizzled out quickly. He then starred in the ABC sitcom “Mr. Sunshine” and the NBC comedy “Go On.” Both lasted just one season, despite decent reviews.

So it would be an amusing turn if “Couple,” which has received the worst reviews of any of his broadcast shows, would be the one that finally sticks.

Perry plays the slovenly Oscar in the reboot of the famed 1970 TV show.
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TV Notes
‘The Expendables’ Event Series In Works At Fox With Sylvester Stallone Producing
By Nellie Andreeva, - Mar. 5, 2015

EXCLUSIVE: TV action stars are getting The Expendables treatment as Sylvester Stallone’s hit feature franchise is heading to television. Fox is developing The Expendables, an event series based on the movies, with the franchise’s writer and star Stallone executive producing alongside the films’ producer Avi Lerner.

Writing/executive producing the TV adaptation are feature writing duo Greg Coolidge (Ride Along) & Kirk Ward and NCIS: LA executive producer/showrunner Shane Brennan. It is described as a fun action drama that unites iconic TV stars as a new team of highly-skilled heroes who are on a mission to stop a dangerous terrorist. The project hails from Lionsgate TV, whose feature sibling distributes The Expendables movies, and CBS TV Studios, where Brennan is under an overall deal. Also executive producing the potential event series, for which Fox has ordered a script, is Kevin King, long-time executive at Stallone’s Rogue Marble production company.

There is no cast attached or approached yet but the producers have plenty of beloved TV action stars to choose from: Walker Texas Ranger‘s Chuck Norris, who already is part of The Expendables feature franchise, 24‘s Kiefer Sutherland, Magnum P.I.’s Tom Selleck, Xena‘s Lucy Lawless, Quantum Leap‘s Scott Bakula, Alias‘ Jennifer Garner, A-Team‘s Mr. T and Strike Back‘s Sullivan Stapleton and Philip Winchester, just to name a few.

The Expendables is among the movie titles in the Lionsgate library that the company had been eying to mine for television for some time, with the idea for a potential Expendables series first floated back in 2012.

The first three movies in The Expendables franchisee have grossed almost $800 million in the worldwide boxoffice. A fourth and fifth installment as well as a female offshoot The Expendabelles are in various stages of development.

Coolidge & Ward, repped by Paradigm and managed by Jay Froberg of ROAR, were recently tapped to script Roadrunner, an action comedy that has Scott Eastwood and Trace Adkins attached to star.

NCIS veteran Brennan, repped by Paradigm and attorney Kevin Kelly, joined the mothership series the beginning of Season 4 in 2006, taking the reins as showrunner the following season. He created spinoff NCIS: LA and ran both series for two years before focusing his attention solely on NCIS: LA.
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[QUOTE=dad1153;32344945]TV Sports/Business Notes
M.L.S. and Union Reach Deal Giving Free Agency to Veterans
By Richard Sandomir, The New York Times - Mar. 5, 2015

Sure glad they got that resolved. The twelve people that watch MLS would have really been upset if the had gone off the air.
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