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HDTV Programming

fredfa's Avatar fredfa
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A good image of you on your birthday, Dave.

Hope you had a happy one.
DoubleDAZ's Avatar DoubleDAZ
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Thanks, Fred. I had a very nice day with my wife, one daughter, and grand-daughter. It will be even better next year when I'm finally retired and trying to figure out just what I want to do first.
fredfa's Avatar fredfa
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Critic’s Notes
The week ahead:
Julianna Margulies returns to series television; "Gilmore Girls" creator has a new show on Fox
By Hal Boedeker, Orlando Sentinel Television Critic, in his “TV Guy” blog, Mar 9, 2008
(Note: All times are Eastern)

The country's most popular series returns to two times a week, down from three times. If that's not enough "American Idol," you will get two hours at 8 p.m. Tuesday as the Top 12 perform.

The ejection comes at 9 p.m. Wednesday. Note the later time. Heed this warning: That episode will last an hour, and you know how "Idol" likes to drag out the farewell announcement. You could feel like singing the blues after that hour. (This scheduling means the awful "Moment of Truth" shifts to 8 p.m. Wednesdays. Blech.)

Fox is making the most news this week by bringing back old favorites. Julianna Margulies, beloved for her "ER" work, plays an ethics-bending lawyer in "Canterbury's Law." The show, which debuts at 8 p.m. Monday, follows the "House" setup of making the main character a brilliant jerk. The show suffers for the far-fetched ways it pushes Elizabeth Canterbury (Margulies) to get her way, no matter what. But Margulies remains compelling. She gives the show a chance.

Fox also has lined up the new show from "Gilmore Girls" creator Amy Sherman-Palladino. "The Return of Jezebel James" concerns estranged sisters and a bargain they strike. They are played by Parker Posey and Lauren Ambrose, who are usually wonderful. They don't stand a chance this time. With "Jezebel James," the irritations outweigh the charms. (On "Gilmore Girls," the reverse was true.) Fox hasn't exactly given the show a vote of confidence with its time slot. You'll see back-to-back episodes at 8 p.m. Friday. Sayonara, sisters.

There's a lot more reality in store this week:

ABC's "The Bachelor: Where Are They Now?" is a special promising to update you on previous participants on the show. You'll see more of Andrew Firestone, Aaron Buerge, and spouses Trista and Ryan Sutter at 8 p.m. Monday.

The CW's "Beauty and the Geek" starts a new season at 8 p.m. Tuesday. Here's a prediction: It will be crushed by "American Idol," which is airing in the same slot.

"Gene Simmons Family Jewels" also starts a new season. You can catch back-to-back episodes at 10 p.m. Tuesday on A&E.

"Top Chef: Chicago" debuts at 10 p.m. Wednesday on Bravo. By the way, Bravo trumpets that "Top Chef" is "the No. 1 food show on cable." Nice, but I miss Julia Child.

"Who Knew? With Marshall Brain" is a National Geographic Channel series that explains how things are made. The three-episode series debuts at 8 p.m. Thursday. The first installment looks golf balls, speedboats and fireworks.

On the scripted front, the animated "Lil' Bush" starts another season at 10:30 p.m. Thursday on Comedy Central. Kevin Federline supplies the voice of Karl Rove -- I am not kidding.

Monday marks the end of the road for ABC's low-rated "October Road." Two episodes air from 9 to 11 p.m. And that will be it for this soapy drama. I'll look forward to the next work by Laura Prepon, who was delightful on "That '70s Show."
fredfa's Avatar fredfa
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TV Notes
Leno, O'Brien lead falling field
Audiences drifting from post-primetime TV
By Rick Kissell, Variety, March 9, 2008

Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien remained the latenight heavyweights in February, although auds continue to drift away from all post-primetime broadcast offerings.

Year-to-year comparisons for the latenight shows on ABC, CBS and NBC weren't pretty in the sweep, although ABC's "Nightline" -- which was unaffected by the writers strike -- held up better than the others.

According to Nielsen estimates for the February sweep (Jan. 31-Feb. 27), NBC's "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" topped CBS' "Late Show With David Letterman" by 29% among adult 18-49 viewers (1.95 million to 1.51 million) and by 34% in total viewers (5.15m vs. 3.83m), with Leno down year-to-year in the demo by 23% year-to-year and Letterman off by 22%.

Sweep included some writerless hours of "Tonight Show," whose scribes returned in early February following the resolution of the Writers Guild strike. "Late Show" had its writers intact throughout the month.

In the 12:35 a.m. battle, meanwhile, victory again went to NBC's "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" over CBS' "Late, Late Show With Craig Ferguson," with the Peacock skein winning by 43% in 18-49 viewers (1.05 million vs. 736,000) and by 13% in total viewers (1.98 million vs. 1.76m). Both shows were down by 26% in the demo year-to-year.

Leno has won every sweeps month in the 18-49 category for the past 12 years, while O'Brien's undefeated streak now tops 13 years.

At ABC, 11:35 a.m. entry "Nightline" averaged 1.65 million viewers in its target 25-54 demo (down 9% year to year) and 3.36 million viewers overall (down 11%). And the net's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" was off by 25% vs. February 2007 in 18-49 viewers (726,000 vs. 970,000) and by 16% in total viewers (1.64 million vs. 1.96m).

At least part of the audience declines in latenight can be attributed to the increased penetration of digital video recorders, with Nielsen's national sample of homes with DVRs hitting 23% in February, compared with 13% at this time a year ago. As a result, more viewers are opting to play back primetime shows after 11 p.m. -- a trend that picked up speed last fall, before the writers strike.

The latenight shows also could have been hampered in February by significantly lower numbers for the networks in primetime. Due to fewer scripted shows, ABC, CBS and NBC were all down by double-digit percentages, with the Peacock holding up a little better than its rivals.

NBC's Leno and O'Brien also have opened up bigger advantages over their CBS rivals since the end of the writers strike in early February. Again, a likely contributing factor is that NBC won the 10:30 half-hour in February, while CBS had won in the fall.

For the first two full weeks since the end of the work stoppage, Leno has won the adults 18-49 category by a 50% margin over Letterman (2.01 million to 1.34 million), up from his 36% advantage for the six weeks prior to the strike last fall (2.05m to 1.51m). And the lead in total viewers has gone from 32% last fall (5.03 million vs. 3.80 million) to 49% for the first two full post-strike weeks last month (5.24m vs. 3.51m).

At 12:35 a.m., O'Brien's advantage over Ferguson in 18-49 was 61% in the first two full weeks after the strike (1.06 million vs. 656,000), up from 48% for the six weeks prior to the work stoppage (1.13 million vs. 762,000). In total viewers, though, O'Brien's advantage has stayed at about 18%.
fredfa's Avatar fredfa
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TV Notes
TNT’s Dramatic Play
Network Raises Ante To Three Nights Of Original Fare
By Linda Moss, Multichannel News, 3/9/2008

Building on the success of its signature hit The Closer, TNT is expanding its program lineup to include three solid nights a week of scripted and unscripted original fare by 2010, officials said last week.

In pursuit of that goal — an all-original primetime from Monday through Wednesday — TNT unveiled a development slate of 14 series. Two of them — Raising the Bar, from producer Steven Bochco, and Leverage — have already been given the green light and are slated to debut later this year.

TNT's roster includes projects from marquee Hollywood talent such as Robert Redford, Ridley Scott, Mark Burnett and Mark Wolper. In addition to scripted shows, the network that uses the slogan “We Know Drama” is also developing six unscripted series.

“We were pursuing this [nonfiction] long before the [Writers Guild of America] strike,” said Michael Wright, senior vice president in charge of the Content Creation Group for TNT, TBS and TCM. “The fact is, it's become a very popular form of storytelling. … The task for us is to do it in a way that is consistent with our brand.”

Last week, Turner Broadcasting System — whose stable includes not only TNT, but TBS and TruTV — also unveiled plans to hold its upfront presentation during the same week as the broadcast networks for the first time ever. The three Turner networks will present their new programming slates May 14.

But TNT's strategy — to schedule three nights of original programming — is the most ambitious.

“It's going to be a combination of scripted and unscripted,” Wright said. “Any given night of the week, some will be premieres and some will be encores. It will not necessarily be three nights a week, three hours a night, of all first-run programming.”

TNT will continue to air National Basketball Association games on Thursday nights, while theatricals will fill Fridays and weekends.

Wright credited TNT's success with The Closer, cable's top-rated series of all time, and with Saving Grace, for raising the network's stature in the Hollywood creative community, generating a flood of projects.

“We've gone from a shop where we had to literally go around town, hat in hand, asking studios and agents to please take us seriously, to now I don't think it's a boast to say people are excited to come work here,” Wright said. “The very highest end of the business – show runners, directors, actors, studios and agents — take us very seriously.”

Raising the Bar is a show about lawyers that will premiere in the late summer, while Leverage, starring Timothy Hutton as a modern-day Robin Hood, is slated to bow in the fourth quarter. TNT is also developing Generations, a drama from executive producer Redford and writer/executive director John Sacret Young.

On the unscripted front, TNT is looking at shows that involve crime and punishment and mystery solving; aspirational reality shows; and programs that depict interesting people and places.

For example, reality-TV king Burnett's Wedding Day involves making a bride's wedding dreams come true. And The Greatest Show on Earth has viewers travel on the mile-long train that transports the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

TBS's plans include ordering two late-night pilots — including an updated version of Match Game — as well as having three other late-night shows in development.

“We see late-night as a real growth opportunity,” Wright said.

While he said Comedy Central and MTV have “sort of cornered the market” on “snarky” shows aimed at young men, TBS is looking to offer “feel-good” comedy for the late-20s, date-night movie audience.
VisionOn's Avatar VisionOn
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Originally Posted by fredfa View Post

TV Notes
TNT's Dramatic Play
Network Raises Ante To Three Nights Of Original Fare
By Linda Moss, Multichannel News, 3/9/2008

For example, reality-TV king Burnett's Wedding Day involves making a bride's wedding dreams come true. And The Greatest Show on Earth has viewers travel on the mile-long train that transports the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.


They'll have to change their slogan now from "We Know Drama" to "We've Seen What Every Other Channel Is Showing and We Want to be Exactly The Same."
fredfa's Avatar fredfa
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TV Notes
Speed Gets Wrecked' in Quest for New Viewers
By Jon Lafayette, Television Week, March 9, 2008

Fueled on the weekends by NASCAR programming, Speed is changing gears on weeknights.
Rather than featuring racing, the cable network's newest show focuses on the sometimes risky life at a family-owned tow truck company in Chicago.

The network's strategy is to air what it calls automotive lifestyle programming in prime time.
The Fox-owned cable network is betting Wrecked will do for it what Deadliest Catch does for Discovery.

Speed plans to air 10 one-hour episodes of Wrecked, shot in high definition, beginning in July.
When Fox acquired control of Speed in 2002, the network took on part of the company's NASCAR package and showed racing seven nights a week, said Robert Ecker, VP of programming for Speed.

The NASCAR connection helped the network add distribution; it's now available in more than 78 million homes. But Speed's racing programming on weeknights stalled.

It didn't work. It didn't resonate, Mr. Ecker said.

Viewership for Speed was down slightly last year in prime time and over the entire programming day. In prime time, the network was mostly flat in key demographics. That led Speed executives to start to develop automotive lifestyle programming.

We have discovered over the course of time that while there are race fans, there are also people that have a love affair with the automobiles but are not necessarily interested in racing, he said.

Shows about automotive culture are all over the dial, from Pimp My Ride on MTV to Monster Garage on Discovery. In addition to the allure of motoring content for American viewers, automotive is television's largest advertising category. So shows about cars stand a good chance of finding sponsors.

Most of Speed's original programming still has an element of racing, even if it doesn't deal directly with NASCAR or other motor events.

In Pinks, competitors race each other for registration slips, while on the network's nightly game show Pass Time, contestants try to guess how fast a car will do the quarter-mile.

But the network is trying to show a broader range of programming.

Mr. Ecker said Drag Race High, which challenges shop classes at rival Tennessee high schools to build a dragster, is as much about racing as Friday Night Lights is about football.
And Living the Low Life, hosted by model Vida Guerra, is a show about low-rider auto culture. Another show, Super Cars Exposed, takes expensive cars and exposes them to the elements to see what they will do.

Wrecked, however, is the network's most ambitious and expensive programming effort to date, Mr. Ecker said.

Rising programming costs have kept Speed's cash flow flat at about $60 million since 2004, which is very low for a network of its size, said Derek Baine, senior analyst at SNL Kagan Research. Kagan estimates Speed's gross ad revenues will rise to $106 million in 2008 from $95 million last year.

Mr. Ecker said Speed is betting Wrecked has varied appealing aspects that should attract viewers and generate return on investment.

For one thing, people have an interest in big rigs, and Chicago O'Hare Towing & Recovery uses huge, expensive pieces of machinery. And like the high-rated Deadliest Catch, which follows crab fisherman in the Bering Sea, it's a show about an occupation that's more dangerous than most people realize, particularly during a Chicago winter.

I'm told the incidence of mortality is higher than [for] policemen and firemen, Mr. Ecker said. The network said about 100 tow-truck drivers lose their lives on the job every year.

The show plays up the human element, showing drivers waiting in a firehouse-like environment for emergency calls. The family that owns the towing company, headed by Bill Gratzianna and his wife, adds another personal dimension. Their parents are in the business and Bill's brother is married to Bill's wife's sister. The relatives own a competing firm, so sparks should fly.

Speed said it generally seeks between $6,000 and $10,000 for a 30-second spot in high-profile prime-time shows.

Beyond the interest automotive advertisers may have in the content, other sponsors may take note, Mr. Ecker said.

Since the drivers may be on call 24 hours a day during stormy weather, beer and liquor probably won't be a part of the show. But the crew drinks a lot of coffee and eats a lot of doughnuts, Mr. Ecker said.
fredfa's Avatar fredfa
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TV Notes
Time Change Boggles Cable
The New York Times, March 10, 2008

For more than a million Time Warner Cable customers in New York, it was as if daylight saving time never happened.

After setting their clocks forward an hour as they were supposed to, some people awoke Sunday morning to find that many of their cable television programs seemed to be running an hour behind schedule, at least according to the onscreen guide.

“It’s affecting a lot of people,” said a Time Warner customer service representative when queried by phone. “It’s all over the city — Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx.”

The source of the problem, she said, was related to the set-top boxes, which unscramble the signals transmitted over cable. Some of the boxes were somehow askew, thrown by the adjustment to the new time, through human error, technical failure or gremlins yet to be identified.

Programs were not appearing in accordance with the onscreen guide, and people were calling in — some angry, but most just confused.

A Time Warner spokesman, Alex Dudley, said he could confirm only that the outages affected “at least a million people in Brooklyn and Queens,” with no evidence of trouble elsewhere.
dad1153's Avatar dad1153
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^^^ That happened to me but l caught it early on (basically as it happened) because I was up at 2AM Saturday night/Sunday morning watching movies. Solution? Before going to work the next morning I moved all my Sunday shows ("Cops" on G4/TrueTV, "McLaughling Group"/"Chris Matthews"/"Meet the Press" on NBC, "Match Game" and "Let's Make A Deal" on GSN, etc.) back an hour on time slots that had the names of the previous hour's shows. By 1PM ET everything was back to normal but unfortunately I missed my beloved "What's My Line?/I've Got A Secret" Black & White Overnight combo from GSN that Saturday night. Oh well, that's TWC for ya!
DrLar's Avatar DrLar
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Anyone knows when Jimmy Kimmel Live will be in HD? if they want to raise the ratings a bit they should (one of the reasons I switch channels).

Has anyone done some research about HD shows that get better ratings because of it Vs. SD shows?
dad1153's Avatar dad1153
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Originally Posted by DrLar View Post

Anyone knows when Jimmy Kimmel Live will be in HD? if they want to raise the ratings a bit they should (one of the reasons I switch channels).

I'm not sure the sight of a shirtless Guillermo (or Kimmel f***ing Ben Affleck) in high-def will do wonders for Jimmy's ratings (actually quite the opposite might happen ).
rebkell's Avatar rebkell
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Originally Posted by VisionOn View Post


They'll have to change their slogan now from "We Know Drama" to "We've Seen What Every Other Channel Is Showing and We Want to be Exactly The Same."

Yep, that sums up my feelings pretty well also. Just what I've always wanted, more reality tv.
fredfa's Avatar fredfa
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Sunday’s metered market over night prime-time ratings – along with Media Week Analyst Marc Berman’s view of what they mean -- have been posted at the top of Ratings News -- the second post in this thread.
fredfa's Avatar fredfa
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TV Notes
Showtime will have last 'Word'
By Kimberly Nordyke, The Hollywood Reporter, March 10, 2008

"The L Word" is set to take its final bow.

Showtime has renewed the drama for a sixth and final season, which will make it one of the premium network's longest-running series. Eight episodes have been ordered, targeted to go into production in early summer for an early 2009 premiere.

While past seasons generally have consisted of 12-13 episodes each, Showtime executives and series creator/executive producer Ilene Chaiken believed that eight additional episodes were creatively what was needed to wrap up the story lines.

The cast is in negotiations to return for the sixth season.

"L Word" follows a group of Los Angeles-based friends as they navigate careers, families, friendships, personal struggles and romantic relationships. The series became the first lesbian primetime drama on television when it debuted in January 2004.

But Showtime president of entertainment Robert Greenblatt said "L Word" has "surpassed its niche as a gay show."

"The title of the show became part of the lexicon, and the breadth and reach of the characters and story lines are a testament to the talent of Ilene Chaiken and her incredible cast," he said.

Showtime chairman and CEO Matthew Blank added that "L Word" has been an "important franchise" for the network, saying it will "live on in many, many ways."

Chaiken, who created the series with Kathy Greenberg and Michele Abbott, echoed those thoughts, noting that the show's interactive extensions will continue.

"This is by no means the end of 'The L Word,' " she said. "The brand and the social network community,, will continue to live and be a destination for lesbians everywhere and a lasting tribute to what 'The L Word' has accomplished."

She added that fan input will play a part in wrapping up the series' story lines, noting the role that viewer input has played in the past.

"L Word," which received a GLAAD Award for best drama series, also has a big following in virtual world Second Life and has spawned such branded products as perfume, jewelry and books. The Season 5 finale is set to air March 23.
fredfa's Avatar fredfa
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TV Notes
Monday Night’s Original Episodes
(Aside from prime-time network programs, this is an eclectic and highly personal sampling of what is available)
(HD Shows in red)

Canterbury’s Law Fox(Season Premiere)
The Bachelor: Where Are They Now? ABC
My Dad Is Better Than Your Dad NBC
Celebrity Expose MNTV
Police Tech: Catching A Crook National Geographic
Kyle XY ABC Family
Top Gear BBC America

8:30 PM ET/PT
The New Adventures of Old Christine CBS (30 minutes)


October Road ABC
New Amsterdam Fox (time slot premiere)
Pussycat Dolls Present: Girlicious CW
Deal or No Deal NBC
Paradise Hotel 2 MNTV
Science of Interrogation National Geographic

9:30 PM ET/PT
The New Adventures of Old Christine CBS (30 minutes)
In Treatment HBO (30 minutes)


October Road ABC (season, and probably series, finale)
Medium NBC
Making The Band 4 MTV
CIA Secret Experiments National Geographic
Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel HBO
fredfa's Avatar fredfa
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TV Notes
Just one last bum week of primetime
Fresh episodes of shows begin returning next Monday
By Toni Fitzgerald, staff writer, March 10, 2008

One week from tonight, original scripted programming sent on hiatus by the writers’ strike finally returns with a slate of original comedies on CBS.

For media people, that return can’t come too soon.

During first quarter, the Big Five networks’ combined adults 18-49 rating has slipped 19 percent compared to first quarter last year, to 11.7, according to Nielsen data through March 2 analyzed by Magna Global. That's according to live-only ratings.

Fox is the only network that is not down by double-digit percentages, buoyed by a big Super Bowl. It’s averaging a 5.7 rating thus far this year.

NBC, which is second behind Fox during first quarter with a 2.5 rating, is off 14 percent, while third-place ABC is down 25 percent and CBS, which carried last year’s Super Bowl, is off 44 percent, to a 2.3. The CW is in a distant fifth at 0.8, off 33 percent from last year, though 18-49s are not its target demo.

Meanwhile, ad-supported cable is up 8 percent compared with the same time last year, to a 17.0 rating.

But the broadcast networks should get back on track next week, when CBS becomes the first network to roll out original episodes of shows that were shut down during the strike.

Its comedy lineup of “How I Met Your Mother,” first-year show “Big Bang Theory” and “Two and a Half Men,” broadcast’s No. 1 sitcom, return a week from tonight, along with “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” which debuted originals at midseason.

That same night, the new season of ABC’s reality hit “Dancing with the Stars” also returns, which should give the network a huge boost after midseason replacement “Dance War: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann,” starring two “Stars” judges, failed to catch on Monday nights.

The following week, the CW’s “The Game” and CBS’s “CSI: Miami” begin airing the first of more than a half-dozen new episodes.

But the bulk of the networks’ shows won’t return until early April. That’s when top programs such as CBS’s “CSI,” ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” and NBC’s “The Office” return to the air, all with six episodes left to air.

Fox’s “House” and ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” two of the top scripted programs, won’t be back until the last week of April, “House” with four new episodes and “Grey’s” with five.

Still, the question remains just how many viewers will return with these shows. Magna’s most recent report shows that, while a goodly portion of last fall’s viewer erosion can be attributed to increased DVR usage, that has not been the case during first quarter, when viewers are simply turning away from broadcast rather than time shifting it.

A big issue during the last writers’ strike, two decades ago, was whether viewers would return following the walkout. That’s just as much an issue this year, with cable seeing gains and many online video sites, like YouTube, reporting increased traffic during the strike-riddled months.
fredfa's Avatar fredfa
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Sunday’s fast affiliate over night prime-time ratings – along with Media Week Analyst Marc Berman’s view of what they mean -- have been posted at the top of Ratings News -- the second post in this thread.
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TV Review
“Canterbury's Law”
Margulies Makes A Compelling Case
By Tom Shales, Washington Post TV Critic, Monday, March 10, 2008

About midway through the first episode of "Canterbury's Law," a legal drama premiering on Fox at 8 tonight, someone says to the title character, "I don't get you, Canterbury; what are you doing here?" Frankly, a good question: There can't be many things network prime time needs less these days than another show about a lawyer -- about law and order.

But this one's different, as the producers might have said during a pitch meeting. The lawyer is a woman. And, further, the show is not stuck in courtrooms with perfunctory cases of the week; it also deals extensively with the lawyer's private life, a life that happens to be a mess getting messier.

It works, thanks largely to the hugely watchable star, former "ER" resident Julianna Margulies. Her career hasn't exactly been stratospheric lately -- she was one of the hapless non-reptilians in that fabled mess "Snakes on a Plane" -- but that may actually help her understand Elizabeth Canterbury, the top-flight defense attorney she plays almost criminally well.

Canterbury is a commanding maestro in the courtroom, albeit one who doesn't mind bending the rules to help a client. Her marriage has been in a nose dive since the still-unexplained disappearance of her young son six years earlier. An aggrieved woman whose child has died tells Canterbury she can't possibly empathize with her unless she'd lost a child herself, the woman not realizing she is talking through her hat.

Not only is Canterbury's home life almost in ruins, but more wreckage will be added in future episodes. In one, about two giddy but malicious 16-year-old schoolgirls who cause the deaths of two classmates, Canterbury is tossed into jail herself and subjected to other humiliations meted out by the vindictive egomaniac serving as attorney general of Rhode Island, where the series is set.

"Canterbury's Law" is a "House" full of lawyers instead of doctors, since it superficially resembles Fox's blistering drama about a cantankerous physician and his team of distressed underlings -- an ensemble drama that is also a showcase for a spectacular star turn. Margulies may not be the equal of Hugh Laurie, who plays Doc House, but she's certainly in there swinging, and temperatures have a tendency to shoot up dangerously when she's let loose in court.

Her team includes Ben Shenkman as Russell Krauss, a member of the firm who also serves as Canterbury's Jiminy Cricket, reminding her when her borderline unethical antics might, for instance, land her in the slammer. Shenkman's voice sounds a little like Howard Stern's, he's good-looking in a nontraditional way, and he is a major asset to the show, as Krauss is to Canterbury & Associates.

Keith Robinson as Chester Grant and Trieste Kelly Dunn as Molly McConnell, also associates, don't get seen much tonight, but in future weeks each springs forward like a clock in March. It's a good group, further enhanced by the imposingly talented Aidan Quinn as Canterbury's husband, an embattled mate who looks as though he might take a powder at any moment. Canterbury isn't easy to live with, but then those really worth living with often aren't. Ironic, huh?

Sparks fly in the courtroom with a perhaps too-predictable frequency. Interrogating a hostile witness tonight, Canterbury gets so far into his face that she could bite his nose off -- and we know enough, even at this early stage, not to rule that out.

There are a lot of close-talkers in the premiere, which was directed by Mike Figgis of the silver screen. Unfortunately, he apparently thinks that TV is so intimate a medium that it's impossible to overdo close-ups, and quickly proves himself wrong. The close quarters become suffocating; one can't always be certain there are bodies attached to the characters' heads.

The producers, who include Margulies, are going for taut and edgy and all that (maybe Figgis was thinking of cellphone screens), but they get carried away. There is also the possibility that poor Canterbury may suffer so many calamities and heartaches that the cases get lost beneath the melodrama. That would be bad.

Canterbury was actually going to be a man when the show was first conceived, but when CBS picked up "Shark," with James Woods as a dynamic neurotic lawyer, the "Canterbury" team had to rethink the show. It turns out to be a blessing; Margulies rises so grippingly to the challenge that whatever else it is, "just another" courtroom show "Canterbury's Law" most definitely is not.

Canterbury's Law airs tonight at 8 (ET/PT) on Fox.
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TV Review
“Canterbury's Law”
The legal series starring Julianna Margulies talks tough but has nothing new to say
By Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer, March 10, 2008

For those of us who consider the tough-talking dame battling fear and other demons to be among America's most valuable natural resources, it's been a pretty good year for television.

First there was the return of "The Closer" and Kyra Sedgwick's personally fragile but professionally tough homicide detective. TNT also gave us "Saving Grace," Holly Hunter as another dogged detective with personal issues, though these were more along the hard-bitten sex-booze-and-cigarettes line. Over at FX, Glenn Close and Rose Byrne paired on "Damages" to offer two sides of the same coin -- ambitious lawyers at different locations on the soul-selling spectrum.

With "Canterbury's Law," which debuts tonight, Fox has high hopes of joining the parade. Here's Julianna Margulies, she of the impossibly arched eyebrows, returning to television after a long absence as Elizabeth Canterbury, a tough-talking, vodka swillin', adulterous defense attorney who will stop at nothing to see justice done. Even as her own heart breaks and her personal life crashes in around her.

With veterans like Aidan Quinn (who plays her husband, Matt) and Ben Shenkman as Russell, her associate, riding shotgun and an especially poignant back story -- Elizabeth lost her young son six years earlier -- the show should have legs enough to keep up with the big girls.

Except it's just terrible.

Honestly, I don't know how else to say it. In this role, Margulies has neither the charisma to hold the screen in the many (quite unforgiving) close-ups she is given, nor the depth to make her character more than one note (angry), two at the most (angry and determined).

It doesn't help that she is forced to wear super-tight suits with impossibly winged collars and say things like "eyes and ears on me, people," or "I sleep . . . the sleep of the righteous."

Denis Leary is one of the executive producers, and history has proven he knows how to make edgy seem effortless. Not so here. "Canterbury's Law" is so self-conscious you can practically hear the narrative choreography: "Angry line, angry line, determined line, now clench, clench, turn."

This may explain why creator David Erickson introduces us to Elizabeth's husband, and marriage, via an argument during a ballroom dance class the two are taking. Frankly, I don't know why he bothered giving Elizabeth a husband at all, except to make her adulterous, which I suppose is one way to show us how troubled she is. (Her habit of sloshing vodka around being the other.)

In the pilot, the wonderful Quinn is indefensibly wasted because all eyes and ears are on Elizabeth, who is busy throwing tantrums and breaking laws defending a mentally disturbed young man accused of killing a child. She alone believes in his innocence because, as she explains, she just "knows when someone is lying."

Elizabeth (and the script) justifies every lawless action, though this is patently unnecessary since her nemeses -- the prosecuting attorney and the father of the victim -- are so clearly rotten they all but hiss and tie young women to train tracks. Elizabeth could blow up the courtroom and still be justified. Still, poor old Russell (Shenkman, where have you been hiding since your wonderful turn in "Angels in America"?) is forced to play conscience, with such winning arguments as "you can't help anyone if you're in jail."

Like we haven't heard that one before.

The problem is we've heard, and seen, all of it before. "Canterbury's Law" is a Frankenstein's monster of a dozen cop/law shows, a pale, lurching version of the flawed and fascinating women who are taking back television like so many modern Cagneys and Laceys. I remain convinced that you can never have too many tough-talking dames on TV, but they each have to bring something to the party. And these days, a tendency toward irritation and a half-empty vodka bottle just ain't enough.,print.story
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TV Review
“Canterbury's Law”
By Ed Bark former Dallas Morning News TV critic at his website, March 10, 2008

Fox is swimming in Shark-infested waters here, and yes, that's an intended reference to the James Wood-led CBS courtroom series.

Woods is a defense attorney turned prosecutor while Julianna Margulies plays strictly defense on Canterbury's Law. Otherwise they're alike in their brow-beatings of young staffs, self-destructive tendencies and commandeering of nearly every scene. It's good to be a star.

The premiere episode's opening minute finds Elizabeth Canterbury (Margulies) popping out of the sack she's sharing with a private investigator who's not her husband. She's late, she's late, for a very important court date.

"I've become a damn vaudeville act," she grouses before rushing off.

Still, she savors a good media circus.

"I think a lawyer that dodges a 'sound bite' oughta be disbarred," says Canterbury, who's defending a young man accused of murdering and dismembering the son of purported community pillars.

Her foil is a scheming D.A. named Zach Williams (Terry Kinney), who in effect is the show's Hamilton Burger. (Hey kids, that's a reference to the beaten-down prosecutor in Perry Mason, who never won a single case in nine seasons of trying.)

Mason could be a little self-important at times. But in his personal life, the guy was stiffer than an Exxon boardroom.

Not so Elizabeth Canterbury, a frequent straight booze imbiber whose recurring dalliances with P.I. Frank Angstrom (James McCaffrey) are an escape from her rocky marriage to Matt Furey (a little-seen Aidan Quinn). The mysterious disappearance of their son has rendered Canterbury both guilt-ridden and prone to lashing out at both her staff and the hapless D.A., who in turn brands his adversary a "bottom-feeding bitch."

Canterbury's conscience and trouble-shooter is junior partner Russell Krauss (Ben Shenkman). He's on the receiving end of the show's most laughable snatch of dialogue. "You feckless puppet!" D.A. Zach thunders. "Where do you get the stones to accuse me?"

It's hard to determine whether Canterbury's other two law firm associates are feckless or not. In Monday's opener, Molly McConnell (Trieste Kelly Dunn) and Chester Grant (Keith Robinson) are thinly drawn to the point of being almost invisible.

Margulies has a porcelain complexion, tightly wound hair and some standout moments as the drama's deeply flawed pacesetter. She's an anti-heroine who at least doesn't do heroin -- not yet anyway. But Canterbury will do just about anything to win once she deems a defendant innocent. That includes jury-tampering and coaxing a client to commit perjury as a means of trapping the real murderer.

Denis Leary, one of the show's co-executive producers, is himself a basket case as firefighter Tommy Gavin on FX's Rescue Me. That show isn't known for its subtlety. And Canterbury's Law follows suit with an over-the-top courtroom climax that's meant to pack a wallop but instead badly misses.

An upcoming episode -- but not the second one -- finds Canterbury defending a throughly spoiled gossip girl whom many might want to see thrown in jail with a sadistic pack of she-wolves. But in some ways that's one of the series' strong points. Most defendants aren't wronged celestial beings of the sort that Perry Mason represented in a bygone TV era.

Canterbury's Law likely will result in a hung jury among viewers. There's much to appreciate in Margulies' strong center-ring performance. But both the series and her character fall well short of perfection.

Grade: B-minus
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Overnight Nielsens in the 18-49 Demo
Sinking: 'Oprah's Big Give' takes back
Daytime talker's show off 25 percent second episode
By Toni Fitzgerald, staff writer, March 10, 2008

The second episode of “Oprah’s Big Give,” the daytime talk show queen’s new ABC reality series, couldn’t maintain last week’s big ratings.

“Give” averaged a 4.0 adults 18-49 rating last night, according to Nielsen overnights, off 25 percent from week one’s 5.3 average.

The show, in which Oprah Winfrey gives money to contestants to be used to help others, still easily won its timeslot, 25 percent ahead of second-place Fox at 9 p.m. And it maintained 100 percent of 8 p.m. lead-in “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” in the demo.

The falloff was probably explained by a large amount of sampling in week one, which attracted 15.6 million total viewers, after a media publicity blitz. Some of those viewers did not return, with 11.8 million tuning in last night.

But for strike fodder, ABC could certainly do worse. And “Give” helped propel ABC to a victory at 10 p.m., too, as new reality show “Here Come the Newlyweds” averaged a 3.6 rating, maintaining 90 percent of its lead-in.

The networks have noted going into this week that the weekend's daylight savings time switchover will have a big impact on TV usage levels going forward. They were down across the board during primetime last night.

ABC finished first among viewers 18-49 with a 3.4 average overnight rating and a 9 share. Fox was second at 2.6/7, NBC third at 2.0/5, CBS fourth at 1.9/5, Univision fifth at 1.4/4 and CW sixth at 0.5/1.

At 7 p.m. ABC led with a 1.9 for “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” followed by CBS with a 1.8 for “60 Minutes.” NBC was third with a 1.5 for “100 Most Outrageous Moments,” Fox fourth with a 1.3 for repeats of “King of the Hill” and “American Dad,” Univision fifth with a 1.0 for “Hora Pico” and Familia P. Luche” and CW sixth with 0.7 for an “America’s Next Top Model” rerun.

ABC was first again at 8 p.m. with a 4.0 for “Home Edition,” with Fox second with a 3.2 average for “The Simpsons” (3.5) and “King of the Hill” (3.0). NBC was third with a 2.6 for another hour of “Outrageous Moments,” CBS fourth with a 2.2 for “Big Brother,” Univision fifth with a 1.3 for the pre-awards show “Noche de Estrellas” and CW sixth with a 0.5 for “Everybody Hates Chris” (0.5) and “Aliens in America” (0.4).

At 9 p.m. ABC led again with a 4.0 for “Give,” while Fox remained second with a 3.2 average for a repeat of “Family Guy” and a new “Unhitched” (2.6). NBC and CBS tied for third at 1.8, NBC for a repeat of “Law & Order” and CBS for a repeat of “Cold Case,” with Univision fifth with a 1.6 for its first hour of “Premios Furia Musical 2008” and CW sixth with a 0.4 for repeats of “Girlfriends” and “The Game.”

ABC completed the nightly sweep at 10 p.m. with a 3.6 for “Newlyweds,” followed by NBC with a 2.2 for a repeat of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” CBS was third with a 1.9 for “Dexter” and Univision fourth with a 1.7 for the second half of its awards show.

Among households, ABC was first for the night with a 6.1 average overnight rating and a 10 share. CBS was second at 5.4/9, NBC third at 4.9/8, Fox fourth at 3.4/6, Univision fifth at 1.6/3 and CW sixth at 0.9/1.
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TV Review
“Canterbury's Law”
Opening episode doesn't inspire much confidence
By David Kronke, Los Angeles Daily News Television Critic, March 10, 2008

The title "Canterbury's Law" title would seem to reference Geoffrey Chaucer's lawyer's yarn from "The Canterbury Tales," except that doesn't really scan - its heroine survived travails due to her devout belief in prayer. But ascending Rhode Island defense attorney Elizabeth Canterbury (Julianna Margulies), the protagonist of "Canterbury's Law," boasts no such virtue.

As tonight's episode opens, it's revealed she's sleeping with Frank (James McCaffrey), whom she's defending against a murder charge. Liz is married, albeit tenuously, to Matt (Aidan Quinn), who turns up just enough to offer exposition about how troubled their marriage is.

Their relationship's torment stems from the fact that their young son disappeared a few years ago - and yet, Canterbury seems to represent a lot of clients suspected of having a hand in killing the children of grieving parents (in fact, she does so in both episodes offered for review). That she's willing to do so doesn't smack so much of brazen provocation as it does of abject psychological self-abnegation.

There's a lot about "Canterbury's Law" that's not bad, but much of it feels just slightly off. A lot of the performances feel manufactured, even Margulies': She just doesn't quite exude the charismatic brass that such a character would need.

And while no one could credibly handle a line like "You feckless puppet! Where do you get the stones to accuse me?," Terry Kinney, playing her nemesis, prosecutor Zach Williams, appears to have been cast more for his shifty looks than his acting chops.

It doesn't help that the soundtrack is filled with yowling guitars in an effort to make the show seem "edgy," or that frenetic editing and woozy camerawork seem borrowed from dozens of previous cop and lawyer shows. And it certainly won't help that just after Fox announced it was picking up the show, Margulies announced she was pregnant.

Even without the aforementioned misgivings, "Canterbury's Law" doesn't offer enough to be more than a run-of-the-mill legal drama.
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Critic’s Notes
TV Puts an Odd Lens on Politics
By David Carr, The New York Times, March 10, 2008

Last Tuesday, millions of viewers were riveted by the wrestling match in Ohio and gunfight in Texas between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, not to mention by the unlikely coronation of the conservative bugbear John McCain as the Republican nominee.

Among those watching? Brian Williams, Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric.

Instead of election coverage, NBC ran two hours of “The Biggest Loser” while CBS showed an episode of “Big Brother” and ABC did an hour of “Just for Laughs” along with some other can-miss TV.

It was an “Idol” night on Fox — at least people were voting — so you have to wonder why the other networks didn’t turn their news divisions loose on a huge primary night in the name of civic interest and perhaps a little brand building.

“Networks have pretty much left the field,” said Lawrence K. Grossman, a former president of NBC News. “And what did they skip the coverage for?”

CBS executives told The New York Observer that they wanted a debate for Katie Couric, their struggling $15 million-a-year anchor.

But they had a clean shot at showing her live with a running political story, and chose “Big Brother” along with repeats of “NCIS” and something called “Jericho” instead.

Don’t worry, I’m not here to point a crooked finger at the inequities of the present and reminisce about the glories of the past, those nights when Uncle Walter gave us a civics lesson before tucking us in to bed. On Super Tuesday, ABC ran three hours of coverage in prime time and got clobbered for its efforts.

“I think that the people who are interested in the campaigns have lots of places to get good information. They are just not getting it from places that were considered mandatory 20 years ago,” said C. Robert Zelnick, an ABC News veteran and the chairman of the journalism department at Boston University.

There is a lot to be admired on the cable news dial. Wolf Blitzer seamlessly manages all the crisscross on CNN. Fox’s Brit Hume has a quick grasp of the moment, and on MSNBC, Chris Matthews has never got over his boyhood crush on democracy.

But it is worth pointing out that since political coverage has migrated to the cable networks, the tenor and texture of campaign reporting are changing as well — there have been leaps in presentation and diversity, but it more closely resembles a political caucus than straight news coverage. Stentorian anchors taking feeds from veteran reporters who had been traveling with the campaigns have been replaced by flashy sets stuffed to the brim with gadgets and experts, mainly party hacks and ex-insiders who have had their access revoked.

CNN, which endlessly promotes itself as having “the best political team,” had so many panelists last Tuesday that one of them, Bill Bennett, wondered whether they were in violation of New York laws governing student-teacher ratios.

One reason for the pile-up is economics: “It’s a cheap way to cover elections and draw viewers. But it is a room full of talking heads,” said Ken Bode, a professor of journalism at DePauw University and a former reporter at NBC.

Even some of the people who are in charge of taming the lions want to have their red meat and eat it, too. Lou Dobbs served as a neutral ringmaster of the CNN panels Tuesday, but his own CNN show is pretty much talk radio rendered visible. On Thursday night, he suggested the president might be in need of impeachment and the Congress a recall, and he railed against the “idiots” in various federal bureaucracies.

Mr. Dobbs has enough of a discernible political agenda that he has even entered the campaign lexicon as a descriptive noun: “Lou Dobbs independents.” All of three of the current presidential candidates are wrong on his big issue — the frantic belief that America is being overwhelmed by immigrant hordes. When he approached the Hispanic members of the political panels last Tuesday, you half-expected him to check their visas before asking a question.

Given his bracing ideology, you have to wonder if moderating is the best use of his time. One of his many panelists claimed to be “embarrassed” to share a network with Mr. Dobbs, but would not say so on the record for fear of being culled from the herd.

In fact, Mr. Dobbs clearly has had some trouble making the adjustment. After promising a “pithy glimpse of the truth” from the panel, the moderator and Mr. Bennett tangled over Nafta for several excruciating minutes while nine other panelists waited in the wings and all across America, viewers wondered when the next Cialis ad was on. But all of the excitement during Tuesday’s extraordinary unfolding coverage came to a sudden halt for the argument between Mr. Bennett and Mr. Dobbs, which brought to mind something you see on nature shows with large mammals baring tusks and smashing bellies on an ice floe.

Over at MSNBC, the network is performing a similar bit of transformational magic with Keith Olbermann, the host of “Countdown” who plays left field almost every game, except when there is a primary. Then he is dressed more conservatively (hey Keith, lose the pink tie) and is oddly cast as Chris Matthews’s cool-headed wingman.

On those nights, when Mr. Olbermann asks rhetorically and soberly whether the support of the current president will help or hurt Mr. McCain, are we supposed to forget that the next night he will treat the leader of the free world with the same care that a terrier gives a chew toy?

Mr. Olbermann’s presence gives the set some urbanity and offers a point of entry for young viewers that is clearly working if you look at the ratings. But though he credibly plays a political eunuch/anchor in spurts, he is still more Jon Stewart than Tom Brokaw.

Oddly, given its operational penchants, the only cable network to play the coverage relatively straight is Fox News. During what would have been his hour on Tuesday night, Bill O’Reilly was brought in, unleashed from the trunk of the car for 10 minutes and then thanked by Brit Hume for handing off his time before he left. And is it just me, or is Karl Rove one of the best things on television news right now? Graceful, careful and generous — he leaves the viewer better informed and wondering what he has done with the real Karl Rove.

There will be a huge lull in the action from now until April 22 — whoever thought we’d be looking forward to the Pennsylvania primary this year? That will offer CNN time to build room for more panels until the set resembles a high school quiz show. And who knows — with all the advance notice and an election rife with the kind of engagement America has not seen in decades, some of the broadcast networks might actually show up for the biggest story of the year.
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TV Notes
CBS Correspondent Kimberly Dozier:
“I've Got to Make The Decisions For the Risks I Take"
Gail Shister, TVNewser at Columnist, March 10, 2008

After narrowly escaping death from a Baghdad bomb, CBS's Kimberly Dozier can't wait to return to the war zone.

CBS, however, can.

Understandably, the network is in no hurry to send Dozier back to the place where, on Memorial Day 2006, a car bomb critically injured her and killed her CBS colleagues Paul Douglas and James Brolan.

Dozier, on the other hand, is ready to ditch her "temporary assignment" in Washington and get back to the Middle East, her base since '03. She has a home in Jerusalem.

"It's the job I trained for all my life," she says. "I understand that a lot of people care about me and are worried about me, but I've got to make the decisions for the risks I face and the risks I take."

She's talking with CBS News brass and "they're trying to get comfortable with the idea of sending me back. This was a pretty earth shattering experience for everyone."

Dozier chronicles the experience in "Breathing the Fire," to be published May 13.

Dozier, 41, has lived in the Middle East, off and on, since she bartended her way through graduate school at the University of Virginia.

Quick aside: She makes a killer martini. Her recipe for perfection: Stir, don't shake; use perfectly chilled vodka and serve with three cured olives from Israel or Greece.

The Middle East "is home for me in the way that 'Main Street USA' is home for most people," she says. "Because of that, I think I'm a very good translator of that world to this one. We need that understanding of how 'they' see 'us' over there."

During her nine-month recovery from multiple trauma injuries, Dozier underwent more than two dozen surgeries. ("My doctors and I lost count.") With broken bones in both legs, she had to re-learn how to walk.

She was encouraged to write the book as a catharsis, to exorcize her demons.

"At first, it was like bleeding on paper," she says. "It hurt. It was angry, raw. Each draft got easier, and by the end, I finally got to enjoy the process of writing."
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Brian Williams Nudges NBC to The Top With A Light Touch
By Howard Kurtz, Washington Post Staff Writer, Monday, March 10, 2008

It was shortly after midnight after Tuesday's elections when Brian Williams popped up on MSNBC and offered one explanation for Hillary Clinton's big wins in Ohio and Texas.

"I think 'Saturday Night Live' will come up as a factor," he said of the former first lady's appearance on the show. Tina Fey's comedic endorsement of Clinton, he said, came "when she needed the bump."

Williams himself has gotten quite the bump since guest-hosting the show four months ago, not to mention his recent appearances with Jon Stewart and Jay Leno and his role in moderating five presidential debates, including the last face-off between Clinton and Barack Obama.

After Charlie Gibson knocked Williams out of first place for much of 2007, "NBC Nightly News" won the February sweeps last week, after winning the sweeps ratings period in November as well. Politics may play to NBC's strength, with its all-star roster of Tim Russert, David Gregory and Andrea Mitchell. They and others are also featured on the network's cable channel, where Williams hosted daytime coverage twice last week.

"People want to watch the news with someone you could go to dinner with," says Alexandra Wallace, executive producer of "Nightly News." "He's a normal guy." And the "SNL" stint, she says, helped show off his comedic side.

Williams, 48, says he is "enormously glad" he overcame his initial doubts that the gig might damage his reputation. "I had a lot of fun," he says. "I did not think it would translate, that there would be an advantage in my day job. It never dawned on me."

Precisely why people choose one newscast over another is far from an exact science. Habit, lead-in audiences and strength of a network's affiliate stations all play a role. Katie Couric's move from "Today" to the CBS anchor chair was hugely publicized, but she has struggled since then.

Unlike Williams, his anchor rivals lack a cable outlet. Couric lost her one shot at moderating a presidential debate because of the writers' strike, while Gibson has moderated once, quizzing both parties' candidates in January.

Williams succeeded Tom Brokaw after the 2004 election -- a move that had been announced 2 1/2 years earlier -- and firmly established himself on the first-place broadcast, especially after his award-winning coverage of Hurricane Katrina.

Gibson, who came off the bench in 2006 after Bob Woodruff was injured in Iraq and Elizabeth Vargas got pregnant, frequently finished first last year, including for 12 straight weeks. Viewers gravitated toward his relaxed, avuncular style. It was a frustrating period at 30 Rock.

"I don't think anyone freaked out around here," says NBC News President Steve Capus. "But those weeks we weren't on top, we were all saying we've got to buckle down."

"I'm a competitive animal -- I'd rather be first," Williams says. He says he had "no grand scheme" to recapture the lead and likens himself to a stonemason on Mount Rushmore:

"I'm up there with my chisel day after day. Someone who hasn't seen me in a while comes to South Dakota and says, 'You've totally refurbished Jefferson's nose, it's beautiful.' If the result of our chiseling is positive, that's great. We've got two very good chiselers chasing us."

But Wallace, who took the job a year ago, had her own tool kit. She streamlined the opening (which had included the names of every previous anchor dating back to John Cameron Swayze) for a simple shot of Williams billboarding the night's top stories (followed by Michael Douglas voicing the intro). And she carved out time for Williams to chat with his correspondents instead of just tossing to taped reports.

"I'm always trying to slow the program down a little bit because it allows Brian to do more of his own writing, so we're not rushing to tell you 40 things at once," she says.

That, says Capus, a former "Nightly News" producer, can be "a tricky proposition. We've tried to allow for Brian's fingerprints to show up more on the broadcast. The let-Brian-be-Brian conversation is one we often have."

But which Brian? The serious, somewhat formal presence on the evening news? The genial debate moderator? The guy who played a hunky Joisey fireman on "SNL"?

The change is most visible in his lighter items, such as one on the reopening of Washington's Old Soldiers' Home (where, the anchor noted, Lincoln "even mapped out the Civil War in the parlor") and Polaroid ending production of instant film ("Let's not forget waving the still-wet picture back and forth").

When William F. Buckley Jr. died, Williams told viewers: "He had an ego as expansive as his intellect, and he loved a lot of things, chief among them the Republican Party, the Catholic Church, controversy, sailing, debating, playing the harpsichord and peanut butter, one of many areas where he considered himself an expert." Williams knew this because they discovered their shared passion when he visited the commentator's Connecticut home and later received a case of Buckley's favorite brand.

Still, says Williams, "some nights it's a straight recitation [of news], because there's no wiggle room between the must-run stories." He is known for his round-the-clock schedule, often peppering his staff with e-mails at 1 a.m.

Williams also tries to connect with an online audience through his daily blog. When the British media were found to have suppressed news of Prince Harry's mission to Afghanistan, Williams recalled withholding military information during a trip to Iraq. When Fidel Castro stepped down, he reflected on his last visit to Cuba.

For the February sweeps, Williams averaged 9.5 million viewers to Gibson's 9.3 million; Couric trailed with just under 7 million. Not that anyone at NBC has broken out the bubbly. Williams says he learned of the win when he read the company press release. "We're all superstitious people," Wallace says of the lack of celebration.

A key consolation prize for ABC is that "World News" has won the last two sweeps among viewers 25 to 54, the demographic most prized by advertisers.

"You think the presidential race is competitive?" says Jon Banner, executive producer of "World News." "I think the evening news is just as competitive. We've been trading wins back and forth, especially in the key demographic. This is a tie ballgame. Our political coverage is top-notch, and Charlie is having a great time."

Gibson, who turned 65 yesterday, mused about the prospect of retirement last week with Dallas television critic Ed Bark: "I think I'll know when the time comes. You don't want to stay as long as [David] Brinkley did. David stayed too long. He had a great career, and you've got to know when it's time to leave."

Pundit's Court

Dan Abrams, attorney and talk show host, is appointing himself judge and jury.

The MSNBC commentator is renaming his program "Verdict," and while guests can offer evidence, he will be passing judgment on political and legal issues by picking winners and losers, deciding right from wrong and issuing a nightly scorecard.

"When a news show tries to do something offbeat, there's a sense that it's gimmicky," Abrams says. "It's supposed to be fun. The media make everything two-sided, even when it's not. Rather than saying 'one side says this, the other side says that,' it's helpful for viewers to know where I'm coming from."

"Live With Dan Abrams," which trails "Hannity & Colmes" and "Larry King Live" in the ratings at 9 p.m., will rebrand itself next week, introducing cartoon-style graphics to underscore its new identity. "We're kind of taking a page from the world of entertainment," he says.

Abrams says his media critiques carry "a modicum of credibility" because of his 15-month stint as MSNBC's general manager, which ended last fall. He already does a "Beat the Press" segment that tends to focus on his network's rivals, although he has mocked himself on occasion. "I try not to do gotcha stuff," he says.

New segments will include "Why America Hates Washington," in keeping with Abrams's increasingly populist tone. "I think it fits who I am," he says. "I'm a lawyer and I'm not a Washington insider."
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TV Review
“Canterbury's Law”
By Brian Lowry, Variety

Actors always love the big, chewy courtroom scenes that come with playing criminal lawyers, and Julianna Margulies gets a doozy of one in the "Canterbury's Law" premiere -- a "Perry Mason"-style cross-examination that concludes with a right-cross. Yet beyond the enticement of the former "ER" thesp wearing stilettos instead of scrubs, the darkness surrounding her brilliant but troubled defense attorney has a musty odor, its pleasures largely beginning and ending with the star. OK, so it worked for "House" (and to a lesser degree, "Shark"), but the evidence still suggests it's a flimsy case for appointment viewing.

Viewers meet Margulies' Elizabeth Canterbury in the midst of an extramarital tryst, right before she psyches herself up to defend a young man accused in the sensational disappearance of a child. To the prosecutor ("Oz's" Terry Kinney), she's a "bottom-feeding bitch," one who browbeats her small legal team and squabbles with her associate Russell ("Angels in America's" Ben Shenkman), who worries that they should plead out their client as he looks to be seriously guilty.

Like Glenn Close's protagonist in "Damages," Canterbury is a complex personality. As created by Dave Erickson, though (under the stewardship of producers Denis Leary and Jim Serpico), her underlying demons are disappointingly mundane. Nor does Aidan Quinn have enough to do, initially, as her cuckolded husband, in an hour that plays like "Law & Order," only from the defense attorney's perspective -- a ploy with which Fox failed as recently as "Justice."

Then again, the challenge of casting a series around a character like Canterbury should hardly be a surprise: In a "Nancy Grace" world, few vocations inspire less sympathy, which is why if this latest litigator has any chance, it's entirely predicated on the audience buying into Margulies' character -- a woman who's smart, sexy but profoundly unhappy -- in a big way.

Based on a subsequent episode, however, the backstory feels thin, and even with its gritty tone and a serialized plot thread that loops back to the first case, the hour proves numbingly procedural. Moreover, that second trial -- about teenage girls whose "deserves to die" list has allegedly prompted a classmate's murder -- is as creatively worn-out as the one in the premiere.

"I need ignorant juries," Liz announces near the outset, preening in the mirror while providing insight into the defense attorney's cobwebbed mind.

Fox will probably need an equally undemanding Nielsen panel if exposure to these opening statements is expected to induce their return to "Canterbury's" tales.
fredfa's Avatar fredfa
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TV Review
“Canterbury's Law”
In this gritty legal drama, they've taken crime off the street and put it in the legal offices
By Barry Garron, The Hollywood Reporter, Mar 10, 2008

It's one thing to be beset by demons, but Elizabeth Canterbury has so many crushing problems that she makes Job look like a whiner.

Even so, Julianna Margulies -- also listed as a producer -- is convincing as a lawyer whose only true solace is her work. Still, she lives under a black cloud that threatens to burst at any moment and overwhelm the show. Beneath that cloud, though, lives a cutting-edge character who blends a rough-and-tumble style outside the courtroom with a polished but assertive femininity once the trial begins.

It would have been interesting to see what Elizabeth was like four years earlier, just before her young son was abducted when she momentarily looked away. Then came the corrosion of her marriage to law professor Matt Furey (Aidan Quinn), a predisposition to drink and an emotionally empty affair with her friend, Frank Angstrom (James McCaffrey), a helpful private investigator.

Now, her personal emotions are in lockdown, leaving only her Providence, R.I., law practice to slake her passions. In this, she is assisted by Russell Krauss (Ben Shenkman), a former lawyer in the attorney general's office whose ethical streak ran counter to the philosophy of his boss, Zach Williams, played with malicious cunning by Terry Kinney. Others in the Canterbury office are legal assistants Chester Grant (Keith Robinson), a straight arrow, and spunky Molly McConnell (Trieste Kelly Dunn).

In the opener, Canterbury's client has been framed for abducting and killing the adolescent son of a prominent family. The teleplay, from creator Dave Erickson, wastes no time letting us know that the real villain is the boy's abusive father but the challenge will be proving it, or even getting the bully to take the stand.

Canterbury practices law like she graduated from the University of Pellicano. She gets her investigator friend to tap into a juror's opinion and then suborns perjury -- and that's just in the pilot. There's no indication that she will reform anytime soon. But if Canterbury is no Perry Mason, her adversary, Williams, is no well-mannered Hamilton Burger. True, Williams might consistently lose but he, too, is not above gaming the system.

The premiere, directed by Mike Figgis, is a vision of darkness, as somber and chilly in parts as his "Leaving Las Vegas." Another episode to be shown later, also sent to reviewers, has a more balanced tone and is more inviting. Equally promising, the Krauss character has grown from being a cautious nebbish to assuming a vital role in the story.
fredfa's Avatar fredfa
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TV Review
“Canterbury's Law”
All about character
By Tim Goodman San Francisco Chronicle TV Critic, Monday, March 10, 2008

Since the ever-so-helpful (or should that be clueless?) promotions people at Fox have already given away the ending to "Canterbury's Law" - the father did it, he's guilty, no further questions - we can just move past the plot in tonight's pilot episode and get to the bigger issues. Because those - not weak plots - are what might make this series interesting.

"Canterbury's Law," about a flawed defense attorney in Providence, R.I., was created by Denis Leary and Jim Serpico ("Rescue Me" on FX) and stars Julianna Margulies in her return to network television (after an Emmy-winning turn on "ER" and a brief run on HBO's "The Sopranos"). It appears the idea was to create a female anti-hero on a broadcast to match those tearing up cable (Glenn Close, Holly Hunter, etc.) and Margulies certainly has the chops to use the power tools that Leary and Serpico hand her.

Her Elizabeth Canterbury character doesn't let ethics get in the way of saving the innocent from the troubled judicial system. In fact, despite a ruined plot for tonight's episode, she makes an interesting ethical decision - not revealed here - that may play out through the season

Canterbury drinks - a lot. She can take a punch. She's cheating on her husband (Aidan Quinn) without much evident regret. And inside she's carrying the enormous pain of losing her young son, who disappeared while she was watching him and remains missing.

It sounds like a cable show. And the pilot even looks like one because it was directed by Mike Figgis ("Leaving Las Vegas"). And Margulies told critics she thought it was a cable series - the script was delivered without the "o" in Fox. Since she had essentially got the series after meeting Leary, who's own FX series rigorously explores the notion of the anti-hero, you can't blame her for thinking that.

But "Canterbury's Law" has major obstacles to overcome before people mistake it for a cable series that somehow snuck onto a broadcast network. For starters, this is a legal series that doesn't do too much to make you forget that what you're seeing has been done countless times in endless fashions before. Fox sent two episodes: the pilot, which essentially had all the drama sucked out of it by spoil-heavy promotions, and a later episode with no order number or air date. That plot is barely better than the flimsy first one, but at least it proved conclusively that the constraints of a legal procedural are not important. You can find better mysteries elsewhere.

The whole point of "Canterbury's Law" is Canterbury herself. Once you realize this is more character study than legal thriller, it feels more welcome.

Margulies and her particular brand of messed up - that's the real draw. The woes of most professional women on broadcast television are reduced to their personal lives or their inability to get ahead. The Canterbury character is much darker. She's got her own practice. She's a success. And her personal life is far more shattered than any understanding husband can fix. She's lost her son and she's internalizing that pain - mostly with booze. Attempts to reconnect with her husband take a backseat because - and this is the different part - she doesn't give the impression that reconciliation is what she's after.

Normally, viewers don't see the depths of personal flaws like that.

Legally, Canterbury falls just short of some of the more patently obvious media-driven defense attorneys, though she does say at one point, "Any lawyer who dodges a sound bite ought to be disbarred."

Oh, and this: "An anonymous defense attorney is called a public defender. They are overworked, underpaid and they die young." To which her eager and pretty legal aide, Molly (Trieste Kelly Dunn) replies, "They can sleep at night." Though she's not yet fully developed, the writers appear to be setting up Molly as Canterbury's moral opposite. Says Canterbury: "I sleep the sleep of the righteous."

When she's not sleeping with someone other than her husband, of course.

If "Canterbury's Law" is not going to be as inventive as, say, "Damages," then it has to make Margulies someone whose presence onscreen sells the show. This is made more important by the weakness of the supporting cast. Molly and another rising lawyer on the team, Chester (Keith Robinson), would need to be seriously beefed up to hold anyone's attention. On the plus side, Ben Shenkman is a revelation as Russell, Canterbury's most trusted associate. (This doesn't ring quite true in the pilot, when he appears to be compromising the firm and undermining Canterbury, but Shenkman is solid no matter what lines he's given.)

An intriguing player here is James McCaffrey, who comes over from "Rescue Me" and plays Canterbury's lover. Quinn, too, could add gravitas to the cast as her husband but he's barely seen in the pilot, which is a real shame.

No, this is Margulies' series to make or break. It's clear she revels in Canterbury being a troubled, not-exactly-likable character. Portraying toughness is no problem; neither is nailing the cool factor (she's sexy and drives an old Porsche). There's mystique involved: She likes her booze and the wild side. Will all of that make a connection with a noncable audience looking for more shaded female characters?

It had better. For all the effort that was put into making Canterbury complicated, not nearly enough quality control was put into the writing. Her nemesis, Deputy Attorney General Zach Williams (Terry Kinney), is too predictably evil. At one point, addressing Russell, whom he previously fired, Williams yells, "You feckless puppet! Where do you get the stones to accuse me?" It just seems contrived and stagy.

Later, Canterbury tells Molly part of her legal philosophy: "I could love the person on the stand body and soul. And still rip their throat out on cross. Could you?"

Again, too self-conscious.

Here's what is likely to happen to "Canterbury's Law." The weak writing will chase away fans of better cable fare who come to Fox to take a peek. And Canterbury's bleak life (and her choices) will scare away mainstream viewers.
kingpcgeek's Avatar kingpcgeek
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Originally Posted by fredfa View Post

Time Change Boggles Cable
For more than a million Time Warner Cable customers in New York, it was as if daylight saving time never happened.

This used to happen quite a bit in Arizona since we don't have daylight savings time. It could take up to a week for the guides to get the new times for the shows updated. It seems to have gotten better the last couple of time changes.
bicker1's Avatar bicker1
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Originally Posted by rebkell View Post

Yep, that sums up my feelings pretty well also. Just what I've always wanted, more reality tv.

That really is the problem, though: That so many people do "want" more reality television (i.e., are willing to watch it and the commercials within it).

I wonder if anyone has access to ROI projections for scripted programming versus reality programming. We know that the former is more costly than the latter, but by how much? And to what extent does the "legs" advantage that scripted programming has over reality programming amortize to a better ROI overall? My guess, is that it doesn't -- that, factoring in the differences in cost, there is very little, if any, financial advantage of scripted programming, as a whole, over reality programming (and of course, by definition, greater risk).

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