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Hot Off The Press! The Latest Television News and Info - Page 155  

post #4621 of 25503
Thread Starter 
(If you missed it last weekend, don't miss it again.)
Awesome 9-11 miniseries to return

By Jeanne Jakle San Antonio Express-News

A chilling documentary miniseries that revisits the tragedies of 9-11 in intricate detail certainly caught the interest of viewers here and elsewhere.

It drew record ratings for the National Geographic Channel, and audience numbers in San Antonio and Austin for the two-part premiere were among the highest in the country.

As a result, the entire four hours of "Inside 9/11," which aired earlier this week across two nights, will be repeated Friday. On that night, NGC has scheduled a special telecast from 6 to 10 p.m. (Time Warner Cable subscribers can watch it here on Channel 57 of the standard basic cable lineup.)

It's certainly worth seeing. I warn you, though, even four years later, the sights and sounds of that terrible day are hard on both the nerves and the heart. The second two hours, which detail what happened on the morning of Sept. 11 in the airports, on those fateful flights, as well as the shocking results in New York City, D.C. and elsewhere, are especially difficult to take.

We hear from people who were there in the twin towers of the World Trade Center and at the Pentagon when the planes hit and how they managed to escape. Also interviewed are the widows of two of the heroes from United Airlines Flight 93.

They describe phone calls they got from their husbands before the two men and others rushed the cockpit and forced the terrorists to crash the plane early in a rural area instead of into the U.S. Capitol or another major Washington landmark.

We also hear that unforgettable call from Betty Ong, the flight attendant on the first plane to hit the towers, as she gives details of the hijackers' actions to ground officials before the crash.

You'll no doubt feel the painful irony in the memories of a ticket agent who checked in two of the terrorists responsible for so many deaths. Though instinct told him there was something not right about the two men, he let them pass anyway; he tells of the horror and guilt he felt when discovering what they did.

Much of this has been broadcast before, but what makes this documentary different and so compelling is the way it's put together: in a step-by-step timeline that ties all the different elements together.

It took more than a year to realize the project, NGC representatives told me Wednesday, and you can see the painstaking efforts that went into this well-crafted, intense piece of television.

Episode 1 (7 PM ET.) gives the back story of the terrorists under mastermind Osama bin Laden and the activities that led up to Sept. 11. Episode 2 (9 PM ET) is a look back at the realization of their murderous plans.

NGC earned record ratings for both parts of the miniseries, with the audience nearly doubling the second night. Austin and San Antonio ranked fourth and sixth, respectively, in local ratings for the special.

An NGC official said both cities seem to have an affinity for the channel; it doesn't hurt that Time Warner has it on a more accessible channel rather than on its digital tier.

If you can't watch Friday, another encore showing happens Sept. 8 from 7 to 11 PM ET. On Sept. 11, the special airs from 11 AM to 3PM ET.
post #4622 of 25503
Thread Starter 
More 18-34s This Summer, Says Nielsen

By Joel Meyer Broadcasting & Cable

Local people meters (LPMs) recorded higher levels of young adult viewership this July than set meters and diaries did in the same month last year, Nielsen Media Research announced Thursday.

In six markets where Nielsen has deployed LPMs, the number of 18-34-year-old viewers has increased in almost all time periods this summer compared to last, the ratings company said.

The time period that showed the greatest percent increases in all six markets were early morning (weekdays, 5-7 a.m.), overnight (weekdays, 1-5 a.m.) and Saturdays (7 a.m. to 5 p.m.). Nielsen did not release ratings to accompany the market-by-market percentage increases.

Washington, San Francisco and Philadelphia showed an increase in prime time among 18-34s.

For the study, Nielsen compared LPM data from July 2005 with diary and set meter samples from the 2004 July sweeps. It drew measurements from markets where LPMs have been rolled out since 2004: New York, Washington, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago. (Boston received the meters in 2002, but was not included in the study.)

Thursday's announcement was part of Nielsen's ongoing campaign to compare the LPM data with the older set-meter and diary systems to counter critics who say LPMs undercount minorities and young viewers.

Washington had the most dramatic change this summer, with increases in 18-34 viewership for every single hour and daypart. Nielsen reported that the total day average for the Washington market jumped 83% from July 2004 to July 2005.

Philadelphia had the second-biggest year-to-year change, at 56%, followed by San Francisco at 55%.
post #4623 of 25503
Thread Starter 
The 2 faces of Martha
By Aaron Barnhart Kansas City Star

My favorite part of this morning's double-dip press conference at Martha Stewart's new TV studio -- she was promoting both her daytime syndicated show and "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart" -- was when she was answering a question and turned to Mark Burnett, the reality titan who's producing both, and said, "What's that word you use, Mark -- fun?"

There, there. I know Martha knows from fun. Still, it took a videotape of her serving shakes and hot dogs at a popular New York City walkup stand to prove that she was going to try pushing out of her comfort zone and making herself into that more down-to-earth personality that seems to be required of every big time American TV star. As for the press conference, it was strictly business, the lines rehearsed, the spontaneity forced.

We got to see the opens for both "Martha" (the daytime show) and "Martha Stewart: The Apprentice" (theme song: "Sweet Dreams" by Eurythmics). And, obviously, we got to see the TV studio where "Martha" will be shot (more pictures on the jump page). One thing is clear -- Mark Burnett has planned a daytime show that is every bit as high powered as its host. I doubt it will remind anybody of her old daytime show, which was notable for its dead air and slow pacing (and, lest we forget, very decent Nielsen ratings).=

So Miss Stewart, what will "The Apprentice" be like? "Businesslike." Any plans to talk about your jail time in either show? "I may talk about it, I may not." (Although later it was revealed that on the second day of her show, every member of the studio audience will be wearing a poncho that they crocheted based on the pattern of the one she wore when leaving prison. And that on day three, over 100 women named Martha Stewart, ages 12 to 80, will be in the audience.)

There was a revealing exchange involving Martha, Burnett, and daughter Alexis Stewart, who along with Charles Koppelman (chairman of MSL Omnimedia) will be at the host's elbows on "The Apprentice." I think they're setting Alexis up to be the hardass on the show. Want proof? Burnett and Martha were joshing about how hard it was to come up with a Martha version of "You're fired" (which of course, they didn't reveal to us). The domestic diva, somewhat improbably, offered that "I don't think I've ever said You're fired to anybody."

Just then Alexis, who'd been quiet up to that point, said tartly, "Even when you should have."


Back to the whole prison thing. In the opening to "Martha," we saw not only pictures of the host with her mom and daughter, but a brief clip of her being led out of the Manhattan courthouse where she was found guilty of obstructing justice relating to her imClone insider trading deal. Somebody asked what that jarring bit of video was doing in an otherwise feelgood clip.

That, Stewart said, was about "reality. Accessibility. People are used to seeing me like that for the last year. ... We're not going to avoid things."
post #4624 of 25503
Thread Starter 
B&C's version of the info dline posted earlier:

FCC OK's First Multicast Must-Carry

By John Eggerton Broadcasting & Cable

The FCC has decided to grant broadcasters analog and digital multicast must-carry in Alaska and Hawaii.

Analog must-carry becomes effective Dec. 8 of this year, digital must-carry by June 8, 2007. The FCC did not grant dual must-carry, finding that the analog signal does not have to be carried once the digital must-carry deadline kicks in.

In the contiguous 48, DBS companies are not required to carry local broadcast stations, though if they choose to carry one, they must carry all. Alaska and Hawaii were considered special cases, with remote populations that may not have adequate access to either local TV stations or cable service.

The ruling came as part of the FCC's implementation of Congress' reauthorization of the Satellite Home Viewer Reauthorization Act (SHVERA), essentially the rules of the road for satellite broadcasting.

Unfortunately for broadcasters seeking precedent, the FCC was careful to write the rules so that it was clear that the multicast-must carry decision was limited to this special case in these two states (it ruled Guam and Puerto Rico shouldn't be included). "Congress took steps to confine the breadth and burden of the regulation by directing the multicast and HD carriage obligation to apply only in the states of Alaska and Hawaii*," said the commission.

The FCC has already ruled that it did not interpret digital must-carry to apply to cable carriage of all of a broadcasters' multicast signals, but instead to only a replication of its primary signal. The FCC's cable must-carry decision was based on its interpretation of Congress' use of the phrase "primary video" to describe the digital broadcast signal that cable must carry.

The SHVERA language did not include that phrase, and beyond that, referred to carriage of the signals originating as digital signals, which it saw as clear direction to include multicast signals.

Broadcasters are hoping to get Congress to give similar direction in a new DTV transition bill teed up for September mark-up.

The FCC commissioners have said Congress is free to correct them if they have misinterpreted the limitations of "primary video."

Coincidentally or not, the co-chairmen of the powerful Senate Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the FCC, are Senators Ted Stevens (Alaska) and Daniel Inouye (Hawaii), both of whom are concerned about their state's access to the full spectrum of the communications revolution.
post #4625 of 25503
Thread Starter 
Nielsen: U.S. TV Homes Up 0.5%

By Linda Moss multichannel.com

The total number of U.S. TV households is now estimated at 110.2 million, an increase of 0.5% over last year, according to Nielsen Media Research. That estimate will be used for the entire 2005-06 television season.

The number of ethnic-TV households has also increased significantly since last year, and because of people migrating to the Southern and Western regions of the United States, Nielsen is also reporting many shifts in its local market rankings.

The number of Hispanic television homes increased by 2.9%, to 11.2 million, and Asian TV homes gained 3.2%, to 4.2 million. African-American TV households went up 0.8%, to 3.3 million.

In terms of DMA rankings, the changes included Houston moving into the Top 10 TV markets, bumping out Detroit. Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla., moved up to No. 12 from 13, displacing Seattle-Tacoma. And Phoenix moved up to No. 14, taking the place of Minneapolis-St. Paul. Columbus, Ohio, moved up two spots, to No. 32.

If AC Nielsen market sizes interest you, you can find the new 2005-2006 DMA numbers here:

post #4626 of 25503
Thread Starter 
Nielsen Media Research Local Universe Estimates* (US)

(*Estimates used throughout the 2005-2006 television season which starts on September 24, 2005)
RANK Designated Market Area (DMA) TV Homes % of US

1 New York 7,375,530 6.692
2 Los Angeles 5,536,430 5.023
3 Chicago 3,430,790 3.113
4 Philadelphia 2,925,560 2.654
5 Boston (Manchester) 2,375,310 2.155
6 San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose 2,355,740 2.137
7 Dallas-Ft. Worth 2,336,140 2.120
8 Washington, DC (Hagerstown) 2,252,550 2.044
9 Atlanta 2,097,220 1.903
10 Houston 1,938,670 1.759

11 Detroit 1,936,350 1.757
12 Tampa-St. Petersburg (Sarasota) 1,710,400 1.552
13 Seattle-Tacoma 1,701,950 1.544
14 Phoenix (Prescott) 1,660,430 1.507
15 Minneapolis-St. Paul 1,652,940 1.500
16 Cleveland-Akron (Canton) 1,541,780 1.399
17 Miami-Ft. Lauderdale 1,522,960 1.382
18 Denver 1,415,180 1.284
19 Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto 1,345,820 1.221
20 Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne 1,345,700 1.221

21 St. Louis 1,222,380 1.109
22 Pittsburgh 1,169,800 1.061
23 Portland, OR 1,099,890 0.998
24 Baltimore 1,089,220 0.988
25 Indianapolis 1,053,750 0.956
26 San Diego 1,026,160 0.931
27 Charlotte 1,020,130 0.926
28 Hartford & New Haven 1,013,350 0.919
29 Raleigh-Durham (Fayetteville) 985,200 0.894
30 Nashville 927,500 0.842

31 Kansas City 903,540 0.820
32 Columbus, OH 890,770 0.808
33 Milwaukee 880,390 0.799
34 Cincinnati 880,190 0.799
35 Greenville-Spartenberg-Asheville-And 815,460 0.740
36 Salt Lake City 810,830 0.736
37 San Antonio 760,410 0.690
38 West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce 751,930[/color] 0.682
39 Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo-Battle Creek 731,630 0.664
40 Birmingham (Ann, Tuscaloosa) 716,520 0.650

41 Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon-York 707,010 0.641
42 Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News 704,810 0.640
43 New Orleans 672,150 0.610
44 Memphis 657,670 0.597
45 Oklahoma City 655,400 0.595
46 Albuquerque-Santa Fe 653,680 0.593
47 Greensboro-HighPoint-Winston-Salem 652,020 0.592
48 Las Vegas 651,110 0.591
49 Buffalo 644,430 0.585
50 Louisville 643,290 0.584

51 Providence-New Bedford 639,590 0.580
52 Jacksonville 624,220 0.566
53 Austin 589,360 0.535
54 Wilkes Barre-Scranton 588,540 0.534
55 Albany-Schenectady-Troy 552,250 0.501
56 Fresno-Visalia 546,210 0.496
57 Little Rock-Pine Bluff 531,470 0.482
58 Knoxville 516,180 0.468
59 Dayton 513,610 0.466
60 Richmond-Petersburg 510,770 0.463

61 Tulsa 510,480 0.463
62 Mobile-Pensacola (Ft Walton Beach) 501,130 0.455
63 Lexington 478,560 0.434
64 Charleston-Huntington 477,890 0.434
65 Flint-Saginaw-Bay City 475,500 0.431
66 Ft. Myers-Naples 461,920 0.419
67 Wichita-Hutchinson Plus 446,820 0.405
68 Roanoke-Lynchburg 440,390 0.400
69 Green Bay-Appleton 432,810 0.393
70 Toledo 426,520 0.387

71 Tucson (Sierra Vista) 422,480 0.383
72 Honolulu 414,960 0.377
73 Des Moines-Ames 413,590 0.375
74 Portland-Auburn 407,050 0.369
75 Omaha 399,830 0.363
76 Syracuse 398,240 0.361
77 Springfield, MO 395,820 0.359
78 Spokane 389,630 0.354
79 Rochester, NY 385,460 0.350
80 Paducah-Cape Girardeaux-Harsbg 383,330 0.348

81 Shreveport 382,080 0.347
82 Champaign&Springfield-Decatur 378,100 0.343
83 Columbia, SC 373,260 0.339
84 Huntsville-Decatur (Florence) 370,820 0.336
85 Madison 365,550 0.332
86 Chattanooga 354,230 0.321
87 South Bend-Elkhart 333,190 0.302
88 Cedar Rapids-Waterloo-IWC&Dub 331,480 0.301
89 Jackson, MS 328,350 0.298
90 Burlington-Plattsburgh 325,720 0.296

91 Tri-Cities, TN-VA 323,690 0.294
92 Harlingen-Wslco-Brnsvl-McAllen 318,800 0.289
93 Colorado Springs-Pueblo 315,010 0.286
94 Waco-Temple-Bryan 310,960 0.282
95 Davenport-R.Island-Moline 308,380 0.280
96 Baton Rouge 305,810 0.277
97 Savannah 296,100 0.269
98 Johnstown-Altoona 294,810 0.267
99 El Paso (Las Cruces) 290,540 0.264
100 Evansville 288,800 0.262

101 Charleston, SC 283,730 0.257
102 Youngstown 276,720 0.251
103 Lincoln & Hastings-Kearney 274,150 0.249
104 Ft. Smith-Fay-Sprngdl-Rgrs 273,000 0.248
105 Greenville-N.Bern-Washington 271,130 0.246
106 Ft. Wayne 270,500 0.245
107 Myrtle Beach-Florence 265,770 0.241
108 Springfield-Holyoke 264,840 0.240
109 Tallahassee-Thomasville 261,250 0.237
110 Lansing 256,790 0.233

111 Tyler-Longview(Lfkn&Ncgd) 255,770 0.232
112 Reno 255,090 0.231
113 Traverse City-Cadillac 247,600 0.225
114 Sioux Falls(Mitchell) 246,020 0.223
115 Augusta 245,590 0.223
116 Montgomery-Selma 245,090 0.222
117 Peoria-Bloomington 241,800 0.219
118 Fargo-Valley City 234,190 0.212
119 Boise 230,100 0.209
120 Macon 229,870 0.209

121 Eugene 229,280 0.208
122 Santa Barbara-San Mar-San Luis Obispo 224,290 0.204
123 La Crosse-Eau Claire 224,090 0.203
124 Lafayette, LA 220,030 0.200
125 Monterey-Salinas 218,080 0.198
126 Yakima-Pasco-Rchlnd-Knnwck 211,610 0.192
127 Columbus, GA 205,300 0.186
128 Bakersfield 201,850 0.183
129 Corpus Christi 192,380 0.175
130 Chico-Redding 191,190 0.173

131 Amarillo 190,250 0.173
132 Columbus-Tupelo-West Point 186,510 0.169
133 Rockford 183,090 0.166
134 Wausau-Rhinelander 182,620 0.166
135 Monroe-El Dorado 174,370 0.158
136 Topeka 170,650 0.155
137 Duluth-Superior 168,650 0.153
138 Columbia-Jefferson City 167,860 0.152
139 Wilmington 167,810 0.152
140 Beaumont-Port Arthur 167,430 0.152

141 Medford-Klamath Falls 163,090 0.148
142 Erie 158,660 0.144
143 Sioux City 156,950 0.142
144 Wichita Falls & Lawton 154,960 0.141
145 Joplin-Pittsburg 153,720 0.139
146 Lubbock 152,150 0.138
147 Albany, GA 152,140 0.138
148 Salisbury 147,890 0.134
149 Bluefield-Beckley-Oak Hill 145,850 0.132
150 Terre Haute 145,630 0.132

151 Bangor 142,790 0.130
152 Rochestr-Mason City-Austin 142,770 0.130
153 Palm Springs 142,730 0.130
154 Wheeling-Steubenville 142,020 0.129
155 Anchorage 141,290 0.128
156 Binghamton 138,560 0.126
157 Panama City 136,450 0.124
158 Biloxi-Gulfport 135,540 0.123
159 Odessa-Midland 135,100 0.123
160 Minot-Bismarck-Dickinson 133,910 0.122

161 Sherman-Ada 124,060 0.113
162 Gainesville 117,190 0.106
163 Idaho Falls-Pocatello 114,560 0.104
164 Abilene-Sweetwater 112,510 0.102
165 Clarksburg-Weston 108,730 0.099
166 Utica 106,130 0.096
167 Hattiesburg-Laurel 105,000 0.095
168 Missoula 104,700 0.095
169 Quincy-Hannibal-Keokuk 103,890 0.094
170 Yuma-El Centro 103,170 0.094

171 Billings 102,620 0.093
172 Dothan 98,370 0.089
173 Elmira (Corning) 97,210 0.088
174 Jackson, TN 95,010 0.086
175 Lake Charles 94,090 0.085
176 Alexandria, LA 93,120 0.085
177 Rapid City 91,070 0.083
178 Watertown 90,930 0.083
179 Jonesboro 89,530 0.081
180 Marquette 89,160 0.081

181 Harrisonburg 85,870 0.078
182 Greenwood-Greenville 76,800 0.070
183 Bowling Green 75,420 0.068
184 Meridian 71,210 0.065
185 Lima 70,940 0.064
186 Charlottesville 69,750 0.063
187 Grand Junction-Montrose 65,190 0.059
188 Laredo 64,410 0.058
189 Great Falls 64,130 0.058
190 Parkersburg 63,990 0.058

191 Lafayette, IN 63,330 0.057
192 Twin Falls 60,400 0.055
193 Butte-Bozeman 59,300 0.054
194 Eureka 58,340 0.053
195 Cheyenne-Scottsbluff 54,320 0.049
196 Bend, OR 54,250 0.049
197 San Angelo 53,330 0.048
198 Casper-Riverton 52,070 0.047
199 Ottumwa-Kirksville 51,290 0.047
200 Mankato 50,930 0.046

201 St. Joseph 45,840 0.042
202 Zanesville 33,080 0.030
203 Fairbanks 32,310 0.029
204 Presque Isle 31,140 0.028
205 Victoria 30,250 0.027
206 Helena 25,810 0.023
207 Juneau 24,130 0.022
208 Alpena 17,790 0.016
209 North Platte 15,320 0.014
210 Glendive 5,020 0.005

Total 110,213,910 100.000

Notes: NSI® and DMA® are registered trademarks of Nielsen Media Research, Inc.
Nielsen Media Research is a trademark of Nielsen Media Research, Inc.
post #4627 of 25503
Thread Starter 
Issues of Past Not Off Limits in TV Return, Stewart Says

By BILL CARTER The New York Times August 26, 2005

Martha Stewart had not one but two new television shows to promote at a news conference yesterday, so she was quite willing to show a little leg.

The famous leg, that is, the one with the ankle encircled by an electronic monitoring bracelet. Ms. Stewart, when asked, did not hesitate to raise the pants leg on her brown business suit to reveal the bracelet, which she has worn for five months while under house confinement after her release from prison.

The message of the day was about looking forward, however, to her new syndicated daily daytime show "Martha" and her NBC prime-time series "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart" - not looking backward at the tribulation of having been convicted of lying to federal investigators about a stock trade and spending five months in a federal prison in Alderson, W.Va.

Ms. Stewart noted that she was wearing a microphone battery pack on her other ankle for yesterday's appearance, "so I'm well balanced today."

The bracelet, which the court ordered Ms. Stewart to wear for an extra three weeks after she committed undisclosed violations of her house confinement, has been no impediment to mounting either show, Ms. Stewart said. "It has had no impact whatsoever on the production of the shows," she said.

Ms. Stewart said she would acknowledge her time in prison when she begins her live daily syndicated show on Sept. 12. The opening credits for the show, which include a montage of images from Ms. Stewart's life, accompanied by a song with the lyrics "I'm not the same girl you used to know," prominently include a picture of her on the courthouse steps after her conviction.

"People are used to seeing me that way for the last year," Ms. Stewart said. "We're not going to avoid things." Ms. Stewart intends to take questions from a live audience every day on the daytime show and expects the issue of her conviction to be raised.

"It's not off limits, let's put it that way," Ms. Stewart said. "I think it will come out naturally. It's part of my life. It's there. It's not going to go away."

But her daytime show, which has been ordered by stations in 98 percent of the country, will mainly celebrate Ms Stewart's lifestyle empire. It will be staged on a set that looks as large as the runway of an aircraft carrier, with an enormous working kitchen, a prep kitchen behind soundproof glass, a stairway apparently to nowhere, a library sitting area and a greenhouse full of live plants.

The daytime show, with the reality television maestro Mark Burnett as executive producer, will include celebrity guests as well as Ms. Stewart's familiar how-to segments. But the show will also embrace Ms. Stewart's more recent notoriety.

Rob Dauber, the co-executive producer, said the second show, on Sept. 13, would feature an entire audience of women who have knitted or crocheted the poncho that Ms. Stewart wore home from prison. Susan Lyne, the president of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, said that more than a million people had downloaded the pattern for Ms. Stewart's poncho after seeing her wear it on television.

The daytime show will give Ms. Stewart daily television exposure again, but the higher-stakes gamble is her prime-time reality entry, NBC's second edition of "The Apprentice," which will have its premiere Sept. 21. That will be one day before Donald J. Trump returns in the original "Apprentice."

Yesterday Mr. Burnett, who produces both shows, said he had taken pains in the production to differentiate the two "Apprentice" programs, though the format is the same: 16 candidates attempting weekly tasks in an elimination contest to win an executive position under the show's business-mogul star. "The palette of the coloring and the look and feel of the show are entirely different," Mr. Burnett said. "I wanted the palette to mirror who they are."

That means a tougher tone for Mr. Trump, who Mr. Burnett noted works "in the very rough and tumble business of real estate in the toughest city in the world" and a softer one for Ms. Stewart, who he said had a "more artistic business."

Mr. Burnett said the shows would have contrasting rhythms exemplified by their different theme songs. "Money, money, money," Mr. Burnett sang, a line from the O'Jays hit "For Love of Money," which is Mr. Trump's theme. It is faster, a harsher theme, Mr. Burnett said. "Sweet Dreams" by the Eurythmics, the new theme for Ms. Stewart, has lyrics perfect for her, he said.

The song includes such lines as "everyone is looking for something" and "I'm gonna know what's inside you." Mr. Burnett said Ms. Stewart was a big fan of the Eurythmics lead singer, Annie Lennox.

Ms. Stewart said she had committed totally to "The Apprentice" during its seven weeks of shooting. "I was very involved," she said. "I got to know the candidates better and better as they were narrowed down."

She said she found the process "not at all artificial - in fact it was shockingly real." The shock, she said, came from seeing how the contestants interacted in private and how that contrasted to the faces they offered when she was present.

Though much has been made of the catchphrase Ms. Stewart will use to dispatch the losing contestants each week (the elemental "You're fired" is wholly owned by Mr. Trump), Ms. Stewart tried to play down any emphasis on the words she will say.

But Mr. Burnett said, "There is a wonderful commonality to the end of every show, which Martha came up with." He added, "It's something you definitely will remember."

As Aug. 31 approaches, the date when the surveillance bracelet is scheduled to be removed, Ms. Stewart said, "I am very much looking forward to being released from home confinement." She declined to say how she planned to celebrate the event. She added that she would be on probation for another year and a half.

Asked whether she felt the additional time on her house confinement had been justified, Ms. Stewart said that to make any comments before her release date "would be inappropriate."
post #4628 of 25503
Thread Starter 
Markets Shift In New Nielsens
By Allison Romano Broadcasting & Cable

Several fast-growing Southern cities moved up in the latest Nielsen market rankings, while several Midwestern and Northern markets lost ground.

Houston, formerly Nielsen's 11th largest market per the 2004-2005 rankings, moves up to the 10th spot. Texas' largest city swapped places with Detroit.

Similarly, Tampa-St. Petersburg edged up a spot to the 12th largest market, replacing Seattle-Tacoma, now 13. And Phoenix, formerly No. 15, traded places wither former No. 14 Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Other Southern markets edging up include Charlotte, now No. 27; West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce, Fla., now No. 38, Albuquerque, N.M,, to No. 46, and Las Vegas, which climbed three spots to No. 48. One of the biggest jumps was Palm Springs, Calif., moving up six spots to become the 153th largest market (out of 210 total).

Several cities in the Northeast and Midwest fell multiple spots. In upstate New York, Buffalo dropped three places to market No. 49, Rochester, N.Y., fell four rungs to No. 79 and Watertown, N.Y., dropped to No. 178 from No. 175. The Providence-New Bedford market slipped two spots to No. 51 and Dayton, Ohio, dropped three rungs to No. 59.

The total TV universe continues to grow. For the 2005-2006 TV season, Nielsen counts 110.2 million homes, up from 109.6 million last season.
post #4629 of 25503
Thread Starter 
TV Review:

Lend them your eyes
HBO's "Rome" is peopled with intriguing and complicated characters and politics
By Robert Lloyd Los Angeles Times Staff Writer August 26, 2005

HBO's 'Rome' is peopled with intriguing and complicated characters and politics."Rome," which premieres Sunday night on HBO a fact that, like ancient Roman graffiti, seems to have been plastered on every spare surface in town is the show that gave birth to "Deadwood": David Milch had proposed to HBO a series about lawlessness and order in the time of the Caesars and when told that the network already had a Roman project in the pipeline switched his sights to the Old West.

As it happens, "Rome," which was created by John Milius whose interest in issues of gladiatorial manliness and troop loyalty has long been noted Bruno Heller and William J. Macdonald, is close in spirit to "Deadwood" in the way it attempts to portray a bygone time, not only its art and technology but its spirit and psychology.

Set in 57 BC, in the difficult twilight of the Republic and the dawn of the Empire, "Rome" starts slowly indeed, it stays slow, betraying a deliberation that marks it as a BBC co-production but rewards attention. If it is neither as deep nor as strange as "Deadwood" and lacks a performance as operatically grand as Ian McShane's, it nevertheless has the some of the same gathering force, and like the Milch show, and "The Sopranos" as well, gets you sympathetically interested in the fate of people for whom you should probably have no sympathy.

Indeed, there are episodes here the latter show could import whole one concerning a loan shark, a deceptively quiet fellow wearing a thick gold chain feels like a pointed homage, and there is a clear shared interest in sex, violence and half-naked dancing girls.

I have long harbored a suspicion that nudity is contractually required of HBO series the people have to feel as if they're getting something for their money they can't see elsewhere and "Rome" does nothing to allay that.

Here, of course, it's unusually appropriate, or at least traditional from the lurid history painters of the 19th century, to C.B. DeMille to "Gladiator," to ABC's sword-and-sandal summer miniseries "Empire," the Roman world has provided a pretext for vicarious thrills mixed with a hint of approbation the whole darn Satyricon.

"Rome" does not shirk this responsibility. Before you can say "veni, vidi, vici," there is Polly Walker, as the ambitious Atia, niece of Julius Caesar (Ciarán Hinds), rising like a ripe Venus from her bath, as sullen teenage son Octavian (Max Pirkis) the future emperor Augustus Caesar nervously averts his eyes. Most of the show's other female stars will strip for their art, as well, along with many of the men full-frontally speaking, "Rome" is an (almost) equal opportunity employer.

The political intricacies of the show are not always easy to follow the Roman system was even more complicated than it seems here but it's generally easy to tell what side a character is on, at any given time. (Allegiances shift.) What's more important is that the characters are real characters not just historical resumes and accurate haircuts and that the historical bigwigs mix plausibly with the invented plebeians.

And because they're not written to sound a single identifying note, because they show different and even contradictory facets in different situations, the people of "Rome" get more intriguing, more unknowable as you get to know them.

Octavian appears at first to embody a certain cliche about callow future dictators, but we soon see that he is also a kind of ancient-world policy wonk, who also likes to paint his sister's toenails, and is almost but not quite ready to stand up to a manipulative mother pushing him to learn the masculine arts, "how to fight and copulate and skin animals and so forth."

Atia, for her part, though in many respects an "evil" character, feels like she's doing right by her family and that she's the only one of them with a lick of sense. Walker is not the show's central character though Atia is tireless in her efforts to become so but she is its star, as funny as she is horrible. And Hinds' Julius Caesar and James Purefoy's Marc Antony seem, for once, like the military rock stars they were, the latter the Keith to the former's Mick.

On occasion the show seems to be showing off its deep research even the sexual positions have been carefully selected as when Atia instructs a servant how to cook lamprey ("long enough to kill them, no more"), or Octavian uses the word "trivium" (the singular of "trivia") as if particularly to remind the viewer of its Roman roots, or a town crier inserts an advertisement into his spiel ("This month's public bread is supplied by the Caroline Brotherhood of Millers the Brotherhood uses only the finest flour; true Roman bread for true Romans"). But these things are somehow not irritating even when obvious.

If the metropolis does not teem quite so teemingly as it might, this is true of all but the costliest epics, and for the most part, the Rome of "Rome" seems like a place people actually live in. It feels like the bones of the modern Rome, recognizably Italian, with its painted walls and crooked spaces, cosmopolitan and busy, the Rome of Ovid, Juvenal and Plautus, a lively, nasty place. I haven't seen ancient ordinary life so well represented since "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," and I am not being funny.
post #4630 of 25503
Thread Starter 
TV Review:

HBO's 'Rome' burns with realistic depiction of ancient life
* * * 1/2

By Robert Bianco USA TODAY

Rome wasn't built in a day or an episode.

As extravagant, enticing and chaotic as Rome itself, HBO's latest series boasts all the opulent pleasures that lavish expenditures of time and money can buy. Every detail in its re-creation of ancient Rome may not be correct, but the spirit and the overall picture ring true and the entertainment value resounds.

Even with those virtues, Rome cannot topple the best of the Roman epics, I, Claudius, which had an all-conquering cast and script. But by moving outside the halls of power and into the city's streets, this series does create a sense of Rome as a living and breathing place the vibrant, colorful, sensual, crowded center of the ancient world that has never been matched on TV.

It does not, however, build its empire quickly. Like most HBO shows, which don't face the instant sink-or-swim pressures of broadcast TV, Rome makes little initial effort to draw an audience into its sprawling story. It may take you a few episodes to find your way to Rome. But once there, you may never want to leave.

Written by Bruno Heller (Touching Evil) and directed by Michael Apted, this 12-episode HBO/BBC co-production treads some of the same ground as this summer's Empire on ABC, but in wiser and more convincing fashion.

Rather than opening with the assassination of Julius Caesar (Ciaran Hinds), and losing one of history's most interesting characters, Rome steps back eight years to tell the story of Caesar's battle with Pompey (Kenneth Cranham) for control of the Republic.

Their conflict forces all of Rome to take sides, while firing the ambitions of Caesar's niece Atia (Polly Walker), who combines the political drive of Claudius' Livia with the sex drive of Dynasty's Alexis. She beds Mark Antony (James Purefoy) for fun and profit, but the focus of her attention is her son Octavian (Max Pirkis, one of the show's real finds).

As the Romans did themselves, Rome revels in the sheer, scheming gamesmanship behind this pursuit of power, with Julius the master and Octavian his brightest student. Unlike Claudius, however, Rome is not solely interested in the machinations of the high and mighty. It devotes equal time to the travails of two Roman soldiers: the strict, old-guard centurion Lucius (Kevin McKidd) and his "cheerful brutish" friend Pullo (Ray Stevenson).

McKidd and Stevenson are a wonderful pair, with more than enough chemistry to compensate for the sometimes soapy nature of their plebian story line. The problem is with the aristocrats: Walker is too colorful, and Hinds is not colorful enough. Hinds needs to blossom a bit, and Walker, fun though she can be, really needs to be reeled in.

Though further away in time, there are ways in which these ancient Romans seem closer to us than the settlers in Deadwood. Still, like Deadwood, this is not a series for the squeamish or the prudish. Rome could be a rough and licentious town, and Rome exercises that historical license through throat-slashings, brain-drillings and full-frontal nudity, male and female.

The Romans probably wouldn't have been shocked at all. If you are, well, no one ever said all viewer roads lead to Rome.
post #4631 of 25503
Thread Starter 
Everybody Loves ABC

By Daniel Fienberg zap2it.com

The last time ABC helped lead a network television paradigm shift was at the turn of the millennium when the success of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" prompted other networks to jump on the game-show bandwagon with temporary hits like "The Weakest Link" and instant duds like "The Chair." Back then, the other networks all bailed first, leading ABC into an over-reliance on "Millionaire" and a programming hole that lasted several seasons.

Flash forward to the 2005-06 season and ABC is hot again, thanks to "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost" (and more recently, "Grey's Anatomy" and "Dancing with the Stars"), hits that both proved to be that rarest of network television commodities, the game-changing smash. Naturally, the competition rushed out to produce imitators. While several networks had "Housewives"-esque serial primetime soaps on their pilot slates, those offerings apparently weren't up to snuff. Everybody, however, seems to have an alien-centric "Lost" clone this season. ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson still thinks his originals are special.

"One is such a specific, incredible idea and really reinvents storytelling -- in terms of 'Lost' -- and 'Desperate' is such a specific voice that I think it would be a mistake to think that you can do those shows again," McPherson tells television reporters. "I think you can do shows that are maybe influenced by those or that appeal to the same audience, but I think it gets a little risky when people are trying to imitate them."

McPherson suggests that "Lost" and "Housewives" -- both favorites at next month's Emmy Awards -- aren't the only ABC successes to spread their influence onto other networks. "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" became a breakout last season, building its audience almost by the minute every Sunday night. Whereas the model for unscripted shows had previously climaxed with bug-eating and testicle milkshakes, "Makeover" is warmer and fuzzier than nearly any show on television, reducing a terrifyingly high percentage of viewers to tears weekly. Even the most popular show on television hasn't been immune to the "Makeover" magic.

"The marketing campaign of 'Idol' last year changed," McPherson argues. "You know, the year before it was all making fun of everybody and then, you know, last year after 'Home Makeover' worked, it was all about how this is the American Dream."

"Housewives" and "Lost" can change a network's fortunes and shift industry storytelling, but they can't directly help ABC win Thursday nights. Or Friday nights. They can, however, give the network a tiny bit of extra flexibility. As a result, "Alias" is shifting onto its third night in as many seasons, bringing a tiny established audience to 8 p.m. Thursdays. And "Supernanny" is taking its fans off to Friday. Will either move make a difference?

"Every night of the week is really important to us," McPherson insists. "We're going to have greater strength on some and weaker on others."
post #4632 of 25503
Thread Starter 
TV Review:

An Inside View of the Angst and Elation of Space Exploration

By NED MARTEL The New York Times August 26, 2005

Rarely does the History Channel, or any other splicer of yesteryear's reels, get as complete a chance to depict the soul of an extraordinary human undertaking as Gene Kranz provides in "Beyond the Moon: Failure Is Not an Option II." (Sunday at 9 PM ET/PT.)

It must be noted that in bringing the story to the channel, Mr. Kranz, NASA's resident missionary at Mission Control for many years, was giving himself another opportunity to sell his life story. His memoirs came out a few years ago, and before that, in 1995, he was lionized through Ed Harris's Oscar-nominated performance in "Apollo 13." But the glory that motivates this man is decidedly larger than his own; his focus is otherworldly, ad astra.

Mr. Kranz amasses not only his memories, but also those of his gifted underlings, many of whom chime in for Sunday's program, a sequel to the History Channel's 2003 chronicle of the first lunar missions. By lending his imprimatur to these retrospectives, Mr. Kranz gets his fellow NASA insiders on camera and off message, as they unpack episodes of guilt, betrayal and grief. They tell stories they could never tell when they were in NASA's employ, when the organization seemed determined to mask any dissent, miscalculation or danger.

In this startlingly frank retelling of space exploration to date, much of the post-Apollo history at NASA is seasoned with bitterness. The specialists come to feel less than special as their celestial successes are deemed pedestrian by a fickle public or wasteful by grandstanding politicians. Many NASA veterans bemoan that the space program was capable of so much more, had those of us confined to inner space fully considered what could be learned in the outer realm.

"Nearly a half century after reaching the moon, NASA is at a crossroads, searching for a vision it hasn't had since Apollo," says Scott Glenn, the narrator, who earned his space props in the 1983 film "The Right Stuff." If the mission was murky to the public, it was always perfectly mapped out in Mr. Kranz's head. He comes off as the Vince Lombardi of space travel, leading astronauts beyond their corporal capacity. Clearly, some mental fire made these feats possible, and Mr. Kranz knew how to stoke it. In archival film over many decades, he is seen pacing back and forth among the bays of machines as if they were the gridiron sidelines.

In his hindsight debriefings, he is frank about his dashed hopes for the space program, which was used for maximum political benefit and then denied its proposals to walk on Mars, to build a base on the moon. If you look at the numbers, the billions spent at NASA since Apollo could hardly be called a pittance, but forgivably, Mr. Kranz still sees the place as an underfinanced workshop. If he had had his pecuniary druthers, Mr. Kranz asserts, space travel could have transformed higher education, science, industry and, he's not afraid to declare, humanity.

From the thin, pursed lips of this buzz-cut technophile comes some heady oratory. By the end of the program he's philosophizing about his realizations of "how finite we are," in contrast with the infinite that he explores in his day job. But the program's other true achievement is not merely to present Mr. Kranz's agenda. It also shows the subtle but substantial effects of an organization reaching maturity, learning from catastrophe, adjusting to generational change.

No matter how much bureaucratic institutions may dominate the livelihoods of most Americans, you may not wish to see their inner workings in your spare time. But the space program is so thoroughly photographed during life-or-death moments that the day-to-day decision-making can be riveting.

Some days are triumphant, yet the buttoned-down atmosphere prevails even during the space shuttle's first-ever re-entry and landing. Intricate calibrations guided the spacecraft to the ground as it glided on a 4,000-mile course to land on a 1,300-foot landing strip. The flight controller on duty warns those gathered at the monitors to confine themselves to a brief outburst of celebration upon touchdown, after which they should return to silent concentration. "Room, get ready for exhilaration," he says.

On a solemn occasion in 1986, no one at the controls notices the flash of fire at the bottom of the space shuttle Challenger's solid-rocket booster. Out of the corner of his eye, the flight director, Jay Greene, spots the contrails of the exploding wreckage at the exact moment the viewing public does. His disbelief seems as painful now as then. He humbly, hauntedly vents about the tragedy as the producers insert film clips from that day.

"The look on his face was something you see only a few times in your life," Mr. Kranz recalls. "This horror grips you, becomes almost unimaginable in your ability to live with it. But that is our job, to live with the risk. This is the nature of people who hold lives in their hands."

The program also winningly captures the culture clash when T-shirted dudes with mutton-chop sideburns first sat among the buzz-cut old-timers, who preferred short-sleeves and ties. To recreate the moment women arrived at the control bays, the camera pans up a period photograph of Linda Patterson, a flight controller, as the theme from "2001: A Space Odyssey" blares. Back then, she recalls, veterans were asking one another if this woman or that one had proper qualifications, in full-throated, passive-aggressive conversations that the newcomers could hear.

Ultimately, Mr. Kranz's promotional goals are met, even as he bemoans the measly results. Certainly his era of experts has inspired its successors to think big, to go further with less financing. One relatively new arrival asserts that as a toddler, he first learned to say numerals backward by mimicking rocket countdowns, and then went on to work in mission control.

Through this televised oral history, viewers can finally comprehend the tension that is never explained in the oh-my-golly live coverage of shuttle launchings. Mistakes of leaders and flaws in machines are openly discussed. Controllers fret, curse and anguish for decades over their failings. But above all, NASA's triumphs emerge as both commonplace and extraordinary, rarely hailed in the years between a few costly, deadly accidents.
post #4633 of 25503
Originally Posted by fredfa View Post

Coincidentally or not, the co-chairmen of the powerful Senate Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the FCC, are Senators Ted Stevens (Alaska) and Daniel Inouye (Hawaii), both of whom are concerned about their state's access to the full spectrum of the communications revolution.

Well, isn't that a different version of "pork?"
post #4634 of 25503
Thread Starter 
'Chris' crusades
UPN launches pricey push for laffer

By JOSEF ADALIAN variety.com

UPN has what's shaping up to be the season's best-reviewed new comedy with "Everybody Hates Chris." Now the net just has to get viewers to watch.

To woo auds to the Chris Rock/Ali LeRoi-created laffer, UPN has launched the most ambitious marketing and promotional campaign in its 10-year history. Goal of the multimillion-dollar effort is to get the "Chris" pilot in front of as many as eyeballs as possible -- even before the show's official debut Sept. 22 at 8 p.m.

"We're spending more money on this than any other promotion in UPN history," said CBS/UPN marketing guru George Schweitzer. "They've delivered to us a great pilot, and we want to get this out in as many places as we can."

Marketing campaign for Paramount Network TV-produced "Chris" includes at least a dozen components, one of which is a deal with American Airlines to put the "Chris" pilot in front of some 4 million passengers during September flights -- a first for the Viacom-owned nets.

"Before it goes on the air, it'll premiere in the air," Schweitzer quipped. "They won't have to pay a thing, and we know they're going to see it. They have no place to go."

Launching "Chris" is critical, since the preseason buzz surrounding the show was a major reason Madison Avenue bet big on "Chris," helping UPN to a record upfront haul. Ad buyers will be watching closely to see if the series delivers on the promise of its pilot.

In addition, while UPN is hardly the only net mounting a major campaign on behalf of a new fall show-- try to escape ABC's relentless tubthumping for "Commander in Chief" -- hyping "Chris" poses some unique challenges.

For one thing, smaller webs like UPN and WB get very little viewership during summer months. By contrast, the Big Four can usually count on getting a substantial number of viewers to a new show just by hyping it on their own airwaves.

What's more, UPN faces the difficult task of not just launching a show but of transforming an entire night.

In one of the season's biggest scheduling gambles, net moved "WWE Smackdown!" to Friday nights in order to slot "Chris" on Thursdays. Weakness of NBC's "Joey" convinced execs there was room for a new comedy in the slot once ruled by "Friends" and, two decades ago, "The Cosby Show."

"This is a game-changing move for UPN," network prexy Dawn Ostroff declared in the spring. "We believe Chris Rock will have a huge impact on UPN (and that) the coming season will be a turning point in our competition with the WB."

Hence the high-profile hype:

* * * Millions of DVDs of the pilot are being distributed across the country, many by street teams handing them out at major events like this month's X Games and next month's Emmy parties.

Street teams have even been handing out the DVDs outside movie theaters Friday and Saturday nights during big opening weekends, and subscribers to Entertainment Weekly will find a copy of the full pilot in an upcoming issue.

Discs being handed out come in a bright yellow package so that "even if you don't watch the pilot, we've reached you with the advertising" on the wrapper, Schweitzer said.

* * * The front of every New York City MTA bus -- all 5,000 of them -- will be emblazoned with "Chris" ads throughout September. UPN also bought all the ad space at Grand Central Station next month for a "Chris" blitz.

Helicopters and planes will fly "Chris" banners in Gotham and L.A.

* * * Trailers for "Chris" will run in more than 1,400 AMC theaters as well as at an additional six dozen Magic Johnson Theaters.

* * * UPN is also on track to hand out 1 million bumper stickers and T-shirts that read "Honk if You Hate Chris." On a recent weekend, hundreds of shoppers at the Westfield Century City mall in West L.A. discovered the "Chris" bumper stickers on their windshields.

* * * Rock, who narrates "Chris," will be front and center on the talkshow circuit next month, touting his series almost as aggressively as if it were one of his tentpole features. UPN and Par's PR teams have also been working closely on a massive press campaign for the skein.

* * * Look for a massive cable ad buy in the week leading up to the "Chris" premiere. Viacom-owned radio stations will also push the skein -- when they're not hyping CBS shows, that is.

Because UPN's young adult target aud is "doing other things" besides watching TV during the summer, Ostroff said the net had no choice but to go after them in other ways.

"We need to be very creative to reach people," she said, with Schweitzer adding that it was crucial to "get the chatter going."

Three other comedies will air on UPN on Thursdays, but none of them will get the same promo push as "Chris." That may get other producers peeved, but Schweitzer says opening the night has to be UPN's top priority.

"The night is all about 'Everybody Hates Chris,' " he said. "As 'Chris' goes, so goes Thursday."

Ostroff noted that all nets "pick one or two shows to really focus their attention on," and said that if "Chris" works, it will help other shows on UPN. "A rising tide lifts all boats," she said.

Big promo push, plus the critical raves, is bound to lead to expectations of a big premiere night number for "Chris." Ostroff already is trying to manage expectations.

"Launching a show on UPN is not the same as on CBS or another network," she said. "It takes a while for us to find an audience and for our audience to find us.

"We're going to be patient."
post #4635 of 25503
Thread Starter 
Thursday's network prime-time ratings have been posted at the top of Latest News the first item in this thread.
post #4636 of 25503
Thread Starter 
TV Review:

Toga Party
The Romans are coming to HBO

By Ellen Gray Philadelphia Daily News

HBO CHAIRMAN Chris Albrecht gets a little testy when he reads stories about the premium-cable network's inability to find anything to put on at 9 p.m. Sundays that will pack the ratings wallop of "The Sopranos."

Which, as you may have heard, won't be back till March 2006.

Still, it's impossible not to look at "Rome," a series about Italians who love food, fighting and sex (not necessarily in that order) but who live a couple of thousand years - and several thousand miles - from present-day New Jersey and not ask, as A.J. Soprano once did:

"What? No f- - - - - - ziti?"

No ziti, but "Rome" does boast enough intrigue, whackings and full frontal nudity - from both sexes - to satisfy the most exacting thrill-seeker.

I mean, when was the last time you saw anyone on "The Sopranos" take a shower in the blood of a slaughtered bull?

That dubious honor fell to actress Polly Walker, who plays Julius Caesar's niece, Atia, and who in Sunday's premiere can be seen displaying a good deal of the glory of "Rome" in one scene, only to return a bit later, fully clothed, to have what she recently described to reporters as "a cherry syrup thing" poured over her from high above in the depiction of a Roman ritual sacrifice.

"I knew it would look amazing, and I just went for it," she said of the bull's blood ritual. "The other one [a sex scene], I just sort of closed my eyes and thought of England."

It may be impossible for American audiences, at least, not to think of England, since the accents and actors are British, and HBO's co-producing the 12-episode "Rome," which it has some hopes of turning into a longer-running series, with the BBC.

And though another Roman epic, "I, Claudius," broke new ground in terms of content when it aired on PBS in the late '70s, in a post-Janet Jackson world, it's also impossible to imagine this series, with its down and dirty Romans - who make the denizens of ABC's Roman romp, "Empire," seem like Disney characters - anywhere but on HBO.

Yet even HBO doesn't seem entirely sure it can sell its viewers on the oft-told tale of the fall of the Roman republic and the rise of the Roman empire, with co-creator Bruno Heller's pilot script setting things up as a sort of buddy comedy/drama, the story of Julius Caesar, as seen through the eyes of two of his soldiers, Lucius Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) and Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson).

Caesar (Ciaran Hinds) is "a known character," Heller told reporters. "We designed it so that when you see Caesar it's through other people's eyes... because to a degree, a character like Caesar is always unknowable," he said.

Maybe so, but though Vorenus, particularly, turns out to have a complicated family life, neither man is half as interesting as the upper-class Romans whose whims appear to rule their lives.

It's at times as if "The Sopranos" were being told from the point of view of a couple of guys who run Tony Soprano's errands.

Fortunately, Heller clearly found those nearer and dearer to Caesar interesting enough, and you don't have to be a classics major to know that Atia's young son Octavian (Max Pirkis) is worth keeping an eye on, or to appreciate Atia's soap-opera diva machinations or the emotional torment of Caesar's lover Servilia (Lindsay Duncan).

It's not necessary, either, to focus on the $100 million, 14-month (on and off) shooting schedule for a project that took years to bring to the small screen or to do more than note that the massive set built at Rome's Cinecitta Studios as well as the scenes shot on location elsewhere in Italy put "Rome" in a time and place every bit as specific as 21st century North Jersey.

Heller, who insisted on all those British accents, is nevertheless eager to offer Americans something to hang on to, noting that that "transformation of a republic into an empire" is something "America is dealing with" right now.

Perhaps, but as much fun as it is to write about the sociological and psychological aspects of "The Sopranos," it's not midlife crises or the breakdown of the corporate structure that people are talking about the next day - it's the murders and the mayhem.

And the stories.

"Rome" has the murders and the mayhem, and a hell of a good story, but will it be able to reassert HBO's Sunday night mastery, especially with ABC's "Desperate Housewives" coming back with new episodes Sept. 25?

HBO's Albrecht would argue that it doesn't matter.

"When we started Sunday night, people weren't paying much attention to Sunday nights, and we've had tremendous success there," he said last month. "But what we've been able to do over the course of the last few years is migrate our own strategy into taking advantage of all of the platforms that we have."

Thus, "Rome" wasn't built in a day, and it won't be launched in one, either. In an attempt to maximize sampling for the series during this tricky end-of-summer period just before the broadcast networks begin their fall attacks - a time when many of us are less focused on the water cooler and more on staying cool near the water - HBO's chosen the instant-gratification model over the big-event model.

So the episode that premieres Sunday will rerun every day, at various times, for the rest of the week, on either HBO, HBO2 or HBO Signature, and also will be available on HBO On Demand. This will continue with subsequent episodes, except that the third episode will be available to On Demand subscribers on Sept. 5, the day after the second episode premieres and six days before its main HBO premiere.

So tune in Sunday or whenever you feel like it - because HBO seems determined that the sun won't set on this empire.
post #4637 of 25503
Thread Starter 
TV Review:

See HBO's 'Rome' and sigh


In a bid to continue its long-standing rule as the emperor of premium cable, HBO is returning to the basics of giving the people what they want with "Rome," 12 episodes fueled by blood, thirst for power and bare-naked lust.

By that, we mean that within its first few hours, Roman soldiers stab into barbarian guts and plunder villages; a naked vixen writhes atop her "goatish" lover, with a servant standing ready to hand off a goblet of wine after she climaxes; and politicians weave schemes to wrest power from one another.

All of this sounds like very ancient "Sopranos," doesn't it? To adopt the phrasing of a patrician stick in the mud, would that were so. What you're picturing is far more exciting than the reality of "Rome's" initial six hours, the first of which premieres at 9 p.m. Sunday.

"Rome" isn't so much a Sunday night diversion as a task, lacking the poetry that makes expletive-laden "Deadwood" sparkle with eloquence. Unlike HBO's western, you won't exactly be clamoring for the next week's episode at the end of "Rome" -- not after hour one or hour six.

A co-production of HBO and the BBC, "Rome" lavishes us with spectacular sets and splendid acting, taking extraordinary pains to re-create the era down to the silks and rags everyone wears. If it doesn't hit, it won't be for lack of trying -- which "Rome" does in earnest, only far less successfully than one would expect of a $100 million series.

Heavy attention to detail isn't enough to make up for the plodding, haughty pompousness threatening to rob the series of its potential to seduce. This is in spite of a plot saucy enough to be considered prime-time soap material even if the main events have been retold too many times to count.

In 52 B.C., the noble classes are embroiled in a power play between Gais Julius Caesar (Ciaren Hinds), set to return to Rome after his conquest of Gaul, and Pompey Magnus (Kenneth Cranham), his former ally who wields power with the Senate. We know how that tale ends, and if you don't here's a hint: "Hail Caesar!" Stabbity-stab-stab-stab.

That's not the saucy part. While Caesar conquers abroad, his cruel, cunning niece Atia (Polly Walker) busily secures power in the failing Republic. She's keen on playing both sides, bedding Mark Antony (James Purefoy) while pushing her daughter Octavia (Kerry Condon) on Pompey by destroying the girl's marriage when the ruler suddenly finds himself a widower.

Atia's contemplative, studious teenager, Gaius Octavian (Max Pirkis), watches from the sidelines, parsing strategies and dissecting the peculiarity of human behavior. (Whether this would be considered a spoiler or a slice of trivia is up to you, but Octavian eventually becomes Caesar Augustus, the greatest of Roman emperors.)

Patient history buffs may be pleased enough that HBO's version of the ancient city seems closer to the truth of what it probably was like -- a place as wretched, grimy, amoral as it was glorious and cosmopolitan, where life was cheap and plebeian women little more than pleasure receptacles.

Seeing Antony rape a shepherdess during a marching break becomes about as ho-hum as a handshake, and for all of the "that's just the way it was" arguments one can use to give a scene like that weight and reason, the notion that such a horror is another flat note in a monotonous symphony is more evidence of "Rome's" insufficiency.

The heart of "Rome" is supposed to be provided by the stoic, honorable Lucius Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) and jolly, thickheaded Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson), two of Caesar's soldiers who begin the series at odds but become fast friends. A kill-'em-now-ask-questions-later kind of guy, Pullo the brute's more entertaining than morose Vorenus, who returns to his wife, Niobe (Indira Varma), after an eight-year absence to find she is hiding a secret. They serve as the steps connecting palace life to the slums in this "Upstairs, Downstairs" setup, although you have to look closely to figure that out.

Read enough stories about "Rome" and its trappings, and the series seems to take on a mythical status of its own. Originally put into development in 1998, "Rome" began life as a miniseries. That probably would have been a better idea, considering what happened to ABC's "Empire," a harmless, lightweight six-hour series that took a different, more liberally fictional swing at the same material.

"Empire" also was a flop. That probably isn't an indicator of "Rome's " success or failure, because "Rome" is to "Empire" what "I, Claudius" was to an especially cheesy episode of "Xena: Warrior Princess." One is out to make a mark on television history; the other just wants you to get a kick out it.

There's something to be said for simple entertainment. Even the producers of the BBC's legendary "I, Claudius" television series that aired on PBS understood how a combination of masterful dialogue and Derek Jacobi's rendition of the stuttering aristocrat made Claudius' survival into a feat both terrifying and hilarious. (If you've never seen "I, Claudius," I urge you to check it out from the library and see what a superior drama looks like.)

We'll grant you, of course, that the simple promise of a naked woman writhing atop her lover is more than enough reason for some to tune in. Walker, the actress often in flagrante delicto in "Rome," isn't tough to look at even after a shower in bull's blood.

Full frontals aren't Walker's finest achievement here, of course; her rendition of a tart-tongued viper deserves most of the credit. The series is most amusing when Atia enters Martha Stewart mode: An angry mob threatens to crash her party, and she peppily makes the rounds to ensure her guests have what they need to commit an honorable suicide if the doors don't hold. Without her, Pirkis and Stevenson's magnificent performances, "Rome" wouldn't even be worth the tease.
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TV Review:

Class warfare, sex and death -- HBO charges boldly into 'Rome'

By Tim Goodman San Francisco Chronicle Friday, August 26, 2005

Let's be crass for a moment. There's an egregious amount of f -- and killing in "Rome," the bold new dramatic series from HBO. Having already watched half the season -- six of 12 episodes -- there's no question that the sheer amount of bloodshed and fornication will get headlines.

When in "Rome," as it were.

Ah, easy cleverness. It's so comforting. But how's this for a new, perhaps more apt, cliche: "When on HBO." It's like a free creative pass, is it not? Violence can be off the charts, the sex can be dirtier, swearing can buttress both and, when it comes to nudity, well, you've got full-frontal male nudity here. Several times over. Let's see Fox try that.

It's easy for rival producers making series for broadcast television to claim that HBO is true to its advertising slogan -- that it's really not TV. But for all the boundless artistic license one gets on HBO, there's also an intimidating, righteously fearful standard to uphold. If you put a series on HBO, it will be judged against the best television has to offer -- other HBO series.

As good as "Rome" is -- and it's an epic, multilayered thing of beauty -- it's still not on the level of "The Sopranos" or "The Wire" or "Deadwood." That's almost an unfair comparison, but it's also true. On the other hand, "Rome" unfolds like a marvelously shot big-screen movie, each scene (filmed on location in Italy) dripping with money well spent and a meticulous grandeur that rewards you for paying extra for HBO.

The comparisons to HBO's other industry-leading series does not diminish the artistic experience of "Rome," it only magnifies the difficulty of standing out in such august company. There is nothing, in six episodes -- each leaving you wanting more and still more when finished -- that indicates "Rome" will falter. It's likely only to get better -- particularly after the slower first two episodes, which carry the burden of setting up civilization in Rome circa 52 B.C., with careful but not dramatically hurtful attention to historic detail.

While the cast of characters in "Rome" is deep, layered and complicated, the main story line is deceptively simple. This is a series about class warfare, emphasis on the war. Some 400 years after the forming of the republic, the elite in Rome are fat and happy, wealthy and corrupt; presiding over an empire with steep class divides. The story of "Rome" begins with the leader of the Senate, Pompey Magnus (Kenneth Cranham) fretting with the rest of the aristocracy about Gaius Julius Caesar (Ciarán Hinds), who has just spent eight long and bloody years taking Gaul -- forging a powerful reputation, untold riches and the best fighting army in all of Italy, the 13th Legion.

Caesar has change on his mind, and the ruling class wants no part of him returning. Hence, your now-historic battle for control of the Empire. Less tied to the books are the stories of those below the power and money. In "Rome, " we follow two extremely different men of the 13th Legion: Lucius Vorenus (Kevin McKidd), a man of loyalty, honor and duty to the Empire. And Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson), an enormous fighting machine, a goon who thinks with his genitals, has an extremely short temper and a very quick sword (which often, and with precision, guts someone's throat from front to back).

Vorenus is torn between his loyalty to the 13th and his belief that the Empire is crumbling from years of corruption and greed. He knows that Caesar is likely to speed the decline. Pullo, though dim-witted, is more enlightened about changing times. Rome, and the world, has changed, he tells Vorenus. Don't get hung up on history -- there's no going back.

Into their world -- from senators to slaves -- comes a brilliantly nuanced group of other characters. This is where HBO really shines. A great drama goes beyond two leads and opens up and explores the lives of auxiliary characters, each making the series in question resonate much more powerfully. When television is done extremely well, you get maybe four additional characters of merit. In HBO gems such as "The Sopranos," "The Wire," and "Deadwood," truly fleshed-out characters often number in double digits -- a grand dramatic achievement.

That's also true in "Rome," which more than excuses the languid, complicated pace of the first two episodes. And it will be mighty handy, once you get hooked, to have access to the HBO Web site, which has set the standard for character identification, family trees, lines of power, etc.

As the episodes unfold, there are wonderful performances from Polly Walker as Atia of the Julii, James Purefoy as Mark Antony, and Max Pirkis as Atia's son, Gaius Octavian.

This is in addition to four riveting performances from McKidd, Stevenson, Cranham and Hinds. Credit must also go to series writer, co-creator and executive producer Bruno Heller, who has turned "Rome" into an addictive, open- ended, page-turner of sorts. Each episode is like a chapter in a book, and you don't want to wait another seven days to move forward.

What hurts "Rome," however, is that same kind of epic sprawl, that novelistic extravagance -- a breadth of vision too ambitious to tell simply. Where David Milch managed to take the Wild West -- the full tired husk of the Western genre, in fact -- and turn it into a personal story about a handful of people in "Deadwood," that dramatic reduction seems to stymie Heller. Part of the problem is that "Rome" -- here it comes -- wasn't built in a day, nor its history easily compactible. You know that Caesar is going to play an enormous role in this series, but it takes him half a season to get back to Rome (then he leaves again). It doesn't exactly allow Hinds, a superb actor, to work up the kind of televised cult of personality that Ian McShane has perfected with Al Swearengen or, for that matter, James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano.

With no character -- hero, antihero or villain -- rushing to fill your screen, what you're left with is a rich little tapestry of players. Nothing too wrong with that. Through half a season it's McKidd, Stevenson and Walker dominating -- and there's much to appreciate there. But what a nagging suspicion there is that by season's end, and certainly by the start of the inevitable second season, Hinds as Caesar will be the poster boy for "Rome. " And yet, six episodes in, there's an unsettled drift to "Rome" that is almost unexplainable. Let Caesar be Caesar!

This is another example of where "When on HBO" becomes handy. Because when you're on HBO, ratings pressure is nonexistent. And if people are already shelling out $12 or more just for the pleasure of your offerings, they tend to invest time a little wiser, to be a tad more understanding. Few broadcast network series can be as ambitious as "Rome" and tell the story in such a way that it holds viewers' very limited attention span. "Lost" is perhaps the finest example of that.

So what's to be made of "Rome" if it falls a bit shy of the greatness of its stablemates, if it unfurls slower than one would like? Patience. There's a reward beyond the f -- and the killing that begins to pay off, ever so slowly, as the story unfolds. Besides, there may be a plethora of noble dramas on television right now, but none of them are set in ancient Rome. In a country already obsessed with shields-and-swords movies, on a channel that has a proven fearlessness for shifting the storytelling paradigm, sometimes you take a chance on brilliance before it's fully formed.
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TV Review:

Prison Break Monday, August 29, 8 PM ET/PT
Ultimate Escapism: Could Fox have a new breakout hit?

By Matt Roush TV Guide

Watching the opening hours of Prison Break, I kept trying to blot out the inner voice telling me, "C'mon, Jack Bauer could get out of this mess in less than a day." In other words: If you think 24 stretches the bounds of logic, wait till you see this doozy.

But for thrill-hunters willing to suspend disbelief and sign up for another tense, violent, improbably entertaining adventure, this new exercise in serialized suspense will do just fine until 24 returns in January. (It sure beats letting Fox's reality hacks get the time period.)

The first leap of faith comes early, as stoic hero Michael Scofield (the terrifically taciturn Wentworth Miller) clumsily robs a bank for the express purpose of being sent to a maximum-security prison where his brother (John Doe's Dominic Purcell) is on death row for murdering the vice president's brother. Scofield, a structural engineer by trade, has a crazy plan to get both of them out. It involves an intimate knowledge of the prison blueprints and an uncanny knack for manipulating everyone in his orbit, including a sadistic Mob boss, a codger who may be the legendary D.B. Cooper, a pretty doctor and even the warden (Stacy Keach).

It's good, pulpy fun, with each of the first two hours ending on a surprising jolt, though the show isn't as propulsively gripping out of the gate as the ticking-clock 24. The personal subplots tend to drag, and an overarching government conspiracy is cartoonishly obvious. Still, Prison Break gets the new season off to an early, instantly enjoyable start.
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Sam Gangee Meets Jack Bauer

By Jim Benson Broadcasting & Cable

Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings), Jean Smart (Garden State) and Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights), along with newcomer Brady Corbet (Thirteen), will join star and co-executive producer Kiefer Sutherland in the cast of the Fox hit, 24.

The series will conspire against Fox's usual Sunday night comedy toon block with its fifth-season launch, comprising a four-hour, two-night season premiere at 8-10 p.m. Jan. 8, followed by another two-hour dose. Jan. 9, which will be the show's 100th episode.

The fifth hour of 24 will settle into the show's regular 9 p.m. Monday time period Jan. 16.

Relying on its successful scheduling strategy, the mid-season launch will allow Fox to continue to air the series without repeats or preemptions through its finale.
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FOX Expands 'Mac' Premiere, Moves 'Malcolm'

LOS ANGELES (Zap2it.com)Fox is tinkering with its fall premiere schedule a little, expanding the season debut of "The Bernie Mac Show" and moving "Malcolm in the Middle" back a week.

The network will open the fifth season of "Bernie Mac" with two episodes, featuring guest stars Anthony Anderson and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, on Friday, Sept. 23. "Malcolm" will now begin its seventh, and possibly final, season on Friday, Sept. 30.

"The Bernie Mac Show" is coming off an abbreviated fourth season, due mostly to the fact that Mac was laid up with pneumonia for part of last fall. Four episodes aired in September 2004, and a dozen more ran starting in January. The show has also been off the air for longer than most others, as it finished its season in April.

Anderson, coming off a dramatic turn on "The Shield," will return to comedy on the "Mac" premiere as a man named Bryan who says he's Byrana's (Dee Dee Davis) father. Bernie wants to support him but becomes suspicious when Bryan ignores Jordan (Jeremy Suarez) and Vanessa (Camille Winbush).

Former WWE champion Austin will appear in the second episode, offering Bernie some advice after Jordan joins his school's wrestling team.

Rosanna Arquette, who stars in ABC's midseason show "What About Brian," will guest-star in the "Malcolm in the Middle" premiere. The episode finds Malcolm (Frankie Muniz) and Reese (Justin Berfield) trying to sneak off to the Burning Man festival. Hal and Lois (Bryan Cranston and Jane Kaczmarek) discover their plan and decide to make it a family outing, with predictably disastrous results.
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Monk Finale

Tonight (Friday, August 26, USA, 10 PM ET/PT)

The best thing about it is that this series of Monks is that much closer to appearing in HD on Universal HD.
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FOX Looks to Avoid a Fall Freefall

By Rick Porter zap2it.com

Fox ended the 2004-05 season in first place among adults 18-49, its target audience and the demographic group advertisers pursue most fervently. It also finished in a virtual tie for second in total viewers (ABC had about 10,000 more per night), thanks in large part to the continuing "American Idol" juggernaut and the Super Bowl.

The midseason resurrection story was nice and everything, but for every comeback there has to be a setback. Which is a highly charitable way to describe much of FOX's fall 2004 performance.

Thanks to a lineup that consisted primarily of short-run unscripted shows no one cared about, FOX found itself a distant fourth at the end of December, more than a million viewers and three-tenths of a ratings point in adults 18-49 behind even struggling NBC. Strip out the week that featured the climax of the Red Sox-Yankees series and the deficit is even more pronounced.

The network will try very hard not to repeat its mistakes again this year. Rather than hold off on most of the schedule until after the World Series -- a strategy that contributed to last fall's dismal showing -- new network head Peter Ligouri is rolling out much of FOX's lineup early, starting this week with "Prison Break."

"We think that makes a lot of sense," Ligouri says. "When you look at shows like 'Prison Break,' which will have seven hours of originals before we take a two-week hiatus for baseball, we think with a show like that we're going to get the hook in deep."

The network will take a similar tack with its other serial dramas, third-year veteran "The O.C." and the rookie "Reunion," both of which premiere Thursday, Sept. 8. Ligouri promises "a good solid cliffhanger" for all three shows before they take their baseball break.

Just as significant is the makeup of the fall slate: With the exception of Saturday staples "Cops" and "America's Most Wanted" and "So You Think You Can Dance," which will run into late September, everything on FOX will be a scripted comedy or drama. Compare that to last year, when the likes of "The Complex: Malibu," "The Next Great Champ" and "The Rebel Billionaire" littered the schedule between September and December.

"American Idol," along with "24," is set to return again in January, and both shows will likely give FOX a ratings bump. But Ligouri isn't necessarily banking on that.

"I think the approach that we're taking is a, 'What if "American Idol" didn't exist?' approach," he says. "By doing that, it focuses us on being incredibly aggressive with ... every other timeslot on the schedule."
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This season's for the ladies

By Brooks Barnes The Wall Street Journal Friday August 26, 2005

Jerry Bruckheimer isn't particularly subtle about who he's targeting with "Close to Home," a new CBS crime drama. "We wanted to make a show for women," he says.

No kidding. A baby gurgles in a cutesy suburban home in the opening sequences. The main character, Annabeth, is a young mother and a legal genius who says things like, "I want to be a mommy and I want to work." Breast milk figures prominently in the premiere episode. The theme song? Sung by Sarah McLachlan.

Sorry, guys. Come fall, the networks will load their schedules with dramas and comedies aimed at the females in the house. Playing to your audience is a basic tenet of showbiz, and these days women not only outnumber men when it comes to prime-time viewing, but the shows they watch also are an easier sell to advertisers. So the new season, kicking off informally next week, has "Commander in Chief," a drama starring Geena Davis as the first female president, and "Hot Properties," a comedy about a bunch of sexy real-estate agents. CBS, which last year was pushing a baseball drama, has three new series built around female leads, including one with Jennifer Love Hewitt as a softhearted psychic ("Ghost Whisperer") and another with Stockard Channing as a comedic heart surgeon ("Out of Practice"). Pushing up the estrogen factor at Fox: "Bones," a drama about a brilliant female archeologist.

The For Her Eyes Only approach is in part an industrywide reflex to last season's No. 1 hit, "Desperate Housewives," which proved men would actually watch a show with a girly title. But the strategy also reflects shifting demographics. The number of men tuning in to prime-time network TV has fallen 17 percent since 2000, according to Nielsen Media Research, compared with a 4 percent drop for women. Last season, an average of 9.8 million men watched the six broadcast networks in prime time, compared with 13.6 million women. TV executives say, too, that women are more loyal, coming back week after week despite the occasional weak episode. Men are fickle, skipping shows they like in order to watch sports.

Judging by at least two high-profile attempts to go after women, the strategy isn't foolproof. In 2002, CBS pulled "That's Life," a lighthearted drama about a woman who defied her parents and went to college (instead of getting married and having children), before it completed its second season. A few years earlier, the network also canceled "To Have & to Hold," a romantic drama about newlyweds, after just two months. Generally, targeting modern women with stereotypical subject matter is a mistake, says Marc Cherry, the creator of "Desperate Housewives." "You can't just add a baby and -- presto! -- women love your show," he says. "That's simplistic thinking."

David E. Kelley, producer of such hits as "The Practice" and "Ally McBeal," adds that even tinkering with a show's premise to make it more female-friendly can be risky. But he's done just that: Last season, Mr. Kelley's "Boston Legal" was struggling to hold onto viewers of "Desperate Housewives," which preceded the legal drama. Though he wasn't entirely convinced it was the right decision, Mr. Kelley propped up the female point of view by adding Candice Bergen to the cast. The move both boosted ratings and encouraged ABC to bring the show back this season, after shelving it last January. "The changes have served our show well," says Mr. Kelley. "But it's always folly to look at what sells and then go about creating it."

Still, the maneuvering is already under way, and NBC is pumping up the heartthrob factor. The network, which lost 16 percent of its viewership last season, is particularly focused on a new Pentagon drama by Mr. Bruckheimer, "E-Ring," starring ladies' favorite Benjamin Bratt as a Green Beret. As conceived, Mr. Bratt's character was married, a minor yet important plot premise. But NBC brass decided the wife had to go after focus-group testing showed that women didn't like her. Says Mr. Bruckheimer, who has eight other shows on this fall: "They wanted Ben datable."

The focus on women even dips down into teen viewers. This fall, five new series prominently feature science-fiction elements, with "Supernatural" on the WB, dishing out some cover-your-eyes scary moments. This is an attempt to bring in younger girls, media buyers say. "Networks have looked at the movie business and realized that teen girls love to be scared," says Laura Caraccioli-Davis, a senior vice president at ad buyer Starcom Entertainment. She says it was teenage girls who drove last year's "The Grudge," about a frightening supernatural curse, to a hefty $110 million domestic gross.

Of course, not all these shows will last. Of the 31 shows launched last fall, only 10 remain. To find out the likely survivors this year, we talked to producers, network executives, agents and ad buyers. Here are some of the series sparking early interest. (All times are Eastern Daylight Time.)

How I Met Your Mother CBS, Monday 8:30

PITCH: A dad sits his two children down in the den and recounts, in detailed flashbacks, how he met their mother. (Suffice it to say he doesn't find her easily.)

BACK STORY: CBS is betting the flashback and mystery gimmicks will resonate with younger viewers bored with traditional sitcoms. The show's creators have never done a sitcom before, much less a high-concept one. But CBS hopes a cushy time slot between "King of Queens" and "Two and a Half Men" will ease the pressure.

ODDS: Better than average. It's unclear how the premise will play out, but the cast is appealing ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer" star Alyson Hannigan is a regular), and the first episode has genuinely funny moments.

Prison Break Fox, Monday 9 PM ET/PT

PITCH: "The Great Escape" meets "The Fugitive." A structural engineer believes his brother, convicted for murder, is innocent. He tattoos the prison's blueprints over most of his body, gets himself thrown into the same jail and sets about escaping and proving his brother's innocence.

BACK STORY: Fox censors have already nixed a nude shower scene. "Standards and Practices is suggesting we use our alternate shot that had them in their tighty-whities," says creator Paul Scheuring. Despite the somewhat ludicrous premise, Fox hopes lots of action will turn the series into another "24."

ODDS: Unclear. Will attract early attention but faces tough competition for male viewers -- its target audience -- from ABC's "Monday Night Football" and NBC's "Las Vegas."

My Name is Earl NBC, Tuesday 9 PM ET/PT

PITCH: A honky-tonk "Robin Hood." A petty crook wins the lottery and sets out to correct the wrongs from his past in a half-hour comedy.

BACK STORY: Actor Jason Lee grew a mangy handlebar moustache for the title role, but NBC told him to shave it off. (Excluding Tom Selleck's Magnum, facial hair famously doesn't play well to TV audiences.) Creator Greg Garcia fought for the follicles and won, though NBC did make Mr. Lee trim his sideburns.

ODDS: A slam-dunk critical hit, but unlikely to be a commercial success. NBC says "Earl" scored higher in focus-group testing than "Friends," but media buyers predict the edgy, lowbrow humor will be hilarious to some and an acquired taste for many.

Commander in Chief ABC, Tuesday 9 PM ET/PT

PITCH: America's first female president, a mother of three, shrewdly balances bare-knuckle politics and a challenging family life.

BACK STORY: Creator Rod Lurie is familiar with women-in-politics stories from his big-screen "The Contender." In a bid to draw in the conservatives who steered clear of the left-leaning "West Wing," Mr. Lurie peppers the first episode with Hillary Clinton digs from a snooty White House staffer. ("Mrs. Clinton had her office in the West Wing. That didn't go over very well.")

ODDS: An uphill battle. ABC is lavishing a megawatt marketing campaign on the drama, but "The West Wing" may have already sucked this well dry. Mr. Lurie says he's not worried because his show will focus more on family life in the White House. "We're going to devote a lot of time to East Wing stuff," he says.

Close to Home CBS, Tuesday 10 PM ET/PT

PITCH: A young prosecutor returns to work after having her first child and tackles a stream of crimes flowing out of her own seemingly perfect neighborhood.

BACK STORY: Set in glamorous suburban ... Indianapolis? Networks usually set shows in bigger markets, but creator Jim Leonard pushed to base the drama in his home state. "We're after the normalcy of the Midwest to provide contrast with what's not so normal sometimes behind the doors," he says. The producers had a hard time casting the central role. They settled on Jennifer Finnigan, known to "Bold and the Beautiful" fans as the lovelorn Bridget Forrester.

ODDS: Never bet against Jerry Bruckheimer -- he's got nine series running on three networks for fall. It's worth tuning in to the show's first episode, if only for the movie-quality house fire.

Supernatural WB, Tuesday 9 PM ET/PT

PITCH: "The X-Files" hits Route 66. Two brothers crisscross America's lonely and mysterious back roads in search of their missing dad, battling evil supernatural creatures along the way.

BACK STORY: The WB won a bidding war with Fox for this "horror" series. The network is betting that international revenue and licensing fees will be strong. In a clever twist, the supernatural creatures will be exclusively pulled from folklore and urban legend. (Like the "Vanishing Hitchhiker," where a driver turns to say goodbye to his unusual hitchhiker, only to find she's disappeared.)

ODDS: The WB's best shot at a new franchise, and it badly needs one. The first episode is loaded with special effects and is truly scary -- a rarity for TV -- and should go over well with the network's target 18- to 34-year-old audience.

Invasion ABC, Wednesday 10 PM ET/PT

PITCH: Something mysterious comes to life under the water in the Everglades after a hurricane and creeps inside the bodies of some locals. Evolution ensues.

BACK STORY: The lengthy hurricane scenes in the first episode were shot with so many wind and rain machines that 8-year-old actress Ariel Gade says she had a hard time breathing.

ODDS: The mystery and character focus should convince fans of last year's "Lost" to check it out. The challenge will be persuading them to add another high-maintenance series to their TiVos long term. The competition isn't easy, either: "Law & Order" might be old enough for an AARP card, but is still up for a fight.

The Apprentice: Martha Stewart NBC, Wednesday 8 PM ET/PT

PITCH: In an extension of the Donald Trump series, 16 Martha wannabes compete for a job somewhere in her empire.

BACK STORY: According to associates of the domestic diva, Ms. Stewart would be interested in doing a second season only if there were a clear benefit to her corporate empire.

ODDS: Good, at least early in the season. Unless you count "America's Next Top Model," Ms. Stewart doesn't have any competition in the time slot.

Everybody Hates Chris UPN, Thursday 8 PM ET/PT

PITCH: "The Wonder Years" as interpreted and narrated by Chris Rock. A teenager navigates the challenges of growing up in a tough Brooklyn neighborhood in the 1980s.

BACK STORY: Sorry, Brooklyn: To save money, the series will film exclusively on the Paramount lot in Hollywood. Fans of Mr. Rock, known for cursing, will need to adapt to a kinder, gentler brand of his humor. Jokes Mr. Rock on his entry into family-friendly entertainment: "People that curse have families, too."

ODDS: UPN has never launched a blockbuster comedy before, but media buyers are cautiously optimistic "Chris" will be a hit. One warning sign: Rival Fox developed the script twice -- and passed twice.

Reunion Fox, Thursday 9 PM ET/PT

PITCH: The story of six friends over 20 years, with a twist: Each episode represents one year in their lives, starting with their high-school graduation in 1986.

BACK STORY: To find six people who could look and act the ages of 18 to 38, Warner Bros. auditioned more than 300 actors in New York and Los Angeles. Frazzled casting directors have about six months to recover: If "Reunion" is a hit, they'll need to find a whole new set of friends for season two.

ODDS: Iffy. The storytelling gimmick is intriguing, but nothing Fox has recently tried in this time slot has worked, because of the extreme competition from "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and "The Apprentice."
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Second-Season Slump?

By Brooks Barnes The Wall Street Journal Friday August 26, 2005

Seven new television dramas became bona-fide hits last season, the best track record the industry has had in more than a decade. Now comes the hard part for these shows: Staying hot even as networks transfer their marketing muscle to the new stuff. Below, a look at how some sophomore hits plan to stay atop the Nielsen charts.

Boston Legal ABC, 10 PM ET/PT Tuesday
WHAT'S NEW: Two new junior lawyers join the law firm, placing more focus on office politics. Heather Locklear and Rupert Everett guest star early on.
COMMENT: ABC yanked this drama from its 10 PM ET/PT Sunday slot last January. It's now seeing if "Boston" will fare better on Tuesdays. "We've been able to go back and spend extra time on each of those episodes and make them better," says executive producer David E. Kelley.

CSI: NY CBS, 10 PM ET/PT Wednesday
WHAT'S NEW: New sets, storylines with more color and less grit, a cross-over episode with "CSI: Miami," and one of the six principal characters leaves the series.
COMMENT: Creator Anthony Zuiker says CBS Chairman Leslie Moonves ordered him to lighten this third "CSI" spinoff, which lost many franchise fans with its dark tone and look. "We tried it your way and it didn't work," Mr. Zuiker recalls Mr. Moonves saying. "Now let's try it mine."

Desperate Housewives ABC, 9 PM ET/PT Sunday
WHAT'S NEW: A new housewife arrives on Wisteria Lane, spurring a season-long mystery. "Let's just say she has a very interesting relationship with her son," says creator Marc Cherry.
COMMENT: The first-season DVD set hits stores Sept. 20. ABC hopes the release will create buzz for the show's second season. Not that it needs much help: More than 30 million people tuned in for the May finale, making the series last season's No. 1 new show.

Grey's Anatomy ABC, 10 PM ET/PT Sunday
WHAT'S NEW: Minor tweaks, at least early on, such as less reliance on voiceover narration, according to creator Shonda Rhimes.
COMMENT: "Sideways" star Sandra Oh is up for an Emmy for her portrayal of a no-nonsense surgical intern on this hospital hit. It's the fledgling series' only acting nomination. If she wins -- and she could -- expect her supporting character to get more camera time.

House Fox, 9 PM ET/PT Tuesday
WHAT'S NEW: Look for celebrity patients. Rapper LL Cool J appears in the premiere as a death-row inmate with a bizarre ailment.
COMMENT: Fox is counting on this drama, which centers on an acerbic physician with a knack for solving medical mysteries, to give the network a boost in a competitive time period. (It's up against one of the season's most hyped freshman shows, ABC's "Commander in Chief.")

Lost ABC[/b][/color][/size], 9 PM ET/PT Wednesday
WHAT'S NEW: More exploration of the island -- and more survivors.
COMMENT: Turbulence ahead? "Lost" is a huge hit, but ABC's decision to shuttle the plane-crash survivors to a new time slot puts them in the path of "American Idol." ABC notes that the finales of both shows aired opposite each other in the spring and each held up fine.

Medium NBC, 10 PM ET/PT Monday
WHAT'S NEW: Producers are trying to line up financing for a 3D episode. "What's more fun than sitting in your living room in funny glasses?" says creator Glenn Gordon Caron.
COMMENT: Studio and network executives weren't sure this drama, about a psychic who helps law enforcement solve crimes, could be a hit. They changed their minds after Allison DuBois, a psychic who serves as the inspiration for the show, conducted readings with them over the telephone.
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More on the new Nielsen DMAs

By Katy Bachman mediaweek.com August 26, 2005

The total number of TV households increased 0.5 percent to 110.2 million, according to Nielsen Media Research's new universe estimates for the 2005-2006 TV season, released Thursday.

Nielsen also reported the increases among ethnic populations were even more pronounced than the general population. Hispanic households increased 2.9 percent to 11.2 million. African-American TV households are up 0.8 percent to 13.3 million and Asian TV households increased 3.2 percent to 4.2 million.

Aging baby boomers are also having an impact on the demographic makeup of TV households. The number of Women 55+ TV households increased by 2.5 percent to 36.2 million while the numer of Men 55+ was up 3.1 percent to 29.7 million.

Nielsen, owned by Mediaweek parent VNU, also reported significant shifts in its local market rankings, primarily due to population growth in the southern and western regionls of the U.S. As a result, Houston moved up in rank to No. 10 from No. 11, while Detroit moved down to No. 11 from No. 10. Among the top 15 markets, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla., (formerly No. 13) is now ranked No. 12. Phoenix moves up to No. 14 from No. 15, and Portland, Ore., moves up to No. 23 from No. 24.

Markets losing rank include Seattle (from No. 12 to No. 13), Minneapolis (from No. 14 to No. 15), and Baltimore (from No. 23 to No. 24). Las Vegas also continues to be one of the fastest growing markets in the country, moving up three ranks to No. 48.

Even though Houston is now the 10th largest TV market, a Nielsen spokesperson said the ratings firm will continue with its originally-planned schedule to rollout the local people meter service to Detroit, now ranked No. 11. We haven't announced plans to go beyond the 10-announced markets, said the spokesperson.
post #4647 of 25503
Originally Posted by fredfa View Post

Second-Season Slump?

Medium NBC, 10 PM ET/PT Monday
WHAT'S NEW: Producers are trying to line up financing for a 3D episode. "What's more fun than sitting in your living room in funny glasses?" says creator Glenn Gordon Caron.
COMMENT: Studio and network executives weren't sure this drama, about a psychic who helps law enforcement solve crimes, could be a hit. They changed their minds after Allison DuBois, a psychic who serves as the inspiration for the show, conducted readings with them over the telephone.

So NBC has been reduced to palm reading for new programming inspiration, hey if it works....
post #4648 of 25503
Originally Posted by keenan View Post

So NBC has been reduced to palm reading for new programming inspiration, hey if it works....

Interviewed Allison a few months ago on my show. It's almost scary to know the number of times she's not only been brought in on cases, but her success rate (rather high). Assuming one believes her. I'm a perpetual skeptic. And the police departments who have used her all decline comment.

post #4649 of 25503
Thread Starter 
I suspect that final comment about "Medium" was more than a little tongue-in-cheek from Brook Barnes.

But then again......(given how NBC's programming decisions have gone lately, they can use all the help they can get.)

(Actually we have found the show enjoyable -- especially the interaction between Allison and her husband on the show.)
post #4650 of 25503

Wait 'till you see some of the new fall shows. The clone wars are on. I've seen "Ghost Whisperer" and, while I personally like it, I can't see it lasting long. Think "Tru Calling" meets Haley Joel Osment.

The new Henry Winkler vehicle isn't long for this world, either. "How I Met Your Mother," however, could be a hit.

Still have the UPN and NBC upfronts to tackle during my vacation..
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