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Hot Off The Press: The Latest TV News and Information - Page 2813

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Critic's Notes
Jimmy Kimmel shift leads new year's changes
By Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - Jan. 4, 2012

New year, new shows, new time slots.

Everyone gets a chance to start anew on Jan. 1 and TV networks are no exception. Dozens of new and returning programs will unspool in the weeks ahead. And for one late-night show, the new year brings an earlier time slot.

I'll be covering much of what's new in TV in the days ahead from the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Pasadena, Calif. Blog posts begin this afternoon at post-gazette.com/tv (scroll down to the Tuned In Journal link on the right side of the page) and coverage in the print edition starts Saturday.

Kimmel moves up

"Jimmy Kimmel Live" trades time slots with ABC's "Nightline" Monday. Mr. Kimmel's talk show will move to 11:35 p.m., up against David Letterman on CBS and Jay Leno on NBC. "Nightline" relocates to 12:38 a.m.

The time slot switch marks a vote of confidence in Mr. Kimmel by ABC executives.

"The big deal is that, for some reason, people go to sleep at midnight," Mr. Kimmel quipped in a teleconference with reporters last month. "You lose a lot of people at that time. ... And so, the audience is just much bigger [at 11:35]. There are a lot more people up watching television at 11:35 than there are at midnight. It's as simple as that.

"On top of it, there is -- and maybe this is just something that we in the industry are more interested in than the general public is -- mythology and traditions surrounding that 11:35 time slot that started with Johnny Carson and then became a big deal when Leno went up against Letterman."

But viewers shouldn't expect any changes in "Jimmy Kimmel Live."

"There's this idea that you need to broaden the show or make it -- you know, make it more wholesome or something like that, and I think that's a little bit out of date," Mr. Kimmel said. "Things have become so fragmented that you can continue doing the show that you've been doing and have success at 11:35. I could be wrong. I guess only time will tell."


NBC's pretty terrible "Deception" (10 p.m. Monday) seems like a play for fans of "Revenge," which itself has declined in quality in its second season. Even so, "Deception" is a significantly less appealing series because it relies almost entirely on unbelievable plot turns.

San Francisco cop Joanna (Meagan Good) gets recruited by her old partner/lover Will (Laz Alonso, "Breakout Kings") to investigate the death of Joanna's childhood friend, Vivian Bowers, whose mega-wealthy family the FBI is investigating for possible stock manipulation. (Joanna lived with the Bowers when her mother worked for the family as a maid.)

If the notion of a law enforcement officer investigating people she considers "like family" seems preposterous, there's also the inherent conflict of working for her former lover along with this added tidbit: Joanna had a relationship with Vivian's druggie brother, Julian (Wes Brown), too.

Even if it's possible to overlook the unlikelihood of all that, the "Deception" script, written by Liz Heldens ("Mercy"), is rife with obvious, cliched groaners, including: "These people, they buy their way out of everything" and "Do this one last thing for your friend."

The show's raison d'etre is solving Vivian's murder, although it strongly hints at the killer in the premiere. Perhaps it will live up to its title and this is a red herring. But anyone who's watched "The Killing" knows how frustrating too many red herrings can be.

"Revenge" played this game much smarter, allowing the story to play out without a lot of he-did-it, no-he-did-it moments. "Revenge" also was wise to make its interloper an outsider without ties to authority, making its premise more plausible.

"Deception" does benefit from a strong cast, including Victor Garber as the patriarch of the family who welcomes Joanna to live with them after Vivian's death and Tate Donovan ("Damages") as distrusting eldest son Edward, who resents Joanna's presence. (Edward's a nasty character but at least he has some common sense.)

As matriarch and stepmother Sophia, underutilized actress Katherine LaNasa gets some enjoyably boozy moments, including referring to her just-deceased stepdaughter as "a drug-addicted, narcissistic black hole of need."

It's a fun moment, and if "Deception" put forth an over-the-top vibe more often, it might be a guilty pleasure hoot. But the show's attempts to root itself in the plausible ruin the potential fun.


FX's "Justified" (10 p.m. Tuesday) returns with a fourth season that brims with promise. It's a frustrating day for U.S. marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) in Tuesday's season premiere when capturing a fugitive goes sideways and Raylan runs into petty thieves stealing from his father's house, which begins to unravel a 20-year-old mystery alluded to in the episode's opening moments. Patton Oswalt guest stars as a hapless constable who helps Raylan.

The new season also introduces a new nemesis for Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins). Preacher Billy (Joe Mazzello, "The Pacific") and his sister (Lindsay Pulsipher) have descended on Harlan, and their missionary work is turning the locals away from drugs, hurting Boyd's bottom line.

Although the third season of "Justified" was well-regarded due to the Quarles (Neal McDonough) story line, Mr. McDonough has played the heavy so many times it felt a bit redundant. This new season, particularly with its mystery plot, feels more original already.


Corporations are people, my friends, and in the future they'll run the government, too. That's the premise of Syfy's latest Canadian import, "Continuum" (8 p.m. Jan. 14), which has one foot set in the present and another in 2077.

It all begins in the future as terrorists plot against the U.S. government.

"When corporations bailed out our failed governments, they sold it to us as salvation," says a terrorist leader. "Now we've seen we have paid for that rescue with our freedoms. We have awakened to the truth. We have become slaves to the corporate congress."

It's an interesting notion and takes the popular sci-fi conceit of addressing contemporary issues in a futuristic setting.

"Continuum" is most interesting when it's in the future -- but mostly it's set in the present.

Terrorists time travel back to 2012 and a future cop, Kiera Cameron (Rachel Nichols, "Star Trek"), gets sucked back with them.

The terrorists are trying to "win the future" and prevent the corporate rights act from being enacted. Some want to accomplish this through political change; others prefer to stick with acts of terror.

Kiera wants to round them up and gets help from a young computer prodigy, Alex Sadler (Erik Knudsen, "Jericho"), who also plays a role in 2077.

Written by Simon Barry ("The Art of War") and directed by Jon Cassar ("24"), the "Continuum" pilot is more topical than most Syfy shows but suffers from frequent pilot pitfalls, including heavy exposition.

Channel surfing

The CW has canceled summer drama "The L.A. Complex." ... It was already pretty much dead, but "Mockingbird Lane" creator Bryan Fuller confirmed last week that his "Munsters" remake will not move forward to series at NBC. ... Jennifer Lawrence will host the 2013 premiere of "Saturday Night Live" with musical guests The Lumineers. ... Ty Pennington ("Extreme Makeover: Home Edition") will host a new HLN monthly series, "American Journey," about entrepreneurs and creative thinkers. The first episode airs at 8 p.m. Jan. 12.

Edited by dad1153 - 1/4/13 at 3:33pm
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TCA Winter Tour's Notes
Bill Lawrence Takes Jab At ABC Over ‘Cougar Town’
By The Deadline.com Team - Jan. 4, 2012

Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TCA coverage.

Cougar Town co-creator and executive producer Bill Lawrence kicked off the winter TCA press tour this morning by offering up some wisecracks about ABC, the former home of his comedy that has since found a new home at TBS. Lawrence thanked TBS chief Michael Wright (who was onstage as part of the network’s panel) for keeping a show alive that Lawrence “has been trying to kill for years.” He also joked about his feelings regarding ABC’s promotion of Cougar Town by saying that now that the show has moved, “I’m actually seeing ads” for the series. Later in the session, Lawrence quipped that the series’ crew still loves ABC and Disney: “They are still the producers and owners of the show, and I think they are doing a great job.”

During the opening panel, Lawrence and new executive producer Ric Swartzlander concentrated on assuring the press that while the series has moved, it will remain the same. “Transition-wise it was easy because Michael is actually a fan of the show unless he is a really a good liar.… He said I just want you do deliver the same show…other than that there is a little nudity, that’s the only thing. We’ve shifted from Brian Van Holt not wearing his shirt all the time to Josh Hopkins not wearing his shirt all the time.” Both exec producers said TBS wanted to buy Cougar Town as-is, rather than revamp it. “A lot of shows have had weird life spans,” Lawrence said. He added, “Unless you are lucky enough to be a hit today, our goal in network TV and off-network TV is simply to stay alive.”

Swartzlander said he did a weekend marathon of watching the show to prepare for his new role. “It’s a different situation for me; it’s the first time I’ve come in to try to keep a show going as opposed to starting something new,” he said. “TBS wanted the same show that they had [at ABC]. They were basically saying to me, don’t screw it up. They were basically saying we don’t want to see your fingerprints on it at all.”

Lawrence added that a title change for the show was not considered. “It’s part of the humor of the show — we wear it as a badge of honor, ” he said. “I still enjoy mocking it and doing the title cards, much in the same way as the chalkboard has become a common thing with The Simpsons. Being filled with self-loathing is characteristic of 90% of the world of comedy writers anyway, to continue on that tack with the title Cougar Town is part of the game for us now. I’ve embraced it. It’s an amazing title. I’d do it again.”


* * * *

TCA Winter Tour's Notes
TBS Celebrates “Nerd Culture” With Unscripted ‘King Of The Nerds’

Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.

The nerds inherited the stage at TCA in Pasadena this morning, led by a self-professed nerd named Ben Silverman, as Turner — undaunted by recent failures in the reality space as Wedding Day and The Great Escape — introduced a quartet of new unscripted projects to the gathered critics. The first of them to premiere (on January 17) is TBS‘ King Of The Nerds, featuring hosts/exec producers Robert Carradine and Curtis Armstrong of Revenge Of The Nerds fame and Silverman also exec producing. The show features 11 competitors going head-to-head (literally) in activities that span the “full nerd spectrum” while living together in “Nerdvana.” With a straight face, Silverman admitted, “We debated nerds and geeks (with great gusto) because geeks identify differently. We didn’t want to alienate geeks by calling them nerds, and vice-versa. It was all about how to do things in a different way…We’ve seen more and more people stand up and say, ‘Hey I’m smart and I don’t need to hide it’.” The point of King Of The Nerds, Armstrong added, isn’t to put down or make fun of nerds but to “celebrate nerd culture…We got 11 amazing nerds on this show”.

Silverman said he got the idea for the series while watching the scene of the computer nerds sitting around drinking beer and performing a hack-a-thon in the Oscar-winning film The Social Network. “That was our inspiration,” he said. “I said, we need a show celebrating that. I think The Office also pushed forward on that culture. This is a great opportunity to translate that (vibe) into a celebration. We find that more and more, people are identifying themselves as brain-first and smart-first and not hiding the fact that they have a giant Batman collectible at home.” He also noted that the success of the CBS comedy The Big Bang Theory has fueled the escalating success of nerd culture, noting that he’s “aware a few people are watching it. And thank goodness it’s our lead-in.” TNT’s head of original programming Michael Wright also confirmed how “nerd culture” has gone mainstream in confirming the reason the show got greenlit. Later, Silverman was asked the differences in producing for cable versus broadcast. He feels that, contrary to popular perception, viewers are consuming as much content as ever — no matter the network — and that he isn’t worried the target audience of nerds are the demographic most likely to download a show illegally online rather than watch on TV in the conventional way. “I think the opportunity to tell stories in new environments has opened up incredibly,” he believes. “I also don’t think there are as many people lining up and saying I only watch this kind of show or that kind of show.”

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Critic's Notes
Imported Miniseries Offer Maxipleasure – ‘Downton Abbey’ Now, ‘Singing Detective’ Then
By David Bianculli, TheWrap.com - Jan. 4, 2012

Brilliant miniseries from England keep on coming: Downton Abbey returns with new episodes this weekend, on the 25th anniversary of the importation of The Singing Detective.

Downton Abbey is presented by PBS, on Masterpiece, unveiling Season 3 beginning Sunday, Jan. 6, at 9 p.m. ET (check local listings). Created and written by Julian Fellowes, it’s very much in spirit with one of the first miniseries triumphs in Masterpiece Theatre history: Upstairs, Downstairs, first brought over from England in 1974.

By that time, American television already had imported other groundbreaking long-form TV from across the Atlantic. CBS struck genre gold with Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner in 1968. Public TV discovered the potential popularity of the miniseries with The Forsyte Saga in 1969, and PBS launched Masterpiece Theatre in 1971 with The First Churchills, while CBS, not PBS, was first to import The Six Wives of Henry VIII that same year.

The appeal, and potential, of the TV miniseries was demonstrated even more with ABC’s Rich Man, Poor Man in 1976, and Roots in 1977. For a while, it was the ambitious, and popular, category of television, pulling more viewers, and more positive reviews, than any other.

Yet the commercial broadcast networks have all but given up on the form, even though such projects as HBO’s John Adams and Band of Brothers keep racking up acclaim and audiences. Downton Abbey is a more substantial and proven hit than any other show from a broadcast network in the past two years — better reviewed, with audience levels rising for each installment, and with an eager fan base catching up to the show on DVD or video downloads.

Season 3 of Downton is the best yet. Shirley MacLaine is a strong and attention-getting addition in the opening episode, but this series does just fine whether she’s there or not. Maggie Smith, as the Dowager Empress, bows to no man, no woman, and no Hollywood guest star. She’s fabulous — as are the intrigues and conflicts, both comic and tragic, that keep the upstairs and downstairs of Downton Abbey humming like a beehive.

(For my full review of Downton Abbey for NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, which ran Thursday, visit the Fresh Air website.)

I’m very impressed by Season 3 of Downton, which is more satisfying for being more insular, and confining its many dramas mostly to what happens inside the household. The setting is 1920, but for once, it’s not the headlines that dictate the action. It’s the characters — who, by now, have become increasingly familiar and captivating.

It’s purely coincidental that Season 3 of Downton Abbey arrives in the States exactly 25 years after Dennis Potter’s masterwork, The Singing Detective, first was televised on these shores.

It wasn’t broadcast nationally, on PBS or anywhere else — its language, nudity and sexual situations, combined with Potter’s no-cuts clause in his contract, took care of that, even on basic cable. But many local public TV stations were brave enough to show the work — and show, at the same time, what television was capable of.

Twenty-five years after the 1986 production was first shown in America, the first weekend of 1988, I still rank it as the best long-form drama written expressly for television. It’s brilliant.

And American television’s general lack of enthusiasm for the miniseries genre, in the subsequent decades, is the exact opposite of brilliant. It’s idiotic.

And the current enthusiasm for Downton Abbey, no less than its artistic quality, proves we should be embracing, not ignoring, the miniseries form. It’s time American networks admitted that, by giving up on long-form TV, they’ve wandered down the wrong path.

They should be taking the Abbey road.

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TCA Winter Tour's Notes
Matt Damon, Michael Douglas: HBO's Telepic 'Liberace' Won't Be A 'Caricature'
By Lacey Rose, The Hollywood Reporter's 'Live Feed' Blog - Jan. 4, 2012

HBO's Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra was many years in the making.

In fact, director Steven Soderbergh first discussed the idea with star Michael Douglas while the duo was working on the movie Traffic in the late 1990s. "Somewhere earlier in that shoot, [Soderbergh] said, 'Have you ever thought about Liberace?'" Douglas recalled during a Television Critics Association winter press tour panel Friday. More than a decade later, he assumed the role of the flamboyant entertainer, which he plays opposite Matt Damon, as his lover Scott Thorson, along with supporting cast members Dan Aykroyd, Rob Lowe and Paul Reiser.

With buzz starting to build ahead of the film's May premiere, Soderbergh insists he set out to tell the story of a "real" relationship. Despite the over-the-top nature of the two men, as well as their relationship, he says he never wanted to do caricatures of either of the characters. "We take the relationship seriously," Soderbergh noted, with Damon echoing that thought: "We weren’t giggling about it. These were people's lives. We wanted to get it right."

Douglas used the TCA platform to praise Damon for taking on the buzzworthy, if controversial, role. "I don't think I would have had the courage at that point in my career to take this on," Douglas said of his considerably younger co-star. To hear Damon tell it, it was an opportunity -- from the script to the director -- too rich to pass up, and he did nothing but rave about the process of putting the film together. Even the wacky wardrobe and the many fittings were enjoyable, he said, joking: "I probably spent more time in the wardrobe fittings than I have on the previous 15 projects."

Though Thorson's book, Behind the Candelabra: My Life With Liberace, served as source material, he was not involved in the filmmaking process, nor has he seen the finished product. In fact, producer Jerry Weintraub was the only one working on the film with any sort of relationship with Thorson, whom he says he did speak to earlier on in the process. (Weintraub noted that Thorson has been unresponsive in recent months, likely due to his poor health.)

Though Douglas acknowledged that he had met Liberace a handful of times -- his father had a home in Palm Springs near Douglas' -- he hardly knew him the way Weintraub did. The producer noted that he had a close relationship with Liberace, whom he described as a "nice" man, a "gracious" host and a "pretty wild guy."


* * * *

TCA Winter Tour's Notes
Al Pacino, Helen Mirren and David Mamet on 'Phil Spector' Inspirations

When David Mamet’s Phil Spector premieres in the spring, viewers should not expect a precise impersonation of the legendary music producer and his defense attorney Linda Kenney Baden.

“It’s a strange amalgamation of imagination and reality,” noted Oscar winner Helen Mirren, who was on hand Friday at the Television Critics Association winter press tour to plug the HBO film in which she stars as Baden. To hear her and co-star Al Pacino tell it, the goal with this effort was not to impersonate the real-life characters but rather to use them as inspiration in telling a fictionalized story about the client-attorney relationship between Spector and Baden during his first murder trial for the 2003 killing of actress Lana Clarkson.

In fact, Pacino never even tried to meet the "Wall of Sound" producer because, as he put it, “it’s a different Phil Spector now.” The man Pacino set out to play was still participating in his first murder trial, which ended in a hung jury in 2007; Spector was convicted in his second trial in 2009 and was sentenced to 19 years to life in prison (he remains incarcerated at the state prison in Corcoran, Calif.). Rather, the actor spent many hours watching footage of that trial and trying to make sense of the character -- a "mythical" Spector -- that Mamet had crafted.

Although Mirren insists she never tried to become an exact replica of Baden either, she did form a relationship with her character’s inspiration, who served as a consultant on the HBO project. "It's amazing to have someone available to you who knew those experiences, but we’re not exactly replicating Linda’s experiences," Mirren explained, noting that she had little time to prepare for the role as she stepped in to replace an injured Bette Midler once production was underway. (Given the role of attorney-client privilege, Baden could share very little about Spector and his trial experience.)

Mirren did a considerable amount of additional research for the part as well, a process made easier by her filmmaker husband Taylor Hackford's personal experience with -- and subsequent stories about -- Spector, having worked with him decades earlier on the 1980 film The Idolmaker. "You can’t exaggerate these stories. Phil Spector is a man of such incredible contradictions," added Mirren of a man she describes as half-man, half-beast. "He must have lived in a permanent dream."

Mamet was similarly captivated by those contradictions when he came across a Spector documentary that his agent recommended he watch. Prior to that, Mamet suggests he had little interest in learning more about the convicted producer: "He was a freak; he killed some girl; he got locked away. Good riddance," Mamet said, noting that the doc made him question his preconceived notions about Spector -- and the desire to tackle his story. "A half an hour in, I began to think: 'The guy is kind of brilliant. There's something here.' "

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Technology Notes
Despite no-shows, CES still dominates tech scene
By Mike Snider, USA Today - Jan. 4, 2012

Over the years, some of the most successful home-electronics products — the compact disc, satellite TV, DVD, high-definition TV — have launched at the four-day extravaganza known as the International Consumer Electronics Show.

And while this year's CES in Las Vegas, already the largest trade show in the U.S., is expected to draw a near-record 150,000 attendees, plenty of attention will be paid to what — and who — is not in attendance.

Some of the most-popular electronics products in recent memory — Android smartphones, Apple iPhones and iPads, Amazon.com's Kindles — have hit the market without using CES as a launching pad. Apple has rarely been an official participant and will again be absent, although iPad- and iPhone-related products will be abundant.

This will be the first annual gathering without Microsoft playing a major role in nearly two decades. The software giant, which released its Windows 8 operating system in the fall, will not have a booth, nor will CEO Steve Ballmer be a keynote speaker — something the company has done since then-CEO Bill Gates' first CES keynote in 1998. In the keynote slot this year is Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs, a signal of the importance that mobile technology plays at the show.

On hand, but not making any major announcements -- with a single meeting room each and no booth -- are Amazon and Google, two more companies behind many of the most-successful gadgets brought to market in recent years. Not registered: Facebook.​

Still, many of those companies will have representatives participating in panel discussions and meetings — and scouting the competition. Microsoft, for example, is sponsoring the show's innovations design and engineering showcase.

Despite some high-profile holdouts, the show goes on.

"A lot of manufacturers like Samsung and Philips and Panasonic will relax and they won't have to be in Microsoft's shadow for once," says Richard Doherty, director and co-founder of engineering and research firm The Envisioneering Group.

This year's CES, which officially begins Tuesday, promises to be the largest ever. Its 1.8 million square footage is the equivalent of more than 31 football fields or 393 basketball courts — with 3,000 exhibitors ranging from audio and speaker company Altec Lansing to tangle-free headphones maker Zipbuds. Also revved up for CES: a fleet of seven of the world's top 10 automakers, including Audi, Chrysler, Ford Motor, General Motors, Hyundai, Kia and Subaru.

An expected crowd of 150,000 compares with last year's record 156,000. About 20,000 products are expected to be on display.

Beyond the slew of audio, video and mobile devices, specific areas will be devoted to start-ups, green technology and digital health innovations. "It's not an overstatement to call today's CES 'the mother of all trade shows,' " says John Taylor, vice president of LG Electronics USA.

TVs, TVs and more TVs

Televisions typically steal the show at CES. This year, TV makers are catering to consumers with smarter and better-looking sets. Smart TVs aren't new but continue to evolve despite evidence consumers aren't that enamored of them.

Only about 15% of HDTV owners connect their TVs directly to the Internet, according to The NPD Group. Many of those who watch services such as Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Video deliver them to their TV via other devices, including video game consoles, streaming-media set-top boxes and Blu-ray Disc players.

Regardless, smart TVs aren't going away anytime soon. That's because, "If you are not a smart TV," says Doherty, "you are presumed to be a dumb TV."

Among the products evolving is LG's Magic Remote, which gained voice recognition last year and will get improved voice functions. Viewers can ask the TV to look for programs featuring an actor or director and also tell the remote, "Switch to ESPN" or "Recommend something."

For example, it will show you Tom Cruise movies not only on your regular TV channels but from Netflix, Amazon, YouTube and other Internet sources.

The new remotes will also be universal remotes that control your provider's set-top box, as well as your Blu-ray Disc player or DVD player. "The people who are really going to be able to stand out in this area are those (who) make it the most easy and intuitive for the user," says Tim Alessi, director of new product development for LG Electronics. "We don't want people to feel like their TV has gotten too smart for them."

Samsung boasts a more intuitive interface on its smart TVs that launches when you turn on the set. The new smart hub, based on user behavior studies from Samsung's smartphone division, will offer recommendations of current and upcoming programming, based on viewing habits — and like LG's models, across standard pay TV programming, video-on-demand and services such as Netflix. "Our focus is on bringing that human experience back to watching TV," says Joe Stinziano, senior vice president for home entertainment at Samsung Electronics America.

Samsung, Toshiba, Westinghouse and Vizio will also join the TV makers offering new Ultra HD sets, which deliver four times the resolution of standard HDTVs. At 85 inches, Samsung's display (no price or release date yet) is slightly larger than 84-inch models that arrived in select stores last fall from LG and Sony, with prices starting at about $20,000 and $25,000, respectively.

Westinghouse plans to unveil a 110-inch display, while Vizio's first Ultra HD set will be a 70-inch display, due in stores during the third quarter. Consumer interest in larger displays is driving TV makers' move to Ultra HD, says John Schindler, Vizio's vice president of products for home theater. "To get the extra clarity that you would in a midsize TV, Ultra HD is going to be important." Also on display from Vizio is one of the holy grails of TV technology: a 55-inch glasses-free 3-D TV (no price or ship date).

As with the launch of the initial HDTVs, there's not a lot of true Ultra HD content available yet. However, Sony will have its delivery system with the higher-definition "4K Ultra HD" movies on display at CES and other new entrants are expected.

The range in TV sizes will continue to expand, says Digital World Research analyst P.J. McNealy. He expects to see a 145-inch Ultra HD display from Panasonic, as well as small handheld high-def TVs and tablets from several makers. These trends will make "for a more interesting show than in past years when the buzz was centered around 3-D TV," he says.

TV makers will continue to exploit viewers' use of smartphones and tablets while they watch TV. TV makers such as Panasonic, LG and Samsung let you use your smartphone to control their TVs, but you can expect better-integrated use of second-screen applications to be announced, Doherty says. TV makers "know you've got them (and) want to make you happy with them," he says.

Other trends expected at the show include a higher profile for security and surveillance technologies in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting. Remote cameras and other applications "will be featured a little bit more," McNealy says.

Making noise with sound products

Expect audio to get more attention this year. As HDTV displays get larger but have less of a bezel framing them, there's less room for TV speakers — and most built-in TV speakers fail when it comes to a premium sound experience anyway.

That means a bumper crop of sound-bar speakers that can be mounted or sit below the display. And many sound bars will be able to connect to TVs and other products over Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Near-Field Communication (NFC) radio waves.

There's a growing movement for better-sounding music, too. Portable music players that go beyond CD quality music will be on display, as will better-sounding speaker docks and other portable music innovations.

Many music lovers who bought premium headphones such as the Beats By Dr. Dre products "are ready for the next level," says Noel Lee of Monster, which manufactured Beats By Dr. Dre products for five years before the two companies parted ways last year.

"The feedback we are getting is, 'What's next? How do I get to higher quality?' " Lee says.

Increased attention to audio could suggest a slight shift toward CES' past. During the early days of the electronics show — the first gathering was in New York in 1967 — audio ruled. Now, audio and video products commingle with mobile devices and electronics integrated into cars and kitchen appliances. The increased size and variety of products at CES "drives companies to be better and not be stagnant and drives awareness with consumers," Lee says.

Part of the reason that many major product releases are done outside of CES is that the tech world moves too fast for companies to hold their unveilings for the annual show, says Stinziano of Samsung, which will leave new smartphones for other venues. "The pace of the industry is so fast," he says. "It's pretty difficult to keep anything secret from anybody anymore. Also, a lot of the innovation comes out of some technology demonstrations that we will do or others will do."

Many companies now use CES as a sounding board or proving ground. As a result, there are more products floated at the show than actually hit the market.

For instance, those slim, splashy OLED TVs that were all the rage at last year's CES will be on display again. Although several TV makers expected to ship them late last year, that has yet to happen. Earlier this week, LG announced that its first OLED TVs will go on sale in South Korea next month with U.S. pricing and availability to come.

"The real frustration is that there is a high double-digit percentage of stuff that is shown (at CES) but doesn't ship," Doherty says. "It's a really popular stage, but it is so darn noisy and crowded right now that consumers aren't as able to trust it as much as, say, five or 10 years ago, as to where they should put their dollars for April and May and August."

As with technological advances, the CES show evolves. Even in the always-connected world, face-to-face meetings between product makers, buyers, investors and analysts still mean something, says Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronics Association, which puts on the CES show.

"The show is not just about innovation and technology, it's about human relationships and evaluating something in a five-sense environment where you could shake someone's hand," he says. "It's also about the discovery of things and serendipity."

As for the show's post-Microsoft popularity, business couldn't be better. International attendance is expected to surpass last year's mark of 35,000 and the show floor is completely sold. "If we had more space we would have sold it," Shapiro says.

Among the exhibitors will be game company Razer, a CES returnee that last year introduced its conceptual Project Fiona gaming tablet and returns this year. Before graduating to a booth on the show floor several years ago, Razer showed off its PC and video game accessories in meeting rooms.

"It's a great venue for launching new products because all the right people are there," says company co-founder and CEO Min-Liang Tan. "It tends to give a forward look at what the industry is headed towards. It's still the most important show of the year."

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TCA Winter Tour's Notes
Searching For Roots In ‘Family Tree’
By The Deadline.com Team - Jan. 4, 2012

Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TCA coverage.

There are a lot of slashes in the titles of the guys in charge of HBO’s new series Family Tree, making its debut in the spring. Christopher Guest is writer/director/executive producer, and Jim Piddock is writer/creator/executive producer and also plays the role of Martin Pfister in the single-camera, documentary style show. (Executive producer Karen Murphy was not present).

Only actor Chris O’Dowd, who portrays Tom Chadwick, has no official title slash. But even his work calls for an extra level of creativity, since the show’s structure will reflect the improvisational mockumentary elements of Guest’s movies. “It’s very freeing, but very pressured at the moment,” said O’Dowd.

Dowd’s character, Tom, is a 30-year-old man who has recently lost his job and girlfriend, and goes on a quest for his family identity when he inherits a mysterious box of memorabilia from a great aunt he never met. That story, Guest said, is based on his own experience going through the inherited belongings of his father, who died 16 years ago.

And today’s freewheeling TCA panel on the show reflected the process of creating comedy with an improvisational edge. Guest in particular enjoyed sparring with a questioner with a distinctive British accent. “Real voices, please,” he joked when the questioner first began to speak.

Guest was off on another riff when the questioner asked if Guest had found any dark family secrets among his father’s belongings. “Never mind that story about digging through a box of rubbish – your own roots,” the journalist demanded. “You have a few half-brothers you discovered, or already knew about?”

No, no, I know who my family are, actually,” Guest said mildly, sounding both bemused and amused. “I have a half-brother, a brother and sister. I knew them. Actually Mom and Dad had met.” He did go on to answer the question more seriously, saying that his search through his own family memorabilia, some of it several hundred years old, served as inspiration for “interesting funny turns that make this amusing, I think.”

Guest said that he and Piddock had considered making their idea into a movie but that the continuing nature of family research lent itself better to a television series. He said that four episodes of the show have already been shot in the UK. The show, a co-production of HBO and BBC Two, will make its debut in the spring.


* * * *

TCA Winter Tour's Notes
Shane Smith Calls ‘Vice’ Style Of Journalism “Immersionism”

Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.

HBO isn’t in the habit of doing traditional newsmagazine shows, and its new magazine Vice (premiering April 5) is like no series of its ilk that mainstream TV has ever seen. It’s sort of Rolling Stone-meets-The-BBC-meets-Real Time With Bill Maher. And it’s certainly not coincidental that Maher is an exec producer on the globe-trotting newsmagazine fronted by host Shane Smith. Vice is also the name of the media company that produces the show that practices a New Age-style journalism that Smith called “Immersionism” during an afternoon panel at TCA. “We have local stringers, we dress the part (of the locals), and we try not to be intrusive,” Smith explained. “We also try to be smart about it. We aren’t action junkies. We just try to get a good story. Being able to have smaller crews helps.” Smith’s Vice partner and exec producer Eddy Moretti, who joined him on the panel, stressed that the show isn’t like a traditional news crew in any way. They will hang out with story subjects for days before even beginning to record, to cultivate trust. “Because we come as storytellers, rather than journalists, we’re often welcomed into these communities. It gives us an access that allows us to tell a rich human story.”

And what kind of stories are we talking about? Stories like one in the Philippines that documents the nation’s vast gun culture and shockingly youthful assassins. “The country has a lot of political assassinations,” Smith said, “and a lot of the assassins that are recruited are 8, 9, 10 years old, because they’ll get short sentences and be out of prison. They have very lax and liberal gun laws, with 70 to 80 percent of Filipinos owning guns. They’re just everywhere… We visited underground factories where kids as young as 11 years old were learning to make guns from scrap that can’t be traced in assassinations.” Additionally, Maher’s involvement in Vice is more than ceremonial. “He’s been instrumental in how we shape the documentaries and raising it all to the level of HBO quality,” Moretti said. “He helps us select the segments, helps us make the cuts and stack the episodes together. He was attracted to work with us because we go to the places where he’d never ****in’ go.”

Vice teammates were also asked to comment about Current TV, which was purchased this week by Al Jazeera and will reportedly be renamed Al Jazeera America. Moretti pointed out how the network had contacted Vice about buying its content early on, given their similar model and concept. “In execution, they didn’t have a really strong idiosyncratic voice,” he said, “and that’s what you need.” Added Smith: “They wanted content. We said, ‘You have more money than us, and better distribution. But we’re not going to give you our content. That’s the only thing we have.”

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

8PM - Once Upon A Time
(R - Sep. 30)
9PM - Once Upon A Time
(R - Oct. 21)
10PM - Once Upon A Time
(R - Nov. 4)

8PM - The Mentalist
(R - Feb. 23)
9PM - 48 Hours
10PM - 48 Hours

8PM - NFL Football, NFC Wild-Card Game: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers (LIVE)
* * * *
11:29PM - Saturday Night Live (Louis C.K. hosts; Fun performs; 93 min.)
(R - Nov. 3)

8:30PM - COPS
(R - Dec. 15)
9PM - The Mob Doctor
* * * *
11PM - MasterChef
(R - Aug. 28)
Midnight - 30 Seconds to Fame SD
(R - Jul. 17, 2002)

(check your local listing for starting time/programming)
8PM - Austin City Limits: Jack White

8PM - Sábado Gigante (3 hrs.)

6PM - Movie - Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
9PM - Fútbol Mexicano Primera División: Club León vs. Querétaro (120 min., LIVE)
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Critic's Notes
Bianculli's Best Bets
By David Bianculli, TVWorthWatching.com - Jan. 5, 2013

NBC, 4:30 p.m. ET

In the first postseason pro football game of 2013, the 10-6 Bengals visit the 12-4 Texans. They’re teams experiencing two very different types of momentum: the Bengals have won all but one of their last eight games, while the Texans have lost all but one of their last four.

NBC, 8:00 p.m. ET

In the second half of today’s NBC postseason doubleheader, the 10-6 Vikings visit the 1105 Packers. The Packers have hot QB Aaron Rodgers, and the Vikings have hot running back Adrian Peterson, who averaged more than 200 yards a game in two games this season against the Packers.

ABC, 8:00 p.m. ET

Starting with the Season 2 premiere, ABC fills its prime time hours tonight with three repeat episodes of Once Upon a Time – including the one which guest stars Jorge Garcia (Hurley from Lost) as the Giant encountered by Emma (Jennifer Morrison) when she and Captain Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) climb that beanstalk.

TCM, 8:00 p.m. ET

This 1944 Howard Hawks movie is the one where Humphrey Bogart met Lauren Bacall for the first time. It was her first movie, she was 19, and Bogart was 25 years older and married – but they sparked an incendiary and long-lasting romance, which managed to avoid both scandal and any negative associations. Maybe it’s because, even on screen, they seemed so clearly meant for one another.

NBC, 11:29 p.m. ET

This rerun from last fall features guest host Louis C.K., whose most inspired bit is well worth a second look. It’s his filmed parody of his own Louie FX comedy series, but with him playing Abraham Lincoln, standup comic and apprehensive President. The theme song only had to be tweaked slightly to be hilariously appropriate (“Lincoln, Lincoln, you’re gonna die”), and Lincoln’s standup musings about his own possible assassination are brilliant. Sympathizing with the detective who would have to list the possible suspects, Louie as Lincoln muses, “Let’s see, who might have done it? Oh, I don’t know – everybody from the middle of the country down?”

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TV Notes
E! Entertainment Programming President Lisa Berger Steps Down
By Tim Kenneally, TheWrap.com - Jan. 4, 2012

Lisa Berger, the president of entertainment programming for E! Entertainment, has resigned, a spokeswoman for the network told TheWrap on Friday.

Berger, who had been with E! for nine years, was responsible for massive hits as "Keeping Up With the Kardashians," "Chelsea Lately" and "The Girls Next Door."

“After nine wonderful years at E!, I have made the difficult decision to leave my post as President, Entertainment Programming," Berger said of her resignation. "My time at E! has been an amazing experience both professionally and personally, and it is hard to sum up nearly a decade of show launches, milestone moments and incredible friendships."

Berger added that she is "extremely proud of all of our accomplishments taking the network to record heights and forever grateful to my team whose talent and dedication knows no bounds. Although it won't be easy for me to say goodbye, I look forward to sharing the news of my next challenge in the months ahead.”

E! President Suzanne Kolb said that Berger will "be dearly missed," noting that her "talent and creative vision have been invaluable to the success of E! over the past nine years."

Prior to E!, Berger worked at Fox Television Studios Productions, where she was instrumental in bringing the hit drama "The Shield" to FX.

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TV Review
‘Making Mr. Right,’ so very wrong
VH1 dating series uses all the gimmicks we've seen so many times
By Tom Conroy, Media Life Magazine

If a tree falls in a forest and lands in the same spot where many previous trees have fallen, can it make an impression?

That’s why VH1′s new series “Making Mr. Right” is so unpromising. The zillionth reality dating show to premiere in the past decade, it is so familiar schematically, thematically and visually that nothing registers as new. The participants are the usual array of high-strung women and mookish men. Even its so-called twist feels old.

Premiering this Sunday, Jan. 6, at 9 p.m., the series looks like a typical “Bachelor”-style show. Fourteen young men, most of whom are sports-and-beer-loving types, move into a hilltop mansion in Southern California, having been told they’re going to appear in a show in which matchmakers will teach them how to appeal to women.

In fact, three of the four matchmakers are actually single women who are supposedly in the show to find a man. But the skill with which they slip into their matchmaker roles suggests that what they’re really interested in is breaking into showbiz.

The three bachelorettes are Rachel, who works in construction and is seeking a man who will make her feel like a woman; Brittany, a single mother who runs a company that books performers for kids’ parties; and Lindsay, a caterer.

They’re being advised by a professional matchmaker named April Beyer. She shows the women a room in the mansion where they can watch multiple TV screens showing live feeds of the bachelors.

After they meet the men, the women are pleased — and occasionally dismayed — to see that their prospects keep saying they’d rather date their matchmakers than be set up with someone else. The women have already picked out their own favorites, basing their judgments on brief clips. Despite their acting skills, they don’t quite convince us that they’re really interested in anyone.

To help us viewers remember which guy is which, the producers have assigned them nicknames that appear onscreen when they talk to the camera — for example, Mr. Shy Hunk, Mr. Commitmentphobic and Mr. Single Dad. None of the guys seems to be any more complex than those labels.

Although the fake-matchmaker angle is probably original, we’ve seen most of the details of the show before. When the men are sent to a speed-dating event, it turns out that the women who attend are actually plants who are wearing earphones that allow the three fake matchmakers to feed them questions.

This earphone bit has been used on many previous reality shows, but usually to comic effect. Brittany, Lindsay and Rachel ask questions about such bland subjects as who ended a guy’s last relationship and whether a guy would be willing to relocate to Los Angeles.

Without prompting, the men make some boneheaded comments that suggest they’re trying to be good TV rather than good dating prospects.

Out of the blue, Rachel sits down with April for a heart-to-heart in which April gets Rachel to confess that her upbringing may have made her skittish about opening up to men. Suddenly, we’re watching “Dr. Phil.”

One segment feels slightly fresh: The women go through the men’s luggage and critique their clothes and paraphernalia, throwing offending items into a trash can labeled “What Women Don’t Want.” One guy has packed three books that advise men how to deceive and manipulate women; another has two framed pictures of his cat; a third has a box of 50 condoms; and a fourth has a bullhorn.

But since the guys are as overly expressive as their potential mates, one suspects that they brought those items along as part of their respective shticks in the hopes that they would grab viewers’ attention. A soul mate would be nice, but these days most Americans would prefer a lifelong pass to Celebrityland.

Of course, the same criticism could be aimed at “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” which have remained popular for a decade despite the presence of a fair number of fame-seeking phonies in their casts. But “Making Mr. Right” is one of those reality shows that favor “colorful” personalities over all else.

According to April, the show will allow Brittany, Lindsay and Rachel to get to know their possible mates and to mold them into men who are “ready for love.” But from what we see in the premiere, these guys aren’t worth the time and effort. Neither is “Making Mr. Right.”

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TCA Winter Tour's Notes
Julia Roberts & Mark Ruffalo To Star In HBO Movie ‘The Normal Heart’, Ryan Murphy To Direct
By The Deadline.com Team - Jan. 4, 2012

Ray Richmond contributes to Deadline’s TCA coverage.

HBO announced this afternoon at TCA that it has greenlighted The Normal Heart, an original movie adaptation of the Tony-winning Larry Kramer play that will star Julia Roberts and Mark Ruffalo in the key roles and co-star Matt Bomer. The film is being written by Kramer, while Ryan Murphy is set to direct and executive produce along with Jason Blum, Dede Gardner and Dante Di Loreto. It’s slated to begin production later this year in New York City for a slated 2014 debut on the premium network. The play tells the story of the onset of the HIV-AIDS crisis in New York City in the early 1980s. Roberts will play Emma Brookner, the paraplegic physician who treats several of the earliest victims of the disease. Ruffalo will play Ned Weeks, who witnesses first-hand the mysterious disease that has begun to claim the lives of many in his gay community and starts to seek answers. Bomer will play Felix Turner, a reporter who becomes Ned’s lover.

The Normal Heart has had a long, tortuous path toward becoming a film. Barbra Streisand was involved at one point. Kramer became increasingly frustrated and was worried it might never come to pass. This version was announced in 2011 as a feature with Murphy, who optioned the rights to the play, directing, Ruffalo starring and Brad Pitt’s Plan B producing. In early 2012, Roberts, Bomer, as well Alec Baldwin and Jim Parsons boarded the film. By November, rumors started circulating that the project might be headed to HBO.

Kramer’s play debuted at New York’s Public Theatre in 1985 and was also produced in Los Angeles and London. The 2011 Broadway revival garnered five Tony nominations, winning for Best Revival, Best Featured Actor for John Benjamin Hickey as Turner and Best Featured Actress for Ellen Barkin as the doctor.

The Normal Heart reunites Roberts with Murphy after starring in his feature Eat, Pray, Love. Meanwhile, White Collar star Bomer appeared on Murphy’s Fox series Glee.


* * * *

TCA Winter Tour's Notes
TNT’s ‘Monday Mornings’ Brings David E. Kelley Back Into The Operating Room

Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.

At today’s TCA panel on TNT’s new medical drama series Monday Mornings, executive producer David E. Kelley (Chicago Hope, The Practice, Doogie Howser M.D.) admitted reservations about a taking on another medical show. But he said he went back into the operating room because of the participation of neurosurgeon and co-executive producer Sanjay Gupta. The series is based on the book by Gupta. The surgeon also serves as CNN chief medical correspondent.

Kelley said the book made him realize that the show, whose large ensemble cast includes Ving Rhames, Bill Irwin, Alfred Molina and Emily Swallow (on the panel,) could offer “fertile story-telling ground”, adding: It only came to fruition when Sanjay agreed to stay with it. The book is what made me want to do the series, but I wanted to keep the voice that came with us. He assured me he would not abandon us, and stay with us”.

Network television veteran Kelley was asked to compare the budget of this TNT medical show and what he is used to working with in network TV. “The budgets in TNT are more competitive with broadcast than any of us anticipated, “ Kelley said. “The bigger challenge is 7 days vs. 8 days” to produce an episode, he added. “Bill [exec producer Bill D’Elia” says I still write 8-day shows”.

“You write 10-day shows”, joked D’Elia, who was also on the panel with producers and cast.

Despite his long network track record, Kelley is coming off two network disappointments: One, the cancellation of the NBC series Harry’s Law, and the failure of his pilot for a new Wonder Woman series that failed to go to series at the same network. After the panel, he spoke about both.

On Wonder Woman: “I still believe it’s viable. I only regret we weren’t given a chance to correct it. We could have fixed what was wrong…I think it could have been a great success. We produced it at warp speed”.

On Harry’s Law: “It was working on many levels, we’re still scratching our heads. We still had 8 million viewers.” Despite the numbers, he said that NBC “blithely dismissed us” and refused to promote the show because it appealed to an older demographic. “As someone over 49, I take that a little personally”.

Also after the panel, Kelley said that these days he “finds nothing to watch” on network TV. “In terms of scripted product, cable is more daring, more creative and moving-forward place to be”, he said

He did say there is one drawback to doing a TNT series vs. pay cable: Commercials. “Working at TNT is great, the only thing I envy about Aaron’s job is the commercials,” he said, referring to his envy of Aaron Sorkin’s freedom to write scripts without breaks for the HBO series The Newsroom.

Other cast members appearing on the panel are Sarayu Rao, Keong Sim, Jennifer Finnigan and Jamie Bamber.

post #84372 of 93838
Originally Posted by DoubleDAZ View Post

And I'll say it again, I don't care if fewer channels cost me the same or more as long as my money goes to the channels I watch and not to feed the national sports habit. And I don't care if it's a wash
Except how long will you hold out on that position? When does the amount of stuff you get for the same money make you decide virtue isn't worth it?

Further, how many people do you think will stand by that with you?

If you sell 1 scoop of ice cream for a dollar and offer 3 scoops for the same price, people will go for 3 scoops every single time, even if they only want 1 and even if they're on a diet. It doesn't matter if they want the extra stuff or not - they want the perceived value.

Besides, under the ala cart system, it will likely be common pricing for all channels, with the lowest priced stations costing enough to cover the overage on more expensive ones - meaning you'll be paying the sports tax anyway. You'll probably be overpaying for those little $.25 and $.50 channels so others can get a break on ESPN.
Originally Posted by xnappo View Post

As with music, I see no need for a middle man at all. I want an ethernet jack for internet and I just want to give my money straight to Bad Robot/Mutant Enemy for content.
That's a terrible idea.

Now people have to go to each production company to see what shows they want to watch? Even if there is a box that brings it all together, it's still going to be sectioned off in some way that requires searching. The average TV viewer isn't going to stand for that. It's one thing to go searching for shows you know you want to see...it's a far different thing to search for shows you aren't sure if you want to see them. How many shows have become your favorite show because you set the DVR up to record it and just gave it a try? How many would do that under a pay per view model or even a "subscribe to this producer" model?

Do they get a couple episodes free to see if they like it or do they have to pay right from the get-go? This would kill new shows far quicker than the linear model. If you think the networks are quick to cancel, wait until the customers have to choose between paying or "seeing if the show gets better in a few episodes". When people can't just tune in to see if "Once Upon a Time" or "Grimm" are as silly as the concepts sound like, they aren't going to give them a try.

Finally, I-Tunes is successful for a reason: it's a middle man that makes it easy to find content. People might jump to an artist's site for the occasional song they hear about, but the meat and potatoes is in the distribution model. People have to be able to find it to know they want to buy it. It's not just about getting the content to the customer - it's getting the customer to notice it.

I don't want the entire TV industry to be dictated by Facebook likes or whether a show has a good "app" or not.
post #84373 of 93838
Originally Posted by NetworkTV View Post

That's a terrible idea.
Now people have to go to each production company to see what shows they want to watch? Even if there is a box that brings it all together, it's still going to be sectioned off in some way that requires searching. The average TV viewer isn't going to stand for that. It's one thing to go searching for shows you know you want to see...it's a far different thing to search for shows you aren't sure if you want to see them. How many shows have become your favorite show because you set the DVR up to record it and just gave it a try? How many would do that under a pay per view model or even a "subscribe to this producer" model?
Do they get a couple episodes free to see if they like it or do they have to pay right from the get-go? This would kill new shows far quicker than the linear model. If you think the networks are quick to cancel, wait until the customers have to choose between paying or "seeing if the show gets better in a few episodes". When people can't just tune in to see if "Once Upon a Time" or "Grimm" are as silly as the concepts sound like, they aren't going to give them a try.
Finally, I-Tunes is successful for a reason: it's a middle man that makes it easy to find content. People might jump to an artist's site for the occasional song they hear about, but the meat and potatoes is in the distribution model. People have to be able to find it to know they want to buy it. It's not just about getting the content to the customer - it's getting the customer to notice it.
I don't want the entire TV industry to be dictated by Facebook likes or whether a show has a good "app" or not.

A box that brings it all together? Any Android box will do. You just install the production company app. Make it free with ads for the latest episodes and pay for no ads and archive access.

Anyway, it is just hypothetical - the point is that the middleman has to much control over the industry.

Just curious - how long to do think the linear TV model is going to last?

post #84374 of 93838
Originally Posted by xnappo View Post

A box that brings it all together? Any Android box will do. You just install the production company app. Make it free with ads for the latest episodes and pay for no ads and archive access.
But that's the issue: a production company app. Ask the average viewer who produces their favorite shows and they'll likely tell you the channel it's on - and it's probably the channel number, not the channel name.

There was a study somewhere not long ago (I forget where) that showed the average smart phone user adds around 6 apps to what comes on their phone or tablet. Six. That's it. It was even worse with computers with the average person adding around 4 applications. I would bet the average is about as low or lower for something like a Roku. I added 8 items to my Roku channel list, but probably only click on maybe 2-3 or those extra channels on any regular basis - and that's someone like me who does seek stuff out and try new things.

We tend to forget that if stuff isn't already there, people find it too hard to bother seeking it out. It's the reason lead-in programming still works as well as it does: provide a program people will tune into and they'll stick to the channel if the following shows don't suck. It amazes me how many people just let the TV run without ever wondering what else is on besides the latest spinoff or competition show.
Anyway, it is just hypothetical - the point is that the middleman has to much control over the industry.
The thing is, for better or worse, it seems to work. People pay for it and while there are plenty of crappy shows being made, I think we have far more great shows than we would have ever gotten with only OTA. I think we really need to encourage more of that by watching those good shows and not watching endless iterations of the same reality show.

That's what will make TV more worthwhile.
Just curious - how long to do think the linear TV model is going to last?
Far longer than the "experts" seem to think.

There are hundreds of millions of MSO subscribers out there. While a few million have cut the cord in the last decade, I don't think it's a real issue. Many of those people dropped pay TV due to economic issues and those will get better and that will make those thinking of dropping less likely to do so. People pay for a lot of stuff they don't need when they have the money.

I just think that with internet caps and increasing prices to get faster broadband, it's going to be less appealing to cut the cord. Netflix streaming won't be $8 forever and Amazon Prime won't be $79 a year for ever. Hulu will continue to put more limitations on the free service and You-Tube will either jump to a pay model for TV content or become simply unwatchable with extra ads.

While I don't think the MSOs will ever see the numbers they had at their peak again, I don't think they'll be going away any time soon.

The fact is, TV viewership overall has been declining for some time - across all platforms. In the 60's, 30 million or more viewers for a show wasn't out of the question for a hit show. In the 80's, 18-22 million got you top slot. Now, 8-10 million often wins your slot. People just aren't watching TV shows in large numbers anymore - even when you add in streaming.

I'm not worried about linear TV - I'm worried long for TV shows in series form are in trouble. That model is in far more danger than how people watch them.
Edited by NetworkTV - 1/5/13 at 6:50am
post #84375 of 93838
Everyone keeps thinking he or she is the customer in the television business. Outside of premium cable channels (and even those are subsidiaries of ad-driven corporations), you are not the customer. The advertiser is the customer. YOUR eyeballs are the product being "manufactured" to deliver eyeballs to an advertiser. That's it. It's about them, not you. Changing the distribution system to more of an on-demand model doesn't do anything for advertisers and the fractionalization of the mass audience would significantly reduce the per-program income rendering most scripted programs unprofitable. It would also shift the burden of selling advertising and promoting shows to the production house.. expenses they really don't incur, now. And you're not going to get advertisers to mess with trying to by spots on a thousand different programs hoping to obtain the came cost-per-thousand and time-sensitive impacts they're enjoying now. They'll just go elsewhere.
post #84376 of 93838
Originally Posted by DrDon View Post

Everyone keeps thinking he or she is the customer in the television business. Outside of premium cable channels (and even those are subsidiaries of ad-driven corporations), you are not the customer. The advertiser is the customer. YOUR eyeballs are the product being "manufactured" to deliver eyeballs to an advertiser. That's it. It's about them, not you. Changing the distribution system to more of an on-demand model doesn't do anything for advertisers and the fractionalization of the mass audience would significantly reduce the per-program income rendering most scripted programs unprofitable. It would also shift the burden of selling advertising and promoting shows to the production house.. expenses they really don't incur, now. And you're not going to get advertisers to mess with trying to by spots on a thousand different programs hoping to obtain the came cost-per-thousand and time-sensitive impacts they're enjoying now. They'll just go elsewhere.
Very true, though technically, the viewer is a commodity, not a product. Viewers are purchased at a changing rate based on supply and demand. The program is the trading floor that prices the commodity, based on what the advertiser will pay.

In other words, people are like gas. You have everything from the run of the mill economy grade, right up to the premium high test. You always want the high test stuff that is more spendy - whether it goes into a Volkswagon Jetta or a Lamborghini.
post #84377 of 93838
Originally Posted by DrDon View Post

Which they ALSO control a chunk of. Already seeing higher fees for higher speeds and data caps. The end result will be the same money out of your pocket winding up in much the same pockets as now.

Exactly, people are reporting significant increases for Comcast HSI in Jan., frex. And this is where they have everyone by the balls, because there is no effective competition for wired HSI. You might be able to cut back on pay TV but they're going to get their money on the other side because the FCC and Congress looked the other way (or got paid off) to ignore the monopoly/duopoly HSI 'market'.
post #84378 of 93838
Originally Posted by NetworkTV View Post

Very true, though technically, the viewer is a commodity, not a product. Viewers are purchased at a changing rate based on supply and demand. The program is the trading floor that prices the commodity, based on what the advertiser will pay.
In other words, people are like gas. You have everything from the run of the mill economy grade, right up to the premium high test. You always want the high test stuff that is more spendy - whether it goes into a Volkswagon Jetta or a Lamborghini.

I buy that argument .... right up to the point that "you" (industry types) started charging people (exorbitantly at that) for the "privilege" of being treated like a lump of coal ... (that "clearly" has no other interest than "stealing" your "content" ... which apparently is *not* the real product after all. ) rolleyes.gif

My work here is done. smile.gif
post #84379 of 93838
Originally Posted by NetworkTV View Post

Except how long will you hold out on that position? When does the amount of stuff you get for the same money make you decide virtue isn't worth it?
Contrary to what you will probably believe, my answer is as long I keep cable.
Further, how many people do you think will stand by that with you?
None, but that won't stop me from advocating it.
If you sell 1 scoop of ice cream for a dollar and offer 3 scoops for the same price, people will go for 3 scoops every single time, even if they only want 1 and even if they're on a diet. It doesn't matter if they want the extra stuff or not - they want the perceived value.
Not ME. I don't even take the large when McDonald's offers all sizes for a dollar. I respect my body too much to overdo anything. If I want 3 scoops, I'll get them, but not because they are on sale. I use coupons sometimes, but I never go out to eat or get something I don't really want just because it's on sale.
Besides, ala cart system, it will likely be common pricing for all channels, with the lowest priced stations costing enough to cover the overage on more expensive ones - meaning you'll be paying the sports tax anyway. You'll probably be overpaying for those little $.25 and $.50 channels o thers can get a break on ESPN.
You are entitled to an opinion, but that is all it is. NO ONE knows how ala carte would work and cable/sat are happy to have you present their side.

IMHO, you are limiting your thinking to support your opinion. All I need is a Roku-type service with access to all channels/all shows. Then I decide if I want to subscribe or not. If I do, the CHANNEL gets my money, not ESPN. The service keeps track of the last episode I watched. I don't need a DVR. I don't need cable or sat. I don't need a guide bloated by channels I have no interest in. All I need is the internet and a little Roku box WHEREVER I happen to be. And they already do a better job of offering me suggestions than all the hyped commercials do. You're right about why iTunes is successful, but even they are limited because they don't have it all. No one should be denied because Netflix and AMC have a falling out. AMC should be available through their own service. They already offer shows directly online, why not through Roku directly?
Edited by DoubleDAZ - 1/5/13 at 11:03am
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Unhappily, I have to step in and stop the a la carte arguments, again, before they choke the thread. Feel free to continue the discussion through group PM or whatever.
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TV sports
N.F.L. Hones Message for Its Female Fans
By Natalie Kitroeff, The New York Times - Jan. 5, 2012

At Cowboys Stadium, fans can buy a standing golf bag, a Kobe beef burger and thong underwear emblazoned with the team’s star logo.

Displayed alongside lacy sports bras and flared sweat pants, Cowboys underwear is one of many offerings at the stadium’s Victoria’s Secret Pink store, the first to open inside a sports complex.

The move is emblematic of a broader marketing effort by the N.F.L. to engage female fans, who make up a rising share of the league’s base.

“We clearly get that our female fans are our consumers,” said Charlotte Jones Anderson, a Cowboys’ executive vice president, who pushed hard to get a Pink store inside the stadium. “They’re really the ones that make our business tick.”

In recent years, the N.F.L. surpassed the N.B.A. and Major League Baseball in the share of its regular-season viewers who are female, according to Nielsen. More women watched the Super Bowl — 43 million — than the Grammy Awards or the Academy Awards last year.

“Women are the custodians of most decisions made in the households,” said Mark Waller, the chief marketing officer of the N.F.L. Describing football as “the last great campfire,” which brings families together on Sundays as reliably as church, Waller said women were at the heart of the sport’s most sacred rituals.

At the same time, player safety has become a prominent issue in the league, and more research and awareness has developed on head injuries in the sport. Female fans, particularly those with children, may become decision makers about participation in football. A Centers for Disease Control study released in September showed that N.F.L. players were three times more likely to die of neurodegenerative diseases than the general population.

“This is a powerful issue for everybody,” Waller said, but women “have more of a role to play in managing that issue.”

The N.F.L.’s goal is to convert casual fans, a category that describes the majority of female football watchers, into die-hards. There are overt gestures, like the ubiquitous pink lining the field and accenting uniforms to commemorate breast cancer awareness month in October. But the league has also made more subtle changes in how it reaches its female audience.

Long gone are the days of “pink it and shrink it,” the decades-old approach to women’s N.F.L. apparel. A women’s wear line started in 2010 offers sleek, fitted jerseys in team colors, delighting lifelong fans like Kerry Ann Sullivan.

“I want to wear the colors of the team — I don’t want to wear a softened up version of it,” said Sullivan, 39, who said that she and her brother learned simple math as children by adding a touchdown to a field goal and a 2-point-conversion.

“Now I like it because they’re just making it something that you’d want to wear,” she added.

Celebrity spokeswomen like Serena Williams have appeared in Vogue and Cosmopolitan wearing the new gear, sandwiched between ads for high-end perfume and designer jeans.

N.F.L. television commercials this season have also featured women in prominent roles. One shows a young woman emulating the macho victory pose favored by Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews as she watches a game on her cellphone.

Other ads, some produced by the N.F.L., address safety concerns. One features a mother being thanked by her son and by the former Giants star Michael Strahan for promoting her son’s safety on the football field. Another has New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady helping to answer a mother’s questions about what the N.F.L. is doing about player safety. But it is not clear that female fans view the risks of the game any differently than men.

“There is nothing like the sound of two helmets crunching,” said Alexis Aarons, 27, who swears allegiance to the Philadelphia Eagles. “It signifies football. There’s no crunching like that in basketball.”

Aarons, whose father is an Eagles season-ticket holder, said she remembered having a front-row view of a collision in 2008 that left a player unconscious on the field for about 20 minutes. But she said such scenes would not deter her from letting her children play.

“If I were a parent, telling my child that they can’t do something that they’re passionate about?” she said, “I just don’t think that that’s fair.”

Deepi Sidhu, such a staunch supporter of the Indianapolis Colts that she once missed a friend’s wedding because a critical Colts game went into overtime, has three children.

“Ignorance is bliss sometimes,” she said, “The more you know about concussions and brain damages, why would you send your child into that?”

On the other hand, Sidhu recognized the attraction of the game.

“I have friends that put their kids in football and the kids loved it,” she said. “I might consider letting let my son play when he’s one of the bigger kids.”

Syreeta Hubbard, 33, said she was frightened when her son would come home from practice complaining of a headache.

“I always try to push him into lacrosse or baseball,” she said.

Still, violence belongs in the sport, said Hubbard, who has loved the Baltimore Ravens — known for their hard-hitting style — since they moved to her hometown in 1996.

“That’s the reality of the game,” she said.

Hubbard compared women’s interest in football to the spectacle of gladiator games in ancient Rome but acknowledged some differences, saying, “We don’t get to see people beheaded, thank God!”

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FRIDAY's fast affiliate overnight prime-time ratings -and what they mean- have been posted on Analyst Marc Berman's Media Insight's Blog
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Originally Posted by DrDon View Post

Unhappily, I have to step in and stop the a la carte arguments, again, before they choke the thread. Feel free to continue the discussion through group PM or whatever.
So, we should discuss Ala Carte....Ala Carte? wink.gif

Or would that be "All Apart".... biggrin.gif
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Originally Posted by NetworkTV View Post

So, we should discuss Ala Carte....Ala Carte? wink.gif
Or would that be "All Apart".... biggrin.gif
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Winter TCA Tour Notes
Entertainment Weekly, Sundance Channel launching 'Writers Room' TV show
By James Hibberd, EW.com's 'Inside TV' Blog - Jan. 5, 2012

Ready for EWTV?

Entertainment Weekly has taken readers behind the scenes of Hollywood for 23 years and now the print and online publishing brand is launching a new television series. Sundance Channel is teaming with EW to present The Writers’ Room, a six-episode series that will show viewers the inner workings of TV programs that define pop culture.

“Television is today’s most exciting medium, and writers are its heart and soul,” said Entertainment Weekly editor Jess Cagle. “We’re looking forward to giving the Sundance Channel viewers and the EW audience an all-access pass to see how these brilliant minds create great characters and addictive stories.”

The Writers’ Room will showcase an array of scripted dramas and comedies with a roundtable talk-show format that spotlights TV top creatives, revealing their most inspired story decisions, toughest calls and biggest mistakes. “We know that much of today’s best entertainment is on television, but Sundance Channel and Entertainment Weekly want to know—who, what, when, where and why?” added Sundance Channel general manager Sarah Barnett. “Social media has given us a lot of information about what our audience is craving— and we are listening. They want insider knowledge and a deeper perspective– this show will deliver that.”

Veteran reality executive Tom Forman (Extreme Makeover: Home Edition) will serve as executive producer, with Marco Bresaz executive producing for Sundance Channel. “We’re television producers ourselves, so we couldn’t be more excited to finally show viewers how some of the best shows on TV get made. And trust us, we’re going to show all of it: the good, the funny, and the sometimes messy process that is television,” said Forman, CEO, RelativityREAL.

The Writers’ Room will premiere during the second half of 2013 on Sundance Channel.

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Nielsen Overnights
Fox Scores With Cotton Bowl; CBS & ABC Originals Slip
By Dominic Patten, Deadline.com - Jan. 5, 2012

It was a total touchdown for Fox on Friday night. The network took the night with the Cotton Bowl (3.1/9) as Texas A&M soundly beat their former Big 12 rival Oklahoma. 11.207 million viewers, solidly ahead of anything else on TV last night, watched the college football game. While ratings of the live event are approximate and subject to greater change than usual in the final numbers, last night’s 8–10 PM broadcast was up solidly from the 2.5 rating the Cotton Bowl scored on January 6, 2012. Fox won the night in overall viewers and among the adult 18-49 demographic.

Back with original shows after three weeks, ABC’s comedies Last Man Standing (1.4/4) and Malibu Country (1.2/4) were both down from the 1.5 rating they earned on their December 14 airing. A new Shark Tank (1.8/5) followed, watched by 6.338 million last night. The reality show was down a tenth from the 1.9 rating its last original Friday broadcast drew back on November 16. At 10 PM, ABC had 20/20 (1.4/4) devoted to weight loss. Back after two weeks of preemptions, the news magazine show was down from the 1.6 rating it got on December 14. On CBS, there were also dips. Undercover Boss (1.5/5) was down from the 1.6 rating the reality show had on its last original show on December 7. CSI: NY (1.4/4) pulled in 9.176 million on Friday, making it the third most watched show of the night, but the police procedural was down from the 1.5 rating it had on its last original broadcast. While it was the second most watched show of the night with 9.946 million viewers, Blue Bloods (1.3/4) was down a tenth from its December 7 show’s 1.4 rating. CBS was overall the second most watched network of the night with an average of 8.878 million viewers.

NBC kicked off the night with double repeats of Go On at 8 PM (0.6/2) and 8:30 PM (0.6/2). The comedy encores were followed at 9 PM by a two-hour Dateline (1.5/4) that examined a Utah teen murder. Down from the 1.7 of last week’s repeat, Dateline had an audience of 5.677 million viewers last night. The CW ran repeats of Nikita (0.3/1) and Arrow (0.3/1)

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Winter TCA Tour Notes
OWN Announces Tyler Perry's Answer to 'Downton Abbey'
By Tim Molloy, TheWrap.com - Jan. 5, 2012

"Downton Abbey," meet Tyler Perry.

Oprah Winfrey's OWN announced last year that the filmmaker and "Madea" actor would make the first two scripted shows for the network. Saturday, it provided details. One of the shows, a drama called "The Haves and the Have Nots," will follow the lives of a rich family, the Cryers, and their impoverished maid, Hanna.

It's a familiar setup -- one that worked for "Upstairs Downstairs" long before "Abbey" borrowed it -- and fits perfectly into Perry's series of morality plays, in which righteousness trumps wealth. Besides a string of hit films, he has previously produced sitcoms for TBS.

Perry's other series for OWN, "Love Thy Neighbor," is a comedy set at a neighborhood restaurant called Love’s Diner. Both shows will premiere Monday, May 29.

OWN detailed the Perry shows at the Television Critics Association winter press tour, where it also announced four new reality shows.

The Perry shows are a big step for OWN, which has aired only interview and reality shows since its debut in January 2011.

Here are details on OWN's new shows, provided by OWN.

“Blackboard Wars” (Premieres in March)

“Blackboard Wars” centers on the dramatic transformation of New Orleans’ John McDonogh High School, one of the most dangerous and under-performing high schools in the country, where more than half of its students fail to graduate. Granted unprecedented access, the docu-series goes behind the scenes following education maverick Steve Barr and no-nonsense principal Dr. Marvin Thompson as they embark together on an unpredictable mission to reinvent and revive the struggling school. The series is produced by Discovery Studios.

“Golden Sisters” (Premieres 2013)

“Golden Sisters” is a real-life comedy following the hilarious adventures of Mary, Josie & Teresa, three sisters who shot to fame after a web video of the ladies watching a celebrity sex tape went viral. With Mary in her eighties and her twin sisters not far behind, these three raucous women are not your average seniors. Between running a successful salon and giving colorful advice to their growing online fan base, these spirited, lovable ladies share their outrageous opinions on everything from sex and dating, to celebrities and pop culture. One minute they are at each other’s throats, and the next they're best friends sharing a lifetime of memories and providing an endless supply of laughs. Produced by LMNO Productions.

“Raising Whitley” (Premieres 2013)

“Raising Whitley” (working title) is a humorous and poignant new docu-series following actress and comedienne Kym Whitley and her chaotic collective of friends -- whom she calls "The Village” -- as they attempt to do something none of them have ever done before: raise a baby…together. When Kym signed up for the Big Sister program to mentor a troubled young girl, she never imagined she'd get a call from the hospital saying, "Your baby is ready for collection." After learning that her mentee exited the maternity ward leaving only Kym’s contact information, Kym experienced a cataclysmic moment.

With less than an hour to make a life-changing decision -- and to do a lifetime of soul-searching -- Kym chose to become a mother. The Village banded together to help Kym bring up baby Joshua Whitley the best they know how, but sometimes it's hard to tell who is more mature – baby Joshua or the adults tasked with raising him. Produced by Pilgrim Studios.

“Dogfellas” (Premieres 2013)

“Dogfellas” (working title) follows James “Head” Guiliani, a former street enforcer for the mafia and one of John Gotti’s most trusted men, whose life-changing encounter with a stray pup inspired him to open Brooklyn’s top dog grooming parlor. In addition to pampering pooches, Head rescues dogs, and his life is as complicated now as it was with the mob. With a constant battle to pay the bills, a fiery wife who doesn’t always share his love for canines, and a staff who spend more time primping themselves than the pets, Head has his hands full. From old "associates," to thrilling rescue missions, to his wife, Head tries to maintain some semblance of normalcy in his bizarre, heartfelt, and hilarious new life. Produced by NERD TV.

“The Haves And The Have Nots” (Premieres Wednesday, May 29)

Written, directed and produced by TylerPerry, “The Haves and the Have Nots” is a one-hour drama series following the dynamics of the affluent Cryer family and the impoverished family of Hanna, their housekeeper, and the obstacles and secrets that exist within both families. Produced by Tyler Perry Studios.

“Love Thy Neighbor” (Premieres Wednesday, May 29)

Written, directed and produced by Tyler Perry, “Love Thy Neighbor” is a half-hour comedy set at Love’s Diner, where every day the menu serves up good food, great laughs, valuable life lessons and a whole lot of love for its zany neighbors. Produced by Tyler Perry Studios.

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TV Notes
'Up All Night' Creator Emily Spivey Exits Series
By Lesley Goldberg, The Hollywood Reporter's 'Live Feed' Blog - Jan. 5, 2012

Up All Night creator Emily Spivey has become the latest casualty of the NBC comedy.

Ahead of its reboot from a single- to multicamera series, the creator of the sophomore vehicle has opted to part ways with the second-year comedy, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed.

Spivey's exit comes a month after showrunner Tucker Crawley was replaced by Nurse Jackie's Linda Wallem as NBC and studio Universal Television opted to make some creative changes to the struggling Christina Applegate-Will Arnett-Maya Rudolph series at its midseason point.

Crawley, for his part, replaced original showrunner Jon Pollack. The former departed in December to work as a consulting producer on Fox's The Mindy Project, which is produced by Universal Media Studios.

The modestly rated Up All Night will resume production in February, after a three-month hiatus, with three additional episodes tacked on to its initial order of 16. At that time, the Lorne Michaels-produced comedy will transition from singlecamera to a generally cheaper and often broader multicamera format, a process that has entailed building new soundstages to be able to film the series in front of a live studio audience.

Up All Night will return to NBC in April or May. The creative change marks the second for the comedy this year after the Rudolph's talk-show format was ditched in the season two premiere earlier this fall. All of the tweaks come as NBC looks to refresh their comedy brand as a destination for more broadly appealing fare, which entertainment chief Jennifer Salke outlined in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter last month.

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TV Review
'Downton Abbey' Season 3 Review
The Case For And Against The Period Drama
By Maureen Ryan, HuffingtonPost.com

This court will now come to order.

In the dock today, we find "Downton Abbey" (Sunday, January 6 at 9 p.m. EST on PBS), a phenomenon whose popularity rivals that of Justin Bieber and "Homeland" put together. (If you get bored as you read this brief for and against the British import, you're allowed to wonder what "Homeland" would be like if Bieber guest-starred on it. You're welcome.)

You probably won't be able to avoid the third season of "Downton," even if you'd wanted to, so we might as well review the show's strengths and sins together. Oh yes, there are sins to be found, or rather, a series of mostly avoidable mistakes that are almost up there with mistaking the shrimp fork for the dessert fork.

I kid, because I know what "Downton Abbey" is -- it's unquestionably one of television's most contrived confections, and there's nothing wrong with contrivances as long as they serve a greater purpose. But what is that purpose, exactly? I wish I could ignore those questions and concentrate only on frolic among the footmen, but, especially this season, "Downton" insistently puts a certain kind of social system front and center and asks all the characters how they feel about it. As the granddaughter of an Irish housemaid, I'm both able to escape into the fantasy land of earls and ladies without forgetting the elbow grease and financial sacrifice required to make those frivolous lives possible.

Though Season 3 of "Downton" is somewhat stronger than Season 2 -- which made "90210" look like a model of narrative coherence by comparison -- there are still times I mutter darkly about the drama, I must admit. When it keeps on stumbling over the same easily avoidable obstacles and when it keeps stacking the narrative deck in preposterously lopsided ways, I react about as well as the Dowager Countess would react to finding a dirty hippie in the shrubbery.

And yet, just because the show shamelessly and sometimes shallowly manipulates me doesn't render all those manipulations ineffective. There were "Downton" moments that made me laugh and cry this season; there's no doubt that the show's mixture of rich-people voyeurism, light-opera follies and serious emotional business can be greatly satisfying when it works. Fair warning: It tends to work a lot better as the season progresses -- like a 19th Century train, this polished piece of machinery starts slow and needs to work up a head of steam in order to be enjoyed in all its Victorian glory.

Years from now, well after television transmitters are implanted in our brains and we are all making robot footmen do our bidding, I will still be watching this pleasurable, annoying, moving, picturesque, predictable period drama. What it does well is worth the price of admission, and the actors in this cast are a continual treat, yet I feel compelled to list the problems and pleasures I find in the drawing rooms and the servants' quarters.

The Crimes of "Downton":

1. The deck is stacked in frequently ridiculous ways in favor of the Old Ways and the Earl, who has never struck me as a model of intelligence and foresight.
One thing has become clear over three seasons of "Downton": Creator Julian Fellowes is not all that interested in human nature as such and he has an upper-class Englishman's horror of [withering Dowager Countess voice] "psychology." Fellowes is interested in people in so far as he can put them in situations that force them to react in certain ways; probing the depths and complexities of those reactions just isn't his thing. Though the cast does a tremendous job with the material they are given, the show is usually quite eager to briskly move on to the next thing, and the next thing, to an almost comical extent, and is often designed to make Robert, Earl of Grantham, look correct, right, proper and in all ways a Capital Fellow. Fellowes is willing to press anything and everything into the service of that goal, continually, and this would be amusing were he not so deadly serious about it. Just one example: The show's token Irish patriot, former chauffeur Tom Branson, is put into a situation in which he appears to be a cad, merely for being true to his beliefs. The issue of Irish independence, what goes on in Branson's head and the reasons for his decisions -- those things are not interesting to Fellowes in the slightest. The two men's interactions are all about making Robert look like a magnanimous and unerringly well-intentioned man -- because, as we all know, people whose main accomplishment is inheriting wealth are unfailingly generous, kind and intelligent, right? Uh, sure. In any case, after three seasons of this, Robert would be insufferable if Hugh Bonneville wasn't such a good actor, so thank goodness for his delicate and excellent performance. But Fellowes doesn't do Robert any favors by having him petulantly declare, whenever anyone opposes him, "You're against me too!" Take it down a notch, my lord. You'll be fine. If nothing else, the creator of the show is firmly in your corner.

2. That damned house is starting to seem like a malevolent monster interested only in its own survival. I don't care how strong a "Downton" fan you are -- at some point during Season 3, especially in the early going, you may find yourself muttering "Would you shut up about that bloody house already?" to one of the characters. Lady Mary has always been a traditionalist, but this season she's the We Must Save the House cult's most vociferous recruit, and both she and Robert can be tiresome on the topic. Despite Michelle Dockery's versatility and skill, Julian Fellowes has never seen fit to give Lady Mary anything to do aside from trying to snag a husband, and now one of her only functions is to serve as Robert's clone, at least where the legacy of the estate is concerned. (Some of Mary's dialogue in the season finale is positively ridiculous on this score, but Dockery miraculously finds a way to smooth out the rough edges). In any case, the arguments that the show presents for the preservation of Downton Abbey as a family home feel increasingly threadbare these days after three seasons of frantic propaganda on the subject. Yes, the estate is a sizable local employer, but the staff is so competent and energetic that we all know they'd have new jobs within a week if they needed to leave. We get it, Julian Fellowes, we know that your life philosophy boils down to, "English Aristocracy, rah rah!" For the love of God, find another topic or two to add to your arsenal in future seasons.

3. The biggest stakes are kind of silly. We're all used to a certain amount of "Downton" laxness by now -- stories can be affecting and thoughtful, but they can also be silly, extremely convenient, unsubtle and repetitive, and characters who've shown growth will suddenly revert back to type should the plot require it. But the biggest problem with "Downton's" third season is that it hangs a huge amount of importance on "stakes" that wilt under even the mildest examination. The big problem during a large chunk of the season amounts to the following, more or less: "Oh no, a very rich man is having to face the possibility of being slightly less comfortable!" It's fun to escape into a world of lush privilege when times are hard, but the tenor of the times also make it quite difficult to care about a well-to-do family having to trim its budget a bit. Buck up, chaps; we all have to manage with fewer footmen these days.

4. Shirley MacLaine's guest stint is, it's sad to say, a stilted and a disappointing misfire. MacLaine is a great actress, but, as Cora's mother, Martha Levinson, she's not allowed to play an actual role on "Downton." Julian Fellowes wrote a tepid, flat caricature for MacLaine to play, and that's part of a bigger issue on the show -- characters on "Downton" are frequently forced to stay within very narrow limits (the Irishman always talks about Ireland's troubles, the flapper who likes to party is usually in search of a party, Americans must always refer to their American ways and must be somewhat uncouth if not intolerable, etc.). The role of Martha straitjackets the Oscar winner, and the occasional exchange of barbed witticisms with the Dowager Countess doesn't really make up for the deflated quality of her scenes. I'm sure we all thought of delicious ways in which Cora's rich mother would be fun to watch, but the storyline goes nowhere. Fellowes has a beautiful canvas to paint on, but sometimes the very conventional limits of his imagination mean that large swaths of it go unfilled.

5. It's continually difficult to tell how much time has passed between episodes or even between scenes. Time passes in stop-start chunks on "Downton," and the show is remarkably bad at explaining whether a month or a few days have passed since the last time we saw the Crawleys. (A couple other nitpicks: The Bates-in-prison storyline drags [a lot], and the repetitive nature of the plinky-plonky score drives me a little mad.)

The Pleasures of "Downton":

1. The cast is uniformly terrific.
Right about now, you're saying, "Good lord, woman! You're being far to hard on the old warhorse!" I don't think I am -- I hold any show to the highest standard it has set for itself, and when it's firing on all cylinders, "Downton" is believable, beautiful, lean and not lazy. There are substantical chunks of the third season that work -- affecting moments are scattered throughout -- and an episode around the midpoint of the season moved me to tears. I can't fault Fellowes in the casting department: The actors are marvelous and are often able to elevate slapdash and preposterous material. When the material is restrained and moving, they're simply spectacular. It's especially heartening to report that Elizabeth McGovern, whose Cora has often been shunted to the side in the past, gets to do her best work this season, and cast members such as Laura Carmichael (Lady Edith), Rob James-Collier (Thomas Barrow), Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley) and Allen Leech (Tom Branson), among others, get quite a few moments to shine. And it can't be repeated frequently enough that Jim Carter and Phyllis Logan, as butler Carson and housekeeper Mrs. Hughes, are not just the indispensable mainstays of the house, they're the pillars on which the entire show stands. They're invariably wonderful.

2. Long live Maggie Smith. The Dowager Countess is too often reduced to the role of bon mot dispenser this season, but in the moments in which she's allowed to behave like a human being -- and even experience pain -- Maggie Smith is unsurprisingly tremendous. Of course Maggie Smith gets her own bullet point because you do not lump the Dowager Countess in with the domestic staff and former chauffeurs. Harumph!

3. Once the season has set up its busy tapestry of plots and truly gets into gear, it generally becomes more enjoyable. I find that there's usually one sub-plot that bores me at any point in time, but that's alright, because this season, Lady Edith, Thomas, Mrs. Crawley (Penelope Wilton) and even Mrs. Hughes get actual stories of their own. "Downton" sprawls a bit as it heads into the second half of its third season, but I find that's a good thing; characters get to move beyond types and predictable behaviors and into messier, more difficult territory. That can only be a good thing for this drama, which shouldn't be as organized and polished as the family's silver.

4. "Downton" isn't an ambitious show, artistically or thematically, but it can be both gorgeous and efficient. I'm going to melt your brain now by comparing it to "Sons of Anarchy," another show that likes its mechanical plots and works hard to keep its characters within certain narrowly determined orbits. Both shows are small-c "conservative," in the sense that they don't like to take too many real risks, they delineate fairly rigid hierarchies and they generally travel along very well-defined and predictable paths. (Here's more potential brain-melting material for you: I've also compared and contrasted "Downton" to "Spartacus" in the past.) And yes, "Downton's" specific pleasures are as irresistible as a really good Harley-based action scene. Seeing "Downton's" characters outlined against a Scottish landscape, luxuriating in what they wear and eat, observing the craftsmanship of every room and object they encounter -- all these moments offers a series of treats for the senses. These vistas allow one to enter another world, one of upstart housemaids, grumpy butlers, beaded gowns and white tie. The show is, essentially, "The Secret Garden" for adults, and there's a lot to be said for that kind of simple fantasy. When it works, the show provides both aesthetic and emotional escapes, and that's why I don't see "Downton"-mania dying down any time soon.

5. Fellowes may not be an imaginative writer, but he's a canny one. When an episode is chugging along toward a goal -- a wedding, a ball, a fair or some other group event -- it has a flow and momentum that savvily pulls the viewer along. The swirl of energy that follows every arrival, journey and happy event is infectious, and even the sad sequences are often orchestrated well.

The five points above mean that, yes, the show once again pummeled me into submission this year. But am I grading "Downton" on a curve? Is it because I'm a sucker for well-appointed costumed dramas? Am I giving it a break because the show depicts a bunch of good-looking rich people exercising their privilege in exclusive, well-appointed surroundings? Should I be giving it a break because of that, or should I question it more thoroughly for those very reasons? Should I probe more deeply into the extent to which Fellowes' anti-subversive show has co-opted the logic centers of my brain (as it was no doubt designed to do)?

The show is a souffle, I'll grant you that, but there's a part of me that finds it hard not to wrestle with bigger questions about the entire setup. "Downton" appears to want nothing more than to avoid political questions, but is it not a political act to posit once again that those with titles, inheritances and a deep dislike of change are best positioned to lead the lower orders?

Like a housemaid who wants to be a duchess (or vice versa), my head is full of competing ideas. You know what that means.

Time for a spot of tea.

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TCA Winter Tour's Notes
‘Wild Things With Dominic Monaghan’ “A Love Letter” To ‘Crocodile Hunter’
By The Deadline.com Team - Jan. 5, 2012

Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TCA coverage.

The star of BBC America’s new wildlife adventure docu-series Wild Things With Dominic Monaghan said today at TCA that he was inspired to pursue his longtime dream of doing the show by the death of “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin.

“I was devastated by his death,” said Monaghan, who appeared on the panel with series producer Paul Kilback. “After I got over the initial shock of him dying -I decided- if this is not a reason for me to finally pick up the pieces and make the show, I don’t know what is.” The show “is a love letter to Steve Irwin, to what he achieved and the television shows he left behind.”


* * * *

TCA Winter Tour's Notes
‘Ripper Street’ Will Present A “Stand-Alone Crime” In Each Episode

At a lunchtime panel at today’s TCA, Ray McKinnon, creator/writer/executive producer of Sundance series Rectify, was adamant about not revealing whether the serialized story would provide a traditional ending. But at another panel an hour or so later, Richard Warlow, creator of BBC America’s Ripper Street, was equally emphatic in saying that each episode of his show, set in the Victorian England in the time of Jack the Ripper, would provide a “stand-alone crime.”

That being said, the crime to be solved will not be catching Jack the Ripper, said Warlow, who appeared on the panel with executive producer Will Gould and stars Matthew Macfadyen, Jerome Flynn and Adam Rothenberg. The idea, he said, was to create a show about the Victorian era and the people of “the streets down which he walked, and most importantly the police that tried to catch him.”


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TCA Winter Tour's Notes
‘Orphan Black’ Is Sci-Fi “Set In The Here And The Now”

BBC America’s drama Orphan Black stars Tatiana Maslany as young woman who witnesses the suicide of her clone. Series co-creator (with John Fawcett) and writer Graeme Mason described the show as “near-fi” not “sci-fi” today at TCA. “We’re a sci-fi show, but we’re set in the here and the now,” he said. “That’s really important to us, that the juice feels real. It’s not space ships and warp drives.”

Mason said the show began gestating about 10 years ago, when creative partner Fawcett said. “Wouldn’t it be cool if you were standing in a train station and you looked across the tracks and you saw yourself, and then your eyes met and yourself stepped in front of a train?” He added that the pair had tried to make the project work as a feature film but “we just couldn’t contain the story in a couple hours of a feature. As the cable TV landscape changed around us, we realized it would be a great series.”

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