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post #85501 of 93699
TV Review
‘Battleground: Rhino Wars,’ cool enough
Animal Planet series is short on real action
By Tom Conroy, Media Life Magazine - Mar. 6, 2013

No one sets out to produce a documentary series that lasts for only three episodes. When one of these gets on air, the simplest explanation is that the producers didn’t get enough good footage and decided to cut their losses.

That seems to have been the case with “Battleground: Rhino Wars,” which, despite its compelling title, is virtually devoid of military action. But since its subject matter is important and its stars — a team of American special-ops soldiers brought in to help South African park rangers battle poachers — are colorful and charismatic, the show is generally watchable.

Premiering this Thursday, March 7, at 9 p.m. on Animal Planet, “Rhino Wars” is set in an area of wildlife preserves north of Johannesburg where 668 rhinoceroses and an estimated 100 men have been killed by poachers in search of the animals’ horns, which are worth more than their weight in gold on the black market. The premiere episode never explains why they’re so valuable; according to published reports, powdered rhino horn is believed to have medicinal value in China and Vietnam.

The premiere episode also never says who hired the four special-ops guys to go to South Africa. One suspects it was the producers of the series.

The team leader, Craig, a.k.a. Saw — their last names aren’t divulged — is a former Navy SEAL, as are Jeff, a.k.a. Biggs, a sniper, and Rob, the intel specialist. The fourth, Oz, is a former Green Beret medic.

Members of one of the area’s anti-poaching units show the Americans the corpse of a female rhino that ran away after it was shot, so the poachers didn’t even get its horn. The sight is horrifying, but mainly because the locals performed an autopsy on the corpse. Normally, when a rhino is shot, the poachers simply saw off its horn.

In preparation for an upcoming full moon, which in the area is called a “poacher’s moon,” the Americans take target practice — Biggs says that for them, shooting is as relaxing as taking a bubble bath — and then go out with a wildlife expert to learn how to handle animals in the bush.

Disappointingly, the local guy makes them put away their firearms. Ludicrously, he has two of them pretend to be lions attacking the other two. It’s a little cooler when they go out for a stroll and find themselves between some elephants and a group of lions.

The meat of the episode is a nighttime patrol in an area that’s been the site of several recent killings. The Americans split into pairs and drive trucks along 70 miles of electric fence.

When one teams spots an approaching truck, we think we’re finally going to see some poachers learning what it’s like to confront American firepower. Rather, the Americans learn what it’s like to confront a situation in which the people entrusted to protect the animals may be collaborating with the poachers.

The first episode was the only one provided for review, but a montage of scenes from the following episode is also disappointingly devoid of gunplay.

Even if the special-ops guys don’t get to use force, the show says that they’re going to help train the local officials in things like counterinsurgency. But if they did, we don’t see that either.

Fortunately, the guys are fun to watch. Biggs is always good for a sound bite. “As far as I’m concerned,” he tells the camera, “if you’re a rhino hunter, you’re a douchebag.”

While the men are driving out to set up camp in the bush, Biggs says that he’s happy “knowing I get to spend a couple days in the wilderness with some very good-looking men wearing next to nothing.” The other respond with some awkward jokes intended to assure us that Biggs is just kidding.

Saw provides the voice-over narration, which is so gritty and natural that he could make a living narrating tough-guy documentaries if giving counterinsurgency lessons doesn’t work out.

Also arguing in favor of the series is the attention it brings to the threat of the animals’ extinction. “Rhino Wars” may not be the most direct or serious examination of this issue, but it couldn’t hurt.

post #85502 of 93699
Critic's Notes
How NBC Can Save Itself From Being NBC
By Tim Goodman, The Hollywood Reporter's 'Bastard Machine' Blog - Mar. 6, 2013

Well, there's your big fiery death ball. Again. No, not the meteorite in Russia, the one that hit NBC on Wednesday like the gods themselves threw it out of anger.

The Tuesday night ratings arrived like a swarm of jackals on a nursery and the carnage was not pretty, nor even merely passably unattractive. Go On tanked. The New Normal one-upped that tankage. And Smash, well, yeah, it's smushed. If NBC wanted to find a silver lining it could have touted the fact that Betty White's Off Their Rockers, a show with a concept older than the people it features, was its highest rated show, reaching roughly 3.5 million people in the, what, 100-plus million homes NBC has a key pass to? There's no silver lining in that. Just a dry cleaning bag to kill yourself with.

Yes, every broadcast network sans CBS, which has been the best-run and most efficiently ruthless broadcaster for years now, is living a nightmare scenario that makes The Road from Cormac McCarthy look like The Sound of Music. But over at NBC, currently housed on an Indian burial ground, the relentless failure is no longer tragic -- just numbingly consistent.

When NBC entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt came to NBC from Showtime, all the little birds sang him the same song: You're in the broadcast network business now, Bob, you can't make that delicious cable fare anymore. You're in the big tent with the big boys and you need to appeal to the largest possible audience. None of that niche candy you used so effectively to get Showtime out of HBO's shadows. Now you play by our rules.

And he did. At the time, that was wise. Even though the signs were already there that broadcast television needed a revamp, the Modern Familys and American Idols of the world were still doing big business and CBS had all that glittery gold. Greenblatt had no choice but to run NBC like a network, even if the previous stewards had run it like hardware store. So he did.

A lot of good it did him. Not many people are that visionary and daring, but wouldn't it have been nice if, when everybody told him he couldn't run NBC like Showtime, he gave them a one-word response: "Bulls***."

Because, let's face it, he's basically running a cable channel now. And so is everybody else but CBS. The difference is, Fox and ABC are unlikely to ever buy into the fact that CBS is in a different business -- a business they own, outright. The other three in the so-called Big Four are playing a mug's game. CBS is Alec Baldwin with all the good leads in Glengarry Glen Ross (and that's Les Moonves playing the Baldwin role, by the way).

Right now Greenblatt has a very slim chance to take a very, very big risk. Look, you don't become a bad programmer just because you run a network. As much as people assume television is run by idiots, the people running the networks are all smart and have all done great work in cable. Greenblatt, however battered he may be -- and the gods only know how deep he is into this psychotic remaking of his persona to fit the demands of Kable Town and the ruined husk of the broadcast universe -- is still creative and smart and has the chops to leave NBC and go to some cable channel and do great things.

But why leave? Why not turn NBC into a cable channel right now? First, let's just point out the likelihood of what will happen to Greenblatt (and every other person who has ever been an entertainment president at a Big Four network) in no time: He'll be fired. He knows that. We know that. It's not if, but when (even if the when is five seasons away -- which it's not). He can either go out the traditional way -- trading mediocre shows for mediocre shows and hoping for a miracle or a revolution of the current environment. Or he can fool himself into thinking that all the pilots he's greenlighting now will be amazing and different and a magnet for -- toss out a number? -- 10 million viewers a week, with a robust 4.0 in the demo to make the advertisers slobber.

That's the seductive, sad dream that others have bought into. You know, right before they got walked out back and before their eyes could adjust to the sun, someone put a piano wire around their neck and announced in a press release that they were "hanging out their shingle" to produce new shows. And they were wished well, as the employees drove around the dead carcass in the parking lot.

Don't do that, Bob. Look at the numbers around you -- not just NBC's numbers (don't stare at those!), but those of ABC or Fox or The CW. Do you know what those numbers are, Bob? They're cable numbers. So be a cable channel. But run it like you would run the cable channel you'll get offered to run when NBC fires you. Do it now.

Yes, it's late in the game. It's already March. Whatever you've got planned for next fall and midseason probably isn't anywhere near the caliber you'd have planned if you were running a boutique cable channel, like AMC - home to the that tiny little zombie show that eats everybody's dinner. But try to make something of what you've got. Tear up scripts. Hire even more creative people to work with the creative people you've hired to make shows for next season. Adjust the premises. Get different actors or different showrunners. Hell, this is your thing. This is what you do best. Do your cable thing, Bob. If you're going to go out, go out on your terms. All the numbers are low in broadcast network television for a reason -- people don't like broadcast network television anymore. At least not in droves they don't (stop looking at CBS -- they're doing something else). Make cable shows. Do something potentially brilliant or different or whatever -- and maybe it'll pull in 4 million viewers. But they'll be loyal because the shows are good. Make more of those good shows and pretty soon you can bring a modified Showtime attitude to broadcast television.

Do you know why? Because broadcast television is dead. It's going to be remade in some different, less enormous form. Why not be the pioneer in that change? You had your heart in Smash. But Smash is dead. Move on. Hell, you put a show on with a monkey, for God's sake. How about you go back to doing what you do better and see what happens?

post #85503 of 93699
Originally Posted by dad1153 View Post

Critic's Notes
Little Lost Shows: TV That Died Too Soon
By Eric Gould, TVWorthWatching.com - Mar. 6, 2013

I'd add "Journeyman" to the list of shows that died far too soon - and the list of shows that were really getting good when they were cancelled.
post #85504 of 93699
Journeyman for sure! Great show at the end.
post #85505 of 93699
Originally Posted by domino92024 View Post

TiVo doesn't try to hide the fact that it gathers information on viewing habits and sells it to advertisers. There are many web pages describing what they do. One is http://www.tivo.com/business/mediaresearch/index.html

Also, http://www.techspot.com/news/37106-google-partners-up-with-tivo-to-gather-dvr-viewing-habits.html
Originally Posted by fjames View Post

Have you read their privacy policy?
Thank you gentlemen! -- your posts were exactly what I sought to discover, and I much appreciate your efforts to enlighten me.
post #85506 of 93699
For those of you expecting the next episode of Merlin (on SyFy) to air Friday, March 8, it (and the other final episodes of season 5) have been postponed until at least May 3, 2013.

post #85507 of 93699
Originally Posted by dad1153 View Post

None of us will miss this season's The Mob Doctor or the certifiably incoherent Zero Hour

I will certainly miss The Mob Doctor and Zero Hour.
post #85508 of 93699
WEDNESDAY's fast affiliate overnight prime-time ratings -and what they mean- have been posted on Analyst Marc Berman's Media Insight's Blog
post #85509 of 93699
Nielsen Overnights (18-49)
‘Idol’ powers Fox on a repeat-laden night
Hit singing show averages a 3.7 in 18-49s
By Toni Fitzgerald, Media Life Magazine - Mar. 7, 2013

On a night littered with reruns, Fox was the only Big Five network with an all-original schedule.

And though “American Idol” fell once again from last week, it still powered the network to a dominant win on the night.

“Idol” averaged a 3.7 adults 18-49 rating from 8 to 10 p.m., according to Nielsen, down from a 3.9 last Wednesday. But it was up from a season-low 3.4 for Tuesday’s episode.

Only three other original programs aired on the Big Five last night. NBC’s “Whitney” drew a 1.3 at 8 p.m., its best rating in five weeks.

ABC’s “The Neighbors” drew a 1.7 at 8:30, growing on its lead-in, a repeat of “The Middle” that averaged a 1.6.

And ABC’s “Suburgatory” drew a 1.7 at 9:30, also leading out of a repeat, “Modern Family,” which averaged a 2.0 and finished as the night’s No. 2 show to “Idol.”

Fox was first for the night among 18-49s with a 3.7 average overnight rating and a 10 share. CBS was second at 1.9/5, Univision third at 1.8/5, ABC fourth at 1.5/4, NBC fifth at 1.1/3, Telemundo sixth at 0.6/2 and CW seventh at 0.4/1.

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

At 8 p.m. Fox led with a 3.7 for “Idol,” followed by CBS with a 2.5 for “Survivor.” Univision was third with a 2.0 for “Por Ella Soy Eva,” ABC fourth with a 1.6 for a repeat of “The Middle” (1.6) and a new “Neighbors” (1.7) and NBC fifth with a 1.2 for two episodes of “Whitney” (1.3 for an original at 8, 1.0 for rerun at 8:30). The CW and Telemundo tied for sixth at 0.4, CW for a repeat of “Arrow” and Telemundo for “Pasion Prohibida.”

Fox was first again at 9 p.m. with a 3.7 for more “Idol,” while ABC moved to second with a 1.9 for a repeat of “Family” (2.0) and a new “Suburgatory” (1.7). Univision was third with a 1.8 for “Amores Verdaderos,” CBS fourth with a 1.7 for a “Criminal Minds” rerun, NBC fifth with a 1.1 for a repeat of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” Telemundo sixth with a 0.9 for “La Patrona” and CW seventh with a 0.4 for a repeat of “Supernatural.”

At 10 p.m. CBS and Univision tied for the lead at 1.5, CBS for a repeat of “CSI” and Univision for “Amor Bravio.” NBC was third with a 1.0 for a rerun of “Chicago Fire,” ABC fourth with a 0.9 for a “Nashville” repeat and Telemundo fifth with a 0.4 for “El Rostro de la Venganza.”

Fox also finished first for the night among households with a 7.6 average overnight rating and a 12 share. CBS was second at 5.1/8, ABC third at 3.1/5, NBC fourth at 2.6/4, Univision fifth at 2.2/3, CW sixth at 0.9/1 and Telemundo seventh at 0.8/1.

post #85510 of 93699
Critic's Notes
Syfy greenlights 'Battlestar Galactica' showrunner's new series
By James Hibberd, EW.com's 'Inside TV' Blog - Mar. 7, 2013

Syfy has given a 13-episode order to Ron Moore’s new project Helix.

The show is described as “an intense thriller about a team of scientists from the Centers for Disease Control who travel to a high-tech research facility in the Arctic to investigate a possible disease outbreak, only to find themselves pulled into a terrifying life-and-death struggle that holds the key to mankind’s salvation or total annihilation.”

“With its well-drawn characters, taut drama, and incredible production team, we couldn’t be more excited to see this intense thrill-ride of a series come to life,” said Syfy content president Mark Stern.

The order puts Syfy back in business with Moore, who rebooted Battlestar Galctica in 2004 for the network and later launched its Caprica spin-off. Helix is expected to debut later this year.

post #85511 of 93699
TV Notes
CBS Shifts 'Vegas' to Fridays to Make Room for 'Golden Boy'
By Tim Kenneally, TheWrap.com - Mar. 7, 2013

What happens in "Vegas" will soon be happening on Friday nights. As far as CBS is concerned, anyway.

CBS is bumping the freshman drama, which stars Michael Chiklis and Dennis Quaid, from its Tuesdays at 10 p.m. timeslot, and into Friday night, where it will occupy the 9 p.m. timeslot starting on April 5.

The network's new drama "Golden Boy," which stars Theo James as New York City's youngest police commissioner, will take over the "Vegas" timeslot. The series ran previews in the "Vegas" timeslot Feb. 26 and March 5, and was due to take over the Friday 9 p.m. timeslot on March 8. It will still air an episode in that slot on that date.

"Vegas," which has been the relatively weak ratings link in a Tuesday night roster that includes the tremendously popular "NCIS" and "NCIS: LA," will run its remaining six episodes in its new time slot following CBS's coverage of the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament. It will also precede the drama "Blue Bloods," which "Vegas" has been drawing comparable ratings to. The shift is an experiment to see if the show makes a better fit in the Friday-night lineup.

"Golden Boy" got off to a soft start with its Feb. 26 preview, drawing a 1.8 rating in the advertiser-sought 18-49 demographic. While somewhat disappointing, that still marked a 20 percent boost over the "Vegas" episode the previous Tuesday. The second "Golden Boy" preview dipped 11 percent. The previews have won their time period in the demo and total viewers, averaging a 1.7 and 10 million total viewers.

Aside from giving "Golden Boy" a high-profile slot, following the popular "NCIS" and "NCIS: LA," the schedule shift will allow the network to air all original episodes for the remainder of the season on Tuesday nights without dipping into repeats.

post #85512 of 93699
Business Notes
Growing Numbers Of Pay TV Subscribers Say They’ll Cut The Cord, But Don’t: Survey
By David Lieberman, Deadline.com - Mar. 7, 2013

This is a familiar dilemma for pay TV providers: Lots of subscribers who threaten to cancel the service are full of it. The phenomenon shows up clearly in the results of Morgan Stanley’s 3rd Annual Streaming Video Survey, out today. About 17% of pay TV customers in an online poll with 2,500 adults recently said that they’re willing to cut the cord over the next 12 months, with 8% saying that they “definitely” will do so. That would be a catastrophe for most Big Media companies; their profits largely come from cable channels or services. But here’s the thing: 16% gave the same answer last year, and 15% in 2011. And total pay TV subscription numbers remained basically flat.

There’s a similar pattern with pay TV customers who say that they’ll cut premium channels this year: 26% recently said they plan to pare back, roughly even with last year (27%) and 2011 (26%). Even so, last year the number of subscribers to HBO, Showtime and Starz was up 4.8%. It’s too bad, because the survey — which has a plus/minus 1.5% margin of error — offers some interesting insights into consumer views about new media. For example, Morgan Stanley found that Netflix subscribers primarily like the service because it’s inexpensive (about $8 a month) and has a lot of content. The number of hours people say they spend each week watching movies on a TV set was up 9% to 5.7, with the biggest growth among 30-to-44-year-olds. And about 40% of viewers say they don’t buy TV shows or movies online because the price is too high.

post #85513 of 93699
Business Notes
In a Spinoff of Time Inc., Evolution Is Complete
By Amy Chozick, The New York Times - Mar. 7, 2013

The sprawling media conglomerate that Steven J. Ross joined together, Jeffrey L. Bewkes has put asunder.

With the confirmation on Wednesday that it would spin off its Time Inc. magazine division, Time Warner, once a colossus that included dominant cable and Internet companies, a book publisher and music unit, completed an evolution over several years into a pure cable television and movie production company.

The author of much of this transformation is Mr. Bewkes, himself a product of the company’s cable television division, who as chief executive has overseen the spinoffs of AOL and Time Warner Cable (the Warner Music Group and the Time Warner Book Group were shed before he was chief).

The strategy highlights Mr. Bewkes’s confidence in its high-margin cable channels like TNT, TBS and HBO, which brought in $3.67 billion in revenue in the most recent quarter. The latest spinoff also is an example of a philosophical shift in the media industry away from rapid acquisition and growth. It addresses the lingering fallout of the company’s recent corporate marriages (most notably AOL’s $103.5 billion acquisition of Time Warner in 2000) that ended badly, becoming case studies in M.B.A. programs on how not to run a company.

“This follows a long evolution of Time Warner from a decade ago, shrinking down to its core TV and film assets,” Benjamin Swinburne, a media analyst at Morgan Stanley, wrote in a recent report titled “Time Warner Inc.: The Final Spin.”

In an interview Mr. Bewkes said he did not set out to slim down the company. The spinoffs of Time Warner Cable and AOL, he added, provided additional value to shareholders and allowed Time Warner to more than double its earnings in the last five years. “The reason is those core assets” of cable channels and the Warner Brothers studio, he said.

He rejected the idea that Time Warner no longer wanted to own Time Inc. and magazines like People, InStyle and Sports Illustrated. The split will give Time Warner investors shares in Time Inc., though details have not yet been disclosed.

“We own it. Every one of us still owns it,” Mr. Bewkes said. “It’s just a separate piece of paper so it can have stronger equity return.”

That piece of paper, though, will contain the magazine that was the foundation for the modern company. Assembled in 1990 with the merger of Time Inc. and Warner Communications, Time Warner has in its history the storied dealmaker Ross, a former chief executive who also owned parking lots and funeral homes.

Time Inc., while profitable, had for the last several years stood out as the company’s weak spot. Time Warner’s walking away from a potential deal with the Meredith Corporation and the hurried announcement of the Time Inc. spinoff signaled to some inside the publishing company that its parent cared more about investors than the future of its celebrated magazines.

“Journalists are a prickly bunch of folks, and they managed to upset all of them,” said Michael W. Robinson, executive vice president of Levick, a Washington-based crisis communications firm.

The deal that would have spun off some of Time Inc.’s magazines into a separate company with Meredith was always the company’s “second choice,” said a person involved in the negotiations who would discuss them only privately.

Mr. Bewkes said he never wanted to sell Time Inc. “We have never, ever considered or discussed with anyone selling any of our magazines ever,” he said.

The spinoff strategy has made Mr. Bewkes popular on Wall Street. “Jeff in particular is reflective of a new style of management versus the folks who put these companies together,” said Douglas Mitchelson, a media analyst at Deutsche Bank. In the past, he added, it “was very difficult for media C.E.O.’s to take on what is essentially a shrinking of their power base.”

But Mr. Bewkes has company. Rupert Murdoch is preparing News Corporation for a split. Sluggish newspapers like The New York Post will soon form a separate entity from News Corporation’s profitable cable channels like Fox News and FX. And in 2006, Sumner M. Redstone split his companies, Viacom and the CBS Corporation.

“They’re starting to look a lot more like us,” a Viacom executive who would discuss the competition only anonymously said of Time Warner.

The prospects for a stand-alone Time Inc. are far from certain, although Time Warner executives point out that AOL also faced bad press and double-digit declines in subscription and advertising revenue when Time Warner spun it off in 2009. Since then AOL’s return to investors has grown by 86.9 percent, according to Time Warner.

The outlook is potentially less bright for Time Inc. The publisher has experienced a 30 percent decline in revenue in the last five years. And unlike News Corporation’s newly formed publishing company, which has a benevolent chairman in Mr. Murdoch, Time Inc. and its 21 magazines face a leadership void.

In 2011, Jack Griffin was ousted after just six months as Time Inc.’s chief executive. After a nine-month void, Laura Lang took over in January 2012. On Wednesday, she said she would leave once the split was complete.

Ms. Lang’s departure “could weigh on the Time Inc. multiple, as it highlights a recent spate of C-suite instability,” Barton Crockett, a media analyst at Lazard Capital Markets, wrote in a report on Wednesday.

Of Mr. Griffin’s departure, Mr. Bewkes said: “I wish it had worked out more seamlessly so I think that’s a fair criticism.” (Ms. Lang’s departure was her own decision, the company said.)

Formerly the chief executive at HBO, Mr. Bewkes has expanded the company by investing heavily in television. Series like “The Big Bang Theory” can be sold into both traditional syndication and to digital outlets like Netflix and Hulu.

“It’s a very robust business,” Mr. Bewkes said of TV at a Deutsche Bank investor conference on Monday. “It’s really hard to think of a consumer business that has that much strength in terms of inherent consumer attachment, habit, engagement.”

That leads analysts to think Time Warner might enter buying mode again one day. But any acquisitions would be targeted and play into its core strength in cable television, said Alexia S. Quadrani, a media analyst at J. P. Morgan. She added: “Down the road, these companies are still evolving.”

post #85514 of 93699
Critic's Notes
The Best Sitcom of the Past 30 Years, Round One: Sex and the City vs. 30 Rock
By Starlee Kine, Vulture.com (New York Magazine) - Mar. 6, 2013

Vulture is holding the ultimate Sitcom Smackdown to determine the greatest TV comedy of the past 30 years. Each day, a different notable writer will be charged with determining the winner of a round of the bracket, until New York Magazine TV critic Matt Zoller Seitz judges the finals on March 18. Today's battle: "This American Life" contributor Starlee Kine decides between two very different tales of Manhattan women: Sex and the City and 30 Rock. Make sure to head over to Facebook to vote in our Readers Bracket, which has already veered from our critics' choices. We also invite tweeted opinions with the #sitcomsmackdown hashtag.

When asked to pick a first-round match-up to decide in the Sitcom Smackdown, I was drawn to 30 Rock versus Sex and the City because I didn’t immediately know which show I’d be choosing as the winner. I love them both, but for very different reasons. 30 Rock is grounded in ensemble-based sketch comedy, and the joke took precedence over all. Sex and the City is episodic, riding a hazier line between drama and comedy. I would quickly discover that these dissimilarities would make the exercise of comparing and judging delightful television incredibly stressful. Any enjoyment I got from watching one show felt like a betrayal of the other.

No show can top 30 Rock when it comes to jokes, both in quality and quantity. For all its wackiness, each episode was an exercise in efficiency. How many laughs can you squeeze out of a single comedic premise? It’s not enough that a Page-Off is declared between NBC page Kenneth Parcell (Jack McBrayer) and his nemesis — there also has to be a lightning-quick shot of the background actors whispering, “Not a Page-Off! Not a Page-Off!” The show not only piles joke upon joke upon joke — more than seem possible to fit into 22 minutes — but nearly each one is the funniest joke you’ve ever heard in your life. I imagine show creator and star Tina Fey and her staff sitting around the writers' room with tiny chisels instead of pens, chipping away at each joke until it became the perfect combination of words, timing, and concept.

During the run-up to the show’s recent finale there was a lot of online ranking of 30 Rock lines. Which makes sense: There’s a spirit of collect and trade when it comes to watching this show; it feels reckless to release so much great humor into the world without preserving it. My favorite line was delivered by NBC executive Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) to Liz Lemon (Fey) in the second season. Liz hires her TV-writing idol, Rosemary Howard (played by Carrie Fisher), to guest-write on the show; Jack hates her political pitches and orders her fired, Liz refuses, he fires them both, and Liz follows Rosemary to her filthy, toiletless apartment in a sketchy corner of New York (“Don’t worry, he’s not a cop,” Rosemary assures Liz as a guy runs by with a gun) and she gets a disturbing look into the future of a proud sketch writer. When she returns to NBC to get her job back and tell Jack the horrible things she saw, he hands her a glass of wine and matter-of-factly tells her, “Never go with a hippie to a second location” — then the show quickly scooted onto the next joke while I laid in my bed, laptop on chest, reeling from the cleverness. The best 30 Rock jokes don’t make me laugh so much as experience a panicky sort of joy. They can make me feel like I am wasting language by saying sentences any other way.

Baldwin plays Jack with such coy, natural confidence (“I do look like the Arrow shirt man, I did lace up my skates professionally, and I did do a fabulous job of finishing my muffin”) that the casting feels inevitable. Even if you went back in a time machine, you could no more prevent him from landing the part than you could (according to the Twilight Zone) stop Lincoln from getting assassinated. And it is Jack’s friendship with Liz — their balance of affection and comedy — that provides the show its version of heart. Despite near-constant jabs about her appearance, lack of dating prospects, and liberal political leanings, he clearly adores her:

Liz: I thought you said we were friends.
Jack: I said we were friendly.
Liz: Well, I don’t like you anymore.
Jack: I don’t believe you. (beat) Go easy on the pizza.

There was was a big ensemble beyond Fey and Baldwin — Tracy Morgan, Jane Krakowski, and Jack McBrayer chief among them. Each was great at playing his or her broadly drawn character, and they served as perfect comic foils for Liz. The more order she sought, the more chaos they provided. However, besides Jack, none of the other characters was ever given the opportunity to establish a meaningful, non-jokey bond with Liz. As a result, 30 Rock could sometimes feel like two separate sitcoms: The one about the making of a network sketch comedy show and the one about a professional single woman navigating her way through one disastrous relationship after another. The former played to Fey’s strengths as an SNL grad and veteran improviser; the latter seemed like a show she felt she had to do.

Perhaps that need for the “single woman” aspect came from the sitcom maxim that you need emotion — a beating heart — for a comedy to work. Or perhaps it was a sense-memory echoing of its Manhattan precursor, Sex and the City — or a willful parody of it. Also set in New York (but you knew that), SATC centers on lifestyle columnist Carrie Bradshaw (played by Sarah Jessica Parker and based on real New York Observer columnist Candace Bushnell) and her three closest friends: Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), Charlotte (Kristin Davis), and Samantha (Kim Cattrall). Each woman represents a different archetype (roughly, in order: edgy free spirit, pragmatist, hopeless romantic, and promiscuous party hopper), which is one of the reasons I try to avoid having conversations about SATC with people who have never seen it. It’s hard to convince them that the characters were more than stereotypes. (Just to be clear: We are only talking about TV here; the SATC movies are to be stricken from the record. I would unfilm them if that were possible.) Considered groundbreaking when it first aired, SATC is now often reduced to a guilty pleasure, a show that comes with clauses. Worse, admitting you like it can feel akin to saying you’re not a modern woman. This struggle to reconcile whether SATC is good or bad for us recently played out within the television universe, on SATC’s own network, no less. In the pilot episode of Girls, sheltered Shoshanna asks her worldly cousin Jessa which SATC character she is. Jessa looks at her like she’s mad. Maybe this is the only way Girls is able to acknowledge the obvious debt it owes to SATC, by gently taking it down a notch. Maybe this is just the nature of the predecessor/successor dynamic. But it’s hard to imagine, say, 30 Rock (or any show) treating The Mary Tyler Moore Show the same way.

The show begins when Samantha is 40 and the other three are in their mid-thirties, but it’s not a show about women who are aging. It’s the most dedicated depiction of choosing to make your friends your family that I’ve ever seen. So much so that, with the exception of an awkward episode early on where Miranda has to deal with her mother’s off-camera death, biological family simply is not a factor in the main characters’ lives. You never meet anyone’s parents. The concept of siblings doesn’t seem to exist; even the men they marry are only children, as is Miranda’s son. You also never learn how the four friends first met, or much about their former lives at all, really. It’s a show about being at that in-between age when you transition from being young to old, when you start to realize you’re running out of chances to do certain things. The impending future takes up more space in your head than the past.

Unlike Liz Lemon, who makes regular jokes about not liking sex (Jack refers to her as a “sexual Hindenburg”), Carrie and her three friends enjoy it, have it regularly, and discuss it in detail. There’s a reason SATC comes up as often as it does. It addressed so many different sexual scenarios as to be almost invasive; it’s hard to not at least mentally refer to it when I’m talking with my friends about our real-life dating situations. It covered stuff no one on a sitcom had touched on before, like anal sex and the alternate interpretation of the words pearl necklace. If you watch the family-friendly reruns on TBS, where the sex scenes are cut out, the episodes are less funny and also weaker because of how entwined the sex is with the fiber of the plot. As silly as it may sound, the episode where Samantha tries to sleep with a rich, geriatric sugar daddy needs to have that shot of his deal-breaker of a saggy butt. It makes you laugh and shudder. But it also reminds you how sticky and vulnerable and startling sex can be.

Is Sex and the City even a comedy? I initially thought its lack of actual jokes (or at least good ones; Carrie’s voice-over is full of hokey lines) might be what would tip the scale in 30 Rock’s favor. But when I rewatched SATC, I realized how funny the characters as people were. They spend the episodes entertaining each other. Aidan asking Carrie in the shower if she wants to go to Hawaii for their honeymoon: “Will you Maui me?” Carrie: “Did you just pun in the nude? What did I tell you about that?” There’s a real sense of using comedy the way it’s used in life, to help make your loved one’s pain feel lighter. When Carrie is sick with doubt about getting engaged, Miranda suggests they try on ugly dresses at “a horrible bridal shop a couple blocks away.” Carrie: “How do you even know this?” Miranda: “Because every time I pass it I go blecch.”

In the end of SATC, Carrie ends up with her original love, Mr. Big, and it feels optimistic and satisfying because it hadn’t felt like a foregone conclusion, even though they’d been getting back together off and on since the pilot. Meanwhile, Liz marries Criss, a guy who seemed more like a vehicle for jokes about hot dogs and vans than anyone viewers were truly invested in. (Wouldn’t we rather that Jon Hamm’s doctor character hadn’t turned into a weirdo?) Criss is barely even seen in the first half of the final season, and his character never transcends its jokey premise. Even his name, Criss Chross, is a gag. They wed so it will be easier for them to adopt a child. Liz initially resists the idea of a wedding, of wanting to feel like a princess, of buying into the cliché. “Liz, it’s okay to be a human woman,” Criss tells her. “No, its not,” she answers. “It’s the worst because of society.” It’s a small line, one that might not even seem funny just reading it on the page, but for me, it helped articulate my thoughts on my feelings for Liz Lemon. I love and appreciate her, am fairly convinced that Tina Fey’s bones are actually made out of funny, but also feel a little tired when I watch her. I just can never shake the feeling that Fey saddled her non-lap-sitting, couch-sex-averse, fashion-immune, career-before-men character with all those immense burdens so as to break the mold of every female character that came before her. She’s never allowed to be honestly vulnerable, to not go for the quip. Commitment to the joke always took priority, as even the show acknowledged:

Jack: Don’t try and make it funny; just apologize.
Liz: I feel like people expect comedy.
Jack: They don’t. It’s just exhausting.

Though this factored into my inner debate, my ultimate decision came down to the same hot-button theory that’s being had in many classrooms across the country: evolution. 30 Rock’s characters not only didn’t grow; this freeze was a guiding principle. By even the third season you were able to plug in how the characters would react in any given situation. Krakowski’s Jenna Maroney would make it about herself and her mirror; Kenneth would reference his hick upbringing; Morgan’s Tracy Jordan would do something outrageously irresponsible without consequence. 30 Rock is as smart as any sitcom that has aired on television; it’s a show about comedy writers created by a top comedy writer. In its last few seasons, though, it felt mostly intended for comedy writers, too. Happy joke collecting morphed into taking notes.

In its finale, 30 Rock’s strengths and weakness were both on full display. The plotline about Lutz (played by 30 Rock writer John Lutz) choosing Blimpie’s for the last staff meal as revenge for seven years of his being treated like a punch line was the kind of absurdist comedy the show excelled at. What other show would devote so many precious final moments to a tangential character, simply because it’s funny? Liz Lemon ends up with the cliché of a storybook domestic life: the wife of a hot guy and the mother of two children. And she reacts to it all by firing off more jokes. “Kids are coming, show to save, DVR at 98 percent, but I’m just never in the mood to watch Treme. Okay, first thing first: I’ll watch Treme.” It felt like 30 Rock was trying to have it both ways — by inserting meaning and sentiment at the same time it deconstructed the meaning and sentiment.

At the end of SATC, Charlotte, like Liz, finds out she is adopting a baby, but only after a painful scene where the potential birth parents she flew out to New York tell her they were just in it for the plane ticket; they’re keeping their baby. Samantha gets breast cancer. Miranda spends the finale escorting her Alzheimer’s-stricken mother-in-law home after finding her eating pizza out of a trash can. While Carrie ultimately ends up with Mr. Big, we had seen her change over the course of the show’s run. She matures and regresses and then matures again. She grows wearier. Like 30 Rock, SATC throws jokes at these problems, but there’s a core of pathos that makes them different. They acknowledge pain. Says the roulette dealer to Carrie after she asks what happens after the number 36, “I don’t know. I guess you fall off the table.” Carrie to her friends when they board a bus to Atlantic City full of old women: “As we can see here, at the end of the line it’s just going to be us ladies riding the bus.”

Del Close, one of the creator’s of modern sketch improv, wrote a book that laid out what he considered the foundation of comedy. In a nutshell, it’s “Be honest. Don’t go for the jokes. There’s nothing funnier than the truth.” What I find so unusual about SATC is that it allowed its characters to express that they were dissatisfied and sad. If they felt lonely, they said it, without meta commentary and while still keeping it funny. There’s very much a pre-SATC world and a post- one, and there is something refreshing and authentic about this show being able to have done this. In other words, the difference between Liz Lemon saying she’s a wreck and Carrie saying it on SATC is the difference between the women on Mad Men smoking while pregnant and the 1973 scene in The Exorcist where the doctor lights up a cigarette in his examination room. With one, you laugh at the brilliant parody. With the other, you laugh because it was real. Final point goes to truth.


Starlee Kine is a contributor to the public radio program "This American Life." She is secretly competing for a higher Twitter follower count with at least three people, so feel free to help her out.

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TV Notes
Joy Behar Departing 'The View'
By Michael O'Connell, The Hollywood Reporter's 'Live Feed' Blog - Mar. 7, 2013

The View is losing Joy Behar.

The actress and comedian's contract will not be renewed when it expires at the end of the current season, The Hollywood Reporter confirms. A panelist alongside creator Barbara Walters from the very beginning, Behar leaves the ABC News vet as the last original member of the daytime show.

"Joy Behar has been instrumental in the success of The View from the very beginning," read a statement from ABC. "We wish her all the best in this next chapter, and are thrilled that we have her for the remainder of the season."

The departure means that Behar will soon be a free agent, with her HLN series canceled in 2011 and her Current TV show coming to an end when the network transitions to Al Jazeera.

Behar and Walters had seats at The View table with Meredith Vieira, Star Jones and Debbie Matenopoulos when the show premiered in 1997. Tweaks to the lineup along the way, most notably the firing of Jones and Rosie O'Donnell's controversial two-year stint as moderator, led to a current panel that includes Sherri Shepherd, Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Whoopi Goldberg.

The View also sees a rotating seat of guest contributors for the part-time Walters, who most recently took off a month to recover from chicken pox and a concussion.

Behar's current contract takes her through the August close of the 16th season.

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

8PM - Last Man Standing
8:30PM - Malibu County
9PM - Shark Tank
10PM - 20/20
* * * *
11:35PM - Jimmy Kimmel Live! (This Week)
12:35AM - Nightline

8PM - Undercover Boss: Squaw Valley
9PM - Golden Boy
10PM - Blue Bloods
* * * *
11:35PM - Late Show with David Letterman (Al Pacino; Macklemore and Ryan Lewis perform)
(R - Jan. 31)
12:37AM - Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (Chi McBride; Laurie Holden)

8PM - Fashion Star (Season Premiere)
9PM - Grimm
10PM - Rock Center with Brian Williams
* * * *
11:35PM - The Tonight Show With Jay Leno (Hugh Jackman; Jessica Chastain; Michael Bolton performs)
(R -Feb. 4)
12:37AM - Late Night With Jimmy Fallon (Stephen Colbert; actor Anthony Anderson)
(R - Feb. 21)
1:36AM - Last Call with Carson Daly (Adrian Grenier; Joshua James performs)
(R - Feb. 7)

8PM - Kitchen Nightmares
9PM - Touch

(check your local listing for starting time/programming)
8PM - Washington Week
8:30PM - Need to Know
9PM - Great Performances: Magical Mystery Tour Revisited
(R - Dec. 14)
10PM - Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
(R - Dec. 14)

8PM - Por Ella Soy Yo (Series Finale, 120 min.)
10PM - Amor Bravio

8PM - Nikita
9PM - Cult

8PM - Pasión Prohibida
9PM - La Patrona
10PM - El Rostro de La Venganza

10PM - Real Time with Bill Maher (Journalist Charlie LeDuff; actor/comic David Cross; author Arianna Huffington; health care expert Avik Roy; former Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele)

11PM - Chelsea Lately (Kate Mara; Ben Gleib; April Richardson; Kurt Braunoher)
(R - Feb. 28)
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Critic's Notes
Bianculli's Best Bets
By David Bianculli, TVWorthWatching.com - Mar. 8, 2013

NBC, 9:00 p.m. ET
Not since The X-Files carved out a large and loyal Friday night following on Fox has this night been a springboard for genre series, rather than an impatient launch pad for eventual cancellation. (Think Fringe. Think Dollhouse. Think of a lot of shows.) Well, even though the prospects may be grim, here comes Grimm, returning at midseason, picking up where it left off. And where did it lead off? With two of its characters, Renard (Sasha Roiz) and Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch), under a mutual love spell cast by a witch. Their judgment, like the photo, is a bit blurry.

The CW, 9:00 p.m. ET
After only two episodes, Cult was considered such an unsuccessful cult show – or Cult show – that it was yanked from the Tuesday CW schedule. But it wasn’t just thrown away. Well, not completely. It was moved to Fridays, where it presents Episode 3 tonight. I mention that not because I’m impressed by this show, but because if you were, you’ll need all the help you can get finding it.

PBS, 9:00 p.m. ET

Not every PBS member station will be repeating its two-part Beatles special from December tonight in prime time – but many will, so it’s certainly worth a heads up, just in case. First comes a new documentary about the making, and the impact, of Magical Mystery Tour, the psychedelic British TV special from 1967 that included such songs as “Fool on the Hill” and “I Am the Walrus.” This documentary, even for hard-core Beatles fans, is chock full of new insights, rare outtakes, and other great stuff. I love it. Check local listings.

PBS, 10:00 p.m. ET

Following a documentary on the 1967 holiday TV special by the Beatles that aired in (and outraged much of) England, many PBS member stations tonight repeat the Magical Mystery Tour program itself. It’s remastered, restored, and really, really interesting. What a treat. Check local listings.

HBO, 10:00 p.m. ET

There’s a really good lineup on tonight’s new edition, including such reliably talkative guests as former Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele, actor and comedian David Cross, Detroit author and TV reporter Charlie LeDuff, and Huffington Post matriarch, and old Maher crony, Arianna Huffington.

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TV Sports
Showtime aims to be a TV sports heavyweight
The premium network is making a bigger push into a crowded TV arena with '60 Minutes Sports' and a Jim Rome-hosted live series.
By Greg Braxton, Los Angeles Times

Showtime, already on a winning streak with the acclaimed "Homeland" series and other hits, is muscling for more turf on the crowded field of TV sports.

The premium network is making an aggressive push in the sports arena that is extensively covered by broadcast networks, specialty venues such as ESPN and the NFL Network, and its chief rival, HBO. The arena got even more crowded Tuesday when News Corp. announced plans for Fox Sports 1, a new national cable channel that hopes eventually to challenge the ESPN empire.

While boxing, "Inside the NFL," and other sports shows have traditionally been part of Showtime's lineup, executives contend that a rich, exclusive pay-per-view deal with boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. — which they are calling the biggest in boxing history — plus regularly scheduled sports hours on Wednesday's prime-time lineup built around a sports-oriented "60 Minutes" magazine and a live-audience series with outspoken commentator Jim Rome, mark a new era for the network.

"Sports has always been a big priority with us from the beginning," said David Nevins, Showtime's entertainment chief. "We want to take it to a place where it could really have an impact while doing things differently from other networks. Uniqueness is very important to us."

Since its inception in 1976, Showtime has played second-fiddle to HBO, which traditionally had more subscribers, more original programming and more awards. But Showtime has narrowed the gap in recent years with attention-grabbing series such as the serial-killer drama "Dexter," dark-edged comedies such as "Nurse Jackie" and "House of Lies" and especially, the espionage drama "Homeland," which in its first season scored numerous accolades, including Emmys for best drama, actress (Claire Danes) and actor (Damian Lewis).

"Part of the value we have in where we're going is what 'Homeland' and the Emmys have brought us," Nevins said. But while that series and others on Showtime have loyal viewerships, he added, "Some men aren't interested in scripted shows. So sports was our perfect way to reach out to them."

Acknowledging the relentless onslaught of sports across the dial, Stephen Espinoza, executive vice president and general manager of Showtime Sports, said he is determined to make Showtime's menu stand out "with provocative, distinctive storytelling. We can approach story lines from a different angle. There's been a focus on events, but not enough on people. What I believe you'll see on Showtime is authentic storytelling and genuine emotion."

Fueling the more intensive sports strategy is CBS Corp., which owns Showtime and includes the CBS Television Network under its umbrella. The new "60 Minutes Sports," which will have an original episode each month, with a repeat airing two weeks later on Wednesday, will be an extension of CBS' "60 Minutes," TV's most popular newsmagazine. Showtime has previously aired installments that included an investigation into disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong and a profile of Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi. The new edition will feature anchors and talent from "60 Minutes" and be put together by the same producers who assemble the CBS show.

"You will see the same quality on this show that you see on Sunday," said Jeff Fager, CBS News chairman and executive producer of "60 Minutes."

The show might be seen as a direct challenge to "Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel," HBO's sports magazine that launched in 1995 and features lengthy sports-related pieces. But Showtime executives said they believe they have an advantage because of the "60 Minutes" name, and that such comparisons are irrelevant.

"'60 Minutes' is one of the most unique properties on television, and one of the most revered brands ever on TV," Nevins said. "It gives our show instant credibility. We can go places and do things that others can't."

Wednesday's edition puts a focus on extreme sports: Anderson Cooper profiles surfer Garrett McNamara, who holds the world record for the tallest wave ever surfed, while another segment centers on "obstacle racing," in which participants pay money to compete in races that include challenges such as mud, ice water, barbed wire and electric shock.

The newsmagazine will alternate every other Wednesday with episodes of the second season of "Jim Rome on Showtime," featuring the acerbic broadcaster. An original episode will air each month on the week following the original "60 Minutes" airing, and repeat two weeks later at the same time. The show, which premiered last season, will now feature a live audience. Nevins said Rome's stature — he also has a daily show on the CBS Sports Network, a show on CBS Radio and a live syndicated radio show — gives him the ability to attract top athletes.

"Showtime is encouraging me to push the envelope and take chances," Rome said. "It's going to be real and raw."

The biggest coup for Showtime's agenda was signing Mayweather, who had been committed to HBO. The deal commits Mayweather to staging his pay-per-view fights on Showtime for the rest of his career.

"Boxing has always been our flagship, and signing Floyd represents the culmination of many years worth of effort in upgrading our brand," Espinoza said. "He is the elite of the sport. In terms of attracting talent, without a doubt he was No. 1."

Espinoza said he and the network offered a "very aggressive and compelling combination of marketing prowess and promotional efforts that ultimately resulted in an offer he couldn't refuse. He was looking for a comprehensive approach to elevate his events and his brand through the end of his boxing career."

Also on the horizon for the pay channel is a documentary on controversial New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor.

Said Espinoza of Showtime Sports' mission: 'I'm very happy where it is, and where it's going."

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Critic's Notes
The Best Sitcom of the Past 30 Years, Round One: Seinfeld vs. Louie
By Carina Chocano, Vulture.com (New York Magazine) - Mar. 7, 2013

Vulture is holding the ultimate Sitcom Smackdown to determine the greatest TV comedy of the past 30 years. Each day, a different notable writer will be charged with determining the winner of a round of the bracket, until New York Magazine TV critic Matt Zoller Seitz judges the finals on March 18. Today's battle, the last of the first round: Essayist Carina Chocano compares two generations of comedies about New York stand-up comics: Seinfeld and Louie. Make sure to head over to Facebook to vote in our Readers Bracket. We also invite tweeted opinions with the #sitcomsmackdown hashtag.

Before I pit Louie against its obvious comedy progenitor, Seinfeld (a drinking game based on spotting their similarities would be fairly lethal), I need to reveal a preexisting condition, which is that my relationship with Louie got a little intense and obsessive for a while, and it’s still fresh, and it still haunts me, so the thought of exposing its raw, quivering underbelly to the steely-spiky carapace of Seinfeld’s cultural domination freaks me out.

It’s natural to feel protective of Louie, I think. The show operates (in direct contrast to Seinfeld) from a place of almost excruciating vulnerability that all but demands overidentification. You either don’t like/get it, or you find yourself unable to locate the membrane that separates you from it. Some of this is achieved aesthetically: Louis C.K. writes, directs, edits, scores, and stars as a version of himself in every episode, and as a result the show could not be more personal or auteurishly intimate. Ironically, the unprecedented (I’m pretty sure) level of control C.K. wrested from FX may be a direct result of his experience making Lucky Louie for HBO. The latter show was a meta-sitcom that tried to upend standard sitcom conventions while adhering to them, which is what Seinfeld did for almost a decade ten years earlier, back when it still felt fresh and relevant. (Seinfeld also revolutionized the form with its multiple story lines, blowing up the six-scene template, setting the stage for giddy, spinning pancake platters of narrative like 30 Rock and Arrested Development, and introduced more memes and catchphrases into the culture and the lexicon than possibly any other show, ever.) But poking at the carcass of a bygone art form lo these many years later feels not-so-fresh, which is why Seinfeld, despite its obvious and dazzling brilliance, feels very much like an artifact of it’s time, while Louie feels like it was hauled in, still thrashing, on a trawler this morning.

That’s the thing: Beyond aesthetics, the gulf between Louie and Seinfeld is actually epochal. Each show is so consummately of its era, and the moments they reflect are so fundamentally different, that comparing them feels a bit like a metaphysical exercise. If Seinfeld was the spirit animal of that Arcadian Eden, the nineties, then Louie is its Miltonian compliment: It’s Seinfeld after the fall. Despite their many and obvious similarities, what has shifted — radically — is our frame of reference. Just as Louie could not have existed without Seinfeld, Seinfeld could never have envisioned a world in which Louie was conceivable. It’s the unbroken line of descent, the obvious natural progression from one to the other that makes the historical disruption between them really pop.

Maybe it’s best to start with the shows’ parallels. Seinfeld and Louie are quasi-autobiographical comedies about and written by stand-up comedians who live in New York — Jerry Seinfeld and Louis C.K., respectively (failed comic Larry David co-created Seinfeld). Both protagonists mine their experiences and their daily lives for material. Both use moments from their stand-up routines to frame each episode thematically. Both are single and date in an aimless, desultory way. Both have female best friends who at one time were more than friends, or might have been more than friends, or are women the comedians wish were more than friends. Both are likable and immature and spend a lot of their time puzzling over the incomprehensible, exasperating, and far too often soul-crushing actions of others.

Now the differences: Seinfeld’s characters obsess over trivialities at the expense of what matters, while Louie can’t get through breakfast without confronting terrifying existential questions. Seinfeld is shameless; Louie is steeped in shame. Seinfeld shuts down feelings as a way of staving off death; Louie is thoroughly eschatological, awash in abjection and horror at the thought of growing old. It’s right there in the theme song, Reggie Watts’s reworked, more pessimistic version of the classic Hot Chocolate hit: He’s gonna cry and then he’s gonna die. Compare that to the blithe, zippy Seinfeld theme, the musical equivalent of water bouncing off a duck’s ass — in stereo!

Seinfeld was famously described as a show about nothing, but it’s probably more accurate to say that it was a show about nothingness, about the utter insignificance, triviality, pointlessness, and emptiness of life. It was the most nihilist show ever to appear on television until then, and probably since. I’m not just talking about the oft-cited “no hugging and no learning” part, a jab at the schmaltzier sitcom conventions of the day. I mean that it was dedicated to negating pretty much everything people associate with meaning and happiness. What made Seinfeld so transgressive was that, when confronted with the impossibility of human connection, it shrugged its shoulders and poured itself a bowl of cereal. It's not just that there is no sentimentality on Seinfeld: There is no love. Jerry and his trio of friends — Elaine, George, and Kramer — break up with people like it’s nothing, like time won’t pass. The lightness, the zingers, the catchphrases, and the laugh track diverted our attention from the radical bleakness of this. That the show pulled it off (for nine seasons, most of them as one of Nielsen’s top two network shows)? It’s really nothing short of amazing.

Louie, on the other hand, is a show about everything; about the unbearable too-muchness of life. Whipsawed between his urges and his ideals, his crankiness and humanism, Louie struggles to figure out how to live (and raise his children) the right way in a world that rewards living wrong. Louie’s unflagging alertness to the existential conundrums of being human is exhausting. Every day he confronts his mortality, bumps up against his limitations, and faces the disorienting, terrifying effects of time. He is our perpetual witness to the grotesque and the ecstatically beautiful. How can he reconcile the bag-clad homeless guy giving himself a rudimentary bath on the subway platform as a beautiful young violinist plays nearby? Or the heroic kindness of his good Samaritan neighbors, who come to his aid when his pregnant sister wakes up screaming in the middle of the night, her suffering abruptly cured by a five-alarm/false-alarm fart? (It’s worth noting that the fart isn’t given the last word, nor does it snuff out the beauty from the moment.) He can’t. And it’s his ability to see and contain both that makes his ******, middle-aged life beautiful, even sublime. For a show about a bald and sweaty masturbator who gives his daughter the finger behind her back after she tells him that she loves her mommy more, it’s deeply, almost single-mindedly moral. So a lot of the time it’s not funny ha-ha. It’s probably — how’s this for a ringing endorsement? — as sad as anything you’ve ever seen.

Seinfeld’s characters are famously, aggressively callous and indifferent to the human condition. What consumes them is the minutiae of everyday life, which speaks to their privilege and their dangerous insularity. Their lives are lived in such a carefree, a-historical, inconsequential bubble that even their neuroses — maybe especially their neuroses — seem buoyed by the economic and social stability of the nineties. But if Seinfeld’s characters were oblivious, the show itself was not. It reflected an especially blithe, blinkered, hubristic moment in America with mordant insight, and in its way suggested that it couldn’t last. The much-maligned finale, which saw Jerry and his friends jailed for “criminal indifference” and locked in a cell No Exit–style, felt unsatisfying at the time, but looking back it feels almost prescient. As he hands down his sentence, the judge says, “Your callous disregard for everything that is good and decent has rocked the very foundation upon which our society is built.” And, indeed, whether or not their callous disregard (or ours) had anything to do with it, the world changed dramatically within a few short years.

Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer were never burdened with big questions. They were simple creatures, guileless somehow, even at their most conniving. In fact, with their big teeth, springy hair, furrowed noses, and eyes both doelike and beady, they resembled nothing so much as a bevy of cartoon woodland creatures, ageless and sexless: a weird rabbit and his friends, the demented woodchuck, the rabid chipmunk, and the deer in the headlights. They implicated us in their sociopathic misanthropy, and we loved them for it. We reveled in their nihilism because it let us off the hook — which is just the kind of thing that would make Louie's brow crumple. Personally, I like Louie better — at least I like Louie better right now, in this moment, knowing what I know. It’s as Zeitgeist-y as it’s possible to be in this far more fragmented moment. Would I have liked it as much back when Seinfeld ruled supreme, would I have liked it more? It’s impossible to say, really. We were all a lot lighter back then, psychically, spiritually, and otherwise. Plus, this smackdown is genre-specific, and it seems to me that there’s no doubt that Seinfeld is the culmination of the genre, whereas Louie may have moved beyond it entirely, into a post-sitcom era. Can we really even call Louie a sitcom? I have my doubts, unless the situation is that one day you’ll be dead.


Carina Chocano is a frequent contributor to The New York Times Magazine. She recapped Real Housewives for Vulture. She lives in Los Angeles.

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Nielsen Notes (Cable)
CNBC Prime Gets Mixed Ratings Results
By Dominic Patten, Deadline.com - Mar. 7, 2013

CNBC’s debut Tuesday into primetime reality shows had its ratings ups and downs with Treasure Detectives and The Car Chasers. The newly minted CNBC Prime premiered both shows this week to kick off the business network’s long planned evening rebrand. Debuting at 9 PM, the antiquities authenticating Treasure Detectives pulled in 279,000 total viewers and 62,000 in the Adults 25-54 demographic on the channel. That’s a jump from the 195,000 total viewers and 49,000 in the demo that watched the 60 Minutes repeat that sat in the slot last week.

However, Car Chasers did not fare as well. The series, which follows classic car dealers Jeff Allen and Perry Barndt as buying and selling exotic vehicles around the country, fell double digits from the encore episode of American Greed that aired at 10 PM on February 26. Earning 210,000 total viewers and 64,000 among the 25-54, Car Chasers was down 25% in audience and 22% in the demo from what the true crime series got the week before.

Even with a repeat last week, it was a hard slot to fill on a network primarily previously focused on its daytime programming. Since debuting in 2007, American Greed has been CNBC’s second most popular show overall in terms of viewership and number one in terms of the demo. The show’s seventh season debuted on February 21. Earlier this year at the TCA, network president and CEO Mark Hoffman described Treasure Detectives and The Car Chasers as meeting participants at “the intersection of fear and greed” in the new entertainment focus of CNBC in primetime.

The two new shows are the first of several evening reality shows that CNBC plans to roll out in the coming weeks to beef up its primetime slots.

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Originally Posted by dad1153 View Post

Critic's Notes
Why NBC shouldn't yank 'Smash' yet
By Lynette Rice, EW.com's 'Inside TV' Blog - Mar. 6, 2013

We’ve seen it many, many times — low-rated shows yanked early in their runs, before characters are fleshed out, worthwhile plot-lines have unfolded and viewers are given the chance to really experience the show in the first place.

The problem is that NBC decided to wait more than 9 or 10 months to bring this show back onto the air. I watched it last season and thought that it was a good show. Then the new tv season started in Aug of 2012 and there wasn't any word on Smash. And then it reappears in March of 2013. It's almost like NBC is trying to kill the show. How can you expect successful when you treat shows that way?
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Tonight 9:45 HBO has a 15 minute game of thrones special -- seems like a recap of season 2.
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Originally Posted by ahard View Post

The problem is that NBC decided to wait more than 9 or 10 months to bring this show back onto the air. I watched it last season and thought that it was a good show. Then the new tv season started in Aug of 2012 and there wasn't any word on Smash. And then it reappears in March of 2013. It's almost like NBC is trying to kill the show. How can you expect successful when you treat shows that way?

I liked the first season and I watched the first ep this season. The others will be stored on the TiVo and probably erased when NBC cancels the series. I am pretty sure it is dead man walking.
post #85524 of 93699
Originally Posted by dad1153 View Post

Business Notes
Growing Numbers Of Pay TV Subscribers Say They’ll Cut The Cord, But Don’t: Survey
By David Lieberman, Deadline.com - Mar. 7, 2013

This is a familiar dilemma for pay TV providers: Lots of subscribers who threaten to cancel the service are full of it. The phenomenon shows up clearly in the results of Morgan Stanley’s 3rd Annual Streaming Video Survey, out today. About 17% of pay TV customers in an online poll with 2,500 adults recently said that they’re willing to cut the cord over the next 12 months, with 8% saying that they “definitely” will do so. That would be a catastrophe for most Big Media companies; their profits largely come from cable channels or services. But here’s the thing: 16% gave the same answer last year, and 15% in 2011. And total pay TV subscription numbers remained basically flat.

There’s a similar pattern with pay TV customers who say that they’ll cut premium channels this year: 26% recently said they plan to pare back, roughly even with last year (27%) and 2011 (26%). Even so, last year the number of subscribers to HBO, Showtime and Starz was up 4.8%. It’s too bad, because the survey — which has a plus/minus 1.5% margin of error — offers some interesting insights into consumer views about new media. For example, Morgan Stanley found that Netflix subscribers primarily like the service because it’s inexpensive (about $8 a month) and has a lot of content. The number of hours people say they spend each week watching movies on a TV set was up 9% to 5.7, with the biggest growth among 30-to-44-year-olds. And about 40% of viewers say they don’t buy TV shows or movies online because the price is too high.

I keep threatening to cut the cord, but haven't. I think many people who say they want to drop cable/satellite but don't are instead either dropping down to a lower package (like I just did) or are churning over to another providers introductory deals. Heck, just by switching between Dish and DirecTV every two years, you can save a very good amount from the standard prices during the total length of the contract. And another reason is that the majority of quality programming is now on cable networks. The "Big 4" really haven't been producing a lot of hits the past two or three years.
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Originally Posted by BIGA$$TV View Post

I liked the first season and I watched the first ep this season. The others will be stored on the TiVo and probably erased when NBC cancels the series. I am pretty sure it is dead man walking.

You're right. It's dead. But I 'll this season on demand.
post #85526 of 93699
Originally Posted by mhufnagel View Post

And another reason is that the majority of quality programming is now on cable networks. The "Big 4" really haven't been producing a lot of hits the past two or three years.
That's exactly why I won't cut the cord any time soon.

60% of my viewing is now cable series, though it just slipped up higher with the cancellation of a couple of shows on the OTA networks and with a couple other shows on repeats.
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THURSDAY'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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Nielsen Overnights (18-49)
Fox wins sixth straight night on Thursday
'American Idol' lifts network to a 3.1 in 18-49s
By Toni Fitzgerald, Media Life Magazine - Mar. 8, 2013

Fox won its sixth consecutive night last night with an extended edition of “American Idol.”

“Idol” ran from 8 to 9:30 p.m., a half hour longer than usual.

It averaged a 3.5 adults 18-49 rating, according to Nielsen overnights, down 5 percent from last week. But that average may rise slightly when final ratings come in, as “Idol” ran two minutes longer than usual, and that time is not included in the overnight rating.

“Idol’s” lead-out, “Glee,” rebounded from a season-low 1.7 three weeks ago in its last original episode to a 2.5 last night from 9:30 to 10:30, a half hour later than the show usually begins.

There wasn’t a lot of original competition last night. ABC was entirely in reruns, and CBS and NBC had originals mixed with repeats.

CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory” was the night’s top show with a 5.4 at 8 p.m., and lead-out “Two and a Half Men” was the No. 2 program with a 3.9.

NBC’s “Community” surged 25 percent from last week, to a 1.5 at 8 p.m.

Fox finished first for the night among 18-49s with a 3.1 average overnight rating and a 9 share, with CBS a close second at 3.0/9. Univision was third at 1.8/5, ABC and NBC tied for fourth at 1.1/3, Telemundo was sixth at 0.6/2 and CW seventh at 0.3/1.

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

CBS started the night in the lead with a 4.6 at 8 p.m. for “Bang” (5.4) and “Men” (3.9), followed by Fox with a 3.2 for “Idol.” Univision was third with a 2.1 for “Por Ella Soy Eva,” NBC fourth with a 1.3 for “Community” (1.5) and a repeat of “Parks and Recreation” (1.0), and ABC fifth with a 1.2 for a “Shark Tank” rerun. The CW and Telemundo tied for sixth at 0.4, CW for a repeat of “The Vampire Diaries” and Telemundo for “Pasion Prohibida.”

Fox moved to first at 9 p.m. with a 3.3 for the last half hour of “Idol” (3.9) and the start of “Glee” (2.8), while CBS slipped to second with a 2.8 for “Person of Interest.” Univision was third with a 1.9 for “Amores Verdaderos,” ABC fourth with a 1.1 for a repeat of “Grey’s Anatomy,” NBC fifth with a 1.0 for a repeat of “The Office” (1.1) and a new “1600 Penn” (0.9), Telemundo sixth with a 0.9 for “La Patrona” and CW seventh with a 0.3 for a repeat of “Beauty and the Beast.”

From 10 to 10:30 p.m. Fox averaged a 2.2 for the final half hour of “Glee.” During the whole hour CBS averaged a 1.6 for a repeat of “Elementary.” Univision was third with a 1.5 for “Amor Bravio.” ABC and NBC tied for fourth at 1.0, ABC for a rerun of “Scandal” and NBC for a “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” repeat, and Telemundo was sixth with a 0.5 for “El Rostro de la Venganza.”

CBS was first for the night among households with an 8.0 average overnight rating and a 13 share. Fox was second at 6.4/10, ABC third at 2.7/4, Univision fourth at 2.2/4, NBC fifth at 2.0/3, Telemundo sixth at 0.7/1 and CW seventh at 0.6/1.

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TV Notes
BET Renews ‘Real Husbands Of Hollywood’ For Second Season
By Nellie Andreeva, Deadline.com - Mar. 8, 2013

BET has ordered a 12-episode second season of semi-scripted comedy Real Husbands Of Hollywood. The series, created by Kevin Hart and Chris Spencer, debuted to more than 4 million viewers in January. Labeled the “fakest reality show ever,” Real Husbands Of Hollywood features actor/comedian Kevin Hart and his Hollywood pals as they navigate their way through stardom alongside – or in spite of – their famous wives. The cast includes Nick Cannon, husband of Mariah Carey, Boris Kodjoe, husband of actress Nicole Ari Parker, Duane Martin, husband of actress Tisha Campbell-Martin, J. B. Smoove, husband of the songstress Shahidah Omar and Robin Thicke, husband of actress Paula Patton. Also expected to return for Season 2 is Nelly.

“When we launched this series in January, we knew our audience would have as much fun watching it as we had making it, and since it has been on the air, fans have voiced on social media that they want more. So this was a pretty simple decision: ‘Hey! Let’s make more!’ ” says Stephen Hill, BET’s President of Music Programming and Specials. Real Husbands Of Hollywood is executive produced by Kevin Hart, Stan Lathan, Ralph Farquhar, Jesse Collins, Tim Gibbons, Chris Spencer and Dave Becky.

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Nielsen Notes (Daytime)
'Good Morning America' Scores First February Sweep Win Since 1993 in Key Demo
By Tim Kenneally, TheWrap.com - Mar. 7, 2013

ABC's "Good Morning America" continued to gain ratings ground in the morning-show arena last month, scoring its first ratings win in the key 25-54 news demographic during a February sweep in 20 years, and coming out on top in total viewership in a February sweep for the first time in 19 years.

For February's sweep, "Good Morning America" averaged 5.669 million total viewers, with 2.130 million of them in the 25-54 demographic. That's compared to 4.821 million total viewers for NBC's "Today," which averaged 2.033 million viewers in the demo.

CBS's "This Morning" drew third place with 3.012 million total viewers, with 1.146 million in the demo.

Aside from representing "Good Morning America's" first February sweep victory in two decades, those numbers also represent the largest total viewer margin -- 848,000 -- against "Today" that it's had in 21 years, and the largest gap in the demo -- 97,000 viewers -- that it's had against its NBC competitor in 19 years.

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