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post #90631 of 93709
TV Notes
From Here to Paternity
Behind the scenes with Maury as the show enters its 16th season
By Bryan Curtis, Grantland.com - Nov. 8, 2013


Listen to the familiar voice of Maury Povich:

This is Tiffany. In two months, Tiffany is marrying her fiancé, Cornelius. But the results of this lie detector test may stop that wedding dead in its tracks.

This was Season 16, Episode 1 of Maury. Povich was in his Stamford, Connecticut, dressing room. His feet were propped on his desk as if they were still away on summer vacation. Povich read his script in the voice of a local newsman — droll and slightly amused.

Cornelius is a rapper. But Tiffany fears he's using his studio to lay down a lot more than just tracks. And get this: Tiffany has a very good witness — their neighbor, Candice.

Povich's eyes moved upward from the travails of Tiffany and Cornelius and focused on his team of producers.

"They're supposed to get married in November," said Gloria Harrison-Hall, Episode 1's producer. "The neighbor said, 'I don't want to interfere with your family. But I've seen women and it's been late at night.'"

"Meanwhile," Povich said, "he's sleeping with the neighbor."

"So he says," Harrison-Hall said, laughing. "Yes."

"He's saying he slept with the neighbor … "


"… and he's going to tell his fiancée this?"

Maury Povich is 74 years old. These are his savvy-veteran years. Back in the 1990s, a bunch of us watched Maury — and Jerry and Montel and Sally Jessy — because we were told they were bringing Western civilization to its knees. We wanted tickets to the apocalypse. These days, nobody much complains about Maury. Season 16, Episodes 1 and 2 seemed like a chance to see how an old friend had ping-ponged back and forth between repute and disrepute, how yesterday's sleaze king became today's venerable survivor.

Nowadays, Povich looks different. He used to favor Brioni suits. For the Season 16 opener, he dressed like a Brooklyn dad: a half-zip pullover, Joe's jeans, and thick glasses. Povich's set no longer feels like a podiatrist's waiting room. "It's more glass- and steel-looking," said Povich's director, Adam Sorota. "We want it to be very hip."

In the '90s, talk had the unpredictability of fringe theater. You could cruise the dial and find a show like the Springer classic "I Married a Horse." They don't marry horses on TV anymore. Or if they did, Maury producers would have polygraph and DNA tests at the ready, so that Povich could turn to the horse at a key moment and declare, "You are the father!" Sixteen years of road tests have made the structure of a Maury episode — if this is the right word — elegant.

Povich was laying out Episode 1. "So Candice is involved all through this, and then he's going to make this revelation?"

"Yes, while she's sitting in the front row," Harrison-Hall said.

"And we put him in the green room with a decoy?" Povich asked. Cornelius, like many Maury guests, had been secretly filmed hitting on a woman who'd been planted by the staff.


Paul Faulhaber, the executive producer, broke in to make sure Povich knew when to introduce the decoy footage: "That's going to come in … "

" … after the confession and before the lie-detector test," Povich said. He'd studied his notes.


"Way to start the year off there, Paul," Povich said. "This can't be simple. We gotta push the button early."

Povich read his lines about his guest Keeta, whose husband had been sending explicit text messages to other women, and Carrie, who was married to a philandering MMA fighter, and Erin, who had sequestered her husband in their bedroom with a padlock. The meeting broke after 10 minutes. Povich said, "All right. Let's do it." Then he glanced at himself in his three-way mirror and moved toward the stage to begin Season 16.

* * * *

Is that all the preparation you do?" I asked Povich as I trailed him down the hallway.

"Kind of," Povich said. The day before he tapes an episode, he reads a thick research packet on the warring parties. Then he meets with producers before the cameras roll. Like his golf buddy, George W. Bush, Povich doesn't want these briefings to last a second longer than is necessary. Povich prides himself on hoovering up the details of the 30 or 40 guests he has each week. "This show is my Alzheimer's check," he said.

Povich walked through a door and entered the Maury set at stage left. The crowd — a mix of very young African Americans and very old Caucasians — chanted "MAU-RY! MAU-RY!" A half-dozen bouncers took up positions around Povich, their torsos leaning forward like stand-up defensive ends. The producer, Gloria Harrison-Hall, took a spot by Camera 1. When a guest said something heelish, Harrison-Hall turned to the audience and opened her mouth in outrage. We said, "Ohhhhh!"

Daytime talk in the 21st century is efficient. The Stamford Center for the Arts doesn't just belong to Povich. Each Monday, Jerry Springer begins taping five shows on the same stage. On Tuesday, Springer surrenders the stage to his old security chief, Steve Wilkos. Wilkos tapes five shows. Povich arrives on Wednesday nights, then steps aside on Thursday for an old Maury regular, Trisha Goddard. You can walk off the Maury set at stage left and find the pole that Springer slides down to begin his show.

Povich brought Tiffany onto the stage. They were holding hands. The Maury show is about helping people. "He deals with serious issues," Springer told me, "whereas we're a total circus. There's no redeeming social value in our show other than craziness."

Producers think of every Maury segment as a three-act play. Tiffany's suspicions were the subject of Act I. "We haven't had sex in over a month," she complained. Harrison-Hall turned to us with her mouth open and we yelled, "Ohhhhh!" Tiffany's neighbor, Candice, rose from the front row to say she'd seen women entering Cornelius's studio at night. We applauded.

After a time, Tiffany's boyfriend, Cornelius, appeared from backstage. This was Act II. Cornelius wore the expression of a lot of Maury men — guilty but defiant. He found himself confronted not only by Tiffany but by Maury's in-house private investigator, Wendy Kleinknecht. Kleinknecht is a tall blonde who looks like Erin Brockovich. She had taped Cornelius with another woman — the decoy. We watched Cornelius ask the decoy, "You want to get ****ed tonight?"

This was fun but it could have aired 20 years ago. We've seen a thousand talk shows with a thousand Tiffanys and Corneliuses. It's in Act III that Maury shows how it has mastered the 21st century. What Act III of every Maury segment requires now is a denouement. Reality shows call this moment the "reveal"; Maury producers call it "truth."

"You'll see a talk show that'll do an episode about feuding neighbors," Faulhaber, the executive producer, explained. "They say, 'OK, everybody can relate to feuding neighbors.' They can have people yell and scream. Some people would think that's good television, but where does it go? There's no resolution, there's no conclusion. It's one of those freshman talk-show mistakes."

Maury wouldn't do a feuding-neighbors show unless one neighbor took a lie detector test. The moment of "truth" would come when Povich revealed whether that neighbor had poisoned the other's grass. Povich and his producers realized the power of such moments sometime around the mid-2000s. These moments make Maury fodder for Vines and YouTube supercuts. They move a segment from an unresolvable adult relationship to a highly resolvable point of fact. "Conflict without truth, to me, is just stupidity," Faulhaber said.

Cornelius was losing his battle with truth. He'd told a polygraph administrator he hadn't slept with other women. "The lie detector determined," Povich said, "that was a lie."

Cornelius said he hadn't slept with other women in Tiffany's bed. "That was a lie," Povich said.

Ohhhhh! But Cornelius claimed he'd slept with the neighbor, Candice. The allegation just hung there, without the stamp of truth. On Maury, that won't do. So lie-detector administrator Ralph Barbieri rose from the audience. Barbieri took Candice by the hand and led her to a polygraph machine.

"Before this show is over," Povich proclaimed, "we will get the whole truth."

Viewers occasionally respond to the outrageous behavior of Maury guests by wondering if the producers plied them with alcohol before the show. Tiffany and Cornelius, I was assured, didn't have anything to drink. Why bother? The producers have done this hundreds of times — they knew exactly what Tiffany and Cornelius would say. The last thing they needed was an alcohol-fueled detour. The only surprise of Season 16, Episode 1 came in the fourth and final segment, which featured Keeta and Antonio. Keeta's Act II was truly piteous. "You are sorry," Keeta said. "You're a sorry piece of ****!" Then she burst into tears.

Just as every segment of Maury is divided into a three-act structure, each show starts with the most promising guests, then proceeds to the second-most promising, and so forth. But as Povich marveled later, Keeta was angry. Keeta was real. When this Episode 1 aired three weeks later, I noticed that Keeta had been moved from the fourth slot to the third.

* * * *

Maurice (like "Morris") Povich was born into respectability. Some of his earliest memories are of sitting in darkened press boxes while his dad, the legendary Washington Post sportswriter Shirley Povich, tapped out lines like, "Jim Brown, born ineligible to play for the Redskins, integrated their end zone three times yesterday."

At first, Povich wanted to play it straight. He wanted to be a network anchor. There were early signs that his broadcast destiny lay outside the mainstream. For Martin Luther King's March on Washington, Povich was assigned to cover the neo-Nazis protesting off to the side. But Povich got on local TV and began paying his dues. He hosted the 10 p.m. news on WTTG in Washington and a Morning Joe–style chat show called Panorama. His future wife, Connie Chung, was the station's secretary.

"The other day, Connie was getting out some old tapes of the 1976 Republican Convention," Povich said. "I was working for Metromedia, which became Fox. I was on the convention floor. I'm telling you, I was good. I was a good news guy. I'd forgotten."

"But I was always kind of off the rails," he continued. "I never, ever read the teleprompter exactly as written. News directors went nuts." One day, Povich went on Panorama and said, "I'm a little hungover."

The networks never called. Povich bounced from Washington to Chicago to Los Angeles to San Francisco to Philadelphia. Then he wound up back in Washington hosting Panorama. He was 47 years old. 

"I thought I was finished," Povich said. He figured no network would honor both his skill as a newsman and his urge to lift a finger to "respectable" discourse. Then Rupert Murdoch called.

Povich later remembered Murdoch for the "ambiguous expression on his face that he wore like an escape clause." Murdoch offered Povich a national news magazine called A Current Affair. What's the gist of it? Povich asked.

"You'll work it out," Murdoch said.

Povich was assigned to a team of Australian producers. They were contemptuous of any reporter who wouldn't knock on a grieving widow's door. (They accused such wusses of "knocking on the grass.") When A Current Affair couldn't book the principal from a big news story — and it rarely could — the Aussies would scream, "Get the cousin!" The show was crude and unpolished. "Sometimes the producer would run down with a newspaper and have Maury read stuff, because we were short," said John Tomlin, a supervising producer.

Just like that, Povich was no longer the bad boy of local news. He was a straight man, dialing back the Aussie bloodlust. After a segment on A Current Affair, Povich would often **** an eyebrow or even apologize for the segment on the air. Correspondent Steve McPartlin said, "In real TV — which is not what we were doing — the producer who puts that piece together gets his panties in a wad because the anchorman said, 'That was stupid.' But we never did that. Because we knew what we were doing was insane. It was not that rock-jaw, eyes-into-the-camera news show. Maury realized that."

A Current Affair's first big break was the Baby M story. It's now recognizable as the first Maury paternity show. A wealthy East Coast couple had hired a surrogate mother to have their baby; the mother wanted to keep the child for herself. Povich couldn't snag an interview with the surrogate.

Povich had a brainstorm: "We could give only her side … We wouldn't have to water it down with the usual he-said/she-said ********." He scored the interview. In A Current Affair's willingness to pick a side, in its crude-but-snappy production, and in its skill at whizzing past Eastern elites and crash-landing in Middle America, you can now glimpse the blueprints for Fox News. As Povich once put it, "We were Iowa's 60 Minutes."

By 1991, a funny thing happened to Povich. A Current Affair's techniques had been pirated by "respectable" network fare like 20/20 and 48 Hours. When Povich left for his talk show, following in the footsteps of Phil Donahue, he was no longer a hell-raiser. He was seen as a trusted elder.

"He is very paternal," said Brian Unger, who worked as a field producer for Povich and later became a correspondent on The Daily Show. "I think that quality comes through in his television personality. He's going to get to the bottom of it. He's going to do it in a fair way with a sense of humor. And he's not going to judge anyone. Maybe that's what he is: He's everybody's daytime dad."

Maury is the father!

* * * *

Just a footnote on the last show," Paul Faulhaber told Povich. "Cornelius had a moment of honesty backstage."

A few minutes had passed since the end of Season 16, Episode 1 of Maury. Povich and his producers were back in his dressing room preparing for Episode 2.

"What did he admit?" Povich asked.

"Cornelius admitted that he had lied about sleeping with Candice," Faulhaber said. "He wanted her out of the picture. Candice was quote-unquote 'blowing up his spot.'" The producers, of course, had captured the admission on camera.

"So that's going to be the denouement," Povich said.

Season 16, Episode 2 of Maury was a paternity show. Maury started doing paternity shows about a decade ago. The ratings were higher than all the other shows. Now, two or three episodes a week are devoted to paternity. The staff gets about 100 calls a week from viewers asking Povich to divine the parentage of their children. According to Faulhaber, about 80 of these 100 respondents won't be compelling enough to be on TV. Another 10 will be compelling but won't have the stories to match. The final 10 will be potential guests for Maury.

Quirea, Antywine, and Regis had made the cut. Quirea (pronounced like "Kira") and Antywine (like "Antoine") had produced a cherubic 3-year-old named Antywine Jr. Or so Antywine Sr. thought. Quirea informed him that he might not be the dad. She suspected that Regis, Antywine's best friend, might be the dad. But she didn't tell Antywine that. Like the rest of us, maybe Quirea had seen so many talk shows that she was saving the revelation for Maury.

"So Regis thinks he's the father?" Povich asked.

"Regis always thought there was a chance," said Christine Ponzi, a producer.

"Does the kid look like Regis?"

"It's weird, because Antywine and Regis kind of look alike."

Quirea's story would be the subject of Act I. Regis, the best friend, would be introduced to start Act II, before being bundled offstage so that Antywine could come out unaware.

"Switch-a-rooni," Faulhaber said.

Povich glanced at his script. "Is it An-ton or An-twan?"

"It's An-twan," Ponzi said.

(Povich: "I learned a long time ago that I like to pronounce the names correctly, the way people pronounce their names. I think that's a matter of respect. Even though they call me 'Murray.'")

Of Quirea and Regis, Povich asked: "How many times did they sleep together?"

"Oh, it was more than once," said Ponzi. "It went on for years."

Of Quirea and Antywine, Povich asked: "They're together?"

"Yeah, they were supposed to get married," Ponzi said. "After this happened a month ago, he's like, 'Oh, no.' He's the one who called the show."

Satisfied, Povich flipped the pages of his script and read his next promo: "This is Kristina. When Kristina met this man Dale at McDonald's three years ago, she admits there was an instant attraction … "

* * * *

Back in the 1990s, America's self-appointed values czars looked at daytime talk and imagined it had come straight from hell. But this wasn't exactly true. There were several eras of talk, just as there were several eras of Povich.

"Believe it or not, I think the '90s were more pristine," Povich said. Indeed, when they started out, Maury and Jerry and Montel and Sally Jessy dreamed big. They wanted to talk about lesbian love triangles one day and glasnost the next. "We were all imitating Donahue," said Richard Bey, who hosted a talk show until 1996.

"I went to Waco, Texas, for the Branch Davidians," Povich said. "I used to delve into politics a little bit. I did some Michael Jackson stuff. I did a show with Cher. I did a lot of what I guess would be called tame things."

Cher and the Branch Davidians made for tamer TV, but The Maury Povich Show was hard to follow. A channel-surfer didn't know what to expect from one day to the next. In 1998, when Povich moved from Paramount to Studios USA, he transformed from what his staff calls "news Maury" to "relationship Maury." Within a few years, a typical episode was titled, "Who's the Daddy? Me … Or My Teen Son!"

That sparked a yelp from Joe Lieberman and William Bennett, two moral brawlers who denounced talk as "cultural rot." It's easy to laugh at Joe and Bill now. But in a previous campaign, they'd convinced Time Warner to sell off its stake in Interscope Records because the label produced gangsta rap. "People said, 'You gotta shame the executives,'" said Bey. "People would go up to Barry Diller at parties. That was part of the technique."

Springer absorbed the bulk of the criticism. "I didn't agree with it, but I certainly could see why they were coming after me," he said. Ironically, Povich's news background — the disreputable reputability he'd built up on A Current Affair — made him a target. In 2002, USA Today declared: "Povich's talk show is, without a doubt, the worst thing on television. Period." 

For all the bluster, the anti-talk crusade fizzled. In 1999, Springer cameras demurely turned away from on-set fights. Now, Springer shows the fights again. Only Oprah Winfrey rejected the "relationship" show. "She looked at me," Povich remembered, "and said, 'You can do it. I'm not doing it.' I said, 'I have no problem doing it. I have no problem doing it because this is part of society.'"

Critics said Povich used his guests — many of whom are African Americans — for cheap entertainment. "I say, 'OK, you can think what you want.' But I think we've made a difference in people's lives some of the time. Not for all the guests. Maybe not even the majority. But for some. I'll take that trade in terms of being accused of exploitation."

 Springer, who like Povich did a tour on local TV, said, "I used to exploit people, but that's when I was doing the news."

In the late '90s, daytime talk was the most outrageous thing on television. But pay-cable series and reality TV have long since stolen the mantle. (Once upon a time, Snooki would have been a promising first-segment guest on Maury.) So Povich changed his approach again. In its 16th season, Maury has become very, very simple. Nearly every episode can be boiled down to a single word. Lie. Baby. Affair. "When you get all classic, Shakespearean themes — love, hate, betrayal, lust — you have a chance of capturing an audience," Povich said.

The paternity show was Povich's simplest idea yet. Acts I and II are virtually identical to a lie-detector show. The Act III denouement comes via a report from the DNA Diagnostics Center instead of the polygraph. Faulhaber calls these results "DNA truth."

Povich doesn't know the DNA results before he reads them to the audience. But he — and we — know what will happen on a paternity show. We know the women will compare the alleged father's picture to the child's picture on a video board. If the man is not the father, he will do an end zone dance; the woman will flop onto a backstage couch. If the man is the father, the couple will make common cause to raise the child together. This is the new respectability of Maury: We watch not to be shocked but to be soothed. "I liken it to a Billy Joel concert," Faulhaber said. "No one wants to go to a Billy Joel concert and hear all-new songs. You want to hear the hits."

Povich was lured back to respectable fare once, in 2006, to host an MSNBC show called Weekends With Maury and Connie. "Because he was so busy, we would have production meetings in his office," said Lizz Winstead, who was executive producer. "We'd be talking about rogue states, and you could hear fighting in the hallway about who's the daddy of the baby." Weekends was canceled after six months.

He said: "I've had so-called legitimate news friends of mine say, 'You know, Maury, you were a great newsman. You were a great anchor. You could have gone back and done great stuff.' I say, 'I am doing great stuff. I'm fine with myself. I have no qualms with how everything turned out.'"

No waking nightmares? I asked.

"No," Povich said. "No. I sleep well at night, and my wife gives me great comfort. Ha ha ha … "

* * * *

For Season 16, Episode 2 of Maury, Povich traded his half-zip for a V-neck sweater. He took Quirea by the hand and led her out to the stage.

When Regis entered to surprise Antywine, Povich's security team leaped onstage for one of the few times all night. But Maury doesn't permit fighting. An audience that wanted fisticuffs would have to come back Monday to see a taping of Springer.

Povich was handed the DNA results by his producer, Christine Ponzi. Antywine Jr.'s smiling face was on the video board above him. Povich paused dramatically and then addressed Regis, the best friend: "When it comes to 3-year-old Antywine Jr., Regis … you are not the father!"

Regis jumped and pumped his fist. "Thank you!"

Povich then turned to Antywine: "When it comes to 3-year-old Antywine Jr." — Povich always repeats the full phrase, the daytime-talk equivalent of a drum roll — "Antywine … you are the father!" Antywine Jr.'s birthright was restored. The crowd gave a standing ovation for truth. Then Antywine and Regis were hustled off to make room for the next couple, Crystal and Buster.

Season 16, Episodes 1 and 2 of Maury were in the can. Episodes 3 and 4 were scheduled to tape the next morning at 10:30. Povich tapes Maury two days a week. He works 26 weeks per year. His salary is … well, not long ago, Povich was playing golf with Gary McCord, a CBS analyst. McCord was trying to distract Povich. "Maury," he said, "I've watched your show. I wouldn't do that show for $5 million a year."

This is Maury. He gave the most respectable answer he could. He turned to McCord and said, "Neither would I!"

post #90632 of 93709
Critic's Notes
10 Worst TV Role Models of 2013
By Sierra Filucci, CommonSenseMedia.org

From Abby Lee Miller to Walter White, TV is full of wild and crazy characters who make us laugh, cry, or grit our teeth in frustration. Each year, Common Sense Media calls out the TV characters and personalities who have the most and least to offer kids and families. You'll see some familiar faces on the "worst" list (the Kardashians, for the third year in a row) and a few newbies, who may or may not stand the test of TV time.

Even with all the new devices competing for kids' attention, regular old TV still dominates kids' screen time. That means all the characters they watch or otherwise absorb through popular culture make a big impact on kids' still-forming identities. But even the worst role models can help you start important discussions with kids about what is and isn't appropriate behavior. These talks can also help your kid become more media-savvy. Discuss the reasons why these folks get so much attention. Who makes the decisions to popularize these characters and their TV shows?

1. Walter White (Bryan Cranston), Breaking Bad
Worst offense
: Offering a confusing message of morality

Many of us here at Common Sense Media really love Walter White's character and the Breaking Bad series overall. But the more we've seen babies dressed in Walter White Halloween costumes, the more we realize what a huge impact this character has made in pop culture. So even if kids aren't actually watching the show, they're absorbing the message that when an everyday person meets tough times, drugs, murder, and sacrificing one's family is a viable, or even admirable, solution.

2. Drunk History creators (Will Ferrell and Derek Waters)
Worst offense
: Making drunkenness look appealing

No question these folks are funny. As adults, we find the juxtaposition of history lessons and inebriated comedians quite entertaining. But for teens who watch, the message is that drinking enough alcohol to slur your words, stumble around, or throw up is hilarious.

3. Abby Lee Miller, Dance Moms and Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition
Worst offense
: Encouraging unhealthy competition

Both of Abby Lee Miller's shows purposely pit moms against moms and young dancers against one another. Not only does she use shame as a motivator for her young charges, she screams and insults their parents, too. Thanks to Miller's influence, the moms also bicker with one another and openly criticize both their own kids and others'.

4. Kardashian clan, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, et al.
Worst offense
: Putting appearance and attention above substance and accomplishment

Although the family sometimes exhibits a charming loyalty among themselves, as an entity they represent some of the worst things about our culture. Kim's insistence on being in full hair and makeup while giving birth is just one example of how this family values appearance over substance. Add to that drug abuse, relationship drama, sexing up the still-underage girls in the family, and a general vapidity exhibited on the show and in the larger pop culture arena, and this family is one we really don't want to keep up with.

5. Ryan Lochte, What Would Ryan Lochte Do?
Worst offense
: Valuing empty fame over true achievement

Here is someone whose physical achievements are so great that he has the potential to be an incredible role model to kids. He could teach them about perseverance, stamina, sacrifice. But instead he chooses to seek fame in Hollywood, demonstrating to kids that being on TV, even if it puts you in an embarrassing light, is the ultimate goal. Ick. (Thankfully, his show was quickly canceled.)

6. Big Ang, Miami Monkey and Mob Wives
Worst offense
: Wallowing in shallowness

There's something undeniably charming about Big Ang, which is probably why producers offered her a spin-off after the ridiculous Mob Wives. But there's just so much wrong with her behavior: drinking and smoking to excess, modeling an exaggerated representation of the female body (her chest and lips defy nature!), and creating a work environment that thrives off catty competition and sexed-up bodies.

7. Cat (Ariana Grande), Sam & Cat
Worst offense
: Reinforcing "airhead" stereotype

Actress and pop singer Ariana Grande is not without talent, but her character on this spin-off of two mega-popular Nickelodeon shows (iCarly and Victorious) is the epitome of a "dumb girl." She speaks with an affected whispery voice, regularly misunderstands common vocabulary, and seems generally self-absorbed and, frankly, annoying. Young girls and boys who are just figuring out their identities might pick up some really confusing messages about what's funny and appealing thanks to Cat.

8. Seth MacFarlane, the Oscars, Family Guy, etc.
Worst offense
: Humor that consistently crosses the line

As host of the Oscars, MacFarlane stepped out from behind his offensive Family Guy characters and showed his true stripes. From a song objectifying all of Hollywood's actresses ("We Saw Your Boobs") to jokes about Adele's weight, the comedian stood in front of an international audience and made us wonder how someone with such a warped and unkind view of humanity could be so successful.

9. Eli (Seth Green), Warner (Giovanni Ribisi), Dads; and Frank (Tony Shalhoub), We Are Men
Worst offense
: Racism and sexism mixed together

These three characters from two new fall TV series represent the dark underbelly of mainstream comedy (it should be noted that Seth MacFarlane is responsible for Dads). In the Dads pilot, both Eli and Warner go along with a plot to dress up their Asian female colleague as a sexed-up schoolgirl to appeal to their Chinese clients. Ugh. And in the thankfully canceled We Are Men, the character of Frank had an unabashed preference for dating Asian women several decades younger than he was. Double ugh.

10. Brickleberry characters, Brickleberry
Worst offense
: Offending for the sake of offending

Comedy at its best teaches us something about ourselves, from South Park's skewering of political correctness to Parks and Recreation poking fun at the bureaucracy that surrounds us. But Brickleberry –- stuffed with exaggerated stereotypes (a horny lesbian, a lazy African-American, and a sexed-up blonde, among others) who offend without any greater purpose -- is just sad. Edgy comedy that's smart can be justified, but this...there's just nothing here of value for families.

post #90633 of 93709
TV Notes
NBC's 'Today' to broadcast first commercial spaceflight live
By Ethan Sacks, New York Daily News - Nov. 8, 2013

Space is the final frontier ... for morning show ratings.

NBC announced that the “Today” show nabbed the rights to broadcast the first-ever commercial spaceflight by next year.

Virgin Galactic head Sir Richard Branson and his adult children, Holly and Sam, will be aboard the SpaceShipTwo when it blasts off on its historic first, and NBC cameras will be in tow.

Branson said this summer that his company had begun accepting deposits from wannabe space tourists, including actor Ashton Kutcher and entrepreneur Shervin Pishevar.

They'll experience some major G-forces on their wallets: Seat on board the SpaceShipTwo are going for $200,000 apiece, CNN once reported.

NBC’s Peacock Productions will launch its blanket coverage ahead of the launch on CNBC, MSNBC, NBCNews.com, Syfy, and The Weather Channel in the lead-up to a three-hour live broadcast on "Today" hosted by Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie.

"Without a doubt, Sir Richard and his children taking the first commercial flight into space, will go down in history as one of the most memorable events on television,” said Sharon Scott, president and general manager of Peacock Productions, in a release.

post #90634 of 93709
TV Notes
Dan Rather to Host JFK Assassination Special for AXS TV
By Tim Kenneally, TheWrap.com - Nov. 8, 2013

Dan Rather might have been shut out of CBS’s coverage of the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, but he’ll still have his say on the matter.

Rather, who was on the scene in Dallas when Kennedy was killed and was the first reporter to confirm Kennedy’s death, will offer his first-hand account of the day in a special, “My Days in Dallas: A Remembrance With Dan Rather.”

In the special, Rather — the host and managing editor of AXS’s “Dan Rather Reports” — will deliver personal, behind-the-scenes account of Kennedy’s Dallas visit, and discuss being one of the first people to see the Zapruder home movie that chronicled Kennedy’s assassination.

“It was a tragic event to cover as a newsman and as an American citizen. That was my President and here I was at my news bureau having to hear that he died over a phone call and then report that to the world,” Rather said of the assassination. “There are few words to express what I was feeling that day while professionally having to keep my composure and of sound mind.”

“My Days in Dallas” will premiere Nov. 18 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. RT, with re-airings on Nov. 22 and Nov. 24.

On Nov. 22, the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death, Rather will also appear on NBC’s “Today” as well as an NBC primetime special hosted by Tom Brokaw.

Watch a preview clip for the special below: [CLICK BELOW]

post #90635 of 93709
Critic's Notes
What “Masters of Sex” Overlooks
By Michelle Dean, The New Yorker - Nov. 8, 2013

By casting Lizzy Caplan as Virginia Johnson, the creators of Showtime’s “Masters of Sex” (10 p.m. Sundays) did very well for themselves. Part of the show’s conceit is that William Masters (Michael Sheen) is charm-free, so the creators needed to find a co-lead who could act as a foil. As Emily Nussbaum wrote in her review, Caplan is “the swizzle stick in the show’s erotic cocktail.” She is the kind of performer who is so likable that you’d watch her tie her shoelaces for an hour, and she seems, in this show at least, to know that. She glides through her scenes with the poised self-assurance of a woman who has a strong handle on herself and her power.

I am not the only one watching “Masters of Sex” who wonders if things could have been the same for the real-life woman whom Caplan is playing. Post-“sexual revolution,” there is general agreement that a woman who knows what she wants, in bed and in life, is a person to be admired. But it’s much harder to believe that a woman in St. Louis, Missouri, in the late nineteen-fifties, could enjoy the same nods of approval from her contemporary onlookers. And by her own account, the real Virginia Johnson did not live the life relatively free of judgment and social cost that “Masters of Sex” has, so far, implied for her doppelgänger. (Warning: spoilers begin.)

Johnson died earlier this year, at the age of eighty-eight. She was no longer going by the name she’d used professionally for her forty-odd years in sex research. Instead, she was “Mary Masters,” another old woman in a nursing home with a story that only a few people listened to. Her tale is laced with regrets. As she’d tell the writer Thomas Maier, whose book “Masters of Sex” the series is based on, “I can remember saying out loud—and I’m appalled as I remember it—being very pleased that I could be anything any man wanted me to be. … In retrospect, I ask myself, ‘Geez, did I lose myself that totally?’”

Some of her guilt was the ordinary kind, familiar to any working woman. She worried that she’d missed her kids growing up. She was so busy working as Masters’s associate on his sex research that she never got the imprimatur of a university degree, an honorific that might seem ceremonial in retrospect but which meant a great deal to her personally. Most relevant, to those who have been watching the show, is how Mary seemed to regret her involvement with Bill Masters.

Masters and Johnson married only in the late nineteen-seventies. But long before that, they were lovers, as the show addresses, though lovers as a matter of clinical investigation. At least, that was how he described it. The television show more or less mirrors Johnson’s account of his initial proposition, in the sense that Masters wrapped it up in clinical language about transference and scientific precision. And yet, even in the nineteen-fifties, where we must rewind to some forgotten collective frame of mind before the sexual-harassment laws of the nineteen-seventies, the proposition still gives off a sour smell. A colleague of theirs speculated that had Johnson refused the proposition, she would eventually have been sidelined from Masters’s study. Confronted with his observation by Maier, Johnson seemed to agree. She told him, “Bill did it all—I didn’t want him… I had a job and I wanted it.” No one “forced” her to agree to the arrangement, but it was one made within a matrix of consequences that few think acceptable any longer. Not even in the context of sex researchers would we think it fair that having sex with your boss be an implicit condition of employment. In “Masters of Sex,” however, this quite serious situation is treated as a half-joke.

It is a curious choice not simply because it goes against our modern views but because it actually flattens dramatic possibilities. “Mad Men,” the show that “Masters of Sex” owes a strong aesthetic and tonal debt, has addressed similar themes. But somehow, “Mad Men” has managed to explain, implicitly, that its intelligent, even cunning female characters operated within sexual politics whose rules were not arranged for their benefit. Even when Bobbie Barrett told Peggy Olson, “You can’t be a man. Be a woman. It’s a powerful business, when done correctly,” the viewer was invited to raise an eyebrow. It’s not clear, when Bobbie leaves the picture, that she has played her hand correctly. It’s being comfortable with ambivalence that has always made “Mad Men” seem more grown-up than your average prestige-cable show.

By contrast, the Johnson of this show never makes a misstep, never seems seized by either regret or indecision. She becomes more like what the culture seems to want from “liberation”—a woman who has left the judgment of others behind, who doesn’t give a damn, who in her new omniscience sees both past and future clearly—and less like any recognizable human being who has ever lived. For all the bitter quotations that the real Johnson gives in Maier’s book—friends say, in fact, that the “hard things” Johnson had to say about Masters ultimately drove them from her company—they make up a more rounded personality than the one “Masters of Sex” presents.

There is one final spoiler that further complicates the liberation: Masters eventually left Johnson. Their partnership of many years, their professional fulfillment together, was less important to Masters than the fulfillment of a fantasy. He asked Johnson for a divorce on Christmas Eve in 1992, and the proximate cause was his reconnection with a woman he’d tried to propose to some fifty-five years before. He’d later marry that woman, and remain married to her until he died, in 2001. Johnson would remain alone. She would still say she had never loved Masters. But she didn’t like being single either. “I like being married—I hate not being married now,” she told Maier. As it turns out, not every kind of freedom is the one you’d pick out for yourself.

post #90636 of 93709
Originally Posted by dad1153 View Post

TV Notes
NBC's 'Today' to broadcast first commercial spaceflight live
I'm wondering which will come first.
-1st wedding in space (already been discussed)
-1st child conceived in space

NBC will be sure to get the TV rights.
post #90637 of 93709
TV Notes
On The Air Tonight
MONDAY 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 - Dancing With the Stars (120 min., LIVE)
10:01PM - Castle
* * * *
11:35PM - Jimmy Kimmel Live! (Zooey Deschanel; Chris Elliott; Frank Turner performs)
12:37AM - Nightline

8PM - How I Met Your Mother
8:30PM - 2 Broke Girls
9PM - Mike & Molly
9:30PM - Mom
10PM - Hostages
* * * *
11:35PM - Late Show with David Letterman (Julianna Margulies; Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno; Moon Taxi performs)
12:37AM - The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (LL Cool J; TV personality Carrie Keagan)

8PM - The Voice (120 min.)
10:01PM - The Blacklist
* * * *
11:34PM - The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (Casey Affleck; singer Kelly Clarkson; Lyle Lovett performs)
12:36AM - Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (Billy Crystal; Evan Rachel Wood; Cher Lloyd and Skee Lo perform with The Roots)
1:36AM - Last Call with Carson Daly (Ilan Hall, Davy Rothbart, White Denim)

8PM - Bones
9PM - Sleepy Hollow

(check your local listing for starting time/programming)
8PM - Antiques Roadshow: Politically Collect (R - Nov. 3, 2008)
9PM - JFK: American Experience (Part 1 of 2, 120 min.)

8PM - Porque el Amor Manda
9PM - La Tempestad
10PM - Mentir Para Vivir

8PM - Hart of Dixie
9PM - Beauty and the Beast

8PM - Marido en Alquiler
9PM - La Reina del Sur
10PM - Santa Diabla

11PM - The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (Author Doris Kearns Goodwin)
11:31PM - The Colbert Report (Author Peter Baker)
12:01AM - At Midnight (John Hodgman; Rob Delaney; Grace Helbig)

11PM - Conan (Astronaut Chris Hadfield; Avril Lavigne)
Midnight - Pete Holmes Show (Eric Andre)

11PM - Chelsea Lately (Chef Sam Morgante; comic John Caparulo; comic Sarah Tiana; comic Ross Mathews)

Check Local Listings - Arsenio (Donnie Wahlberg; Retta; Lil Rel)
post #90638 of 93709
Critic's Notes
‘Speculation Is the New Spoiler’
By Taffy Brodesser-Akner, The New York Times Magazine's 'Riff' Column - Nov. 10, 2013

WARNING: This essay contains both stale-dated spoilers on shows that have aired, and speculation on possible plot twists. Proceed at your own risk.

“How great would it be if Walt was about to use the ricin and someone random blew his head off, and the show ended with a pull away from his dead body?”

Thus read the text of an email from Jeff, a lawyer friend of mine, sent five days before the “Breaking Bad” finale, which aired last month. Jeff is smart, and he loves the same TV shows that I love, which gives us a lot to talk about over the course of these fraught, intense TV seasons. But the interim-episode emails between Jeff and me can be treacherous; they are the Wild West of my inbox. There are no rules to these emails, save one: They can contain no spoilers — spoilers, of course, being plot points of a show shared by people who have heard what’s going to happen in advance or have seen the show before you have.

Jeff and I (and the other people randomly c.c.’d on these emails, like his wife or my husband or a neighbor named David) are adamantly against spoilers. We would label any messages that even hint at previous or even day-after knowledge loudly in the subject line — we’re not savages, after all.

But our emails aren’t made up of plot points and did-you-see-that?’s. The content of these emails is primarily speculation. Jeff sees nothing wrong with a week spent guessing what might happen on the next episode.

The only problem — and this realization peaked for me about five days before the “Breaking Bad” finale — is that lately I want nothing to do with those emails.

* * * *

Jeff’s favorite thing to do is to try to predict what might happen to any TV show as it comes to its season — or even better, series — finale. The fact that he’s a lawyer is important, because it means that he’s generally good at poking holes in theories and remembering hints and pieces of evidence I have long since forgotten. It’s even more important to note that he’s an entertainment lawyer here in Los Angeles, which means that when he suggests theories like this Walter White-ricin one outlined above, I have to concern myself with whether his email might have something to do with inside knowledge — the pop-culture equivalent of a seemingly random notion dropped casually by a stockbroker friend that might eventually lead to an insider-trading charge.

“Do you know something?” I typed in my reply to him, which may have been in capital letters. “If you do, and you just said it, I’m never speaking to you again.”

“How could I possibly?” he answered. Later, he sent me a remarkably well thought out series of endgame scenarios. The Nazis win. Walt wins. Jesse wins. It was all a dream. A random car crash kills all the main characters — because sometimes that’s just how life works.

Some of this speculation was wild guessing for the sake of wild guessing, and some of it was rooted in the hard evaluation of evidence: Why, for example, were Walt and Jesse pictured on the cover of Entertainment Weekly covered in blood and dirt? Clearly the series ends in a great cloud of blood! And dirt!

Either way, I open each of Jeff’s emails with great hesitation. He’s just doing what the rest of the Internet is doing: guessing publicly. A different friend sent me a blog post that examines a few possible outcomes. I immediately deleted it. Friends emailed me prediction after prediction from Entertainment Weekly articles, all of which were probably incredibly insightful. I trashed them all, unread. New York magazine’s culture site, Vulture, seemed to be all “Breaking Bad,” all the time. So I unfollowed it on both Twitter and Facebook.

As we adjust to a new climate of TV — one in which each season of a popular show is dissected, in real time, in an incessant, ongoing conversation on the Internet — I realize my fresh predicament: I have been longing for this cultural moment, one in which my obsessive love for TV is vindicated. Yet now I find I can’t escape these conversations quickly enough. The more adept I get at Twitter, the more of Jeff’s emails I receive, the more Entertainment Weekly issues I pore over, the less I enjoy the actual show when it’s actually on.

I can’t deny how much fun it is to talk over a TV show, to think and overthink, and then overthink the overthinking. But anticipation of what might happen is now as fearsome to me as information about what did happen. Speculation is the new spoiler.

* * * *

We’re a society that has coined a special word specifically to describe the malicious or simply careless act of giving away a plot point in a TV show or movie. And we’ve trained ourselves accordingly: We know not to go on Twitter and Facebook on, say, a Sunday evening if we don’t want to know what happened on “Mad Men” or “Breaking Bad” or “Homeland” or “Game of Thrones.” (In fact, if you are unfortunate enough to live on the very coast that has created the culture you are consuming, you know to avoid all social media and some actual news sites starting around midafternoon.) To people who watch these shows days later on Hulu or iTunes or the DVR or Roku, we endure hours, even days, of excruciating SPOILER anxiety. I’ve perfected a method of sort of scanning Twitter with intentionally blurred vision, finding information relevant to life outside the confines of my TV habit while averting my eyes from anything remotely plot-related.

Yet when it comes to speculating about what might happen, it’s a free-for-all. Each of Jeff’s imagined scenarios, each out-of-left-field guess on some random person’s Twitter feed, plants a new seed in my brain about a possible outcome. Then when I finally watch the show, that outcome is right there alongside me, distracting me from appreciating the ingenuity and creativity of the actual episode. Someone mentioned on Twitter a Salon writer’s theory that Pete’s obsession with an office window on “Mad Men” last season spelled sure demise via a high-floor plunge, and (SPOILER) though it didn’t, it was all I thought about whenever I saw Pete for the rest of the season.

One growing pain of the new TV-as-worthy-art movement is a need to understand how to talk about shows and how that conversation is different from how (and when) we talk about movies. Unlike movies, TV seasons are doled out in weekly increments. Movies are a different animal. You watch them in one sitting from beginning to end. And though there are people like my father who like to call out obvious plot designations for sport, you can usually make it through a movie mostly uninterrupted. A movie’s narrative can wash over you; its mood can grab hold of you — if it’s good, you are locked under its spell for two hours.

But what if the thing you’re watching gets interrupted at a series of climactic intervals, leaving days or weeks between episodes? In that case, you have two choices. You can wait to see what happens. Or you can send emails and Twitter-debate what might happen: Will Tony Soprano die? Will Peggy quit? Are they all in purgatory after all?

Is this conversation worth what you lose as a result? On one hand, there’s some very interesting conversation about these shows. I have a hunch that the presence of such smart discussion online leads to ever smarter shows on TV. In many of the showrunner interviews I’ve read, there’s an emphasis on the continuing feedback that interaction with fans and culture writers can provide. The conversation is essential to them. Moreover, the conversation is fun.

Yet when you engage in it, you’re sacrificing something else: a virginal view of the material yet to come. I propose that this alternative — not speculating, debating, worrying, postulating — can be just as rewarding, if not more so. Think of watching TV in the primitive days before Twitter. I was a wreck for the several weeks (ancient SPOILERS ahoy) that Bobby Simone died his excruciating, inevitable, yet-I-held-out-hope-until-that-last-episode death on “NYPD Blue.” Another of my favorite shows, “Six Feet Under,” ended long before social media could inform me that of course they all die in the end. Of course they do. No doubt one or many of you smart people out there would have guessed that long before it happened. And instead of sitting in shock during the finale, my hand clutching at my heart, I’d have been forced to make a mental tally of which of my friends called this one correctly, like the results of a Super Bowl or an Oscar pool.

You can have a great conversation. Or you can truly experience a show. But, I’m increasingly convinced, you can’t do both.

* * * *

Am I making a big deal out of nothing? Maybe. But my whole life — the part not spent watching TV — is already a constant consideration of What Might Happen. In the car, I map out three moves ahead to see who it is that is texting in another car and might cut me off and kill me. At home, I remove tiny Legos from the carpet in anticipation of my husband’s stepping on a sharp edge and screaming. I turn down the ceiling fan so that I don’t get a stiff neck. If we aren’t going to make the turkey burgers by Thursday, we should at least freeze the meat!

TV’s magic, for me, is that it absorbs me completely into its world: a sustained universe in which I can forget about outcomes for a while. Yes, I care what’s going to happen, obviously, but that’s not the same as caring about guessing what’s going to happen before it happens. Make no mistake: I might be in it for the laughter and the tears, but the surprise is what keeps me riveted.

I know that I sound like a total buzz kill. I fully acknowledge that, for some people out there, it’s possible to enjoy both the speculation and the show equally. I watched “Orange Is the New Black” and “House of Cards” in the lonely, bingeing way that Netflix prescribes, and I missed the buzzy excitement, the common ground for anxiety, the loud, loopy concurrent conversation. Despite all that, I’m through with speculating. You (and Jeff) can watch TV the way you watch a horse race, ticket in hand, sweaty to see if you got it right. I prefer to watch it with wonder, to see something unfold that I could never have imagined. Or rather, that I might have imagined but chose not to instead.

post #90639 of 93709
Business Notes
Amazon starts Sunday delivery with US Postal Service
By Alistair Barr and Donna Leinwand Leger, USA Today - Nov. 11, 2013

Amazon.com unveiled a new partnership with the U.S. Postal Service to deliver online orders from the world's largest Internet retailer on Sunday for the first time.

The service started this weekend in the Los Angeles and New York metropolitan areas and Amazon plans to expand it to a large portion of the U.S. population in 2014, including Dallas, Houston, New Orleans and Phoenix.

Amazon is not charging extra for the new service, so members of the company's popular Prime service will be able to buy products on Friday and get them by Sunday for free. The service also applies to non-Prime members, who can get free five to eight-day shipping on orders of at least $35 (up from $25 previously).

Amazon has been spending billions of dollars building new warehouses around the world so it can deliver products more quickly. The company hopes that adding Sunday as a delivery option will generate more sales.

"The three big pieces of growth for us are selection, lower prices and speed," said Dave Clark, vice president of worldwide operations and customer service. "Adding an additional day is all about delivery speed. An Amazon customer can order a backpack and a Kindle for their child and be packing it up on Sunday for school on Monday."

The deal is also a welcome new source of revenue for the financially struggling U.S. Postal Service, which has been trying tap into the growth of online shopping.

"It will certainly help. The fastest growing segment is the package business," Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said. "The future of package delivery is a seven-day-a-week schedule. We've got the capacity to do it."

The postal service expects to deliver 420 million packages this holiday season, a 12% increase over last year, but it is in a precarious financial condition. The organization lost $15.9 billion in its last fiscal year and expects a loss of $6 billion this year.

In September, the postal service said it would seek to raise the price of a First-Class stamp from 46 cents to 49 cents. That price hike, which would kick in Jan. 26, and increases for postcards and international mail would generate $2 billion in revenue, it said.

Amazon is increasingly delivering its own packages, through new services such as AmazonFresh, its online grocery business. The company will also start delivering packages itself in some parts of London in coming weeks, Clark said.

However, the company still needs carriers such as USPS, United Parcel Service and FedEx to help it cover the so-called last mile to most people's doorsteps. And the USPS is the only delivery service that reaches every address in the nation – 152 million homes, businesses and post office boxes.

"We are leveraging our technology and infrastructure to get packages to USPS so they can create an incremental day of package delivery," Clark said. "This helps them and it helps our service too."

post #90640 of 93709
TV Notes
Conan O’Brien, Greg Daniels, Al Jean Spin Harvard Lampoon Yarns
By Sean Fitz-Gerald, Variety.com - Nov. 10, 2013

Three high-profile alumni of the Harvard Lampoon, the university’s undergraduate humor publication, gathered Sunday at USC to discuss “The Simpsons” and the steps to a successful career in comedy, among other topics.

Conan O’Brien, Greg Daniels and Al Jean, all of whom worked together on “The Simpsons” in the 1990s (Jean remains showrunner of the Fox toon), took part in a panel discussion about the Lampoon’s impact on Hollywood.

Lawrence O’Donnell (MSNBC’s “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell”) moderated; Jim Downey, a “Saturday Night Live” alum, was expected, but couldn’t make the sesh that closed out USC’s second annual Comedy @SCA fest.

Although Downey was absent, the panelists lauded his trailblazing efforts as the first to go from the Lampoon to “SNL,” noting that he paved the way for many at Harvard.

“I didn’t know what I was going to do, I didn’t know how I was going to do it,” O’Brien said, of his decision to follow Downey into the world of comedy writing. “But I remember thinking it’s not going to be medical school, it’s not going to be law school, the male modeling is not going to happen, and it’s going to be, definitely, me being in show business.”

Daniels, who was O’Brien’s writing partner when they left Harvard, recalled the hardships that they endured after heading to Los Angeles in 1985. The two taught SAT prep courses, shared a $600 car and tiny apartment, and bit their fingernails over stressful three-week contracts.

O’Brien remembered being so stressed out that he gave himself shingles — in one eye. He also told the aud about the pains of working as a secretary for an attractive woman at a suede and leather house, which he likened to the set of a contempo porn film.

“Give a white male from Harvard a frickin’ chance is what we’re here to say,” O’Brien quipped.

O’Donnell, who worked as a writer on “The West Wing” before landing his own MSNBC talkshow, was more of a ringleader than a moderator. He handed a majority of the question-asking duties over to the packed house at the Eileen Norris Cinema Theater. But he did elucidate some of the differences between writing for drama and comedy — at least in terms of stress.

“The only thing that could make us feel better about our jobs was looking at the comedy guys,” O’Donnell said, noting comedy writers’ long hours and seemingly endless rewrites. “The things you’re going for (as a drama writer) are not actually as difficult to achieve as a laugh.”

O’Brien acknowledged that laughs are definitely tough to get — and the money jokes don’t materialize out of thin air. Comedy writers are definitely subject to Malcolm Gladwell’s rule of having to put in 10,000 hours before you ever start to become proficient.

“Anybody who makes a living doing comedy developed this mechanism when they were two or three years old,” he said. “It’s a hyper-developed defense mechanism. … This is all I had. I couldn’t fight, no girls were interested, I couldn’t sing, this is all I had. And I developed it and developed it and developed it — and it’s sad.”

O’Brien, Daniels and Jean said their tenure at the Harvard humor mag had a big impact on their sensibilities.

Jean applauded the humor mag’s lack of nepotism, underlining the fact that the Castle isn’t just filled with a bunch of East Coasters that know each other — you have to be picked. He defined the Lampoon’s sensibility as: “If you trust us, you’re an idiot.”

Group reminisced about their time spent in the Castle, with O’Brien highlighting one of his favorite memories: a John Candy anecdote.

O’Brien, who served in the lofty role of president of the Lampoon, was tasked with greeting and showing Candy around. He said it was Candy — in between dinner toasts and éclair binges — who gave him his best advice for comedy: “It’s not something you try,” Candy told O’Brien.

Daniels said the best advice he ever got came from O’Brien, who always took himself seriously and wouldn’t let the duo do any “crap work.” Then, Daniels — after being buttered up by O’Brien as a wizard of comedy writing — gave some advice of his own.

“Put your writers together like a baseball team,” Daniels said, elaborating that the people who are stronger at story and character should be in the upper, more senior level roles, and those better at jokes, should be younger, less-experienced scribes.

Jean said he took inspiration from “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” and “The Simpsons’” James L. Brooks, who told Jean that even though “Simpsons” was “an animated show, you have to believe that they’re real characters.”

“That’s infused in all our best moments,” Jean said.

The trio indulged in their most memorable “Simpsons” work — mostly at the expense of O’Brien, who became the butt of a panel-long joke for an episode he penned in for season four, titled “Marge vs. the Monorail.”

Many have remarked that “The Simpsons,” 25 seasons deep, owes its longevity to Brooks and Matt Groening’s mission to keep the toon as realistic as possible. O’Brien admitted that because the “Monorail” episode dipped into the surreal more so than others, he was chided once for “breaking” the show.

But that fear of breaking something funny is not the worst thing in the world. In a way, it’s necessary.

Said O’Brien: “Insecurity drives every performer, and anybody who isn’t nervous or a little bit insecure before they get up onstage is a bad performer.”

The Lampoon panel closed out the second annual Comedy@SCA fest, part of USC’s Comedy@SCA initiative, an interdisciplinary pathway through the school’s cinematic arts curriculum.

post #90641 of 93709
TV Notes
'Downton Abbey' Renewed for Season 5
By Michael O'Connell, The Hollywood Reporter's 'Live Feed' Blog - Nov. 10, 2013

Downton Abbey still stands. The Emmy-winning drama from Julian Fellowes has been renewed for a fifth season -- make that series, for fans in its native U.K. -- and will continue to air on PBS' Masterpiece Classics and ITV.

The period piece, which recently wrapped its fourth season in Great Britain raking an average audience of 11.8 million viewers, won't see its stateside return until Jan. 5. That lengthy delay has yet to dampen Downton's ratings momentum. The third run grossed 24 million viewers, making it PBS' most-watched drama to date.

"Like millions of other Downton fans, I can’t wait to see what’s next for the Crawley family,” said PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger. “We’re proud to be the home of this extraordinarily entertaining series, and, along with our stations, we look forward to sharing season five with U.S. audiences."

Though Downton Abbey's fourth season is technically in the can in the U.K., the annual Christmas special -- which will conclude the U.S. run on February 23 -- has yet to air.

Downton Abbey is a Carnival Films and Masterpiece co-production, with EP Fellowes still shouldering all of the writing duties.

“Audiences have enjoyed their regular Sunday evening visits back to Downton once again this autumn and we are thrilled to produce a new series of the show next year," added EP and Carnival managing director Gareth Neame. "We promise all the usual highs and lows, romance, drama and comedy played out by some of the most iconic characters on television. All the actors and makers of the show continue to be humbled by the extraordinary audience response and want to take the show from strength to strength next year.”

Though a Downton renewal was more than likely, given the series' massive international popularity, it was not obligatory. The series has lost two cast members in the last year -- including one, Dan Stevens, due to the lack of commitment required of TV actors in the U.K. -- and the production is demanding on Oscar-winning Fellowes, who remains a hot commodity outside of the series.

"As far as we know, we’re all doing season five next year," Neame told reporters at the Television Critics Association this past August. "Beyond that, we really don’t know."

For now, PBS is likely very anxious to continue to reap the unprecedented buzz that surrounds their pop culture darling.

“As American audiences ready themselves for the January 5th premiere of season, our devoted Downton fans will rest easy knowing that a fifth season is on the way,” said Masterpiece EP Rebecca Eaton.

post #90642 of 93709
Critic's Notes
The Fandom Menace
By Orlando Jones, HuffingtonPost.com

Although I'm not one of the regulars on ABC's new fantasy series Once Upon A Time In Wonderland I've nevertheless tumbled down the rabbit hole into the land of fandom for Sleepy Hollow, the show I actually am on.

It's no secret that Sleepy Hollow is one of the surprise hits of this television season, renewed for a second season after airing just three episodes. The audience response has been tremendous, demonstrated by the countless fan pages that began appearing shortly after the show's premiere.

The Sleepy Hollow Fandom immediately embraced the plots, characters and relationships, creating and sharing their own original art and stories (fan fiction, or fanfic, for short). They are legion, but the epicenter of their interaction is on Tumblr, the most exciting social platform on these streets that celebrates diversity, demands accountability (or at the very least authenticity) and promotes a level of interaction that is unlike anything I've experienced. Far more thoughtful analysis of the Tumblr phenomenon can be found elsewhere, but I can only say that it has completely transformed how I interact with fans and I ain't ever going back.

Fandom, for the uninitiated, is an audience subculture, often dismissed as the nerds/geeks who get lost in the fantasy of a book, game, televisions series or movie. I'm proud to count myself among them; submitting to the siren song of a well told story (regardless of its platform of origin) can be soothing, intoxicating, and ridiculously satisfying. There are no side-effects, no hangovers, and in most cases there's no jail time. Fandom is the thinking (wo)man's drug.

Since I've immersed myself in these subcultures throughout my life (read: comic book geek), it's only natural that I feel right at home interacting with Sleepyheads, the fans of Sleepy Hollow. Most of them are a savvy, sophisticated bunch with an uncommonly quick and cutting wit. Sleepyheads don't mince words. They're inquisitive and outspoken. They know their stuff. They know my stuff (and will call me out on things when necessary). And they never miss a beat.

Free Shipping

Fandom provides its own useful jargon, from which I borrow freely. One term I like is shipping -- short for relationshipping. Yes, I'm geeking out on you, but you're more familiar with shipping than you realize. Think of the super-couple name smoosh Brangelina or the now defunct TomKat. Sleepy Hollow shipping created Ichabbie, the yearned-for coupling of our main characters Ichabod Crane and Detective Abbie Mills. The flames of shipping are fanned by UST (unresolved sexual tension) real or perceived. Like the tension between Abbie and Ichabod Crane aka Ichabbie. Crane is actually married to the witch and current inhabitant of purgatory Katrina Crane but that's a whole different conversation that I will save for another post. A lot has been written about the amazing Nicole Beharie's portrayal of Lt. Abbie Mills, a woman of color who (like Scandal's Olivia Pope) transcends the stereotypes of female and minority representation and adds depth and nuance to her interaction with the equally amazing Tom Mison, who plays Ichabod. Regardless of how the relationship with these characters evolves, Ichabbie is canon.

Some Sleepyheads even ship Ichabod with my character, Frank Irving (mostly because I am a troll and have encouraged it), thus spawning Ichaving, or as I like to call it, Craving.

Mr. Jones, Tear Down This Wall

You'll find no shortage of me on the interwebs -- I'm on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and all points in between (what happens on Snap Chat stays on Snap Chat). I create and share GIFs and memes like a veritable boss. I comment, respond and interact with the Fandom in any way possible, including live blogging and answering questions on a marathon-length Reddit AMA. I live tweet during East Coast and West Coast airings of the show. I do these things for my own enjoyment -- and hopefully, yours. But even if I wasn't part of the Sleepy Hollow cast, I'd still be part of the Fandom. They've welcomed me in, and I'm grateful for their hospitality, humor and support (even those skeptics who are waiting for "the other shoe to drop")

Some say all this fan interaction could be construed as breaking the fourth wall -- the invisible boundary between artist and audience. I think it's fair to say that any wall separating me and the Fandom is forever broken, à la Berlin circa 1989. I strongly believe in acknowledging and interacting with the audience, eliminating barriers of all kinds, and making real connections with people whenever possible. If that's wrong, I sure as hell don't want to be right. I didn't choose the fangirl life; it chose me.

I invite all Sleepy Hollow fans -- both casual and obsessed -- to keep watching. Trust me when I tell you we've only just begun.

Sleepy Hollow airs Monday nights at 9/8c on Fox.

Orlando Jones is an actor and comedian.

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TV Review
‘The Queen Latifah Show,’ almost there
As a talk show host, she's so easy to like, and so watchable
By Tom Conroy, Media Life Magazine

A lot of people on TV are good at acting nice. It’s harder to figure out who really is nice. When it comes to performers who host daytime talk shows, one way of judging is to see how many of their famous collaborators from other projects are willing to slum a little and drop by for a visit.

Judged by that standard, Queen Latifah must be very nice. John Travolta (her co-star in the movie musical “Hairspray”), Steve Martin (“Bringing Down the House”), Dolly Parton (“Joyful Noise”) and Ray Romano (the “Ice Age” movies) have shown up on her new syndicated talk show, “The Queen Latifah Show,” since its debut this September.

Will Smith, with whom she appeared on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” appeared on the show’s second episode, but he’s also one of its executive producers.

Latifah’s warmth and charisma make her always pleasant to watch, and they help her attract a decent grade of celebrity on most days. But her interviews are superficial and unsurprising. Segments highlighting do-gooders are predictably heartwarming, but they don’t add enough to make the show stand out.

Last Friday’s episode featured Johnny Knoxville, the star of MTV’s “Jackass” and the movie “Bad Grandpa.” Latifah walked him rather methodically through his biography, but since he’s articulate and relatively underexposed, the interview had interesting moments.

queen latifahAsked whether he pranks family members, Knoxville says that he dictates joke messages when he sends his mother flowers: A card shown onscreen read, “Dear Mom: Ever since you got out of prison, you have been a different person….I hope the judge takes that into consideration at your next trial.”

Following this was a visit from Dan, a Michigan man who spends his days and his money delivering free coffee to people in cancer treatment centers. Unfortunately, the segment was overshadowed by all the mentions of the popular chain where Dan buys his coffee, which donated a $10,000 check and gave him a visit to Seattle so he could meet the company’s CEO.

The next guest was Rico Rodriguez, who plays the young Manny Delgado on the ABC sitcom “Modern Family.” Glib and well coached, he got big laughs doing an impression of his co-star Sofía Vergara.

In a brief segment called “Shoes or Lose,” a woman from the audience answered three easy multiple-choice questions about pop culture, winning three pairs of shoes in the process. The segment would have been completely uninvolving but for the fact that the contestant was a U.S. Army sergeant who just returned from nine months in Afghanistan.

To fill the last few minutes of the hour, Latifah introduced a video clip of two kittens hugging and yawning. She looked slightly mortified.

queen latifah2Tuesday’s episode featured Ellen Pompeo, star of ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy.” Latifah’s questions were run-of-the-mill: She asked whether Pompeo’s husband gets jealous when she shoots a love scene and whether her daughter gets jealous when she shoots a scene with her TV children.

A good sport, Pompeo participated in a quiz in which she and Latifah rapped rhymes with the last word missing. Latifah rapped, “Ellen, congratulations on your new baby boy/Your ‘Grey’s’ stethoscope will be his new…” An audience member correctly guessed “toy.”

An interview with Kat Dennings, the star of CBS’s “Two Broke Girls,” went a little further afield: They discussed the concept of “cake fries” and Dennings’ risqué guest shot as a teenager on “Sex and the City.”

On the heartwarming beat, Latifah introduced a woman named Claudia who has taken in more than 90 foster children in the last 16 years, helping many of them get into college. Eight of the girls came onstage to hug Claudia, and Latifah announced that a well-known appliance company was going to give her a new kitchen.

A segment in which Latifah appeared at a benefit for an empowerment camp for black teenage girls was riddled with mentions of the makeup brand with which she has a contract, including a scene of her getting said makeup applied.

Latifah has such aplomb that one hesitates to criticize her for letting the show be over-commercialized. In fact, one hesitates to criticize her for anything.

Most of the moments that sound so lame above appeared less so onscreen thanks to her self-possession.

Latifah has enough clout to insist that the plugs be dialed back and to insist on digging a little deeper into her celebrity guests’ lives. With her regal presence, she could make this a show that’s fit for a queen.

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TV Notes
PBS' 'American Experience: JFK' Focuses on Politics - Eventually
By David Sicilia, TVWorthWatching.com - Nov. 10, 2013

Fifty years ago this month (Nov. 22, 1963), America’s youngest elected and most debonair president was gunned down in Dallas. It is a fitting occasion for television retrospectives on the Kennedy presidency, and the industry is delivering. Some of the specials are crassly exploitative and vacuous, but we expect substance and balance from PBS’s stalwart American Experience franchise, which presents a new two-part JFK documentary this week.

Do we get it? Sort of.

There’s no escaping the youth, vigor, and glamour of John Fitzgerald (“Jack”) Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier (“Jackie”) Kennedy. Pop writers and filmmakers have long drooled over the “Camelot” White House, which Jackie redecorated in refined Americana, with an eye to high European (especially French) culture. Making television history in 1962, she escorted reporter Charles Collingwood – and millions of smitten Americans – through an hour-long White House tour.

The extended Kennedy clan – from patriarch Joseph P. Kennedy and his nine children (including Jack, Bobby, and Ted) to Jack’s own children – were staggeringly photogenic, thanks both to their natural endowments and to careful posing. This, combined with JFK’s prolific and compulsive womanizing, war heroism, and chronic health problems, amounts to a soap opera dynasty … but one with lots of style.

Part I of PBS’s JFK (shown Monday and Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. ET; check local listings) covers Jack’s upbringing and pre-White House career. This series remains true to the American Experience format of rich visuals, somber narration, and talking heads. Producer/director Susan Bellows has assembled a strong cast of experts, and the original score by Joel Goodman is haunting by unobtrusive.

Few of the key political contemporaries of JFK were still alive to be filmed, but the roster of Kennedy biographers, especially those with university appointments and scholarly credentials, is strong. Robert Dallek, who has also written extensively about FDR, LBJ, Truman, and other presidents, is chief consultant and lead talking head for the series. He is joined by famed Robert Moses and LBJ biographer Robert Caro. (Dallek wins the Heavier New York Accent contest, but not by much; too bad none of these historians sports a Boston brogue.) Timothy Naftali, a noted scholar of the Cold War, lends another valuable voice. We should thank Bellows for not wheeling in the vacuous Michael Beschloss and Douglas Brinkley, as the major networks do much too often.

The oldest Kennedy son, Joe, Jr., was groomed for the presidency, but died on a World War II combat mission. By then, Jack was a war hero, too. After his P.T. boat was sliced in half by a Japanese destroyer, he swam miles to shore with an injured crew member in tow. The injuries Kennedy sustained in that ordeal added to a long list of medical maladies he would endure in his short, eventful life, most notably Addison’s disease. It was no small irony that the ever-smiling Kennedy spent most of his days in excruciating pain, masked by steroids and other drugs, unaided by surgery, and hidden from public view.

Although Joe Kennedy at first doubted that Jack possessed the stamina for politics, he nevertheless threw the full force of his financial and political clout behind his second son’s political aspirations. The program grows threadbare at this stage.

First, it inexplicably treats the family patriarch with kid gloves, referring to the source of his fortune simply as “high finance,” when in fact much of it derived from importing liquor from Europe after Prohibition (and, according to some biographers, probably before, a.k.a. bootlegging). As U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom from 1938 to late 1940, Joseph P. Kennedy supported Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s efforts to avoid war in the face of Hitler’s invasions and escalating demands. Like Chamberlain, Kennedy fell into disgrace because of his position as a Nazi “appeaser.” JFK never uses the term to refer to father or son. For his part, Jack (with his father’s financial support, as always) published his Harvard thesis as his first book, Why England Slept, but over time moved away from his father’s stance. The series gives a convoluted version of this painful episode. Later, it makes no reference to Joseph Kennedy’s widely alleged efforts to buy votes and otherwise rig the presidential election in favor of his son.

Even more disturbing is Part I’s nearly complete lack of attention to the substance of politics. We learn that JFK, as a U.S. congressman, then senator, from Massachusetts, was inspired by the Algerian War for Independence against France, which of course would be echoed in Vietnam. But on the domestic side, there is no hint of what JFK stood for as a candidate or in Congress – not one platform issue, not one cause, not a word. Just the handsome wounded soldier shaking hands dawn to dusk, and hopping into the sack with women usually not his wife.

Fortunately, Part II, on the presidential years, corrects this glaring omission. Some viewers may be surprised by all the attention to foreign relations, but American Experience gets that right.

Kennedy’s first year in the White House was mostly disastrous, thanks especially to the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion, which left Castro in power and deeply embarrassed the new administration. The historical footage assembled and edited for this segment is riveting – my favorite part of the four hours. Cuber, as Jack Kennedy pronounced it, remained a thorn in his side, and nearly brought our hemisphere to nuclear catastrophe during the Cuban Missile Crisis. With the help of Naftali and others, we navigate that complex and harrowing episode without excess dramatization. (Oddly, though, Robert Kennedy is not credited with brokering the Turkish missile quid pro quo that helped end the stalemate).

On the domestic side, the major issue JFK confronted – in spite of his determined efforts to avoid it – was African-American civil rights. Here, with Joseph P., the series is too kind to the Kennedys.

It is true that any president who took a strong stand in favor of civil rights in the 1960s risked losing the solid block of white segregationist Southern Democrats. Yet that is precisely the risk JFK’s successor, Lyndon Baynes Johnson, was brave enough to take. Through a cameo by civil rights activist Andrew Young, the series gives the false impression that most southern blacks in the early 1960s were Lincoln Republicans. They hadn’t been since the New Deal. I’ve never understood why so many black middle class homes back then proudly displayed a portrait of JFK over the mantelpiece. He was, at best, a tepid friend to the struggle for black freedom.

Halfway through these four hours, historian Richard Reeves remarks that presidents do better to lead through words than through deeds. That’s debatable, but, in this case, fits like a glove. With his short pre-presidential political career, his disastrous first year, his weak record on civil rights and his tragic assassination after a mere 1,000 days in the White House, JFK didn’t make a great deal of difference in the policy arena.

But he and Jackie sure were fun to watch … as they are again here.

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Critic's Notes
2-Way Chemistry, Crackle to Fizzle
New TV Series Powered by Pairs, for Better or Worse
By Neil Genzlinger, The New York Times - Nov. 10, 2013

Do they click? Do their characters mesh, and can viewers stand to spend time with them? A lot can go into whether a television show succeeds — time slot, subject matter, budget — but sometimes a series rises or falls on the strength of two pivotal actors. And this season’s new shows offer illuminating examples.

Series with a crucial pairing can be television’s version of a two-hander — “Cagney & Lacey,” “Laverne & Shirley,” “Psych” or any other show with plenty of characters but only two who really matter. The reigning example may be “Bones,” the Fox crime procedural starring David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel as an opposites-attract investigative team. The series and its stars took some time to hone a working formula, yet now, nine seasons in, with the lead characters in a personal as well as professional relationship, “Bones” seems as comfortable as old slippers.

But crucial pairings don’t have to be romantic, and they don’t have to be in a two-character show. Would “Star Trek” have endured had William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy not found a way to sell the odd exchanges between Kirk and Spock?

This fall’s season has brought an assortment of shows that put a lot of weight on the shoulders of two actors. Some are getting it right, some aren’t. Here’s a sampling:

WORKING NICELY The improbable description of Fox’s “Sleepy Hollow” made it seem a novelty entry at best. Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) wakes up in the 21st century and finds that the headless horseman — one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse — is there, too. Crane forms an alliance with a sheriff’s deputy, Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie), to battle the malevolent forces that have been unleashed.

Mr. Mison and Ms. Beharie and the people writing their dialogue have elevated this premise from the B-movie horror concoction it might have become to a witty, smart blend whose characters, despite the fantasy framework, are very believable. Mills and Crane are about as different as two people can be: she’s black, he’s white; she’s Internet-age, he’s pre-electricity. Ms. Beharie and Mr. Mison work these contrasts with a subtle humor that helps offset the gruesome goings-on. The only worry here is whether the introduction of Abbie’s sister (Lyndie Greenwood) partway into the season will disturb their droll chemistry.

WORKING BUT WOBBLY Although NBC is still the butt of a lot of jokes, it may have the fall’s most addictive new series in “The Blacklist.” James Spader is Red Reddington, a creepy criminal who decides he wants to help the F.B.I. and C.I.A. catch even creepier criminals, but only if he can work with Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone), a young F.B.I. profiler.

Mr. Spader is in something of a straitjacket, forced to be annoyingly coy and emotionless. And Ms. Boone’s character is an increasingly improbable combination of dumb and smart, taking an inordinate amount of time to ask the question viewers were asking halfway through the pilot: Might Red be her long-lost father? So far, though, the actors have made this intriguing enough that the show has been worth keeping up with, Ms. Boone managing to be alternately vulnerable and annoyed, while Mr. Spader does his cryptic thing. The writers, though, have some work to do to keep the premise plausible.

WASN’T WORKING BUT IS BEGINNING TO The new fall show with the most attention-getting pair of names atop the bill might well have been the CBS comedy “The Crazy Ones.” It stars Robin Williams, a comedy god to many, as an aging adman and Sarah Michelle Gellar of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fame as his daughter and co-worker.

The pilot didn’t bode well for this series. Mr. Williams was doing his Robin Williams shtick, while Ms. Gellar and everyone else around him was acting. It was clumsy and, worse, laugh free.

But as the weeks went along, a funny thing started to happen, in several senses. Ms. Gellar began to learn how to react to Mr. Williams’s excesses — she can be deadly with the deadpan expression — and, more important, began to assert her own comedy credentials. Mr. Williams is still doing his Robin Williams imitation, but Ms. Gellar has become the most amusing actor on the show. Among other things, that has helped sell the notion that her character is indeed the daughter of Mr. Williams’s unhinged one.

NOT WORKING, PART 1 In “Back in the Game” on ABC, James Caan is a crusty former minor league baseball player who ends up coaching a team of kiddie misfits that includes his grandson. The pairing here isn’t so much Mr. Caan and that child, who is played by Griffin Gluck. It’s Mr. Caan and the entire team, which includes a flamboyantly gay boy, a pudgy lad and other unathletic types.

Mr. Caan adopts the growly, reluctant coach character familiar from numerous movies with this same structure, and the boys deliver their klutzy, cutesy moments. But none of it is particularly convincing. Plotlines not related to the team are sometimes amusing, but on the ball field, the show is content to just regurgitate a creaky formula; none of the actors, young or old, have found a way to make it new.

NOT WORKING, PARTS 2 AND 3 The Fox sitcom “Dads” might be the most awful new comedy that has survived into November. (Inexplicably, it has even been extended.) It’s about two friends in their 30s (Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi) whose fathers move back in with them. This might sound like an ensemble comedy, but it’s more like two two-handers in the same show: a pair of sons and their dads.

Mr. Ribisi’s father is played by Martin Mull, but there must have been a mix-up at the hospital, because there’s no way that Mr. Mull’s character, who is a moron, could have begat Mr. Ribisi’s. Sure, not all children are younger versions of their parents, but these two seem like strangers.

Mr. Green and Peter Riegert, who plays his father, are even less comfortable together. Both have respectable television credentials, but they are wasted by this witless show, forced to swap distasteful one-liners without zest or conviction. There may be real father-and-son pairs who interact like this, but you wouldn’t want them in your living room.

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TV Notes
Angela Lansbury Opposes NBC’s ‘Murder, She Wrote’ Remake
By Nellie Andreeva, Deadline.com - Nov. 11, 2013

When NBC started to put together their Murder, She Wrote remake starring Octavia Spencer, one of the first things they did was reach out to original star Angela Lansbury with an offer to be part of the new series. Now she has spoken against the remake. “I think it’s a mistake to call it Murder, She Wrote,” Lansbury told the AP, “because Murder, She Wrote will always be about a Cabot Cove and this wonderful little group of people who told those lovely stories and enjoyed a piece of that place, and also enjoyed Jessica Fletcher, who is a rare and very individual kind of person … So I’m sorry that they have to use the title Murder, She Wrote, even though they have access to it and it’s their right.”

Written/executive produced by Alexandra Cunningham and exec produced by David Janollari, the new Murder, She Wrote is described as a light, contemporary procedural in the vein of Bones or Fargo that follows a hospital administrator and amateur sleuth (Spencer) who self-publishes her first mystery novel. Lansbury spoke highly of Spencer’s talent but said she would like to see it put to good use elsewhere, not in Murder, She Wrote.

This is a problem that arises when trying to reboot recent series. Former Charmed stars Alyssa Milano and Rose McGowan also recently came out against CBS’ plan to remake the WB show. But having a pre-sold title is important for the networks, with two of the three new dramas that launched well this fall relying on recognizable monikers, Sleepy Hollow and Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. And delving too deep in the title libraries risks only bringing out older audiences as was the case with NBC’s Ironside, a remake of the 1967 series.

Edited by dad1153 - 11/11/13 at 10:37am
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TV/Business Notes
Starz Shuffles Encore Channels Lineup to Target Key Demos
By Georg Szalai, The Hollywood Reporter - Nov. 11, 2013

Premium TV company Starz is shuffling the lineup of its eight Encore channels and adding new programming to "super-serve" key demographic groups that over-index in the premium space, including African-Americans, Hispanics and baby boomers.

Starz said the changes, which take effect Dec. 2, will further strengthen Encore, which launched in April 1991 and which the company likes to point out is the most widely subscribed U.S. premium pay TV service with a near-record 35 million subscribers as of Sept. 30.

In one major change, "Encore Black" will replace the "Encore Drama" channel. The rebranded network promises to showcase popular programming for the African-American community, including movies, comedy, such as Martin Lawrence’s 1st Amendment Stand Up, and such TV shows as What’s Happening!!, Diff’rent Strokes, as well as 227 and Amen.

African-Americans have historically over-indexed in terms of premium channel viewership, according to the company.

For the December launch of Encore Black, the network will feature a spotlight on Samuel L. Jackson with such films as Unbreakable, Losing Isaiah and Freedomland.

In another channel change, "Encore Love" will become "Encore Classic" with a focus on boomers. The repositioned channel promises "a mix of evergreen movies and classic TV series, such as Murphy Brown, Magnum, P.I. and Night Court. Classic movies will air at 9 p.m. every day. The film lineup will include Kramer vs. Kramer, American Graffiti, Independence Day, Stand By Me, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, Good Will Hunting, Tootsie, Basic Instinct and The Notebook.

The network said the new Classic network fits Encore's "Playing Favorites" tagline particularly well.

Meanwhile, the "Encore Suspense" network will get a new daily 9 p.m. horror block dubbed “The Graveyard Shift.” It will air until approximately 5 a.m. Starz, which earlier this year became a separate company with a stock market listing after a spin-off from John Malone's Liberty Media, will use movies from its own Anchor Bay Entertainment arm for the horror block along with other studios' films.

Horror titles set to air in December include Night of the Living Dead, The Fly, Silent Night, The Amityville Horror, The Dead Zone and Resident Evil: Retribution.

Encore is also looking to expand its Hispanic following by moving "Encore Espanol" to a lower pay TV tier. "For the growing Latino audiences who want 24/7 Spanish-language premium content, Encore Espanol will now be made available to multichannel video distributors in the United States to be part of their popular, lower-cost Spanish-language channel bundles," the firm said.

After the changes, Encore's eight premium channels will be Encore, Encore Action, Encore Classic, Encore Westerns, Encore Suspense, Encore Black, Encore Family and Encore Espanol. Encore Westerns is the firm's most-viewed thematic channel, followed by Action.

“The new and improved Encore family of channels and services are aligned to super-serve its many constituent demographic groups,” said David Baldwin, executive vp of program planning for Starz. “Growth in Latino and boomer populations and continued over-indexing in TV usage by African-American audiences created marketplace opportunities for us to add incremental consumer value to the Encore services. Along with the new nightly horror block, these enhancements will benefit Encore subscribers for years ahead."

He added: "Encore truly is "playing favorites" with these improvements to the channels and the Encore On Demand and Encore Play services,” the latter of which is the firm's authenticated online offering.

"We knew that we had a great product," Baldwin told The Hollywood Reporter about the modifications. "But we didn't want to rest on our laurels. Usually, premium TV providers start with their inventory and have that dictate what the thematic channels should be. We went the other way and started thinking about the most important demos we can serve even better."

And he added: "If you keep things the same, [services] get old. The premium services have been in the same basic configurations for a long time."

He said the company would also ensure to continue serving the Encore Drama and Love audiences by folding up content for those channels into the flagship network and other Encore services. "We don't worry that we'll lose the female audiences that are the dominant audiences of Love and Drama," Baldwin said.

Encore Suspense has drawn a good amount of viewership, "but we hope to build that further with the horror block," he explained. "Horror is very strong and persistent genre favorite in America. The block is an attempt to increase the usage on that channel."

Baldwin also told THR that to get some of the popular 1980s shows added to Encore, the firm struck deals with the likes of Sony, Universal and Warner Bros. "The shows were available or became available" as the company was looking for content, he said. "And we were very happy to get Murphy Brown, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary in December this year as Encore Classic launches. We like Magnum PI and those shows because they just take our audiences back to a different time in their lives."

Encore households spend an average 17.3 hours per month watching Encore channels, according to Starz. The Encore viewer base is more mature than that of Starz, because of its programming focus and somewhat lower price.

Starz is led by CEO Chris Albrecht. As of Sept. 30, 2013, the company had 57 million overall subscriptions. In the third quarter, Starz subscriptions increased by about 1 percent, for the first time hitting the 22 million subscriber milestone, while subscriptions for the Encore services stood at 35 million.

The Dec. 2 rollout of the new brands and offers will be supported by new channel logos, graphics and audio packages. With Encore not having as big a marketing budget as Starz's original series, which has been a key focus for management, much marketing of the changes at Encore will be done with distribution partners.

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Critic's Notes
Petty Theft
Crime-Oriented Reality TV Recycles More Scripted Series, Movies
By Brian Lowry, Variety.com - Nov. 11, 2013

It’s hardly a surprise to see a reality-TV show pretty slavishly seek to replicate scripted drama, and particularly its most durable genre, the crime procedural. What’s notable, at least this month, is how brazen and sometimes lazy producers and networks have become about it.

In 2010, Jerry Bruckheimer produced a short-lived NBC drama titled “Chase,” about a fugitive-apprehension team of U.S. Marshals, spearheaded by a couple of Texans and patrolling the Southwest. Beginning Nov. 26, TNT is essentially remaking it on the cheap, with the reality show “Marshal Law: Texas,” centering on “the elite Gulf Coast Violent Offenders and Fugitive Task Force” and produced by … Jerry Bruckheimer.

“Marshal Law’s” competition will include “A Crime to Remember,” an Investigation Discovery series that premieres two weeks earlier and which makes no bones about its inspiration in revisiting crimes from the 1950s and ‘60s: Originally titled “The Bad Old Days” – and featuring main titles that conspicuously resemble the movie “Anatomy of a Murder” – the six-episode program “is Investigation Discovery’s homage to the critically acclaimed ‘Mad Men,’” ID chief Henry Schleiff explains in the press release, adding that the “high-end recreations” play out “like a period thriller.”

Well, OK, at least ID believes in borrowing from the best — and brings a refreshingly gleeful quality to the process — having also built series around concepts that from a distance look a whole lot like “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Seven.”

For viewers, this represents a form of shorthand, enabling those who consume a fair amount of movies and TV to feel as if they’ve joined such programs in progress. That’s helpful, especially if you simply happen to stumble upon one of them.

In terms of execution, the two shows are quite different. “Marshal Law” goes for a more verite-style feel, while the glossy recreations in “Crime to Remember” are about as close to scripted as reality gets, albeit with veteran reporters who covered the actual events testifying over most of what would otherwise be dialogue.

The general idea behind each, though, continues a longstanding trend to take stories viewers were accustomed to digesting as episodic crime and made-for-TV movies and transform them into smaller, less expensive bites. (Tellingly, some of ID’s series contain two crime stories within each hour, distilling the essence of a TV movie into one quarter of the time.)

“Marshal Law” will be paired with the return of “Boston’s Finest,” another show that seeks to provide a kicking-down-doors adrenaline rush with a cinematic producing pedigree (actor Donnie Wahlberg).

Cynically, one might ask why Bruckheimer, in particular, needs to mine this genre, having claimed such a sizable patch of real estate with his scripted stable of chalk-outline dramas, led by “CSI.” Then again, he’s hardly alone in that regard, with “Law & Order” producer Dick Wolf having expanded his portfolio to currently include a crime-solving TNT reality show, “Cold Justice” – a cross between “Cold Case” and “CSI,” and certainly not to be confused with the network’s upcoming missing-persons show “APB With Troy Dunn.”

Still, unlike most of the criminal acts we see in these reality shows, as cultural transgressions go, these cases of petty theft amount to misdemeanors.

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SUNDAY'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
ABC Dramas Eye Lows, Fox 'Toons Drop as Sunday Night Football Surges
By Matt Webb Mitovich, TVLine.com - Nov. 11, 2013

On a Sunday when most every piece of original programming was down week-to-week, ABC’s bubble drama Betrayal took one of the biggest hits, plunging 20 percent to a 0.8 demo rating, tying its series low. In total viewers, Betrayal mustered 3.3 mil.

Opening ABC’s night, Once Upon a Time did 6.6 mil and a 2.1, down 13 percent and two tenths (tying its season low). Revenge led out of that with 5.5 mil/1.4, down 13 and 18 percent (matching its series low).

Fox’s animated line-up was down across the board with demo declines ranging from 16 percent (for American Dad) to 21 percent (The Simpsons).

Dominating Sunday night TV was NBC Sunday Night Football’s coverage of the Cowboys-Saints game, which with 19.3 mil and a 7.0 was up more than 20 percent from last week’s fast nationals.

CBS’ numbers are scrambled due to staggered starts, but as of right now, Amazing Race (~9.3 mil/1.9) and Good Wife (~9.7 mil/1.5) look down a smidgen, while The Mentalist (~7.7 mil/1.3) quite possibly held steady.

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Critic's Notes
Bianculli's Best Bets
By David Bianculli, TVWorthWatching.com - Nov. 11, 2013

CBS, 8:00 p.m. ET

Could this year’s storyline proceed any more slowly? Apparently, yes, because tonight it goes backwards – to another flashback. (And since this whole series is a flashback, that seems a bit like piling on.) But this one’s worth the trip back down memory lane, because it makes room, once again, for a very special guest star: Bryan Cranston, in one of his first post-Breaking Bad TV series appearances.

IFC, 8:00 p.m. ET

IFC presents another Stanley Kubrick film, this one, from 1999, the last film he completed before he died. Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, then married, star, in a story whose cryptic, dreamlike nature is a faithful reproduction of the original, obtuse source material: Arthur Schnitzler’s weird 1926 novella, Dream Story.

TCM, 8:00 p.m. ET

This 1975 Steven Spielberg blockbuster usually is shown, and best enjoyed, at the start of summer. But here, it kicks off the latest TCM night devoted to movies from its imported Odyssey of Film documentary series. The latest episode, Number 11, isn’t televised until 2:30 a.m. ET, so it’s another one to set your recorders to catch. It’s called The 1970s and Onwards – Innovation in Popular Culture and Around the World, and includes not only segments on Jaws, but on The Exorcist, Star Wars, and even Enter the Dragon, the Bruce Lee international hit that is shown at 12:45 a.m. ET.

PBS, 9:00 p.m. ET
Part 1 of 2.
There are so many John F. Kennedy specials presented on TV this month, all tied to the 50th anniversary of his assassination, they seem duplicative as well as overly familiar. The best thing this particular four-hour documentary brings to the table is a stronger understanding of the source, intensity and treatment of JFK’s back injuries and other physical maladies. But it leaves out a lot that’s crucial to the understanding of the Kennedy clan’s power base and motivations, though it’s certainly a serious enough study to watch. Concludes tomorrow night. Check local listings.

HBO, 9:00 p.m. ET

Premiering on Veterans Day, this new documentary pulls you in from the opening seconds, and never lets go. Set at the country’s one solely dedicated Veterans Crisis Line, in upstate New York, it films responders as they pick up calls and speak to veterans, often trying to persuade them not to commit suicide. The callers are not identified, and we never hear their voices on the other end of the line – only the words of the Crisis Line workers, as they try to simultaneously gather information, dispatch assistance and calm and help the callers who have reached out for help. There’s never a sense that anyone is acting differently because the cameras are present, because the stakes are too high for that. And director Ellen Goosenberg Kent, who also directed HBO’s superb Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq, honors her subject by crafting a documentary that is intense and emotional without being at all exploitive. And for the record: the Veterans Crisis Line phone number is 1-800-273-8255, and it receives calls 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

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TV/Nielsen Notes
For USA, ‘Modern Family’ Falls Short of Expectations
By Keach Hagey, Wall Street Journal - Nov. 11, 2013

In the television industry’s eternal search for younger viewers, USA Network has decided to emphasize comedy over crime. So far, however, few people in the ad industry are smiling.

The centerpiece of USA’s prime-time lineup this fall season is reruns of the broadcast hit “Modern Family,” which proved popular with a younger audience on the ABC broadcast network. TV networks, including USA, the top-rated U.S. cable channel, have found that group increasingly hard to retain.

USA paid top dollar for “Modern Family” and, starting in September, has aired it as many as five nights a week.

It was so confident “Modern Family” would do well that it negotiated higher ad rates than advertisers had previously paid for the same prime-time slots occupied last season by shows including reruns of aging crime dramas like “NCIS” and “Law and Order: SVU.”

But, after six weeks, “Modern Family” has averaged 9% fewer viewers in those time slots than last year in the 18-to-49-year-old demographic most coveted by advertisers, according to Nielsen. Its total audience is down 40%.

What’s more, the show has delivered only about half the viewers in the 18-to-49 group that USA guaranteed, requiring the cable network to give advertisers “make goods”—extra ad time—to offset the shortfalls, media buyers say.

“The audience is not delivering what USA, and therefore what a lot of people, thought it would deliver,” said Sam Armando, senior vice president of strategic intelligence at media buying firm SMGx.

To be sure, the show’s viewership has risen steadily since its cable debut, according to Nielsen. In the most recent week, the network’s ratings for the time slots in which it aired were up from a year earlier in the 18-to-49 demographic, according to Nielsen data provided by USA.

USA says that even the most successful reruns on cable take months to find their footing. So far this year, the show’s audience has been an average of 11 years younger, more affluent and better educated than the average USA viewer. That’s the group that USA’s advertisers “want to reach,” says Linda Yaccarino, president of ad sales at NBCUniversal, the Comcast Corp. unit which owns USA.

“Modern Family has always been a long-term strategic play for us, and we are pleased with its week-to-week double-digit growth,” Ms. Yaccarino added.

Still, the trajectory of “Modern Family” underscores the challenges facing cable channels that build wide swaths of their schedules around reruns, whose audiences have declined industrywide over the past decade.

Those declines, exacerbated by the growing number of reruns on streaming services, like those from Netflix Inc. and Amazon.com Inc., have helped spur investment among cable networks in original programming.

“Modern Family” reruns aren’t available on Netflix or Amazon, but they have begun to air on Fox stations in addition to USA this season.

New episodes of the show continue to air on ABC, a unit of Walt Disney Co.

While USA has its share of original series, including the current series “Suits” and “Burn Notice,” the network, like many other general-entertainment cable channels, has relied heavily on re-airing shows that first became popular on broadcast TV.

Among the top 35 cable channels, some of the sharpest declines in the 18-to-49 demographic in the past six seasons have been on USA, according to Michael Nathanson, an analyst at research firm MoffettNathanson.

“Cable networks that rely on acquired content are going to have a harder time driving ratings,” Mr. Nathanson said.

USA generated more than a billion dollars in profit for NBCUniversal last year, and this year it is on track to boost that performance. After years of establishing itself as a home for drama, USA plans to use “Modern Family” to help launch its first original sitcoms.

That switch is itself part of the problem, media buyers say. “On USA you have basically a drama network, which for many years positioned itself as a place to see quality dramas,” said Christopher Geraci, president of national broadcast at media buyer Omnicom Media Group. “Trying to turn that into an environment where a popular sitcom would do well is quite challenging.”

The cost is also high. USA is paying the maker of “Modern Family,” Twentieth Century Fox Television, around $1.4 million an episode, said people familiar with the matter, more than the $1.2 million an episode Time Warner Inc.'s TBS is paying for the reruns of “The Big Bang Theory,” a much bigger hit. Twentieth Century Fox Television is a unit of 21st Century Fox, which until June was part of the same company as Wall Street Journal owner News Corp.

“They paid at the top of the market for ‘Modern Family,’ as they needed to, to acquire it,” said Gary Newman, chairman and chief executive of Twentieth Century Fox Television. “I just think it’s going to take a while to change the habits of viewers to get them to go to USA for this show.”

Edited by dad1153 - 11/11/13 at 10:35am
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Music Choice is adding/changing/deleting channels 12/10/13 so this will be the new list:
Fios has them not sure who else.

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TV Notes
CW’s ‘Originals,’ ‘Tomorrow People’ and ‘Reign’ Get Full Season Pickups
By Jethro Nededog, TheWrap.com - Nov. 11, 2013

CW viewers can now rest easy if they were worried about getting too attached the network’s freshman dramas.

The youth-skewing network has ordered full seasons from “The Originals,” “The Tomorrow People” and “Reign.”

“We’re excited about the creative momentum the producers have established for all three of our new series, and now our fans will have the chance to see the full stories unfold for them this season,” said CW’s president Mark Pedowitz. “With the additional episodes ordered, plus two new dramas and new reality for midseason, we’ll be able to continue our commitment to adding more original programming all year long.”

“The Originals,” though it hasn’t quite captured the same audience numbers of its progenitor, “The Vampire Diaries,” is doing solidly by CW standards on Tuesdays with an average 1.0/3 in adults 18-49 and 2.1 million total viewers, according to numbers through the end of October.

Meanwhile, “The Tomorrow People,” averaging a .8/2 rating among adults 18-49 and 2 million viewers in its post-”Arrow” spot on Wednesdays, is doing slightly better than “Reign,” which has a .6/2 and 1.8 million viewers on Thursdays after “The Vampire Diaries.”

All three series are performing better than returning series, “Beauty and the Beast.”

This season has some marked changes versus previous seasons on the network. It has steered itself beyond the high school dramas of “90210″ and “Gossip Girl” for more genre dramas. Pedowitz has said that he intended on broadening the network’s programming to interesting results.

The season to date has seen a 9 percent rise in year to year in total viewers as well as a 10 percent increase among the adults 18-49 while their target audiences have been flat year-over-year in both adults and women 18-34.

At the same time (and by nature of the viewing habits of its younger audience), DVR usage and digital viewing are giving after the air date is giving The CW 31 percent of its total broadcast audience. Forty percent of the network’s total overall audience for its season premieres this fall came from digital viewing.

Additionally, the network’s early adaptation of online, on-demand viewing has given it a 50 percent increase over last season. And, the three new series picked up on Monday see 84 percent more digital viewing than The CW’s new series last fall.

“In just a few seasons, we have built a much stronger primetime schedule. Our on-air ratings are up year to year, and our digital viewing continues to grow exponentially,” said Pedowitz.

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TV Notes
Robert Kirkman's Exorcism Drama 'Outcast' Lands at Cinemax
By Lesley Goldberg, The Hollywood Reporter's 'Live Feed' Blog - Nov. 11, 2013

EXCLUSIVE: The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman is expanding his TV universe to the world of exorcisms.

Following a multiple cable network bidding war, Cinemax has landed Outcast, a drama based on Kirkman's upcoming Image/Skybound comic of the same name, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. The cable network has given a script commitment with large penalty to the project.

The comic and potential series centers on Kyle Barnes, who has been plagued by possession since he was a child. Now an adult, he embarks on a spiritual journey to find answers, but what he uncovers could mean the end of life on Earth as we know it. The comic will debut in 2014.

Kirkman will pen the script and executive produce alongside Circle of Confusion's David Alpert (The Walking Dead). The drama, which was first announced in March, hails from Fox International Channels -- the company that distributes Walking Dead worldwide and a strategic partner on the zombie drama who identified AMC's ratings juggernaut during its script stage. It will mark Kirkman's first time writing a pilot.

"At FIC, we’re committed to creating compelling, innovative television with A-list writers like Robert Kirkman, and with Cinemax we have a partner that is as passionate as we are about this very unique project," said FIC exec vp original development and scripted programming Sharon Tal Yguado. "Outcast is unlike anything on television and has the potential to become another global phenomenon."

The Walking Dead represents cable's biggest drama among total viewers and key demographics. In its recent fourth-season premiere, the series continued to shatter its own ratings records, drawing more than 16 million total viewers and again ranking as TV's No. 1 scripted series among adults 18-49. It has bested NBC's Sunday Night Football multiple times in the demo this season and earned an early season-five renewal.

"Despite the success of The Walking Dead, Outcast is only my second foray into the horror genre. I think Kyle Barnes is every bit as compelling as Rick Grimes and demonic possession is way scarier than zombies -- so this is going to be fun," Kirkman said. "Starting a new project is like setting off on an long journey and I couldn't ask for better travel companions than David Alpert and Sharon Tal Yguado and I'm thrilled to be a part of what Cinemax has planned for the next few years."

For Kirkman, this marks the writer/executive producer's fourth comic adaptation in the works. In addition to AMC's The Walking Dead, Kirkman is prepping a scripted companion series to the ratings hit with EPs Gale Anne Hurd and Alpert. The untitled project, which AMC hopes to have on the air in 2015, is also based on Kirkman's long-running zombie comics and is the third series (including Chris Hardwick-hosted gabfest The Talking Dead) tied to the franchise.

Additionally, Kirkman's Image/Skybound title Thief of Thieves is also in development at AMC with Alpert attached. Kirkman, who oversees Image Comics imprint Skybound as CEO, will also executive produce an adaptation of David Schulner's comic Clone for Universal TV, though a network is not yet attached.

Talking to reporters recently about Outcast, Kirkman said the title marks the first time since The Walking Dead that he's done a comic that is a very "real-world dramatic take on a horror concept, and this is going to be me doing that again."

Kirkman said Outcast will explore similar themes to The Walking Dead -- most notably the urgency that comes with loved ones affected by an outside force (possession instead of whatever is behind the zombie outbreak). "There are some similarities but hopefully we'll be [covering] new ground that makes this very different from The Walking Dead," he told reporters. "This is going to be a big, epic story with a lot of characters and we'll probably lose a few along the way. I don't know if it's quite as much of a bloodbath as The Walking Dead has turned out to be but there certainly is an element of, 'No one is safe.' "

For their part, Kirkman said FIC got an early look at the comic Outcast and committed early to the project. As with The Walking Dead, Kirkman will be deeply involved. "It's a fun balance to strike, but the two projects are kept very separately in my head," he said of the process. FIC is the international partner on Walking Dead and broadcasts the series in 125 countries.

Kirkman is repped by CAA, Circle of Confusion and Katz Golden.

For Cinemax, Outcast comes as HBO's sibling network continues to build its original scripted roster. In addition to the second season of Banshee and fourth and final season of its first original primetime series, Strike Back, the cable network also has Steven Soderbergh's Clive Owen original drama The Knick set for 2014. On the development side, Cinemax is prepping drama pilot Quarry.

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Nielsen Notes (Cable)
Alec Baldwin’s MSNBC Show Falls To New Low, CNN’s ‘Unguarded’ Takes A Hit
By Dominic Patten, Deadline.com - Nov. 11, 2013

You would not be saying TGIF in cable newsland if you were Alec Baldwin or Rachel Nichols last week. The actor’s 10 PM MSNBC show Up Late and the former ESPN reporter’s Unguarded on CNN both hit demo lows on November 8. With guests Cristina Tzintzun of the Workers Defense Fund and the Coalition for the Homeless’ Mary Brosnahan talking immigration reform and anti-poverty programs, Up Late With Alec Baldwin pulled in just 101,000 viewers among adults 25-54 on Friday. That’s a 41% drop from the 172,000 demo results of the one-hour show’s October 11 debut. While Baldwin’s total viewers were up to 395,000 from the 354,000 low of its November 1 show, the demo was down from that show’s 130,000. For CNN’s Unguarded, the numbers were even more dire. The Nichols-hosted sports-themed show not only hit a demo low but a viewership low too. The 10:30-11 PM show had a very weak 41,000 viewers in the news demo and just 133,000 viewers overall. That’s a 55% free fall in the demo from Unguarded’s already soft October 25 premiere. It’s also a 54% slide from the 288,000 overall viewers who watched the show’s launch.

On the other hand, just over a month in its new 10 PM slot, Sean Hannity‘s Fox News Channel’s show had a very good night. Focusing on the Affordable Care Act AKA Obamacare with a studio audience, the 60-minute political show had its best Friday since FNC revamped its primetime in early October. Hannity received a 24% boost in viewership since October 11 with 1.794 million watching. That’s also up from the 1.597 million who tuned on November 1. In terms of the 25-54 demo, Hannity had 337,000 viewers. That’s up from last week’s 310,000 in the 25-54s and steady with the 336,000 that the show had in its first Friday in its new slot. Overall, FNC won Friday’s cable news primetime battle with 2.314 million total viewers and 394,000 in the key demo. MSNBC was second in both categories with 731,00 viewers on average between 8 PM and 11 PM with 164,000 in the demo while CNN had also half the total viewership with 372,000 and a mere 100,000 among adults 25-54.

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Critic's Notes
Eight Great TV Series (or Mini-Series) You Probably Haven’t Seen
By Matt Zoller Seitz, Vulture.com (New York Magazine) - Nov. 10, 2013

Who needs new TV shows? In this week’s issue of the magazine, our critics show us what’s in their personal collections of old culture, much of it you might’ve missed. All of it is available online, somewhere. Herewith, Matt Zoller Seitz on the eight great TV series you probably haven’t seen and seven great single episodes (or TV movies) you can find online.


1. The Comeback (2005)

This HBO faux-reality program from Sex and the City showrunner Michael Patrick King follows washed-up sitcom actress Valerie Cherish (Lisa Kudrow) as she struggles to reignite her career. It’s one of the greatest one-season wonders in TV history, as corrosively funny and honest as early Albert Brooks: It’s hide-under-the-couch humor.

2. The Richard Pryor Show (1977)
You know Pryor as the foulmouthed storytelling genius of standup comedy and the mostly watered-down clown of scripted features, but you might not have experienced another facet of his talent: as a variety-show impresario who tackled race and class with a frankness never seen before (or, arguably, since).

3. The Kingdom (1994)
Of all the horror series influenced by Twin Peaks, this Danish hospital soap from Lars von Trier (Antichrist, Dogville) might be the greatest; it’s periodically made available via legal streaming services, but the DVD is out of print and only a few copies are available, so it’s worth going the extra mile to seek it out. Just don’t watch it by yourself.

4. Star Blazers (1979–1981)
The vogue for dubbed Japanese cartoons began in the seventies with Battle of the Planets, but this epic series about a refurbished battleship setting sail across the galaxy to save an apocalypse-ravaged Earth remains the reigning masterpiece of that era—and its serialized storytelling was ahead of its time.

5. The Newsroom (1996–2005)
The CBC’s great comedy about the intellectual and ethical compromises at a daily-news show has the same name as HBO’s Aaron Sorkin lecture-fest, but it’s a hundred times smarter and much subtler. It’s great—Larry Sanders Show great, as a matter of fact.

6. The Singing Detective (1986)
Dennis Potter’s musical psychodrama is about a detective (Michael Gambon) who memory-trips while bedridden by a horrendous skin disease; watch even an hour of it, and you’ll instantly sense that it’s one of the most profound creative influences on post-Sopranos TV and that Tony’s sixth-season sojourn in dream-space owes it quite a debt.

7 and 8. Clone Wars (2003–2005) and Samurai Jack (2001–2004)
The world’s greatest living action filmmaker isn’t Michael Bay, James Cameron, or Steven Spielberg: It’s animator and illustrator Genndy Tartakovsky, who absolutely killed it with his cel-style Samurai Jack (a postapocalyptic sci-fi fantasy) and Clone Wars in the aughts. Every sequence is a marvel of bold, simple graphics, whip-crack timing, and strategic use of silence and overwhelming noise.


1. The Lathe of Heaven (1980)

PBS aired this adaptation of Ursula K. Le Guin’s novel about a man whose dreams come true, and its reputation has deservedly deepened with time. A touchingly young Bruce Davison plays the dreamer, George Orr; the film’s “futuristic” landscapes are mostly just newish buildings, and the score is all analog synthesizers except for the cover of “With a Little Help From My Friends,” used in a sequence involving a humanoid tortoise with a lightbulb for a face. Singular and striking.

2. The Last Dinosaur (1977)
This Japanese and American co-production about a big-game hunter (a pretty clearly soused Richard Boone) tracking a T-Rex at the center of the Earth sounds silly, but if you can appreciate the old-school miniature landscapes and Godzilla-style creature costumes (and you should, because they’re amazing), the net effect is strangely haunting.

3. Masters of Horror “Homecoming” (2005) and “Cigarette Burns” (2005)
This Showtime horror anthology from Stephen King buddy Mick Garris was hit-and-miss, but these two episodes—a post-9/11 antiwar nightmare by Joe Dante, and a cinephile’s fantasy-slash-nightmare of the ultimate find, by John Carpenter—are classics ranking with the best of The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits.

4. All in the Family “Two’s a Crowd” (1978) and “Edith’s 50th Birthday Parts 1 & 2” (1977)
Incredible as it might seem now, this socially aware Norman Lear sitcom isn’t the constant pop-culture presence it once was; if you’ve never sampled it, start with these three classic episodes. The first reveals the roots of Archie Bunker’s bigotry and anger. The others put Archie’s wife, Edith, in a situation that’s as grimly funny as it is horrifyingly tense, then deals (touchingly) with the aftermath.

5. Frank’s Place “Pilot” (1987)
Unless you were one of the maybe eight people who watched this great comedy during its brief 1987–88 run on CBS, you have no idea why it keeps getting mentioned on lists of the great one-season shows of all time. Plug that knowledge gap forthwith by watching the pilot, which still feels uncategorizably fresh 26 years later.

6. Hill Street Blues “Trial by Fury” (1982)
Ask anybody of a certain age, inside the TV industry or out, when they first realized that television could be art, and there’s a good chance they’ll mention this episode scripted by a young David Milch (Deadwood), in which precinct captain Furillo goes beyond the law to bring “justice” to a couple of rapists and suffers a real moral price.

7. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman “Pilot” (1976)
Produced by All in the Family’s Norman Lear and directed by Joan Darling and Jim Drake, this star vehicle for comic actress Louise Lasser was one of the boldest series of the seventies: a laugh-track-free send-up of soap operas that was also a surprisingly probing and intense critique of capitalism. Yes, really!

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TV Notes
On The Air Tonight
TUESDAY 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 - Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
9:01PM - The Goldbergs
9:31PM - Trophy Wife
10PM - Scandal for Real: The Top 10 Political Scandals of the Century (Special)
* * * *
11:35AM - Jimmy Kimmel Live! (Robin Williams; Sarah Hyland, Ariel Winter, Nolan Gould, Rico Rodriguez and Aubrey Anderson-Emmons ("Modern Family''); The Killers perform; Modern Family Feud: Kids Edition)
12:37AM - Nightline

9PM - NCIS: Los Angeles
10PM - Person of Interest
* * * *
11:35PM - Late Show with David Letterman (Michael J. Fox; Lorde performs)
12:37AM - The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson (Ron Perlman; Lupita Nyong'o)

8PM - The Biggest Loser
9PM - The Voice (LIVE)
10PM - Chicago Fire
* * * *
11:34PM - The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (Matt Lauer; comic Carrot Top; Cults perform)
12:36AM - Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (Mariah Carey; author Malcolm Gladwell; Capital Cities perform)
1:36AM - Last Call with Carson Daly (Jonas Cuaron, Wayne Coyne & Kevin Parker, The Flaming Lips)

8PM - Dads
8:30PM - Brooklyn Nine-Nine
9PM - New Girl
9:30PM - The Mindy Project

(check your local listing for starting time/programming)
8PM - The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross - Making a Way Out of No Way (1897-1940)
9PM - JFK: American Experience (Part 2 of 2, 120 min.)

8PM - Porque el Amor Manda
9PM - La Tempestad
10PM - Mentir Para Vivir

8PM - The Originals
9PM - Supernatural

8PM - Marido en Alquiler
9PM - La Reina del Sur
10PM - Santa Diabla

11PM - The Daily Show With Jon Stewart (Joe Scarborough)
11:31PM - The Colbert Report (Historian David Christian)
12:01AM - @Midnight (David Koechner; Judd Apatow; Nikki Glaser)

11PM - Conan (Dax Shepard; Regina Hall; Sean Patton)
Midnight - The Pete Holmes Show (Rob Corddry)

11PM - Chelsea Lately (Singer Avril Lavigne; comic Josh Wof; comic April Richardson; comic Loni Love)

Check Local Listings - Arsenio (Patricia Heaton; Jesse Williams; Chilidish Gambino)
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Technology Notes
New Consoles on the Way, but Gaming Isn’t the Same
By Nick Wingfield, The New York Times - Nov. 12, 2013

The new video game consoles from Sony and Microsoft about to hit store shelves are almost certain to be hot holiday gifts this year. The uncertainty for the games business is: What happens after Santa leaves?

Consoles have been the thumping heart of the video game industry for decades. But the new PlayStation 4 from Sony and the Xbox One from Microsoft will enter a landscape reshaped by tablets, smartphones and Facebook, all of which provide games at a lower price and in greater abundance.

Already, there is evidence that mobile devices have chipped away at the sales of traditional game systems, and console game sales have declined for several years. So the gaming industry is keeping an eye on whether the new generation of machines from Sony and Microsoft — the leading console makers along with Nintendo — can reverse the trends for an extended period of time.

Most people in the games business are predicting a strong start for the new consoles, in large part because of pent-up demand from hard-core gamers, the most dedicated players who are less hesitant about spending hundreds of dollars on new hardware. It has been seven years since Sony released its last game console, and eight years for Microsoft, years longer than the typical life cycles for new systems.

“I think there’s going to be initial hype, some fun games, tons of money spent on marketing,” said David Gardner, a venture capitalist with London Venture Partners and a former senior executive at Electronic Arts, the games publisher. “I just don’t know, three or four years from now, whether it will feel as fun as it will this Christmas.”

The real test for the new consoles will probably start during the holidays next year, when the production lines for Sony and Microsoft start pumping out bigger supplies of the products and a more circumspect set of customers begins considering the benefits of the new hardware.

To reach the biggest possible audience with their systems, both companies want to attract people with entertainment options like video through a Netflix app. But game consoles face a lot of competition for those functions from less expensive devices, like those offered by Apple, Roku and others.

While the consoles are being pitched partly as full entertainment systems, gaming remains the central focus. Sony and Microsoft have both bumped up the processing power of their machines, enabling greater graphical fidelity in games and more realistic effects. One big difference between the two systems is that the Xbox One will cost $500 — $100 more than the PlayStation 4, which goes on sale Nov. 15 in the United States and Canada. The added price stems from Microsoft’s inclusion of Kinect, the company’s camera and sensor-based system for playing games without a controller, with every console.

The higher price of the Xbox One has raised eyebrows in some quarters of the games business, but Microsoft says it is justified by the system’s extra bells and whistles. For example, the Xbox One can automatically recognize the identity of someone who steps in front of the TV set, presenting different members of a family with lists of games and television shows customized to their preference. The Xbox One pulls in video from conventional cable boxes, providing slick programming guides and allowing viewers to channel surf using voice commands.

“We’re trying to bring a broader value proposition to gamers,” Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president for marketing and strategy for Xbox, said. “We’re saying, ‘We’re building a best-in-class game offering and we’ve also brought an all-in-one entertainment system.’ ”

One challenge the new consoles could face as they court a more mainstream audience is demonstrating that their games are a big enough improvement over what came before. It often takes years for developers to figure out how to harness all of the additional horsepower under the hood of the new consoles.

The introduction of the last generation of consoles, however, coincided with the mass adoption of high-definition television sets, which enabled a huge advance in the look of games. Because HDTVs are now commonplace in homes with consoles, games on the new systems may require players accustomed to high-definition to really squint to see the difference from today’s games.

Cliff Bleszinski, a game designer who helped create the Gears of War series of console games, said the new systems might not pass what he called “the mom test,” overcoming the skepticism of parents who control the family purse strings.

“It’s not an exponential leap in graphical fidelity,” he said of the new consoles. “It’s incremental.”

Global physical and digital console game sales last year were $24.9 billion, or about 39 percent of total game sales, PricewaterhouseCoopers, the consulting firm, estimates in its latest entertainment and media report. That is down from $29.4 billion in 2008, when console sales accounted for 56 percent of total game sales.

The sales drop partly reflects a natural waning in sales that occurs as one generation of consoles ages. This time the drop was especially sharp because of the collapse in sales of Nintendo’s game systems.

There has also long been suspicion that console makers deliberately make fewer consoles than they are capable of to encourage people to camp out in front of stores and other stunts that create excitement around their products, though manufacturers deny it.

“One thing you do not want to have is overstock,” said John Taylor, an analyst at the Arcadia Investment Corporation, a stock research firm.

Microsoft and Sony are hoping to avoid any sort of fast fade. Both companies are confident about how the consoles will sell at first.

In an interview, Mr. Mehdi said the company was sold out of preorders for the Xbox One and expected to have a limited quantity available in stores when the console went on sale in the United States and other major markets on Nov. 22.

“We’re making them as fast as we can,” Mr. Mehdi said.

Sony says there have been over a million preorders of the PlayStation 4. Jack Tretton, president and chief executive of Sony’s United States games division, says he believes that strength will continue in the years to come. He said mobile devices had helped introduce many people to games, some of whom would come around to the kinds of immersive, big-screen games that consoles are designed to provide, he predicted.

“There are people who would never envision playing a game in years past who have now gotten into it because of smartphones and tablets,” Mr. Tretton said. Even if mobile games continue to eat into the overall share of the business held by consoles, the new systems could still be big hits, said John Riccitiello, the former chief executive of Electronic Arts. “There might be a big enough pie for everyone to win,” Mr. Riccitiello said.

post #90660 of 93709
Originally Posted by dad1153 View Post

Critic's Notes
Eight Great TV Series (or Mini-Series) You Probably Haven’t Seen
By Matt Zoller Seitz, Vulture.com (New York Magazine) - Nov. 10, 2013

1. The Lathe of Heaven (1980)
PBS aired this adaptation of Ursula K. Le Guin’s novel about a man whose dreams come true, and its reputation has deservedly deepened with time. A touchingly young Bruce Davison plays the dreamer, George Orr; the film’s “futuristic” landscapes are mostly just newish buildings, and the score is all analog synthesizers except for the cover of “With a Little Help From My Friends,” used in a sequence involving a humanoid tortoise with a lightbulb for a face. Singular and striking.

The Lathe of Heaven is a masterpiece. I watched it on PBS in 1980 and waited years for it to be available on home video/disc, which I now own.
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