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Hot Off The Press: The Latest TV News and Information - Page 3051

post #91501 of 93816
TV/Business Notes
NBC Begins Swarm of Ads to Lift ‘Today’ Back to Top
By Bill Carter, The New York Times - Jan. 6, 2014

The “Today” show, so accustomed to winning, has grown impatient with losing.

Starting on Monday, NBC’s morning news program, which has found itself second to “Good Morning America” on ABC for the last 16 months, will begin what amounts to an all-out counteroffensive. A promotional campaign will be splashed across every media outlet owned by NBC’s parent company, Comcast, and will be centered on a new tag line for the program: “Rise to Shine.”

Those words can cover a multitude of meanings for a show that starts at sunup, but the subtext is unmistakable: NBC wants — and surely needs — its flagship news program to rise again.

“The ‘Today’ show is the crown jewel,” said Deborah Turness, the new president of NBC News. “In my universe it is absolutely No. 1. My priority from the day I walked in the door in August was to rebuild the show and get it back to the top.”

Working against any rapid reversal of fortune is the fact that trends in morning television tend to settle in for long hauls. “Today” beat “G.M.A.” every week for a record 16 straight years before it collapsed two years ago under a rash of publicity over its removal of Ann Curry as co-host and the subsequent media flogging of Matt Lauer for his presumed role in her dismissal.

“G.M.A.,” meanwhile, has had a big ratings advantage for most weeks since September 2012. The 2013 calendar year ended with that program, which had an audience of 5,727,000, leading “Today” by an average of 708,000 viewers over all and 59,000 in the category that matters most in television news: viewers between the ages of 25 and 54.

But the ABC show’s ratings dominance has not been quite so pronounced of late. “Today” has cut its lead in the 25-54 age category, from 63,000 viewers to 18,000 in the last three months. In the final nonholiday week of 2013, “Today” even regained the top spot in the category, winning that group by 18,000 viewers.

(Among the other players, in November “CBS This Morning” was up 16 percent year to year, though it still trails the other networks by about two million viewers. On cable, “Fox and Friends” remains the leader, though at 240,000 viewers in the 25-54 group, it does not challenge the broadcasters; MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” with 133,000 such viewers, and CNN’s “New Day,” with 100,000, are well back.)

NBC’s recent 25-54 victory dovetails well with its plans to give “Today” what it calls its “symphony promotion,” meaning a confluence of messages about the show across all 22 NBC and Comcast properties, from cable channels like USA and the Golf Channel, to mailers inside bills to Comcast cable customers.

The decision to go all out came from the NBCUniversal chief executive Stephen B. Burke, who approved the weeklong full-court promotion. (“Today” will receive a week’s worth of mass promotion on two other occasions during the year.)

“One of the things we’re trying to do now is put a spotlight on the show because we think we’ve got something we want people to see,” Mr. Burke said. “And we think if people see it, they’ll like it. So we’re rolling out all the parts of the company to promote it.”

He said that NBCUniversal had assembled similar promotional pushes behind shows like “The Voice” and “The Sound of Music” — as well as movies like “Despicable Me 2” — with great success.

In interviews, NBC executives and the show’s chief anchors, Mr. Lauer and Savannah Guthrie, described a sense of confidence that the show was regaining its footing. That perceived turnaround — those interviewed talked of “getting the show’s mojo back” — comes after a round of extensive research for the news division and a kind of retreat for the staff that resulted in a new mission statement and the new tag line.

One key to returning to morning television’s top spot rests in recapturing what Sharon Otterman, who heads research for the news division, described as “lapsed viewers.”

Ms. Turness, the NBC News president, who was brought in from the ITV network in Britain and charged with leading the “Today” comeback, said research indicated that only about 10 percent of the viewers “Today” lost went to “Good Morning America.” The others — more lapsed than true deserters — drifted all across the television landscape. “Those people are get-backable,” she said.

The strategy to do that resides mainly in returning the show to what Ms. Turness called its historical fundamentals, boiled down to three words in the new mission statement: “substance, connection and uplift.”

Mr. Lauer stressed that the first sentence of the statement reads, “We are a news show.” NBC’s conclusion is that its core viewers, who are younger than ABC’s (“Today” almost always wins the subset of viewers between 18 and 49), want more hard news than “G.M.A.” offers. But they also want to connect with the “Today” cast and come away from the show with some positive feeling about their day.

Ms. Guthrie called that “the best legacy of the ‘Today’ show.” And that legacy includes the continued presence of Mr. Lauer.

Ms. Otterman said that in focus groups, the notion of the show losing Mr. Lauer was regarded as the worst thing that could happen. Ms. Turness said that Mr. Lauer would be central to any “Today” comeback.

Patricia Fili-Krushel, chairwoman of the NBCUniversal News Group, acknowledged that the show went “off the cliff” in the ratings after the departure of Ms. Curry, the handling of which was “clumsy to say the least.” It put Mr. Lauer, who had been widely praised as among the best anchors ever to work in morning television, in a dispiriting, defensive position for a time.

“I had many conversations with Matt,” Ms. Fili-Krushel said. “I said, ‘I hate to tell you this, Matt, but we need to just shut up and let something take the story off the front page.’ ”

This week’s promotional campaign is timed to enhance the show’s exposure just before it gets a natural boost during NBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics from Sochi, Russia, in February.

The London Olympics did that in the summer of 2012, and “Today” sneaked back ahead of “G.M.A.” during that period. Then it fell back. The difference this time, several NBC executives said, is that the show is in a better place, with a new look and new confidence.

“You don’t take a selfie when you’re looking your worst,” Mr. Lauer said. “You take a selfie when you think you’re looking pretty good.”

Still, Ms. Turness did her best to temper the growing optimism. “None of us wants to be triumphalist,” she said. “We will win back our viewers one by one.”

At a minimum, the morning competition seems set to be even more ferocious than usual. That’s how “G.M.A.” views it.

“We’re not looking at this in terms of streaks or long-term forecasts,” said Tom Cibrowski, senior executive producer of “G.M.A.” “Every day is a dogfight; 2014 will be a dogfight. We’re not surprised by it and we’re not afraid of it.”

post #91502 of 93816
TV Review
‘Killer Women,’ not to die for (or watch)
There's a feminist message somewhere in this ABC drama
By Tom Conroy, Media Life Magazine

Many TV crime dramas with female heroines have explicit or subtle feminist messages. But the message is heard one way when the heroine is played by Tyne Daly and another way when she’s played by Tricia Helfer.

In ABC’s new series “Killer Women,” Helfer plays a tough Texas Ranger who could be seen as a feminist role model. But her sexuality is so front-and-center, and so much of the drama revolves around her relationships with men, that it’s unclear what she’s supposed to stand for.

Absent a message, the show is simply generic, in a genre that is abundantly represented on TV. Viewers who nonetheless want more of the same will be satisfied. Helfer’s hardcore fans, who fell in love with her on “Battlestar Galactica,” tend to shun this genre entirely.

In the premiere episode, airing on Tuesday, Jan. 7, at 10 p.m., Molly Parker (Helfer), a former state trooper who is one of two female Texas Rangers, helps the San Antonio police department investigate the murder of a local district attorney who is shot at her wedding by a beautiful woman in a tight red dress.

When the killer is apprehended, she says that she was the lover of the D.A.’s husband and that she shot the woman out of jealousy. But Molly senses that the suspect is lying, partly because her nails were chipped and “you don’t shoot the wife of your soul mate without looking like the one he should have picked.”

Molly also tells the local police detective, who has already suggested that she got the Ranger job because of affirmative action, that the woman guessed wrong when asked whether her supposed lover was right-handed or left-handed. She asks him, “Do I need to tell you why a woman would know which hand her lover favors?”

We learn later that Molly is trying to get divorced from a domineering husband, Jake (Jeffrey Nordling), in the meantime living with her brother, Billy (Michael Trucco), and his wife, Becca (Marta Milans). She’s dating a handsome DEA agent, Dan Winston (Marc Blucas), with whom she has a racy sex scene that, in classic TV fashion, is played at first as if it were a pickup. She needs Dan’s cooperation to resolve the case.

She also relies on the tolerance and support of her male boss, Luis Zea (Alex Fernandez). And she wins the suspect’s trust by explaining that they are both victims and have both made mistakes.

Nonetheless, we’re supposed to see Molly as strong and independent.

The episode crams too much exposition and action into one hour. The setup is farfetched — the shooter strides around like a model in a car commercial before committing the crime — and her problems are wrapped up too quickly and implausibly.

Helfer is a striking physical presence, but she adds little to the character that isn’t in the script. When Molly is asked what she’s going to get out of helping the suspect, she says, “Justice.” We hear that, but we don’t buy it.

Molly ropes cattle on her brother’s ranch, she does a shot of tequila before facing the bad guys, and she plays trumpet in a Tex-Mex band. A little local color can go a long way, but in this case, a lot of local color goes a short way.

The creators of “Killer Women” probably shouldn’t have messed with Texas.

post #91503 of 93816
Technology Notes/Critic's Notes
Ultra HD TV: Not Ready for Primetime
By David S. Cohen, Variety.com - Jan. 6, 2014

For more than 60 years, the television business has been a ravenous wolf pursuing the feature film business and its audience. The movie biz started as fat and easy prey. But to put some distance between itself and TV, it adopted a parade of innovations — 3D, widescreen, color, Sensurround, Dolby sound, 3D again, Imax and more — always hoping that a better picture and sound would coax people off their couches. But the living room screen matched the movies innovation for innovation and continued to shear off chunks of the movie audience.

Now, the TV business finds itself the hunted. Its own audience is being torn away by fast and nimble new predators: mobile devices and Web video. The popularity of mobile has transformed the entertainment landscape as quickly and profoundly as TV did in the 1940s and ’50s, and the TV industry is feeling the pressure to quicken its pace of innovation, just as the movies did, lest its networks, affiliates and cablers go the way of single-screen neighborhood movie theaters.

So less than five years since the digital transition in the U.S., which abandoned the standard definition format that had stood for 50 years in favor of HDTV, TV manufacturers are back with another upgrade: “Ultra High-Definition.” As UHD sets begin to appear in retail stores at less-than-astronomical prices, the latest models also will be a featured attraction at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show, Jan. 7-10. Sony Electronics in particular plans to make the technology a focal point of its presentation, perhaps the first of many announcements out of Las Vegas aiming to jumpstart the UHD category. Panasonic, LG, Samsung, Toshiba and Sharp won’t be far behind.

But as industry momentum builds, some skeptics warn that in the haste to ignite TV sales and protect the business as we know it, UHD is being served to the masses without being fully baked.

“We’re being led by the consumer electronics industry to deliver too little, too fast,” warned Chris Johns, chief engineer of broadcast strategy at BSkyB, at a recent technical symposium. “If we deliver something that is ‘Ultra HD lite,’ if you want to call it that, will the consumers see enough of a difference to make them want to buy it? We’re literally walking on the edge of a cliff, trying to identify what standards are going to be in place and when to deliver this content to consumers.”

There are actually two Ultra High-Definition standards in the works, 4K and 8K. The 4K format quadruples the number of pixels on the screen, from 1920×1080 for full-HD to 3840×2160. That’s the format coming to retail now.

In what may be a sign of weak demand, UHD televisions have been marked down considerably from earlier this year, bottoming out at about $3,000 across top brands for the holiday season. That’s still pricey, but it’s a far cry from the $85,000 Sony’s first Ultra HD set commanded in 2012.

With the economy still sputtering in most of the developed world, and the tech underpinnings of UHD still under construction, why press ahead with the new standard at all?

Crucially, consumer electronics companies need something to get consumers excited about, and buying new TVs again. Research firm IHS projects that global TV sales will be down 5% in 2013 vs. the previous year, which in turn was down 7% from 2011. Low demand has forced prices down, so the HD TV market has turned into a cutthroat, low-margin business, where all the top brands offer great quality and must compete mostly on price. UHD gives them a new premium product to sell.

“We saw this in the transition from SD to HD: Resolution is something that consumers see with their eyes; they can believe it,” said Jim Sanduski, VP of strategic product marketing at Sharp. “With content and with affordability, I think consumers respond well to increases in resolution.”

There are some ambitious UHD sales projections to back up Sanduski’s confidence. Research firm IDC sees 2.2 million units being shipped this year. While that represents only 1% of total shipments, the number could reach 10 million by 2017. The Consumer Electronics Assn. projects 450,000 Ultra HD shipments this year, an eightfold improvement over 2013.

The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers maintains that “4K” and “8K” should not be used to describe the two UHD formats, in part because UHD will comprise other improvements beyond extra pixels: the ability to display twice as many colors (though nowhere near all the eye can see or a camera can capture); greater dynamic range (darker shadows and lighter highlights, with more detail in both); a standardized maximum frame rate of 120 fps (very important for sports) and 24-channel sound. Taken together, that entire suite of upgrades will give television more picture detail and more sound channels than most cinemas.

The Intl. Telecommunications Union has published the standards road map for UHD, Rec. 2020, which includes all those enhancements, but few of them have actually been implemented in the first-generation 4K TVs; some of those standards are likely to become obsolete as more of those improvements are introduced. For example, Dolby Labs has already proposed a format that goes beyond Rec. 2020 in terms of brighter whites and colors, as well as much greater contrast ratio.

“One question I and people scattered around the industry have is: Is resolution enough to (make people) change?” asked Curt Behlmer, chief technology officer at Technicolor Entertainment Services.

With their improved delivery of color and dynamic range, UHD TVs may be eye-catching enough to entice consumers to buy even if they expect to watch only today’s HDTV on them. Most UHD televisions will feature built-in upscaling to convert HD content to higher resolution. But if consumers are satisfied with upscaled HD, there’s less reason for producers to incur the expense of upgrading to UHD production.

And those expenses will be substantial. For example, take mobile production trucks, essential for sports, concerts, awards shows and other live events — the kind of programing that’s likely to be a killer app for UHD TV. Outfitting an HD mobile truck from scratch today costs around $11 million, and there are approximately 180 trucks in North America. Some of the gear in those trucks can be used for UHD, but some will have to be replaced. The upgrade costs for those trucks alone, over time, are likely to reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Similar upgrades will be necessary at local stations, studios and networks. The extra resolution of UHD may also force networks and affiliates to spring for even spiffier, more handsome sets than they use to shoot HD, since viewers will be able to see more detail — and more flaws.

Former ESPN 3D topper Bryan Burns, now a consultant, told the recent SMPTE tech summit that to justify the expense of such an upgrade: “What you really need is day-in, day-out programming. … That’s a lot of money, and it’s hard to get done and it’s hard to pay for.”

Thus a chicken-and-egg problem: It’s difficult to justify the expense of UHD without regular programming, and it’s difficult to create regular UHD programming until the upgrades are done. That’s part of what doomed the last push for 3D TV.

However, TV networks and stations remember, to their sorrow, that they got no additional revenue from the transition from standard-def to HD. As David Hill, now senior executive VP at News Corp., complained about the HD transition in 2008: “We got conned. It cost us a fortune to go to HD, but do we get a penny more from the advertisers? Do we get an extra rating point? No. Everybody benefitted but the broadcasters.”

In production, 4K cameras don’t behave quite like HD cameras. They have a bigger sensor, which means they tend to have shallower depth of field. Some argue that shallower depth of field is more pleasing to most viewers — but that will force some videographers to rethink how they shoot.

“A lot of TV shows, including ‘The Michael J. Fox Show’ and ‘The Blacklist,’ are shooting in 4K,” says Peter Crithary, marketing manager for large-sensor camera technology for Sony. But so far, those are mostly single-camera shows that are recorded. The next step, says Crithary, is live 4K production. Sony has just introduced the live-fiber adaptor that will permit its F55 4K camera to be used for live sports, multicamera sitcoms, news and live events.

Sony has been experimenting with shooting such programming in 4K for several months, and claims success with its production of a Tory Burch fashion show and a performance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” of pop duo Karmin on the show’s outdoor performance stage. Both will be available on the 4K TV service that comes with Sony’s first UHD TVs.

Sony also did tests of live 4K soccer coverage at the Federation Cup in Brazil in June. “That will be followed up by the World Cup semifinals and finals in 4K,” says John Studdert, VP of strategic sales for Sony. “That’s going to give us tremendous exposure.”

Even if there’s a seamless transition to professional UHD cameras, there will likely be a period when 4K UHD cameras are used to shoot programs that most people watch in HD. “If you oversample at the beginning, you’re delivering a better HD,” said Johns, “and you’re actually eroding the difference between HD and Ultra-HD.”

Post-production seems like the strongest link in the UHD chain today. 4K post is well-established from feature films, and some existing HD post tools can handle 4K. However, TV visual effects — a critical part of such hits as “Game of Thrones,” “Boardwalk Empire” and more — are likely to become more difficult and costly in the new format. Rendering visuals at 4K resolution simply requires much more computing power, and some tricks and cheats that keep costs down today may not work with the extra detail UHD will reveal.

The vast file sizes of native 4K content are more difficult to store and move around than today’s digital HD files, but as the cost of storage decreases and computer networks get faster, that problem will likely subside.

All the extra data for more pixels, frames, colors and gray-levels would seem like an especially ominous development for broadcasters, cablers and satellite providers, who will have to squeeze all that data into the same size channels they use today for HD. Bandwidth limits kept “HD”-branded TV channels from even using the 1080p “Full HD” format used on Blu-ray disks; broadcasters and cablers use either 1080i or 720p.

But in fact, those companies seem unfazed by the prospect of a UHD transition, in part because a new standard is already in place that should let them send UHD over their existing channels: The High Efficiency Video Coding standard, also known as H.265, which was formally approved and published in 2013. HEVC uses several improvements in compression and takes advantage of increased computing power in broadcast encoders. Before it can be widely used, though, HEVC video decoders must be built into the chips that would be placed inside set-top boxes, TVs and other devices. Those chips aren’t available yet, but they likely will be by the end of 2014. That’s when UHD devices should start to proliferate, and cablers can offer UHD channels.

Broadcasters and pay TV suppliers will be hard-pressed to upgrade quickly once those chips arrive, because a wolf has arrived at their door since the HD transition: over-the-top streaming video providers. YouTube already has 4K content. Netflix has already begun testing streaming in 4K, with CEO Reed Hastings recently stating an intent to be one of the big suppliers of 4K next year. Not to be outdone, rival Amazon declared its own resolve to shoot in 4K, but hasn’t yet made clear when it will begin testing streaming in the new format.

Indeed, TV won’t have Ultra HD to itself for long; smaller screens are expected to play catch-up at CES. Dell is already marketing PCs with 24-inch and 32-inch Ultra HD displays. Panasonic wants to break into the tablet market with a $6,000 4K Toughpad.

Native 4K content will be embedded in companion devices sold along with select UHD sets from Sony and Samsung. UHD standards also have yet to be set for homevideo. Blu-ray disks could deliver UHD to the home, with the help of HEVC and other improvements. The Blu-ray Disk Assn., however, has yet to set a standard for UHD Blu-ray.

Other pieces of tech infrastructure required for UHD at home are falling into place. HDMI 2.0, already available, permits UHD signals to move among devices. The latest WiFi standard provides enough bandwidth for 4K streaming — for consumers with fast Internet service. Google and AT&T are both offering test markets for super-fast, all-fiber consumer broadband services that can support 4K streaming easily.

If all of this seems familiar, it may be because the buzz around UHD echoes the buzz for 3D TV just a few years ago, when 3D was positioned as the next big thing in home entertainment. Many pros still believe in 3D, saying the public never did see how good it can be. But the rollout was bungled, content didn’t materialize, and the public (at least in the U.S.) ultimately decided that it wasn’t excited by 3D (at least as long as glasses are involved).

UHD is easier to show off at retail, though, and it appears the filmed-entertainment industry is migrating toward 4K production anyway. Sony’s Studdert thinks there’s no turning back from UHD now.

“Unlike other things, specifically 3D, which had a great impact, but may have been before its time, 4K is inevitable,” he said. “Anybody who experiences 4K understands this is what they ultimately wants to get to. It’s just a matter of the industry getting the infrastructure in place to support what consumers want.”

post #91504 of 93816
TV Review
New ABC, CBS offerings don't get any points for originality
By Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - Jan. 5, 2014

A new year, new shows from the networks but these first two are old, recycled concepts. And still network executives wonder why cable programs get all the attention.

ABC and CBS introduce dramas that premiere back-to-back Tuesday night. The ABC series is marginally better so let's start with it.

'Killer Women'

From its opening scene of a woman (guest star Nadine Velazquez, "My Name Is Earl") in a tight red dress and heels who pulls out a gun and marches into a church where a wedding is underway, "Killer Women" (10 p.m. Tuesday, WTAE-ABC) tries way too hard to be cool.

The self-conscious attempt at a Quentin Tarantino-style mix of sex and violence -- Hot woman murders a hot bride! A bunch of guys in the congregation chase after her, (they just happen to be packing heat), and open fire as she races away! -- makes "Killer Women" more wannabe than successful cable knockoff.

Tricia Helfer (Six on Syfy's "Battlestar Galactica") stars as Molly Parker, one of the first women to become a Texas Ranger, a law enforcement arm that pitches in when local police don't have the resources to solve a criminal case.

In the premiere, Molly butts heads with a San Antonio cop who resents her promotion from state trooper to the Rangers

Ms. Helfer makes an entertaining, tough Ranger but there's almost nothing believable about the characters. At least "Killer Women" is an equal-opportunity stereotype generator:

A cop's theory on a murder suspect's motivation: "If you couldn't have him, no one could!"

A retired Texas Ranger on the presence of Molly: "I keep forgetting they let ladyfolk into the ranks."

The Latina murder suspect to Molly, the only person who thinks she's innocent: "You're just a spoiled, beautiful gringa."

And then there's Molly's messy personal life. She's separated from her politician husband (Jeffrey Nordling), who refuses to sign divorce papers. When the premiere finally explains their separation -- a key moment between Molly and the murder suspect -- the rationale seems suspect given that Molly works in law enforcement.

No matter, she has moved on and is sleeping with a DEA agent (Marc Blucas, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") when she's not hanging out with her sister's family.

"Killer Women" is executive produced by Sofia Vergara ("Modern Family") and was created by Hanna Shakespeare ("The Raven") and yet it plays like a male fantasy of how women think and behave (see: that sex and violence opening scene).

At heart, "Killer Women" is a procedural drama with a surface-strong female protagonist; scratch the surface and it's the same easy, familiar programming.


Every so often networks try to remake shows without officially remaking them. 1970s stalwart "The Six Million Dollar Man" is such a show.

The concept of humans improved by technology has a short but memorable history on TV. In 2003, UPN tried to build a better bionic man with the Christopher Gorham-starring "Jake 2.0" and NBC's "Chuck" featured a lead character who gets U.S. spy secrets embedded in his brain.

Now CBS's "Intelligence" (previews at 9 p.m. Tuesday; time slot premiere 10 p.m. Jan. 13, KDKA-TV) not-so-boldly goes where these other series have gone before. It does not live up to its title.

Josh Holloway, who played Sawyer on "Lost," stars as Gabriel, an intelligence operative with a microchip in his brain.

"While other agencies have been busy trying to make artificial intelligence more human, we gave a human a power that had previously been found in a machine," brags boss Lillian Strand (Marg Helgenberger, "CSI"), who explains that Gabriel is connected "to the information grid," aka, the Internet.

The plot of the pilot has Gabriel teamed with a new protector, Riley (Meghan Ory), a Secret Service agent, hired to keep the government's technology investment alive.

As Gabriel, Mr. Holloway is in full Sawyer mode, cracking wise as a "charming devil with a microchip in his brain." He's a smarty-pants who, when he meets Riley, immediately accesses all the files he can find on her -- SAT scores, sealed juvenile record -- just so he can tease her.

"That photo you emailed your boyfriend in college, whoa," he says. "You've gotta be careful what you send out there. It's called digital permanence."

"Don't worry, he can't print," adds Gabriel's tech.

When Gabriel goes into accessing video footage of a crime scene, he's able to walk through frozen, ghostly images that are a mix of fact and imagination. This includes a terrorist bombing five years earlier in which his CIA wife was either killed or compromised. He hasn't seen her since and "Intelligence" sets up this back story as a recurring thread through at least the first two episodes.

For Ms. Helgenberger, "Intelligence" offers a thankless, exposition-spouting boss role that's defined by one epic, walk-and-talk scene in the pilot that explains all of Gabriel's particulars.

The plot of the pilot also seems rushed. Most shows of this type wait a few episodes before introducing a possible evil version of the high-tech lead character, but "Intelligence" goes after that expected plot turn with full force right away.

Networks want their shows to look like movies these days, but the "Intelligence" pilot makes the border of Pakistan and Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C., both look like Vancouver, where the pilot was filmed. It's a minor but telling detail in this unimaginative rehash.

post #91505 of 93816
TV Review
'Enlisted': Give This Military Show A Chance
By Denette Wilson, HuffingtonPost.com - Jan. 6, 2014

It's not easy to predict what shows will do well and what will get cancelled, particularly comedies. A few months back when "The Millers" debuted, I raved about it. After a couple more viewings, however, it was vanquished from my PVR schedule and I have no regrets. I loved "Back In The Game," but ABC cancelled it in November. I thought the network would do the same to another fave, "Super Fun Night" (an acquired taste), but has yet to yank it. I didn't find anything funny about "The Crazy Ones," count myself the lone critic who isn't a fan of the acclaimed "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," and while I didn't despise "Dads," I figured everyone else would, so I forgot to watch it.

But then a funny (read: not funny) thing happened: "The Millers," "The Crazy Ones," "Dads" and "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" are still on the air -- and then some. "Millers" is one of the highest-rated shows, "Crazy" is one of the most-watched, "Dads" and "Brooklyn" both received full-season orders with the latter earning the coveted post-Super Bowl spot, as well as two Golden Globe nominations. So, aside from ruining my credibility (hey, at least I was right about "Ironside"!), it does give me hope that "Enlisted" might have a chance.

"Enlisted" is in the same vein as "Stripes" and "Police Academy" (the first and second movies, not the crappy sequels). It follows the antics of a bunch of misfits (because, of course) of a Rear Detachment Unit in Florida. At its heart, though, it centres on three brothers reuniting when the eldest one, a super-soldier, is assigned to Rear D after he slugs a colonel in Afghanistan. That would be Geoff Stults ("The Finder") playing now-ex-super-soldier Sgt. Pete Hill.

Pete was considered the "good" brother up until that point, following in the footsteps of their super-soldier father who was killed in action. His two brothers -- the sarcastic Derrick (Chris Lowell, "Private Practice") and dim-witted Randy (Parker Young, "Suburgatory") -- have always been in Rear D, mowing lawns, washing tanks and generally keeping the base pristine for the military families living there while their loved ones are serving in overseas combat. It must be noted that despite its goofy exterior, "Enlisted" by no means mocks the military. It just lightens it up.

Since I like my laughs served up dry and acerbic, Lowell's character is easily my favourite. He's bitter about his life; hell, he's bitter about almost everything, but I appreciate and identify with that (see: "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" references above). Young's character may as well be called "Ryan," as he's essentially playing the same dude he played in "Suburgatory" (which I'm OK with, just saying). Stults, Lowell and Young make a great team and are solid in the chemistry department. As for the rest of the cast, Angelique Cabral ("Don't Trust The B in Apartment 23") is decent as Pete's love interest and Keith David and his voice are awesome, as per usual. Then there's the rest of the unit, none of whom's names I remember but they did make me smile, particularly the girl doing the dancey-dance jumping jacks, the Donald Duck and Ryan Gosling-loving soon-to-be-divorcée, and the two big guys.

In the premiere, which was originally supposed to air in November but Fox pushed it to a proper midseason debut, there's the main storyline -- the brothers reuniting and regaining that bond -- but there's also a subplot involving the unit needing to find a missing dog, as well as the War Games against some random Italians they need to prepare for. I know, I know, it sounds weird and nonsensical but with some time, if Fox allows it, "Enlisted" can develop into a warm and wacky family comedy. Sure, some may find it over-the-top, silly, even cartoonish, but there was something oddly sweet and charming about it. And pairing it with the similarly off-the-wall "Raising Hope" seems like a no-brainer (though what would be better is if "Dads" was gone and "Enlisted" aired after "Brooklyn"). Really, though, as long as creator Kevin Biegel ("Cougar Town") focuses more on the brothers' relationship with some of the crazy hijinks thrown in, and not the other way around, "Enlisted" can do well.

"Enlisted" debuts Friday, Jan. 10 at 9:30 p.m. EST on Fox and City.

post #91506 of 93816
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 - Killer Women (Series Premiere)
* * * *
11:35AM - Jimmy Kimmel Live! (Amy Adams; Margot Robbie; Xolie Morra & The Strange Kind perform)
12:37AM - Nightline

9PM - Intelligence (Series Premiere)
10PM - Person of Interest
* * * *
11:35PM - Late Show with David Letterman (Joel McHale; sportscaster Marv Albert; Washed Out performs)
12:37AM - The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson (Don Cheadle; Ivana Milicevic)

8PM - The Biggest Loser (120 min.)
10PM - Chicago Fire
* * * *
11:34PM - The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (Mark Wahlberg; comic Jeff Foxworthy; Salaam Remi and Akon performs)
12:36AM - Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (Ryan Seacrest; Gabrielle Union; John Newman performs)
1:36AM - Last Call with Carson Daly (Writer Matt Piedmont; White Denim performs; comic Matthew Broussard)

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 Poisoner's Handbook: American Experience (120 min.)
10PM - Frontline: To Catch a Trader

8PM - Por Siempre Mi Amor
9PM - Lo Que La Vida Me Robó
10PM - Qué Pobres Tan Ricos

8PM - The Originals
(R - Oct. 8)
9PM - Supernatural
(R - Nov. 12)

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

11PM - The Daily Show With Jon Stewart (Steve Coogan)
11:31PM - The Colbert Report (News anchor John Seigenthaler)
12:01AM - @ Midnight (Doug Benson; Moshe Kasher; Grace Helbig)

11PM - Conan (Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs; Harland Williams; Kid Ink)

11PM - Chelsea Lately (Idris Elba; comic Nick Swardson; comic Sarah Colonna; comic Michael Rosenaum)

Check Local Listings - Arsenio (Nancy O'Dell; MC Search; Lil' Duval)
post #91507 of 93816
TV Review
Going Shopping, Honey? Be a Dear and Pick Up My Arsenic
‘The Poisoner’s Handbook,’ on PBS’s ‘American Experience’
By Neil Genzlinger, The New York Times - Jan. 7, 2014

Ah, for the days when you could stop by the local pharmacy and pick up some Radium Spray, advertised as “the new combination bug killer, disinfectant and furniture polish.” The days when you didn’t have to worry about your complexion because, as another product proclaimed, “a clear, white skin may positively be obtained by using LeFevre’s Arsenic Wafers.”

Those days — not all that long ago, really — are recalled on Tuesday night in “The Poisoner’s Handbook,” a satisfying installment of PBS’s “American Experience,” about two pioneering New York City officials who helped bring science into courtrooms, drugstores and workplaces.

The program is based on Deborah Blum’s illuminating best seller, and, like that book, it recreates some of the cases handled in the first third of the 20th century by Charles Norris, who in 1918 became New York’s first scientifically trained medical examiner, and Alexander Gettler, his chief toxicologist. Before Norris was named to the office, the program says, deaths were a matter for the coroner, who was often a political hack.

“The job was handed out by the mayor, like any other political plum,” the narration says. “Painters, milkmen, undertakers, musicians — anyone could be a coroner.”

Norris and Gettler began investigating deaths with the tools of scientific inquiry, which was especially vital, because there was quite a lot of poisoning going on back then, both intentional and accidental.

The program checks in on several murder cases in which Norris or Gettler or both were involved, but also on public-safety issues that drew their attention: leaded gasoline; the deaths of workers who painted radium dials on timepieces; the government’s ill-advised practice of putting poisons in industrial alcohols to try to prevent their use as a liquor substitute during Prohibition.

The program is the usual mix of re-enactment and expert commentary, but the re-creations are a cut above what often turns up in these sorts of documentaries. And, at a time when new types of science are demanding to be taken seriously in courts and the consumer arena, the subject matter resonates.

American Experience: The Poisoner’s Handbook
On PBS stations on Tuesday night (check local listings).


* * * *

TV Review
An Army of One, Enhanced by a Chip
Josh Holloway Stars in ‘Intelligence’
By Mike Hale, The New York Times - Jan. 7, 2014

Gabriel Vaughn, the commando turned human computer at the center of CBS’s melodramatic new action series “Intelligence,” has multiple operating modes. The microchip in his brain makes him a walking Google as well as a one-man surveillance state, able to distract terrorists by reciting their emails to them. He’s also his own wireless hot spot — in Tuesday’s pilot, he works the digital lock of a Pakistani interrogation cell from across the room. Where was this guy when it was taking 10 years to find Osama bin Laden?

Of course, since he’s played by Josh Holloway, who rose to fame as the surly hunk Sawyer on “Lost,” Vaughn has another set of attributes that may be more crucial to the show’s success: chin, jaw, nose, eyes, abs, voice. When several truckfuls of Pakistani soldiers chase Vaughn through the woods, assault weapons chattering, you’re not sure whether he’s dodging the bullets or they’re just bouncing off his adamantine cheekbones.

Vaughn and Sawyer are the same irresistible bad boy, though Vaughn is considerably more skilled — an entire government counterterrorist agency, the Cyber Command, has been built around him — and Mr. Holloway coasts through “Intelligence” giving the same twinkly-sarcastic performance he perfected in “Lost.” His charm isn’t inexhaustible, but there’s more than enough of it to meet the character’s limited demands.

There isn’t a lot else to like, though, about “Intelligence,” whose title makes a promise the show doesn’t keep. It feels cobbled together, from the premise of “Chuck,” “Jake 2.0” and other shows to scenes and situations that recall better productions like “Person of Interest,” “Homeland” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

That synthetic quality carries over into the dialogue, much of which asks to be barked or hissed: “There are only two ways this ends.” “It’s not your call to make.” “Refuse and I will dig the chip out of his dead skull myself.” “It’s personal!” The cast mostly gives in, furrowing brows, clenching jaws, bugging eyes and nodding grimly.

The ubiquitous character actor John Billingsley, as the scientist who implanted Vaughn’s chip, and Meghan Ory (Red Riding Hood in “Once Upon a Time”), as the Secret Service agent assigned to protect Vaughn, are particularly prone to the fake hammy intensity the script seems to call for. Marg Helgenberger, as the head of CyberCom, and Mr. Holloway are more consistently believable but not immune.

Based on two episodes, “Intelligence” looks like a quasi-military procedural, with Vaughn and his team facing slippery Chinese agents one week and angry Middle Eastern terrorists another week. There’s some back story involving Vaughn’s wife and, in a twist reminiscent of a prominent female character in “Lost,” Riley’s sealed juvenile court record. But the series is really about Mr. Holloway’s magnetism and his wry sense of humor. In any case, how seriously can you take a show in which the supersecret supersoldier project, code-named Clockwork, is housed in a complex with a big sign on the door that says “Clockwork”?

In one bit of funny business, Vaughn translates a Chinese phrase and then admits that he doesn’t speak the language — “I’ve got an app for that,” he says. It makes you wonder: If you had the whole Internet in your head, would you be able to focus on fighting terrorists when you could spend all your time on OkCupid or Etsy instead? Maybe in a future episode, for added realism, a bomb can go off while Vaughn is busy sexting.

CBS, Tuesday night at 9, Eastern and Pacific times; 8, Central time.

post #91508 of 93816
BCS champ game last night 15.7 overnight # the same as last year -- bigger teams last year closer game last night.
post #91509 of 93816
Critic's Notes
Bianculli's Best Bets
By David Bianculli, TVWorthWatching.com - Jan. 7, 2014

ABC, 8:00 p.m. ET

After a winter break, this series returns promising a revelation about the mystery it has teased since the series inception: How Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), who was killed by Loki in the movie The Avengers, was brought back to life – and at what cost.

TCM, 8:00 p.m. ET

From 1954: a performance, by Marlon Brando, in a Best Picture winner that changed moviemaking, and movie acting, for the next generations. On the Waterfront is now 60 years old, but Brando still crackles with a new type of cinematic energy. And at least one of Hollywood’s most famous scenes is included here as well, when Brando and Rod Steiger, as brothers, have a brief heart-to heart about life’s twists and turns.

CBS, 9:00 p.m. ET
The premise of this new series, in essence, is that of a more serious Chuck: a government agent, in this case, is implanted with a chip that gives him instant access to the Internet, and other handy high-tech toys. The cast, though, is top-notch: Josh Holloway, Sawyer on Lost, plays the hero, Marg Helgenberger plays his boss, and Meghan Ory (Red on Once Upon a Time) plays his reluctant but resourceful new handler and protector. The execution of the show, for starters, is slick but shallow, but the actors have more than enough chemistry and talent to push past all the required exposition. CBS is giving the show this one-night launch following its most popular series, NCIS, before moving it to a new night. The next mystery this show will tackle: whether viewers will follow. For a full review, see Uncle Barky's Bytes.

ABC, 10:00 p.m. ET
Sofia Vergara of ABC’s Modern Family produced this new ABC series, which borrows the format and content of the Argentinian series Mujeres Asesinas. Tricia Helfer, from Battlestar Galactica, plays a Texas Ranger who, each week, goes after a different female fugitive, with some help (and affection) from a DEA agent played by Marc Blucas of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Killer Women retains some touches from its international inspiration, including some visual flair and some Latin music, but the pilot, at least, is neither as serious or as playful as it could have been. Like Helfer’s Texas accent, it starts out noticeably uneven.

FX, 10:00 p.m. ET
Now that Breaking Bad is gone, this is the cable drama series I’m most looking forward to each week. And while tonight’s season opener spends a lot of time introducing and mobilizing the new cadre of bad guys, it still takes the time to give Timothy Olyphant, as Raylan, a typically funny and visually unforgettable example of the unorthodox lawman’s style – and temper.

post #91510 of 93816
MONDAY's fast affiliate overnight prime-time ratings -and what they mean- have been posted on Analyst Marc Berman's Media Insight's Blog
post #91511 of 93816
Critic's Notes[/SIZE][/B]
Bianculli's Best Bets
By David Bianculli, TVWorthWatching.com - Jan. 7, 2014

FX, 10:00 p.m. ET
Now that Breaking Bad is gone, this is the cable drama series I’m most looking forward to each week.[/size]

Me too. Proof that great and not-so-great minds sometimes think alike.
post #91512 of 93816
Nielsen Overnight (18-49)
Best bow in three years for ABC’s ‘Bachelor’
Averages a 2.7 in 18-49s, up 17 percent from last year
By Toni Fitzgerald, Media Life Magazine - Jan. 7, 2013

ABC’s “The Bachelor” picked up where it left off last spring, with some hot numbers.

The show posted its best season premiere in three years, averaging a 2.7 adults 18-49 rating from 8 to 10 p.m., according to Nielsen overnights.

That was up 17 percent from last year’s 1.7 as single dad Juan Pablo, a castoff from Desiree’s season of “The Bachelorette,” began his search for love.

“Bachelor” was easily the top show on a night where ABC was the only Big Four network with all-original programming.

In fact, ABC had the No. 2 show of the night, too, “Castle,” which drew a 1.8 at 10 p.m.

Fox’s only new show, “Almost Human,” posted a 1.7, up 6 percent from its most recent original Dec. 16.

And CBS’s “Hostages” wrapped up its first and likely only season with back-to-back episodes at 9 p.m. The first averaged a 1.1 and the second fell to a 1.0, tying a series low.

Of note, ESPN aired the Bowl Championship Series title game last night, which likely siphoned a lot of viewers to cable. Ratings for the game will be out later today.

ABC was first for the night among 18-49s with a 2.4 average overnight rating and a 6 share. Univision was second at 1.4/3, Fox third at 1.3/3, CBS fourth at 1.2/3, NBC fifth at 1.0/2, Telemundo sixth at 0.5/1 and CW seventh at 0.2/0.

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

ABC finished first during each hour, beginning with a 2.6 at 8 p.m. for the first hour of “Bachelor,” followed by Fox with a 1.7 for “Almost Human.” CBS was third with a 1.5 for reruns of “2 Broke Girls” and “Mom,” Univision fourth with a 1.2 for “Por Siempre Mi Amor,” NBC fifth with a 0.9 for a repeat of “The Blacklist,” Telemundo sixth with a 0.4 for “Marido en Alquiler” and CW seventh with a 0.2 for a repeat of “Hart of Dixie.”

At 9 p.m. ABC was first with a 2.8 for more “Bachelor,” while Univision moved to second with a 1.4 for “La Que La Vida Me Robo.” CBS was third with a 1.1 for “Hostages,” NBC fourth with a 0.9 for another “Blacklist” rerun, Fox fifth with a 0.8 for a repeat of “Sleepy Hollow,” Telemundo sixth with a 0.7 for “La Reina del Sur” and CW seventh with a 0.1 for a rerun of “Beauty and the Beast.”

ABC finished first again at 10 p.m. with a 1.8 for “Castle,” with Univision second with a 1.5 for “Que Pobres Tan Ricos.” NBC was third with a 1.1 for more “Blacklist,” CBS fourth with a 1.0 for the finale of “Hostages” and Telemundo fifth with a 0.4 for “Santa Diabla.”

Among households, ABC led the night with a 5.6 average overnight rating and an 8 share. CBS was second at 2.5/5, NBC third at 2.8/4, Fox fourth at 2.7/4, Univision fifth at 1.8/3, Telemundo sixth at 0.8/1 and CW seventh at 0.4/1.


* * * *

TV Notes
‘Intelligence,’ best bet to survive
CBS thriller stands out among other new shows
By Luisa Ada Seltzer, Media Life Magazine - Jan. 7, 2013

The midseason is in full swing, with four new shows debuting on the networks in the span of a week, all of them dramas.

Tonight at 9 p.m. CBS bows the new show “Intelligence,” a high-tech thriller starring “Lost’s” Josh Holloway as a secret agent who has a sophisticated computer chip implanted in his brain.

Other new shows include ABC’s “Killer Women,” bowing tonight at 10 p.m., and the network’s other new drama, “The Assets,” which premiered to record-low numbers last Thursday, as well as NBC’s “Chicago Fire” spinoff, “Chicago P.D.,” debuting Wednesday.

Of those new shows, “Intelligence” would seem to have the best chance of survival.

CBS is giving it a big promotional push, airing ads for the program during this past weekend’s NFL playoff coverage. It’s also premiering “Intelligence” behind “NCIS,” its No. 1 drama, though “Intelligence” will move to Monday at 10 p.m. next week.

Of course, “Intelligence’s” most important advantage is that it’s airing on CBS. ABC and NBC have had limp midseason launches the past few years. Though CBS has seen ratings decline this season compared to last, it remains the most consistent of the Big Four throughout the year, and that should help boost “Intelligence’s” numbers.

Plus “Intelligence” won’t have to put up very strong ratings to outdo the program it’s replacing Mondays at 10. New drama “Hostages,” which aired its series finale last night, managed a mere 1.2 adults 18-49 rating this season, according to Nielsen, the second-lowest-rated show on CBS’s schedule.

post #91513 of 93816
Originally Posted by dad1153 View Post

Technology/Business Notes
‘Smart TVs’ Are Next Bet for Makers as Sales Languish
By Brian X. Chen and Nick Wingfield, The New York Times - Jan. 6, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO — Big, bright, sharp and sophisticated, television sets have never looked better. But that’s a problem. The TV industry has innovated itself into a corner.

Crisp, high-definition TVs as big as 50 diagonal inches can be had for a few hundred dollars. Why bother upgrading or paying more for a fancy new one? Many people don’t. And if you spend much of your time watching streaming video on a tablet or phone, paying for a better TV seems even more pointless. So for several years now, TV sales have been lackluster.

Electronics manufacturers, though, are not losing hope. And at the 47th International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, scheduled to open on Monday, they will show how they intend to attract more customers. In many cases, it will be by offering so-called smart TVs that can connect to the Internet and run app]

The problem with these so-called 'smart' TVs is that they get to be rather stupid a couple of years after purchase when the manufacturer stops updating the apps and they slowly quit working with whatever service they connect to. I don't see Roku promising to keep these soon-to-be obsolete sets working for 5-10 years. And people aren't going to then throw out the TV and upgrade, they'll just get the video some other way.

Much better to have cheap boxes like the Roku, BD players etc. serving video and have the TV just be a dumb display like it always used to be. But again, marketing triumphs over the best solution.
post #91514 of 93816
Originally Posted by mhufnagel View Post

If you think the Vikings wasted years in a domed stadium, then what about my home team, the Lions? eek.gif

LOL, they've wasted years being the Lions. Where they play has nothing to do with it.

post #91515 of 93816
Originally Posted by slowbiscuit View Post

LOL, they've wasted years being the Lions. Where they play has nothing to do with it.


No need to duck from me. With the exception of the Thanksgiving games (because of others) I've been "Lions-free" for five years now! tongue.gif
post #91516 of 93816
Originally Posted by slowbiscuit View Post

The problem with these so-called 'smart' TVs is that they get to be rather stupid a couple of years after purchase when the manufacturer stops updating the apps and they slowly quit working with whatever service they connect to. I don't see Roku promising to keep these soon-to-be obsolete sets working for 5-10 years. And people aren't going to then throw out the TV and upgrade, they'll just get the video some other way.

Much better to have cheap boxes like the Roku, BD players etc. serving video and have the TV just be a dumb display like it always used to be. But again, marketing triumphs over the best solution.

I agree. My Sony is over 7 years old and certainly not 'smart', but I plan on hanging onto it and have no plans to upgrade until it does quit working. I have enough things to connect to a TV that I don't need a 'smart' one.
post #91517 of 93816
Originally Posted by slowbiscuit View Post

The problem with these so-called 'smart' TVs is that they get to be rather stupid a couple of years after purchase when the manufacturer stops updating the apps and they slowly quit working with whatever service they connect to..
Isn't that the basic issue with everything in our Brave New Tech World?

FWIW, I'm still using a candybar C139 Motorola cellphone going on nine years. $8.33 per month and I can call anyone in the world from anywhere. Superb reception and a battery that goes for a week with no problem.

All that, and I'm still considered a Luddite.
post #91518 of 93816
Originally Posted by PrimeTime View Post

FWIW, I'm still using a candybar C139 Motorola cellphone going on nine years. $8.33 per month and I can call anyone in the world from anywhere.
All that, and I'm still considered a Luddite.
But can you twitter idiotic thoughts to a facebook page while instagramming worthless photos?
post #91519 of 93816
Originally Posted by grittree View Post

But can you twitter idiotic thoughts to a facebook page while instagramming worthless photos?

Or operate your adult bedroom toys?
post #91520 of 93816
Originally Posted by PrimeTime View Post
Originally Posted by slowbiscuit View Post

The problem with these so-called 'smart' TVs is that they get to be rather stupid a couple of years after purchase when the manufacturer stops updating the apps and they slowly quit working with whatever service they connect to..
Isn't that the basic issue with everything in our Brave New Tech World?



But two years from now I would rather replace a $100 box than a $1,000+ TV.

post #91521 of 93816
I get what you're saying, but if what you said happens, its not like the TV itself becomes non-functional. Smart TVs don't preclude anybody from Roku or any other plug in service. You're only out the difference in price between the smart and dumb TV, which isn't a great deal.
post #91522 of 93816
Originally Posted by StonesCat View Post

I get what you're saying, but if what you said happens, its not like the TV itself becomes non-functional. Smart TVs don't preclude anybody from Roku or any other plug in service. You're only out the difference in price between the smart and dumb TV, which isn't a great deal.

It's a matter of security. How often does the manufacturer roll out updates? Can you completely disable it? As an embedded engineer, the amount of "smart" stuff that has so many dumb bugs continuously scares me.
post #91523 of 93816
TV Sports/Nielsen Notes (Cable)
BCS Championship game draws 25.6 million viewers for ESPN
By Ryan Faughnder, Los Angeles Times' 'Company Town' Blog - Jan. 7, 2014

The BCS National Championship game, which ended in a narrow comeback victory for Florida State over Auburn, brought in big television viewership numbers for ESPN, but not enough for a record.

The college football battle at the Rose Bowl, the last BCS game ever, drew an average of 25.6 million people Monday night, making it the third-most-watched cable telecast ever. That's lower than ESPN's coverage of the 2011 and 2013 championship games.

In this season's title game, the Florida State Seminoles beat the Auburn Tigers 34-31.

The similarly close 2011 Auburn-Oregon match-up garnered 27.3 million viewers for the all-time cable record, while last year's more lopsided Alabama-Notre Dame contest pulled in 26.4 million.

The Disney-owned sports channel's presentation of the five BCS bowl games averaged 16.5 million viewers, 9% better than last year.

The 16-year-old BCS will be replaced by the College Football Playoff system season and will also air on ESPN.

post #91524 of 93816
Business Notes
Liberty Media CEO Says That Time Warner Cable Has Not Been Run Well
By David Lieberman, Deadline.com - Jan. 7, 2014

Greg Maffei‘s comment today at an investor meeting sponsored by Citi resonates because his company is the leading shareholder in Charter Communications, which is preparing to make a bid for Time Warner Cable. Greg Maffei headshotIt would be a risk, the Liberty CEO says, because “we’re being asked to pay for assumed synergies” including the possibility that Charter could reduce content and marketing costs. “Can they happen fast enough will be the real key.” But Maffei notes that “there’s also an opportunity to run the reported asset [TWC] better” adding that it “has not performed as well as Comcast and what [Charter CEO Tom Rutledge] and his team have been able to do.” Consolidation makes sense because “15, 20 years ago we did not have scaled national competitors [including satellite companies] and you didn’t have over the top [Internet competition].” Cable now faces those threats, as well as “a new set of reinvigorated cable opportunities [that] come from working together and building scale…Some of that is from consolidation and some of it is from confederation.” He acknowledged that Liberty’s new proposal to buy the 47% of Sirius XM that it doesn’t already own would give it access to the satellite radio company’s cash flow, and that could help if Charter goes after the much-larger TWC. “It says in the future there’s a lot more flexibility.”

Liberty also wants to adjust its own strategy. “Eight years ago, when I joined, Liberty Media was a complete mish mash…We didn’t have controlling stakes in pretty much anything except for QVC and we had enormous tax problems trying to unwind some of those stakes.” Now that those problems have been fixed “we needed a new game.” The problem is finding an investment that makes sense in the digital age, where it’s hard to find businesses that look like they can continue to grow for a decade or more. “That may work for Coca Cola” — but it’s “unlikely that everything that sits in [Liberty] is going to be sitting there in 5 or 6 years because there’ll be change.” Still, he isn’t worried about Google threatening cable with its Google Fiber initiatives in Kansas City, Austin, and Provo, Utah. “No overbuilder has made respectable profits yet…It’s a lab” that mostly threatens cable by causing investors to worry about whether its a good business on which to bet.

post #91525 of 93816
Business Notes
Aereo Secures $34 Million in New Financing Despite Legal Threats
By Tim Molloy, TheWrap.com - Jan. 7, 2014

Aereo has secured $34 million in new financing, the company said Tuesday, days before the Supreme Court will consider whether to hear networks’ lawsuit against it.

Company CEO and founder Chet Kanojia will formally announce Wednesday that the company has closed a round of financing that will support Aereo’s nationwide expansion, hiring, and new technology. Aereo’s chief backer, Barry Diller’s IAC, was joined in the latest round by Gordon Crawford and Himalaya Capital Management, as well as previous investors Highland Capital Partners and FirstMark Capital.

Crawford, a media and entertainment industry veteran, worked at Capital Research and Management for 41 years. Himalaya Capital Management is led by global investor and human rights activist Li Lu.

Kanojia will make the announcement at the Citi Global Internet, Media & Telecommunications Conference in Las Vegas.

It comes as broadcast networks are asking the Supreme Court to hear their claim that Aereo is illegally stealing their signals. The court could announce a decision as early as Monday.

The company uses millions of tiny of tiny antennae to relay broadcast feeds to subscribers’ computers. It says it is merely the harnessing the power of perfectly legal antennae, but on a massive scale.

“Aereo experienced tremendous growth in 2013 and we expect 2014 to be another blockbuster year,” he said in a statement Tuesday. “Last year at this time, Aereo was launched in only New York City. Today, Aereo is available in 10 markets and will grow to 15 by the end of the quarter. In 2013, we also launched our first native app for Android, made improvements to enhance the user experience and more than doubled our employee headcount. Consumers are craving choice and options and as a result, we continue to see explosive growth across all our markets.”

Aereo is currently available to residents in New York City, Boston, Atlanta, Miami, Salt Lake City, Houston, Dallas, Denver, Detroit and Baltimore.

post #91526 of 93816
TV Notes
‘The Real World,’ now with exes
How do you boost ratings for a show that's been on forever?
By Luisa Ada Seltzer, Media Life Magazine - Jan. 8, 2013

The tagline for MTV’s long-running reality series “The Real World” has always been “the true story of seven strangers picked to live in a house, work together and have their lives taped.”

That’s not so true this season, which debuts tonight at 10 p.m.

With the program now in its 29th season and showing signs of age such as ratings declines and a serious lack of buzz, MTV decided to change up the format for the first time since the program debuted in 1991.

This season the people in the house aren’t entirely strangers. They’re exes.

MTV surprised the new “Real” stars by inviting their ex-boyfriends and girlfriends to live in the house in San Francisco with them. Undoubtedly this will add even more drama and yelling and drinking, on top of the usual drama and yelling and drinking.

Whether it will pay off with a ratings boost is questionable. To many of MTV’s current target audience, “Real World” is a relic from their parents’ days. Even “Jersey Shore,” which just finished its run a year ago, is old news.

The 28th season of the program, shot in Portland, averaged 1.5 million total viewers and a 0.6 adults 18-49 rating, according to Nielsen. That’s half of what it averaged just a few years ago.

Of course, even with the big changes coming to “Real World” this season, one thing will remain the same. The hot tub, the location of so many hookups and dirty talk over the years, will be back just like always.

post #91527 of 93816
Critic's Notes
Diversity Done Wrong
How ‘SNL’ Mishandled Casting a Black Woman
By Andrew Wallenstein, Variety.com - Jan. 7, 2013

NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” is being lauded this week for casting an African-American woman for the first time in many years.

But the hiring of Sasheer Zamata leaves as much to condemn as there is to commend.

Yes, there’s insufficient diversity of all kinds on TV. Anything that remedies that shortcoming deserves kudos. The prevailing whiteness of the medium even as the United States continues to be transformed by profound demographic trends is just plain ridiculous.

But there are right ways and wrong ways to fix the situation, and Zamata’s casting amounts to blatant tokenism. Not calling out “SNL” for its sin would only encourage other shows to follow a bad example.

Why SNL Did This Now
The timing of Zamata’s ascension is curious: Not only is it unusual for “SNL” to make a cast addition midseason, it’s hardly coincidental the hire comes on the heels of criticism regarding the absence of an African-American woman on the series from “SNL” cast members Jay Pharoah and Kenan Thompson. That in turn spurred other critics to voice their displeasure.

As if “SNL” couldn’t make its concern over the criticism evident enough, it did so last year in a funny, though painfully self-conscious sketch starring an African-American guest host, “Scandal” star Kerry Washington.

It’s hard not to conclude “SNL” feared that there was a backlash building at a vulnerable time. The program has been struggling to find its footing during a rebuilding season after several years of key cast defections.

An Overreaction Based on Overestimation of Criticism
But let’s not confuse some isolated complaints with a bona fide groundswell of negativity, like the tsunami that’s enveloped the Washington Redskins over its team name. PR types can argue “SNL” moved proactively to head off any chance of that happening, but here’s the thing: That wasn’t going to happen.

“SNL” is one of these cultural institutions that is criticized for, well, everything, at any given time, but typically goes about its business. Statements of apology are very few and far in between.

‘SNL’ Made a Spectacle of Its Diversity Efforts
Which is why what executive producer Lorne Michaels & Co. chose to do next created a false urgency: “SNL” proceeded to orchestrate a midseason casting initiative strictly for African-American women, culminating in Michaels going public with the effort in a New York Times story.

Now you can argue in this day and age that it would have been impossible for “SNL” to conduct such a search without being noticed. But the minute the show threw open its doors to the process–another rarity–this became a spectacle. It wasn’t just that “SNL” wanted to right a wrong; it wanted to be seen as righting a wrong.

And that has become a diversity travesty.

The Additional Casting Measure Was Discriminatory
The primary problem is the move to demonstrate “SNL” isn’t prejudiced was in and of itself an act of prejudice. While “first black woman in five years” makes for a compelling soundbite, it’s not as if “SNL” has no African-Americans at all. But lost amid all this attention on African-American women is that there currently are no Hispanics or Asians of either gender on “SNL,” which has also been the subject of criticism.

Making finding a black female in particular a priority over other racial groups sets up an absurd hierarchy of diversity needs. Think of how much more sense it would have made if “SNL,” having felt so compelled to make such a public demonstration of its diversity outreach, hadn’t excluded anyone who wasn’t a black female and just made it a casting call about finding another funny person of any type.

Instead, “SNL’s” micro-targeting of a subsegment of the population comes off like a staged gesture, noblesse oblige intended to be perceived as “the right thing” more so than being that in actuality.

What’s all the more absurd is that “SNL” could have offered some justification for its racial targeting. What was interesting about the the New York Times article was that Michaels felt the need to make clear that there was no specific need to bring in an African-American woman when it came to playing characters or impersonations devoted to black women like, say, Michelle Obama or Oprah Winfrey.

Avoiding a Rationale for Singling out Black Women Was Pointless
It’s strange that Michaels would eschew that as justification, presumably out of concern that he would be seen as skewering African-American targets. But if Michaels is saying there’s no particular reason to bring in black female talent, there’s no rationale for slighting other racial groups.

Strangely, “SNL” didn’t want to be seen as trying to become less predominantly white in general; the show was fixated on one type for no apparent reason.

The criticism of the absence of black women on “SNL” presumably rests on two notions: One, there’s a wealth of black female talent being denied arguably TV’s most prized comedic showcase; second, lacking female talent keeps “SNL” from adequately satirizing a world in which there are many prominent black women.

This is where there’s a distinction to be made between the criticism of “SNL’s” whiteness and that of fictional TV shows like HBO’s “Girls.” The latter became a lightning rod because the lily-white world that series presents seems inconsistent with the incredible racial diversity of the region in which it is set, Brooklyn, N.Y.

But when it comes to “SNL,” its detractors may not end up liking what representation means on a show meant for mockery. Whether its fictional caricatures or impersonating real-life figures, the risk for increased stereotyping is real.

“SNL’s” critics should recall the aphorism, “Be careful what you wish for.”

Zamata Is Left Tainted
You have to wonder how Zamata herself is feeling right now. Because no matter how talented this young woman is, the special circumstances surrounding her hire put an asterisk next to her name that wouldn’t have to be there had she just been brought in during the traditional casting process.

If it took a supplemental measure for her to make the team, a nagging unanswered question is left looming over her: Did “SNL” relax its strict standards for admission in fear of public pressure?

Where is the Real Reform for ‘SNL’?
It’s not as if Michaels is saying the opposite, which is that there is some kind of fundamental flaw in his casting process because he hasn’t made public any sense of needing to rectify that process. The existing system wasn’t reformed, just patched with a one-time compensatory move.

If “SNL” standards were relaxed, then the show may have very well added someone who really isn’t up to snuff, which only sets up Zamata for failure. It’s an additional pressure neither she nor the show needs because if she can’t hack it, this special initiative is going to look misguided in retrospect.

“SNL” can be a tough place for talent to get a toehold; the added pressure on proving she merited the special circumstances that brought her into the fold isn’t going to help her any.

Cowed by criticism, “SNL” rushed to plant a black woman in its midst and made that happen as transparently as possible for the world to see its responsiveness. If the essence of that action was a pre-emptive exercise in crisis management, the significance of its outcome is worth questioning.

post #91528 of 93816
Nielsen Notes (Cable)
MTV's 'Teen Wolf' Returns to Series High
By Michael O'Connell, The Hollywood Reporter's 'Live Feed' Blog - Jan. 7, 2014

Teen Wolf returned to MTV with a little more bite on Monday night. The cable network's lone scripted drama, which premiered back in 2011, continues to steadily climb in the ratings.

The Jan. 6 launch of the second half of Teen Wolf's third season, its first consisting of 24 episodes, averaged 2.43 million viewers. That's up from the then-record 2.36 million to watch the June premiere.

MTV's targeted 12-34 demo returned a 2.3 rating, matching a previous high. Among teens (4.3 rating) and female teens (6.3 rating), Teen Wolf was at series high.

Among the older set, Teen Wolf averaged a 0.9 rating among adults 18-49.

Monday also saw the launch of companion series Wolf Watch. The half-hour talk show hosted by sometimes cast member Jill Wagner held more than 60 percent of its lead-in for a 1.4 rating among 12-34-year-olds.

post #91529 of 93816
TV Notes
Rainn Wilson detective series 'Backstrom' gets 13 episodes on Fox
By Patrick Kevin Day, Los Angeles Times' 'Show Tracker' Blog - Jan. 7, 2014

Rainn Wilson will soon be solving mysteries on Fox. The network announced on Tuesday that it had given a 13-episode order to "Backstrom," a drama from "Bones" creator Hart Hanson.

The series, based on a pair of novels popular in Sweden, follows Det. Everett Backstrom, a grouchy, self-destructive investigator with Portland's Serious Crimes Unit. He attempts to solve cases while also trying to clean up his own behavior. We'll go out on a limb here and guess that he's probably only successful at one of those things.

The pilot for "Backstrom" was originally at CBS, but wasn't picked up for a series last summer. Now it's found a home at Fox, which is where Hanson's long-running detective series "Bones" is currently in its ninth season.

Dennis Haysbert, Kristoffer Polaha, Page Kennedy and Beatrice Rosen are also in the cast.

Production on the series will begin in early 2014, but no word on when it'll appear on Fox, where Wilson will be joining his old "Office" co-star Mindy Kaling, who currently stars in the comedy series "The Mindy Project."

Wilson is best known for playing "Office" uber-nerd Dwight Schrute in the long-running comedy series on NBC. It appears "Backstrom" will be a slightly darker turn for the actor.

post #91530 of 93816
TV Review
‘Spoils of Babylon,’ star-studded foolery
Lots of big names spoofing miniseries of old in this IFC six-parter
By Tom Conroy, Media Life Magazine - Jan. 7, 2013

Although most memories of Johnny Carson’s days as host of “The Tonight Show” are wreathed in nostalgia, he had his weak moments. Among them were many of the skits featuring “The Mighty Carson Art Players.”

The weak jokes, take-it-or-leave-it acting and flubbed lines were supposedly part of the fun, but we frequently got the impression that the performers — usually Carson and the night’s guest stars — were coasting on the audience’s accumulated affection.

That’s the strongest impression left by IFC’s six-part comedy series “The Spoils of Babylon.” The low-budget but star-studded production, from Will Ferrell’s Funny or Die productions, is a parody of classic TV miniseries with some funny moments but no real take on its targets. Like many comedies from web-based organizations, it might be fun to stumble on but isn’t worth seeking out.

Premiering this Thursday, Jan. 9, at 10 p.m., the series is hosted by an “author-producer-actor-writer-director-raconteur-bon vivant-legend-fabulist” named Eric Jonrosh (Ferrell), who, in a performance reminiscent of Orson Welles’ declining years as a commercial pitchman, tells the camera that he wrote a best-selling novel of the same name that he turned into a 22-hour miniseries. Having never aired, it has now been cut down to three hours.

Ferrell’s segments feel ad-libbed, and he has been funnier playing pompous asses before.

The series tells the story of Devon Morehouse (Tobey Maguire), the adopted son of an impoverished wildcatter, Jonah (Tim Robbins), who strikes it rich and becomes a powerful industrialist. Devon and his adoptive sister, Cynthia (Kristen Wiig), are irresistibly attracted to each other.

Part of the conceit is that the characters are actually played by bad actors: Jonrosh says that the actress playing Cynthia is “my former wife, the beautiful Lauoreighiya Samcake, who left us much too soon, and now lives in Arizona with a man who owns a chain of sporting-goods stores.”

Although there must have been something funny about classic miniseries acting, none of the performers seems to have any idea what it was. Everyone hams it up, but in wildly varying styles. Robbins is blustery but straight-faced; Maguire works the difference between his unimposing demeanor and his heroic character; and Wiig mugs like a desperate improv trouper.

A running joke about the miniseries’ shoddy production values — many of the exterior shots are miniatures, and planes and cars are clearly toys pulled by strings — has no satirical point. The broadcast networks used to spend lavishly on their miniseries, which usually ran during the then-crucial sweeps weeks.

The script, however, captures some of the absurdities of the form. By the end of the second episode, Devon has become a war hero in the Pacific and has returned from England with a beautiful bride, Lady Anne (voiced by Carey Mulligan), who drives Cynthia wild with jealousy. Jonah, meanwhile, has been working on a top-secret carburetor that could put the oil companies out of business.

Some of the jokes wouldn’t be out of place in the first “Airplane!” movie. Characters frequently declaim impassioned, overlong speeches while other characters ignore them or otherwise react inappropriately. Jonah tells two visiting generals (Val Kilmer and Steve Tom), “It means a lot for us to be with you in this room in person,” when it’s clear that they were shot on another set.

But this show is mainly about star power, not writing. Viewers who are interested in seeing well-liked performers taking it easy and enjoying themselves will enjoy themselves as well. But if all those performers did was shows like “The Spoils of Babylon,” they wouldn’t be liked at all.

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