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Networks pursue the 'super fan'
Marketers are going to extremes, and even into nightclubs,

to reach people who will talk up shows for the fall season



By Meg James Los Angeles Times Staff Writer


Maria Johnson, a bank teller from Memphis, N.Y., watches TV with a devotion that borders on the religious. On Sundays, pro football plays on her family's 25-inch set from noon until night. Thursday evenings revolve around "Survivor" on CBS, so she has to tape Fox's "The O.C.," which airs during the same hour, for later viewing.


Johnson, 31, not only watches a lot but also prides herself on spreading the word to get others to tune in. She hooked her husband, Corey, on ABC's hit drama "Lost" last season and they haven't missed an episode. Johnson also talked so much about Fox's "American Idol" and CBS' "Amazing Race" that a friend at work became addicted too.


"I'm really into TV, I know what shows are on and I plan out exactly what I'm going to watch," Johnson said. "And if there's a reality show on, I have to watch it right away so I can talk about it the next day."


Johnson gives new meaning to the term TV evangelist, and lately reaching people like her has become the Holy Grail of network executives. As the 2005-06 television season officially kicks off today, the six major networks have rolled out multipronged marketing campaigns to create the buzz that drives viewership.


But this year more than ever before, those campaigns have been aimed at "super fans" a chatty, peer-influencing group that networks believe can help them win the ratings wars.


"They are the fuse that lights the firecracker, and really sets things on fire," said Lewis Goldstein, co-president of marketing for the WB network, which after two lousy seasons desperately needs to scare up a new hit.


So for "Supernatural," its new Tuesday night suspense thriller, the network which is owned by Time Warner Inc. and Tribune Co. (which publishes the Los Angeles Times) has gone beyond mere promotional ads. To reach the show's intended audience young, hip horror fans the WB installed special mirrors in about 200 nightclubs in three cities. The mirrors displayed a haunting image from the show's pilot: a terrified woman seemingly pinned to a ceiling.


The idea was simple, said the WB's other marketing president, Bob Bibb: to get people talking.


"Our best chance of success is getting the core group hooked up from the very beginning," said Bibb, who also sent "Supernatural" coffee cup sleeves to nearly 500 cafes around the country. When heated, the sleeves revealed the same spooky image of a floating woman.


This year's widespread push to try something different is fueled at least in part by a desire to mimic ABC's success last season. The network, owned by Walt Disney Co., won plenty of free publicity last year for the clever stunts it used to launch its most promising new shows.


To lure women to "Desperate Housewives," for example, the network supplied dry cleaners around the country with thousands of bags that carried the show's catchphrase: "Everyone has a little dirty laundry." To spark interest in the mysterious, trapped-on-an-island drama "Lost," ABC arranged for tiny bottles to wash ashore on beaches. Inside was a message: "Lost" could be "found" on Wednesdays.


"If you do things right, you get higher 'talk value,' " said Michael Benson, ABC's senior vice president for marketing. This season, he's at it again: to hype "Commander in Chief," a new drama starring Geena Davis as the first woman president, ABC got the U.S. Treasury to OK the circulation of an undisclosed number of dollar bills with stickers of Davis' face covering George Washington's.


"It's about creating something that you want to tell your friends about, and show your family members," Benson said, adding this caveat: "You've got to make sure it's organic to the show, original and unexpected."


This year, the networks together have spent more on marketing than ever before: $200 million, by some estimates.


In part, that expenditure is prompted by the fact that the networks are locked in a tighter-than-usual ratings race. In contrast to years past, when NBC was the undisputed leader, less than one ratings point separated the Big Four networks last season among the coveted 18- to 49-year-old demographic. As a result, the fight to pull ahead has gotten even more intense.


The battle to reach more eyeballs has also grown desperate as many people have left TV behind. This summer, network ratings plunged as millions turned to other entertainment options, including the Internet, video games and movies on DVD.


Stuart Fischoff, a media psychologist at Cal State L.A., said the decline in viewership meant the networks needed to be more creative. "What they have been doing hasn't been working," he said. "They are trying to staunch the hemorrhage."


That's where the super fans come in.


Consider "The Biggest Loser," NBC's weight-loss reality show, which began its second season last week. To ensure a strong kickoff, the network hired a firm to arrange 1,000 house parties across the country. Nearly 5,300 people showed up, some donning "Biggest Loser" T-shirts, and received gifts such as yoga mats and gym discounts.


The ratings for the 90-minute installment were solid, but not spectacular. The show averaged 7.8 million viewers. The hope, however, is that dedicated viewers will help those numbers grow.


"We are in a sense deputizing these people to help market the show," said Parker Reilly, president of House Party Inc., the firm that organized the "Biggest Loser" events. "The whole point is to find people who are obsessed with the show. We're empowering the choir to go out and spread the word."


Fox Broadcasting had the same goal when it targeted an unlikely group of proselytizers tattoo artists to promote the gritty new drama "Prison Break." The show centers on a young man who robs a bank so he can be sent to the prison where his brother sits on Death Row. Plotting escape, he has blueprints of the prison tattooed on his torso.


So Fox sent crews to about 100 tattoo parlors to give patrons a sneak peek of the show. Chris Carlisle, Fox's executive vice president for marketing, unleashed "chain gang" street teams that offered free head shaves and henna tattoos.


According to Carlisle, who in past seasons arranged private screenings for hair and nail stylists, "The best way to get your message out is word of mouth. The most important thing is to have someone [viewers] trust in their lives tell them that they have to watch a show."


Buzz has become so crucial to success that the ad-buying firm Initiative has designed a system to analyze chatter on the Internet about upcoming shows and to assess whether viewers' perceptions are positive or negative.


Stacey Lynn Koerner, an Initiative executive vice president, considers the denizens of Internet chat rooms "higher-order evangelists." To reach them, she said, "the networks need to create experiences around their core programs rather than just putting shows out there. They need to feed that experience in order to survive."


How well does any one gimmick work? It's impossible to tell. George Schweitzer, CBS marketing group president, is philosophical, calling each promotion "part of the buzz-building. It's another reminder of the show."


Or at least, it's another coffee sleeve. CBS has one to promote its new comedy, "How I Met Your Mother." "You've got your Joe," it says, "but have you met Ted?" a reference to the show's lead character. CBS also sponsored a "speed dating" event at New York's Grand Central Station and sent DVDs of the pilot episode to magazine subscribers.


Johnson, the New York bank teller, was among those who received a DVD. It worked: she's already slotted the Monday night show into her schedule.


"I would actually watch that show again," she said.

http://www.calendarlive.com/tv/ratin...l=cl-tvratings
 

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Carat Releases Report Projecting ABC as Tops Among 18-19 Demo


By Jon Lafayette TVWeek.com September 20, 2005


Media buying firm Carat projects in a report released Tuesday that ABC will be the top-rated network among adults 18 to 49. According to the report, written by Shari Anne Brill, VP of programming, ABC will average a 4.2, followed by CBS with a 4.0, NBC with a 3.8, Fox with a 2.9, the WB with a 1.6 and UPN with a 1.5.


Ms. Brill expects eight new shows to be canceled by January. Those shows are ABC's "Night Stalker" and "Hot Properties," CBS's "Ghost Whisperer," NBC's "Inconceivable," Fox's "The War at Home" and "Killer Instinct," and UPN's "Sex, Love & Secrets" and "Love, Inc."


The top-rated shows among adults 18 to 49 will be "Desperate Housewives," "CSI," "Grey's Anatomy," "Survivor: Guatemala," and "ER." The top rated new show will be "Apprentice: Martha Stewart."

http://www.tvweek.com/news.cms?newsId=8570
 

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Emmys, 'Survivor' Lead CBS To Weekly Title

(zap2it.com)--An improved showing by the Emmy Awards and the premiere of the latest "Survivor" helped CBS win the final week of TV's offseason while the rest of the Big Four fought it out for second.

CBS averaged a 6.9 rating/12 share and 10.49 million viewers in primetime for the week ending Sunday, Sept. 18. ABC and NBC tied for second in households at 4.9/8, narrowly beating FOX's 4.7/8. FOX, however, took the No. 2 spot in viewers with 7.49 million, beating out ABC's 7.31 million and NBC's 6.89 million. The WB (2.2/4, 3.37 million) finished fifth, ahead of UPN (1.7/3, 2.55 million).


CBS also held the top spot among adults 18-49 with a 3.6 rating for the week. FOX, 3.1, was second in the ad-friendly demographic, followed by ABC, 2.7, and NBC, 2.2. The WB averaged 1.4 and UPN 1.0.


(The numbers for CBS don't include Sunday's "60 Minutes," which aired an abbreviated episode in the eastern half of the country and its full hour out West.)


The first "Monday Night Football" game of the season was the week's No. 1 show, drawing a 13.0/22 for ABC. With most of its schedule still in reruns, though, the brief "MNF" pregame show (9.9/16, fifth) was the only other ABC program in the top 20. "Wife Swap," which has the difficult task of being football's companion on the night, began its second season with a 4.5/8, tied for 43rd overall.


The Emmy Awards, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, finished second for the week at 12.5/20, a huge improvement over last year's weak performance. The awards averaged close to 18.7 million viewers, nearly 5 million more than in 2004, when they aired on then-struggling ABC. On the flip side, "Survivor: Guatemala" (10.9/18), though it finished third overall, drew its smallest premiere audience since the show's first incarnation in the summer of 2000.

FOX's "House" proved its ability to stand tall without an "American Idol" lead-in, beginning its second season in fourth place overall with a 10.0/15. New Tuesday-night companion "Bones" also cracked the top 20, tying for 14th with a 6.7/11. "Prison Break," 5.8/9, snuck in just under the wire to tie for 19th.


A couple of other premieres -- CBS' "Threshold" (5.5/10) and NBC's "The Biggest Loser" (5.3/8) -- finished not far outside the top 20, tying for 23rd and 26th, respectively. The WB's "Gilmore Girls" (4.1/7) and "Supernatural" (3.6/6) also enjoyed healthy debuts, finishing 52nd and tied for 61st overall.

UPN's top show was "Friday Night Smackdown!," which finished 80th with a 2.3/4 -- down some from its previous average on Thursday nights.

http://tv.zap2it.com/tveditorial/uti...&cntn_id=97629
 

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(The complete listing of last week's prime time programs and their Nielsen ratings will be posted when it becomes available later in the evening.)
 

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TV SEASON PREVIEW:
Back in their prime
You'll see some familiar faces on television again this fall


By Rick Kushman Sacramento Bee TV Columnist

Geena Davis says her role as the United States' first female president in ABC's "Commander in Chief" is a natural progression from the strong characters she played in "Thelma and Louise" and "A League of Their Own." And maybe the best preparation was Davis' turn as an assassin in "Long Kiss Goodnight."

Neil Patrick Harris keeps moving away from his "Doogie Howser" days and is now in a group of friends in CBS' endearing "How I Met Your Mother." Harris is the well-intentioned bad influence, about as close as the show gets to a wacky neighbor.

Alfre Woodard is a new neighbor and, since her street is the lovely and teeming Wisteria Lane of ABC's "Desperate Housewives," you know she's come with heavy baggage. She's a single mom of an 18-year-old son, and she's got a secret.


TV loves Benjamin Bratt as an action hero. So on NBC's "E-Ring," he's a special forces major, fresh from the field, who's now at the Pentagon sending others into action while he monitors the doings. He does get to run down halls.

Don Johnson's burned-out lawyer on WB's "Just Legal" could be exactly the guy "Miami Vice's" Sonny Crockett would become if he let the job get to him. Now, Johnson plays the voice of experience and of living too large, too long.

Jennifer Love Hewitt is a newlywed and business partner who doesn't just see dead people, she solves their problems as the star of CBS' "Ghost Whisperer," a generally uplifting show with the nonetheless downbeat message that you can still have problems when you're dead.

http://www.sacbee.com/content/lifest...14413404c.html
 

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Last week's network prime-time ratings have been posted near the top of Latest News the first item in this thread.
 

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TV SEASON PREVIEW: WEDNESDAY
Government and alien infiltrations
In "Invasion," other- worldly creatures are among us.

"E-Ring" looks inside the Pentagon.



By Paul Brownfield Los Angeles Times Staff Writer September 21, 2005


After Hurricane Katrina, ABC pulled promos for its new sci-fi series "Invasion," which debuts tonight and opens with a storm ripping apart a coastal Florida town.


While "Invasion uses a hurricane only as its opening number, over at NBC they have an entire series, "E-Ring," set inside the Pentagon, which in its first installment makes only the most obscure gestures toward the war in Iraq.


I know the Pentagon is busy with threats the world over, but that gap is one of the reasons that "E-Ring" comes off right now as impossibly glib, whereas "Invasion," from writer-producer Shaun Cassidy ("American Gothic," "The Agency") is merely digging itself out from an accident of timing.


You might guffaw during tonight's episode when a local TV reporter tells a hurricane victim, "If FEMA isn't out here by tomorrow, call me," but "Invasion" isn't about a hurricane. It's an "Invasion of the Body Snatchers"-like serial with two competing themes going the alien nature of aliens and the alienating nature of broken families. The first one involves more mystery but fewer awkward negotiations of visitation rights and parental responsibility.


The "Invasion" premiere follows the highly anticipated return of "Lost." Can you get mystery overload? Unlike "Lost," which ended its first season twisted around itself with mystery and mythology, "Invasion" doesn't seem poised to madden you that way. Its ambition is smaller and more self-contained; weirdness will visit a town and change relationships among an extended, and messy, family.


Our hero is a divorced father of two, park ranger Russell Varon (Eddie Cibrian). He's got an ex-wife, Dr. Mariel Underlay (Kari Matchett), a new wife who is pregnant, TV reporter Larkin Groves (Lisa Sheridan) and two kids from his marriage to Mariel, who has since married Sheriff Tom Underlay (William Ficht-ner).


As the hurricane approaches, family tension simmers. Mariel is portrayed as nettlesome and smothering in her distrust of Russell; she comes by the house as the storm picks up to check on son Jesse (Evan Peters) and daughter Rose (Ariel Gade), and when Rose can't be found, she and Russell have a row. If her concern for her children's welfare comes off as reasonable, the show doesn't seem to agree; the night of the hurricane she too disappears and is discovered the next morning, naked in a swamp, alive but different.


"How do you spend all night in a hurricane and not have a mark on you?" Russell understandably wonders. Soon, Rose is noticing that her mother "smells different," creepy Sheriff Underlay is telling her the "first days are the toughest," and Dave (Tyler Labine), Russell's brother-in-law, discovers a skeleton in a swamp.


Russell's perplexed, but what seems to give him greatest pause, what tips him off that something's truly amiss, is that his ex-wife is no longer on his case.


Dennis Hopper is not an alien, although we like him to play strange or eccentric or hubristic people; it's what makes him lovable. On "E-Ring," which, lands like a bad spinoff of "The West Wing," he plays Col. McNulty. McNulty works for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expert in clandestine missions; he has a German shepherd named Otto and likes classic rock.


It's Hopper, all right. The show gives him lines like, "Sunday mornings at the Pentagon, can't you just feel the love?" and "We are America; we can do anything we want. It's should we?" and "It's a group of tribes, 25,000 strong, all competing against each other for the sec-def's love, i.e. money. And the love often dictates the mission."


That line's pretty good. He's talking about the Pentagon, by the way. McNulty has the whiff of Donald H. Rumsfeld, I suppose, but in the end I'd rather watch the real guy give a briefing; it's more believable. "E-Ring," which refers to the outermost ring of the five rings of the Pentagon, the one where approval for military action must come, is about infighting and turf wars.


It's a veritable office of homeland insecurity. We're placed squarely on the side of McNulty and his new charge, hotshot Maj. Jim Tisnewski (Benjamin Bratt), who's just returned from a 14-month mission in Afghanistan.


Quickly, Bratt and Hopper emerge as can-do renegades, but these characters are really working for executive producer Jerry Bruckheimer. In the pilot, which was directed by Taylor Hackford, McNulty and Tisnewski are going over heads and beyond protocol to try to save an endangered spy in China. Cue the dissenting bureaucrats and stern generals. As the mission's race against time ticks down, "E-Ring" thinks it's got you by the throat, and that's true, because you feel like you're being led around on a leash.
 

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TV SEASON PREVIEWS: WEDNESDAY
The Apprentice: Martha Stewart


By Rick Kushman Sacramento Bee TV Columnist


As if you didn't know. Martha Stewart, fresh out of prison and freed from her ankle bracelet, plays the next Donald Trump, with 16 foolish, foolish people wanting to become an assistant to the ice queen of gracious living.

What's What: Hard to believe this could be as fun as Trump's version. Stewart says she's chosen the challenges herself. Oh, the prison joke possibilities. (Jon Stewart says one chore will be fashioning a knife from a lamb shank.)

Rickster Scale: Unavailable for review.

http://www.sacbee.com/content/lifest...14413378c.html
 

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TV SEASON PREVIEWS: WEDNESDAY
E-Ring


By Rick Kushman Sacramento Bee TV Columnist


Action drama set inside the Pentagon, where Benjamin Bratt is the fresh-from-action special forces guy now doing strategy and reporting to a cranky lieutenant. Wait, that's in cop shows. He reports to a cranky colonel (Dennis Hopper).

What's What: Does the name Jerry Bruckheimer ring a bell? He produces this one, too. Which means it's snappy, pretty slick, generally satisfying. And a little rah-rah. It's decent escapism, but it's nothing we haven't seen before. Bratt is appealing and Hopper is fun in anything. The E-Ring, if you care, is the outer ring of the Pentagon, where the important people work. And get windows.

Rickster Scale: 2.5

http://www.sacbee.com/content/lifest...14413378c.html
 

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TV SEASON PREVIEWS: WEDNESDAY
Freddie


By Rick Kushman Sacramento Bee TV Columnist


Freddie Prinze Jr. plays a happy bachelor and hot chef - hot chefs are hot this year - whose life has gone cold, or at least domestic, because his sister, niece, sister-in-law and grandmother moved into his apartment. But, oh, the high jinks.

What's What: So cliché yet mundane. At one point Freddie says, "Stupid works for me." It's going to need to. Best I can say is, it's probably not the worst new show. Close, though.

Rickster Scale: 1

http://www.sacbee.com/content/lifest...14413378c.html
 

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TV SEASON PREVIEWS: WEDNESDAY
E-Ring


By Judith S. Gillies The Washington Post

The tagline you'll never see: Lords of the E-Ring.

The basics: Maj. Jim "J.T." Tisnewski (Benjamin Bratt), a Green Beret, is newly arrived in the nation's capital when he's summoned to the Pentagon for an urgent situation. There, he meets Sgt. Jocelyn Pierce (Aunjanue Ellis), a no-nonsense Marine who makes it clear that her job is to keep him and their boss, Col. McNulty (Dennis Hopper), out of trouble. That's not an easy thing to do, because J.T. and McNulty are pretty independent guys.

The lowdown: "E-Ring" has seen some changes since its original pilot -- most notably, Bratt's character is now single. The stories are centered in the Pentagon -- and some scenes were shot locally -- but the covert action takes place all over the world. Despite being executive-produced by Jerry Bruckheimer ("CSI") and boasting the star power of Hopper and Bratt, "E-Ring" is in an incredibly tough time slot against ABC's runaway hit "Lost."

Reality check: Ken Robinson, co-creator and executive producer, writes what he knows: He's been a U.S. Army Ranger and has worked in the Pentagon. That said, he acknowledges that there's a fine line between fiction and fact in "E-Ring" (aka the Pentagon's outer ring). In the pilot, J.T. needs wheels -- so he borrows a bicycle and pedals to the Pentagon. That seemingly farfetched ride was based on a real trip Robinson took (eight-and-a-half minutes, all downhill from Columbia Pike, he says). But the show's ride is going to be uphill.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...301184_pf.html
 

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TV SEASON PREVIEWS: WEDNESDAY
"Invasion"


By Debra Leithauser The Washington Post

The tagline you'll never see: They will survive.

The basics: The plot seems eerily prescient: A major hurricane slams into the United States, leaving in its wake ripped-up buildings and shell-shocked survivors. However, this tragedy takes place in Homestead, Fla., and might -- or might not -- be a cloak for something supernatural. In the aftermath of the storm, park ranger Russell Varon (Eddie Cibrian, "Third Watch") starts noticing some strange things: His ex-wife who disappeared during the hurricane reappears unharmed but is acting a bit peculiar. His daughter, Rose, says she saw lights coming down from the sky. And his brother-in-law's oddball theories start to sound strangely plausible.

The lowdown: If ABC goes ahead with airing this show so recently after Hurricane Katrina (at press time, the network still was considering its options), "Invasion" has a good chance of succeeding. It's about the paranormal -- a hot topic in TV land right now -- and "Invasion" has one of the best lead-ins of any show, airing after the powerhouse "Lost." It's got a great cast, including William Fichtner as the sheriff with a shady side.

Reality check: Executive producer Shaun Cassidy's wife's family is from Homestead and lived through Hurricane Andrew in 1992. And in creating this show, Cassidy says he was trying to capture the aftermath of surviving something so unreal. In the pilot episode, he succeeds in introducing compelling characters viewers will actually care about. But the real-life grief so many have faced might make this reality TV that hits too close to home.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...301184_pf.html
 

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TV SEASON PREVIEWS: WEDNESDAY
The Apprentice: Martha Stewart

The Los Angeles Times

The premise: Stewart in a Trumpian image-remake exercise. Though the ostensible issue is who gets to be the next Martha, or at least Martha's new best friend, the real question is which of her many reported or reputed faces the doyenne of domestic invention will show. Tough boss, mad diva, nurturing mother-substitute, humbled ex-con? Will she cut contestants with relish or with regret?

http://www.calendarlive.com/printedi...rint.htmlstory
 

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TV SEASON PREVIEWS: WEDNESDAY
Freddie


NOTE: This show was mistakenly posted here. Moderator's error. "Freddie" doesn't premiere until October 5. I'll leave it, but repost it on the proper day.)

The Los Angeles Times

Stars: Freddie Prinze Jr. ("Scooby-Doo"), Brian A. Green ("Beverly Hills, 90210"), Jacqueline Obradors ("NYPD Blue"), Chloe Suazo, Jenny Gago, Mädchen Amick.

The premise: Prinze is a successful yet slow-to-mature Chicago chef living in a luxury apartment full of women: sister Obradors, sister-in-law Amick, niece Suazo, grandmother Gago (whose dialogue is all in subtitled Spanish, striking a blow for reading). They cramp his playboy style, keep him honest and make him store his pool table in his wine room, if you can imagine such an inconvenience. Green steals scenes as the star's dumbbell rich-kid neighbor/best friend.

http://www.calendarlive.com/printedi...rint.htmlstory
 

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TV SEASON PREVIEWS: WEDNESDAY
E-Ring


By Scott D. Pierce Salt Lake City Deseret Morning News


Among the most surprising new shows of the year is NBC's "E-Ring." Surprisingly bad, that is.


It's shocking that producer Jerry Bruckheimer, whose TV shows include "CSI," "Without a Trace" and "Amazing Race," could put out something this bad. That actors like Benjamin Bratt ("Law & Order") and Dennis Hopper could look this foolish.


But they do.


Bratt stars as Major Jim (J.T.) Tinewski (apparently because he looks so Polish), the new guy at the Pentagon whose job it is to solve big problems. He's earnest and true, and he'll do anything to do the right thing. In the premiere, that means getting a Chinese woman who's an American operative out of the country, no matter the risk.


But he runs up against the bureaucracy, and his boss, tough guy Col. Bob McNulty (Dennis Hopper), who's little more than a cartoon.


It's not that the plot of "E-Ring" is so awful. The spy stuff has the making of a good story.


But not one character rings true. And those characters are forced to speak hackneyed, unbelievable dialogue.


In one scene, Tinewski delivers a heartfelt speech that turns the American government around. Really. In another, McNulty hugs a subordinate in a scene that's laugh-aloud ludicrous.


Taylor Hackford, whose reputation went up when he was nominated for an Oscar for directing "Ray," directed this pilot. And he ought to be hoping nobody watches this, or his reputation will take a huge hit.


NBC moved "West Wing" to Sundays to make room for this piece of junk?

http://www.desnews.com/dn/print/1,14...152287,00.html
 

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TV SEASON PREVIEWS: WEDNESDAY
Invasion

The Los Angeles Times

Stars: William Fichtner ("Crash," "Empire Falls"), Eddie Cibrian ("Third Watch", "Tilt"), Lisa Sheridan, Kari Matchett, Tyler Labine, Evan Peters, Ariel Gade ("Dark Water"), Alexis Dziena, Aisha Hinds.

The premise: Hurricane hits Florida town, causing devastation and new suspicions among loose family led by park ranger Cibrian. Post-hurricane quandaries include: Is local sheriff Fichtner for real or, you know, not of this place? And what's with the hundreds of lights that were seen floating toward the water? And how about the fact that after the hurricane, Fichtner's ex-wife, Matchett, is found alive but naked in a swamp? She's now married to the weird sheriff, so it's family dynamics meets "The Twilight Zone."

http://www.calendarlive.com/printedi...rint.htmlstory
 

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Winners and Losers
Emmy Wins and a Thwarted 'Comeback

The TV Column By Lisa de Moraes The Washington Post Wednesday, September 21, 2005; Page C07


A revitalized Emmycast and the kickoff of "Survivor" kept CBS firmly in first place for the final week of the full, 52-week 2004-05 TV season.


Here's a look at the week's tough and timid:

WINNERS

Primetime Emmy Awards . Ironically, a boatload of pre-Emmy buzz on two ABC series, "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost," is getting credit for helping this trophy show broadcast on CBS jump from last year's second-worst-ever 13.8 million viewers to Sunday's 18.7 million.

"Monday Night Football." Last week ABC aired the Monday opener of "Monday Night Football." That's as opposed to the previous week, when ABC aired what it called "the Thursday night season opener of 'NFL Monday Night Football,' " which defies even television logic. Anyway, last week's Monday opener clocked 19.6 million viewers, which is the most watched "Monday Night Football" telecast in almost three years.

"Survivor: Guatemala." Yes, the first episode of CBS's "Survivor: Guatemala" logged 18.4 million viewers, the smallest opening number for a "Survivor" since the first edition in May 2000 opened with 15.5 million. Yes, those are the only two "Survivor" series that did not crack 20 million viewers with their first broadcasts. Still, snagging 18.4 million viewers for the first episode of a reality series in its 11th edition is an achievement. We'll keep a close eye on its progress.

"House." The second-season premiere of Fox's hit doc drama more than doubled its series premiere -- 15.9 million viewers last Tuesday compared with 7.1 million viewers last fall.

"Bones." Right before the season debut of "House," Fox's new procedural crime drama, marking David Boreanaz's return to series television, delivered that network's most watched Tuesday drama series unveiling in four years -- 10.8 million viewers.

LOSERS

"The Comeback." HBO says it won't order a second season of its mockumentary series in which Lisa Kudrow played a formerly famous actress trying to jump-start her career with a role in a new series. The final episode averaged only 920,000 viewers in its first telecast, on Sept. 4. An HBO rep told the trades that the network had looked at its schedule and decided, given HBO's "future commitments," it would not be able to give the show "the support it needed."

"The Biggest Loser." Among the things slimmed down on NBC's reality series about losing weight was its opening audience -- 7.8 million people on Tuesday's second-season kickoff, compared with 9.9 million for its premiere last October. On the bright side, last week's 90-minute debut grew by 41 percent among 18- to 49-year-olds from its first half-hour to its last, which is usually a good sign.

"Head Cases." Fox's new odd-couple lawyer series, starring Chris O'Donnell and Adam Goldberg, finished fourth in its Wednesday premiere, with an audience of 6.2 million, after its lead-in had finished first in its time slot, with more than 8 million watching.

World Music Awards . ABC's broadcast of this franchise scored a lowest-yet 5.2 million viewers -- about 1 million fewer than last year. Back in '94, this franchise was attracting almost 20 million fans.

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TV SEASON PREVIEW: WEDNESDAY
E-Ring
A Perky Warrior Singing the Pentagon Blues


By NED MARTEL The New York Times September 21, 2005


Throughout the chest-pounding, inept new NBC series "E-Ring," Benjamin Bratt must run around the Pentagon like Theseus in the labyrinth. "Hey, fellas!" he says, by way of salute to passengers on an up escalator that he's running down. "How's it hangin', fellas?" he later asks a collection of men with far more stars and bars than he.


There's a quickness in his step and a larky quality to his patter because he refuses to be slowed by the bureaucratic torpor of the Building, as the Pentagon is called in the show. Fleet-footed and well rested after months in Afghanistan, Mr. Bratt's character, Maj. Jim Tisnewski, now bikes to the 'Gon and hunkers down in the outermost of its five concentric structures. Here, geopolitical shots are called, but that doesn't mean he has to give in to the presiding nonsense.


In fact, with his uniformed valor, he is constantly coming into conflict with the suits, those civilians who run the place - and the country. And while he's doing end runs and two-steps around procedure, these smarties, who have never pulled a trigger, keep getting in his way. Don't they get it? All he wants to do is save the lives of those his code of honor insists we never leave behind.


What's actually maddening is to see any complex institution reduced to the toils of one determined renegade, but that's the televised specialty of the Jerry Bruckheimer genre. Here Mr. Bratt gets to prove each week that diplomatic crises are just as simple and solvable as "Cold Cases" or "CSI" homicides. All it takes is someone with technology and normative clarity, and bad buys will get their due.


Though the pilot was directed by the accomplished film director Taylor Hackford ("An Officer and a Gentleman," "Ray"), "E-Ring" incorporates the rah-rah quality of last year's movie "Team America," but here it tries to be serious, not satyrical.


The plots of the first two episodes are pure first-world fantasia. Patronizing Pentagon types get to rule the globe by remote control. A Chinese intelligence "asset" needs to be removed from a danger zone in Shanghai, and an evil-doing nuclear scientist is making mischief in Uzbekistan. Only Major Tisnewski seems to understand the stakes at hand; only he has the command of the tools that can save the day or the world, as the case may be. Even as he breaks rules, Tisnewski gradually wins the applause of his commanding officer, Col. Eli McNulty (Dennis Hopper). One suspects that McNulty will eventually approve, as he indulges in Monday-morning quarterbacking with his bookie and cranks up Blue Oyster Cult on his office hi-fi. At first, he fears that Tisnewski will get them both court-martialed, but soon he admires the cut of the newcomer's jib. "You're a warrior," McNulty says. "That's why you're here."


In the office politics of the Building, a snooty naysayer impedes the Shanghai mission, and just to make sure contempt for him is emphasized, McNulty mocks his golf game: "I hope he gets skulled in the head by a golf ball real soon." Really, the aims of the show couldn't be simpler: give the macho dudes their weapons and get outta their way. Anyone who resists or doubts is made to look fussy or daft or feminized. One balking diplomat is, of course, French, and McNulty insults him by calling him Françoise instead of François. I sympathize, to a degree, with anyone who wants the debate club on "The West Wing" to give it a rest sometimes, but "E-Ring" sweeps away the subtleties as it raises the stakes. The plots so far are mere ploys to oversimplify big questions to a choice between the go-getters and the thumb-suckers.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/21/ar...gewanted=print
 

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TV SEASON PREVIEW: WEDNESDAY
Invasion
Exploring the Mysterious Aftermath of a Different Hurricane


By NED MARTEL B]The New York Times[/b] September 21, 2005


The suspense that ABC had hoped for with "Invasion," its skillful new body-snatcher series, has been undermined by menaces beyond the network's control. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the opening episode's terrestrial forms of terror prove far scarier than extraterrestrial ones. An immense hurricane hits South Florida! And oh, yeah, some aliens use it as a shield to invade the United States.


Since Katrina, the suspense has mounted: Would ABC executives broadcast this spooky glimpse at a storm's aftermath while the Gulf Coast is confronting the far-too-real equivalent? Should they? Tonight's broadcast suggests the network believes that it has something good enough to divert public concerns away from the real-life disaster and toward a larger, less-real horror story. It could be argued that the Katrina catastrophe is bad, but at least the survivors aren't playing host to other mind-altering life forms. (Well, the remaining muck might include some unsavory parasites, but let's move along.)


The network is mostly right because the show is mostly well done. The storm tests the mettle of a broken family, with the children blown between their parents, who have new partners. The father (Eddie Cibrian) is a rock-ribbed park ranger in the Everglades who is coupled with an on-air news reporter, while the mother (Kari Matchett) is a doting physician who is remarried to an untrustworthy sheriff.


The split-up couple's son and daughter tend to side with their father. "Why don't you go home and worry about your new husband and leave us alone?" the exasperated teenager, Jesse, asks his mother. But she has a hip stepdaughter, so that new household might have some allure. Still, with Mr. Cibrian's squinting, winning smile, the father is clearly the good guy, despite a willingness to let his oafish sidekick baby-sit. In the storm's onset, the young daughter, Rose, wanders off amid the clattering palm trees, in search of a lost cat.


Created by the onetime bubblegum pop star Shaun Cassidy, "Invasion" uses the yellow overcast of a major storm to an aptly eerie effect. This is no ordinary maelstrom, as weather-tracking pilots flying into the eye soon realize. Orange, otherworldly lights tumble into warm waters below, and these glowing things await warm bodies to occupy.


In one of several implausibilities, the unfortunate humans who fall prey to these visitors wind up naked yet unscathed in the twisted brush once the rain subsides. Even the local press doesn't look askance at such occurrences, when they happen to upstanding citizens like a kindly priest. At least the oaf has doubts and acts upon them, but he's off base at first: "The whole thing is a smokescreen," he insists. "A smokescreen cooked up by the military."


The interplanetary mischief has some profound but hidden effects on the domestic life of this splintered family. The wedge is bound to be that stepfather sheriff, played by the William Fichtner, who is as chilling and superb as he was in the feature films "Go" and "Contact."


By the end of the pilot, the melodrama of the series is well established, with a few surprises that will keep the audience worried about the welfare of the children, like the ones thrillers like "War of the Worlds" often resort to these days. The series has much in common with cinematic forebears, with expensive location shots and a solemn, postapocalyptic aura.


"Invasion" is a step up from many new offerings on the Sci Fi Channel, but never quite as intricate or engaging as the ABC hit "Lost." It's hard to know where the "Invasion" should colonize next. If the series were truly risk-taking, the writers would figure out something interesting to say about the post-Katrina anxiety about emergency preparedness, with the imaginary intruders as metaphors for America's actual enemies.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/21/ar...gewanted=print
 

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TV SEASON PREVIEW: WEDNESDAY SEPT. 21
As 'Lost' dawns, you'll find some answers


By Rick Kushman Sacramento Bee TV Columnist Wednesday, September 21, 2005


We're in the middle of a wild fall season premiere week, and it's like TV shows are coming out of the air. Actually, they are. That's how it works. Unless you have cable.


Anyway. Lots of TV. Let's get to some of it.


Tonight, last season's most electric series, "Lost," returns where it left off. The mysterious hatch with the mysterious lucky/cursed numbers has been blown open, Walt (Malcolm David Kelly) mysteriously kidnapped and the raft blown up by mysterious "others," and the whole island and the plane crash remain one massive mystery.


By the way, if you missed the "Lost" train last year, ABC is running a catch-up hour (at 8 PM ET/PT) called "Destination Lost" that will help get newcomers up to speed before the season premiere (at 9).


For what it's worth, and if you can trust those guys, co-creator Damon Lindelof and other producers said this summer that Locke (Terry O'Quinn), Jack (Matthew Fox) and company - and viewers - will learn tonight what's in that tough-to-open hatch. They do not promise that anyone will know what it means.


And they said whoever survived the raft incident - maybe Sawyer (Josh Holloway), maybe Jin (Daniel Dae Kim), maybe Michael (Harold Perrineau) -will be separated from the main group for a while. Producers also promise we'll learn why the plane crashed, and become fairly certain this is no random bunch of passengers. Like we didn't already know that.


What is straightforward, however, is that this tantalizing mix of character study, weird puzzle and twisted trip into myth was a great ride in its first season, and I'm hoping we learn just enough to stay fascinated for another year.


For an entirely different kind of mystery, may we present "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart."


Tonight (at 8 ET/PT) NBC gives us the ice queen of gracious living in her biggest move to rehab her image and career after that pesky little prison stint, though I know you're saying that Stewart would never have gotten this gig if she weren't a recovering con.


In any case, here we go tonight. Sixteen people - naive believers all - scramble and game to become her apprentice, and the mystery is, of course, why?


Would you really want to work for Martha Stewart? Though a lot of people wondered that about Donald Trump when "The Apprentice" started. The answer is, some folks will do anything for money or TV face time.


There are other questions to ponder. Can we handle two "Apprentices?" How will Donald, who returns with his "Apprentice" on Thursday (at 9 PM ET/PT) react if Martha does better? What kind of challenges will Stewart concoct for her charges? I'm thinking one ought to be standing stiffly while carefully enunciating every syllable in every word without showing a wink of humanity.


The big question is not whether viewers will watch - of course they will, at least at first; this is train-wreck city any way you look at it - but what will Martha say when she fires her kids?


Stewart has hinted that she won't have one phrase, but I'd like to suggest a few here anyway. How about: "Your bread don't bake," "You ruined my salad," "You are a bad thing" and, the obvious, "I said Merlot."


There's other new stuff tonight, including:

* "The E-Ring": NBC shipped "The West Wing" to Sundays and is filling the slot with an action thriller - in theory - starring Benjamin Bratt as a heroic Special Forces guy stationed at the Pentagon and doing strategy. His boss is a cranky colonel (Dennis Hopper) and it's all fairly conventional, if slickly produced.

* "Just Legal": WB is repeating Monday's pilot from this silly but adorable series that teams a 19-year-old lawyer prodigy (Jay Baruchel) - who can't get hired because he's, you know, 19 - with a burnout, former hotshot lawyer (Don Johnson), and they help each other grow.


It sounds dopey, and it is, but there's chemistry between the geeky Baruchel and the weary Johnson, and it makes for a nice bit of escapism.

* "Invasion": It's the most cryptic of the new sci-fi, aliens-are-coming shows, and ABC hopes people who love the ambiguity of "Lost" will stay for the confusion of this one.


"Invasion" has a hurricane raging through Florida - which now doesn't seem like such a fun idea in the wake of Katrina -as a cover for something strange happening, possibly aliens landing in the Everglades. Unless they're already there.


The tone is semi-"X-Files," but so far without the chemistry or humor, and semi-"Invasion of the Body Snatchers," where maybe no one can trust anyone. Creator Shaun Cassidy promises the tone will lighten some and that there are layers beyond, just, the question: Are they here?


For "Law & Order" fans, detective Ed Green (Jesse L. Martin) returns to the beat tonight (at 10 on Channel 3) after getting shot toward the end of last season.


Producers threw in the shooting story line as an excuse for Martin to go off the show for the time he needed to shoot the feature film "Rent," reprising a role he played on Broadway.


Green will be back with his old partner, Det. Joe Fontana (Dennis Farina), after Fontana solved a few cases with a detective played by "The Sopranos'" Michael Imperioli. Producers say Green will have no ill effects from the shooting, though it's possible he may be limping from a case of dancer's toe.


Finally, a reminder that one of the most promising comedies of the season, "Everybody Hates Chris," premieres Thursday night (at 8 EP/PTon UPN).


It's the story, more or less, of Chris Rock's wonder years, and Rock narrates the show. It's a sterling cast besides Rock, led by 12-year-old Tyler James Williams, playing the young Chris, and the whole show is smart, slightly skewed and little bit slapstick, all with a nice little bite and a healthy dose of heart. And, yeah, it's on UPN. The best-looking comedy of the year is on UPN. What can I say?

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