Friday, October 21, 2005

Friday Television Dweebing

ABC's 'Chief' commands full season
ABC has elected a full season for the new drama "Commander in Chief," ordering nine more episodes.

"Chief" is the most-watched new series of the fall season, averaging 16.5 million total viewers to lead its 9 p.m. Tuesday slot. While second in the hour in 18-49, "Chief" is still up 10% in that demo from last year's 9-10 p.m. combination of "According to Jim" and "Rodney."

Sci-Fi Puts on RING

The Sci Fi Channel has picked up the rigths to air Germany's most successful TV movie of 2004 -- RING OF NIBELUNGS. RING was loosely based on of the Germanic myth about the magic ring of the Nibelungs and the Nordic Volsunga Saga.

The movie stars Kristanna Loken, Alicia Witt and Benno Fuermann. It was directed by Uli Edel.

RING will air in the U.S. under the title DARK KINGDOM: THE DRAGON KING. EDITOR'S NOTE: GO FIGURE. THEY CHANGE THE NAME FROM SOMETHING SO CATCHY AND PRONOUNCEABLE AS NIBBBLELUGGERS? After it airs on TV, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will release the film on DVD.


ABC has order a full season of INVASION, by giving the go ahead for nine more episodes.

The series from creator Shaun Cassidy has shown solid numbers in it's time slot.

INVASION has been "averaging a 5.2 rating/13 share in the demo -- is a clear-cut winner, improving on its predecessors by nearly 40% in adults 18-49.

'Shield' for Harring; Hines 'Scrubs' in
Laura Harring is joining FX's "The Shield" in a recurring role for the police drama's upcoming fifth season.

In other TV casting news, Cheryl Hines has been tapped for a guest-starring spot on NBC's "Scrubs," also heading into its fifth season.

In "Shield," Harring will take on the role of attorney Becca Doyle, opposite series star Michael Chiklis. The news follows another recent addition to the show, a co-production of Fox Television Studios and Sony Pictures TV. Forest Whitaker recently signed on as a series regular, playing a detective in the Los Angeles Police Department's Internal Affairs division.

Weaver back with 'Gorillas' in Fossey docu
Nearly 20 years after she starred as anthropologist Dian Fossey in 1988's "Gorillas in the Mist," Sigourney Weaver will return to the mountains of Rwanda for the Animal Planet documentary "Gorillas Revisited With Sigourney Weaver."

The hourlong special, slated to debut in June, will recount Fossey's transformation from researcher to conservation activist to her 1985 murder, which remains unsolved.

The special will be produced by BBC Natural History Unit for Animal Planet

LACKLUSTER network NBC, still in search of a hit after the end of "Friends" two years ago, is turning to some stark subject matter to get it new viewers. EDITOR'S NOTE: YEAH...CAUSE REALLY DEPRESSING STUFF ALWAYS ATTRACTS A BIG CROWD?

The struggling net has quietly turned to writer/director Paul Haggis, writer of such dark dramas as "Crash" and "Million Dollar Baby," to create a hard-boiled series called "The Black Donnellys." EDITOR'S NOTE: ON THE ONE HAND, HAGGIS ROCKS. ON THE OTHER HAND, HAS NBC LOOKED AT HIS TRACK RECORD? HE DOES EXCELLENT STUFF THAT I'M USUALLY THE ONLY ONE WATCHING. ("DUE SOUTH", "EZ STREETS")

Currently filming the pilot on location around the city, "The Black Donnellys" follows the exploits of four present-day Irish street thugs and their involvement in organized crime in the once-notorious Hell's Kitchen neighborhood in the West 40s.

The Irish hoods "somehow end up taking on the Mafia and going to war with the Italians," Haggis, who is Canadian, told the Edmonton Sun.

The dealings of the mob are nothing new for the writer — he created the critically acclaimed (and quickly canceled) CBS series "EZ Streets," the story of two mobsters and a detective searching for the killer of his partner. That series was recently cited by the New York Times as one of the most influential of all time, saying, "without 'EZ Streets,' there would be no 'Sopranos.'

Haggis borrowed the title for the new show from a real family that was massacred in southwestern Ontario in 1880. The original Black Donnellys, Irish immigrants who are still considered Canada's most notorious family, were killed by a vigilante committee over a land dispute.

The needy network has given Haggis, who won two Emmys for his work on "Thirtysomething," carte blanche to create what he wants, no matter how edgy.

"They've given me complete freedom," Haggis told the Edmonton paper, referring to NBC suits eager to find a hit show.

And tough-minded Haggis may be the one to make it happen. The obsessively dedicated director actually had a heart attack during the filming of "Crash" and returned to the set a mere two weeks later, refusing to let anyone else finish his film. EDITOR'S NOTE: OK....DEDICATION GOOD. BUT TAKING IT TOO FAR PERHAPS?

"We have great respect for Paul and his work," an NBC Universal spokeswoman said, "and letting creatives create." EDITOR'S NOTE: ISN'T THAT A NIFTY CONCEPT? WHAT ARE THE CHANCES NBC WILL STICK WITH WHEN THE BIG RATINGS DON'T RUSH IN?

NBC Wants Its Old Favorite Night Back
NBC, which used to own Thursday night lock, stock and barrel, now finds itself wearing the barrel on Thursdays.

The night that defined NBC's dominance in prime-time television for two decades is now a CBS principality, with that network finally winning the 10 p.m. hour in the Eastern and Pacific time zones among the only audience that NBC cares about - adults between the ages of 18 and 49 - with its crime drama "Without a Trace" edging past the most potent drama of the past decade, "ER."

For NBC, this ultimate defeat on Thursday may be the spur to action. Its executives have been thrashing over possible changes on the night, including a return to a Thursday comedy block.

That would almost certainly involve the risky move of transferring the comedy "My Name Is Earl," NBC's bright spot this season, from Tuesday to Thursday, perhaps as early as January. Kevin Reilly, the president of NBC Entertainment, asked about moving "Earl," said, "Anything is possible at this point."

Last season NBC lost the overall Thursday audience in every ratings category for the first time since it began broadcasting "The Cosby Show" in 1984. But "ER" remained a winner in its time period. This season CBS has extended its dominance to every single half-hour - while NBC clings to second place. EDITOR'S NOTE: I HEAR "ER" IS STILL PRETTY GOOD. BUT I BET I'M NOT THE ONLY ONE WHO TIRED OF IT A WHILE AGO. HERE'S A THOUGHT...INSTEAD OF REARRANGING THE DECK CHAIRS ON THE 'TITANIC', HOW ABOUT COMING UP WITH SOME NEW SHOWS THAT ARE AS GOOD AS WHAT'S ON THE OTHER NETS? (JUST A THOUGHT.....)

The significance of winning Thursday night is all about money. It is, by far, the biggest night for television advertising because many advertisers who need to do big weekend business - starting with movie companies, but also including car companies and fast food restaurants - will pay a premium to reach viewers on Thursday night, the last big night of television before the weekend starts.

Leslie Moonves, the CBS chief executive, said last spring that taking control of Thursday would mean hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenues for his network. Yesterday he said that strategy had paid off with CBS adding about $400 million more in revenues this year. "Who would have ever believed we would be winning every half-hour on Thursday nights?" Mr. Moonves said in a telephone interview. EDITOR'S NOTE: GLOATING. NOT PRETTY.

The current NBC lineup - "Joey, "Will & Grace," "The Apprentice" and ER"- has slid precipitously this fall. Now NBC is almost compelled to act. The questions are when, and with what?

"I never intended to stand pat for the whole season with what we had," Mr. Reilly said in a phone interview Tuesday. "Upgrading Thursday night remains the No. 1 priority for the network. It's definitely on the front burner."

Mr. Reilly did not want to tip his hand about the network's potential changes,but he conceded that moving "My Name Is Earl" has to be considered, especially if NBC intends to rebuild Thursday with a block of comedies, always its strength in the good old days.

"Earl," the new comedy that stars Jason Lee as a onetime petty criminal setting out to right all the wrongs of his earlier days, has surprised many in the industry by breaking out as an instant hit on Tuesday nights. Remarkably, "My Name Is Earl" is already the top-rated comedy on television with that 18-to-49 audience.

NBC is accustomed to having television's highest-rated comedy, but in the past it has always been on a Thursday night. That, of course is feeding the speculation that NBC will move the show there.

But any move of a new show is always a risk, and the ratings for "Earl," while impressive, still seem a bit fragile to some, especially NBC's competitors. Mr. Reilly acknowledged the risk. "You can oftentimes make a move and trade down," he said.

And comedies usually have to be judged in pairs. NBC is getting mixed results from "The Office," the show now paired with "Earl." It does extremely well with the youngest part of the audience, those up to 35, but loses a lot of the upper end of the under-50 group. "The Office" did tick up in the ratings this week. NBC also has three new comedies in production, and if one looks especially promising it could try to pair one with "Earl" on Thursdays.

Of course, the network has to decide which shows to replace. "Joey" has seemingly failed as the 8 p.m. entry, though NBC executives note that it still holds onto a core audience. Putting "My Name Is Earl" at 9 means displacing "The Apprentice," which has tailed off further this season, though it still draws a much better than average rating from 9 to 10 against television's most popular show, "CSI" on CBS. And "The Apprentice" retains the most affluent audience in prime time.

Mr. Moonves said, "Those 'Apprentice' numbers are still good; I'd take Donald Trump right now."

NBC has two natural breaks this season when it could at least experiment with Thursday. The first is in January when networks often introduce new shows. That month CBS will have to use some temporary program on Thursday at 8 because its hit, "'Survivor," has about a six-to-eight-week break between its two seasonal editions.

But this season NBC will also have a whole month, February, devoted to the Winter Olympics, so all its shows can be rested then. Presumably it would not want to start a new edition of "The Apprentice" in late January and then pre-empt it for four weeks of sports.

So NBC has an opportunity to try "My Name Is Earl" at either 8 or 9 p.m. on Thursdays, starting in January. That timing has an added benefit. It would mean "Earl" could avoid the invasion of what has been an overpowering ratings force on Tuesdays, "American Idol" on Fox.
That show will return in January with a two-hour edition on a Tuesday night. After that, Fox executives have said, they are likely to add some special 90-minute editions of "Idol" on Tuesdays later in its run. All of those would spill over against "Earl," all but assuring that NBC's ratings would plunge on those nights.

If NBC really wants to get out of the barrel on Thursday nights, the time may be January, and the catapult is the show "My Name Is Earl."

Saturday night is dead
How do you attract viewers to 'loneliest night of the week'?

NEW YORK (AP) -- The state of network television on Saturday nights has become so dire that ABC has essentially put a prime-time slot up for auction to anyone who has a compelling idea -- as long as it's done very cheaply.

ABC has put the word out to Hollywood producers that a Saturday night home is available to a program that can be made for no more than $500,000 an episode, which is about a quarter of what the traditional comedy or drama costs.

"Because it's Saturday night, they're willing to try things that they wouldn't try at midweek," said Jeff Bader, ABC's head of scheduling. EDITOR'S NOTE: HEY GANG, LET'S PUT ON A TV SHOW! (I'D BE WILLING TO KEEP PRODUCTION COSTS DOWN TO 250K, AND POCKET THE OTHER 250!)

Saturday has become the forgotten night for broadcasters, who aren't entirely sure what to do there anymore. They just know it's not worth spending much to seek an audience that clearly has other plans.

"It's the loneliest night of the week for network television and television in general," said Mitch Metcalf, NBC's executive vice president for scheduling.

Except for occasional specials, CBS's "48 Hours Mysteries" is the only original Saturday night program on ABC, CBS and NBC this season. Fox has run "COPS" and "America's Most Wanted" on Saturday for years; the WB and UPN don't broadcast.

Viewers with long memories know it wasn't always this way. "Gunsmoke," "Perry Mason," "Mission: Impossible," "Love Boat," "Fantasy Island," "Golden Girls" and "Touched By an Angel" are among the classic series shown on Saturdays.

You could make a strong argument that during the early 1970s, CBS on Saturday night had the single best night of prime-time TV ever: "All in the Family," "M*A*S*H," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "The Bob Newhart Show" and "The Carol Burnett Show."

Saturday night -- date night -- was never the most popular night for TV. But the decline in Saturday viewership caught momentum with the advent of cable television, particularly when HBO scheduled its showcase movies then. The popularity of home videos and DVDs gave viewers still more options, said David Poltrack, chief researcher at CBS.

Since 2000, Saturday night network TV viewership has dropped 39 percent, compared to 16 percent for the seven nights in total, according to Nielsen Media Research.

'By Saturday, that ship has sailed'

So far this season, the four networks combined average 23.1 million viewers on Saturday, or less than a typical episode of "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" or "Desperate Housewives" get on other nights.

Along with viewers, advertisers who are increasingly adept at targeting an audience are shying away from Saturdays, Metcalf said.

"They want to get their messages out before the weekend starts, before people make their purchasing decisions for the weekend," he said. "By Saturday, that ship has sailed."

Lately, it's a classic chicken-or-egg argument: Are the viewers fleeing because the networks aren't offering much, or are the networks abandoning Saturdays because they sense viewers' lack of interest? EDITOR'S NOTE: YES.

Networks began dialing back early this decade. Saturday became "movie night," but even that rarely works because people are impatient watching movies clogged with commercials. With shows like "The District" and "Hack," CBS bragged two years ago that it was the only network still in business on Saturday, but that didn't last.

Now it's mostly reruns.

"I'd like to think we all tried," said Kelly Kahl, head of CBS's scheduling department. "We held out probably a little longer. But the choices at some point just become overwhelming."

CBS wraps its reruns in a nice bow: two hours it calls "Crimetime Saturday." It airs episodes of procedural dramas like "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and gets about the same modest ratings as it did with original shows, and even does better among young viewers, Poltrack said. As a result, the network now makes a nice profit on a night where it used to lose money.

Besides movies and NASCAR races, NBC has found Saturday to be a comfortable home for its "Law & Order" franchise. This year it has taken a cue from HBO and is using the night to give viewers a second chance to catch on with its new series. A week ago, NBC ran three straight episodes of "My Name is Earl," and has also showcased "Surface."

"People's lives are so busy and there are so many new shows to watch," Metcalf said. "They key is to pick shows that are showing signs of growth, or that people are talking about and there are good reviews."

For the past few weeks, ABC has given fans of "Lost" a second chance to keep up with that story. It has also aired repeats of "Invasion" and "Commander in Chief." A combination of movies and repeats will fill out the season, Bader said.

'Fresh apple pie'

As the force behind Saturday's island of original programming, "48 Hours Mysteries" executive producer Susan Zirinsky said she's happy to be scheduled there. How many times, she said, have you been home on a Saturday night and surfed aimlessly through the channels looking for something new?

"We're promising a fresh apple pie at 10 o'clock," she said. EDITOR'S NOTE: EST.

They're also experimenting with new storytelling approaches. Often, the first five minutes of her show -- which usually feature true-crime mysteries -- don't feature reporters or any indication that its a news program. The idea is to hook viewers on stories compatible with the dramas they've just been watching.

Experimentation, along the lines of what ABC is planning, might be the only other recourse on Saturday nights. Why can't the networks try out pilots of new shows, even ones executives have rejected, to see if something draws some interest?

ABC has set no boundaries for the suggestions it seeks: the shows could be reality, scripted, news, sports, whatever, Bader said.

"We use the summer to experiment," he said. "Well, Saturday can be our summer every week."

Fox Develops High-Profile Projects
Fox is beefing up its 2006 development slate with some high-profile projects. EDITOR'S NOTE: 2006? EEK. AND WE'RE ONLY JUST DEALING WITH ALL THE NEW STUFF FROM THIS SEASON!

First among them is one from Ashton Kutcher titled 30-Year-Old Grandpa.

Produced through Kutcher's production company, Katalyst Television, with Katalyst partners Jason Goldberg and former NBC exec Karey Burke, the half-hour comedy centers on a young man who marries an older woman with kids nearly the age of her new husband.

Fox also made a pilot commitment for an unscripted project from Katalyst that, like ABC's Supernanny, doles out advice to parents with teens. Hence the title Parenteen.

Also from Katalyst is an untitled drama for Fox about a young couple, both of whom have extremely large families.

Another Fox comedy is Genetically Challenged, about a young man who tries to discard traits handed down by his parents. Produced by Warner Bros. TV, the series is from Two and Half Men exec producers Eric and Kim Tannenbaum and written by Steve Leff.

In other development news, ABC has made a pilot commitment for the half-hour comedy A Day in the Life. From King of Queens showrunners Josh Goldsmith and Cathy Yuspa, the unconventional sitcom will focus the entire season on one day in a young couple's life.EDITOR'S NOTE: DO EITHER OF THEM WORK FOR A HIGH-PROFILE ANTI-TERRORIST UNIT? CAUSE OTHERWISE, I'M NOT THINKIN SPENDING ALL DAY WITH A YOUNG COUPLE IS GONNA BE PARTICULARLY INTERESTING. (ALTHOUGH, THIS TAKES INTO ACCOUNT MY INHERENT BITTERNESS ABOUT COUPLES SPECIFICALLY, AND YOUNG PEOPLE IN GENERAL).

WB Revamps Prime Time
The WB is rearranging its prime-time schedule, beginning Friday, Oct. 21, when it will pull its 9:30 p.m. sitcom Living with Fran from the lineup, move freshman sitcom Twins from 8:30 p.m. to that timeslot and air a repeat episode of its 8 p.m. sitcom What I Like About You at 8:30.EDITOR'S NOTE: ALL TIMES EST.

Starting Oct. 23, the network will now air a repeat episode of freshman drama Supernatural at 9 p.m. on Sundays, replacing sketch comedy Blue Collar TV.

The WB will air first-run episodes of freshman drama Related at 9 p.m. on Monday nights, beginning Oct. 31, replacing the previously cancelled Just Legal, and will air repeat episodes of Related on Wednesdays at 9 p.m., the show's original time period.

The WB also revamped its Sunday 5-7 p.m. "Easy View" repeat lineup, with Charmed at 5 p.m., What I Like About You at 6 p.m. and Twins at 6:30 p.m.

The network has nine episodes of Blue Collar TV that it says it will air later this season, along with eight episodes of Living With Fran. The network said it is moving Twins to lead out of its highest rated Friday sitcom Reba to try to build an audience for the freshman sitcom.EDITOR'S NOTE: WOW. WHAT A LOUSY LINE-UP OF BAD TV. HARD TO BELIEVE THEY EVEN BOTHERED TO CANCEL "JUST LEGAL".


Post a Comment

<< Home