Wednesday, August 06, 2008

News roundup: Morpheus gets frog DNA, Mad Men ratings and more

Been out of the blogging loop for a bit, thanks to a lack of summer TV I wanted to watch and an Olympics preview story I just got out from under writing. So, after the jump, let's get caught up on various TV news stories out there in the series of tubes...
  • Laurence Fishburne looks like the finalist to play the new "CSI" lead, the character who has the same genetic profile as a serial killer, even though he hasn't killed -- yet. Since John Malkovich (who would've been perfect) didn't want to do it, Fishburne seems like a terrific choice. (And I don't just say that because I spent last night listening to the hilarious commentary track for the awesome "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang," where Shane Black revealed that Fishburne is the voice of the talking bear in the fake Genaro's beer commercial.) There's always been an aloof and slightly damaged quality to Fishburne's best performances, which seems a natural fit for the way this character has been described. Plus, at a time when ethnic diversity is again a big problem for most networks, if Fishburne signs, that'd give CBS two different shows ("The Unit" is the other) with an African-American leading man in a role that was written independently of color. It's not huge progress, but it's something.
  • Maybe that $25 million AMC spent on the "Mad Men" season two campaign didn't buy as much as we had thought. Ratings for episode two were down more than 600,000 viewers from the premiere, which is a big chunk of the audience when you're starting with around 2 million. Now, this doesn't factor in On Demand or multiple airings, but depending on whether the trend continues, we could wind up with season two drawing almost exactly the same audience as season one.
  • The folks at the Parents Television Council put out another study attacking the state of primetime TV, with the theme this year that television tries to make marital sex seem dull. My patience with the PTC and their goals and methodolgy is limited, so I'll point you to James Poniewozik's even-handed take on the study over at Time.com.
  • "American Idol" showrunner Nigel Lythgoe is taking a step back from the program to focus more on other projects (including international versions of "So You Think You Can Dance"). I'd like to think that this would mean significant changes to "Idol" -- replacing Randy (and maybe Paula) with someone more coherent and useful, being sure to show the auditions of all the semi-finalists, getting more current mentors and themes, ditching the mosh pit and other anti-spontaneous elements of the live shows, I'm not optimistic. Nigel was the public face of the "Idol" production team, but fellow showrunner Ken Warwick is still in place, as are all the other producers, and we don't know how much of all the stubborn, antiquated thinking of the series came solely from Nigel and how much was group consensus. (Maybe they're all big Lulu fans, you know?)

35 comments:

R.A. Porter said...

Sad, but sadly not surprised about the drop off for Mad Men. It's just not a show built for the masses. I hope AMC can content itself with the critical plaudits and a million-plus rabid fans.

Adam said...

I do love Laurence Fishburne, but it's a shame if he's not making movie star money. His Ike Turner is one of the best movie villains ever.

R.A. Porter said...

@adam, I wouldn't assume he won't make that much. William Peterson makes $600K an episode for his ten, plus whatever his cut is as an EP.

If the producers and network think Fishburne will draw fans, I imagine they'll back the truck up to his front door.

Anonymous said...

I'm not really surprised that Mad Men declined after the first week. Although I am an avid fan, I can understand that the slow pacing of the premiere episode could have put off a few viewers. If you didn't view the first season, you would have been unable to pick up the subtle shades in characters development. The second episode was much better, in my view, and set up quite a few storylines for the rest of the season.

Anonymous said...

The sadder thing about AMC spending all that money on Mad Men is that they could've launched a new series with the money. One that may have turned out to be another hit or gotten the Mad Men audience to keep watching the channel.

Anonymous said...

I've never watched CSI but will check it out if Fishburne is on it.

Anonymous said...

I watched almost all of Mad Men's first season, but when fall tv came back I stopped tuning in. It really just wasn't my cup of tea and I can see why a lot of people would have watched the premiere after all the buzz and then not felt the need to watch again.

DonBoy said...

And I don't just say that because I spent last night listening to the hilarious commentary track for the awesome "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang,"

I just discovered this film about a month ago. Hilarious commentary track, you say? I'm so there.

Anonymous said...

character who has the same genetic profile as a serial killer, even though he hasn't killed -- yet

Can someone explain to me what the hell this means? To me, it means Fishburne has a DNA fingerprint indistinguishable from that of a particular serial killer, but how in the world would that imply Fishburne might kill someone someday? Or is this just some "CSI shit" (as the Bunk might say)?

(Not picking on Alan; every place I've seen this item has roughly the same silly wording.)

Undercover Asian Man said...

Alan: "Plus, at a time when ethnic diversity is again a big problem for most networks, if Fishburne signs, that'd give CBS two different shows ("The Unit" is the other) with an African-American leading man in a role that was written independently of color. It's not huge progress, but it's something."

Ah, one of my small, small pet peeves. When it comes to minorities on TV or movies, media always seem to focus on Black actors and actresses and have them 'count' for all the races as fulfilling the minority quota.

But if there is one race that is truly under-represented to an insulting degree, it is certainly not Blacks. It is Asians. It's not even close - if Blacks represent 13% of the population and Asians 5%, we should see 5 Asians for every 13 Blacks on TV for it to be "fair" (whatever that means). I can think of that one dude on Heroes and my favorite Masuka on Dexter, but that's about it. Meanwhile, Blacks and to a lesser extent Latinos have whole series, heck whole channels devoted to them.

I know, I know, it's Asians' own fault since culturally we are very much programmed to not complain and cause a big stir, but it is tiresome to some of us when media always ignores the biggest gap in minority hiring and a bit insulting that any minority hiring "counts" for all the races equally.

I will now fade into my profile and stop complaining about the obvious.

jim treacher said...

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is the best thing Robert Downey, Jr. has ever done. And yes, that includes Back to School.

Andrew said...

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang will probably go down as one of my favorite movies this decade. It's just awesome in every way, and it probably is Downey's best performance.

Fishburne's casting makes sense. It gives them a high profile actor to replace Petersen and a black male to replace Dourdan, two birds with one stone.

Clevelle said...

I opted to watch MAD MEN on Monday via ON DEMAND because I wanted to see it in high definition (which was stunning BTW) as opposed to the blurry, standard definition Sunday offering. Seems like it would be a good idea to at least make the HD version available on Sunday, especially if the cable company doesn't have AMC HD. Ugh. Still it probably wouldn't be counted in the ratings, but that's why I was part of the "drop off."

hazmatzak said...

Asians on TV: my favorite travesty is several seasons ago, when there were two new shows about doctors in San Francisco, and between the dozen or so leading characters on both shows there was exactly one half-Asian.

Currently, the only others that come to mind are Sandra Oh on Grey's Anatomy; Yunjin Kim and (what's left of) Daniel Dae Kim on Lost; and Michael Paul Chan on The Closer.

Alan Sepinwall said...

What exactly is our definition of "Asian" going to include? Do Kal Penn and Parminder Nagra count? As Naveen Andrews is playing an Iraqi on "Lost," does he count? Or are we only talking southeast Asia?

Oaktown Girl said...

I agree with what anonymous said above. Even as I was watching the season 2 premiere, I was thinking to myself that although it was an episode that would be appreciated by those of us in the "choir", it was probably not a good choice to keep large numbers of new viewers tuned for the rest of the season.

Chip said...

Mad Men might be getting a fan in the White House next year. Obama has been spotted with the season 1 DVD on his campaign plane. It has been publicized that he is a fan of The Wire, so for those who judge their presidential candidates based on their taste in television, he might be pulling away.

dez said...

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang will probably go down as one of my favorite movies this decade. It's just awesome in every way, and it probably is Downey's best performance.

Is he better in that than he was in "A Scanner Darkly"? I thought he was damn fine in the latter.

SR said...

Alan, do you have access to the quarter-hour ratings for the premiere? I wonder if the big audience even made it to the end of the first episode, or bailed after the first commercial break.

Adam said...

Some love for Wonder Boys, perhaps?

Andrew said...

Well, since this is the roundup, I suppose some of you will be interested in this casting news for Simon's New Orleans series. Nothing quite like familiarity.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/content_display/news/e3i6ec60c14937dc20d28382e62f8de6f79

Anonymous said...

Low ratings for Mad Men? Are you kidding me? I'm shocked that ANYONE watches it in a country where 20%-30% of Americans still approve of Bush and probably over 50% still think 9/11 was an Iraqi scheme. "Mad Men" is literate, uncompromising and as faithful to its subject matter as "The Wire." Lets hope there's enough money for AMC to make on critical acclaim rather than sheer volume of Nielsen households admitting to it.

the2scoops said...

Of interest to you and the readership, Sony is releasing a Newsradio - The Complete Series set for $59.95 in October. It's a repackaging of the previously released individual seasons, so no new extras, but good price point for a classic series. May need to hibernate between this, and the re-releases on Sports Night and Freaks & Geeks.

http://www.tvshowsondvd.com/news/NewsRadio-The-Complete-Series/10242

lambertman said...

Is there ANYTHING left for discussion that can't be twisted into a political rant?

dez said...

Is there ANYTHING left for discussion that can't be twisted into a political rant?

Spoken like a true Republican! ;-)

Pandyora said...

@ anonymous 4:22am: pretentious much?

On Mad Men, I agree with anonymous 1:30pm that from a pure marketing standpoint, Episode Two - with its drunken parties, interoffice tensions and Pete centered plot twists - probably would have made a better introduction for new viewers.

That being said, you have to respect AMC for not chasing ratings and for giving Weiner ample creative freedom to develop the series in his own slow and deliberate pace.

UAM said...

Alan Sepinwall: "What exactly is our definition of "Asian" going to include? Do Kal Penn and Parminder Nagra count? As Naveen Andrews is playing an Iraqi on "Lost," does he count? Or are we only talking southeast Asia?"

If it helps sooth your oppressive soul, oh dominating White Man, then you can try to shoehorn those actors into the Asian Actor Count. But I think you already know what specific races are underrepresented to a slap-in-the-face degree, anyway, if you care to acknowledge it.

P.S. The upcoming Olympics doesn't count towards showing Chinese on Television in this discussion's context either. And Dat Phan winning the first season of Last Comic Standing doesn't fulfill the networks' obligations for showing Vietnamese on TV for the next decade too.

dez said...

IOW, UAM, you're peeved because there aren't enough Asian actors who look like *you*?

hazmatzak said...

Funny that both Kal and Parminder play doctors. Yes, it's good that south Asians are actually represented but that doesn't absolve the producers and casting directors on the issue with "traditional" Asians.

Also note that in 2002, neither Presidio Med nor MDs had any south Asians either. The travesty is intact.

jasctt said...

What about Bobby Lee on MAD TV? He rocks!

Also, McCain has said THE WIRE is his fave show! Take that, Obamamaniacs!!!

I also hopethat AMC lets MM continue even if it isn't big in the ratings. It certainly has given them a certain cache within the industry. Eh, Alan?

dez said...

Funny that both Kal and Parminder play doctors.

Would you prefer they play criminals?

Kenya said...

There are quite a few Asians on television shows especially if you go with the entire continent and not just East Asia. There appear to be fewer Asian lead actors and actresses than one finds for African-Americans even though that baseline is already pretty low.

BTW, I saw Wendell Pierce (?) at the Satchmo SummerFest in New Orleans last weekend. (I''ve got a picture somewhere.) I guess he's studying for his character in Treme. I just hope that the Simon et al are not too far out of their depth to do this well. Their previous work seemed to have some tie to their personal bios and this doesn't.

hazmatzak said...

In the bizarro world where the only two choices are doctor and criminal, once there is sufficient representation of any group, they should play both doctors and criminals. Or perhaps they can play criminal doctors.

R.A. Porter said...

@hazmatzak, expect a letter from my lawyers. You have clearly obtained an illegal copy of my spec pilot about Asian- and African-American doctors who work for the mob.

dez said...

Or perhaps they can play criminal doctors.

Sorry, I should have said "math whizzes" or "customer service reps" :-D Seriously, who cares what they play as long as they're on TV?