Monday, November 03, 2008

TV news round-up: Ben Silverman hates us, but America still loves "Treehouse of Horror"

Random thoughts on a few recent developments in the land we know as television coming up after the jump...

• The latest "Treehouse of Horror" installment of "The Simpsons" got the show its best 18-49 ratings in five years, and averaged nearly 12.5 million viewers overall, outperforming its season-to-date average by more than 50%. I had planned to do a more full blog post on the episode, which I watched a couple of weeks ago, but realized that, outside of some jokes in the "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" parody, the only part I even remembered was the recreation of the "Mad Men" credits with Homer as Don Draper. I don't want to say the concept is played out (any more than "The Simpsons" itself is), but they've had better years with it.

NBC has given a full-season order to "Kath & Kim," a show I hated so much that it actually led me to stop watching "My Name Is Earl." (The disposable nature of "Earl" had something to do with that as well, but when there's a show I like at 8:30, I usually sit through "Earl.")

• You'll also note in the tail end of the "Kath & Kim" story that production has shut down on both "Valentine, Inc." and "Easy Money," two of the CW's outsourced Sunday night MRC shows. Both aired last night; I'm still waiting to hear from the MRC publicists about how much longer they'll be on the schedule.

Also getting a full-season order: "Samantha Who?," which I liked in small bits last season but not enough to check out this year. For those who stuck with it, how has it been this year?

41 comments:

R.A. Porter said...

Samantha Who? has been solid so far this year. The writers are doing a pretty good job of keeping the stories fresh and giving her a few glimpses of who she was and who she could become.

It feels like an idea best suited to 13 and done, but I think they might be able to pull another season or two out of the idea without being repetitive or completely insane.

Also, Christina Applegate in a bra during the pilot. That will probably be the only time TheWife will let me back up and rewatch something quite as nice as that, because we were trying to figure out if it was shot before or after surgery and both commenting on how courageous we found her (and, you know, hot.)

R.A. Porter said...

Oh, and if they're really smart, the writers will have Samantha go back to school for her PhD. Then when David Tennant moves along, Applegate can offer her services as the next Doctor.

Bobman said...

I've had some debates with friends about this (as they think the exact opposite) but I think some of the Simpsons strongest stuff has come from the Treehouse of Horror episodes. That being said I thought this one was a SEVERE disappointment. Really just NOT funny at all to me.

Ditto this week's Family Guy, too, btw. Maybe I just wasn't in a funny mood?

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure there's ever been so much murder on The Simpsons before, and that was kind of a turn off.

Kath & Kim? Ugh. I have also stopped Watching Earl because of it.

That First Andrew said...

Two of the executive producers of Heroes got canned today, too, so maybe Silverman doesn't COMPLETELY hate us?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Two of the executive producers of Heroes got canned today

D'oh! Forgot to link to that one.

Not sure what to think about this. These stories about Loeb and Alexander getting fired are the first I've ever really heard about them being the show's chief creative force as opposed to Tim Kring. That may very well be true (I'm not very plugged into Team "Heroes"), but they also could be getting scapegoated here.

Anonymous said...

Kath & Kim gets a full-season pickup and yet Pushing Daisies is about to get canceled? Ugh...

Grunt said...

Nothing to do with Silverman or NBC but rumor has it that Pushing Daisies has been told to tie up loose ends in episode 13. I hope the rumors are wrong, but I don't hold out much hope.

Dan said...

Is is a cultural thing? Why do Americans stop watching something at 8, because of a bad show at 8.30? Can't you guys just watch the show you like at 8 and then do something else?

The whole importance of "lead-ins" and "lead-outs" in US TV has me baffled. Here in the UK, you just watch what you WANT to watch at the time you KNOW it's on. Or, y'know, set your PVR to record it every week and watch them at your leisure whenever.

I find it rather sad that My Name Is Earl LOSES viewers because there's a bad show on AFTER it! Doesn't that strike anyone as madness? Or is it just me? :)

R.A. Porter said...

@dan, it depends on several factors. Maybe there was an hour-long show at 8pm that wasn't quite good enough to beat out the old competition but beats Kath and Kim (I would think an hour of watching paint dry would do it.) In that case, even if you liked the show at 8:30, you were already committed for that block of time.

Also, someone might decide not to sit down to watch TV until 9pm because they just didn't think the show at 8:30 was quite good enough to make them stop real life. We Americans are quite subject to inertial forces, so had we been inspired to sit down at 8pm, we'd have stayed there for the night.

That First Andrew said...

I also think there is an element, especially with NBCs Thursday night comedies, of sort of dedicating your night to it. Ten years ago, you sat down at eight and watched until 10 (or 11 back when ER was relevant). Even with the mediocre filler between shows like Seinfeld, Friends and Frasier, you watched the whole block, and that is what NBC counted on when it programmed that night. Sure Union Square sucked, but was it worth it to find another distraction for that half hour when you knew you would be right back where you started? Especially against hour-long shows that were already half over?

But with the first half of that lineup relatively week (Earl is perpetually missable, it seems) and Kath and Kim requiring a concerted effort to watch for the full 30 minutes, you can find something else for that hour pretty easily.

Is there any other network/night that programs your whole night? Fox Sundays sort of, but I watch HBO and Dexter as well, so it is less about destination viewing...

Jennifer J. said...

Dan: I'm American, but I'm with you. We watch Earl and then we turn off the TV as fast as possible to avoid Kath & Kim. Then we wath The Office and 30 Rock once they're on. :)

Anonymous said...

"production has shut down on both 'Valentine, Inc." and "Easy Money,' two of the CW's outsourced Sunday night MRC shows. Both aired last night"

The CW aired repeats last night of both shows.

Anonymous said...

I'm subject to inertial forces. If the tv goes on at 8, I don't really feel like finding something else to do between 8:30 & 9. (It's too short of a window). So I'll just not bother to turn it on until 9.

Samantha Who? isn't going to make comedy history. But the characters say and do amusing-to-funny things at regular intervals, which puts it miles ahead of Kath & Kim.

Bobman said...

Some of you really need to invest in DVRs. :-)

Anonymous said...

@Dan - perhaps it's also an American thing to bag the berjeegers out of a television show that some people here have watched for maybe 10 minutes or less. Over the four episodes I have begun to see light in the characters of Kath, Kim, Phil, Craig, and Angel and the quality of the show has definitely improved. I have a hard time understanding why anyone would even want to offer an opinion on something they haven't actually seen very much of.

R.A. Porter said...

@anon, I once stopped channel flipping at Discovery Health during one of the surgeries they sometimes show. A big, gnarly tumor was being excised. I only watched a few minutes of that, too.

Maybe you've seen that. I mean, it is on one of your sister channels. You are Ben Silverman come to sock-puppet another of your mistakes, right?

Anonymous said...

@r.a. Nope, not a fan of Ben Silverman at all. But some people might actually find the gnarly tumor to full of learning opportunities. Just ask the writers on Kath and Kim.

Anthony Foglia said...

R.A. Porter said...
"we were trying to figure out if it [the season premiere of Samantha Who?] was shot before or after [Christina Applegate's] surgery and both commenting on how courageous we found her"

I believe a bunch of episodes were filmed before her mastectomies, probably before her diagnosis.

I watched Samantha Who? last season, but it never impressed me. Now, I'll have it on if I'm caught up on HIMYM and Two and a Half Men, but it doesn't deserve full attention. It's just mediocre.

As for Kath & Kim, I usually only catch the last few minutes, but it seems every episode has involved a misunderstanding or argument between Kath and her fiance that gets resolved by him proclaiming his love for her. John Michael Higgins deserves better.

Pamela Jaye said...

I remember the year (well, not the specific year, actually) when I watched Scrubs and Good Morning Miami, while skipping Friends and ...what was it? Will and Grace?

It was a pain. But I did it cause I'm weird and I generally don't like what everyone else does.

Last spring I got to watch (for 3 weeks, of which 2 I was too tired to make it) Scrubs, Grey's Anatomy, and ER in a row, in those timeslots.

Right now it's Monday. Chuck wasn't on, my DVR is full, HIMYM and Big Bang were on, and I'm watching some PBS thing about LBJ (it's all Matt Weiner's fault - I swear it is!) Probably the first president I was ever aware of, never cared about, and the more I watch, the less I like (but I did learn that his wife didn't die till last year - that was surprising)

I'm hoping to

a. learn a little bit more about my childhood
and
b. clear out some space on the darned DVR!!

If I'm still awake after that, Big Bang probably, as Alan has probably something to say about HIMYM more than he would about Brothers and Sisters (which is my other choice)

So, I have a DVR. You will rarely catch me *not* watching Grey's Anatomy live.

(and the duck has just gotten bored with the silence and walked over the remote, thereby turned the LBJ thing on again before coming to bite my fingers as I type.)

R.A. Porter said...

@pamela jaye, how could you have a duck and not have watched Friends? ;)

That First Andrew said...

I really tried to like Kath and Kim, because I usually enjoy Molly Shannon and love John Michael Higgins (is that the right name?), so I forced myself to watch the first three and a half episodes. I say half, because half way through the one where Kath thought she was old, I gave up. Just couldn't do it anymore. faith was spent and hope was gone.

Am I allowed to hate the show? What is the cutoff point? How much of a show that I never enjoy do I have to watch before I am allowed to say I don't enjoy it out loud? Four episodes? Six? How many have there been? Is it a percentage thing?

I'm not saying that the show is horrible and only horrible people would like it, or some similar internet-esque sort of nonsense. I just know that I don't like it in many profound and distinct ways. You can like it to bits, but that no more makes it a good show than my dislike makes it a bad show. But the general consensus of critics and viewers seems to be negative, and in the world of television, general consensus is pretty much the law (thank you, Mr. Nielsen). There are better shows that could have that timeslot, or the timeslot that Knight Rider is filling. Or Heroes at this point. And while Easy Money and Pushing Daisies are five out of six feet under, Kath and Kim will go on and on...

And no, I am not saying that popularity is the same thing as quality. But Alan, for example, is paid to give his opinion on this stuff, while you and I give it away for free (we're TV sluts...).

Pamela Jaye said...

hmmmm... well not having hardly ever watched Friends, you might have to be more specific ;-)

(nah, I watched a couple of eps - like when George Clooney was on (recently, the rerun was on) and when Ellen Pompeo and Hugh Laurie were on (again, reruns))

also, I only got the duck a year ago, July... (although for three months in 2000, I did have a sparrow...)

Pamela Jaye said...

so anyway, you have to tell me the connection. cause to tell the truth, I've always loved ducks. My stoneware has ducks (okay, they may be geese) I have two clocks with ducks, in my wedding pictures, I'm feeding ducks (my then-husband said I looked like the "Don't mess with Mother Nature" commercials) Apparently my love affair with duck started long before Snuggles was tossed from a truck full of teenage boys into my front yard last July.
(and nowadays, if I do feed ducks, I at least don't feed them bread. The Muscovies down the street got generic Crispix)

R.A. Porter said...

@pamela jaye, Joey and Chandler had a pet chicken and duck for awhile.

Pamela Jaye said...

back on topic, I only peeked into this topic to make sure Ben Silverman hadn't cancelled Chuck or something equally dastardly.

Due to the DVR eating space faster than I could empty it, I had to stop, dump stuff, and now i'm back in 1964 with LBJ

Anonymous said...

@that first andrew - tv sluts we are indeed. Your views are refreshing because you've apparently watched most of Kath and Kim and have something tangible that you can actually comment on.
While the general consensus of critics does seem negative, I daresay that, unlike you, most of those critics watched all of one episode. That's fine - there are much more important shows on tv to review but for critics (not Alan) to continually bag a show for which they have no new basis for bagging is troubling. I'm surprised that the show has not just been ignored after the initial criticisms. Ignoring it might have helped get it off the air.
Lastly, not all critics are alike. At metacritics.com at least two critics's reviews (including one from Washington Post) created scores of 80/100 for K&K and a Newsday critic's review garnered a 75/100.

Pamela Jaye said...

due to recent Grey's Anatomy developments I'm losing hope of ever getting out of 1964... (and actually, for the record, the duck didn't bite me while I was typing - tonight)

That First Andrew said...

anonymous - I remembered something from Alan's review "In the two episodes I suffered through, there was exactly one scene I didn't despise"

First off, how sad is it that I remembered that? Secondly, the shows send out more than one episode for review, and I think the second episode Alan saw was the fourth one they aired So who's fault is it that they were both awful (according to Alan, at least)? The network chose which episodes to send out. And those were the best they could come up with?

A friend of mine told me that the funniest movie of all time is Zoolander. I had never seen it, so he insisted we watch it. I don;t like Ben Stiller, but I agreed and we watched the movie, and I didn't laugh once. I thought it was awful, and when I told him so, he told me "You don't get it when you only watch it once. You have to watch it over and over again."

So does the problem there lie with me?

Jim said...

I also think there is an element, especially with NBCs Thursday night comedies, of sort of dedicating your night to it. Ten years ago, you sat down at eight and watched until 10 (or 11 back when ER was relevant).

In my time, youg'n, we watched from Cosby through LA LAW. I even remember when that timeslot belonged to Hill Street Blues.

Anonymous said...

Bobman, I was going to say...does no one have a DVR? My wife and I have a son and you never know what he might be doing that night (i.e., not sleeping), so we watch 90% of the few shows we regularly watch either on DVR or slightly delayed (with pauses to discuss the show, if necessary). No need to worry about the timeslots so much.

Tracey said...

Regarding Treehouse of Horror: Those are usually my favorite episodes, but this one just didn't overwhelm me. The Transformers one was... forgetable.

The Charlie Brown one... The idea that the Great Pumpkin would be bothered by pumpkin carving and eating was clever, but the solution? What makes a turkey the natural choice to conquer a pumpkin? And it was simply too, too obvious that the turkey would think and react the same way to Thanksgiving that the pumpkin did to Halloween. Rule #1 of writing: your plot cannot depend on your characters being dumb as a post, and if it does, you'd better specify why your characters didn't figure out what was obvious to the audience.

The business with Krusty the Clown casually getting run through a wood chipper, complete with blood, was a bit disturbing to me. Yeah, I know they do it with Itchy and Scratchy all the time, but that's different somehow; Krusty is a character we've come to know and... well, know. It was unpleasant, and there wasn't any humorous payoff to justify it. Maybe the problem is that I don't watch Mad Men, which I gather this was parodying, but I'm sure I'm not the only one who doesn't watch Mad Men.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Maybe the problem is that I don't watch Mad Men, which I gather this was parodying,

Other than the parody of the Mad Men opening credits, that segment had nothing to do with Mad Men.

Pamela Jaye said...

maybe the problem is I don't watch The simpsons ;-)

but what i really came to say - I've been nostalgia surfing again (trying to find who night at the movies used Telstar as an opening. no luck.)

and I found this you tube old NBC promo - for all who wonder why Americans... have inertia or maybe just like to sit still and watch
(or at least it reminded me of this conversation)

Ed said...

I really don't have a clue why so many people don't like K&K. Did you have preconceptions of what it should be? It's obviously not rocket science, but I can honestly say I've laughed during every episode. Selma Blair has really commited herself to this pathetic character, and I've never really thought of her as a very comedic actor before. And John Michael Higgins power walking without genetalic support may have burned a hole in my retina, but it was still funny as hell. A warm tuna and italian sausage sandwich described as the "sandwich that smells like the love we make" was cringe-worthingly hillarious.

Pamela Jaye said...

@ r.a. Thanks. I shall research!

Pamela Jaye said...

@r.a. thank you

Pamela Jaye said...

the one with a ...duck airs tomorrow at 8:30 on tbs

Pamela Jaye said...

okay, now I've completely managed to avoid Friends (well almost - I've managed to not get sucked in) since 1994. That's 14 *years.*

It looks like this duck was around (on and off) for *more than a season.* You evil person! I'm about to be sucked into the Friends vortex!

(sorry for the threadjack. I couldn't even remember which thread it was, and had to google it)

(Ben Silverman may hate us but NBC - oh wait! it's Warner Brothers - is about to win again. Well, hey, at least all those boring tours thru the Friends set will finally have some relevance.)

also, some of the people on my yahoo duck group are seeing the youtube videos too. also too, as Tina Palin would say. (and my duck is standing on the remote again. i think she wants to watch Mystery ER. Next up: Brucellosis. But any self-respecting House fan would get that one right.)

Anonymous said...

Some of you really need to invest in DVRs.

I don't like this attitude, and I come across it so often. Please can you all stop saying this to people? Everyone knows they exist. Some don't need them, some don't want them, some can't afford them.

R.A. Porter said...

@anon, re: dvrs. Couldn't agree more. Also, some of us have had them for almost a decade - I had a 1st gen Tivo - and still don't care to pick up new shows *just because*.