Monday, January 07, 2008


Brief thoughts on various TV items in the news:
  • CBS made it official: Bowdlerized versions of "Dexter" will air on the Eye beginning Sunday, Feb. 17. As I wrote back when Les Moonves first suggested the idea, I don't think it's going to be that hard to get the show down to broadcast standards. You'll have to change some of Deb and Masuka's dialogue, but nobody else curses much, nudity wasn't really an issue until Lila came along (for now, CBS only plans to repeat season one), and most of the gore is implied rather than shown. (Dexter turns on the drill, then we cut away and hear a scream.) The "CSI" shows are bloodier. I still think plot is going to be a problem, given the different run times when you have to factor in commercials, but season one had a lot of fat with the Laguerta office politics material.
  • The CW revamped its schedule, with repeats of "Gossip Girl" and "Reaper" moving to Mondays and Thursdays, respectively, to get out of the way of "Idol," plus another Pussycat Dolls reality show. How is it that a network that was supposed to take the best of the WB and UPN has turned out to be less interesting -- and less watched -- than either?
  • "American Gladiators" opened pretty big -- by strike and/or NBC standards, anyway, with 12 million viewers and the biggest 18-49 audience for a new series premiere on any network this season. From 10-11, it nearly doubled the combined 18-49 ratings for "Cold Case" and the "Cashmere Mafia" premiere. Now, I hated "Cashmere Mafia" and even felt some mild childhood nostalgia while watching part of "Gladiators" -- even though they really need to pare down all the scripted "interviews" between each event, and even though I doubt I'd ever watch it again -- but it's kind of a drag to see such a calculated, lowest common denominator bit of strike replacement programming do so well. The more the networks are able to stay afloat without scripted stuff, the longer the strike is going to drag on.
  • James Poniewozik thinks that Conan has had the most interesting late night show since they all returned, and I'm inclined to agree. He's doing everything in his power to do a show that doesn't resemble the one he would be making with the writers, entertainingly wasting time with stuff like spinning his wedding ring or climbing into a studio catwalk. Even the taped pieces aren't the sort of thing he would need writers for, like this bit where he harangues the NBC pages giving tours through his studio. I'm backlogged on Ferguson, and will have to focus a lot on Stewart and Colbert for their first few nights back, but if there's one good thing the strike has accomplished, it's got me watching a lot of late night TV again for the first time since my daughter was born and sleep became a precious commodity not to be squandered at the altar of the Top 10 list.
Speaking of Stewart/Colbert, I'm going to attempt to consume enough caffeine to stay up and write about both before sacking out this evening, and if not will have something up first thing in the morning, along with the second "Cupid" review.


SJ said...

Conan really is a legend. I missed his show so much and I'm glad he's back. His taped bits are always the best. And he's very quick on his feet...not the way Letterman is, but still.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I neglected to link to the "Blue Moon of Kentucky" clip.

-M said...

My friends and I were trying to figure out whether the interviews were scripted. They sounded scripted, but can't be because of the Strike, right?

Alan Sepinwall said...

It's a reality show. All reality shows are scripted in some way, but their writers/editors aren't WGA members.

Anonymous said...

Are the Wire ratings available from last night? I'd be curious as to what effect the strike and increased promotion/word of mouth had on viewership (if any).

Anonymous said...

Boy, nostalgia is a killer, isn't it? I watched American Gladiators last night for our TV blog, thinking that it would be the madeleine that would bring me a pleasant flood of adolescent memories. But oh did it hurt. I can understand the masses tuning in for curiosity's sake, but viewership actually *increased* in the second halves of each hour. This strike is killing me: It feels like TV is imploding, but to a ratings bonanza.

Also, I'm once again floored by the sheer amount of coverage you're providing, Alan, not to mention the high quality control. And with a family, too. Makes me sleepy just thinking about it.

cpennylane said...

About the CW Schedule: When does this go into effect? What does this mean for "Supernatural"? I hate the CW so much for ruining that show, plus veronica mars, and not even taking Everwood.

Nicole said...

I will choose to believe that the jump in ratings was because Cashmere Mafia was that bad. I must admit that I watched the first hour, but was getting bored and turned to this great British crime drama called "Trial and Retribution".. It's like Law and Order but interesting.

If this whole talk show host thing doesn't work out, clearly Conan has a Plan B. He is remarkably talented and his time wasting segments have gotten noticeably better from the first night. There is definitely an absurdist streak happening with his show, and frankly it's just as good as his pre-strike show... (at least for now, and of course I support the writers)

Anonymous said...

Regarding Conan: How can the WGA rap Jay Leno's knuckles for writing his monologue and not do the same to Mr O'Brien? His stuff is obviously as prepared. It's not as if he ad-libbed a climb up into the catwalk.

Also, in anticipation of Alan's review of Stewart/Colbert -- Jon Stewart totally ripped into the WGA. Hardly even paid lip service to the Guild's claims, outside of defining them as accounting ("math") issues.


Taleena said...

Well you can vilify me for my taste but I enjoyed "Gladiators". I laughed my head off and you could practically start a drinking game off the "we're here to play..." cliches thrown around by the competitors.

It is the lowest of brow, but I knew it going in an was hugely entertained. Yeah they could cut down on the talky talky and I'd be happy.

Pamela Jaye said...

>Jon Stewart totally ripped into the WGA.

Oddly, I thought he was doing it with a wink. But I've only seen the first few minutes. For some reason, I was totally wiped out last night, and yet I was on the internet till 12:30. And when I woke up this morning and checked the DVR (tape was so much easier to type, just harder to keep track of) the beginning was cut off (did it start off-hour?) so I'm recording it *again* - well, I was, after I left the house)

Apparently i'm recording the wrong late night shows. but just the thought of them piling up.... I did empty a lot of DVR space (no idea how, except for those 10 hours I spent backing Chuck up to DVD in real time) Thanks for the links to youtube. I find it amusing that Conan can rank on the audience for owing him money ;-) ;-) by watching the "non-promotional" version of his show (quotes mine)

I guess I could start watching late shows while reading my email. there's always rewind...

and nice to see you've changed the picture :-)

I'm fairly certain I watched television last night, I'm just not sure what I watched. at least a couple of eps of Jeopardy (I decided not to toss them so I have a 58 ep backlog now) and at least one show with a script.

oh wait - it was the second half of A Beautiful Mind. And then I had to go read the wikipedia entries on both the man and the movie (and insulin shock therapy) - you know, i've figured out what's wrong with TV: you can cross-reference on it. It it were hypertext (hypervision?) people would be on it for hours....

(and your parents probably thought you spent too much time watching TV. (I'm guessing they don't say that anymore))

So, my question would be (and I wasn't aware the late night show were *on* etc) - would the writers prefer that we watch them on youtube? that way, they don't get paid but neither does NBC (in fact, we should probably watch them on youtube not versus but also versus NBC. (you know, I pity the fans who are trying to save shows right now - we were always saying Watch the Show, write nice letters to the sponsors, and now it's write the sponsors and tell them to ... just remove their advertising I guess)))

hopefully that was enough close parentheses. too lazy to count

Anonymous said...

Tom, Conan's set pieces were not written out in advance, but shot extemp and then edited down -- that's why he didn't draw a WGA protest. (They're terrific, too, in my estimation.)

Leno's monologues are not only written out (they're on the cue cards, for crying out loud), it's generally believed he's getting help from his Fax Army and a network of comedian buddies phoning in with "suggestions." That's a no-no.

Anonymous said...


At the risk of coming off like a management stooge, why does Conan get a pass for planning a stunt, shooting it extemp, then editing it down, when the WGA is trying to organize reality producers for doing exactly such jobs which qualify, in the WGA's opinion, as writing? Is the logic here that since reality isn't covered by the lapsed MBA then Conan gets a pass? While Leno's self-written monologues, which also weren't covered by the lapsed MBA but are cited by the strike rules, do merit punishment?

It all seems totally arbitrary to me. Definitely not "United Hollywood."

Pamela Jaye said...

so what, exactly, is "being done" to Leno? I checked him after they sat him down and he was still doing monologs.
Anyway, I haven't the patience. I watched one Jon Stewart and one Colbert Report (gee, how *do* you make it spell that way he said it?)
Loved the opening to Colbert and also the Acceptance Speechless of Joaqin Phoenix on the tiny bit of the People's Choice I could bare to sit thru.
Then I deleted Leno and set Conan to record. Now I'm watching reruns of Grey's Anatomy for the 35th time.

(in other exciting news, I learned I could change the subject headers on emails I *received* before filing them away, in Pegasus. (wish I knew that before I moved about 800 messages out of my inbox, but if I ever fell *really* motivated))

Anonymous said...

Tom, you didn't come off like a management stooge at all until your "Definitely not United Hollywood" parting jab.

Tom said...

Sorry, Dennis. No stoogeish intended and sorry if it was taken. I'm just frustrated. The WGA has the luxury of having the better argument across the board of this labor dispute. I wish they could come up with a more consistent approach to the various side-deal/exemptions.

The WGA's overriding concern at this point, trumping every other consideration, must be to keep a united front for as long as possible. The WWP deal is torpedoing this goal by driving a wedge between WWP and all of the other late shows, whether that was an intended consequence or not. Worst of all, those shows are the Guild's single most valuable resource for shaping public perception of the strike. You know you're in trouble when Jon Stewart trashes management and labor equally.

Now the WWP deal has left the WGA in a pickle. They must either punish every late night show host for violating the strike rules, punish none of them (thus making the strike rules toothless), or parse the strike rules very strictly (and in ways that contradict the issues they're striking over!) and be perceived as picking favorites among the shows.

Not a good situation. Not a united front.