AMC announced a July 17 season-four premiere date for "Breaking Bad," ending a hiatus of more than 13 months, and provided a preview clip for the upcoming campaign.
AMC announced a July 17 season-four premiere date for "Breaking Bad," ending a hiatus of more than 13 months, and provided a preview clip for the upcoming campaign.
Every personal publicist has horror stories, but few can claim as many indignities as Animal Planet's Dave Salmoni. "I get bitten a lot," he said last week after wrangling a particularly temperamental star for an afternoon at a women's magazine. "I get pissed on a lot, I get crapped on a lot."
Salmoni is the network's large predator expert, and it's his lot in life to introduce skittish carnivores to Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel, among others. Last Tuesday, Salmoni spent an hour introducing editorial staffers to a cougar cub ("I wore long sleeves on purpose") who wanted nothing more than to sink his teeth into the zoologist's hand - see pictures (your correspondent is cropped out of the picture because he looks exactly as scared as he was).
"He (the cougar, not the reporter) wants to know what he can get away with," Salmoni explained. "The answer is pretty much anything except biting me on the face." Hopefully, his next charges won't bite him on the face as often: the outdoorsy animal wrangler has a show in development at Animal Planet with the working title of "Man Up," a "machover" show in which Salmoni will teach metrofied wimps how to get in touch with their manlier sides.
Salmoni said he'd been attacked many times by his clients, notably by a lion named Bongo, who starred in 90's Val Kilmer actioner "The Ghost and the Darkness." "I literally thought, 'I'm going to be one of those guys who gets killed by his lion and everyone will read the paper and go, well, yeah, what did you think would happen?'"
Like everyone who regularly works with on-air talent, Salmoni runs into a few folks who, for no reason either can explain, just don't like him. "It's a vulture," Salmoni sighed. "I don't know if he's the only vulture they can get, or what, but his name is Benson and he hates me more than anything. I'll take him out of the cage and there'll be meat all around him and he'll immediately try to bite me."
It's not all vulture attacks for Salmoni. He's on Mark Burnett's upcoming ABC show "Expedition Impossible" and there's "Man Up" to look forward to, he hopes. But animals remain his first love, even when they're trying to take a bite out of his chin or peeing down his shoulder. "I never wanted to do anything but this," he said. "Some people don't know what they want to do - I'm not one of them."
Does Kara DioGuardi have naked pictures of an executive at Bravo?
That may be the only explanation as to why the network feels compelled to develop a second unscripted series featuring the former "American Idol" judge before the first has even aired. She's the head judge on the upcoming Bravo songwriter-competition series "Platinum Hit" (May 30).
The upcoming docu-series will offer, as this Bravo release touts it, a "peek behind the curtain and reveal much more interesting and multi-faceted aspects of this incredibly successful, talented artist and business woman. We believe her dynamic personality and fascinating career will resonate with our audience and reflect our pop culture brand.”
Either this means Bravo is just so cocksure "Platinum" is going to be a hit that it wants to capitalize on its success ahead of time or perhaps the opposite: they don't think "Platinum" works as a vehicle for DioGuardi, but the network has something else in mind that's a better fit.
But given Bravo's terrific track record of creating unscripted series featuring flamboyant characters, what on earth does the network see in DioGuardi? Judging from the "Platinum" pilot and her recent appearance on "Watch What Happens Live" (see above), she has a rather muted, buttoned-up manner that doesn't quite jibe with the kind of zany characters Bravo puts on air.
DioGuardi was kind of a polarizing presence on "Idol" (who isn't though?), but I always respected her incisive remarks about the contestants; she made for a welcome counterbalance to the gratuitous viciousness of Simon Cowell and the anodyne blather of Paula Abdul. But on her own two feet, there's really not much there to be compelled by.
Bravo's overload on DioGuardi smacks of the kind of wrongheaded TV-programming strategy the broadcasters often attempt: Given the massive viewership "Idol" gets, siphoning any aspect of that show is bound to attract some segment of that audience, right? That didn't work when CBS applied the same logic to "Live to Dance," which tanked with Abdul. It's probably not going to work for Bravo, either.
Now that Oprah Winfrey has aired her final show, you can bet she’s not kicking back and enjoying some downtime. It's time for the aspiring cable mogul to roll up her sleeves and fix OWN, which ousted its president just four months after launch due to the channel’s anemic ratings.
Subbing in Discovery Networks COO Peter Liguori, who has experience turning around a cable network at News Corp.'s FX, as interim president is going to please impatient advertisers and affiliates. But a leadership change doesn't truly get at the heart of what's wrong with OWN. There's a few relatively simple cures for turning around the network that are so obvious my guess is Winfrey and Discovery are already making it happen.
First, the network needs more of Oprah herself.
OWN thought it could get away with simply distilling many of the themes that go into Winfrey's appeal--female empowerment, bouncing back from adversity, to name a few--and sprinkle them across the programming lineup. But if the opening months of OWN have taught us anything, that's just not going to cut it.
Viewers want to see Winfrey. Discovery was kidding itself if it thought OWN could succeed by just borrowing Winfrey's playbook and letting other players run her routes while the star quarterback kicked her feet up inside the skybox.
If anything, the ratings softness OWN is currently experiencing may be less reflective of problems inherent in the programming mix and have more to do with simple dashed expectations: Viewers may have checked OWN in its opening days in hopes of experiencing the woman herself only to feel cheated by the fact that the network isn't really about her.
No wonder the OWN series "Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes" is far and away the network's most popular program. It's the only show on the channel that is about really about Winfrey herself.
Instead, the channel's current stars seem to be Shania Twain, Wynonna and Naomi Judd, and soon, Sarah Ferguson. They are all variations on the same theme: troubled celebrities who have been brought low by various life circumstances and are clawing their way back--with plenty of psychobabble to help them along the way.
There's nothing wrong with any of the shows; the celebrity comeback is a staple of the Winfrey diet. But OWN isn't representing a whole other aspect of Winfrey's brand appeal: the aspirational role model.
Think of the special "Extraordinary Moms" that aired earlier this month, with Julia Roberts as host discussing parenting issues with Hillary Rodham Clinton and Christiane Amanpour. Instead of poring over people's problems, "Moms" highlighted what's good and right about some notable individuals rather than what they're doing wrong.
The problem is reality TV is more riveting when the focus is on dysfunction. But if OWN can't figure out how to package the aspirational aspect of Winfrey's brand, they're not entirely capturing its essence.
If anything, turning around OWN may be just a matter of time. Isn't it possible the network's problem is simply that as long as Winfrey remained on broadcast TV, fans weren't going to miss her and seek her out? Starting today, she's going to find out.
How do you promote the anti-show? When it comes to a series as creatively uncompromising and downright bleak as returning series "Louie," the usual marketing blather ain't going to cut it. Which makes FX approach in the season 2 promo just out (see above) downright brilliant. Even in the artificial world of the 30-second spot, Louie C.K. manages to maintain his authenticity, notifying the audience of his premiere (June 23) with the enthusiasm a death-row inmate might muster for his date of execution. Insult to injury: One of the child actors slaps him, leading to an awkward, depressed silence. "Glee," this is not.
BBC America looks like a great source for drama for the second half of 2011. The cabler is launching its 10 p.m. Wednesdays "Dramaville" franchise in August with two promising series and an outstanding returning skein.
Premiering Aug. 17: "The Hour," starring Dominic West, Romola Garai and Ben Wishaw in a 1950s spy thriller set in the London newsroom of the BBC, with the three lead characters also caught up in a love triangle.
Premiering Oct. 5: the second season of "Luther" (above), with West's former "The Wire" co-star Idris Elba in the lead. (Elba also will host the "Dramaville" presentations on BBC America.)
Premiering Nov. 2: "Whitechapel," in which modern-day killers copycat infamous crimes of the past, starring Rupert Penry-Jones and Phil Davis as detectives challenged by the bizarre increase in murders in East London.
Benefitting the Geffen Playhouse and Determined to Succeed — an initiative sponsored by Azaria that’s dedicated to providing low socio-economic students with comprehensive year-round academic and enrichment support — the tourney was a rousing success. More than $220,000 was raised.
Among the 170 players entered were a handful of poker pros and a group of actors who clearly know when to hold ‘em or fold ‘em. Jon Hamm, Ben Affleck, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Kevin Pollak, Richard Kind and are clearly as comfortable on the felt as they are in front of a camera.
Hamm, just back from Cannes where he was touting his girlfriend Jennifer Westfeldt’s film “Friends With Kids,” and Cheadle made the final two tables. The winner was poker novice Rich Sondheimer, who was playing in only his second tournament.
Azaria, flanked by Geffen producing director Gil Cates and Pollak, is appearing on NBC this fall in Jon Enbom’s laffer “Free Agents” and was a gracious host. At the beginning of the day, he kidded that if all the rumors that the world was about to come to an end at 4 o’clock due to the Rapture were true, the chip leaders at the time could divide the prize money in heaven.
Never happened. Sondheimer was Earthbound when he took home the grand prize: A seat to the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas worth $10,000.
At the mazelike Waldorf-Astoria hotel, Variety cornered Peabody winners Ray Romano and Mike Royce backstage at today's awards ceremony in Gotham to hear a little more about Romano's impromptu stand-up set at the Turner Entertainment Networks upfront presentation last week, where the comic had to jump in and perform while techies tried to fix the A/V setup.
Did Turner give Romano a raise for saving the day? "They were very grateful," Romano said. "Although they didn't give us a renewal yet."
"We could start a rumor, though," said Royce. "Right!" Romano told his colleague. "We got renewed because of five minutes of old material." Turning to the reporters, he asked, "You go to all of these things, though, right? Wasn't it a little refreshing?"
The one thing Romano admitted had worried him about the performance was that he had a tough act to follow: just before Romano started his set, network topper Steve Koonin killed. "I didn't want to go on because of that," Romano said with a laugh.
"I kept waiting for him to run out of gas," Royce agreed. "I used to be a warm-up comic; I couldn't do that."
Royce was voluble about his show's new season. "I think the show's gonna go to another level in the summer on June 1st at 10 o'clock on TNT," he emphasized (Romano: "You don't have to do that.").
Romano, however, was very clear on the "Certain Age" policy for sweeps: "We don't want to do any gimmicky stuff to get viewers. But one of us may be a vampire."
But who knew that ABC would drop the "Good" and the "Christian" as well?
Well, going forward, "Good Christian Belles" is now to be known as "G.C.B." And I'm sure ABC has its reasons, but while "Good Christian Belles" offered a hint to potential viewers of what the show is about, "G.C.B." gets honors for initial inscrutability.
This month will probably mark a career pinnacle for Kristen Wiig, who closed out her sixth season as a featured performer on "Saturday Night Live" and received rave reviews at the box office for her star turn in "Bridesmaids." Which may make the following bit of advice for Wiig seem somewhat ill-timed, but here goes.
Leave "SNL." Now. The show will be better off for it, and so will she.
That may seem an especially strange sentiment considering Wiig probably clocks more screen time than any of her cast mates. In a recent New York Times Magazine interview, "SNL" impresario Lorne Michaels suggested she was one of the top "three or four" best performers of all time on the long-running series--a stunning estimation given the talent that has come through there.
But you can seen Michaels thinks highly of her. In recent seasons, he has run the tires off of Wiig by overusing her to the point where last season there were episodes where she seemed to be in every single sketch on a given night. Consequently, this past season her stable of recurring characters--Kathie Lee Gifford, Suze Orman, Penelope, Gilly, Target Lady--come across as creatively exhausted. Wiig has acknowledged the overuse herself, having retired some of those characters, but it's too little too late: They've all bled together into one whacked-out shapeshifter that's worn out its welcome.
With the momentum "Bridesmaids" is providing her movie career, Wiig has got to be thinking this is the right juncture to move on to greener pastures. Let's not forget she's not only the star of the film, but its co-writer. Surely she's got ideas she wants to execute that last longer than three minutes. Or maybe NBC has bigger ideas for her, with the network having already successfully transitioned Tina Fey and Amy Poehler from "SNL" to their own primetime vehicles.
As hard as it might be to see a franchise player exit, "SNL" is ready to absorb the loss if Michaels takes a look at the distaff side of his own bench. Vanessa Bayer has had a breakout rookie year, getting recurring assignments like her Miley Cyrus sketch that often take cast mates years to earn. Abby Elliott and Nasim Pedrad have been there a little bit longer, but they're underestimated and underused. Getting Wiig out of the way would force "SNL" to lean on these women more often than it does.
Which isn't to say Wiig is the only loss "SNL" could suffer going into next season. Three other major players on the show arrived roughly the same time Wiig did: Jason Sudeikis, Andy Samberg and Bill Hader. Don't be suprised if Sudeikis leaves given the way his film career could take off too after starring roles in "Hall Pass" and the upcoming "Horrible Bosses." Samberg seems like he's having too much fun to leave and Hader probably just had his best season yet, launching the only memorable new "SNL" character this season that just begs to be turned into a horrible movie: Stefon, guide to Manhattan's weirdest nightclubs.
But even the guys could stand to lose some talent. Taran Killiam and Paul Brittain didn't burn as bright as Bayer but seemed to get better and more comfortable with every episode; they're keepers.
The only question mark from the rookie class is Jay Pharoah. True, he may have provided some of the biggest laughs of the season--he's a truly gifted impressionist, and his mimicry of Denzel Washington and Will Smith was scary good. But Pharoah has been little-used outside of those impressions and he looks positively lost in skits in which he's not called on to impersonate someone. Maybe he needs some more seasoning, or maybe "SNL" is not the right vehicle for him.
No doubt Lorne Michaels and his team are raising some of these very same issues as they prepare for another season. At least they should know they've got a deep enough bench to say goodbye to some stars if need be.
Exec producer Terence Winter narrates this snapshot of themes for the second season of HBO drama "Boardwalk Empire," scheduled to return this fall.
"He is a remarkable person who has a great ability to turn his significant experience into useful insights," CBS News chairman and "60 Minutes" exec producer Jeff Fager said. "He will help our viewers better understand the stories involving safety and air travel that seem to pop up all of the time."
Added CBS news president David Rhodes: "He wants to share his insights not only on aviation, but on a whole range of safety and leadership issues that confront us each day."
I haven't been able to write about the CW's "Hart of Dixie" without making comparisons to "Doc Hollywood," but at least now we can see a glimpse of where the similaries and differences will be.
Nancy Travis, who will be a regular on ABC's "Last Man Standing" this fall opposite Tim Allen, has a role in this clip introducing Rachel Bilson's Zoe Hart character to her new Southern world.
This clip sets up the premise of Sarah Michelle Gellar's fall 9 p.m. Tuesday CW series "Ringer" pretty crisply. How good the series will be is still anyone's guess, but it definitely seems tailored more for the younger demos of the CW than its originally intended home, CBS.
Kristoffer Polaha, Ioan Gruffudd, Nestor Carbonell and Tara Summers co-star in "Ringer," which is exec produced by Pam Veasey, Peter Traugott and director Richard Shepard.
Ben is back — in all his Ben-ness.
That's Ben from "Lost," aka Michael Emerson, who co-stars with Jim Caviezel in "Person of Interest," which CBS has so much faith in that it's being pushed into what has often been the most competitive timeslot on network TV, 9 p.m. Thursdays. Emerson is playing a different character, of course, but he still comes across as the master manipulator we remember all too well.
That raises the problem of whether watching "Interest" will serve only to make us long for the glory days of "Lost" (both share J.J. Abrams as an exec producer). "The numbers never stop coming," Emerson's Finch says at one point as if to underscore the issue.
In contrast to the friendly behind-the-scenes clip above, the extended teaser that CBS presented at today's upfronts in New York offered a show that seemed to risk taking itself too seriously, almost coming across like a parody of the scenes in "Lost" that found Ben manipulating the ex-castaways like Sayid in Europe. But fully formed, "Interest" hopefully won't seem so weighed down. If nothing else, its plot should be easier to track.
From the network that has brought you "Two and a Half Men" and will bring you "The 2-2" comes a third part of the twosome — "2 Broke Girls," from Michael Patrick King of "Sex and the City" and Whitney Cummings of rival NBC's upcoming sitcom "Whitney."
Starring Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs (with none other than "Saturday Night Live" vet Garrett Morris in the supporting cast), "2" tested higher than any comedy in CBS history, according to the network — a feat that might say more about testing audiences than the merits of the show. Not that the teaser material CBS has released is anything bad, but there's also not much to indicate why this one is so special.
"We thought it would be really interesting to take somebody that has worked really her whole life and put her with someone who's always had money," King says, a comment that would seem to ask you to believe that "Odd Couple" pairings are original.
Less important than the concept, though, will be the execution. Both leads have spark, so if the jokes aren't as predictable as the premise, CBS could have a ratings winner on its hands, sandwiched on Mondays between "How I Met Your Mother" and "Two and a Half Men."
HBO's "Game of Thrones" keeps gaining steam — as Rick Kissell of Variety noted, the medieval fantasy hit another series high for its most recent new episode Sunday, drawing 2.6 million viewers.
HBO is rewarding the fans who use new mobile platform HBO Go, which is free to HBO subscribers, with a special treat. After the sixth episode of the series airs Sunday, episode seven will immediately become available to HBO Goers. Those waiting to see it on TV won't get it until May 29.
Then, there are those of us who won't be watching it at all. Like my colleague Stuart Levine, I have given up on the series after it failed to overcome my initial misgivings. I was urged to hold out until Sunday's episode five, which has been widely said to be the best of the series to date, and — except for the occasional jolt of major violence (which I'm not actually dying to see) — I still found my eyes glazing over. Brian Lowry will remain the champion of the show at Variety.
Reading numerous pieces about the series online as the season has progressed, it's clear that it engages many its fans at a passionate level that I just don't think I can ever reach. The characters simply don't make me care enough about what happens to them. Sometimes you just don't connect. Things seem pretty exciting when you look at the 90-second recap above, but spread out over an hour, it just loses me.
The funny thing is that several people have compared the show to "The Wire," which I'm also watching on Sunday nights in rerun form on DirecTV. And in my mind, there's no comparison. Even as "The Wire" began and it wasn't clear what I was in for, I was drawn to it in a way that "Game of Thrones" hasn't been able to. And certainly, by episode five of "The Wire," rather than looking for an escape, I was all in.
But to each their own. I know what it's like to be head-over-heels about a TV show and not comprehend why others don't feel the same way. "Game of Thrones" looks primed for a long, healthy run on HBO, and I'm happy for its fans.
While waiting for CBS to release clips of programs from its new 2011-12 series, I noticed a small pattern in the dramas. Here are some excerpts from their descriptions:
"Unforgettable" stars Poppy Montgomery as Carrie Wells, an enigmatic former police detective with a rare condition that makes her memory so flawless that every place, every conversation, every moment of joy and every heartbreak is forever embedded in her mind ...
"Person of Interest" (pictured) ... Reese's (Jim Caviezel) special training in covert operations appeals to Finch (Michael Emerson), a software genius who invented a program that uses pattern recognition to identify people about to be involved in violent crimes. Using state-of-the-art surveillance technology, the two work outside of the law using Reese's adept skills and Finch's unlimited wealth to unravel the mystery of the person of interest and stop the crime before it happens ...
"A Gifted Man" is a drama about a brilliant, charismatic surgeon whose life changes forever when his deceased ex-wife begins teaching him the meaning of life from the "hereafter." Michael Holt (Patrick Wilson) is an exceptional doctor who lives a materialistic life of luxury thanks to his work-obsessed career and powerful and wealthy patients ...
Now it's not as if these characters don't face challenges, and plenty of them. But they sure seem to come equipped for the task — kind of the way the broadcast networks' perennial leader in overall viewers faces the potential pitfalls of a new TV season from a position of strength.
One of the true highlights of upfronts week comes when ABC late-night host Jimmy Kimmel takes the stage at his network's presentation and does a stand-up act targeting the TV industry that always leaves the crowd at Lincoln Center howling--sometimes in pain because a joke or two comes at their expense. After the non-stop promotional blather advertisers and journalists alike are forced to ingest in mass quantities, Kimmel's bracing wit is like the antidote to a hype overdose.
And so without further ado, courtesy of Variety, please enjoy Kimmel's best TV-themed jabs from his 2011 performance:
** Remember those shows we were so excited about last fall? We canceled all of them. And yet here you are again. I think you might have a gambling problem.
** Every year, you come here, we shower you with promises and never really follow through on any of them. If this was a show, we 'd call it "The Bachelor": We tell you we love you, we give you a rose, we canoodle with you in a hot tub, and then two and a half months down the line you realize we're gay.
** Hey, speaking of gay, let's hear it for the new head of our network, Paul Lee. Oh, did I say gay? I meant British. And who better to lead the American Broadcasting Company than a English guy with a Korean last name.
** Be honest, what did you think of NBC's upfront? It's cute that they're trying. NBC has a new boss, too, a guy named Bob Greenblatt. Bob is asking for patience while they turn things around and you should be patient--hang on to your ad money for as long as it takes them to get their s**t together.
** But in the meantime, they'll be selling their ads on Groupon this year. You can get a 30-second spot during "The Office" and a Thai massage for 45 bucks.
** Yesterday the head of NBC thanked God for "The Voice."...God has nothing to do with what's going on at NBC. God stopped watching NBC after "Friends."
** The big news yesterday was that Donald Trump would not run for president so he can focus his energies full time on reality shows. He might host two shows on NBC next year, "The Celebrity Apprentice" and there's talk he might be asked to host "The Sing-Off," which would be retitled "The Jerk-Off."
** Over at the Fox network, they're getting ready to debut "The X Factor," a competition show featuring Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell. Young people will go on and sing and America wil vote who they think will be champion. I have to say I think this is the best idea...of 2002. It's like "American Idol" meets a mirror.
** The business of network television is very uncertain right now. Fox, ABC and NBC are all losing viewers to cable and the Internet. And CBS is losing viewers...to natural causes. Did you know that more people die watching CBS than any other network?
** Tomorrow you're going to hear a lot of bragging that CBS is No. 1, and CBS is No. 1. That's mainly because viewers can't remember where they put the remote.
** Everyone knows CBS had a big problem this year. One of their biggest stars, Charlie Sheen, left the network to go...crazy. After a lot of back and forth, a lot of threats and hookers, CBS announced they would move forward to retool the show. And sure enough, they found another tool, Ashton Kutcher. He's popular, he's handsome, and he has experience. Remember, he did a very good job replacing Bruce Willis.
** This time around we're excited about all our shows. Except "Shark Tank." We have no idea how that got back on the schedule. you know what someone should invent on "Shark Tank?" A replacement for "Shark Tank."
** We have "Charlie's Angels," a show that in the '70s when I was growing up was hugely popular with male and female audiences. This was a show that women loved because it empowered them during a time in America when the only female role models were moms and nurses. And men loved it because we didn't have Internet porn yet.
** We have "Wipeout" year-round now. You know, originally all were had was fat people falling down in the summer. But our creative team got together, they looked at them and said, 'Hey, what if we also had them fall down in winter?' And winter "Wipeout" was born.
** We've got "Pan Am," a show named after an airline that went bankrupt. What could possibly go wrong with that? It's set in the '60s like "Mad Men," and you know "Mad Men" gets 2.7 million viewers a week. Even if we get half that, that's more than a million people. Can you imagine being able to reach that kind of audience? I certainly can't.
** Here's what it come down to. All of us at ABC from the top down are committed to one thing: keeping our jobs. And so we have no choice but to create quality shows even though its a huge pain in the ass. Here's the thing: I can't promise these shows will be good or that these shows wil be successful. But I can promise you that they will be expensive to advertise in.
** On May 30th, we're premiering a show called "Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition." This is a show where we take people who are too fat for "The Biggest Loser" and make affordable housing out of them. Go to ABC.com and click the link to see the promo for this show. Before the promo, you will see a preroll ad for Red Lobster, specifically Red Lobster "festival of shrimp" with unlimited cheddar biscuits for $11.99. This is a show for the super morbidly obsese. Do you understand that the producers have a one-question application for the show: Have you ever shattered a toilet? If the answer is yes, you're in. And yet somehow we are able to sell those people cheddar biscuits.
Jimmy Wolk (pictured), "Georgetown"
Sharon Horgan, Jenna Elfman, Tom Everett Scott, Frances Conroy, "Bad Mom"
Jordana Spiro, "Lost and Found"
Eric Roberts, Eion Bailey, "Grace"
Jesse L. Martin, Terry O'Quinn, Frances O'Connor, Donal Logue, Della Reese, "Hallelujah"
Orlando Jones, Angela Bassett, Bree Turner, "Identity"
Frances Fisher, Michael Beach, Lawrence Gilliard, Jr., "Partners"
Chris Egan, "Poe"
Mo Gaffney, Cybill Shepherd, "My Freakin' Family"
Malcolm Barrett, Bonnie Somerville, Jesse Bradford, Judith Light, "Other People's Kids"
Kyle Howard, Julie White, Adam Arkin, John C. McGinley, "Smothered"
Also, murder mystery “The Killing” is looking extremely likely for a second season pickup. Show, from Fox Television Studios, premiered to 2.7 million viewers April 3 in its two-hour premiere and has been a steady performer. Sunday’s episode drew 2 million viewers.
Network recently went through a “bake-off,” where writers pitched their creative vision to AMC execs. Purpose of the meeting was to see where the stories would go over a season-long arc.
Unlike any other cabler, AMC has a history of greenlighting all their pilots to series. “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad,” “Rubicon” and “The Killing” all got the go-ahead from AMC president Charlie Collier, who had confidence to give it a full order. Up next is “Hell on Wheels,” about the Transcontinental Railroad.
Only exception is “The Walking Dead,” which was given a six-episode order without a pilot.
According to insiders, AMC is tamping down on pilots not because of any financial restraint. With “Hell on Wheels” on tap and all shows continuing on — except for the one-season-and-out “Rubicon” — the slate is reaching a saturation point. The net only offers originals on Sunday nights.
Shows in development include “The Man With the Golden Ears,” from writer Scott Rosenberg, about a former big-time record executive trying to find the next music superstar while, at the same time, dealing with a tumultuous personal life.
There was also John Shiban’s “The Voyage,” where humans interact with an alien life form, and “The 4th Estate,” from writer and ex-MTV correspondent Gideon Yago. Project centered on a journalist who, while investigating a Washington, D.C., scandal, finds his own life being turned upside down.
Others scripts were “The Wreck,” “American Made” and an untitled racing project.
Though these six are not going forward now, there is still a possibility AMC will go give them a series order at a future date. For the time being, however, cabler is satisfied with its current lineup.
“Breaking Bad” is set to launch its fourth season in July, “The Walking Dead” will preem its second season in October and “Mad Men” will likely begin again in 2012 following contentious negotiations between Lionsgate, AMC and showrunner Matthew Weiner.
|Al Madrigal - Highly Allergic|
It’s a good week to be Al Madrigal. Not only does he have a supporting role on NBC sitcom “Free Agents,” which NBC placed on its fall schedule, but his first piece as a contributor on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” airs tonight.
Among other appearances, Madrigal has previously had a halfhour standup special on Comedy Central.
Tim Allen goes from three sons on "Home Improvement" to three daughters on "Last Man Standing" (launching at 8 p.m. Tuesdays this fall on ABC) and so while things are demonstrably different from the 1990s ABC smash, the snippet above doesn't feel all that fresh.
The thought occurs to me that if "Modern Family" were aiming to hit the same story beat as the one above, it would require about a tenth of the setup to do so, and the punchline wouldn't seem quite so predictable. I think that's part of what made "Modern Family" seem so exceptional from the start. But maybe that's not a valid comparison, especially for a single scene from a multicam pilot.
Nancy Travis, from another '90s sitcom ("Almost Perfect"), co-stars as wife Vanessa, with Molly Ephraim, Alexandra Krosney and Kaitlyn Dever as daughters aged 22, 17 and 14. Hector Elizondo also co-stars, presumably not limited to appearing behind a fence like Earl Hindman. Jack Burditt ("30 Rock") wrote and exec produces with Allen, Becky Clements, Marty Adelstein, Shawn Levy, Richard Baker and Rick Messina for Twentieth.
I watched "Charlie's Angels" religiously as a pre-teen kid (amid all the Farrah posters circulating, Jaclyn Smith was my fave). We've chatted in the office about who the new version of "Angels" is targeted for. By placing it on Thursdays at 8 p.m., ABC seems to be going for some subset of its "Grey's Anatomy"/"Private Practice" audience, with perhaps a few curious boys-to-men (who can't find anything to suit their needs on cable) looking in on stars Minka Kelly, Rachael Taylor and Annie Ilonzeh.
In a timeslot that has given ABC's scripted series fits ("My Generation," "FlashForward"), "Angels" doesn't seem doomed, but does it have the requisite emotions for fans of "Grey's" to care enough to tune in? Or will it rely on rather violent action sequences like the one above to attract viewers with more primal tastes?
Again, it's too soon to judge, but part of me can't help but think that the new "Angels" will go the way of recent 8 p.m. style-over-substance shows like "Knight Rider" and "Undercovers."
The trio of stars from Fox's quickly canceled 2010 drama "Lone Star" — James Wolk, Adrianne Palicki and Eloise Mumford — all had roles in 2011 pilots. And for a while there, it looked like it would be a strikeout for the trio.
But while Wolk's "Georgetown" and Palicki's "Wonder Woman" bit the dust, Mumford's "The River" survived to make the ABC midseason schedule. Going by the intensity of the clip above, directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, it's not hard to see why.
The mystery offers Bruce Greenwood as a famed explorer missing in the Amazon, with Mumford co-starring alongslide Joe Anderson, Paul Blackthorne, Paulina Gaitan, Leslie Hope, Shaun Parkes, Thomas Kretschmann and Daniel Zacapa.
Steven Spielberg, Daryl Frank, Justin Falvey, Michael Green (the showrunner), Oren Peli, Zack Estrin, Jason Blum and Steven Schneider exec produce for ABC Studios.
The adaptation of the BBC Worldwide Prods. franchise for American audiences, which premieres July 8, will also have John DeLancie, C. Thomas Howell, Wayne Knight, Frances Fisher, Nana Visitor and Mare Winningham among its irregulars.
Mekhi Phifer, Bill Pullman, Alexa Havens and Arlene Tur are members of the new serie's regular cast that includes BBC holdovers John Barrowman, Eve Myles and Kai Owen. Series creator Russell T. Davies is exec producing and showrunning.
CBS News unveiled an interesting experiment in news delivery online this morning with "What's Trending with Shira Lazar," an online-only program that takes its cues from buzzworthy subjects popping in real time across social-media platforms like Twitter. While the video component of the series is a live stream at 10 a.m. PT, "Trending" keeps the conversation going by blog all week long as well.
Prediction: Watch 24-hour cable news jump on this format, and quickly. To some degree, it's already happened over at Al Jazeera's English-language program "The Stream." The format injects a jolt of freshness to the overly choreographed, prepackaged news over at CNN, MSNBC and Fox News Channel. All have incorporated social media to varying extents in their current shows, but it's hard not to believe something where Twitter or Facebook is the creative foundation of the show isn't already being developed. Maybe in lieu of a 24-hour news network at CBS News, "Trending" could expand into something just like that.
Those of us who are big fans of Krysten Ritter from such projects as "Breaking Bad" are thrilled to see her get her own starring role, in 2011-12 midseason ABC comedy "Apartment 23." ABC made two clips available to the press — the first (not shown here) paints Ritter's Chloe as a complete airhead, but as we see above, it's all an act. A show without Ritter showing off her dark side would have been a real bummer.
James Van Der Beek becomes the latest TV character to play a version of himself — perhaps he'll have longer life in the role than the last ABC sitcom regular to do so, Jennifer Grey in 1999's "It's Like, You Know."
Nahnatchka Kahn (“American Dad”) created the series and exec produces with Dave Hemingson, Jeff Morton and director Jason Winer for 20th Century Fox Television.
ABC's shot at a 1960s period piece, "Pan Am," isn't all about girdles, though the two separate preview clips offered to the press might convince you otherwise.
Above, you have what seems to be the obligatory scene showing how different the priorities were half a century, complete with two-dimensional, emotionless matronly woman. Another clip, with Christina Ricci as a "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in" Pan-Am purser, shows a little more character but also makes clear that girdles were really a big deal.
In all seriousness, the scenes don't do much more than offer you the peanuts, rather than the entire in-flight meal. We'll have to wait to see if the entire first episode rises above the quality of 1960s airline food. At least we won't have to pay for it like we do with airline food today.
Katharine McPhee may be headed for her Jennifer Hudson moment.
Like Hudson, the former "American Idol" finalist who transformed expectations with an Oscar-winning performance in "Dreamgirls," McPhee looks poised to become famous less for her reality show past but her very here-and-now present on midseason NBC series "Smash."
McPhee not only shines in the sneak preview above, but the show surrounding her looks lively. There's always the danger of "Chorus Line" cliches popping into a story about a wannabe Broadway star, but there seems to be enough edge in this small sample for us to let down our guard.
This also looks like a great role for Debra Messing, who teams with Christian Borle to portray the songwriting team for the musical-within-a-show. Anjelica Huston, Jack Davenport and Megan Hilty also appear game for their key roles.
Certainly, the "Smash" soup isn't lacking for cooks: Exec producers are Steven Spielberg, Justin Falvey, Darryl Frank, Craig Zadan, Neil Meron, Theresa Rebeck, Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman.
One of two new Sunday animated series for Fox next season will be "Allen Gregory," co-created by and starring Jonah Hill as a worldly 7-year-old (a drier personality than Stewie of "Family Guy," but similar smarts) forced to slum it in elementary school. You'll get an immediate sense of the show's sense of humor from the clip above.
The sneak peek offers an arrogant kid whom the producers clearly realize must have a vulnerable side to avoid being annoying — how well they can walk that line will be a key to the series' creative success.
Nat Faxon, French Stewart, Joy Osmanski, Cristina Pucelli, Will Forte round out the regular voice cast (Leslie Mann guests as second-grade teacher Gina, while Renee Taylor voices the role of the principal). Hill exec produces with co-creators Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul, as well as Peter Chernin, Katherine Pope and David A. Goodman.
Having watched the above sneak preview of Zooey Deschanel's upcoming fall Fox series "New Girl," I'm not sure I've ever seen a preview for a TV show that looked more like a preview for a romantic comedy feature film. And, despite how awful so many romantic comedy features are, I don't mean that in a bad way.
Deschanel, unsurprisingly, is completely winning as an offbeat but believable gal starting over with three male roommates after a bad breakup, and the roomates themselves (Max Greenfield, Jake Johnson, Damon Wayans Jr.) seem relatively down-to-earth for this kind of premise.
There are some moments where in the background you hear (or expect to hear) the archaic record-scratching sound that beats you over the head that irony is coming, as well as the seemingly obligatory scene where folks burst into a 25-year-old song in a restaurant. But overall, the show seems like it could be a lot of fun, with the series format giving "New Girl" room to breathe that a 90-minute film couldn't.
'Alcatraz' has received mixed buzz this pilot season, calling into question how much its J.J. Abrams pedigree will be worth (a year after his "Undercovers" was a mitigated disaster).
But the sneak preview that Fox offered today following its 2011-12 schedule announcement showed the potential of a good yarn, and who can't be excited about seeing Jorge Garcia of "Lost" back in a regular series role — helping drive the investigation into the mystery of prison inmates from the past who have inexplicably reappeared in the present, no less?
Sarah Jones, Sam Neill, Parminder Nagra, Robert Forster, Santiago Cabrera, Jonny Coyne, Jason Butler Harner co-star in the series, exec produced by Abrams, Bryan Burk, Elizabeth Sarnoff and Danny Cannon.
Well, this is going to take some getting used to. It's not as if I haven't enjoyed CBS multicam set-up/joke sitcom "The Big Bang Theory" on the same Thursday night as clever single-cam NBC comedies "Community," "Parks and Recreation" and "The Office," but there is definitely something jarring about the idea that Whitney Cummings' new series "Whitney" will fit comfortably into the NBC mix at 9:30 p.m.
A first look at "Whitney," via the clip above, hints at a show that seems trapped in a 1990s comedy style, when so many comedies aped the "What's the deal with ..." approach of "Seinfeld," only without its sophistication. (Really, do we need to talk about why wedding guests can't wear white?) But the very last line of the scene gave me hope.
The second clip (featuring Maulik Pancholy of "30 Rock," which will be on hiatus until midseason) is hit-and-miss, but the third one shows some spark, with Whitney paying extreme attention to detail as a nurse in a sexual fantasy. If it can be this offbeat and amusing on a consistent basis, concerns about "Whitney" being multicam will fade away. Or maybe "Whitney" will lure in all those viewers who for some reason can't see the brilliance in "Community," "Parks" and, when it's on its game, "The Office."
That being said, perhaps "Whitney" ultimately ends up on Wednesdays sometime next season, if NBC continues with its plan to build comedies between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. but either "Up All Night" or "Free Agents" isn't up to snuff.
Chris D'Elia, Zoe-Lister Jones, Rhea Seehorn and Dan O'Brien are also part of the cast of "Whitney," exec produced by Cummings, Quan Phung, Scott Stuber, Betsy Thomas, Barry Katz and director Andy Ackerman.
It should go without saying, but in case it doesn't, we're just getting a small taste of these series through these clips, and no conclusive opinion is being or should be formed.
Now here's one to get excited about. "Awake," from "Lone Star" creator Kyle Killen, won't arrive on NBC until midseason, but it looks even more promising — as well as more audience-accessible — than the critically praised Fox pilot that was rejected by viewers and canceled after two weeks.
As with "Lone Star," "Awake" features a man living a double life, though in the case of Michael Britten (Jason Issacs), the double life involves an alternate reality that switches over each time Michael goes to sleep. David Slade's direction of Killen's thoughtful words looks to be absolutely superlative.
Laura Allen ("Terriers"), Dylan Minnette, Michaela McManus, Steve Harris, Wilder Valderrama, BD Wong and Cherry Jones co-star in "Awake," exec produced by Killen, Slade and Howard Gordon for Twentieth TV.
Here's a selection of thesps who got bad news from Fox, which greenlit other series instead of theirs:
Lauren Ambrose (pictured), "Weekends at Bellevue"
Miranda Otto, Nick Stahl, Jesse McCartney, Sarah Bolger, "Locke & Key"
Kyle Bornheimer, Ken Howard, Diane Farr, Rick Gomez, Richard T. Jones "Council of Dads"
Kerry Bishe, Zach Gilford, "Iceland"
Cheech Marin, Ana Ortiz, "Outnumbered"
Gary Cole, Robin Givens, "Tagged"
“Pearl Jam Twenty,” an “American Masters” documentary on the 20th anniversary band from Cameron Crowe, will premiere Oct. 21 on PBS as part of the pubcaster’s Arts Fall Festival.
As will be the case with the eight other parts of the festival, a local PBS station, Seattle’s KCTS, will co-produce a mini-documentary to compliment the main event.
“Pearl Jam is a groundbreaking band, and Cameron Crowe is an amazing filmmaker. I’m thrilled that this remarkable documentary will be a part of the PBS Arts Fall Festival,” said PBS President and CEO Paula A. Kerger.
With "Parks and Recreation" riding its season-long creative high, it's natural to be curious about what its writers would do on their own. Dan Goor's "Family Practice" didn't get picked up for fall, but Emily Spivey's "Up All Night" has not only been given a spot on the schedule, it's kicking off Wednesday nights for NBC at 8 p.m.
"Up All Night" (not to be confused with upcoming NBC drama "Awake") is Spivey's comedy (also exec produced by Lorne Michaels and Jon Pollack) starring two sitcom stars of recent vintage, Christina Applegate and Will Arnett, as new parents struggling to adjust to the loss of their freedom. The clips offered by NBC play on the obvious — partying hard ain't easy when there's a kid in the picture — but hopefully, as with "Parks," there will new layers of cleverness and comedy to unfold.
Stockard Channing, Eamonn Walker, Tricia Helfer, Kristin Kreuk, Esai Morales ("17th Precinct")
Don Johnson, Kelly Hu, Mario Cantone, "A. Mann's World"
Adrianne Palicki, Tracie Thoms, Cary Elwes, "Wonder Woman"
Danny Pino, Danielle Alonso, Madchen Amick, Jimmy Smits, "Metro"
Claire Wellin, Rachelle Lefevre, Martin Henderson, "Reconstruction"
Ed Begley Jr., Robby Benson, "The New World"
Jean Smart, Jere Burns, Christopher Lloyd, "Family Practice"
Anna Camp, Nick Thune, Danneel Harris, "I Hate That I Love You"
Sarah Paulson (pictured), Adrian Pasdar, "Help Wanted"
Ryan Hansen, Smith Cho, "Lovelives"
Paget Brewster, Donald Sutherland, "My Life as an Experiment"
NBC posted several clips of its upcoming 2011-12 series — here's a first look at "The Playboy Club," scheduled for 10 p.m. Mondays this fall.
From the first two excerpts (one up top, one below), things couldn't look much more superficial in a series that, whether it likes it or not, is sure to draw initial comparisons to "Mad Men." In fact, "Mad Men" alum Alan Taylor directed the "Playboy" pilot. But as the breathlessness of the third clip shows, even as the drama gets meatier, any similarities to "Mad Men" end with the time period and the haircuts. "The Playboy Club" will be its own series, for better or worse.
The final clip offers the best line, from club manager Billy (David Krumholtz) to lead character Nick (Eddie Cibrian). "Smart. Who needs smart? You're the only man I know puts his hand up a girl's skirt looking for a dictionary."
Brian Grazer, Chad Hodge (who wrote the pilot), Francie Calfo, Jason Burns and Dick Rosenzweig exec produce "The Playboy Club" for 20th Century Fox Television and Imagine Television. Amber Heard, Laura Benanti, Jenna Dewan Tatum, Wes Ramsey, Nautri Naughton and Leah Renee round out the cast.
That NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt has a great eye for talent is obvious judging from a track record evident even before his days at Showtime. But that said eye would extend into NBC's news division has emerged as an early surprise at this week's upfronts.
Greenblatt confirmed in his Sunday pre-upfront press conference announcing NBC's primetime schedule that he's looking to add a newsmagazine to the programming lineup later this season. Thankfully, it's not on the schedule yet, which as I blogged last week, would have been a mistake.
There's few details to share at this early stage, but this much Greenblatt knows: It won't be like "Dateline," with its true-crime stories and single-story format. And it will feature "Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams.
The very fact that Greenblatt is thinking about news programming at all is surprising, and for a few reasons. One, it's been a looong time since any broadcasters has looked at newsmagazine as anything more than cheap schedule padding. Two, there's nothing in Greenblatt's resume that suggests he would take an interest in news programming.
When The Wall Street Journal first reported Williams' involvement, I didn't think much of it beyond being a fairly obvious move; what better way to give a new news program credence than with the most established name in the news division. But as Greenblatt discussed the newsmagazine during a press conference Sunday, it became clear that he sees Williams as a lot more than just an evening-news anchor.
"A couple of months ago I sat down with Steve Capus who is the head of the news division and I said, 'Let's try to take these incredible news assets that only NBC has and let's see if we can develop a newsmagazine that is fresh, relevant and entertaining,'" Greenblatt recounted. "That of course led us right to Brian Williams, the best of the best. Not only as a journalist, but as a guy who's funny and comfortable in his own skin."
I was really struck by how Greenblatt characterized Williams because it's rare you hear a journalist described in any way that doesn't directly correspond to journalistic ability. While his comment certainly stands as a compliment for Williams, it's difficult not to read it also as a backhanded swipe at pretty much all of his colleagues in the news business, who tend to come across in an artificial, stilted manner that has probably hurt the genre.
But personality alone can't drive a newsmagazine; surely there's some innovation to the format Greenblatt has in mind. But when I asked him how he plans for this program to stand out in the genre, he returned immediately to Williams.
"I think it's Brian Williams and his sensibility and skill that can inform this," he said. "First and foremost, there's the newsman and at the same time, he has a really fun personality that I think can enliven a magazine show, which is what he can't do on evening news. He does it to some degree when he's doing some serious interviews on the talk shows with Leno or Letterman and one of the other places. He usually talks about very serious things but in a way that is very relatable and very human. I can't think of anyone who does it quite like he does."
What Greenblatt seems to be getting at here is this odd compartmentalization Williams has always done with his image. There's Williams as anchor, a role he performs with little of the charm and wit he displays in so many other entertainment venues, be it appearances on late-night shows, his memorable hosting of "Saturday Night Live" or cameos on "30 Rock." Maybe Greenblatt wants to break down the walls between those personas in the hope that a blend of the two creates something uniquely appealing.
It will make for an interesting experiment, but I can't help but maintain some skepticism given how moribund newsmags like "20/20" and "48 Hours" have been for so long. There's, of course, one exception, as Greenblatt reminded me, joking, "I'd love to struggle to the degree '60 Minutes' is struggling."
And yet NBC managed to throw a real curveball Thursday when The Wall Street Journal reported the network was considering a primetime news series that would be hosted by evening-news anchor Brian Williams.
While it's doubtful NBC will have this ready for its upfront presentation Monday should they even choose to put such a program in primetime, the mere whiff of such an idea sends the wrong signal at the wrong time.
Every move NBC makes nowadays should scream a simple sentiment: our comeback is imminent. That's the message new parent company sent on its last earnings call when NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke pledged to pump an extra $200 million into primetime. That's the message new unscripted series "The Voice" sent by putting up impressive ratings.
But putting on a news program in primetime is not going to do that. Unless you're "60 Minutes" or "Nightline," newsmagazines serve one basic function on the schedule: they are cheap alternatives to entertainment that deliver reliable but modest ratings. They are the kind of shows you put on to patch holes in your schedule, not ignite audiences.
Creating a new news brand is just a savvier alternative to a more obvious move that would reek of desperation: spawning another edition of "Dateline." It wasn't that long ago that all the broadcasters were boasting multiple weekly editions of their respective newsmagazines, but that didn't last too long for a reason. Now everything from "Dateline" to ABC's "20/20" to CBS' "48 Hours" are hopelessly tarnished, all awash in true-crime stories that aren't anything like real news.
Highminded as launching a news program sounds, the sad truth is that there's no hit potential and that's the point of the TV business: generating hits. A news program is a pure punt, a gesture suggesting the network is going to hedge its bets and save up to spend elsewhere. It smacks of Jeff Zucker-era NBC, when the former NBCUniversal CEO would rationalize the lack of hits on his air with talk of "managing margins." That's a how network ends up in fourth place.
Come Monday, NBC should have as many time slots as possible filled with productions that have advertisers asking themselves, "Could this be the next big thing?" Anything less is a return to the perception this network must leave behind.
Some fun stuff from the live presidential "Early Show" appearance Thursday ayem - cameras were rolling throughout the ad breaks and these are the highlights from Obama's Town Hall at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The CBS morming show had taken its share of knocks recently, so they're probably happy to be getting some positive attention for this interview.
Speaking of "The Voice" ... NBC has decided to go with four weeks of two-hour live episodes of its singalong skein, starting on Tuesdays from June 7 through June 28.
In addition, the Peacock announced a May 31 season premiere date for summer standby "America's Got Talent." Its live shows will begin July 5.
As a result, on Tuesdays in June, NBC will have one hour of "Talent" followed by "The Voice" live from 9-11 p.m.
At their new website, Showbuzz Daily, former NBC scheduling chief Mitch Metcalf and his partner Mitch Salem have unveiled their predictions for the fall 2011-12 primetime schedule for all the broadcast networks.
Among the interesting tidbits: suggesting that NBC will not only push new reality hit "The Voice" (above) into the fall, but run it twice a week, at 8 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays. More:
Mondays: After "The Voice," NBC would put two rookie comedies in its troublesome 9 p.m. timeslot, followed by "Parenthood."
Tuesdays: While CBS would remain stable, ABC, Fox and NBC would put a combined five hours of new programs between 9-11 p.m., including musical-themed "Smash" and, facing off at 10 p.m., "Pan Am" vs. "Prime Suspect."
Wednesdays: ABC would put "Charlie's Angels" at 10 p.m. after its comedy block and NBC would move "Biggest Loser" over from Tuesdays, but the headlines would go to Fox for its combo of ballyhooed new programs "The X Factor" and "Terra Nova."
Thursdays: Just as it benched "Parks and Recreation" last fall, NBC would save "Community" this time around until midseason, while premiering "Whitney" at 8:30 p.m. CBS would move fading "CSI" off Thursdays to make room for "The 2-2" (fka "Rookies").
Fridays: "CSI" would land at 9 p.m. after an 8 p.m. "Undercover Boss" and before "Blue Bloods" in its original timeslot. NBC would move "Harry's Law" over from Mondays.
Sundays: "Good Christian Bitches," or whatever its title ultimately will be, would land at 10 p.m. for ABC, while NBC prays for the NFL to settle its labor dispute.
Fool's errands don't come any more foolish than trying to project fall schedules days before they are announced. Though the Monday reports on Fox's pickups give us a good indication of what cards they have to play, there's plenty of question marks from off-the-radar unscripted shows to just how many hours per week Simon Cowell's "X Factor" will take up.
Nevertheless, speculate we must, even if it's as hopeless a task as plotting the brackets during March Madness. Better yet, let's couch this as "recommendations" so when I'm completely wrong I don't have to be held accountable.
Fox should attack Thursday with a double blast of its best new stuff. With rival nets fading on the night advertisers prize most, Fox can't wait for "American Idol" to return in January to grab a majority of the dollars. What better way to make a splash than take Steven Spielberg dino-drama "Terra Nova" and drop it in at 9-10 p.m., with the second night of "X Factor" as a lead-in. Whether "Factor" will be 30 or 60 minutes is unknown, which may mean "Factor" will have to share the anchor hour with a sitcom.
The first night of "Factor" should lead off Wednesday. It makes sense to assume that Fox will want to put "Factor" in the same slot as "Idol." If like "Idol" it begins the season in a 90-minute format, that means a lucky sitcom is getting a plum 9:30 p.m. time slot. Bet that goes to pickup "I Hate My Teenage Daughter." If "Factor" is only an hour, Fox is better off putting a new drama like "The Finder" there instead of pitting a comedy against "Modern Family" at 9 p.m. ("Little in Common" is likely for midseason).
New comedy "The New Girl" should get "Glee" as a lead-in on Tuesday. "Daughter" could just as easily get this slot; given star Jamie Pressly just appeared on "Raising Hope," which will likely move to 9:30 p.m., that could make a nice pairing. But Fox has been keen on this Zooey Deschanel vehicle for quite a while, and she couldn't ask for a better lead-in than "Glee." Given Deschanel is also a chanteuse, would an early-season cameo on "Glee" be out of the question? It would be a great promotion for "Girl."
The toughest call: Who gets the post-"House" time slot? This the same slot "Lone Star" imploded in last year but could be less competitive if the NFL doesn't return. New drama "Alcatraz" would be the likeliest candidate, but it would be better to hold this J.J. Abrams drama to November, when it can steer clear of fall clutter and use Fox's post-season baseball as a promotional platform that can really drive the male-skewing audience that should embrace a time-travel actioner. So let's put presumably returning reality staple "Hell's Kitchen," giving Fox at least one night where there's no new shows.
"Bones" and "Fringe" should move to Friday. Move these modest performers to a night that can subsist on modest results. A conservative move for shows that aren't strong enough to be potent lead-ins, though look for "Finder" to land here at some point if it can't hack it on Wednesday, just in time to give "Bones'" a breather when star Emily Deschanel takes time off for her pregnancy.
Saturday stays the same but look for a tweak to Sunday. Fox has more cartoons in its Animation Domination block than it knows what to do with. Look for "American Dad" or "Cleveland Show" to take a nap until midseason so that "The Simpsons" or "Family Guy" can be used as a lead-in for new rookies "Allen Gregory" or "Napoleon Dynamite" sitting on the bench.
As the top-rated network, Fox doesn't want to make too many changes because they'll want to demonstrate some stablility to Madison Avenue. On the other hand, they're going to have make some big changes given all their bubble shows are gone and "Factor" is a big piece of real estate. Expect programming chiefs Peter Rice and Kevin Reilly to spin this that their strengths allow them to get aggressive. And if it's too much too soon, they can rest easy knowing the World Series comes a bit early this year (Oct. 19), which will give their sked a rest and an opportunity to reboot.
8 p.m. "House"
9 p.m. "Hell's Kitchen"
8 p.m. "Glee"
9 p.m. "The New Girl" NEW
9:30 p.m. "Raising Hope"
8 p.m. "X Factor" NEW
9 p.m. "The Finder" NEW
8 p.m. "X Factor" NEW
9 p.m. "Terra Nova" NEW
8 p.m. "Bones"
9 p.m. "Fringe"
8 p.m. "Cops"
9 p.m. "America's Most Wanted"
7:30 p.m. "American Dad"
8 p.m. "Simpsons"
8:30 p.m. "Bob's Burgers"
9 p.m. "Family Guy"
9:30 p.m. "Allen Gregory" NEW
"Big Brother" will have its season premiere July 7, while new reality series "Same Name" will debut July 24.
"Brother" will air on Wednesdays, Thursdays (the night of its live eviction show) and Sundays.
"Name," which will have a 9 p.m. timeslot on Sundays following "Brother," involves celebrities temporarily trading lives with the non-famous, with the first episode starring David Hasselhoff and someone else named David Hasselhoff.
To read The Wall Street Journal's take Monday on a supposed shift among media companies regarding Netflix, assorted moguls suddenly had an abrupt change of heart about the upstart streaming service.
Sure, top execs at News Corp., CBS Corp. and Time Warner, seemed unusually generous toward Netflix when analysts asked them what they thought of the company in a series of earnings calls last week.
The most dramatic aboutface came from Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes, who seemed to be in "Stepford Wives" mode both on his earnings call and in an interview the week before that when he showered Netflix with praise. This from the guy who previously diminished Netflix by comparing it to the Albanian army and a 200-pound chimp.
But now they are whispering nothing but sweet nothings into Netflix CEO Reed Hastings' ear. As the WSJ article explains, the moguls sudden graciousness is a reflection of the fact that Netflix represents such a robust source of incremental revenues as a buyer in the syndication market, that it makes no sense to alienate Hastings & Co.
While that's certainly true as evidenced by the bevy of deals that have turned over tons of TV content to Netflix over the past year, it's not exactly a new phenomenon. It was just as true when Bewkes first made his ill-advised remarks, so why would this suddenly matter now?
Methinks last week's outburst of goodwill seems more rooted in correcting Bewkes' faux pas. By sizing up Netflix as a competitor, even dismissively, he likely created a false equivalency between the company and his own conglomerates. Putting Time Warner and Netflix in the same sentence sets up perception of a rivalry, which lends a legitimacy to Netflix as a capital-T threat to establishment media companies in the eyes of Wall Street.
What we saw last week seemed a deliberate shift in tone in its re-focusing on the revenue opportunity that Netflix represents. But make no mistake: Netflix is pure frenemy to Bewkes et al.
Because even as they collect extra dollars for library TV content they wouldn't otherwise get, they are still risking giving rise to an entity with the potential to steal away customers from the cable and satellite distributors who pay programmers billions of dollars.
If a balance can be achieved between feeding Netflix just enough to TV content to appeal to those who would never pay for multichannel TV or just want to supplement those pricey subscriptions, great. But if too much content is provided, the programmers could end up killing the golden goose that is their affiliate fees.
In the meantime, look for everyone to be nice with the company Bewkes called a chimp or there's going to be one gigantic monkey on their backs.
The impending end of "All My Children" hasn't slowed the show's experimental spirit. Beginning Thursday, Susan Lucci will, for the first time in 41 years, play a role besides Erica Kane.
Lucci will also appear as Jane Campbell, a doppelganger of Kane's who wreaks havoc on her life.
"All My Children" is scheduled to go off the air in September.