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Never mind that ABC hasn't yet given returning comedy "Cougar Town" a launch date this season. Executive producer Bill Lawrence has already begun a promotional campaign that is hoping to get a grass-roots buzz going for the series both online and off.
Lawrence took to Twitter on Monday to announce plans to help the ratings for "Cougar Town," which is heading into a third season that's already seen its episode order cut down.
Lawrence and fellow producer Kevin Biegel are orchestrating a series of screenings of new episodes around the country that will begin Dec. 27 in Atlanta, Louisville, Ken. and Sarasota, Fla. There will be at least one regular cast member and writer at every venue, and prizes will also be handed out. More screenings will be announced in other cities in January. (For info on how to get invited, check Lawrence's Twitter feed).
In case you didn't figure out that Lawrence is planning this himself, he cleared the air via Twitter: "No, these are not ABC events. They're 'Bill and Kevin are idiots' events."
In addition, Lawrence is loading up his fan page on Facebook with video content, where he apparently hopes to also mine his own TV history as creator of "Scrubs," "Clone High" and "Spin City" to cross-pollinate those fan bases to his current show. He's also posted an introductory video of himself walking through his future plans.
Think of all this as pragmatist's promotional strategy: Lawrence knows a series that gets tacked onto the network's schedule late in the season isn't likely to get much marketing support. And even if it did, every little bit helps. If Lawrence does it right, watch every showrunner worth their salt try something similar to improve their odds in the always dicey business of primetime TV.
10) Sons of Anarchy
Much improved over season three, “Sons” brought its angst back to Charming this time around, and it was nice to have the boys on their home turf. Creator Kurt Sutter’s motorcycle club melodrama knows how push all the right buttons — sometimes too safely, however — and special kudos to Maggie Siff, who knows Tara is in way too deep to ever find that normal life she’s been longing for. Her Michael Corleone-like diatribe against Gemma in the penultimate episode might have been the season’s crowning moment.
9) Modern Family
Two Emmys later, it’s probably not in vogue to say how good “Modern Family” remains. Yet, the series continues to be as funny as ever, anchored by the incredible Ty Burrell. Sure, when you’re creating 22 episodes a season, there’s a handful that might not reach a very highly set bar, but even a mediocre “Modern Family” will bring a few hearty laughs and is clearly worth the time investment.
Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin and Damian Lewis can make any ordinary script better, but the material here is already top notch. From “24” vets Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa, “Homeland” taps into fears of another terrorist attack on U.S. soil, and provides audiences with how our governmental agencies have the awesome responsibility of keeping us safe — but often let politics get in the way. Sixteen years since the end of the short but brilliant “My So-Called Life,“ how wonderful it is to see Danes delivering her immense talents for a TV series once again.
7) Parks and Recreation
Admittedly, I almost never came back to Pawnee after a very erratic first season. After reading how the show turned around, however, I dove back in and now I can’t even imagine missing even a single episode. Whether it’s Ron Swanson flicking meat particles out of his moustache or Leslie trying to balance her work and social life, the humor is both slapstick and sweet. And when Ron pays for and encourages a penniless Andy to take college courses, the well-earned sincerity can make a grown man weep.
If a show as vast as the entire city of New Orleans can be considered under the radar, then “Treme” fits the bill. Those who don’t watch, however, are missing a wonderful quilt of performances — from veteran Wendell Pierce’s dizzying jigsaw of skirt chasing, band leading and teaching music to the city’s youth, to the wonderful Lucia Micarelli‘s Annie, a spectacular violinist trying to find a big break that will move her from Bourbon Street to Carnegie Hall.
5) Friday Night Lights
This actually been might have been higher on the list, but only six episodes aired in 2011 on DirecTV. It was tearfully difficult to say goodbye to Coach and Tami and all who inhabited Dillon over the five-year run. The series ended on a perfect note, with some characters realizing their high school glory days may ultimately be the crowning moment of their lives while others aim to reach far beyond the confines of Texas prep football.
4) Boardwalk Empire
For anyone who watched the first two seasons of this great Prohibition-era feast and remained on the fence, the last two episodes should have quickly ended any doubt. As in “Game of Thrones,” HBO wasn’t shy about killing off a main character if that’s what the storyline dictated. For those who believed Steve Buscemi didn’t have the heft in taking on the role of Atlantic City kingpin Nucky Thompson, creator Terence Winter had no such doubts, and has been proven correct.
Granted, Timothy Olyphant is perfect at the center of the Kentucky storm, but it’s the supporting players that elevate “Justified” week after week. This season, Margo Martindale filled the bill as the matriarch of a moonshine-making hillbilly clan who tried to keep her knuckleheaded sons in line. Walton Goggins brought his usual chameleon-like ways to Boyd Crowder, who never quite revealed his true motivation to anyone.
2) Breaking Bad
The show has come so far since meth-making Walter White yearned to make some extra cash for his family. It could have long ago fallen off its initial promise, but showrunner extraordinaire Vince Gilligan would never let that happen. With Walter alternately scheming between trying not to get killed and knock off Gus (the superb Giancarlo Esposito) at the same time, “Breaking Bad” — with its dramatic flashbacks and pitch-pefect tone — remained absolutely riveting.
What makes a show great is that, week after week, you simultaneously know what to expect and expect to be wowed. Yet, it was the unexpected that made “Louie” my top choice for 2011. Labeled a comedy, one week the series could provide belly laughs while the following week’s episode felt like a treatise on war, health care or homelessness. And, to top it off, I dare anyone to find a cuter TV couple than Louie and Pamela Adlon. The thought of waiting a day, or even an hour, to watch “Louie” after its initial airing was almost too much to bear.
The second 10 honorable mention (in alphabetical order)
The Big Bang Theory
Bored to Death
Curb Your Enthusiasm
The Good Wife
Upcoming ABC sitcom "Work It," which now has an LGBT backlash — or perhaps a forelash, considering it doesn't premiere until Jan. 3 — to go with its advance beating from critics, can hardly be discussed without recalling the 1980-82 ABC comedy "Bosom Buddies," which also featured two men dressing up in women's clothing for economic survival.
Viewers, especially those below the age of 40, might doubt that "Bosom Buddies" could have been any good, dismissing it as a similarly trite concept with nothing more going for it than a star-in-the-making Tom Hanks. If so, they couldn't be more wrong. "Bosom Buddies" was a show that fired on all cylinders, almost shockingly so considering how thin the premise was.
Yes, Hanks and co-star Peter Scolari looked every bit as ridiculous as you'll find "Work It" leads Ben Koldyke and Amaury Nolasco do. But the fundamental difference between "Bosom Buddies," and what I imagine will be the widespread reaction to "Work It," is that with "Buddies," you willingly suspended your disbelief that no one would see through the cross-dressing ruse, because there was such a reward to it.
Hanks and the vastly underrated Scolari had an impeccable chemistry, rivaling any duo on television at the time. Though the plots were often silly, the writing was crackling, and Hanks, Scolari and co-stars Donna Dixon, Holland Taylor (the "Two and a Half Men" mainstay), Telma Hopkins and the late Wendie Jo Sperber were all adept at elevating the scripts, which could also sneak in some pretty serious ruminations about life, love and longing in the big city amid all the comedy.
For fans of the show like me, the episode in which Kip (Hanks) revealed his true self to his longtime crush Sonny (Dixon) was every bit as huge as Sam and Diane's first kiss on "Cheers" a few years later. That episode, by the way, took place at a fictional embassy gathering to honor a Latin American dictator named Albon Degas. Highbrow, the script was not, but smart and clever? Definitely.
How this all would play in the climate of 2011, I won't speculate. But for me, the most painful aspect of "Work It" is that its presence will sully the already dimming legacy for "Bosom Buddies," now remembered for little else than being the launchpad for Hanks' career. The two seasons of "Bosom Buddies" rank high on my all-time list of "Brilliant but Canceled" comedies.
Louis C.K. is pleased with the results of his Beacon Theater concert direct-sale experiment (outtake above), in which he bypassed a distributor and charged $5 for individuals to watch, and not just because he has profited more than $200,000 in four days.
The comedian gave a progress report today – here's an excerpt:
... First of all, this was a premium video production, shot with six cameras over two performances at the Beacon Theater, which is a high-priced elite Manhattan venue. I directed this video myself and the production of the video cost around $170,000. (This was largely paid for by the tickets bought by the audiences at both shows). The material in the video was developed over months on the road and has never been seen on my show (LOUIE) or on any other special. The risks were thus: every new generation of material I create is my income, it's like a farmer's annual crop. The time and effort on my part was far more than if I'd done it with a big company. If I'd done it with a big company, I would have a guarantee of a sizable fee, as opposed to this way, where I'm actually investing my own money.
The development of the website, which needed to be a very robust, reliable and carefully constructed website, was around $32,000. We worked for a number of weeks poring over the site to make sure every detail would give buyers a simple, optimal and humane experience for buying the video. I edited the video around the clock for the weeks between the show and the launch.
The show went on sale at noon on Saturday, December 10th. 12 hours later, we had over 50,000 purchases and had earned $250,000, breaking even on the cost of production and website. As of Today, we've sold over 110,000 copies for a total of over $500,000. Minus some money for PayPal charges etc, I have a profit around $200,000 (after taxes $75.58). This is less than I would have been paid by a large company to simply perform the show and let them sell it to you, but they would have charged you about $20 for the video. They would have given you an encrypted and regionally restricted video of limited value, and they would have owned your private information for their own use. They would have withheld international availability indefinitely. This way, you only paid $5, you can use the video any way you want, and you can watch it in Dublin, whatever the city is in Belgium, or Dubai. I got paid nice, and I still own the video (as do you). You never have to join anything, and you never have to hear from us again.
I really hope people keep buying it a lot, so I can have shitloads of money, but at this point I think we can safely say that the experiment really worked. If anybody stole it, it wasn't many of you. Pretty much everybody bought it. And so now we all get to know that about people and stuff. I'm really glad I put this out here this way and I'll certainly do it again. If the trend continues with sales on this video, my goal is that i can reach the point where when I sell anything, be it videos, CDs or tickets to my tours, I'll do it here and I'll continue to follow the model of keeping my price as far down as possible, not overmarketing to you, keeping as few people between you and me as possible in the transaction.
(Of course i reserve the right to go back on all of this and sign a massive deal with a company that pays me fat coin and charges you straight up the ass.). (This is you: yes Louie. And we'll all enjoy torrenting that content. You fat sweaty dolt). ...
"Two and a Half Men" exec producer Chuck Lorre opened up to our old Variety compadre Michael Schneider in a lengthy story for TV Guide reflecting on the saga that led to Charlie Sheen's exit from the CBS comedy.
The piece shows Lorre more than once contemplating leaving "Men" because of the challenges that Sheen was posing, beginning well before the actor's bridge-burning outbursts early this year.
In hindsight, Lorre says he regrets not quitting the show after Sheen was accused of holding a knife to his wife, Brooke Mueller, on Christmas in 2009. "When he started attacking people with knives, that's it," Lorre says. "That should have been it. I should have walked. That's unthinkable. No more. I'm done. But for some reason I thought that because she was willing to forgive him... we could emerge from this fiasco and be stronger and healthier."
At the same time, even as Sheen slipped up, he was able to hide much of his substance abuse behind his signature laid-back façade. "He always reminded me of Dean Martin," Lorre says. "Charlie is the epitome of cool and he made it look effortless. People never gave him enough credit for how skillful he was because he made it look so easy. There's that element of Charlie that's admirable and he was the kind of guy you wanted to hang out with. He was a special guy. But special guys are not immune to drug addiction."
My takeaway from the piece, however, is that while it has only been months since Sheen departed and Ashton Kutcher arrived, this chapter of the show's history already feels like something very much in the past. In the spring, people hung on every development between Sheen and Lorre; now folks are back to worrying only whether "Two and a Half Men" is funny.
Maggie was a fiercely independent woman, but I don't exactly picture her as someone who would be impressed by the charms of Donald Trump.
(Yeah, I know it's not a news flash that actors are not the same as the characters they play, but forgive me for finding it all still a bit jarring.)
Turner, a fervent Republican evangelist to an extent that might even intimidate Maggie's conservative "Northern Exposure" friend Maurice Minnifield, has both online and radio series dedicated to the cause. Her latest argument, as discussed in a Washington Examiner op-ed today, is that Republican candidates (with the exception of Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum) are making a critical mistake in not participating in the upcoming Trump-moderated GOP debate.
Her argument: Trump's appeal to the common man.
... Yet, the Republicans have balked. They have reneged on a cheeky chance to garner a wide berth of potentially new recruits - the autopilot liberals.
Many align with the Democratic Party because it is “hip.” The liberal elite presents the Republicans as stuffy and boring. Younger generations are vulnerable to the subliminal, perverted message that only the Democrats care for the poor, the environment, the teachers and the firefighters.
To them, the Republicans are rich, wealthy, selfish characters who simply want to trample on the less fortunate and ruin the environment.
Ironically, what better way to contradict this myth than with an iconic entrepreneur who has the ear and eyes of the mainstream populace.
Trump, with his star quality and mesmerizing arrogance, is willing to offer the Republican candidates a paparazzi paradise showcasing their reasonable, hard working characteristics and that they, too, care about the poor, the environment, the teachers and the firefighters, not mention the economy and national security. ...
"A paparazzi paradise showcasing their reasonable, hard-working characteristics." No, I have to believe Maggie would not see Trump as the key to having Republicans taken more seriously than they already are. But that's my problem, I guess ...
Update: Trump announced this morning he has pulled out of moderating the debate.
If Lowe's thought all it took to quell the controversy over its decision to withdraw advertising from the TLC series "All-American Muslim" was an explanation, the retail chain was sorely mistaken.
The backlash shows no signs of abating since Friday, when the company issued a statement clarifying that its decision was not prompted by the Florida Family Association, which criticized "Muslim" as "propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda's clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values." Instead, Lowe's cited "multiple sides of the viewer spectrum" as the rationale for its withdrawal.
But that clarification has done nothing to contain a firestorm that has been raging on social media all weekend and threatens to spill over into Lowe's stores. Protests are being planned everywhere from New Jersey to Colorado. Hashtags like #LowesHatesMuslims are bringing together picketers, as is Lowe's own Facebook page, where most of the 12,000+ plus comments appending the company's statement are highly critical. Celebrities from Russell Simmons to Mia Farrow have spoken out against Lowe's. At least two politicians have done same. A petition is closing in on 10,000 signatures, tweeters are proclaiming eternal devotion to Home Depot, and there's even an obligatory animated satire.
As common as advertiser withdrawals from controversial TV shows are, this one is playing out quite differently than the predictable course these situations typically follow. By the time this is all over, Lowe's response to this crisis may end up a textbook case for MBA types to learn what NOT to do.
First, the haste with which companies are pressured to respond to consumer complaints in the era of social media shouldn't override the need to do some research as to who is doing the complaining. That way Lowe's could have skipped the embarrassment of sending an e-mail that clearly seems to be appeasing the FFA, which a quick Google search would confirm is identified as an organization with extremist "Islamophobic" views.
But what made the situation worse for Lowe's was the clarification. While the company might have thought it was extricating its foot from its mouth by marginalizing the FFA as only one voice among a multiplicity of concerns in the debate, such a statement is tantamount to establishing the organization's prejudicial posturing as a legitimate point of view. That would be like a broadcaster pulling out of a Holocaust-related TV program after taking into account a range of views that included a Holocaust denier.
Lowe's handling of Muslim-gate is only made worse by the fact that its statement doesn't identify just what other voices the company is paying attention or what they're saying. With the exception of groups like FFA who have engaged in a smear campaign targeting "Muslim" since it premiered last month, the prevailing view on the series has been one of high praise for offering a three-dimensional depiction of an ethnic group that is too often demonized by unfortunate stereotypes.
And yet Lowe's actions here may not be all that surprising given the fault line on which this TLC show has laid its foundation. In post-9/11 America, there's been a hypersensitivity to the mainstreaming of Muslim culture from headlline-grabbing controversies like the Ground Zero mosque to absurd trifles like a 2008 commercial Dunkin Donuts shelved because its pitchwoman, talk-show host Rachael Ray, is seen wearing a scarf that looks like an Arab kaffiyeh. A cottage industry of right-wing commentators have been dining out on this trend for years, exploiting the fears of a public traumatized by terrorism.
In all probability, there isn't a Christian cabal running Lowe's intolerant of other religions, nor has its execs done some cold calculation that racists make up a bigger portion of its customer base than Muslims. The reality is that corporations want to keep their precious brands far away from any programming with the slightest hint of controversy, and Lowe's backed out in such ham-handed fashion that its exit will end up doing far more damage than had it just remained as an advertiser.
What's even more unfortunate for Lowe's is that it likely isn't the only company to withdraw its advertising from Lowe's. The FFA targeted dozens of advertisers with its pressure tactics; the only reason Lowe's seems to have been singled out was that it bothered to respond to the organization's emails. For its part, TLC has said the series continues to garner healthy advertiser support.
Lowe's has stayed silent on "Muslim" since Saturday, and after all that's transpired, keeping quiet may be its best option. If the company has proven anything since this PR debacle began is that its every utterance only seems to dig itself a deeper hole.
When the comedian Louis C.K. takes the stage at New York's Beacon Theater on Saturday, he'll conduct an interesting experiment. He's going to broadcast his routine on the Internet to anyone who pays him.
The usual way this works is a hot comedian like Louis C.K. licenses footage of his performance to a cable network as a TV special or a studio for a concert film. But instead he's going to stream it on his own website in exchange for five dollars apiece.
Dismiss it as a one-off stunt if you will, but then you're missing the bigger picture. It's a manifestation of a larger trend already playing out elsewhere that has profound consequences for the media world.
He's testing a simple but revolutionary proposition: Does a famous performer really need the industry that once ensured his or her survival?
Before a critical mass of households had Internet connections robust enough to watch video, an artist had no choice but to put their product through the usual TV networks or film studios, which were the only ones that had the capital to fund production but the marketing crucial to getting the word out about that production.
But that's not the case anymore. The costs of production have dropped precipitously. The Internet is an open distribution platform. As for marketing, artists are able to move their audiences through the direct connection of social media, whether Twitter, Facebook or other ways.
Suddenly, the companies that talent couldn't live without start to seem like unnecessary middlemen.
It's a trend that's been bubbling up for awhile now. Consider Exhibit A: Glenn Beck, the right-wing media personality who walked away from Fox News Channel earlier this year. Beck resurfaced in the form of his own online network GBTV.com, which collects anywhere from 5-10 dollars a month to get a range of content.
While the bad news is his audience isn't as big as it was when he had Fox News in his corner, the good news is that he's able to get a much greater share of the revenue that comes from his smaller but still quite dedicated audience.
Beck had some precedents in other industries. Think back a few years to the music business when Radiohead drew notice for releasing an album online without a record label. Or the publishing industry where Harry Potter author JK Rowling earlier this year set up a website, Pottermore, where she continues to churn out content related to the franchise without the intermediary of a publishing house.
Louis C.K. isn't the only comedian taking his act online. Bill Maher just announced he would do a standup special but that's a free show with the support of Yahoo, a company just as big as any established company in Hollywood.
Is this about independence? Sure, but mostly it's about money. Once you kick the middleman out of the way, there's more money to pocket yourself.
Now all this isn't to say that 2012 is going to bring an avalanche of actors and the like breaking the shackles of the system that keeps them down and going it alone. What the new year will likely bring is the slightest quickening of a trickle into a steady drip. As with all things in entertainment, it's going to take a hit to truly open the floodgates.
Starz freshman drama "Boss" steams into its season finale Friday following an episode last week that was its most intense episode so far, one that underscored more than ever the brutal nature of mayor Tom Kane's "by any means necessary" grip on Chicago.
"Boss" itself has already been promised re-election by Starz, which committed to a second season of the skein before the series even launched in October. While the storytelling has occasionally been spotty and the same-night viewership spottier, the paybler has little reason to worry itself with second thoughts.
Grammer's performance in the title role has never been anything less than riveting, and that's not saying enough about it. Arguably, not since James Gandolfini on "The Sopranos" has there been such bear-hug brutality on the smallscreen. You know intellectually that Kane is practically ego and evil incarnate — the show practically mocks you by, just as you're falling for Kane's humanity, having him act more despicably — but you can't stop being invested in his fate, and you know you haven't hit the limit. For all the other antiheroes flowering on TV in recent years, Grammer's work as Kane is still a rare treat, and easily his best screen role since "Frasier" retired in 2004.
The supporting cast has been strong as well, though I'd direct my special accolades to Martin Donovan as Kane's top consigliere Ezra Stone, the perfect calm counterpoint to Kane. And any show that brings in "Hill Street Blues" star Daniel J. Travanti (here playing a city power broker) gets points on my scorecard.
Kane and Co. are shot in a distinctively intimate style filled with more closeups than you've ever seen on a TV show, a style that might make you groan at times but overall is winning in how deeply it involves you. Similarly, the many plot twists have largely if not completely held up — I have to nod to some moments of preposterous violence, such as the torturous murder of an alderman, and laughably timed sex, with Hannah Ware and Kathleen Robertson particularly victimized by the latter.
All fall, Showtime's "Homeland" has overshadowed "Boss" among pay cable's new series, not without reason. Despite its own occasional stumbles (Who thought it was a good idea for Claire Danes to say Sunday, "This isn't my first polka"?), "Homeland" is a richer feast that has gained fans over time. In fact, unimpressive audience numbers for "Boss" (a combined 631,000 viewers tuned in for two airings of Friday's episode) have had some wondering whether Starz might renege on the commitment it made to a second season.
However, when aggregate viewing is taken into account, "Boss" through its first five episodes averaged 1.6 million viewers per episode over the course of a given week, leaving aside viewing on-demand or on other Starz/Encore channels. For Starz, those are satisfactory numbers at this stage of the game.
It's hard for me to see "Boss" as a disappointment. Despite the occasional gratuitous flares, this is essentially a compelling cerebral series on a network that's practically obscure when it comes to scripted drama (aside from a franchise like "Spartacus," which doesn't exactly scream out the same target audience). If the long-term plan to build scripted drama at Starz, you need a show like "Boss," not as an end in itself, but as a means to that end.
With more than 150 credits dating back to 1942, Harry Morgan, who passed away this morning, was a superb talent, someone who drew you in no matter the setting. No tribute could do him justice, but here are just a few highlights:With Henry Fonda in 1943's "The Ox-Bow Incident"
"Pete & Gladys," 1962
Talking about "Dragnet"
Already digesting the show's pending midseason hiatus, "Community" showrunner Dan Harmon isn't exactly thrilled about how NBC is promoting Thursday's Christmas episode, "Regional Holiday Music" (an episode that is wonderfully vintage "Community," by the way). From Harmon's Twitter feed Tuesday:
If you'd like to view half of this week's episode, NBC has dumped it online in pieces as if it was so much garbage. Merry Christmas.
However, on his blog a few days ago, Harmon shared some positive thoughts about the show's on-air future.
... I am very optimistic about this situation with Community. Not in a naive, let’s-think-positive-because-we-may-as-well way. I am optimistic in a shrewd, practical, look at the situation and place the bet you’d place if you were betting your life way. I think the most thorough, informed and incidentally optimistic analysis of our situation was in the AV Club article to which I am too lazy to link here, but you can find it by googling, it’s called “eight reasons community might come back” or something. If it’s self deluded bullshit, it’s the type that really goes the distance to suspend your disbelief. It worked on me. ...
It was bad enough last week when the fire alarm sounded in the middle of "NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams." Now these kind of on-air interruptions are becoming something of a habit for NBC News.
But it may have been worse Tuesday on "Today." Not just because co-host Savannah Guthrie left her iPhone on during a live telecast, prompting her to turn several shades of crimson as her colleagues scrambled to make light of the disruption and take the device away from her. What made it worse was the music coming from the phone: a selection from "Glee," the hit series from that other TV network, Fox.
Next time, Savannah, just make "The Office" theme your ringtone.
If you're at Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, the question is often "How do I attract young male viewers?" and the answer is almost always "video games." The net is also finding that the reverse applies, and that some of the best people to help bring the two entities together are - sure enough - young people who play video games.
"I think we've been doing more and more with them over the years," says ad sales boss John O'Hara. "The last couple of upfronts it's been one of the biggest categories for us." The net's Brand Activation and Media Partnerships team (the acronym sounds like it needs an exclamation point after it - BAMP!) has been working with developers on some unique campaigns, many involving talent from the net. "If you're going to call on that category, you really have to be a gamer," O'Hara opines. One spot features stylized versions of stunts from Ubisoft's latest "Assassin's Creed" game reworked in a sketchy style; the net created animation in the style of a digital comicbook for EA's "Battlefield 3' and worked on the company's new "Need for Speed" racing game, too.
The matchup between client and network works well enough that EA brought on Adult Swim for next high-profile launch, "Star Wars: The Old Republic." The game reps the biggest single-title investment in company history for a game, CFO Eric Brown told a finance industry aud at Monday's UBS Media and Communications conference, and Adult Swim will be programming Star Wars-related shows around the launch date, among other initiatives. "We have a pretty high batting average," says ad sales boss John O'Hara. "Very rarely do we have to create multiple campaigns for a client."
Boutique ad campaigns aren't a new idea (Lauren Zalaznick at NBCUniversal has about half of a division working to create bespoke marketing ideas for the conglom's clients), but with an entertainment product advertising on an entertainment network, the partnership is running the other way, too. For the first time, Adult Swim is working with in-game virtual property to promote their own content.
THQ's new "Saints Row The Third" has a radio station deejayed by "Delocated" star/creator Jon Glaser as his character from the show. It's a pretty complicated joke: Glaser's character, "Jon," is in the witness protection program and is also on a reality show (that's the "Delocated" elevator pitch), so it seems like the kind of incongruous gig the character would pick up. Glaser clearly liked the idea ("those don't happen all the time," O'Hara cautions) that he wrote his own lines; there's a fairly lengthy riff about "Jon" finding a third nipple behind his knee and similarly off-kilter gags. The net's Tim and Eric (of "Tim And Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!") also make an appearance on the Adult Swim station.
In-game advertising is a touchy subject with gamers, but it's clearly the way of the future; loading screens on "Deus Ex" preached the "Star Wars" Blu-Ray release to bored gamers just this fall, and no less a personage than president Obama bought ad space EA's ad-tastic "Madden" series before the 08 elections. There's probably room for The Monarch in there somewhere.
Maybe it was all the behind-the-scenes maneuvering involved in the the near cancellation of "The Simpsons" earlier this year that has the series obsessed with showbiz lately. After last week's "Mad Men" parody, this week's episode is a full-blown Hollywood satire that takes shots at everything from HBO to agents to a certain trade publication with its own biz-savvy terminology.
Much of "The Ten Percent Solution" episode is devoted to the fall, rise and fall of longtime "Simpsons" character Krusty the Clown. After he's fired from his TV show, a chance encounter with Lisa Simpson has her offering encouragement using the telltale "slanguage" Variety has made famous:
"You need an agent?" Lisa asks Krusty. "We met a tenpercenter today. She'll get you a meeting with the Eye, the Peacock and the Alphabet web. You'll have a skein on the sked before you could say 'Krusty's Wardrobe. Furnished by Haha's of Bevery Hills.'"
The tenpercenter Lisa refers to is Annie Dubinsky, voiced with raspy verve by Joan Rivers. She engineers his comeback only to suffer the fate of every agent who manages to pluck her client from obscurity to stardom: He dumps her for Ron Rabinowitz at United Parasites.
We don't want to give too much away but the biggest target of all in this satirical episode is a pay-TV network that goes by the name HBOWtime. "Our brand is classy and upscale," one network exec informs Krusty before a second one chimes in, "And we pay for everything with soft porno and boxing."
Unfortunately, we only have a link to unauthorized footage because Fox doesn't make TV episodes available online until eight days after its initial telecast unless you are a subscriber to a few select multichannel services like Dish Network that grants access via password. We'll update it eight days from now with a link from Hulu.
News that the title of Aaron Sorkin's upcoming HBO series will be "Newsroom" (per Alex Weprin at TV Newser) makes me wonder if those folks have forgotten about Ken Finkleman's great Canadian program "The Newsroom," shown in the U.S. on PBS, or if they just don't care about recycling the moniker. Perhaps it's an homage. I'd hate to think Sorkin has never heard of it.
Finkleman starred in and exec produced the series, which ran in periodic installments beginning in the late 1990s and became a cult favorite in these parts for its sharp humor and storytelling.
Sample line, after word spreads that the show's news anchor has received a death threat: "I’m not going to nickel and dime my anchor over his life. But the fact is (bulletproof) vests are expensive, and I don’t know if I can justify it."
Pay cabler is sending out the entire nine-episode season to critics and TV writers next week, rather than the two- or three-episode advance that is usually the case, offered in hopes of whetting the appetite of scribes.
The full-season delivery is a rarity for HBO, which has done it only twice before: The fourth season of “The Wire” — known informally as the Corner Boys season — and for the World War II miniseries “The Pacific.”
HBO insiders are sending out “Luck” because they believe the series — about the inhabitants of racetrack life — has the potential will be one of the net’s great accomplishments.
Net, in reaching out to its audience beyond TV writers, will sneak the pilot of "Luck" this Sunday immediately following the season finale of "Boardwalk Empire." The show's regular run begins Jan. 29.
Series was created by David Milch, who is avid horseracing fan and has longed to bring his equine passion to TV. While the thought of bringing on Michael Mann to add the cinematic vision of the Sports of Kings sounded like a perfect accompaniment for Milch’s script, the two have often tangled and HBO execs have had their fair share of headaches intervening between the two. Yet, Milch said he and Mann have worked out their differences for the greater good.
“You get to a point where you realize that it’s a shame on you if you can’t make things work, and we did,” Milch said. “It was not an uneventful experience, but finally the responsibility has to be for the work.”
What HBO is also hoping with “Luck” is to erase the memory of “John From Cincinnati,” the surf noir series that always seemed an uneasy fit with Milch at the controls.
Milch, whose broadcast resume includes “Hill Street Blues” and “NYPD Blue,” is best known these days for his Western opus “Deadwood,” which after three seasons was cut too soon in order to make room for “John” — a decision that everyone involved likely deeply regrets.
What “Deadwood” did for Ian McShane, Timothy Olyphant and Paula Malcomson, “Luck” could possibly do for little-known actor John Ortiz, who is phenomenal playing a Latin American trainer, partially based on real-life trainer Julio Canani.
What it also possibly may do is make a TV star out of Dustin Hoffman, a bigscreen giant for decades. Hoffman's character is a bit mysterious in the pilot, but he's clearly an individual with great power and is coming out of a prison term and looking to get back in the game.
Milch, who is preparing for another season of “Luck” — HBO hasn’t yet greenlit a second season, but it’s extremely likely and production needs an early start due to shooting at Santa Anita — and is looking forward to telling more stories.
As track announcer Trevor Denman says several times each race day at post time, “And away they go.”
Ben Stiller's riotous acceptance speech Wednesday at the Britannia Awards, where he received the Charlie Chaplin Award for Excellence in Comedy from the British Film and Television Academy/Los Angeles, was the highlight of a fun-filled evening at the Beverly Hilton. The except above offers but a smidgen of his riffing, but it'll do for an appetizer: TV Guide Network, which is presenting a taped version of the Britannias at 8 p.m. Sunday, serves as fodder for one of Stiller's bits.Gregory Ellwood of HitFix.com has more on Stiller and the event.