Friday, March 1, 2013

Can Donald Trump Save NBC ?

NBC, the network that once gave us "must-see TV", is now giving us "who's watching?" TV.
The Peacock's numbers have been so bad in 2013 that Spanish-language Univision boasts more viewers.

A new Thursday evening drama called "Do No Harm" about a doctor with split personalities earned the distinction of being the lowest-rated new drama of all-time, with an 0.7 rating among viewers 18-49. The show was cancelled after only two episodes, replaced by reruns of "Law and Order". It seems like eons ago when NBC's Thursday night line-up offered viewers "Cheers", "The Cosby Show" and "Seinfeld".

Both new and returning shows are flailing mightily. "1600 Penn", a sitcom about a fictitious first family was promoted heavily and its debut episode was repeated days after it's premiere in an effort to give the show the widest audience possible. Despite a familiar cast including Jenna Elfman and Bill Pullman, the sitcom is on the brink of cancellation.

So is Matthew Perry's latest post-"Friends" effort "Go On"  a comedy about a bereavement support group. Mining laughs from grieving characters, no matter how motley a crew, is an uphill climb.

Returning "Community" has an avid, but miniscule viewership. It replaced "30 Rock", which, for all its Emmys, failed to generate buzz for its series finale.

Even long-running "The Office" is quietly marching along to its final episode without a countdown or any discernible buzz.

Can "The Apprentice" help NBC get some of it's mojo back ?

It's probably too much to ask of any one show to lift a network, but at least Donald Trump will bring some much-needed swagger back to the Peacock.

"The Apprentice" is one of the few water-cooler shows not on Showtime. Each episode inspires subsequent debate and buzz by Billy Bush, Wendy Williams, the cast of the View, and all the 7 o'clock entertainment shows.

It's directly because of 'Apprentice'-rub that Arsenio Hall is back on late-night and Pierce Morgan has Larry King's old job on CNN.

Have we seen it all before ? Yes. But following a season of "The Apprentice" is kind of like following a season-long pennant race in baseball : you're invested and you care who wins. This, despite the train-wreck recasting of Gary Busey and LaToya Jackson.

So, can Donald Trump save NBC from its ratings malaise ? On Sunday nights he will.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Couch Potato Cop: CBS' "The Job" gets sent packing

Couch Potato Cop: CBS' "The Job" gets sent packing: CBS reality show "The Job" was cancelled after two episodes and a negligible 0.7 rating among viewers 18-49. That is almost an historically ...

CBS' "The Job" gets sent packing

CBS reality show "The Job" was cancelled after two episodes and a negligible 0.7 rating among viewers 18-49. That is almost an historically low viewership for a network show in prime time.
A program in which desperate, unemployed people compete for a single job in 2013 isn't exactly escapist fare.

"The Job" filled the same Friday night time slot of legal dramedy "Made in Jersey", which also was cancelled after only two episodes. Viewers had a hard time embracing its premise : a Manhattan attorney overcomes an almost insurmountable handicap : being born in the state of New Jersey!
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"The Amazing Race" usually strains mightily to present a Noah's Arc-like roster of "two of everything" to appeal to every demographic. TAR's 22nd season recently kicked off with the requisite multi-culti cast, which includes a team of two Roller Derby Moms to represent that limited niche, yet no Latinos.
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While it's not uncommon for a successful network show to inspire imitators, it's exceedingly rare for a bomb to do so.
Such is the case for Fox's "Stars in Danger: the High Dive", a one-hour "experiment" in which C-list celebs tried their hand at Olympic-style diving. SID belly-flopped in the ratings, attracting an unimpressive 3.4 million viewers when it aired in January.
Yet that's not stopping ABC from mounting its own diving show "Splash" (what's the deal with all the one-word titles all of a sudden?).
The "Splash" roster includes Nicole Eggert, Kendra Wilkinson, Chuy from "Chelsea Lately" and comedian Louie Anderson. The late addition of Miss Alabama Katherine Webb means that the show can count on Brent Mussberger watching.
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Most people weren't even aware that Rex Reed was still reviewing movies when the Melissa McCarthy flap hit the fan.
I had thought Reed had retired some time after serving as a judge on "The Gong Show" in the Seventies.
While Reed is free to dislike "Identity Thief" -- as a majority of critics did -- his description of McCarthy as a "cacophonous, tractor sized...female hippo" is a personal attack that has no place in a film critique.
But there's something also wrong about the producers of "Identity Thief" assuming the moral high ground.  With its many scenes of Jason Bateman duking it out with McCarthy --heck, even slamming her with a guitar --the film seems to be saying that it's OK for men to get into physical altercations with women as long as the women are plus-sized.
It's hard to imagine the exact same inter-gender battle royales taking place with, say, Tina Fey or Amy Poehler in the McCarthy role.
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While Fox's "New Girl" gets decent ratings, I don't know anyone who would call it laugh-out funny. Compared to "Seinfeld", it's a drama.
I've never quite understood the premise of the show: Jess breaks up with her boyfriend so she feels compelled to live with three male strangers... Huh?
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re: the studio audience members of ABC's "The Chew"
These fine folks obviously have a lot of free time on their hands to sit in a studio for an hour to watch other people cook. Do you suppose these are people who wanted to see a television taping while visiting New York and couldn't get tickets for Letterman, Fallon or "The View" ?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Couch Potato Cop: Goodbye, Angels

Couch Potato Cop: Goodbye, Angels: Deconstructing the early cancellation of ABC's "Charlie's Angels" One of the utter disasters of Fall Season 2011 was the quality and, subs...

Goodbye, Angels

Deconstructing the early cancellation of ABC's "Charlie's Angels"

One of the utter disasters of Fall Season 2011 was the quality and, subsequently, the ratings of ABC's "Charlie's Angels".

More than merely disappointing, the new Angels were borderline unwatchable. Plodding and ponderous --and as sexy as leftover meat loaf -- "Charlie's Angels" was the second worst watch of the fall season, rating only slightly better than NBC's cancelled "The Playboy Club".

Never was watching three attractive women such a chore.

While the show was never promoted heavily by ABC, "Angels" benefitted from built-in brand recognition and most viewers were at least aware of the show's existence. Employing a tried-and-true formula, "Charlie's Angels" seemed like a decent bet coming into the season.

Where did they go wrong? A better question might be "what went right?"

Producers --Drew Barrymore was one--made many missteps, starting with absolutely disastrous casting. The new Angels were a low-wattage trio, a pale comparison to the iconic team of Farrah, Jaclyn & Kate. Is anyone rushing out to buy a Minka Kelly poster ? Not so much.

Kelly, who's most famous for dating New York Yankee Derek Jeter for three years, was joined in the cast by unknowns Annie Ilonzeh and Rachael Taylor. There's nothing wrong with casting unknowns and discovering fresh faces but this trio came across like an "Angels Junior Varsity", as if they were the little sisters of an actual crime-fighting team. Producers eschewed old-school glamor & va-va-va-voom for "the girl next door"-types. The problem with that is we all have girls next door in real life and there's no compelling reason to watch them on television.

Producers never found the right tone for "Angels". It was sincere, somber and devoid of humor. It was about as much fun as sitting in your dentist's waiting room. "Angels" shared the exact same problems with the 2007 "Bionic Woman" reboot, which lasted about the same number of episodes before cancellation.

The three lead characters were not fleshed out and given their own identities. Viewers were expected to root for the Angels just because they were Angels, without knowing much else about them.

"Angels" never soared in the ratings, pitted against CBS' hit "The Big Bang Theory" & a combination of "X Factor" / MLB playoffs on FOX. But the competition wasn't the Angels' problem; it would have failed opposite a test of the emergency broadcast network.

"Angels" premiered to ratings that were in the ballpark of respectable. However, by episode 4 the show hit an almost historically low rating of 1.3 for the coveted 18 to 49 demographic, which is almost impossible for a Big 3 network in Prime Time.

That little-watched episode, titled "Angels in Chains", was a remake of a famous episode of the original series in 1976 in which the Angels investigate corruption in a women's prison. Neither nostalgia nor the prospect of prison cat fights attracted viewers or created any discernible buzz.

ABC tried to soften the blow of embarrassment by announcing the cancellation on a Friday evening when it would garner the least amount of attention.

An epic fail.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Couch Potato Cop: Season 12: "Dancing with the Stars": it's down to ...

Couch Potato Cop: Season 12: "Dancing with the Stars": it's down to ...: "Dancing with the Stars Season 12 Series Finale Hines Ward vs. Chelsea Kane vs. Kirstie Alley A flat-footed tie in judges scores between act..."

Season 12: "Dancing with the Stars": it's down to viewers' vote

Dancing with the Stars
Season 12 Series Finale
Hines Ward vs. Chelsea Kane vs. Kirstie Alley

A flat-footed tie in judges scores between actress Chelsea Kane and football star Hines Ward will leave it up to the viewers tonight to determine who wins the coveted Mirror Ball Trophy on the finale of "Dancing with the Stars". Kane and Ward were tied with 59 out of 60 judges' points.

"Cheers" alum Kirstie Alley did an impressive free-style dance, finishing in third place and would have to be considered a long-shot to win the competition.

All three will do one more competitive dance for judges scores, although the winner may already have been determined by last night's viewer vote.

Tonight's finale will cap off a season where there was never a clear-cut favorite, although Pittsburgh Steeler wide receiver Hines Ward always hovered at or near the top of the leader board.

Ward and partner Kym Johnnson shouldered on through a brutal rehearsal injury to Johnson's neck two weeks ago. That Johnson is out of the hospital, let alone dancing, is a miracle in itself.

On balance, Ward and Johnson have been the best team throughout the season, but the "Dancing with the Stars" point system doesn't reward consistency or body of work.

Actress Chelsea Kane might be peaking at the absolute right time. Kane and partner Mark Ballas seem to have all the momentum leading up to the finale.

We commend Kirstie Alley for an incredible season and finale, but we don't see her winning from the third-place position. No one has ever won the Mirror Ball Trophy after ranking 3rd in Judges score in the finale. Viewers votes count a lot, but they can't propel someone from 3rd to 1st.

So, that leaves us with Hines vs. Chelsea; the Super Bowl MVP vs. the Disney Kid.

Who will the viewers vote for ?

Tough call. On the surface, Ward has a bigger following and public profile, having been an MVP in a Super Bowl. And Pittsburgh Steeler fans are among the most loyal fans in sports. The problem, however, is that football fans in general don't watch "Dancing with the Stars" and certainly don't make up a large part of the voting blocks.

But then there's this theory put forth by Billy Bush of "Access Hollywood" : the dramatic scene of Hines rushing to the hospital to get an update on Kym Johnson's condition and his subsequent dance floor tears after they completed their next dance might have locked in "the sympathy factor".

"Women love 'man-tears'", Bush said. And women are the voting bus that drives reality shows like "Dancing with the Stars".

Will the teenage and 'tweenage voters who watch Kane on the Dinsey Channel rock the vote for Kane ? It's hard to say. But Kane's position closely mirrors that of Season 8 champ gymnast Shawn Johnson who maintained a very low profile during the season and snuck in at the last minute with perfect scores to take the championship. The common denominator is their demographic and that they both had the brilliant Mark Ballas as a partner.

So who will win ? In a razor-thin vote, I give the edge to Hines Ward. I think viewers will recognize that he was the most consistent beginning to end.

Aside from the crowning of a new champion, the most anticipated part of a "DwtS" finale is the returning of the season's competitors. Psycho Mike Catherwood, Wendy Williams, Petra Nemcova, Chris Jericho and Ralph Macchio will all be back to strut their stuff one last time.