Sunday, May 31, 2009

My Beef Of The Week

Ob Dec. 17 ABC finally cut the plug on the ratings anemic series Pushing Daisies. I'm calling it one of the victims of the writers' strike.
The series was so quirky but brilliant that it needed a careful buildup and lots of promotion. But ABC never quite knew what to do with it. After cancellation the network was besieged by fans demanding an honorable burial so the web promised that the three last episodes would run off during the summer.
So ABC is running off these three episodes Saturday nights at 10 in with a story line that has been re-edited by creator Bryan Fuller (Heroes).
Trouble is I can't for the life of me remember the plot seven months later. I only know the series was so fresh and unusual it never should have gone to network TV. Cable was surely its best hoped for berth.
But thankfully there's DVD and the compleat final season hits the stores July 21. Then I'll be able to watch all the second season at one go and regret the passing of one of American TV's best comedies of recent years.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Farewell And Hello Again To Leno

Remember the tumult 17 years ago when Johnny Carson finally retired from the Tonight Show? Well, Friday night it was Jay Leno's time to leave but the ceremony wasn't half as momentous --or sad.
Leno is being forced out of his 11:30 slot by NBC executives worried his audience is aging.
To garner younger viewers they are giving the Tonight slot to Conan O'Brien, 46, who has a mighty tough  task ahead of him despite all the hype.
But 17 years ago NBC blew the succession when Leno was parachuted in over Carson's pick David Letterman. NBC saw Letterman depart his NBC slot to jump to CBS and become Leno's deadliest rival.
This time Leno is getting a new 10 p.m. timeslot nightly on NBC.
In effect the peacock proud web is saying the late night talk now starts 90 minutes earl;lier.
But will viewers accommodate Leno's "new" talk show? It's a highly competitive world, this 10 p.m. slot.
Steve Allen failed with his variety show after he left Tonight. And so did Jack Paar with a prime time talk show.
NBC had already lost the 10 p.m. battle most nights to CBS procedural shows like the CSI franchise.
Leno could be swept away on competitive nights but his show comes in at a mere fraction of the cost of an hour of filmed drama.
And remember drama series only mount 22 new episodes a year --those nights when Leno faces repeats he'll surely grow in the ratings.
I've been watching Leno's week long farewell and liking what I saw. 
He really zinged it to Mel Gibson and Thursday night a suddenly aged Billy Crystalgot in some great one liners plus a tribute song (Crystal with much more hair was Leno's first guest all those years ago).
And on Friday night Conan stopped by. 
Evidently there's a little tension but both guys couldn't have been nicer to each other. Again there's the shock of seeing Conan at 29 when he first came on NBC and the more mature performer of today.
It was Carson who once ruminated on his tremendous popularity and said he couldn't do it in the increasingly fractured TV world of today with hundreds of channels vying for our attention.
The best that can be said of Leno is he kept the  shop open and thriving. He's a happy, open person not at all like the grouch Letterman has become. President Obama stopped by recently because he knew he'd be taken care of.
And so did Brit actor Hugh Grant after he was caught with a prostitute on Sunset Blvd.
Watching all the assembled clips last week I feel I might have been too dismissive of Leno who always tried to give us a good time. 
Hardly the satirist of Carson stature and lacking Letterman's edge he nevertheless grew on viewers and many nights out was the ratings king. Which after all is the only thing that mattered at the end of each night.
Leno's new prime time outing opens for business come September.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Canadian Buying Frenzy Ends In L.A.

Canadian executives will soon be winging home from a week of buying up all the new American product for the fall or so says Etan Vlessing of The Hollywood Reporter, always an impeccable source.
What's that, you might say.  Hasn't CTV been running ads on all its stations crying the poverty blues amid dire warnings local TV is in danger of extinction.
But that didn't stop CTV from plopping down cash for such new shows as The Forgotten and Miami Trauma both from executive producer Jerry Bruckheimer. 
CTV also forked over big bucks for a new Disney series Flash Forward and renewed contracts on such high priced returning shows from Desperate Housewives to CSI franchises and Grey's Anatomy.
Guess with so much U.S. fare coming up on CTV's local TV could really be on the back burner.
Similarly Global and Canwest went on a binge of "Buy American" with purchases of such new shows as Brothers, NBC's Community and three Fox comedies: Glee, Cleveland and Sons of Tucson.
Canwest also nabbed CBS's The Good Wife and the CBS spinoff NCIS: Los Angeles.
Next year the CRTC is threatening new programming rules that would force Canadian networks to spend at least as much on Canadian series as they do on U.S. imports which can already be seen on American border stations.
And about those CTV ads which say cable companies take their signals without paying for them: it's cable coverage that guarantees a strong CTV signal in your home. The cable companies also go along with simulcasting meaning incoming U.S. signals get blacked out and Canadian ones substituted if the program is the same.
It's a very big reason why there's so little local programming on both CTV and Global. There's precious little Canadian content left on CTV schedule after all those American shows are added every season.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Those Darned Hills

This is it folks! I refer to the finale of Season Five of The Hills which revs up Sunday night at 8 on MTV.
Are you ready for the cataclysmic event as LC (Lauren Conrad) leaves the show after what seems like a lifetime as First Lady of TV Reality.
We first spotted her as a lithesome high schooler on Laguna Beach. Then she grew up, moved outta town and headed for The Hills where she snagged a coveted job in L.A.'s fashion world within hours of hitting the town.
No matter that she lacked any sort of experience. Then she found a cute apartment and a sleek roommate in Heidi. And dated shallow hunks she never could tame. And ate at the trendiest spots on the Sunset Strip. All this on a apprentice's salary.
No matter! It was all done in front of those probing reality TV cameras. LC sported a wardrobe few could afford and when she looked for new digs she found a mansion already furnished where she could cavort with her two best buds.
Are you still with me? She shopped until she dropped. The other gals had countless boy problems but no matter. They all met every night at the swankiest watering hole and emerged in the morning picture perfect.
The fact that everything in The Hills was phony never bothered the countless fans. LC was always beautifully coiffed and made up thanks to the army of cosmeticians behind the cameras. And TMZ even caught the stars redoing scenes over and over just like the scripted dramas.
Female viewers Lauren's age took it all in. It was the dream of every twentysomething ywho watched to snag a fashion gig and hang out with these male hotties.
But Lauren finally had enough. The Hills made her fabulously rich even though her own fashion line bombed. She asked out to have her own life. But will we ever hear from her again. I'm not so sure.
On the season finale Spencer and Hedi get married for what seems to be the third time. And the others from Audrina to Lo to Justin Bobby to Stephanie all threaten to return for the sixth season. 
Meanwhile rival Kristen from Laguna Beach is going to be dropped in as the new lead. The Hills without LC? We'll just have to get along without her, I reckon.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Why Not A Made In Canada TV Schedule?

Variety, the "Bible" of the entertainment industry has a dandy story about the annual migration of top Canadian TV executives to Hollywood to purchase fall series.
But Bill Brioux had the story first on his TV blog TV feeds My Family. Check here to read it.
Basically CTV and CanWest programmes are screening the pilots in darkened backlot theatres.
But only a few weeks ago representatives from both networks were crying the poverty blues before a startled CRTC (Canadian Radio-Television And Telecommunications Commission).
Last year Canadian webs spent over $700 million to snap up American fare which is 10 times what they spend on domestic production.
With a recession blazing away and the decline of competitive bidding there should be a sharp decline in prices this time out.
Of course in the old days CBC executives headed by Thom Benson would laze around the Beverly Wilshire pool and force studio executives from MTM, Columbia TV, Lorimar to make their cases.
One year CHCH took a huge gamble that did not pay off in buying all the Lorimar product (excepting Dallas which CBC had tied up) and wound up with a stack of lemons. That bad judgement call started CHCH's precipitous decline.
Once Grant Tinker of MTM raged that CBC was paying a mere $2,500 an episode for The Mary Tyler Moore Show but he couldn't shop it anywhere else. CTV in those days routinely picked up CBC rejects and those CTV didn't want went to CHCH.
But the prices kept going up. One year Yvan Fecan got heated up when I disclosed CBC's price for buying the new series thirtysomething (Fecan was a CBC executive in those days)--it was $75,000 an episode. Today prices for top shows are triple that and maybe even more.
But all this spending on U.S. product ties Canadian networks to their Manhattan counterparts. Much of the CTV and Global TV schedules are made in America: the Canadian networks routinely simulcast most of their U.S. imports for a bigger ratings return.
Buying so much American product has made them vulnerable to the ratings declines experienced by the traditional Big Four U.S. webs.
If only our home grown networks had more faith in Canadian talent. tTe time is coming when viewers will be able to hop and skip past the artificial electronic barriers imposed at the border and watch any American show they want. 
There's a computer geek up the street who promises to show me how to get into "Hulu", the new webcast site of Universal and NBC but supposedly not available as yet in Canada. But apparently there's a "back door" route.
Now is the time for CTV, Global, E!, Citytv and A-channels to start  "Canadianizing" their schedules. They'd better do so quickly or risk irrelevance --or possibly extinction.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The CBS Fall schedule

Why am I completely unsurprised at CBS's fall schedule announced on Wednesday?
CBS is the only U.S. network to have gained in total audience this past season and its rafter of tried and true procedurals all seem to be raring to go --again.
But CBS has to look at NBC's past mistakes when the peacock proud network refused to cancel shows past their prime.
So these days once dominant NBC is the fourth ranked web--it's even behind lowly Fox.
Big news is the move of The Mentalist to Thursday nights at 10 plus the introduction of three new hour dramas and one new sitcom.
And, yes, as predicted in the trade papers Medium is moving over from NBC to CBS.
On Thursday nights at 10 The Mentalist will try to break a curse. Last season CBS debuted two new dramas in the slot after CSI only to see both Eleventh Hour and Harper's Island ctash and burn.
Don't ask me why CBS is moving The Big Bang Theory from Mondays at 8 to 9:30 p.m. behind Two And A Half Men. And How I Met Your Mother returns to the 8 p.m. slot. That provides a big push to CBS's new Jenna Effman sitcom Accidentally On Purpose at 8:30.
Medium which is actually made by CBS Studios moves to Fridays ar 9 where it will be book ended by Ghost Whisperer and Number$.
CBS will also have a spinoff of NCIS, the drama The Good Wife on Tuesdays and Three Rivers which will run Sundays.
Waiting in the wings are new shows Miami Trauma, The Bridge and a comedy Rules Of Engagement. And the CFTO-produced Flashpoint will be held in reserve as a midseason replacement.
All in all it's a predictable schedule. Why make major changes when you're the number one network?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Bubble Has Burst

"On The Bubble"--it's a media term for a TV series that has yet to be cancelled or picked up.
But as the U.S. networks finally begin unveiling their fall shows the bubble burst for a number of series.
NBC has now definitely cancelled Medium and My Name Is Earl while CBS gas axed The Unit. And ABC has definitely cancelled Samantha Who bnecause of its high budget..
But don't count Medium out yet. CBS is understood to be interested in the series for pairing with Ghost Whisperer on Friday nights. A deal is said to be in the works but there's nothing in writing so far.
20th Century Fox which produces My Name Is Earl is said to be shopping the sitcom to both ABC and Fox which makes sense.
And ABC has finally unveiled its fall season. New hour dramas include the sci fi entry Flash Forward (Thursdays at 8), The Forgotten (Tuesdays at 10) and the supernatural drama Eastwick (Wednesdays at 10).
The trade papers are already saying Flash Forward does not mesh with Grey's Anatomy at 9 and Private Practice at 10.
New sitcoms  include Hank with Kelsey Grammer, The Middle with Patricia Heaton and Cougar Town with Courtney Cox. 
Clearly the 10 p.m,. slot will be up gor grabs with NBC going with Jay Leno weeknights at 10.
ABC President Steve McPherson also told the press Grey's Anatomy has signed both Katherine Heigl and T.R. Knight for the next season. Zack Braff will be back for at least six new seasons of Scrubs. And ABC plans on running off the seven unused episodes of Samantha Who sometime this summer. Got all that?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

New Fall Scheduling News

According to Variety magazine, the "Bible" of the U.S. entertainment industry, the buzzword among the traditional Big Five networks for the new season is comedy. And that makes sense.
Audiences continue to shrink and networks must rein in costs. CBS is asking for a 20 per cent reduction on many of its procedurals including its three CSI clones as well as Without A Trace and Cold Case.
Procedurals are costly to film because many exterior locations outside studio walls must be needed as well as large casts and buckets of guest stars and even multiple writing teams.
Now Variety tells us a slow but expected return to half hour comedies is to be expected and why not?
Sitcoms faded about a decade ago after years of being the favorite fare of TV audiences.
I think I know the answer. The comedy veterans of early TV had retired by the 1990s or were dead. think Lucy Ball, Eve Arden, Phil Silvers in front of the camera as well as such producers as Larry gelbart (M*A*S*H) and Norman Lear (All In The Familyt) and Grant Tinker (Mary Tyler Moore).
The networks began hiring for comedy people who just were not that funny. I was on the set of the sitcom that starred Geena Davis. It was a fragile confection with such co-stars as Mimi Rogers and *(*(*(*( who while nice in person had not experience in starring in a sitcom shot before a live studio audience.
The movie stars too big for the TV screen were used and predictably both Bette Midler and Whoppi Goldberg bombed in their comedic vehicles.
Ratings for procedurals have declined --CSI without William Peterson is a less popular show and other CBS series like Without A Trace and Cold Case are still on the bubble --they haven't been renewed for next year. 
 NBC has a new procedural in Southland but its ratings have shrunk since it started up and Life is definitely gone.
 However CBS has ordered a spin off from NCIS proving some procedurals are still functioning at acceptable audience levels.
But if not procedurals what? Well, there are two new medical shows. And a few new sci fi entries but remember such si fi classics as Star Trek were not that popular when first shown.
That leaves comedies.
 Veteran Chevy Chase is in one called Community for NBC. Courtney Cox, Alyssa Milano and Patricia Heaton are back in new sitcoms. Scrubs unexpectedly got a renewal slip from ABC and CBS says all its comedies are coming back.
And sitcoms are dirt cheap to make with their emphasis on a few key sets.
A couple of hits among the new entries and sitcoms could be back to stay.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

TV Season Finales

It's that time of the TV calendar when series expire. Some will be back in the fall but for others it's a sad finale. Here are the ones I'll be watching:
You can watch the season finale of the Buggest Losers: Couples (NBC at 8). but include me out. But I will be tuned to the first season finale of Fringe (Fox at 9) if only to see the greatish Leonard Nimoy in a guest role. Since the series was created by J.J. Abrans who also uses Nimoy in the Star Trek movie currently smashing attendance records I can only hope this will be a real cliffhanger finish.
The only finale tonight is the seasonal farewell of America's Next Top Model (CW at 8) so if you're in a schlockaholic kind of mood go for it.
Now comes the really big one: the cliffhanger on Grey's Anatomy. Rumors persist that one of the big names will get it for talking back to the producers. Biggest candidate seems to be T.R. Knight who has publicly bad mouthed the show for giving his character so little to do this season. But Katherine Heigl has also had some negative things to say. So look for Knight's character, George, to be injured as an Army medic, that's my prediction (ABC at 9).
I watched Prison Break the first year and really got into it. Subsequent years did nothing for me and now the once top-rated series is dead in the ratings.  Originally I liked the story lines of brother (Wentworth Miller) helping brother (Dominic Purcell). Then cannibalism was introduced, weird stuff about Panamanians, you name it. Now comes a finale promising a return of the best ever bad guys so I'll watch out of nostalgia for the first year (FOX at 8).
Say goodbye to Saturday Night Live for the summer. Next season SNL Updates will be running in the Thursday night comedy lineup from time to time.  Will Ferrell is in this one so its virtually a must-see (NBC at 11:30).
Loads of season finales tonight. There's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (ABC at 8) but I always wonder how these poor families are going to be able to pay the property tasxes on their brand new homes?
It's up against the season finale of Survivor which has had one of its better years I feel (CBS at 8).
And yjen comes Desperate Housewives in a two-hour finale. The return last week of Gale Harold after a near critical motorcycle accident gave the show its best rating of the year. So watch for Harold to be asked to return next year. The finale plot is marvellously convoluted but I'll still miss the departed Nicolette Sheridan. Why did they have to go and kill her off anyway? (ABC at 9).

Saturday, May 9, 2009

TV's Fall Season

Those big American TV networks are counting every penny these days. Not only are casts going to be scaled down come the fall but writing staffs are also being pared.
Blame it on two evils: the Great Recession which certainly won't be over by September and the continuing tricling away of viewers to the cable TV opposition.
The L.A. trades are filled with stories about NBC's Brothers & Sisters cutting back cast in a strange way: not all the players will be in every episode to help trim costs.
On CBS's Cold Case I'm hearing salaries may be pared. It's the same with those top-rated CBS procedurals --like the three editions of CSI and Criminal Minds--the network doesn't have the cash reserves to support such top heavy casts anymore.
TV series success used to be called "The Survival Of The Fattest".
Now the buzzwords are lean and trim, two reasons NBC's frosh police series Southland got picked up for the fall. Only four writers are listed in the credits and that will be about it in the fall, a far cry from some prime time shows.
I'm often asked what was the most expensive drama series of all time.Answer: that would be ER during its heyday when cast salaries drove the cost of an hour episode to $10 million a week.
NBC could pay that price because the ratings for the peacock proud network's entire Thursday night lineup were amazing. But when the numbers dimmed even ER became vulnerable and it won't be back this fall.
CBS is said to be paring the writing staff on its CSI franchises, one of the web's costliest. Also dropping writers is Criminal Minds. The usual budget for writing staff per episode is estimated to be as high as $120,000 and may be down by as much as a fifth.
There'll be fewer rewrites of key scenes, less attention to detail with scripts focusing more on interior scenes rather than costly exterior location shoots. 
Will you still be watching if quality deteriorates?
After marathon negotiating sessions all about the cost Fox has finally renewed Bones for next season (made by sister 20th TV). Other Fox dramas picked up include Dollhouse, House, Lie To Me, fringe and 24.
Maybe networks will decide to cut back on episodes. Raymond Burr told me in the early years of Perry Mason he'd be starring in 36 new episodes a year.
The number gradually got whittled down to 22 and such cable hits as Mad Men are through after 13 new episodes.
In this painful era of retrenchment there are few choices. Cut talent or cut episodes, it's that simple. Or maybe both when economic times are that tough.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Leno's Finale

NBC has announced the lineup for Jay Leno's absolutely final week as host of the Tonight Show. Starting on Monday May 25 the normally reclusive Mel Gibson will be there along with musical guest Lyle Lovett.
On Tuesday May 25 Caleefornya's Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger guests along with Dwight Yoakam.
On Wednesday Mat 27 it's Wanda Sikes and Sarah McLachlan. On Thursday May 276 Billy Crystal is one guest --he was Leno's first way back in 1992 and Prince will do some warbling.
But who'll be on the very last night on Friday May 29? Leno promises to tell all at a press conference on May 14.
Conan O'Brien then takes over with Leno departing for a weeknights at 10 p.m.. gig starting on NBC this fall. Got all that?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Must See TV On HBO

The DVD preview copies of HBO Canada's new documentary miniseries The Alzheimer's Project arrived at my front door. And I kept staring at the package for the next few days.
To say I was unenthusiastic about watching them would be an understatement. 
But when I put on the first (of four) documentaries, The Memory Loss Tapes, I simply couldn't stop watching.
This is truly what TV is all about; here's something so ambitious and wonderfully realized it makes you realize the medium can be so much more than reruns and half-baked reality junk geared to the lowest common denominator.
Seven Americans with Alzheimer's are profiled and  a rich diversity of cases is revealed here. First up is an 87-year old country woman who can still drive her car, sing in the local band, make pies for her church. But she realizes she is slowly losing her ability to remember names and facts. Taking a battery of tests, she can't remember the word for the pocket calculator. She'll receive oral medication for cognitive skills but can never really get better. All she wants is to keep looking after herself.
Then there's the 82-year-old who must be told she can no longer drive her car and is being robbed of freedom of movement. Her memory has deteriorated to the point she no longer recognizes traffic signs and can't handle the gears of a car.
A younger case at 63 is fighting back by starting a blog about his condition even as he slips into severe depression.  "The person I was is not there anymore," he tells a psychiatrist. 
We also see a woman in a nursing home who no longer recognizes her son and talks to herself in the mirror.
Another senior in another nursing home doesn't know what is happening until his family take him to a reunion of his old barbershop quartet and he bursts into somng remembering every lyric and intonation.
A segment titled The Fence looks at a case of a farm widow cared for by her daughter who has fenced in the property to prevent her mother from wandering away. 
Amd finally we visit a kids' TV magician struggling to get to his next gig and not recognizing he is now bedridden.
Sequences were filmed in many states. There's no narration so viewers must come to their own conclusions. The editing is quite brilliant, no story ever dawdles. At times the compassion shown all these needy people will surely have you near to tears but there are patches of the darkest humor.
And this is not just about the victims, it's also about the care givers, the families and friends who have rallied in support.
The first documentary in the package runs a crisp 83 minutes and was directed and produced by Shari Cookson and Nick Doob. It deserves to win many awards and is a must see TV event.
The Memory Loss Tapes premieres Sunday night May 11 at 9 p.m. on HBO Canada.
The very next night, Grandpa Do You Know Who I Am, with Maria Shriver, looks at five stories of grandkids and their aging grandparents and is based on Shriver's book which was written when father Sargent Shriver came down with the condition. 
The perspective of dealing with Alzheimer's is covered from the perspective of children who often cannot comprehend what it is like to simply be fading away. I watched and found it filled with insight-- for its half hour this is quite an amazing journey for viewers. The premiere is on HBO Canada Monday at 7:30 p.m.
It's followed at 8 by  Part One of Momentum In Science, a two-part two hour look at the steady advances in unlocking the secrets of Alzheimer's. Not only are patients at various stages tracked but we listen in to leading edge physicians talk about the remarkable advances in research in the past 20 years.
I thought this one might be too complicated to follow but the visuals are terrific and watching these two specials should make many people feel less anxious because there are ways of combating the illness if detected early enough.
Part Two of Momentum In Science is on Tuesday night May 11 at 8. An hour before at 7 there's another group profile Caregivers which looks at the patients who live at home to be cared for by family and friends. 
All in all this is a remarkable package, the kind of TV we used to watch on CBC and PBS.

Monday, May 4, 2009

NBC's Fall Schedule

I'm surprised at the stand pat schedule announced for the fall by NBC. The peacock proud network is mired in fourth spot in the ratings.
 Sorry but I don't think the introduction of Jay Leno nightly at 10 is really going to perk up ratings. I once proposed to an NBC executive that Leno run at family friendly 8 p.m. but did anybody listen to me?
Trouble at 10 will come from all those top rated CBS procedurals like its CSI triumverate. Some nights Leno will have socko guests but not every night. 
NBC is picking Leno over 10 p.m. dramas precisely because he's that inexpensive and the network needs to save money right now.
The batch of new shows seem innocuous. A silver-haired Chevy Chase is back in a sitcom titled Community (set in a community adult education college). Plus there's another sitcom titled 100 Questions.
From the producer of Heroes comes an apocalyptic drama series called Day One. San Francisco is the site for a medical drama Trauma. Michelle Trachtenberg and Canadian James Tupper costar in another medic show Mercy. The old Ron Howard film Parenthood gets resurrected with Peter Krause.
And there are a batch of new reality things including Jerry Seinfeld's The Marriage Ref, Breakthrough with Tony Robbins and Who Do you Think You Are?
Nothing seems especially cutting edge which is needed to lift NBC out of its ratungs doldrums.
This looks like the schedule of a network in free fall.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Another Canadian TV Icon Departs

Look what the recession is doing to Canadian TV!
First it's Mike Duffy who leaves his long running CTV series and opts for the Canadian Senate. TV viewing without the Duffster just isn't the same.
And CFTO's perennial weathercaster Dave Devall has decamped after 48 years which is said to be a record. Think I'll have to chew on that for a bit considering Percy Saltzman and Bill Lawrence hung in there for almost as long.
Once for a profile in the Toronto Star I coaxed Devall, Saltzman and Lawrence into a photo studio for a group shot and it was the first time Devall and Lawrence, long time rivals had ever met each other.
Now Newsworld's Don Newman , 68, has taken the voluntary retirement package and is leaving at the end of June.
Newman was a marvel on his weekday NW show. He covered an incredible amount of topics every day and was proof positive Canadian politics was never dull.
It seems he's been around forever and a day. He jump started CTV's Washington bureau in 1972 to provide ace coverage of the Watergate scandal. Then he hopped over to CBC news in 1976 and just stayed there becoming part of the Ottawa bureau in 1981.
I once interviewed him for a Toronto Star profile which The Star spiked because editors found it was too complimentary. Dig up some dirt! I was told. But I couldn't find any rival or any politician who had other but kind words for this consistently under rated TV journalist.
I admired Newman then and still do. Compare his daily show with some of American cable TV's Washington-based shows and it's the difference between informed reporting and screeching TV tabloid news.
At least  CTV was able to rope in the respected Tom Clark as the Duffster's replacement. With so much attrition at CBC News is there anyone on staff to inherit Newman's mantle? We'll just have to wait and see.

Friday, May 1, 2009

New Season Shows Are Coming Fast

Decisions! Decisions! It's D-Day for NBC on Monday with the peacock proud network due to announce its fall schedule.
What series will be picked up, which ones dumped? 
And what new series will find favor with the low ranked network?
NBC's momentum was sidelined with the sudden, dramatic death of the vice president of drama development Nora O'Brien who died on the set of the pilot project Parenthood. That put back by at least a day screenings for NBC brass.
So far the executives are said to be high on a Chevy Chase sitcom called Community. But also in the running are David E. Kelly's Mad and Dick Wolfe's Found. Kelly has a string of hits including Boston Legal while Wolf produces the Law & Order procedurals for NBC.
But just as important are the series NBC must dump. Don't forget at 10 p.m. in the fall Jay Leno will debut his new talk show. The absence of 10 p.m. drama slots means a number of hours just have to go.
My NBC sources say as of Sunday that Medium got a pick up as a midseason replacement. And the new series Southland was also picked up. Apparently Parks & Recreation with Amy Poehler will be picked up by the time NBC starts strutting its stuff at the annual affiliates convention.
That leaves fate of Chuck and the venerable Law & Order still to be decided. One network source says My Name Is Earl will be back but there are contractual problems still to be ironed out.
But  I hear of the Law & Orders only SVU is definitely back for a full season although its two big stars (Mariska Hargitay and Chris Meloni were asking for more money).
NBC claims after a weekend of screening NBC brass are highest on these pilots: Community, Parenthood, Trauma among others.
NBC needs all the help it can get --such new series as My Own Worst Enemy and Kings crashed in the ratings leaving NBC mired in fourth position. And while Southland has been renewed it was a 10 p.m. series that slot is reserved for Leno and industry insiders are wondering how it will fare at 9 p.m.
I've already given you what I know about the ABC schedule. Just read my April 23 item.
But CBS is harder to crack. The network is Number One in the ratings but boasts an unusually high number of long time series like its CSI franchises. It had one major new hit this year in The Mentalist.
CBS isn't due to make its announcement until May 290. It has time to wait because it alone gained viewers this season unlike NBC and ABC.