Thursday, March 21, 2013

TV And Agism

It all started a few weeks back when Joy Behar, 70, announced just like that she was leaving The View after 16 years.
I met Joy within a week of The View's arrival when I sat in on a live show in the audience and then went backstage to chat up "the girls".
Only Barbara Walters refused to talk to me. Too busy I was told. She owned the show but clearly disdained press interviews and stormed off to her ABC office to do other things.
I noticed during the commercial breaks that Barbara called the director over and read the riot act about what segment should come up next.
But I got to chatter with the other three co-stars Joy, Meredith Viera and Debbie Mantenopoulos.
When Joy decamps only Barbara, 83, will be left among the originals.
Joy said in her statement she's longing to get back to her roots as a stand up comic. But I strongly suspect her age had something to do with her leave taking.
On TV age is everything. And it always has been.
It's the reason Walter Cronkite left CBS News as chief anchor when he turned 65. CBS didn't want to lose the long running second-in-command Dan Rather.
But in picking Rather CBS so upset Roger Mudd that he left for NBC.
These days Jay Leno, 62, is in the line of fire.
He's used to being bounced by NBC. A few years back he lost his coveted Tonight slot for a chance to anchor a prime time nightly talk outing at 10 p.m.
That did not turn out and neither did his replacement at Tonight: perennial dauphin Conan O'Brien.
When the dust cleared Conan quit in a huff rather than being bumped back for the return of Leno.
Conan left for TBS where his ratings are infinitesimal and Leno seemed back in the saddle for a few years.
But when ABC gave Jimmy Kimmel, a mere child of 45, its 11:30 slot then a lot of youthful viewers began migrating from Tonight and Leno.
Leno still dominates  but NBC bases its advertising revenues on the number of young viewers. Johnny Carson never had such worries because in his day his show was often the only one in town.
So the story goes NBC is planning to dump Leno, bring in Fallon at 11:30 and watch him duke it out with Kimmel. NBC also wants to move Tonight back to New York city and is going to build a new TV studio to that effect.
Leno's contract doesn't expire until 2014 and includes a huge pay out if NBC cancels him early.
CBS's Letterman now operated on a yearly contract. How all this affects him is anybody's guess. Letterman is already number three --Kimmel's premiere week had him at 1.07 million viewers (18-49) versus 1.04 for Leno and 820,000 for Letterman. In week Leno was back on top.
If Letterman does  quit as he's often threatened then maybe Conan can make a jump back to network TV.
And, yes, agism also affects Canadian TV.
On September 1, 2011, CTV's Lloyd Robertson, 77,  retired as CTV's anchor after 41 years as national newscaster for CBC and CTV.  As late as February, 2010, he'd decried one press report about retirement as "a work of fiction.
His surprise replacement was Lisa LaFlamme,47, and CTV  ratings did not falter as some predicted.
That leaves CBC's Peter Mansbridge, 64, as the "grand old man" Of Canadian TV news. And to think I remember him as the youngest kid on the block.
Mansbridge replaced Knowlton Nash in 1988 --Nash, 61, voluntarily stepped down because CBC feared it might lose Mansbridge to CBS's Morning News.
I happen to think Mansbridge is currently operating at the top of his form but it's interesting to watch the current jockeying for position among such heirs to the throne as Ian Hanomansing, 52,  and Amanda Lang,42.

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