Saturday, October 14, 2006

Short Takes - October 14, 2006

I'm not sure how good this one is going to be. For one thing the PTC doesn't have a new Worst of the week - they're still fixated on Heroes. Then again there are a couple of news items and a tasty little sex scandal involving a Republican - no not that Republican - so maybe we've got something to go to press with.

Who does the PTC hate this Week? I hadn't thought that there'd be much, what with there being no new Worst of the week (really, they are slipping since I don't think they're being more tolerant). But then I spotted a press release on their site: PTC Condemns Prime Time Obscenities. I knew I had struck gold. Apparently there was an incident of using the "s-word" on MyNetwork TV's new telenovella Desire. According to the PTC "The incident occurred during the 8:00 pm hour on the East and West coasts and during the 7:00 pm hour in the Central and Mountain Time Zones, and, even worse, the word in question aired during the opening sequences of the program." Of course who would know, since according to the ratings nobody - except possibly the PTC membership - is actually watching the MyNetwork's programming. The other "incident" occurred on ER: "just last week, NBC scripted the word ‘t*ts’ into the October 5th broadcast of ER, which airs at 9:00 pm in the Central and Mountain Time Zones." They mean of course tits. (On the intellectual side this leads to the question of whether the PTC would object to the word "teats" which Pete Postlethwaite used to describe a woman's breasts in one of the Sharpe films that were done for Britain's ITV But I digress.) The PTC goes on to castigate both networks for not using the Language descriptor 'L' in their ratings for the program: “No doubt the networks will lean on a technology crutch to absolve themselves of any responsibility. But the v-chip would not have prevented a child from hearing either of these obscenities. Desire was rated TV-14, with no ‘L’ descriptor to warn viewers of the offensive language. ER was rated TV-14 also with no ‘L’ descriptor. Even if used properly in every home in America, the v-chip would not have prevented the transmission of these programs into the living rooms of millions of unsuspecting families." But then they go and destroy their argument with this little gem: “Language descriptors aside, how many families in America would deem words like ‘sh*t’ and ‘t*t’ to be appropriate for their 14-year old children?" If the PTC can find me a 14 year old who doesn't know (and probably use) the word "shit" I would be so shocked that I would probably wind up in a cardiac care ward (and the percentage of them who have heard their parents say that word is probably quite high). Granted, I find the MyNetwork situation offensive simply because of the time that the show aired and because they didn't use the language descriptor in their ratings. If you are going to have the V-Chip as an important part of the process for making TV "safe" for younger viewers, and produce ads to that effect as MyNetwork's sister operation Fox has done, then you'd better err on the side of caution in using the proper descriptors. On the other hand I think that the PTC is playing their usual absurd games with the ER situation, the same game that resulted in a fine for the episode of Without A Trace with the implied teen orgy - the word is only obscene (if in fact it is and obscenity) between Chicago and Phoenix. And when exactly was the last time that the FCC has ruled that the word "tit" was a restricted obscenity?

Show reports: Nothing was cancelled this past week. Ugly Betty, Heroes and Jericho have been given full season orders. CBS will be replacing Smith with the medical drama 3 Lbs. starring Stanley Tucci and Mark Feuerstein, while NBC will be returning Medium with Patricia Arquette to the line up on Wednesday nights. 3 Lbs. starts November 14 while Medium returns on November 15.

To the person who commented on the Smith cancellation: You wanted me to complain to CBS about the way they mistreated the show. In fact you commented on it twice in exactly the same words. Can you say comment spam? I knew you could. But now to your main position. I will not be complaining about the cancellation of Smith for two reasons. First, I'm a Canadian and the American networks don't give a Tinker's Dam for anyone outside the United States because we don't count in their ratings. Second, and more importantly, I didn't think the show was all that good. I didn't think the writing was all that good, particularly after the first episode, and I have heard that Ray Liotta in particular wasn't happy with the whole TV experience. CBS cancelled the show because it was a ratings black hole. Mark Berman, who tracks the overnight ratings from Media Week tracked Smith's decline in the Overnight Ratings: Sept. 19 - Overnights: 7.8/12; Viewers: 11.00 million; A18-49: 3.6/10; Sept. 26 - Overnights: 6.7/11; Viewers: 9.67 million; A18-49: 3.3/ 9; Oct. 3 - Overnights: 5.8/ 9; Viewers: 8.43 million; A18-49: 2.8/ 8. To quote Berman "In two weeks, Smith has declined by 26 percent in the overnights, 2.57 million viewers and 22 percent among adults 18-49." And this doesn't mention the fact that in the second week the audience dropped appreciably between the first half hour and the second - 7.1/11 to 6.4/11 in ratings (10%), 10.03 to 9.10 million in total viewers, and 3.3/ 9 to 3.0/ 8 in the 18-49 age group (9%). And remember that decline took place in the middle of an episode. That doesn't say lack of promotion to me, instead it suggests total disinterest in the show.

Sara Evans quits Dancing With The Stars: Our little Republican sex scandal. Sara was almost literally the official Republican candidate for Dancing With The Stars. Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay sent a mass email to his supporters calling on them to support Sara Evans in Dancing With The Stars against other contestants including "ultra liberal talk show host Jerry Springer". The blog Think Progress has a scan of the email. In it DeLay states that Evans "has been a strong supporter of the Republican Party and represents good American values in media. From singing at the 2004 Republican Convention to appearing with candidates in the last several election cycles, we have always been able to count on Sara for her support of the things we believe in. One of her opponents on the show is ultra liberal talk show host Jerry Springer. We need to send a message to Hollywood and the media that smut has no place in television by supporting good people like Sara Evans." It must have worked somehow because let's face it she was scarcely the best dancer on the show and at least to pairs who performed better than she did were eliminated. DeLay even gave a plug to the website that Sara had set up for her fans to support her on the show. It's an odd site which won't let you even read comments or her blog about the show without registering, and includes such instructions as "10/17/2006 08:00 PM Watch Sara on DWTS; 10/17/2006 08:30 PM VOTE NOW FOR SARA."

The only problem is that Sara won't be on Dancing With The Stars on October 17. On Thursday October 12 - the day after the results show which eliminate Willa Ford and Maksim Chmerkovskiy - Evans announced that she had filed for divorce from her husband Craig Schelske, who is a prominent Republican fundraiser and a one time candidate for the House of Representatives from Oregon. As a result she will be withdrawing from Dancing With The Stars. Through her lawyers Evans accused Schelske of drinking to excess, watching pornography both on his computer and on television (at one point of being the couple's 7 year-old son came into the room while his father was watching porn), having at least 100 nude photos of himself in states of arousal on the family computer as well as a number of photos of himself having sex with other women, and advertising on Craig's List for "three party and anal sex." The latter is particularly interesting since according to the Washington Post Evans also states that Schelske refused to allow a costume designer for Dancing With The Stars come to their rented Los Angeles home because the man was "a sodomite" and that he claimed that upon seeing the costume designer one of the couple's three children "break out in hives." The Post reports that a Washington based spokesman for Schelske issued the following response on his behalf: "I have made the decision to forgive Sara for the unfortunate campaign that she and her publicity advisors are currently waging. . . . Sara has unfortunately become a dramatically different person over the last year and it is something we have struggled to deal with. Sadly, it appears we have failed. The best I can do at this difficult time is ask that people of faith would pray for her and for my family."

No decision has been made by the producers of Dancing With The Stars as to how they will deal with Evans's withdrawal from the show beyond allowing her to make a taped statement to her fans on the Tuesday show. One unconfirmed report suggests that producers will make this coming week a "non-voting" week while there is a groundswell of fan support to bring back Willa and Maks as the "last eliminated couple." Still, much as I dislike Sara Evans as a dancer, she seems like a basically nice person and I hate to see anything like this happen to just about anyone.

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