Saturday, October 07, 2006

Short Takes: The Return (again) - October 7, 2006


You've got to love it. The crunch of dry leaves under foot. That little nip in the air - somewhere (it was a comfortable 22 Celsius here today). Baseball playoffs have started - I remember a time when "started" also meant "almost finished" but that just shows how old a codger I'm getting to be. People in Toronto still think the Maple Leafs might win the Stanley Cup - oh wait they stopped believing that yesterday didn't they.

And of course Evil Network Weasels have stopped talking about how fabulous all of their shows are and how great their line up is, and have actually started cancelling shows, putting them on hiatus, and moving them - or combinations of all three. It used to be (another sign of my codgerdom) that networks would be civilized and wait until November to cancel a show and allow it to run its 13 weeks. These days shows get cancelled before the season's whole line up finishes debuting, and sometimes the shows that haven't debuted yet are the shows that are being cancelled. And of course the worst thing - well in a way - is that the Weasels who are cancelling the shows are the same ones who less than two months ago were telling us just how fabulous their coming fall season was.

Of course not everything in this batch of Short Takes. We also have the ever popular "Who does the PTC hate this week?" And there are a few other things I've managed to dredge up.

Farrah Fawcett: Farrah Fawcett has Colo-Rectal Cancer. This was posted on on Thursday - the same day that it hit the mainstream media - but interestingly The Cancer Blog, which is a sister site of posted the story the day before most of the media were aware of it. Farrah, who is 59, lost her older sister Dianne to Lung Cancer eight years ago. Fawcett has been an advocate for Cancer charities and research since then. She is currently undergoing radiation treatments preparatory to surgery and chemotherapy. I was never a huge fan of Farrah Fawcett's - during her time on Charlie's Angels I always preferred Jacklyn Smith to either Fawcett or Kate Jackson - however in the past year my family went through as scare when my mother was misdiagnosed with Colo-Rectal Cancer so I know a bit about the fear that this disease can provoke in both patients and family. Naturally our hopes and prayers are with Farrah as she prepares to confront this disease.

NBC Cancels Kidnapped: But they're waiting for ten more episodes to nail the coffin shut. The network will be moving the show, which had been dying a very public ratings death in the third hour of Wednesday, to Saturday nights for the remainder of the show's run, starting October 21. The network is allowing the show to wind up the kidnapping arc about the abduction of Leopold Cain, so that the few fans of the show will be able to see it through to a conclusion unlike what happened to the Fox series Reunion last year. The show will be replaced in its Wednesday time slot - which had been the long time home of Law & Order - by Dateline NBC. It's worth noting that this series was one of the shows moved in the massive shakeup that NBC made in their Fall Schedule in order to move Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip from Thursday's second hour to Monday's third hour. Kidnapped was originally scheduled to air on Tuesday nights in the third hour opposite ABC's Boston Legal and CBS's Smith. NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly said at the time "We've enjoyed an extremely successful development season and are going to do what it takes to give each new series the strongest launch we can. Now that we've assessed the competitive landscape, we've scheduled our new shows in time periods where we believe they'll succeed and will be supporting them with robust marketing campaigns and the full resources of the network." That worked out real good. Too bad - I like this show and it had a great cast.

Speaking of Smith: That show has been pulled from the CBS line up effective immediately. Seven episodes out of the initial order of thirteen have been shot. The Smith website isn't accessible through the main CBS site anymore - the show has been pulled from both drop down menus on the site - and CFTR Radio in Toronto reports that the show has been cancelled and describes it as the first cancellation of the season. The show lost 26% of its audience between the first and third shows: first episode overnight ratings 7.8/12, 11 million viewers; third episode ratings 5.8/ 9, 8.43 million. It also dropped in the crucial Adult 18-49 demographic from 3.6/10 for the premiere to 2.8/8 for the third episode, a decline of 22%. Worst of all it was not retaining viewers from the preceding shows,NCIS (10.8/16; Viewers: 15.52 million; A18-49: 4.0/11 on October 3) and The Unit (8.5/13; Viewers: 13.17 million; A18-49:4.1/11). Those shows were in second and third place on the night respectively.

Foxy Moves: We already knew that Fox was putting The Happy Hour and Justice on early "pre-World Series month" hiatus but we now know what they're going to do with at least some of the shows that are in trouble. The Happy Hour is scheduled to return on November 2 along with 'Til Death. The shows will serve as lead ins for The O.C. which will have its debut on that night. As of October 23, Justice will now move to the second hour of Monday night following Prison Break and replacing Vanished which will move to the first hour of Friday nights starting on October 27. Last Friday a rerun of the pilot episode of Justice aired in the first hour and lost to Ghost Whisperer, Deal or No Deal, a repeat of the previous night's Grey's Anatomy and the CW's Friday Night Smackdown! - Friday is not a good night for Fox series! Also, Standoff will be swapping with House, moving to the first hour of Tuesday night (opposite NCIS and Friday Night Lights) while House moves to the second hour (opposite The Unit and Biggest Loser). This latter move had been pre-planned by the network and of the moves announced is probably the best of the lot.

The CW opts for migration: In a surprise move The CW network announced that it would be transferring its Monday night line up of Seventh Heaven and Runaway to Sunday night beginning October 15, and its Sunday comedy line up of Everybody Hates Chris, All Of Us, Girlfriends and The Game to Monday night starting October 9, where the shows come up against the CBS comedy line up. This move actually makes some sense if you think about it hard enough. In the past The WB did reasonably well with dramas on Sunday nights (UPN didn't program Sundays) and the two family oriented dramas would seem to be a good fit for that night. Seventh Heaven - previously the highest rated WB series will be going up against reality shows The Amazing Race, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, NBC's Sunday Night Football, and starting in November Fox's line up of The Simpsons and American Dad. Runaway which stars Donny Wahlberg and Leslie Hope will be up against Cold Case, Desperate Housewives, Family Guy and The War At Home as well as Football. Potentially this gives the CW a bit more of a chance in the second hour of Sunday.

PTC gets one right: Admittedly it's for all of the wrong reasons, but still.... In a statement before the FCC's Quadrennial Broadcast Media Ownership Review, held in Los Angeles PTC executive director (and soon to be President) Tim Winters linked "Indecent programming with media consolidation" according to a headline on the group's webpage. According to Mr. Winter's statement before the Commission "And since the Commission last dealt with the issue of media ownership three years ago, millions of Americans have filed formal complaints about broadcast indecency violations. All but a handful of those complaints reflect national network television broadcasts. With very few exceptions, network-owned television stations do not consider community decency standards." He added later in his statement, " When local programming decisions are prohibited by a remote corporate parent, the public interest is not served." (my emphasis) Interestingly this is a similar position to a group which could scarcely be more different from the PTC in what they want to see; the Centre For Creative Voices in Media, a group which often opposes the complaints filed by the "millions of Americans" who fill out the PTC's pre-made complaint letters. On September 13, the Centre's blog reported on a two year study supressed by the FCC that claimed that "locally owned stations produce more local news than those owned by media giants." According to the study "locally owned stations produced five-and-a-half minutes more local news in a half-hour newscast than their consolidated competitors - meaning 33 more hours of local news per year." In other words, "when local programming decisions are prohibited by a remote corporate parent, the public interest is not served." Speaking from a place where the majority of private English language stations are owned by two corporate entities - CTV and Canwest Global - I can't help but agree. News coverage, particularly in the smaller Saskatchewan cities has decreased as media ownership has become centralized in the two private networks.

Who does the PTC hate this week?: Besides media conglomeration the PTC is also mad at FedEx for sponsoring Medium, where "the lead character Allison, dreams about a man who has kidnapped and raped several teenage girls" and CSI where scenes " included a man with a biting fetish, men receiving S&M beatings from a dominatrix in a sex club, a grown man with a sexual desire to dress like and be treated as an infant and a woman making a sex video for her 15-year-old stepson." This was the message brought to the FedEx stockholders meeting by the head of the Memphis Tennessee chapter of the PTC, Kelli Turner on behalf of the Council.

This week's "Worst" show was NBC's Heroes. The PTC states that "Due to its violent and sexual content Heroes is not suited for children of any age. And as far as adults are concerned, if you are disturbed by graphic gory horror film, Heroes is probably not for you either." Their major objection was to the character of Niki Sanders: "When not performing as a webcam stripper, one of the show’s “heroes” uses her special powers to violently bludgeon her enemies to death." They then describe the scene in which Niki "begins to take off her clothes while the second hitman video tapes them. Suddenly, she changes her mind and says to the man “Screw you!” The hitman strikes Niki in the face and knocks her out. When Niki awakens she finds both men dead, one with a sharp object protruding from his neck and the other sprawled out the floor. Torture devices are shown hanging from the walls and blood is literally splattered everywhere." In an aside the PTC also objects to the scene where "Claire, the invincible high school cheerleader, experiments with her super power by putting her hand in a garbage disposal without experiencing any pain. When she removes her mangled extremity the camera zooms-in on the bloody injury which suddenly and inexplicably heals." Just for the record, NBC has announced that Heroes will be renewed for the whole year after only the second episode of the show.

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