Wednesday, May 31, 2006

And Cue The Soup Shot

Some time ago Mark Evanier tried to start or continue (I'm not sure which) the tradition of bloggers posting a picture of a can of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup when they're going to be unable to post for a while. Check that - when they know they aren't going to be able to post for a while. Well who am I to argue with tradition. I'm going to be away from the computer for about a week. My brother Greg is taking a well deserved break from repairing the traffic lights here in the city and is flying down to Windsor to watch the Boston Red Sox - oh yes and visit his aunt and uncle, but with Greg it's about the Sox - and I have to house/dog sit for him while he's gone. I'll be able to get back to the computer from time to time during this week, but not enough to be able to do any serious writing. On the bright side, Greg has a grey market Direct TV dish so I'll be able to see some shows that I don't normally get to see and write about them when I get back. Or, you know, not.

TV On DVD - May 30, 2006

Back from a long hiatus which came about for a variety of reasons are my TV on DVD posts. List courtesy of of course.

By the way my small and selective library of TV shows on DVD - small and selective because I can't afford large and all inclusive - has grown. I not only have both sets of The Amazing Race but I was finally able to get Firefly and on sale for just $25 at HMV - I wish I could have afforded to pick up some of the other stuff they had on sale too.

Alf: Season 3
- ALF was one of those shows that took the world by storm and just as quickly blew itself out. The show about the furry alien was more sophisticated than a lot of people probably gave it credit for (based on the next two entries in particular which are definitely aimed at kids). The third season features the addition of a baby to the Tanner family, courtesy of actress Anne Schedeen's real life pregnancy.

Alf Animated Adventures - 20,000 Years in Driving School
- While ALF was on the air as a live action series, NBC also had an animated series in their Saturday morning lineup detailing the life of Gordon Shumway a.k.a. ALF on his home world of Melmac. About what you'd expect.

Alf - Tales, Vol. 1 - Alf and the Beanstalk and Other Classic Fairy Tales
- So it turns out that ALF: The Animated Series was so popular - or the live action series was - that it spawned a spin-off of the spin-off. This was ALFTales which were versions of fairy tales as told by the characters from ALF: The Animated Series. I swear it sounds as if someone was desperate for content.

American Muscle Car: Season 2
- More episodes from Speed Channel's series which is just about what you'd expect. It's very difficult getting information about this show, you know, like hosts and insignificant details like that. This show is a celebration of Detroit metal in the days before $1 a liter gas.

Avatar Book 1 - The Last Airbender, Vol. 3
- More animated episodes from the Avatar mythos. I still don't get it and probably never will.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete First Season
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Second Season
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Third Season
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Fourth Season
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Fifth Season
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Sixth Season
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Seventh Season

- Okay, so apparently we're all supposed to run out to the video store and buy all seven seasons of Buffy The Vampire Slayer again because they're in new packages? This after they put a complete set on sale - presumably with the old versions - just a few weeks ago. Sorry, but unless you haven't got the old sets (and this doesn't drive the prices on them down) I'd say give this one a pass.

Dark Shadows: DVD Collection 24
- Clearly there is a reason why soap operas are not collected on DVD. This series lasted a mere five years - 1225 half hour episodes - but it will take 25 or 26 four disc sets to complete the series. Definitely for the serious fan only.

The Doris Day Show: Season 3
The Doris Day Special

- Season 3 of The Doris Day Show was the last to feature that master of timing McLean Stevenson. Mac apparently decided that he was a "big star" - bigger than the show - and bid adieu to Doris at the end of this season and almost immediately realised how stupid a move he made. While Doris just went out and hired John Dehner. Stevenson later admitted it was a huge mistake but still quit M*A*S*H when someone offered him Hello Larry. The Doris Day Special actually links to the series in a rather unique way. Doris was contracted to do both the series and two specials, including this one, in a contract negotiated for her - without her knowledge - by her rat of a husband Martin Melcher who died in 1968. She elected to fulfill the contract because Melcher had basically robbed her blind and spent every dime she ever made.

The Dukes of Hazzard: The Complete Sixth Season
- More adventures with the cousins who are fighting the system like two modern day Robin Hoods. One season seems to blend into another with this show, between the mistaken identities, car chases, bridge jumping, dumber than Georgia dirt cops and Catherine Bach in short shorts. I think I stopped watching after Season 5. One interesting thing in this season is that we get to meet yet another Duke cousin - Luke's long lost brother Jud Kane.

Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, Vol. 3: The Original Animated TV Series
- This was Bill Cosby's effort at educational animation based on characters from several of his comedy routines from this period

Joey: The Complete First Season
- In the name of all that is holy Why?

The Kids in the Hall: Complete Season 4
- I was never a huge Kids In The Hall fan, and I refuse to buy into the notion that they were a Canadian Monty Python's Flying Circus since I find that that undervalues both groups and also comedy teams like The Frantics who never got exposure in the United States. I will state for a fact that The Kids In The Hall did a lot of cutting edge comedy, but the follow in a long tradition of Canadian comedy (including the guys dressing in women's clothing) that goes back at least as far as Wayne & Shuster and possibly as far back as the Dumbells concert troupe of World War I.

Night Stalker: The Complete Series
- The problem with Night Stalker is that it couldn't possibly live up to the reputation of the original series...and apparently it didn't. I suspect the market was there, and certainly The WB did well enough to keep Supernatural on for a second season, but the original Night Stalker with Darren McGavin acquired nearly mythical status and as I said I don't think this version could possibly live up to the expectations.

Numb3rs: The Complete First Season
- We use math everyday, including to count up the cost of DVD boxsets. But this show is worth having. There's a palpable chemistry between Judd Hirsch, David Krumholtz and Rob Morrow as a father and his two sons (trivia: Morrow is 44 and his "brother with whom he graduated high school" Krumholtz is 26). As well, the show not only talks down to the viewer but it talks down to the characters - Charlie has to explain his methods to the FBI agents in simple terms - and this is a good thing because we aren't made to feel like we're dummies when we don't understand something. And Peter McNichol steals every scene he's in and what could be better than that.

Queer As Folk: The Complete Fifth Season
- This show was a huge hit both on Showtime in the United States and on Showcase in Canada (which briefly considered making a sixth season on its own after Showtime cancelled the show, supposedly due to the rising value of the Canadian dollar). While set in Pittsburgh, the show was shot in Toronto. I've never seen it so I'm unprepared to express an opinion, but apparently it will be slightly delayed in Canada (check out the date on the listing).

Rollergirls: The Complete Season One
- I remember watching real Roller Derby during the sports last dying gasp as a TV spectacle on a par with professional wrestling. Rollergirls, which ran for one 13 episode season on A&E was an element of a grassroots revival in the sport which by mid-February 2006 - thanks in part to the show - saw some 80 mostly amateur all-woman leagues forming across the United States. I could make a remark about the incongruity of this show being on a network calling itself Arts & Entertainment, but I gave up on them when they cancelled Nero Wolfe and started running Dog: The Bounty Hunter.

The Tomorrow People: Set 3
- Reading the Wikipedia description of The Tomorrow People I can't help being reminded of The X-Men, albeit a restrained, British, version. This third set winds up the final three seasons of the original 1970s, which are usually considered superior to the 1990s revival despite the exceptionally bad special effects.

The Venture Bros.: Season One
- What would an Adult Swim series be if it weren't an irreverent take-off on an older show or some other tradition? Well will never know now will we - they all are. The Venture Brothers is quite clearly a satire of Jonny Quest with more than a dash of such juvenile adventure characters as The Hardy Boys. There are a ton of other characters that satirize a host of characters including (but not limited to) the Fantastic 4, Doc Savage and Walt Disney. Sounds like great fun.

Will & Grace - Series Finale
- I didn't watch it because I'm not a fan. I suppose there are reasons for buying this but why would you when the episode is going to be in the season set?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Why Canadian Shows Are Invisible

Between the end of the regular TV season, the Memorial Day holiday in the US there has been a singular lack of news about TV over the past week or so since NBC took the bold move of thoroughly rejigging their line up so they could move one show to a safer time slot. Oh yeah there are things to report: women's groups are sending letters of protest to ABC over the "clear demotion" of Elizabeth Vargas from ABC's World News Tonight that is - in their view - "a dispiriting return to the days of discrimination against women that we thought were behind us," (and somehow manages to couple it with the cancellation of Commander-in-Chief to claim that ABC "doesn't look like a very woman-friendly or family-friendly workplace") but it seems to be a tempest in a teapot considering that Vargas herself has said that her circumstances make it very difficult for her to stay in the job. There is an article about this in the Washington Post.

What actually caught my interest recently was a post on the blog Unified Theory of Nothing Much by Diane Kristine, in which she says that "I am a bad, bad Canadian. I'd be clutching my passport as I type this, ready to defend it, except my sin is far from unusual: I very rarely watch Canadian TV." The post, called The Invisible Networks takes a look at some of the reasons at least, why not. There are details that I disagree with, like her statement that Corner Gas doesn't get "water cooler conversation - around here it does. Of course the fact that Janet Wright is from Saskatoon (and her family basically founded Persephone Theatre which is currently located maybe a ten minute walk from where I'm sitting) and Eric Petersen is from Regina and Brent Butt is from Tisdale and the show is set and made in Saskatchewan probably helps that along a lot. Still you've got to admit when someone is right and dammit Diane is right - most Canadians don't watch Canadian Television including the CBC.

There are lots of reasons but Diane does hit on a big one; lack of promotion. Trouble is I think she's being way too easy on the newspapers. I live in a one newspaper city and like most cities in Canada my local rag is owned by Canwest Global. You know, the people who own the Global TV network (sorry the Global television service since apparently neither Global or CTV are licensed as networks in the bizarre world that is CRTC licensing). Would it surprise you to know that I have yet to see an ad for anything other than a Global show in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix or the TV section that comes with it on Fridays? I don't get the Globe & Mail on a regular basis but I would bet a Toonie that you don't see many ads from Global in that paper because The Globe is owned by Bell Globemedia (which is owned by Bell Canada) and Bell Globemedia owns CTV. The poor old CBC used to have it's own magazine but that disappeared many budget cuts ago and MotherCorp has to depend on people watching Hockey Night In Canada to promote their programming. About the only newspaper chain not linked to a TV network is the Sunmedia group and they would if they could. Mention of Canadian shows is relegated to a column inch or so in the TV critic's section.

So forget about advertising and rely on promotion. Do it on your own networks. Of course that's a bit of an exercise in circular logic - people don't watch Canadian TV so they don't see ads for Canadian programs so they don't watch Canadian TV. But surely you say (if you're a Canadian and know about such stuff) the practice of inserting Canadian signals over the American feed when the Canadian network has the show on at the same time (and the Canadian network bend heaven and earth to make sure that happens as much as possible). They actually have extra time for in-house material because the US networks are allowed more commercial time than the Canadians so the Canadian channels have to insert things like newsbreaks and PSAs and in-house promos. But of course the Canadian networks mostly use that time to promote their American programming. Because it's the American programming that people watch and advertisers pay to put ads on (because people watch them - circular logic again).

Diane also points out that there are no comprehensive websites that cover Canadian television in the way that TV Tattle or the American TV Guide do (and I'll just add sites like TVSquad and Futon Critic). If you go to all you'll find is an ad for the magazine - no other content. If you want a comprehensive listings site you pretty much have to go to (and they've "improved" the site, which means that it isn't of course). News about Canadian shows? Not likely there, and nearly impossible to find elsewhere. And don't even think about shows like eTalk Daily on CTV or ET Canada on Global for news about Canadian shows. Mostly they're concerned about Canadian "links" to American shows, American shows that are on their networks, or Brad & Angelina's baby.

It's a sorry, sorry mess, but I have a suspicion that it's a sad and sorry mess that the two private networks want. They want their Canadian shows not to drawn an audience so they can complain to the CRTC that Canadians don't want Canadian shows (Global is notorious for this sort of thing - a few years ago it was Global that wanted the CRTC to allow Canadian made infomercials to be counted as Canadian content). Their bread and butter is showing American shows because they can get them cheap, in much the same way that they can do co-productions at a lower cost to them. I will admit that CTV seems to be making an effort at making quality Canadian shows, with Corner Gas, Degrassi The Next Generation and yeah I'll even say Canadian Idol (it started on Monday in case you didn't know). But here's the annoying part. In her article Diane mentions a new show called Alice, I Think which is currently showing on the Comedy Network to generate "buzz" for its debut on the main CTV network. Alice, I Think is produced by Vancover's Omni Film, which produced a show called Robson Arms which first showed up last summer and reappeared on the network this past winter. I saw the summer run and I enjoyed it; there's something about hearing Megan Follows - Anne of Green Gables herself - saying "shithole" to give me a sort of perverse joy, and to be fair the show had an excellent cast that included Shirley Douglas, William B. Davis and Margot Kidder (and a great cameo by Will & Grace's Eric McCormack in one episode). But here's the annoying thing. Not only wasn't I aware that the show was being repeated during the winter, I was also unaware that CTV had renewed the series for a second season almost eight months ago. Robson Arms is a good show, but how are people supposed to know that if they not only can't find it but don't even know that it still exists. Is it any wonder that Canadians don't watch Canadian shows?

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Your Site As A Graph

Tim Gueguen turned me on to a site which scans the HTML on your website and turns it into a graphic representation. Here's what I Am A Child Of Television looks like. Unfortunately I can't put the image on the blog but the truth is that part of the beauty of the thing is to watch it unfold. The whole thing reminds me of flowers, Chrysanthemums or perhaps Dandelions (particularly when they're in their seed mode). Fascinating.

New Poll - Which show's renewal surprised you the most?

Every season there are shows where the networks surprise us by actually renewing a show. It may be something that makes us react by saying "what the hell were they smokin' when they renewed that?", one that makes us say "how'd they manage that?" or on very rare occasion something that makes us say "I'm amazed that they were smart enough to keep that around." Whatever the reason, these show surprise us by still being around.

Please, if you got other shows that have been renewed for this season that surprise you, let me know about them. Also, be aware that while I will have the results in about a week, I probably won't be able to write about them for a while after for reasons I'll explain in a few days.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Poll Results - Which show's cancellation surprised you the most?

This poll has had, if I'm not mistaken, the highest voter turnout ever for one of my polls. Thank you. I'm particularly happy about this poll because it allows me to talk about two of my favourite forms of "video involved fauna", the Rabid Fan and the Network Weasel.

There were 27 votes cast. Tied for eighth with no votes were Surface and Courting Alex. In a tie for sixth place with one vote each (3%) were Sons And Daughters and Bernie Mac. Fifth place belonged to Out Of Practice with two votes (7%) while there was a tie for third between Hope & Faith and Conviction with 3 votes (11%) each. Finally, in second place was Everwood, with 8 votes (29%) which was narrowly beaten out by Invasion with 9 votes (33%).

Heres where the "video fauna" comes into play. Let's start with the Network Weasel. In this particular example I want to look at three shows: Out Of Practice, Courting Alex and The New Adventures of Old Christine. Out of Practice started the season happily ensconced in the hammock position between Two And A Half Men and CSI: Miami. Critics were at best lukewarm about it and at worst scathing about how Stockard Channing and Henry Winkler were debasing themselves by appearing in this steaming pile of you know what. Still it was doing respectable ratings numbers. It was pulled for CBS's "hot new show" Courting Alex. Apparently this show was "hot" because it starred Jenna Elfman in a triumphal return to TV. That show was in turn pulled from the lineup after airing a grand total of six episodes in its original time slot before it was pulled for CBS's hot new comedy The New Adventures of Old Christine. Out of Practice and Courting Alex were then moved to the first hour of Wednesday night where they got hit by Deal Or No Deal where they lasted two episodes. Now here's where we get into the world of the network weasel. Which of these series do you thing had the highest average rating in that time slot between Two And A Half Men and CSI: Miami? Out of Practice was regularly getting 9.0 ratings and had a high of 10.2 for the episode that aired just before Christmas. Courting Alex premiered with a 9.6 but of the other new episodes that played in the time slot the average rating was an 8.8. The New Adventures Of Old Christine debuted in that time slot (it actually debuted earlier in the evening and on a number of occasions aired twice in a night) with a rating of 10.3 but except for one night when it had a 10.0 rating it wold never get a rating higher than 8.7 and most of the time was below 8.5. In other words both of the series that CBS cancelled did better in that time slot with that lead in than the show that they kept and hyped as a big hit" did. Such is the mind of the network weasel.

The other form of video fauna is the rabid fan. The Rabid Fan finds a show that they like and sticks to it like a barnacle on the hull of a ship. It should be said that the rabid fan usually has good taste but is often in a minority position. Arrested Development was the darling of a core group of rabid fans but did atrociously in the network ratings - I'm sorry but it's true. Sons And Daughters, a show which was innovative because of its semi-improvisational nature was gathering a core of rabid fans, but this season's magnet for the rabid fan was Invasion. The fact is however that the series never rose above third place in a time slot with three series. The ratings for the series went through a steady decline so that the rating for the season finale was a 5.3 and ratings for new episodes were rarely better than a 6.5. Television is a business and the business is selling commercials. I'm sure the Rabid Fan understands this but they become a bit short sighted when it comes to "their show".

If I were to point to a show that is a truly surprising may be The CW's decision to drop Everwood and retain One Tree Hill. Neither show was a huge ratings success by most standards but Everwood improved markedly once it was moved to Monday Nights following 7th Heaven. I'm going to hazard a guess and suggest that the Network Weasels at The CW felt that Everwood would only really work with its ratings "giant" 7th Heaven and they wanted to have that spot for Runaway.

New poll shortly, on shows that were kept that surprised you.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

NBC's Fall 2006 - Revised

You've got to love network weasels. (That's sarcastic by the way.) Just over a week after NBC announced it's Fall 2006 lineup to the public they've torn it up and tossed it on the ash heap of history and come up with a new one. It isn't a matter of uncancelling shows but of rearranging deck chairs. (I am not going to say "on the Titanic"...yet.) Here's what the new and improve lineup looks like, where moved refers to being moved from the night and or time where it was originally intended to run

Complete Schedule: (New shows in Capitals, except of course ER.)

8-9 p.m.
Deal or No Deal
9-10 p.m.
10-11 p.m.


8-9 p.m.
9-10 p.m.
Law & Order: Criminal Intent (Moved)
10-11 p.m.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit


8-8:30 p.m.
20 GOOD YEARS (Moved)
8:30-9 p.m.
30 ROCK (Moved)
9-10 p.m.
The Biggest Loser (Moved)
10-11 p.m.


8-8:30 p.m.
My Name Is Earl
8:30-9 p.m.
The Office
9-10 p.m.
Deal or No Deal (Moved)
10-11 p.m.


8-9 p.m.
Crossing Jordan (Moved and brought back)
9-10 p.m.
Las Vegas
10-11 p.m.
Law & Order (Moved)


8-9 p.m.
Dateline Saturday
9-11 p.m.
Drama Series Encores

7-8 p.m.
8-11 p.m.

In addition
Medium will join Scrubs as shows held for return at the mid-season replacement.

Comments: Wow! Where to start? I'm not sure this is a stronger lineup over all but it does seem to target a lot of areas. I think the move to Monday night's third hour is probably a good one for Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip, putting it against the weakest of the CSI shows and ABC's What About Brian? which I seem to recall was a surprise renewal. One the other hand I agree with Alan Sepinwall that using Heroes as a lead for Studio 60 is pretty close to insane. The Tuesday changes is a bit of a puzzler. Is the world really ready for two versions of Law & Order on the same night? It will be up against The Unit, House, Veronica Mars and the ABC comedies Let's Rob.... and Help Me Help You. If nothing else I think the ABC comedies are toast, but will "CI" be able to stand up against House and is The Unit going to survive. The first two hours of Wednesday isn't a bad shift, protecting the two comedies from being caught in the Lost - Criminal Minds juggernaut that dominated the night in the 2005-06 season. Biggest Loser is a throwaway that's cheap to make. Of course putting 20 Good Years and 30 Rock against Dancing With The Stars might not be much in the way of salvation. The shocking change is moving Kidnapped into the slot long dominated by the original Law & Order. I suppose they consider it a slam dunk against The Nine while CSI: New York stays strong. Moving Deal Or No Deal to the second hour of Thursday seems like NBC is conceding the battle for the timeslot to ABC and CBS with Gray's Anatomy and the original CSI. I can't imagine that Deal Or No Deal will stay as popular in the new timeslot against that competition. I'm pleased to see the revival of Crossing Jordan coming sooner rather than later. I think the move is a definite shot at CBS's Ghost Whisperer but I think the big casualty will be Betty The Ugly. There's no doubt about what the target of NBC's other Friday night move is - they clearly expect the original Law & Order to put a big hurt on the numbers of CBS's Numb3rs.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A Question Of Reality

It's depressingly easy for a TV series to fall into a rut, particularly when the amount of continuity is limited. Oh I don't mean that they recycle the same story week after week but they follow the same basic guidelines. House sometimes feels like that. The basic plot line runs something like this: a case arrives at the hospital that somehow piques House's jaded interest; he gathers his crew around him to discuss what the disease could be; they offer suggestions he shoots them down; A course of treatment is agreed upon but it doesn't work and probably makes the patient worse rather than better; they come with more ideas that don't work and then House has a sudden breakthrough of inspiration which makes things right. At some point during the evening you can usually count on Cameron getting soft and sentimental about someone's chances of living, Chase sucking up and Foreman being sarcastic. Add in copious amounts of Cuddy being exasperated and Wilson being his somewhat frustrated best friend, a soupcon of humour as House does clinic time and simmer in a stock of house being alternately callous and sarcastic and you have the recipe for a typical episode of the show. I'm not saying that the results are uninteresting but they do tend to follow a pattern and what raises the show above mediocrity is the cast, primarily Hugh Laurie, whose performance is inevitably the best thing on a given episode, and lifts the show above the pedestrian. But when the writers step outside the formula, that's when House becomes one of the best shows around. That was what happened with the first season's penultimate episode Three Stories and it is what happened in this year's season finale, No Reason.

The episode opens normally enough. House's interest is piqued by a patient in the clinic whose tongue has swollen to such a size that it won't fit into his mouth. As he begins the differential diagnosis with his team though a man walks into his conference room and very calmly shoots him twice, once in the abdomen and once in the neck. When House wakes up in recovery he finds that something is missing - his pain. It seems that Cuddy, who we know at least partially blames herself for the way that the misdiagnosis of the infarction that caused his constant physical pain, used an experimental treatment to put him into a temporary coma during the surgery to repair his wounds. The idea was to essentially reboot his brain so that he wouldn't feel the pain, although potential side effects included hallucinations. He has an hallucination - a beautiful woman claiming to be the wife of the patient with the enlarged tongue except that he was unmarried - but doesn't tell Cuddy about it and only mentions it to Wilson. The situation, both for House and his patient. The patient loses an eye and has his scrotum literally blow up and no one knows what is wrong with him as each test comes back negative. As for House he seems to have increasing numbers of hallucinations which are increasingly difficult for him to differentiate from reality. There are little clues, some of which - like a sudden shift in scene from the conference room to a stairwell - would seem to be simple convention in TV terms except that House might not remember how he got there, or he catches himself doing something that he'd never do. Eventually we - and House - discover that everything he's experienced since being shot is an hallucination, an illusion.

Throughout it all House is heckled (about the most appropriate word I can think of) by the other patient in his hospital room - the man who shot him. The cast listing at IMDB and other places calls the character "Moriarty", although he is never named at any point in the episode and certainly not before he shot House. Professor Moriarty, of course, was the most infamous adversary of Sherlock Holmes, the man who "killed" Holmes in The Final Problem, the man who Holmes refers to as "The Napoleon of Crime." (In his book The Seven Percent Solution - the title refers to Holmes's drug addiction to a 7% solution of cocaine in water - Nicholas Meyer suggests that Moriarty is simply Holmes's former mathematics tutor who has been blown up to titanic proportions of villainy in Holmes's mind by his cocaine addiction.) House's Moriarty, played by Canadian actor Elias Koteas, is like the Moriarty in the stories only so far as he's the opposite of House. While the Holmes's Moriarty was a villain whose reach extended into every criminal enterprise in London, House's Moriarty - the illusory one - embodies much of what House himself is trying to repress with his misanthropy, sarcasm and belief in the worst in people. Moriarty's heckling of House, calling him out on his beliefs while House himself is forced to confront the notion of whether the pain and his attitude make him a better doctor or just a massive pain in the ass.

There is one extremely memorable scene in the episode, one of tremendous erotic beauty which is also representative of House's greatest personal problem. In it he caresses Cameron's cheek, lifts her blouse slightly and gently blows in to her navel, and opens the top of her blouse by one button to ever so slightly expose the lacy top of her bra. Except that he doesn't do it himself. He arouses her, but he's using a surgical robot to do it, as a demonstration for the patient with the enlarged tongue. A small gripper moves down the side of Cameron's cheek, a probe with a blower blows into her navel, and an arm with a scalpel slices the button off of Cameron's blouse and another one opens it up. House is remote, detached, unfeeling, even clinical as he performs this incredibly intimate act, in much the same way that he's normally remote, unfeeling detached and clinical as he's dealing with human beings that he's treating. The scene is symbolic of his life.

Television too often falls into the trap of repeating what works, becoming formulaic. No series is entirely innocent of this, but it is different when a superior series - such as House - falls into the trap. It can be sad, if the show can't escape the trap and falls into mediocrity, or exhilarating when the show manages to escape the bonds of mediocrity and even for an episode or two in a season manages to escape the rut. The House season finale was one of those times. By pulling away from the formula for a while to examine the character of Dr. Gregory House through the medium of hallucination where what he chooses to repress confronts what he chooses to expose to the world, the writers the producers, and of course Hugh Laurie, have managed to give us an outstanding hour of television.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Short Takes - May 22, 2006

Seeing as how I've spent the last week relaying news about TV, the usual topics for my short takes pieces are gone. On the other hand I've let a number of season finales go uncommented on, something which not only needs to be rectified but if done briefly also provides me with ample subject matter for this piece.

Sunday: The West Wing - Not just a season finale but a series finale. Before I say anything else, let me just express how profoundly disappointed I was with the way that NBC handled this series this year. First they moved the show to Sunday night, supposedly to "protect it" from competition from Lost and then, when the ratings went down (because of the move to Sunday) they announced that they'd be ending the show at the end of this year. And then they treated it the show was something being eliminated at the end of a single season instead of one of the most critically acclaimed series of the past decade. A planned retrospective was called off because NBC and Warner Brothers didn't want to pay the extra money and the episode itself was only an hour long (while Law & Order: Criminal Intent got a two hour season ender) and opposite the Survivor.

And yes I think the show needed a two hour finale. The whole atmosphere of the episode felt rushed, which I suppose is fitting given that the subject was the Inaugural Day transition between the old and new presidencies but I confess that I wanted a bit more. I wanted more closure to Charlie's story and more about where the relationship between Josh and Donna was going. I wanted to meet Sam's fiance and find out if she was an ex-hooker who has a relative working as a hospital administrator in New Jersey or a blonde conservative lawyer who quit the Hoover Institute after nine days. There were some great touches that were enough to bring pangs of nostalgia but it's like going to Disneyland for just one day - there's so much more that you want to see than you can. In this case though it was the people who were running things who decided that you weren't going to see anymore, and I think it was disrespectful.

Monday: Grey's Anatomy - This they give the whole night to, courtesy of President Bush. ABC decided to repeat the first hour of the finale from Sunday night rather than show Oprah Winfrey's Legends Ball after Bush's Immigration speech. That was, I think, a little too much. The two hour finale was full of sound and fury but was there was a clear separation between the first and second hours for easy syndication. Yeah there were revelations, tears and laughter, sexual tension resolved, and storylines carefully left dangling over the edge of a cliff to hold onto the audience for next season. And yes there was good acting, particularly from Katherine Heigl who was by turns manic, depressed, full of joy and defeated. And even though Izzy is leaving Dr. Bailey's little band of surgical "butt kissers" I can't help but hope that they'll somehow manage to keep her on the show, just because she turned in such good work this season.

Wednesday: The Amazing Race - Yeah, I know that I should be writing about what turned out to be the series finale of Invasion but I'll let you in on a little secret - I've been missing both Lost and Invasion a lot in the past few weeks. At least with Lost I should be able to pick up some of what I missed during the summer. Besides, I love The Amazing Race. I really liked this season. It wasn't as much fun as the seventh season of the show which pitted Rob & Amber fans against Romber haters it was easily better than the dismal Family Edition. And hey a team that was not only one of my favourites but actually deserved it won. BJ & Tyler - The Hippies - had fun with the race but also brought some real skills to it. This was more than could be said for Ray & Yolanda, who seemed to get lost and start arguing at the drop of Ray's hat. As for Eric & Jeremy the so-called Frat Boys - who were actually college drop-out and from community college at that - while they excelled at the physical aspects they revealed some negative aspects to their character when they cancelled the cabs of two of the teams and made disparaging remarks about BJ & Tyler. And that doesn't even mention their apparently insatiable desire for sex with any young female they encountered. While some fans of the show have stated that they found the "Hippies"' shtick wore thin, they were smart players who made an effort to learn a few words of the language at every stop they made. They deserved it.

Thursday: CSI - I realise that nothing they could do would compare to last season's Quentin Tarantino directed finale, but really this was a rather lackluster pedestrian effort. The major event was the shooting of Captain Brass in the previous episode but since that case was solved - or more accurately the perpetrator was terminated - we were left with an "ordinary" (well ordinary for CSI) case of a decapitated man found on a railroad track. Underlying it all was the prospect of Brass dying and the various CSIs standing vigil for him. One interesting aspect was that Brass had given Grissom his medical power of attorney despite the fact that, as Grissom told Greg, their relationship was entirely work related: "We don't hang out Greg." It indicates a level of trust and almost intimacy that doesn't need to happen away from the workplace. The one thing to take the show above the ordinary was the revelation in the final minute or two, where we discover that Grissom is intimate (in a sexual way) with Sara Sidel. There's been speculation for some time among serious fans that the producers were going to bring them together. What's really interesting - to me anyway - is that there's a sense of intimacy and familiarity that suggests that we're only seeing it for the first time but that they've been together for a while. I'm not sure if this is a good development or not (supposedly it has a lot of people "enraged") but it certainly has shaken things up.

Friday: Numb3rs - I don't really have much to say about this except that it indicates an interesting approach by the writers and producers. According to co-creator and executive producer Cheryl Heuton, the premise of the show was so different that "this show had to tell people what it was about a little longer than most." Now they're finally able to delve deeper into the character's relationships. The season finale was interesting but less for the case - a serial killer for whom the stresser was having his trust fund cut off - than for the insight that we got into Charlie's character and history. The execution was interesting, using that most illogical of mediums - dreams - to give us some sense of what shaped a character whose occupation as a scientist forces him to be eminently logical.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Upfront Roundup - Night By Night

Well we've seen the networks roll out their new line ups and now it is time to look at what they've wrought with my daring (and hopefully long forgotten come October) Carnac-like predictions about what's going to last and what's headed for TV's version of the great beyond - quick cancellation (times are CST)

Lots of questions here. CBS has dominated the night with its comedy block, one which has always seemed to survive one weak show. I think that The Class might be the weak show this year. The night also boasts the weakest of the CSI shows (largely because it is the one that is least an ensemble piece) but it is still strong enough to beat most competition, perhaps because people like to watch David Caruso for some reason. ABC, which has had to program a Monday for the first time in 30 years has opted not to challenge the other networks with dramatic programming in the first two hours. They're going with veteran reality shows which I'm not sure is the right tactic. That said, I don't expect to see Wife Swap or The Bachelor (or Supernanny) cancelled any time soon. The Fox programs seem to be falling into sort of predictable unpredictability. If shows like Prison Break or Vanished! were about oil men in Dallas or Denver, they'd be called nighttime soaps, but of course they aren't. Prison Break has shown that fans are willing to accept huge plot holes if they like a concept and if Vanished! manages that it should survive. I don't think it will be another Reunion. The one show I'm convinced will die quickly is NBC's Heroes. The concept is too far out there for most viewers and I don't expect it to make it to February sweeps. It remains to be seen if Deal Or No Deal will remain at the same level of popularity that it had this Spring - I will be surprised if it does. Finally The CW made the obvious decision to spend the money and renew the most popular show on the old WB, Seventh Heaven and use it properly - for once - as the lead in for another family drama, Runaway. I don't expect them to win the night but I would expect Seventh Heaven to probably beat Wife Swap and for both shows to be on at the end of the year.

CBS bills their Tuesday night line up as the "most patriotic on TV" with NCIS as the lead and The Unit following. I think the network was very smart to put The Unit on during the second hour rather than putting it opposite Boston Legal and Law & Order: SVU. I don't think that Smith!, the new CBS show in the third hour will have any better luck than Close To Home, Threshold or The Amazing Race did this season. The challenge for NCIS is going to come from Dancing With The Stars rather than NBC's Friday Night Lights or Fox's Standoff. Standoff in particular seems like it could be an early cancellation unless it's quirkier than the bog standard cop show. Having partners sleeping together probably isn't quirky enough to beat a goth forensic scientist and a British medical examiner who seems at times to channel Higgins from Magnum P.I. The second hour on Tuesday could be an interesting one. I think that The Unit and House should make it hard for Kidnapped to get a foothold, and I'm just not sure about ABC's comedies particularly Let's Rob.... As for the CW, I think that the combination of Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars offers something that is different enough from what the other networks are presenting that they could do well (at least by UPN-WB standards) on the night.

The amazing thing about television sometimes is how long it takes for networks to "get it". It's not unknown for them to hitch their wagon to a trend a year or two after another network has created it, by which time the whole thing is losing popularity. Jericho is a case in point. It's close enough to sound like a ripoff of Lost two years after Lost debuted as a huge hit and one year after three other conspiracy based science fiction shows died after at most one full season. Does not bode well for Jericho although it could survive the season due to relatively weak competition. I'm not sure that 20 Good Years will have 20 good episodes for NBC despite a good cast. Competition from Lost and Criminal Minds, and even One Tree Hill might present a problem. The same holds true for 30 Rock, although I suspect that NBC will give this one more of a chance than the always quick on the trigger Fox will give to Justice. The subject matter of the latter is too out of step with what people apparently want if you can believe the Law & Order franchise and these guys don't have the advantage of "fighting the good fight" the way that In Justice did. The Nine is probably one of the more interesting concepts of the season, but unless Law & Order continues what is supposedly a ratings slide, I don't see it finding much of an audience.

Last season the first hour of Thursday was the big battleground of the season with the sharks smelling blood - in the form of Joey and the aging Will & Grace in the water. This year the first hour is comedy central with three of the five networks airing comedies. I think you have to give NBC the edge here (in comedies) with the returning My Name Is Earl and The Office. I think that Fox's two comedies - 'Til Death and Happy Hour - are stronger ideas than ABC's Big Day and Notes From The Underbelly but the Fox shows would probably do better in another time slot. There are already strong rumours that Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip will never see its Thursday night second hour time slot. NBC is apparently so high on this show that they don't want to risk it being out drawn by Grey Anatomy and CSI and so are looking to move it elsewhere. In the third hour, ABC has dropped the aging Primetime and for the first time in years is trying a dramatic series against NBC's aging ER while CBS has moved Without A Trace, which has been beating ER. While ABC's Six Degrees, offering about people who are tied together without even knowing it looks vaguely interesting and will benefit from it's lead in at least initially, I suspect that in the end the new CBS show Shark will have a better time in the time slot.

A couple of interesting things here. NBC has moved Law & Order: Criminal Intent to Friday nights opposite Numb3rs despite the fact that Friday seems to have earned a reputation for killing Law & Order related shows - remember Law & Order: Trial by Jury and Dick Wolf's other show Conviction? Also ABC has abandoned its slate of Friday sitcom and has opted instead for a couple of comedy dramas. While Betty The Ugly has something of a heritage as a Spanish language "teleromance" I don't think it will work well with North American audiences. Men In Trees may have a better chance depending on how "charmingly quirky" they can make it. I don't expect much from the show, but I suppose a slim chance is better than no chance.

CBS and ABC are both taking a bold chance here. CBS is attempting to build an entire night of programming where they had little before and are doing it by moving in existing series. In fact what they've created is a whole night of Bruckheimer, with each of the shows following the venerable 60 Minutes (now starting its 38th year!) being produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. I think The Amazing Race will do well on the night, but remember I'm a huge Amazing Race fanboy. I think the night should flow well for people who don't like football or animation. ABC on the other hand has taken the opportunity to move the stronger show from their Sunday lineup and use Desperate Housewives, which is hoping to rebound from a serious case of sophomore jinx, as the lead for another soapy family drama in the form of Brothers And Sisters. It might have a chance if the audience for Without a Trace doesn't follow the show to Sundays. Finally Sunday nights has The CW's second new series and only new comedy The Game, which is part of their "urban comedy" block. I'm afraid that I'm not convinced that this sort of programming effort is a good thing for a variety fo reasons which I don't really want to go into except to say that the network is engaged in broadcasting and this sort of thing seems to be an exercise in narrowcasting.

Friday, May 19, 2006

New Poll - Which show's cancellation surprised you the most?

This time around the poll is the first of two related to the network upfronts. Which show's cancellation surprised you the most? Obviously I had to impose some restrictions here. As much as people like and support certain shows - in my case The West Wing and Threshold - their cancellation had either already occurred before the upfronts or was pretty much inevitable. I'm looking for surprises. Some of the shows that I do include seem inevitable as well - mainly the two from CBS. No I'm after shows where the axe falling left you dazed, confused and maybe, just maybe, a little outraged. If the show that shocked you with its absence from the line up isn't here feel free to tell me about it.

Oh and by the way, The CW now has it's own website. Let's just say that like the logo certain aspects remind one of the '70s and not the good part. Let's just say that the colours would not have been inappropriate for a leisure suit and leave it at that.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The CW's Fall 2006

The final upfront of the week comes from the new CW network. The network (which has a new logo which vaguely reminds me of the "noodle" logo from Canadian National Railways) is an amalgamation of the old UPN and WB networks. As such the normal categories don't entirely apply. Still, here's what we've got.

Cancelled: The Bedford Diaries; Blue Collar TV; Everwood; Living With Fran; Modern Men; Pepper Dennis; Related; Survival of the Richest; Twins; Cuts; Eve; Get This Party Started; Half & Half; Love, Inc.; One on One; South Beach; What I Like About You; Charmed.

Retained: 7th Heaven; Gilmore Girls; Veronica Mars; America's Next Top Model; Smallville; Supernatural; Friday Night Smackdown!.

Moved: Everybody Hates Chris; All Of Us; Girlfriends; One Tree Hill.

New: The Game; Runaway

The CW also has a new drama called Hidden Palms available for midseason. America's Next Top Model will be replaced by Beauty & The Geek when it's season ends; and the network has reportedly ordered 13 episodes of Reba for midseason. The network will also be repeating theirSunday night comedies between 5 and 7 p.m. on Sunday nights

Complete Schedule: (New shows in Capitals.)
8:00-9:00 p.m. 7th Heaven
9:00-10:00 p.m. RUNAWAY

8:00-9:00 p.m. Gilmore Girls
9:00-10:00 p.m. Veronica Mars

8:00-9:00 p.m. America's Next Top Model
9:00-10:00 p.m. One Tree Hill

8:00-9:00 p.m. Smallville
9:00-10:00 p.m. Supernatural

8:00-10:00 p.m. Friday Night Smackdown!

7:00-7:30 p.m. Everybody Hates Chris
7:30-8:00 p.m. All Of Us
8:00-8:30 p.m. Girlfriends
8:30-9:00 p.m. THE GAME
9:00-10:00 p.m. America's Next Top Model (Encore Presentation)

Runaway is the story of a family that is on the run from the law because the father is falsely acused of the murder of a co-worker. The family, which includes two teenagers and an 8 year-old has to stick together under tough conditions. Stars Donnie Wahlberg, Leslie Hope, Dustin Milligan, and Sarah Ramos.

The Game is a comedy about the adjustments that the girlfriend of a new NFL player has to make as she learns how NFL wives play the game behind The Game. Stars Aldis Hodge, Coby Bell, Tia Mowry, Hosea Chanchez, and Wendy Raquel Robinson.

Not much to talk about here. The number of new shows indicates a certain conservatism but the number of cancellations indicates a wholesale reboot. This is what happens when networks amalgamate. Runaway has an intriguing premise and might well benefit from having 7th Heaven as a lead-in as they seem complimentary. Of course 7th Heaven's very existence is a result of the amalgamation since the CW network can afford the fees that the WB couldn't. The Game sounds like it would probably work better as a one hour drama rather than a half hour comedy but I think that show is already available on cable. From a personal point of view, although I understand the motivation, I find the Sunday night comedy block aimed specifically at African-Americans limiting. The announcement says that it represents their "strong commitment to diversity" but I think it can be interpretted primarily as an cuynical effort to grab at the market. Of course this comes from a Euro-Canadian so your opinion may vary.

Finally, The CW didn't pick up the Aquaman pilot that had been in preparation for The WB, supposedly because of weak stories. The trailer for Aquaman is currently available online (although who knows for how long) and quite frankly it doesn't look too bad to me but what do I know. I think Aquaman will probably go down in history as one of those lost opportunities that maybe shouldn't have been passed on, like the WB's attempts at reviving Dark Shadows and Lost In Space.

Fox's Fall 2006 (and Winter 2007)

The first of Thursday's two sets of upfront announcements comes from Fox which has what can probably best be described as a schizophrenic schedule.

Cancelled: Arrested Development; Free Ride; Head Cases; Killer Instinct; Kitchen Confidential; Malcolm In The Middle; Reunion; Stacked; That '70s Show.

Retained: 24; American Dad; American Idol; America's Most Wanted: America Strikes Back; Bones; Cops; Family Guy; House; King of the Hill; The Loop; MADtv; Nanny 911; The O.C.; Prison Break; The Simpsons; Trading Spouses: Meet your new Mommy; The War at Home.

Moved: (see the schedule; it's rather confusing.)

New: Vanished; Standoff; Justice; 'Til Death; Happy Hour; Talk Show with Spike Feresten; Duets; The Wedding Album; The Winner; On the Lot.

In addition a new comedy, The Winner is set as a midseason replacement and a new reality series, On the Lot is set for an as yet unscheduled spring debut.

Complete Schedule: (New shows in Capitals.)
8:00-9:00 p.m. Prison Break
8:00-9:00 p.m. STANDOFF (starting in January) (New Day & Time)
9:00-10:00 p.m. VANISHED
9:00-10:00 p.m. 24 (starting in January)

8:00-9:00 p.m. STANDOFF
8:00-9:00 p.m. American Idol Performance Show (starting in January)
9:00-10:00 p.m. House

8:00-9:00 p.m. Bones
8:00-9:00 p.m. JUSTICE
9:00-10:00 p.m. JUSTICE (starting in January) (New Time)
9:00-9:30 p.m. American Idol Results Show (starting in January)
9:30-10:00 p.m. The Loop (starting in January)

8:00-8:30 p.m. 'TIL DEATH
8:30-9:00 p.m. HAPPY HOUR
9:00-10:00 p.m. The O.C.

8:00-9:00 p.m. Nanny 911
8:00-9:00 p.m. Bones (starting in January) (New Day & Time)
9:00-10:00 p.m. Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy
9:00-10:00 p.m. THE WEDDING ALBUM (starting in January)

8:00-8:30 p.m. Cops
8:30-9:00 p.m. Cops
9:00-10:00 p.m. America's Most Wanted: America Strikes Back
11:00 p.m.-Midnight MADtv

7:00-7:30 p.m. Football Overrun (Comedy Encores)
7:00-7:30 p.m. Comedy Repeats (starting in January)
7:30-8:00 p.m. Football Overrun (Comedy Encores)
7:30-8:00 p.m. King Of The Hill (starting in January)
8:00-8:30 p.m. The Simpsons
8:30-9:00 p.m. American Dad
9:00-9:30 p.m. Family Guy
9:30-10:00 p.m. The War At Home

Vanished Takes viewers inside what is described as "the national soap" opera that surrounds the disappearance of the beautiful wife of a Georgia senator who may not be exactly who she says she is. Stars John Allen Nelson, Gale Harold, Rebecca Gayheart, and Ming Na Wen.

In Standoff two top negotiators from the FBI's Crisis Negotiation Unit are total opposites in how they do their job...which may be what attracted them to each other to the point where they're sleeping together. The should be split up on the job but they're too effective as a teams. Stars Ron Livingston, Rosemarie DeWitt, and Gina Torres.

Justice is a new series from Jerry Bruckheimer that looks behind the scenes at high profile criminal cases in the media age. The four lawyers of the firm of Turk Nicholson Tuller & Gaines each bring a different personality and set of skills to high profile cases. Stars Victor Garber, Kerr Smith, Eamonn Walker and Rebecca Mader.

'Til Death is Brad Garrett's new sitcom. He plays Eddie, a high school history teacher who has been married to his wife Joy (Joely Fisher) for 8,743 days. Their new neighbours, Jeff and Steph (Eddie Kaye Thomas and Kat Foster) have been married for 12 days. Eddie isn't shy about sharing his views on marriage with Jeff at work where Jeff is the new Vice Principal at the school

In Happy Hour a young guy with a seemingly perfect small town life is "persuaded" by his perfect girlfriend to move to Chicago to work for her uncle. When they break up he not only loses his girlfriend but also his job and his apartment. He finds a new roommate - a lovable rogue who is determined to teach his new roomie the joys of living the good life by staying unattached. Stars John Sloan and Lex Medlin.

In The Wedding Album Bruno Campos plays "the second most important man" in any wedding - the photographer. Working wedding combined with his own family's less than stellar relationship history has made him a serial bachelor, until he meets his new assistant and her friends. Also keeping him from getting too far off track is his straight laced half brother who happens to be a minister. Also stars Tara Summers, Tony Lo Bianco as Danny, Ashlie Atkinson and Ptolemy Slocum.

The best description of Talk Show with Spike Feresten is probably Fox's own: "TALK SHOW gives the staid late-night format a long-overdue update. Among other things, this refreshing approach to the genre uses guests in unpredictable ways, like delivering the monologue and performing in the comedy sketches."

Duets is sort of Dancing With The Stars using singers. A professional singer and a non-singing celebrity perform duets together with prize money going to charity. Created by Simon Cowell.

Fox is very frustrating to try to write about thanks to their determination to institutionally split the season in half. Series either debut or switch times in January on five of seven nights. As for the shows, there are some interesting ones. Duets isn't one of them, just another take on the "celebrity doing something they aren't known for" concept pioneered by Dancing With The Stars. Vanished seems like it has potential to be at least as interesting as Prison Break or 24, if it doesn't turn into another Reunion. Justice is another intriguing idea, reminiscent in style if not concept to Murder One or LA Law. I'm not sure I think much of The Wedding Album; it seems to to have much substance and would probably work better as a half hour sitcom than a one hour drama. Of the real sitcoms, The Happy Hour seems eminently forgettable, something along the lines of a tamed Men Behaving Badly. On the other hand 'Til Death might be okay, then again that could be my affinity for Brad Garrett as a comedic presence coming to the for (I always felt that his Robert was the best thing about Everybody Loves Raymond) and at least I can believe Garrett being married to Joely Fisher which is more than you can say about a lot of shows on TV. Finally Talk Show with Spike Feresten sounds like a hip and experimental way for Fox to compete with the last half hour of Saturday Night Live. It may actually work and if it doesn't, who'll notice?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

CBS's Fall 2006

Here's what CBS has done with its schedule. Of all the networks this is likely the one with the least need to be adjused short of some slight tinkering.

Cancelled: Threshold; Out of Practice; Courting Alex; CBS Sunday Movie; Love Monkey; Yes, Dear; Still Standing.

Survivor; The New Adventures of Old Christine; How I Met Your Mother; Two and a Half Men; The Amazing Race; Without A Trace; Numb3rs; Ghost Whisperer; CSI; CSI: Miami; CSI:NY; The Unit; Criminal Minds; Close to Home; 60 Minutes; 48 Hours: Mysteries; NCIS.

How I Met Your Mother; The Amazing Race; Cold Case; Without A Trace.

The Class; Smith; Jericho; Shark.

In addition
The King of Queens will be returning for a 13 episode run at mid-season. CBS also has three new series, 3 Lbs.; Waterfront; and Rules of Engagement for mid-season.

Complete Schedule: (New shows in Capitals, except NCIS)
p.m. How I Met Your Mother (New Time)
p.m. Two And A Half Men
p.m. The New Adventures Of Old Christine
p.m. CSI: Miami

p.m. NCIS
p.m. The Unit
p.m. SMITH


8:00-9:00 p.m.
p.m. Criminal Minds
p.m. CSI: New York

p.m. Survivor
p.m. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
p.m. SHARK


p.m. Ghost Whisperer
p.m. Close To Home
p.m. Numb3rs


p.m. Crimetime Saturday
p.m. Crimetime Saturday
p.m. 48 Hours: Mystery


p.m. 60 Minutes
p.m. The Amazing Race (New Day and Time)
p.m. Cold Case (New Day and Time)
p.m. Without A Trace (New Day and Time)

The Class is a comedy about a group of 20 somethings who share one thing in common - they were all in the same third grade class. after an impromptu reunion their lives intersect as they discover that they have a lot more in common than they might have expected. Stars a group of relative unknowns most notable of which are Jason Ritter, and Andrea Anders.

Smith stars Ray Liotta as a seemingly ordinary family man who is actually an expert thief who needs two more big jobs to settle his wife (Virginia Madsen) and family into a comfortable lawful lifestyle. Also stars Jonny Lee Miller, Franky G, Simon Baker, and Amy Smart, with John Wells as executive producer.

Jericho tells the story of what happens when a town in Kansas is completely cut off from the rest of world, not knowing whether the nuclear explasion they saw on the horizon means that they are the last living Americans. Gerald McRaney, Ashley Scott, and Pamela Reed star.

Shark James Woods plays Sebastian Stark, a ruthless and charismatic defense attorney who becomes the head of the LA District Attorney's High Profile Crimes Unit after his successful defense of a client leads to a shocking result and a personal epiphany. Jeri Ryan, Sam Page, Alexis Cruz, and Sarah Carter co-star. Dircted by Oscar nominee Spike Lee, with Oscar winner Brian Grazer, David Nevins, Ian Biederman, and Ed Redlich as executive producers.


The biggest move on the part of CBS was the decision to ax their Sunday night movies which have been on for as long as most people can remember, and move existing series into place to go against NBC's football telecasts. Certainly it will be a better location for
The Amazing Race than either the third hour of Tuesday or the first hour of Wednesday which were the time slots the show occupied for its current season. They seem quite certain that Shark is going to be able to replace the veteran Without A Trace against ER and the show certainly has an impressive pedigree. Smith also sounds interesting but one has to wonder if Liotta will have the opportunity to carry out his two capers before Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Boston Legal bring an end to it. Jericho seems like an interesting concept in the style of Lost, but it's hard to forget what happened to the three "alien invasion" series from the 2005-06 season. Still what appears to be very weak competition so far means that it has a good chance of survival, at least until the end of the season. The only new comedy in the line-up, The Class, seems innocuous enough and has a good chance simply because it's sandwiched between two powerhouse comedies, How I Met Your Mother and Two And A Half Men.

Poll Results - Which of these TV Shows from 1985-1995 has the best original theme music?

Between the West Wing stuff and the network upfronts (not to mention trying to reduce the quack grass problem in my garden), I haven't been able to report on the most recent poll results - until now. We had a total of 14 voters - respectable but down from the previous two polls. There was a definite winner in this poll.

Tied for eighth with no votes are the themes from Picket Fences and Knot's Landing. I rather liked the Picket Fences theme myself; it was a nice fit for the small town nature of the show without really giving a hint of the quirkiness of the place. Tied for fourth with one vote each (7%) are Due South, The Nanny, LA Law, and The Cosby Show. I was never a big fan of the Cosby Show theme in any of it's numerous variations but the other three are favourites of mine. Due South was the case of an actual song - with words - that gave a sense of the show without really giving you the show's plot. On the other hand the theme from The Nanny gave you all the backstory of why Fran Fine is working for Maxwell Sheffield in a few minutes. It's brilliant. As for LA Law, from the moment that the trunk of whatever car they were using that season (it started with a Jaguar but was eventually the trunk of Arnie Becker's Bentley) and those first four or five notes created a tone of a successful organization. In third place, with two votes (14%) is the theme from Cheers. The song is simple and fairly memorable. It's easy to sing along to. In second place, with three votes (21%) is the theme from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. On the whole the Star Trek franchise was gifted with music that was eminently memorable - sufficiently similar to remind viewers of the series connection but unique enough to really stand out. Finally, in first place was the theme from Northern Exposure. There was a piece of music that was an ideal fit for the show, because just like the series it was marvelously quirky.

I want to work though these original themes to cover as much of TV history as I can, however I'm going to have to delay continuing with this for a couple of weeks because I have - or will have - a couple of polls related to the upfronts, but I can't do anything with this until Thursday when Fox and The CW announce their new shows.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

ABC's Fall 2006

Upfront week continues with ABC announcing its new schedule today.

Cancelled: Alias; Emily's Reasons Why Not; Hot Properties; The Night Stalker; Crumbs; The Evidence; Freddie; In Justice; Jake In Progress; Rodney; Sons & Daughters; Invasion; Less Than Perfect; Hope & Faith; Commander-In-Chief.

Retained: Lost; Desperate Housewives; Extreme Makeover: Home Edition; Boston Legal; The Bachelor; Supernanny; What About Brian; America's Funniest Home Videos; American Inventor; Wife Swap; 20/20.

Moved: Grey's Anatomy; Dancing with the Stars.

New: Betty the Ugly; Big Day; Brothers & Sisters; Help Me Help You; Just for Laughs; Let's Rob...; Men in Trees; The Nine; Notes from the Underbelly; Six Degrees; ABC Saturday Night College Football.

In addition; a new series Set for the Rest of Your Life will replace the Tuesday night edition of Dancing with the Stars and new episodes of According to Jim and George Lopez will replace the Wednesday night results show. Supernanny will replace The Bachelor. ABC has the following shows planned as mid season replacements: Day Break; In Case of Emergency; Greg Behrendt's Wake-Up Call; Traveler. Primetime returns as a series of limited specials, and American Inventor has been renewed but without a specific time or date.

Complete Schedule: (New shows in Capitals.)
8:00 p.m.: Wife Swap
9:00 p.m.: The Bachelor
10:00 p.m.: What About Brian

8:00 p.m.: Dancing with the Stars (new night)
9:00 p.m.: LET'S ROB...
9:30 p.m.: HELP ME HELP YOU
10:00 p.m.: Boston Legal

8:00 p.m.: Dancing with the Stars (new night)
9:00 p.m.: Lost
10:00 p.m.: THE NINE

8:00 p.m.: BIG DAY
9:00 p.m.: Grey's Anatomy (new night and time)
10:00 p.m.: SIX DEGREES

8:00 p.m.: BETTY THE UGLY
9:00 p.m.: MEN IN TREES
10:00 p.m.: 20/20

8:00 p.m.: ABC Saturday Night College Football

7:00 p.m.: America's Funniest Home Videos
8:00 p.m.: Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
9:00 p.m.: Desperate Housewives
10:00 p.m.: BROTHERS & SISTERS

Let's Rob... is the story of a group of guys in dead end jobs who've never so much as shoplifted a candy bar but decide to finance their plan of opening a bar by robbing Mick Jagger's apartment. Sir Mick makes a cameo appearance and is also listed as one of the executive producers along with Rob Burnett Jon Beckerman. Stars Donal Logue, Maz Jobrani, and Sofia Vergara.

Help Me Help You stars Ted Danson as a crazy and self-obsessed shrink who hides behind his image as a well-respected author of self-help books. He leads a therapy group which includes Jere Burns, Charlie Finn and Suzy Nakamura. Jane Kaczmarek appeared as a guest star in the pilot but has been added as a regular.

The Nine starts with a bank robbery gone wrong which turns into a 52 hour hostage situation. The series then follows these people as their lives are changed and intertwined by the experience. Stars Chi McBride, Tim Daly, Kim Raver, Scott Wolf and Jon Billingsley.

Big Day is described as a mix of 24 and Father of The Bride as a young couple's wedding day is detailed event by event. Stars Marla Sokoloff, Josh Cooke and Wendie Malick

In Notes From The Underbelly Lauren and Andrew discover that they are going to have a baby and unfortunately don't do a very good job of keeping it secret which means that they have to deal with advice from family and well-meaning but highly competitive friends. Stars Peter Cambor and Jennifer Westfeldt.

Six Degrees follows the old idea that we are connected to each other by no more than six links. In this series six New Yorkers of very different backgrounds have an impact on each other without even being aware of it...yet. Stars Jay Hernandez, Bridget Moynahan, Campbell Scott, and Erika Christensen.

Betty The Ugly is an hour long comedy about a relative plain jane who is hired by a publishing mogul to be his son's assistant at a fashion magazine because she's the only woman in New York he won't sleep with. Stars America Ferrera, Eric Mabius, Vanessa Williams, and Alan Dale. Salma Hayek is listed as one of the executive producers.

Men In Trees takes the old idea of someone who is able to tell other people what to look for in a relationship but can't apply it to her own life and puts a new spin on it. Marin (Anne Heche) is a successful relationship consultant on her way to a speaking engagement in Alaska when two thing happen - she finds out that her fiance has cheated on her and she is snowbound in an Alaska town full of eligible men. Also stars James Tupper, Suleka Mathews, and Abraham Benrubi.

Brothers & Sisters: Marti Noxon and Ken Olin are executive producers on this show about the tensions and secrets within an apparently happy family. This "this warm, humorous and relatable drama" stars Calista Flockhart, Ron Rifkin, Balthazar Getty, and Patricia Wettig.

This is probably just me, but I just can't imagine how a number of these shows are going to survive, so they probably won't. If Men In Trees uses its setting in the same way as the classic Northern Exposure it could do all right. Help Me Help You sound like one of Bob Newhart's old shows but substituting Danson's aggravatingly egotistical personality for Newhart's calm level-headedness. Let's Rob... seems like it could either die a very quick death or be a real success, depending on people's willingness to accept the rather quirky premise. I'm putting my money on quick death I'm afraid. I have to wonder if Big Day will last long enough for the young couple to make it to the altar, and Notes From The Underbelly just seems like an old concept. Six Degrees is mildly intriguing but will have to give us a hook pretty quickly before it can be destroyed by the combination of ER and Without A Trace. Still it significant that for the first time in decades ABC is running a dramatic series in this time slot, probably banking on the ability of Grey's Anatomy to deliver an audience. Based on the first two network upfronts and the inevitability of CBS retaining CSI in its current slot, the second hour of Thursday is looking to be one of the most closely contested nights in the 2006-07 schedule. I'm not sure what to think about Betty The Ugly simply because I don't know who it will appeal to. On the other hand it does remind me of Sara Rue's series Less Than Perfect. As for Brothers & Sisters, it should match up fairly well with Desperate Housewives and the two shows should work by attracting a demographic that will complement rather than conflict with Sunday Night Football on NBC. So far the only series that has me even close to excited is The Nine. The cast is very strong and it has an interesting premise. Whether it can succeed depends on whether it can crack elements of two of the top franchises in television - the original Law & Order and CSI: New York. I think it may last the year but renewal is hardly assured.