Saturday, April 15, 2006

Short Takes - April 15, 2006

- Coming this summer All Star Big Brother and you get to choose: Apparently nobody sent Mrs. Moonves the memo that said that Survivor All Stars stank because there will be an All Star Big Brother this summer. Fans will get to choose the contestants from a pool of 20 previous houseguests. I actually have a group of dysfunctional individuals who I would like to see in the Big Brother shack. They include Kaysar from last season (who was run out of the house not once but twice, the second time immediately after the great American Public voted him back in with the cry of "This is our game not America's game"); one legged Eddie McGee, winner of the first season, Tonya from season 3 (who organised the infamous "peanut butter bikini affair"), "Evil" Doctor Will, the winner of Season 2, Jack the FBI guy, his in-house bed buddy Erika, and Allison the slut from Season 4 (and Amazing Race 5), from and of course Chicken George from Season 1. I'm willing to bet that more than half of those people won't even be asked.

- NBC's new 900 pound canary; what will the other networks do?: There are already rumours that ABC is running scared about the prospect of Sunday Night Football on NBC. According to the rumour printed in The New York Post the "alphabet network" (as "scribes" are wont to call ABC perhaps because it increases their word count) is considering moving either Grey's Anatomy or Desperate Housewives - or both - to Monday nights. For the article the Post interviewed Marc Berman of Mediaweek who said, "I can't imagine ABC would move 'Housewives' because it's anchoring Sunday nights and is already working at 9 p.m., so why move it? "They could move 'Grey's Anatomy' to Mondays at 9 since they don't have football there anymore and they need to build that night ... and set up a long-term schedule." Berman also suggested that either show would not be moving to Thursdays because "Thursday would be dead-in-the-water for them." I mention this because John Doyle from Canada's national newspaper, the Globe & Mail, mentioned on Thursday (as part of a piece on the return of Commander-in-Chief to the lineup and the rough ride that show has had after its debut with huge ratings - not a mention of the fact that it isn't very good being as part of the problem of course) writes "And don't expect Commander-in-Chief to return to Thursday nights next season. The prevailing rumour is that ABC wants to move Grey's Anatomy into the time slot in order to compete with ER and crush it." (This article isn't available online unless you're willing to pay the Globe & Mail $14.95 a month - I'm not.) Of course the viewers might have a little something to say about this - while the ratings for Commander-in-Chief's Thursday debut were the lowest the show has had, it improved over its lead-in American Inventor and finished second beating a repeat of ER but not a new episode of Without a Trace.

I think that ABC would be dumb to move either or both shows from their Sunday night line up. These are shows that skew heavily to the young female demographic which will be going opposite the male skewing football. Monday might work but that's already a tough night with CBS's Monday comedies and CSI: Miami which people - for reasons not entirely known or understood by me - seem to like. Still this speculation has me thinking about what the other networks might do up against NBC's gorilla. I don't see CBS making any radical changes - their made for TV movies have been a staple there for decades. Nor do I expect Fox to do anything with their animation/comedy block at least until something goes wrong. The network I think has the most potential to try to shake things up - if they want to and are able to - might be The CW. What if they were to move WWE Smackdown from Friday to Sunday. They don't have anything in the Sunday time slot anyway with the imminent departure of Charmed so why not move a show that's popular with the younger end of the male 18-49 demographic in there and try to take a bite out of the football audience? I'm not offering this as rumour or speculation except as something I might do if I were an evil network weasel.

- Fight the good fight: The four major networks have announced that they will appeal the fines levied against ABC, CBS and Fox - NBC is filing as an intervener in the other cases since the FCC didn't fine them.The major thing in this battle isn't that the networks are appealing the decision it is that they are each joined in the case by their affiliate organizations and by the Hearst-Argyle Television group which owns affiliates of five of the six current broadcast networks. The appeal is aimed at overturning a 2004 decision which found that tightened up indecency regulations tot he point where the use of certain expletives - regardless of the situation - would be deemed profane and obscene. In a statement the appellants claimed "In filing these court appeals we are seeking to overturn the FCC decisions that the broadcast of fleeting, isolated - and in some cases unintentional - words rendered these programs indecent." This appeal does not touch on the recent FCC decision against the CBS show Without A Trace or the former WB show The Surreal Life 2. Naturally PTC head kahuna Brent Bozell has something to say about this: " "It's beyond preposterous that the networks would even propose that airing the 'f-word' and 's-word' on television is not indecent. The networks' principles have now been unmasked for everyone to see. Their actions today are indecent in and of themselves."

- I think I'm going to start calling Brent Bozell "Barney": It seems that the fearless leader of the Parents Television Council has opted to mobilize his legions against MTV for committing blasphemy. The object of his righteous wrath is a show called Popetown which depicts the Pope as, in the words of the PTC "an uncontrollable, infantile character who pogo-sticks around a Vatican populated by corrupt, money-grabbing cardinals," and in one scene has Jesus (a statue I assume) coming down off the cross to watch TV because, as he says, "It's better than hanging around." Bozell writes, “When foreigners see shows like this, they are getting the worst of the very worst of American culture. No wonder so many hold us in contempt." Of course this is totally different from the protests over the cartoons of Mohammed: "This is yet another example of how some in Hollywood are spitting on religious figures and showing their contempt for people of faith. The cartoons about Mohammed may have been in bad taste but they were political satire. This is worse. This is ridicule for the sake of ridicule. And not coincidentally they’re doing this during Easter week, the holiest week in the Christian year.” Setting aside the fact that ridiculing the leader of a great world religious sect is probably not as major a thing as depicting the founder of one of the great world religion as a suicide bomber, it's absurd to say that the latter is legitimate political satire while the former is - as the headline for Bozell's statement puts it - blasphemy. Besides which I don't see anything in the PTC's raison d'etre that has anything to do with protecting religion from blasphemy or ridicule, let alone one specific religion (Christianity - remember Bozell said that the Mohammed cartoons were just political satire not blasphemy; presumably anyone who disagreed was just overly sensitive).

But here's the kicker and the bit that gets Bozell the "Barney" monicker. You won't be seeing Popetown on MTV unless you live in Germany, Austria or Switzerland. It isn't airing in the United States. It isn't even an American show - it was created in Britain (where the BBC received so many protests that they refused to air it) by a company called "Channel X", and was first seen on New Zealand's C4 network which is owned by the Canadian company Canwest. Apparently either Bozell and the PTC think that they should be spreading their revolution for broadcast decency - as interpreted by the PTC of course - around the world, or in the grand tradition of Barney Fife Bozell wants to "nip it in the bud" before it gets a chance to infect America. "You gotta nip it!"

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