Monday, July 24, 2006

Short Takes - July 24, 2006

It's hot here in Toon Town and apparently it's complicating my Internet connection because it has been dropping a lot in the past couple of days. Makes it hard to put stuff together. Oh, and by the way, vote in the poll - as of now there have only been three votes cast. I know some of you (Linda) resent the fact that Hugh Laurie wasn't nominated but that has nothing to do with me.

Oh, and by the way I have a new blog on Vox, which is basically a random thoughts sort of thing called Sleddog's Thoughts. I sort of like it.

There's this thing called the Internet: I think it might catch on. We've seen networks offer their content for sale online through venues such as the iTune Music Store, and we've seen networks offer exclusive content online, such as CBS is doing with its InnerTube service. We've also seen "viral videos" of the sort being offered by YouTube - videos of varying quality that have been posted online by people. Among the latter was an actual TV show created for a network. The WB ordered a pilot called Nobody's Watching, a show about two guys commissioned to create "the next great sitcom" but who were forced to do so in the context of a reality show. The network rejected the finished pilot - in favour of Twins according to Alan Sepinwall - and in the normal course of things, that would be that (although at one time busted pilots were shown on TV during the summer, that's not done anymore). In this case someone - no one is really sure who though there are suspicions - took the pilot and put it on YouTube, where it proceeded to become one of the most viewed things ever. This caught the attention of NBC - although there's some suspicion that it was NBC that released the pilot in the first place, which they deny - which produced the original pilot. They've ordered the production of more YouTube "webisodes" to keep interest up and also scripts for six episodes that might run on the network. This may well be something of a wave of the future; trying out shows that are marginal as far as network executives are concerned and giving them a chance to prove that they can find an audience. It is on the whole an interesting use of something like YouTube, which ironically was being sued by NBC for allowing material copyrighted by NBC - a sketch from Saturday Night Live, see the next post for the reason why I don't know what the sketch is. CBS is also considering offering snippets from their programming on the service. Now if someone can only figure out how to make money from YouTube and keep it being sued out of existence by copyright owners.

These cable TV channels might be around for a while too: Networks - well NBC - seem to be using the summer to showcase some of the shows from the cable channels they own. Last week NBC showed the premier episode of this season's Project Runway rather than repeating the previous week's episode of Treasure Hunters. It's also been announced that NBC will be airing two episodes of the new cable series Psych on the main network. This sort of cross-pollination isn't new. A few years back NBC condensed the Battlestar Galactica miniseries into a three hour movie which they then threw away on a Saturday night, and one summer ABC showed episodes from the first season of Monk. CBS went even further by showing four episodes from the first season of the (then) UPN series Veronica Mars. This sort of thing should probably happen more as an alternative to endless reruns and lame reality shows.

Katie Couric won't go to the Middle East - except she will: Earlier in the week there was a report from Access Hollywood which was reported by most of the TV critics that claimed that Katie Couric said that she wouldn't travel to the war zone in the Middle East when she takes over as anchor of the CBS Evening News: "I think the situation there is so dangerous, and as a single parent with two children, that's something I won't be doing." Given her personal circumstances I wouldn't blame her one bit. Except that as the New York Post reports Couric's statements were taken out of context. For one thing the original report was of statements she made in May after the injuries sustained by CBS correspondent Kimberly Dozier in Iraq, not to mention ABC anchor Bob Woodruff. The Access Hollywood report ignored a more recent statement made by Couric during the Television Critics Association tour that referred specifically to the current situation in Israel and Lebanon where Couric said, "In terms of traveling, I think it will be done on a case-by-case basis . . . But clearly, if it's going to serve the story, advance the story, and be helpful to the story, I would like to be there. I think it really depends on the situation and what's happening." In other words working as an anchor covering an breaking story is significantly different from going to Iraq just to go to Iraq. And again, I agree with her entirely - sometimes you're better off covering a story from an anchor desk in New York than you are being on the ground.

You can't serve two masters mistress: Tina Fey is leaving Saturday Night Live where she has been co-head writer and co-anchor of Weekend Update. Now this does not particularly resonate with me since I've never watched SNL even when it was funny - although based on comments on various newsgroups over the years I'm not absolutely sure when that was. Fey of course will be the star and head writer of the new NBC series 30 Rock and basically feels she can't do both. She's probably right, although how long 30 Rock is going to last is anyone's guess.

Usually presidents only meet sports teams: George Bush will be meeting with the top ten American Idol contestants from the last season including winner Taylor Hicks. Apparently Hicks has ties with the administration - his 9th grade teacher is now Laura Bush's press secretary. Hicks received more votes in the American Idol finale than George Bush did in the 2004 Presidential Election, although unlike most voters in the Presidential Elections, people could vote more than once for the American Idol winner.

Cancer is political: We do love our Brent "Barney" Bozell here at I Am A Child Of Television. We love him because he is such an easy target that a blind man armed with a toothpick would have no difficulty in hitting him. As you may know, besides being the head of the PTC Bozell is also the founder and president of the conservative Media Research Center. He has now decided to take on Katie Couric and amazingly it is for her philanthropic works. Couric is the co-founder of the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance (NCCRA). Her husband died of colorectal cancer and sister of pancreatic cancer. In a column that appears on the Media Research Council website and which has been syndicated to various newspapers, Bozell questions not the sincerity of Couric's activities, but claims that having "one of the nation's leading news anchors have an aggressive high-profile side career in philanthropy" might represent a political conflict of interest. According to Bozell - who compares Couric's activities with the NCCRA with Senator Tom DeLay's activities with his DeLay Foundation for Kids - Katie might be influenced in "how she reports the news, the stories she pushes - and perhaps more importantly, the stories she decides not to push at CBS?" by the people who assist her in her charity work. As a "smoking gun" he points to several interviews Couric has done with Michael J. Fox, where he advocates in Bozell's words "highly-controversial embryo-destroying stem cell research" - a cause that Couric has also raised money for. Bozell finishes his column by saying " Perhaps the media elite will insist on a double standard. Politicians (especially conservative ones) need special scrutiny of their charities, they will lecture us. Journalists, on the other hand, are to be seen as society’s helpers during their day jobs, so why discourage Katie Couric from a little moonlighting at saving lives, too? Media ethicists ought to be pressed to think hard about this new situation and state their opinion. CBS ought to explain its policy about disclosing any Couric conflicts before the new anchor’s era begins." Apparently Mr. Bozell gives far more weight to the notion that television news anchors personally shape the stories that get covered on their newscasts than most people do. Well at least he has a higher opinion of Katie Couric's abilities as a news person - or at least as someone who can work the system - than most people seem to. And while were discussing biases, perhaps the next time Brent Bozell goes on television pontificating in the name of children as the head man at the PTC he should also disclose his conflicts as head of the Media Research Council and other conservative organizations. Just a thought.

Who does the PTC hate THIS week? After last week's failure to find anything new to hate and being forced to hate America's Got Talent for two weeks in a row because of Michelle L'Amour, the PTC has found someone new to hate Big Brother All-Stars, although for the life of me I can't figure out why. They accuse the diary room sessions of "graphic descriptions, foul language, and even violent threats" but the only examples they could come up with were Howie saying "boobies" a lot and Allison saying "I'm probably gonna drag her by her fake hair and her fake boobs and drown her in the pool." This is worthy of their ire? Here's their summation though: "It is shocking that CBS would air many of the scenes from Big Brother 7 on network television at all, but to show them in the 8:00 hour is over the top. In fact, everything about the show is over the top. From the challenges to the contestants themselves, the show constantly pushes the limits of broadcast decency and never considers its message to families or children." It must either be a slow time at the PTC, or they found their most prudish member to do the review because if anything is over the top it is this assessment.

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