Saturday, May 10, 2014

Prelude to Upfronts: Cancellations and Pick-ups

Before I started this blog, the whole business of “Network Upfronts” was as foreign as the Greek language to me. All I knew is that sometime in May the US networks would announce their new shows and cancel the unsuccessful ones from the previous year, and then the Canadian networks would pick them over to find the “best of the lot” for us, and conveniently forget that half of the shows that they considered the “best of the lot” were either cancelled by the end of the season.

Upfronts used to be the day when a Network President and his (and they were all men for a long time) would stand in front of the assembled masses of advertisers and the ink-stained wretches from the entertainment media and announce which shows have been cancelled and which have been picked up, and what next season’s TV schedule would look like. The advertisers would then – over the next few weeks – decide what shows they’d make their media buys on, and how much they’d be willing to pay. Meanwhile the entertainment media would, wittingly or not, promote the new shows with information even thought they’d basically only seen the few clips provided by the network at the Upfronts. The key point was that the networks announced all of their changes at their Upfront day.

In recent years things have changed. Networks announce their renewals and their cancellations before the Upfronts – days and sometimes even weeks before – and they’ve taken to announcing shows they’ve picked up in advance as well. In the past I’ve held off from reporting or commenting on these announcements, preferring to wait until a network’s upfront day. I’m not sure that that approach is practical anymore. So what I’ve decided to do is to list the cancellations and the pickups before the upfronts, and comment on the percentage of available time that the proposed new shows will be taking up on each network.

Cancellations: The Assets, Back In The Game, Killer Women, Lucky 7, Mind Games, Once Upon A Time In Wonderland, Mixology, Trophy Wife, Betrayal, The Neighbors, Super Fun Night, Suburgatory,
Status Unknown: The Taste, Black Box
Picked Up: Dramas  American Crime, The Astronauts Wives Club,The Club, Forever, How To Get Away With Murder, Marvel’s Agent Carter, Secrets & Lies, The Whispers
Comedies – Black-ish, Galavant, Manhattan Love Story, Selfie
Update: Two comedies that I missed: Cristela and Fresh Off The Boat  which were announced at the same time as the renewal of Last Man Standing.

Comments: Eight hours of Dramas, four half-hours of Comedies. I was saddened but not surprised by the cancellation of Trophy Wife. The kids, and in particular Burt, were great and it was fun to see Bradley Whitford playing straight man both to the kids and the women in his life. If this show had a better time slot – like between The Middle and Modern Family instead of after another newcomer, The Goldbergs – I think it could have worked.


Cancellations: How I Met Your Mother, We Are Men, Bad Teacher, The Crazy Ones, Friends With Better Lives, Hostages, Intelligence
Picked Up: Dramas – Battle Creek, CSI: Cyber, Madam Secretary, NCIS: New Orleans, Scorpion, Stalker
Comedies – The McCarthys, The Odd Couple

Comments: Six hours of Dramas, two half-hours of Comedies. Only two survivors of the new shows, Mom and The Millers. I think that the limited series nature of Hostages was a bad choice to go against Castle, and Intelligence was just pretty bad. Disappointed that the cut The Crazy Ones, a series with a stand-out cast that I really enjoyed. Unfortunately stand-out cast equals expensive cast, which was probably as much a cause of the show’s demise as the ratings.


Cancellations: American Dad (moving to TBS), The Cleveland Show, Raising Hope, The X-Factor, Almost Human, Dads, Enlisted, Surviving Jack, Rake
Picked Up: Dramas – Backstrom, Empire, Gotham, Hieroglyph, Red Band Society
Comedies – Last Man On Earth, Mulaney, Weird Loners

Comments: Five hours of Dramas, three half-hours of Comedies. All of the professional TV critics are mourning the loss of Enlisted but I never saw the show (because the premise sounded dumb to me) so I can’t comment. I really liked Almost Human, the “cop and robot” buddy show set in a not totally dystopian future. It wasn’t great but I liked it better than THe Following. So sue me.


Cancellations: Ironside, Sean Saves The World, Welcome To The Family, The Michael J. Fox Show, Believe, Community, Crisis, Dracula, Revolution, Growing Up Fisher
Status Unknown: Parenthood
Picked Up: Dramas – Allegiance, Constantine, Emerald City, The Mysteries of Laura, Odyssey, Shades Of Blue, State of Affairs
Comedies – A to Z, Bad Judge, Marry Me, Mission Control, Mr. Robinson, One Big Happy, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Comments: Seven hours of Dramas, seven half-hours of Comedy. It is a mark of how far NBC has fallen that I can’t think of one show that they cancelled that I am really going to miss. I know the professional critics and a devoted fan base loved Community with a love that burned like the Sun, but I never watched it, being totally turned off by the presence of Chevy Chase. BTW, there apparently hasn't been a decision on Parenthood because of negotiations over the number of episodes stars of the show will appear in. The network weasels want the leads to do nine episodes of the total of thirteen planned, and they're balking at that idea
Update: While the renewal of Parenthood has not been announced officially, the cast have apparently agreed to a deal which would see them each participate in a reduced number of episodes within a 13 episode season, thus allowing the series to have a resolution.

The CW
Cancellations: Nikita, The Carrie Diaries, The Tomorrow People, Star Crossed
Picked Up: The Flash, iZombie, Jane The Virgin, The Messengers

Comments: Four hours of new series, all Dramas. Yawn. The only show I watch on The CW is Arrow. I suppose I’m sort of surprised that a show about 16th century royalty and religious wars (Reign) got renewed, and I suppose that The 100 is the sort of show I generally like but really, I’ve got nothing.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Late Night Turnover

craig-fergusonSo Craig Ferguson has announced that he’ll be leaving the Late Late Show in December of 2014. This the the fourth of the broadcast network late night talk shows to either replace their hosts or announce that their hosts will be leaving within a year. First Leno hands off The Tonight Show to Jimmy Fallon, which necessitates Fallon handing off Late Night to Seth Meyers. Then you had David Letterman quitting The Late Show With David Letterman and being replaced with Stephen Colbert – the comedian, not the character he plays on The Colbert Report – and now Craig Ferguson is going away. Only Jimmy Kimmel remains from last year’s hosts.

Which brings us to the question of who will replace Ferguson? Of the three replacements – Fallon, Meyers and Colbert – only one was a sure thing before the replacement took place and that was Fallon. His deal to replace Leno was in place for quite some time. For the others, there was a lot of speculation about who would, or should get the job. In fact I was working on a piece for this long dormant blog of mine about who should replace Letterman when they announced Colbert. I can’t remember now who I was coming out in favour of, but it wasn’t Colbert.

At the same time that I was trying to figure out who should replace Letterman, some people were being quite vocal about putting someone “different” from the basic “Straight White Guy” in the host’s chair, and they seemed to pick on The Late Show as a place to start “the revolution.” To a degree they have a valid point. Of the late night talk show hosts out there, and this includes syndication and cable shows as well as the broadcast networks, the only ones who aren’t “Straight White Guys” are Chelsea Handler on E! Network’s Chelsea Lately, and Arsenio Hall on the syndicated Arsenio Hall Show. And Handler is leaving her show this Fall when her contract with E! comes to an end… which led to speculation that she was a candidate for the Late Show job and is a candidate for the Late Late Show position, rumours that have been denied by both CBS and Handler herself.

Current speculation – and I don’t know who is doing the speculating , I just got this stuff from Mark Evanier’s blog – is that John Oliver from The Daily Show or Neil Patrick Harris (formerly from How I Met Your Mother) are leading candidates. However Oliver (Straight White Guy) has a two year contract with HBO to do a late night talk show satirizing current events called Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, which probably knocks him out of the running. Harris (Gay White Guy) has had experience both as a comedic actor and as an awards show host on numerous occasions so he’s a good candidate. However he and his family have recently moved to New York, and after many years of their being no late night talk shows in New York except Letterman, three of the five are now New York based. I think CBS would probably prefer to have at least one Los Angeles based host. So maybe the field is open to a different prospect.

Even though the people who wanted someone who was not a “Straight White Guy” for the Late Show had a point about the lack of diversity among late night talk show hosts, the Late Show was probably the wrong venue for that fight. The network’s big late night show is not a proper venue for someone coming new to the game of hosting a talk show. That’s one of the reasons why many people would not have been upset to see Ferguson take over for Letterman; it would have seemed like a natural progression (it wasn’t going to happen though because Craig had apparently made up his mind to leave well before Dave announced his departure). On the other hand the slot after the late night show is a logical place give potential new hosts a chance to show their stuff. Think of it as a farm team for the major leagues. Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Fallon, Craig Ferguson were all people who had track records in comedy, either as writers (O’Brien) or actors and/or stand-ups (Ferguson, Fallon and even Letterman) but no experience hosting talk shows before they got the show after The Show. Leno didn’t go that route, but he was the regular replacement host for Johnny Carson which was probably the next best thing. Sometimes it doesn’t work. Craig Kilborn, who hosted The Late Late Show for five years between Tom Snyder and Craig Ferguson, hated the experience and seems to have pretty much left the entertainment business. Conan’s time at The Tonight Show was a disaster, although that was probably because Leno didn’t want to go that time. But Letterman was a success, and so far Fallon seems to be succeeding, and I doubt that would have been the case had NBC announced that Seth Meyers was going directly from Saturday Night Live to The Tonight Show. So the opportunity exists for someone who is a “Not Straight White Guy” to get this job.

Do I have a candidate? Well as a matter of fact yes. I’m not sure that this person wants the job and I’m doubting that this person is on the top of anyone else’s list but my candidate is………

Aisha Tyler
I think that Tyler has great qualifications beyond being a Straight Black Woman. She’s well known as an actress (Ghost Whisperer, Friends), stand-up comedian, host (the current incarnation of Whose Line Is It Anyway on The CW), podcast host (the Girl on Guy podcast) and daytime talk show co-host (The Talk) on CBS. And Les Moonves knows her because one of the other co-hosts on The Talk is Moonves’s wife Julie Chen. As I’ve said, I doubt that she’ll get the job, but I think she’d be a great choice.