Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Getting My Priorities Straight

Sorry for the late update, you loyal dozens, but The Telegraph believes it's more important I cover the actual news.

Anyway, just a quick note today to report that ABC finally wised up and pushed "Knights of Prosperity" up to 8:30 p.m., thus avoiding direct competition with "American Idol" (Fox, 9 p.m.). Still, it might be too little, too late to boost "Knights'" chances of staying.

I have to admit, I've been underwhelmed with "Knights" considering the amount of hype it got during the TV press tour in the fall. The concept is decent, and so is the execution, but I don't think it compares favorably to NBC's "My Name Is Earl," a somewhat similar themed show of the misadventures of a group of lovable losers. It really doesn't help that "Earl" has had a strong sophomore year to boot.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BET: Welcome back, Dr. Brennan, you were missed. "Bones" (Fox, 8 p.m.) returns to the air in what should be a relatively cushy slot preceding "AI."

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

No PAL Of Mine

So, in honor of the TV Guy's birthday today, my brother and sister-in-law got me a pretty cool gift: an gift certificate.

Immediately, I set my mind upon which TV DVD set of discs I wanted to buy myself. There was one TV series in particular that I've wanted for some time now, "Blake's 7," a 1970s era BBC sci-fi show.

However, I was thwarted in my plans. "Blake's 7" only exists as a Zone 2 DVD, meaning it will only play on DVD players in Europe, not in the U.S. This is done to prevent piracy of DVDs, the theory being that you couldn't steal a bunch of DVDs from a U.S. warehouse and sell them on the streets of Macao, because they wouldn't work.

It's a great theory IF YOU MADE THE SAME DVDs AVAILABLE IN ALL ZONES. It's not the first time I've run into this problem.

I'd settle for "Blake's 7" on VHS, and even found a set on E-Bay, but it only exists in the British PAL video format.

PAL stands for Phase Altering Line, which is technically quite different from the analog NTSC standard (National Television System(s) Committee) used in the North America and parts of South America. The two systems developed independently in the 1960s, each with their own perks and disadvantages, but suffice it to say, one format won't work in the other's VCR.

Pre-DVD, I tried to search for a lot of British shows, but the PAL format was always a problem. Sometimes, the shows would come out on NTSC-friendly video cassettes, sometimes not so much. Anyway, the two systems developed not because of piracy worries so much as much because of a stubborn clinging to analog broadcast styles of the day. (Incidentally, most of the world uses PAL, in case you were curious.)

So much for the history lesson. I'm getting the 40th anniversary set of "The Prisoner," another series I couldn't buy for a long time because it was PAL-only. It's good that I waited, because the DVD set is loaded with all sorts of extras.

24 BIZARRO FUN FACT OF THE WEEK: Hmm, a lot to choose from. We could pick the weird genetics of the Bauer family, as in how their dad is 6-foot-7 and the brothers are short; we could pick how the National Security Advisor is allowed to resign AN HOUR after a nuclear bomb is detonated in the U.S.

This week's winner is how the FBI expected a respectable businessman who is doing spywork for them to be able to pick someone's pocket for a cell phone, get the directory off it, then put it back without this suspected terrorist knowing about it. Then, not having the guy's back when said gang of suspected terrorists beats the guy down for five minutes or so before the guards come out and break it up.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: "American Idol" (Fox, 8 p.m.) is now down to a digestible hour, followed by the first new "House" (Fox, 9 p.m.) in three weeks.

Monday, January 29, 2007

There She Is

One of the many areas of TV in which I diverge with my parents is the Miss America Pageant (CMTV, 8 p.m.)

I can't say I've really ever been much of a fan, and I don't think I've ever watched more than 10 minutes of one. My parents, on the other hand, have it down to a science and are usually pretty good at guessing who will make the cut in the various rounds. Of course, I also hear about it when the judges of said pageant make the "wrong" choice and don't go with the girl they've picked.

Tonight's broadcast has some added interest for area viewers, since Amanda Kozak of Warner Robins will be representing Georgia.

By the way, a great book looking behind the scenes of the pageant is "Hype and Glory" by screenwriter William Goldman, in which he tells the reader about the time he was a judge at both the pageant and at the Cannes Film Festival. Anything by Goldman is worth a read.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: Though CBS' is full of repeats, the other networks are putting out the new stuff.

My third favorite Starfleet captain, George Takei, guest stars as Hiro's dad in "Heroes" (NBC, 9 p.m.), while Danny (Bradley Whitford) continues his pursuit of Jordan (Amanda Peet, and really, who among us wouldn't be pursuing her?) on "Studio 60" (NBC, 10 p.m.)

Haywire returns on tonight's "Prison Break" (Fox, 8 p.m.), while I'm predicting someone gets killed/maimed/tortured/all of the above on "24" (Fox, 9 p.m.)

And finally, because I'm told people in Middle Georgia do watch it, "What About Brian" (ABC, 10 p.m.) is also new tonight.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Recurring Themes

I don't know why I like recurring characters so much, but I always have.

For me, there is always something cool about a show that creates an indelible character and uses that person just enough where we anticipate his or her visit.

It's different than the "special guest star" deal that seemed to always be the staple of "ER," in which a big-name star shows up basically once or twice and gets a lot of attention for doing so.

Take "Supernatural," for example. The episodes with the Winchester boys' father (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) have been among the best of the series because of the interaction among the characters. But the series was all the better for using Morgan selectively, adding to the impact of each of his visits. Had they made him a regular, it would have lessened that impact.

Recently, there's been a whole slew of guest actors who have signed on to many series in recurring roles.

Liev Schreiber is perhaps the most notable, since he is taking over for William L. Petersen in "CSI" while the latter actor is off doing another part.

Other recent announcements include that of Patricia Wettig reviving her role as President Reynolds on "Prison Break" later this season and Eric Roberts joining Christopher Eccleston as new recruits on "Heroes."

Last night, Phil Morris made his first appearance as the Martian Manhunter on "Smallville," a part we will almost definitely see again this season.

And it seems likely that "24" fans will get to see the return of former first couple Charles and Martha Logan at some point later this year, though reports are coming through that former Jack Bauer flame Audrey Raines (Kim Raver) probably won't be returning this year, even though her other series "The Nine" is off the air.

Who are some of your favorite recurring characters?

FRIDAY'S BEST BET: Adrian Monk (Tony Shalhoub) gets his dream job as Sean Astin's butler in tonight's episode of "Monk" (USA, 9 p.m.)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Write Idea

I admit, I'll have more than a passing interest than just my usual fanboy stuff with tonight's "Smallville." (CW, 8 p.m.)

A couple of years ago, I wrote a "Smallville" teleplay that I was able to submit to the show's producers through an acquaintance I had on the Warner Brothers lot.

I loved the "Elseworlds" titles in the DC Comics universe, when one of their heroes would have their origin re-written through a different time or place or set of circumstances - what if Bruce Wayne had gotten a Green Lantern ring the night he decided to become Batman, for example. Or if Superman had landed on Earth during the American Revolution.

I incorporated the Elseworlds concept — I even called the episode "Elseworlds" — into the script. Through a complicated set of circumstances, I had the baby Kal-El arriving on Earth and being found by the evil Lionel Luthor, who recognized that having a super-powered son would have certain advantages. The baby's older brother, Lex, would likely be very jealous and fearful of the baby. Lex would have ended up gathering his own private army of meteor-empowered freaks to destroy his brother, including Bart Allen, the future Flash.

I don't if the execution of the script was any good or not, but I'm guessing the "Smallville" producers didn't think so, what with me still working for The Telegraph and all in the years since then.

But it is interesting to see some of the concepts being borne out, both in last week's episode "Justice" (Oliver Queen puts together a nascent Justice League) and this week's installment, "Labyrinth," in which Clark loses his memory and wakes up in a world where he has no powers but is in the loony bin for thinking he has (very reminiscent of a "Buffy" episode from some years ago). This is not me accusing the "Smallville" guys of something underhanded, either - my script was very different than theirs, and the Elseworlds-concept isn't exactly original in the DC universe.

As both a fan and a writer, I'm curious to see the final product and learn a little more about the writing process. Maybe I'll figure out that winning "Smallville" concept yet.

RATINGS UPDATE: Since I've written so much about the Nielsen numbers this week, I should note that "Heroes" ended up just beating "24" in the overall numbers in their first head-to-head battle, and doing better in the coveted 18-49 viewer slot.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: "Smallville's" neighbor, "Supernatural" (CW, 9 p.m.) also has a new installment tonight. The producers of that show also announced "Battlestar Galactica" Cylon-babe Tricia Helfer will guest star later in the season.

I've been thoroughly impressed at "Ugly Betty's" (ABC, 8 p.m.) consistency, and how the show - which started out great - continues to hit its stride every week. It's followed by "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC, 9 p.m.), where the soap opera off the screen is as interesting as it is on it, and "Men in Trees" (ABC, 10 p.m.), a show I've never seen.

CBS' lone new episode of the night is "CSI" at 9 p.m., while NBC offers a night full of its sitcom re-runs, including three installments of "The Office" at 8:30 p.m. and from 10-11 p.m. And I shouldn't neglect Fox, which offers new installments of "Til Death," "The War at Home" and "The O.C." On second thought, I probably should neglect Fox.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A Sample of Nielsen Ratings

So, reader Anonymous brought up an interesting point in a comment to yesterday's posting: What are the Nielsen ratings and why should we care?

(By the way, a quick aside here, I encourage you guys to post comments as often as you like, but it makes it a little easier for me if some of you pick screen names so I can be a little more personal when I respond. The "American Idol" posting had a bunch of responses, but most of them were logged in as Anonymous, so it was hard to tell who was posting what. You don't have to use your real name for comments, and if you want to stay Anon, that's fine, but I'm just throwing it out there...)

Anyway, back to the Nielsens, which were first developed by Arthur Nielsen in the 1960s as a way of measuring TV audiences for an individual program. Once the ratings system was figured out, it was a way for the networks to set their advertising rates. A more popular show with higher ratings would obviously cost more to advertise with, but it would also reach more people in theory.

It also is a way for networks to decide whether to keep a program on the air and in what timeslot that show should be. Let's say you have "Grey's Anatomy," which gets 30 million viewers. If the show that follows it at 10 p.m. gets 15 million viewers for example, then ABC knows that second show is losing half its lead-in audience. So the network has to decide whether its worth it to keep that show on in that timeslot.

In theory, it's a good system because networks won't waste millions of dollars on shows that people don't care about.

In practice, not so much.

Nielsen measures the numbers in two ways: ratings, which is the total number of people watching a program at one time; and shares, which measures the percentage of people who have TVs actually on at a certain time who are watching that program. One ratings point equals 1.1 million TV households.

Nielsen keeps track of the numbers in a couple of ways. It picks a significant enough statistical sample as its measuring stick and uses electronic devices to record which program the Nielsen viewer is watching. In addition, the viewer is asked to keep a diary of what he or she watches each week.

But there are some problems with all of that. Any statistical sampling automatically includes a margin of error, so the numbers may not reflect the true popularity of a show. It could be a little more or less popular than the numbers say.

In addition, many Nielsen families aren't particularly accurate in their journals. They may not include a show they might be embarrassed to tell their friends they enjoy, say your typical Fox reality show, or they may over-emphasize a show they like but is doing poorly overall in the ratings. Or they may be lazy with their journals and omit shows entirely.

Add to that the fact that Nielsen has only included recorded programs in the last couple of years in the numbers, and it's even more out of whack. For example, Monday night I watched "Heroes" and taped "24." A few years ago, the "24" numbers wouldn't have counted (they do now), which means shows in the past that had poor ratings may have been watched by more people than the numbers showed.

In fact, with the advent of DVRs, the entire landscape of TV has changed and the Nielsens have been rendered moot. With a DVR, one can record live programs and watch them as they are being broadcast, but skip the commercials - which is the whole point as to why the Nielsens exist in the first place. Plus, people now have the opportunity to watch programs via Web-based platforms, such as a network's Web site or iTunes or even on their cell phone.

With so few people not watching commercials any more, the ratings system has become a bit pointless, because it doesn't really reflect what an individual is watching. This can be proven a little bit by the fact that some shows that have been canceled have had fantastic DVD sales, meaning they had more viewers than originally thought. "Family Guy" is a good example of that.

With all the new platforms of TV viewing coming out, I'd be in favor of having a device measuring what everyone is watching and compiling the numbers anonymously. That'll never happen, however, because privacy groups in this country would protest such an idea.

Nielsen really isn't the best system any more for measuring a show's popularity. It's just the one we're going to be stuck with.

GREY'S UPDATE: "Grey's Anatomy" star Isaiah Washington, who has been the center of a public relations nightmare with his multiple uses of an anti-gay slur, met with officials from GLAAD this week in an effort to make amends.

It's a positive step in the right direction, and hopefully it's a genuine effort from Washington to learn more tolerance and not just a P.R. stunt to answer his critics.

The move still doesn't let ABC or "Grey's" producer Shonda Rimes off the hook for not doing more to handle the situation or discipline Washington when the incident first happened. And whether or not the rift that has happened among the cast will ever be healed remains to be seen.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BET: Last week, NBC pulled a new episode of "Friday Night Lights" (NBC, 8 p.m.) so that it wouldn't get clobbered by "American Idol" (Fox, 8 p.m.) This week, "Lights" is supposed to be new, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

CBS has a full night of new stuff, as does NBC and ABC.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Some General Suckiness From The CW

Thanks to the well-wishers for my absence yesterday. I'm operating on literally about three hours' sleep in the last 48, so forgive me if I'm loopy (or more so than usual).

Enjoy "Veronica Mars" (CW, 9 p.m.) while you can. One of the best shows on TV might not be around for too much longer.

Normally, the news that tonight's episode, the first new one of 2007, would be welcomed, but it comes with a pall surrounding it.

The CW announced it's pulling "VM" on March 6 for the reality special, ""Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll," which will pollute our airwaves for a couple of months before "VM" returns for its final five episodes. And when I say "final," it could very well be - despite saying it's pleased with the show's ratings, the CW hasn't given much of a commitment to the show.

Already, creator Rob Thomas has had to compromise a lot of what made the show good, namely the season-long story arcs. This season, they have gone to mini-arcs. When "VM" wraps up its season, it will be five standalone episodes. Thomas has said that if "VM" manages a fourth season, it would be pretty much all standalones. Gee, why not just call the show "CSI: Neptune" if that's the case?

The CW is a network searching for an identity. On the one hand, it has a decent lineup of shows geared toward 20-somethings - "Gilmore Girls," "Smallville," "Supernatural," etc. - but it also gives us tons of reality, like "American's Next Top Model" and "Beauty and the Geek."

"VM" has never really gotten the respect it deserves. The proof is that actresses like Patricia Arquette have beaten out "VM" star Kristin Bell for things like Emmy nominations, which shows a general idiocy on the part of the people who make such nominations.

24 BIZARRO FUN FACT OF THE WEEK: I've always said CTU has some damn good cell phones, what with Jack being able to call from a helicopter just after a nuclear blast in Season 2. But Jack has nothing on Karen Hayes, who was able to use her cell phone IN A NUCLEAR BUNKER. And we now know the reason why Jack is never invited to Bauer family reunions. Imagine what he'd do to the cousin who took too big a portion of potato salad.

In spite of "24," Monday was still full of goodness, everything from Hiro's justification in stealing the sword ("It's still a good deal for the museum") and meeting Nathan ("Flying Man!") on "Heroes" to Barney's nude painting on "How I Met Your Mother." However, Terence Steadman managing to wrest the gun from Lincoln Burrows? I don't think so.

TONIGHT'S BEST BETS: The pickings are a bit slim with the State of the Union and all. (And I don't mean that in a political sense, I'm just saying there isn't a whole lot of new, dramatic programming tonight.) If you want to catch Pres. Bush's speech, you'll only be able to do so on CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, CNN, C-SPAN, MSNBC, Fox News and CNN Headline News beginning at 9 p.m., followed by the Democrats' response and a bunch of post-game commentary (Here's hoping that Fox uses the "American Idol" crew.) Perhaps ironically, PBS doesn't have the speech in its listings; you'd think public television would be required to run it.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Chicken Soup For The TV

I'm writing this from home, where I'm a little under the weather.

Fortunately, I'll have a lot of good TV to keep me company. Monday's schedule is so crowded with quality, I'll need the extra time to digest it all.

In what promises to be the fullest night of the week, you have Fox's very exciting if ridiculous shows with the return of "Prison Break" at 8 p.m., followed by "24."

NBC counters with the return of "Heroes" at 9 p.m., featuring Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who) as a new, recurring member of the cast, followed by "Studio 60" at 10 p.m.

Not to be outdone, CBS returns its full lineup of comedy, beginning with the "How I Met Your Mother" new episode that was pre-empted last week in the wake of "24"-mania.

ABC can only muster new installments of "Wife Swap," "Super Nanny" and "What About Brian?" which I suppose is the ultimate in counter-programming, since I've never met anyone who actually watches those shows.

Friday, January 19, 2007


"Battlestar Galactica" resumes its season on a new day, this Sunday (Sci-Fi, 10 p.m.), so I now have another reason to live.

There's been a lot of buzz about what is going to happen during the rest of the season, including the death of a major character, and the speculation has been that it won't be too long before Starbuck has smoked her last cigar. But the producers of the show have said in interviews that things may not be what they seem.

"BSG" will be paired with a new series, "The Dresden Files" (Sci-Fi, 9 p.m.) Paul Blackthorne, best known to U.S. TV fans as one of the villains on "24" a couple of years ago, stars as Harry Dresden, a detective who uses the black arts to solve crimes and fight evil.

The series is based on a series of successful books, and it's been described as "Harry Potter meets Jim Rockford." I've never read the Dresden books, so I don't have any idea of what to expect. But hopefully Sci-Fi will do a better job with this project than Warner Brothers did with "Constantine," which barely resembled the "Hellblazer" comic book series that inspired it. "Hellblazer" examines similar themes of a detective who uses the occult in his cases, though not always to the desired effect.

"BSG" and "Dresden" isn't the only new science fiction debuting this weekend. Tonight marks the debut of "Hyperdrive" (BBC-America, 9 p.m.) It's a comedy in the vein of "Red Dwarf" in which Britain rules the Universe in the future (I swear, I didn't come up with the concept.) "Hyperdrive" is followed by another comedy, "Feel the Force" (BBC-A, 9:40 p.m.), which despite the title, is not a sci-fi show, but a look at two inept women cops who patrol the streets of Edinburgh. Since both shows are on BBC America, they are automatically worth at least a look.

FRIDAY'S BEST BETS: If BBC America isn't your cup of tea, there's some choices across the cable dial. Most notably, "Monk" (USA, 9 p.m.) returns for its new season with an episode in which Andy Richter plays Monk's (Tony Shalhoub) new best friend.

Also returning is "Psych" (USA, 10 p.m.) a series I've been less-than-psyched about with its rather thin premise that relies on the supporting characters being idiots. But the chemistry between the leads (James Remar, Dule Hill) isn't bad, so the show is mildly entertaining.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: Not a whole lot of network offerings with the NFL playoffs airing the conference championships on Sunday. Reality TV fans (that don't watch sports) can get their fix on NBC with new episodes of "Grease: You're the One That I Want" and "The Apprentice" on Sunday.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Shades Of Grey

I stopped watching "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC, 9 p.m.) a few episodes after it started, but I have to say, I've been keeping up with the behind-the-camera soap opera that has been brewing.

The latest brouhaha happened during a press conference at The Golden Globes Monday night, in which star Isaiah Washington repeated an epithet against gays while denying he used the same word against co-star T.R. Knight. Knight has since gone on Ellen Degeneres' show, saying Washington is lying.

Katherine Heigl, who was up for Best Supporting Actress, immediately blasted Washington.

One wonders why there has been no punitive action against Washington through all this. He continues to alienate his castmates with his actions, which have been an embarrassment to the show. The initial incident caused a fistfight between Washington and co-star Patrick Dempsey, who came to Knight's defense.

Knight, who had kept his sexual preference private, was forced to come out of the closet earlier this year when he had no intention to, and in doing so may have had damage done to his career if producers in the future decide not to cast him in straight roles because of his homosexuality.

At the very least, Washington should have been suspended by "Grey's" producers or ABC, and many people are calling for him to be fired. Had the situation been reversed, and a cast member had used a racial slur against Washington, that cast member would have almost certainly been canned, and justifiably so. I fail to see the difference here.

NBC RENEWS SHOWS: Great news for fans of NBC programs. The network made it official this week, renewing "The Office," "Heroes," "My Name Is Earl," and "Law & Order: SVU" for next season. There are also strong indications that "Scrubs" may get another season.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: Sometimes, the TV gods reward those who give praise at their altar, and you get nights like tonight.

If ever there was a night to keep the VCRs fired up, it's tonight, where everything is a Best Bet.

I would have been happy just with tonight's all-new "Smallville," (CW, 8 p.m.), where we finally get the much-anticipated Justice League debut, as Clark Kent hooks up with Green Arrow, Impulse, Cyborg and Aquaman to fight Lex Luthor. Plus, I get a new episode of "Supernatural" following. You can catch the first 12 minutes of "Smallville" right now at Yahoo!, which also will provide additional material. And, if you are a "Smallville" fan that uses Sprint phones, you can catch the animated "Oliver Queen Chronicles," which will eventually make its way to the CW Web site.

But no, the rewards go far beyond that. A new "Ugly Betty" (ABC, 8 p.m.), coming off its Golden Globe wins.

Not only do I get a whole new night of NBC sitcoms, I get the much-anticipated "Scrubs" musical episode tonight at 9 p.m.

But wait, there's still more. Stephen Colbert hosts Bill O'Reilly tonight on "The Colbert Report" (Comedy Central, 11:30 p.m.), an episode that airs after O'Reilly hosts Colbert on "The Factor" (FNC, 8 p.m.)

Even the re-runs are top-notch. You can catch the clever cult film "The Zero Effect" (WGN, 8 p.m.), a modern-day retelling of Sherlock Holmes written and directed by my buddy, Jake Kasdan. (OK, we only met the one time, but he's still a cool guy).

The VCRs will be working overtime tonight.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Schadenfreude And "American Idol"

I've never been a fan of "American Idol" and probably never will be. But it's a cultural phenomenon that can't be ignored.

I have to admit, I will take a peek over to Fox during commercials when they run the audition shows, as they will tonight (Fox, 8 p.m.) because they are usually pretty funny.

But after last night, I may stop doing even that. As I was getting ready to leave for team trivia, I had the TV on "AI" while I was getting ready, and they had this one guy on who was a vocal coach. He made the rather unfortunate choice of trying to do an Aerosmith song, something that was not really in sync with the sort of voice he had.

In addition, he made the song sound more like a Broadway show tune than hard rock, and he didn't have the greatest voice in the world (though hardly the worst either). You could tell that his entire life was waiting for this one moment to prove himself.

Naturally, he didn't get picked. But the judges seemed especially cruel with him, particularly Randy. When Simon Cowell turns to you and says, "Boy, your comments are a little excessive," you know you may have gone over the edge.

As for the poor guy, he seemed more crushed than most of the rest, and I did have to ponder the guy's future. I hope that being a voice coach wasn't his day job, because it's hard to imagine he was going to have a huge list of students after being humiliated in front of 30 million people and having Randy say "I wouldn't tell anyone to take lessons from you."

I don't know, a lot of these people do embarrass themselves, but it's because they have no business being on stage in the first place, but none of their friends or family tried to stop them from humiliating themselves on TV, you know, the William Hungs of the world.

But some of these people aren't terrible, and though they will never have a music career, it's a little sad to see their dreams crushed like that. I'm not sure I'll be catching the audition process after this.

Frankly, the judges themselves have a spotty record at best in picking the winner, as do the fans who vote. "Dreamgirls" star Jennifer Hudson, who may end up with an Oscar in the next few weeks, got knocked out relatively early the year she tried out. Clay Aiken didn't win, but has a bigger career than the guy who did.

Sure, you have some people with talent like Kelly Clarkson who won, but you have some headscratchers in there as well. None was worse than Fantasia.

OK, I never watched any of the "AIs" with her, but I had the misfortunate of catching Fantasia's rendition of the National Anthem before baseball's All-Star Game a couple of years ago. Now, being a professional sports writer, I've heard my fair share of bad National Anthems, but Fantasia's was far and away the worst. (OK, technically Roseanne Barr and Carl Lewis were the worst, but neither of them ever won a singing contest). For the excruciating four minutes Fantasia performed, I envied the deaf.

In the end, music comes down to individual taste. None of my tastes coincide with that of "AI," but unfortunately that puts me in a small minority.

R.I.P. BENNY PARSONS: I never knew the NASCAR commentator personally, but I did hire his son Keith when I was the sports editor of The Hickory Daily Record, and Keith was far and away the best guy on my staff. The massive success of NASCAR in this country owes no small debt to Benny Parsons, who made it very relatable to the average person in his role as a broadcaster.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BET: A rather quiet night, as the other networks shy away from "American Idol." As always, I will plug "Friday Night Lights" (NBC, 8 p.m.), continually one of the best dramas on TV.

Also, the delayed second episode of "Knights of Prosperity" (ABC, 9 p.m.) finally airs, though I fear it may have been permanently harmed by being pre-empted last week and going head-to-head with "AI." Way to kill a promising show, ABC.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Some TV Musings

I don't like to toot my own horn (OK, who am I kidding, I LOVE to toot my own horn) but the TV Guy was on fire with the Golden Globe picks.

Eleven TV categories, seven correct. And of the ones I missed, I did write that "Ugly Betty" could pull the upset in Best Comedy Series and that Hugh Laurie should win Best Actor in a Drama, I just didn't have enough faith in the common sense of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (and who could blame me for that?), so really, it could have been nine of 11. And the remaining two categories, the supporting actor and actress selections, are ridiculous in how they lump performers from TV series with those of TV movies, so it's a near impossibility to call.

Combined with my runner-up finish in our gang's "My Boys"-inspired board game decathlon this past weekend -- I lost in the tiebreaker of Battleship -- I had a pretty good groove going.

REASON #6543598 WHY NBC.COM SUCKS: So, being the good son that I am, I taped a bunch of shows for my parents while they were out of the country. Last Thursday night, I was out doing the Team Trivia thing, so I taped "Ugly Betty" for the folks, figuring I could catch "My Name Is Earl" and "The Office" on the Web.

And as I was sitting in the Joshua Cup enjoying my day off, I did indeed log onto a very funny installment of "Earl." With my mood joyous (and, in this case, Joy-ous) from the comedy I had just watched, I clicked over to "The Office" section. And I clicked. And I clicked.

Nada. No where on that page could I find the latest episode online. In frustration, I clicked on the 2-minute recap of the episode. It caused Internet Explorer to crash. With the safety of the other Joshua Cup customers now in serious question, I tried the recap again. Again, IE crashed.

Self-control finally did kick in when I realized that NBC was looking to make a quick $1.99 by having the episode available only at iTunes. I can wait until the episode is repeated on broadcast TV, thank you very much

But it was another reminder why NBC has the worst Web site of any of the networks.

LOST ENDINGS: There was much buzz yesterday as the producers of ABC's "Lost" announced that they would be ending the series within the next couple of years.

I really wasn't surprised by this as everyone else seems to be. After all, "Lost" must have some sort of ending the writers are shooting for, which requires some sort of structure and outline. Otherwise, it turns into the last five seasons of "The X-Files," where the writers keep inventing nonsensical twists to keep the show going.

No doubt ABC, which has treated its best series shamefully this season, will try to milk an extra year or two out of the producers, but here's hoping J.J. Abrams has enough clout and fortitude to end the series on his own terms.

24 BIZARRO PICK OF THE WEEK: In honor of the return of "24" to the airwaves, I will pick one item in the show each week to highlight as a fundamental flaw of logic that can't possibly happen in the real world, yet does to move the plot along. "24" being what it is, I figure I should be able to run this on a weekly, consistent basis.

Lots to choose from out of the first four hours of the show, but this week's pick is definitely the bomb-making terrorist who manages to cross all of L.A. ON FOOT from the middle of nowhere to the secret terrorist hideout in the span of about seven minutes of the show's real-time format.

That, and seriously, doesn't Curtis know by now that Jack Bauer never shoots to merely wound, but only to kill? What was he thinking?

Other nominees included the President's moronic sister; the seemingly endless piles of pardons laying around the White House specifically for striking deals with terrorists; and Ahmed not shooting the family out of spite for continually mis-pronouncing his name even after he told the kid how to pronounce it.

TUESDAY'S BEST BET: Come on, it's the return of frakkin' "American Idol" (Fox, 8 p.m.) All of TV shall bow and tremble in its wake. I'm saving my thoughts on "AI" for tomorrow's blog.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Going For The Gold

Just a quick update today, since I'm off for the holiday.

For those of you not catching Part 2 of "24" tonight (Fox, 8 p.m.), you can catch the Golden Globe Awards (NBC, 8 p.m.) honoring the best in TV and film.

I made my predictions last month on who would win in TV. You can look them up here:

Make fun if you like, but Michael Ausiello of TV Guide had almost identical picks, so there.

Also on tonight is a whole new bunch of comedy on CBS, beginning with "How I Met Your Mother" at 8 p.m.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Poetic Faith And 24

The great poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge coined the phrase "the willing suspension of disbelief" way back in the 18th century, and the concept goes back even further than that.

The phrase, also called "poetic faith," refers to how a person (in this case, the TV viewer) voluntarily suspends his or her knowledge of facts in order to enjoy the unfolding drama. We viewers, for example, will accept sci-fi/fantasy stories because we know ahead of time that the genre allows for the fantastical.

We accept drama because the actions of the characters are real within that universe, and would stay real within real life.

Coleridge obviously never watched an episode of "24."

My brother and I have long debates over the merits of this show. He accuses me of being somewhat hypocritical, since I have watched all five seasons of the show even though it continues to frustrate me because the actions of the characters and the plot make no logical sense.

There's no denying that "24" is exciting and original, which is perhaps why its siren song continues to draw me in even when I know there is only a whirlpool of disappointment and frustration awaiting me that people continue to buy into concepts that wouldn't even count for realism in Bizarro World.

"Ah," a cynical reader might interject at his point, "but how, all-mighty TV Guy, can you espouse the canon of Star Trek and Buffy, when they so obviously do not take place in the real world?"

Which brings us back to the willing suspension of disbelief. Take Star Trek, for example. It's science fiction, which means we know ahead of time it will contain concepts that do not exist in our world. But since the show is set in the future, there exists at least the possibility that things like warp drive and transporters and phasers will be invented at some point. (After all, our computers and flying to the moon would be considered ridiculous concepts in Coleridge's time).

With Buffy, we know the action takes place in the world of the supernatural, of vampires and werewolves and demons. Sure, those things don't exist in our world (at least, I hope not), but we accept that they might in Buffy's.

So, as long as the actions of the crew of the Enterprise and Buffy stay true to the laws governing those worlds, their actions make sense. As long as Buffy and Jim Kirk act the way we know they are supposed to act, it makes sense. Even if Buffy suddenly bursts into song and dance during her daily routine, the writers of "Buffy" explain it away within the context of the show, that is, a demon makes her do it.

"24" takes place in our world, the world of the USA vs. terrorists. It's protagonist, Jack Bauer, and his CTU agency, are charged with protecting national security from terrorist threats. Fair enough.

The premise of "24" is that each episode is a single hour within a single day. Each hour has Jack facing off against some threat, trying to get to the ultimate bad guys. Fair enough.

The viewer has to allow the producers to make some concessions from reality to assist the drama of the hour, such as not having the characters eat, sleep, go to the bathroom or any other biological functions. It also allows Jack the superhuman ability to cross through L.A. traffic within ten minutes. Fair enough.

But "24" stretches that goodwill past the point of any sort of realism. Jack has to perform feats of ingenuity far beyond those of mortal men. He must land a 757 on an L.A. freeway in a dead drop with just 1,000 feet of makeshift runway. Somehow, Jack defies the laws of physics and succeeds. During Season 2 or 3 (I forget which), Jack is tortured for an hour and his heart actually stops. The torturer must shock Jack's heart so that it starts working again. Yet, Jack is able to continue to fight bad guys when most of us would be in the hospital, unable to move.

The actions of those around Jack also defy logic. For some reasons, his superiors at CTU and the government constantly challenge Jack despite his having saved the world eight or nine times, forcing Jack to become a rogue agent for a few episodes in order to save the day. CTU, despite being the center of U.S. intelligence, manages to get attacked or infiltrated at least once every season.

(I won't even get into the folly that is Jack's daughter, Kim, and her string of boyfriends with amputated parts).

And the terrorists Jack fights are especially dangerous, what with having at least seven contigency plans to launch once Jack foils the initial plot within the first three or four hours. Last season alone, terrorists managed to assassinate a former U.S. president, take hostages at an airport, steal nerve gas and use it at multiple targets, nearly kill the Russian premier and hijack a Russian sub (among other things), all within the span of a day, and all defeated by one man, Jack Bauer. They were able to accomplish this, in part, because they happened to know ahead of time which CTU agent had a junkie sister whose boyfriend would mug the agent at a critical moment and steal his ID keycard for them.

Jack, incidentally, is one of the most prolific killers on TV. One fan board details 136 kills during the show's 120 episodes, including a career-best 44 during Season 4.

When "24" returns Sunday night (Fox, 8 p.m.), Jack is being held captive by the Chinese government, whose agents managed to sneak into the country despite of all the crises going on at the time and kidnap Jack from a CTU safehouse.

It's the ridiculousness of the grandiose schemes, and the producers' apparent lack of caring about the logical flaws, that really drives me crazy about the show. As a writer myself, I know a drama has to make sense at some point. Characters can't do stupid things just to drive the plot (e.g. Jack's wife Teri losing her memory for three episodes in Season 1). There's only so many action sequences you can write to cover up these problems.

"24" isn't the only show to suffer these problems; its companion show on Fox, "Prison Break," also has a number of logical flaws, for example. But "24" is far and away the worst violator of the world of logic.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: If you aren't into Jack Bauer killing off bad guys, you may want to check out "Rome" (HBO, 9 p.m.) and "Extras" (HBO, 10 p.m.), both of which debut their second seasons.

"Rome" was one of TV's most lavish dramas last season, detailing the machinations of Caesar's Rome, while "Extras" was a clever comedy lampooning Hollywood, starring "The Office" creator Ricky Gervais.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

This & That

I got an e-vite from The CW Wednesday reminding me to watch "Smallville" tonight (CW, 8 p.m.), returning with an all-new episode guest-starring Tori Spelling.

I'm deciding to watch it anyway.

I don't know why people who are big names but severely lacking in acting talent constantly pop up on TV shows. I'm not sure when the trend first started. At least when people like Don Drysdale appeared on "The Brady Bunch," he was portraying himself.

What bothers me is when good shows resort to stunt casting. Take "Veronica Mars," for example. It's one of TV's best shows, but in its three-year history, it's had guest stars like Paris Hilton and Patty Hearst playing roles - not themselves - on the show. Why? Were there no good actors available? Were people saying, "Boy, I wonder what ole Patty Hearst has been up to these days?"

I'm guessing Tori Spelling is doing "Smallville" to promote her upcoming reality show, but I don't really know why "Smallville's" producers need her necessarily. I can't imagine it will be a big ratings boost.

AU REVOIR, GAIL BERMAN: The former Fox TV head, responsible for developing shows like "Malcolm in the Middle" and "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer," is stepping down as the head of Paramount, effective immediately. No reason has been given thus far.

Though Berman had some big movies come out this past year, including "Showgirls" and "World Trade Center," I think she's better suited for TV.

THE RIGHT DIRECTION: Speaking of "Buffy," creator Joss Whedon will be directing an episode of "The Office" this season. Whedon's episode will air the week before an episode that will be directed by "Lost" creator J.J. Abrams. It's hard to imagine "The Office" any better than it already is, but having two of the best minds in TV directing episodes is certainly cause for excitement.

A&E BACK WITH NEW DRAMAS: It's hard for me to plug anything on A&E these days. Even though the initials stand for Arts & Entertainment, they really ought to stand for "Awful & Excruciating" based on its switch from well-done dramas to reality shows and "CSI: Miami" re-runs.

But maybe getting back to its dramatic roots, A&E announced it will produce separate pilots from big-time producers Steven Bochco and Joel Silver.

According to, A&E has begun development on six projects, potential series compliments to the network’s syndicated pick-ups. Silver is producing a show called "Dry River," about cops in a Texas town near Mexico. Bochco, who gave us "L.A. Law" and "NYPD Blue" (and yes, "Cop Rock") is creating a drama about married lawyers who work together in a divorce practice.

Other shows in the work include "The Hunt" by Sheldon Turner, about a former L.A. cop who was arrested during the Rampart Scandal; "Y3," about a NY cop; another drama involving the NYPD; and a show called "Johnny the Great," of which there is no description.

'HOUSE' STARS ENGAGED: Jennifer Morrison and Jesse Spencer, who play Cameron and Chase respectively on "House," recently became engaged. A wedding date hasn't been set yet.

RIP YVONNE DE CARLO: The actress, best known as Lily Munster on"The Munsters," died Wednesday at age 84 of natural causes.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: The Winchester boys are back to killing monsters in a new episode of "Supernatural" (CW, 9 p.m.) No, the monster isn't Tori Spelling.

ABC rolls out a whole new night of shows, including moving "Men in Trees" permanently into the 10 p.m. slot, giving the network a night of girl power to go along with "Ugly Betty" at 8 p.m. and "Grey's Anatomy" at night. For a network that can't program to save its life on Wednesdays, it seems to have a handle on Thursdays. Go figure.

NBC airs all-new episodes of its comedy block, beginning with "My Name is Earl" at 8 p.m., followed by a less-funny episode of "ER" at 10 p.m.

CBS is mostly re-runs, and I'd rather gouge out my eyes than watch "Armed & Famous" at 8 p.m.

Fox also has some new stuff, with brand new episodes of "Til Death" and "The War at Home," followed by the soon-to-be-canceled "The O.C." at 9 p.m.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

We Interrupt This Broadcast...

I'm a creature of habit. I get my routine, I stick with it.

So I hate it when my set of TV shows are interrupted for an evening, regardless of the reason.

Tonight, Pres. Bush will have a speech scheduled to last a half-hour, beginning at 9 p.m. He is expected to announce sending more troops to Iraq.

Yes, this is an important subject that a lot of people have a vested interest in. But why not make the announcement on the various 24-hour news channels that dot the airwaves? If you don't have an interest in what the speech is, you're pretty much stuck.

Plus, the broadcast usually isn't limited to the speech. There's the opposition response, the post-speech analysis by the pundits, etc. I'll be very surprised if they keep it within the half-hour.

Anyway, just a rant. Enjoy the speech.

TONIGHT'S BEST BETS: Well, almost nothing. A lot of original episodes of normally scheduled programs, such as "Knights of Prosperity," for example, are postponed because of the Bush speech.

However, fortune has smiled on The TV Guy, because the normally scheduled new episode of "Friday Night Lights" (NBC, 8 p.m.) is still likely to go, which is really all I cared about anyway.

Also, I should point out that somewhat misnamed A&E network will begin its broadcasts of "The Sopranos" reruns, beginning with the pilot tonight at 9 p.m.

Some would say that watching "The Sopranos" without the language, violence and nudity that the TV gods intended would be rather pointless; I'd be one of those people. However, if you don't get HBO and have never seen what will go down as one TV's all-time great dramas, this might be the way to go. Season 1 was highlighted by the late, great Nancy Marchand's stunning performance as Livia, Tony's rotten-to-the-core mother.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Man, Blogger Sucks

Sorry for the late posting, but I couldn't get onto Blogger until just now.

Just a quick update for today.

In what could be the greatest bit of TV ever, Bill O'Reilly and Stephen Colbert will appear on each other's programs on the same night, Jan. 18. Hopefully, Colbert gives O'Reilly a similar beatdown to the one Jon Stewart gave Tucker Carlson a couple of years ago.

TONIGHT'S BEST BETS: "House" will air in a two-hour block tonight, beginning with the Christmas cliffhanger at 8 p.m. that sets up an all-new episode at 9 p.m., with our antihero at the hands of Det. Tritter.

You can catch the most pointless awards show in the history of Western Civilization, "The People's Choice Awards" (CBS, 9 p.m.) hosted by Queen Latifah. You know, it's nothing but a popularity contest...

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Folly of College Football

Hey, remember when the college football season used to end on New Year's Day?

It was always, "So-and-so earned a New Year's Day bowl bid!"

Occasionally, you'd get the odd Jan. 2 game, if Jan. 1 fell on a Sunday or something, but you get the general idea.

When Florida and Ohio State square off tonight in the Tostitos BCS Mythical National Championship Game (Fox, 8 p.m.), it will be taking place over a month since the Gators last played and some 50 days after the Buckeyes last took the field. Hell, why not play the game in June at this rate?

(Of course, if Ohio State played in a real conference like the SEC, in which they had to play a conference title game, the Buckeyes wouldn't be so rusty. I'm just sayin'.)

So, this game will be after the NFL playoffs have already begun, after college basketball has started to play its conference games. If the BCS people had waited just a wee bit longer, they could have had the game coincide with when pitchers and catchers report to spring training.

All of this helps kill the argument about having a playoff system, because what in the world were these guys doing over the past month? Studying?

And if Florida wins tonight (heaven forbid), does Boise State get its shot at No. 1? (Of course not).

OK, so I'm a little pissy because I'm mathematically eliminated from my football pool (not that I gamble or anything, because gambling is wrong), but honestly, who really likes the current system college football has in place (besides the bowls themselves?)

SIX MILLION DOLLAR NEWS: I'd make a little fun of the news that NBC is doing a remake of "The Bionic Woman," except that David Eick is behind the project. When Eick helped launch the remake of "Battlestar Galactica," no doubt there were a few snickers here and there, and look at how well that turned out.

However, the actual writing is being done by Laeta Kalogridis, who did the movie "Alexander" (the crappy Oliver Stone version that knocked out the production of the really great version written by Chris McQuarrie) and the TV series "Birds of Prey" (any "Birds of Prey" series in any genre not written by Gail Simone is just pointless.) So, buyer beware.

TONIGHT'S BEST BETS: If you aren't interested in the mythical national championship (I call it mythical because some teams are automatically excluded from it, no matter how well they do, unlike college basketball, for example), you do have options.

CBS has all-new episodes of its comedy lineup, beginning with "How I Met Your Mother" at 8 p.m., and follows with a new episode of "CSI: Miami" at 10 p.m.

ABC has the reality drivel "Wife Swap" and "Supernanny" from 8-10 p.m., followed by a new episode of "What About Brian?" NBC offers "Deal or No Deal" at 8 p.m., followed by the final two reruns of "Heroes" from 9-11 p.m., in case you need a refresher.

And, since I promoted "Star Trek: Voyager" last week, Sci-Fi is beginning to run episodes of "Star Trek: Enterprise" beginning at 7 p.m. with the pilot, "Broken Bow."

Friday, January 05, 2007

If It Ain't Broke...

Why do TV producers feel the need to "improve" things?

Take Sunday's installment of "The Apprentice." Please.

The new season kicks off Sunday (NBC, 8 p.m.) as the candidates move from New York to the sunny beaches of L.A. I could live with that change. No big deal.

The new series doesn't have previous boardroom sidekicks George and Carolyn; instead, Donald Trump's daughter, Ivanka, takes on the role as chief 'yes'-man. A little tougher to swallow, but OK.

And the candidates are still a bunch of ridiculously pretty, Type-A types. Check.

But, as producer Mark Burnett has done with his other big show, "Survivor," tweaks have been thrown in.

In past "Apprentice" episodes, the winners get a great reward and the losers go to the boardroom, where someone (perhaps even two or three) get fired. That's still the setup, but...

The winners stay in a fabulous mansion. The losers stay in pup tents in the backyard.

The project manager of the winning team stays as P.M. until his or her team loses; no one else gets a shot. In addition, the P.M. serves with Ivanka as Trump's advisor in the boardroom.

The changes are really unnecessary and in the long run, hurt the show. One of the best aspects of the show was seeing the various P.Ms. fight to control their teams. That's all gone now.

That being said, much of the show remains the same. In Week 1, the two teams square off at a car wash business; in Week 2, there's a hilarious challenge involving fashion swim wear.

I realize the need to shake things up to keep the show fresh. But change for change's sake isn't always a good thing. You'd think Trump would know that.

FRIDAY'S BEST BET: "Numb3rs" returns with a brand-new episode (CBS, 10 p.m.). In addition, ABC is re-airing the pilot of "Knights of Prosperity" for those that missed it the first time.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Two Reviews

OK, so even FX is allowed a mis-step once in a while.

I saw "dirt" on Tuesday night and was rather underwhelmed. As I previously posted, it's not like tabloid journalism is one of my favorite subjects anyway, but I was at least open to the idea that it would provide interesting storylines.

It didn't.

Perhaps what most surprised me about "dirt" was the apathy I felt. I didn't even hate the awful people it portrayed enough to care. I was pretty indifferent through the whole thing, rarely shocked or even stimulated. And the whole Ian Hart psycho photographer storyline seemed like it belonged in a different show.

Courtney Cox wasn't bad as the lead, but it was if the writer's couldn't decide in making her really evil or just misunderstood.

Unlike "The Shield" or "Rescue Me," "dirt" doesn't show the characters wrestling with moral ambiguity, the most compelling aspects of those shows.

"Knights of Prosperity" was also different than I expected. It didn't have the sitcom feel that I thought it might, and that's both a good and a bad thing. Good, because it makes the show more interesting. Bad, because I think fewer people will stick with it because of that.

TV fans are already balking at the prospect of serialized shows. You can get away with it with a show like "Lost" or "24," where the action forces you to stay with it. I don't know if that will be the case with a half-hour comedy, especially one in such a horrible timeslot. ABC did the producers of this show no favor.

I did love the gambling action with the dreidls, however.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: "Ugly Betty" (ABC, 8 p.m.) returns with its first new episode of 2007, as does the NBC block of comedies.

CBS proceduralists get new episodes of "CSI" at 9 p.m. and "Shark" at 10 p.m., while viewers also get a new "ER" (NBC, 10 p.m.)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Insert Clever Title Here

What's in a name? If you called "Lost" by any other name, would it still not be cool?

There's currently a contest run by Philip Seymour Hoffman's brother, Gordy, about coming up with the best title for screenplays. I haven't bothered to read the details of this contest, because it's a dumb idea.

Titles are specific to the particular movie or TV show. They don't have to be ingenious or clever, but they do have to give you an idea of what it's all about.

To wit, remember the Nic Cage-Bridget Fonda romantic comedy a few years back? The original title was "Cop Gives Waitress $2 Million Tip," a clever, memorable title taken from the headlines of the event that inspired the movie. What was the movie called in the end?

"It Could Happen To You." What does that tell you? Nic Cage could have slipped in the bathtub and sued the bathtub maker in that movie, and the same title would apply. It tells you nothing. But some marketing genius at the studio thought making that the title would be a good idea.

Remember "Someone Like You?" Probably not. It's another romantic comedy, this time with Ashley Judd and Hugh Jackman. It's a terrible, forgettable title. The original title was "Animal Husbandry," after the book the movie was based upon, which is at least more memorable and descriptive.

Best ever title for a movie?

"Ghostbusters." I'm totally serious about this. 1) It's memorable. 2) It tells you exactly what the movie is about. 3) Its whimsical nature lets you know it's a comedy. 4) It's short and catchy, especially when it becomes a hit song.

Pith is usually appreciated in a title, which is why TV shows have short titles like "Friends," "24" and "Lost." Not "Six good-looking buddies who hang out in a coffee shop all day" or "How a guy can save the world 16 times during the span of a day despite being burdened by a moronic daughter" or "Why can't I be stuck on a tropical island with Evangeline Lilly?"

Which brings us to the subject of today's post, "Knights of Prosperity" (ABC, 9 p.m.) This new comedy from ABC has gotten a lot of good buzz. Of course, "Knights of Prosperity" sounds like another name for the Salvation Army, and gives you no clue as to what the show is about.

The original, clever, witty title was "Let's Rob Mick Jagger," which tells you EXACTLY what the show is about (which I guess from a marketing standpoint is somehow a bad thing.) Donal Logue leads a group of misfits who decide one day to rob the Rolling Stones' lead singer, and the rest of the season is planned around the crime. It's not like someone is doing something bad to Jagger, since he is an executive producer of the show and appears in the pilot.

But then, ABC's marketing department isn't exactly hitting them out of the yard these days, are they? I'm not even talking about not putting me on their DVD list.

No, I'm talking about putting the network's most promising comedy on at the absolute worst time slot of the week, against Fox's "American Idol" and CBS' rapidly rising "Criminal Minds." The timeslot is so tough that ABC moved one of its most highly rated shows, "Lost," back to 10 p.m. Yet the same network is willing to sacrifice one of its most promising new shows, one that has yet to find an audience.

It doesn't help matters that "Knights" is being paired with "In Case of Emergency" (ABC, 9:30 p.m.), which has gotten panned by most critics.

So, enjoy "Knights" while it's around. Let's hope Mick Jagger gets robbed before ratings reality sets in.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: Wow, just the third new day of the new year and already a bunch of new episodes.

First and foremost, "Friday Night Lights" (NBC, 8 p.m.) returns on a new day. Let's hope the switch helps one of my Top 20 shows on TV.

The aformentioned "Criminal Minds" (CBS, 9 p.m.) also is back.
Finally, I mention this because I have to, not because I want to, but the new CBS reality series, "Armed and Famous" hits the air tonight at 8 p.m. Witness the likes of Erik Estrada and Latoya Jackson as they train to become cops in an Indiana town. Already, the show has had a few lawsuits filed against it, so hopefully it won't be on the air that long.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Dishing the Dirt

Happy 2007 to all, may it suck less than 2006 did.

On to the TV stuff.

Normally, the TV gods make us wait until mid-January before the hint of fresh, new episodes comes up, but Hanukkah Harry has been good to us this year already, since there's a bunch of new stuff this week. Of course, none of the networks bothered to send me any advance copies, so I can't really review anything, just tell you what's on.

Tonight leads off with a new series, "dirt" (FX, 10 p.m.), with former "Friends" star Courtney Cox as the editor of a tabloid magazine.

I'll be checking out the pilot, at least, for two reasons. One, the world of tabloid journalism and paparazzi may be repellent to me, but I wasn't exactly a big fan of high fashion, either, and I love "Ugly Betty." Any subject matter that is well-written and done well has the potential to be interesting. So I am waiting to pass judgment on that.

Two, it's on FX. That alone means it has some potential.

If FX was a baseball pitcher, it'd be Pedro Martinez - not a full slate of starts, but generally quality ones when he does go. FX doesn't have a tremendous amount of original material on the air, but boy, it's quite the lineup with what it has.

Both "The Shield" and "Rescue Me" made my personal Top 10 list, and "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" was an honorable mention. I don't personally watch "Nip/Tuck," but it does have quite the loyal fan base. Even shows that didn't take, such as "Over There" and "Lucky," drew their fair share of critical praise.

It makes you wonder why Rupert Murdoch doesn't put the people in charge of FX in charge of the Fox network instead. For every "House" or "24," there are about a zillion missteps and only so many bombs that "American Idol" can make up for.

It will be interesting to see if "dirt" can carry on the FX trend. Cox will be playing against type as the rather unlikeable editor of a trashy tabloid, and from what I have read, none of the other characters are particularly likeable. Of course, you could say the same thing about "The Shield." None of those characters are particularly likeable, but all of them are extremely compelling.

One final note, for those who plan on recording "dirt," the pilot runs at least four minutes long, so leave a little extra on the end.


The Demon Deacons square off with Louisville tonight in the Orange Bowl (Fox, 8 p.m.) Normally, I wouldn't care less about Wake, but I went against the field in my office college bowl pool (not for money, mind you, because that would be gambling, which would be wrong) and a Wake win, coupled with my USC victory last night, puts me in a strong position to do well in the pool.

For pride's sake, of course.