Friday, December 14, 2007

A Cable Dilemma

Curse you, quality pay TV!

As evidenced by the love the Golden Globes showed networks like HBO and Showtime (a little too much love, in some cases) when the list of nominations were released Thursday, there's some really good stuff on those channels right now.

Which brings us to Sunday night.

Do I want to watch the season finale of "Dexter," (Showtime, 9 p.m.) which looks to conclude its fantastic Bay Harbor Butcher arc?

Or, do I want to watch the series finale of one of the most underrated comedies on TV, "Extras?" (HBO, 9 p.m.)

"Dexter" has been riveting this season, as the titular anti-hero (Michael C. Hall) feels the noose of the FBI tightening around his neck as he must comes to terms with what his life as a serial killer of bad people will mean to everyone else in his life. All the while, he must deal with his prisoner, Sgt. Doakes, who knows his secret, and his crazy ex-girlfriend Lila (Jaime Murray of "Hustle"). One of the best things about "Dexter" is that you definitely don't see the various plot twists when they pop up.

Meanwhile, series creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant have created a finale to "Extras" after two short seasons of the show, much the same way they did for the original version of "The Office" when it ran in the UK.

Andy (Gervais), a career background artist, must come to terms with the success of his TV sitcom which has been bastardized by the network, altering his vision of the show. While the regulars on the show - Gervais, his best friend Maggie (Ashley Jensen of "Ugly Betty") and his awful agent (Merchant) - have been terrific, what makes "Extras" truly brilliant are the cameos of real-life major stars and how they parody themselves, whether it's Ben Stiller quoting his own box office numbers or an overly self-involved Orlando Bloom, who can't figure out why Maggie is the one woman in the world who doesn't find him attractive.

The series finale includes appearances by Clive Owen, Gordon Ramsay, David Tennant and George Michael as themselves.

Since I can't tape one while I watch the other, I'll have to see which show airs its rerun first. But what a choice.

CASTING NEWS: A couple of interesting casting bits came over the wires, if the TV industry ever resumes.

Nana Visitor (Star Trek: Deep Space 9) will appear on the fourth season of "Battlestar Galactica" as a character with ties to Pres. Laura Roslin (Mary McDonell).

And the new voice of KITT in the upcoming "Knight Rider" TV movie? None other than Will Arnett of "Arrested Development," taking over for William Daniels from the original series. I have to say that if they let Arnett be his truly sarcastic self, "Knight Rider" may actually be worth watching. Also confirmed for the movie is original series star David Hasselhoff, reprising his role as Michael Knight.

STRIKE UPDATE: In a good news/bad news type of update, the WGA has filed a grievance with the National Labor Relations Board over the studios' walking away from the negotiating table.

It's bad news in that it shows the writers and studios are no closer to an agreement, but it might be good news in that hopefully the NLRB may force the studios back to the table. The studios offered a take-it-or-leave-it proposal to the union last week, then walked away from the table before the WGA even had a chance to make a counter-offer. The original offer? $200 residuals per year per episode of any TV show put online, which amounts to a slap in the face. Stay tuned.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: Ah, the last few gasps of newness before 2008 comes.

One of my many complaints about "Moonlight" (CBS, 9 p.m.) is the almost-criminal underuse of Jason Dohring as Josef, Mick's (Alex O'Loughlin) vampire mentor. But tonight's episode is pretty Josef-centric, so that could be a good thing. It follows a new "Ghost Whisperer" (hey, guys, lay off Jennifer Love-Hewitt) and precedes a new "Numb3rs."

Meanwhile, "Men In Trees" (ABC, 8 p.m.) is also new.

On the sports side, if you don't want to drive all the way to Waycross (and I can't see why you wouldn't), you can catch the GHSA Class AAAA finals of Northside vs. Ware County tonight (GPTV, 7:30 p.m.)

On Sunday, "The Simpsons" (Fox, 8 p.m.) parodies one of my all-time favorite movies, "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind."

For reasons passing understanding, CBS has decided to make the "Survivor" finale a three-hour affair. Me? I'll be watching pay cable, thank you very much.


Zodin2008 said...

I am just not going to get into a war of words, but I find it rather sickening that you continue to place 100% of the blame on the producers and not the writers, when the producers have tried to get the WGA to come to the table several times, and have made multiple fair offers.

The WGA's stance has been so harsh, that's why the producers are throwing their hands up in the air. But typical Phillip. There's black and white for you - producers bad, writers good. It's a big shade of gray and the writer's extremely harsh stance continues to stop paychecks from going to those folks who REALLY need them - those blue collar lighting and production guys you refuse to acknowledge.

Those are the guys in their 40's with 2-3 kids and a mortgage on a modest house in the Valley, who have to work their asses off for about 45K a year, to put food on the table. All your little writer friends are single, slacker 20-something types who will continue to live in tiny 1 bedroom apartemtns w/ NO mortgage.

I will stop coming in here if you can't at least acknowledge there are people who are hurt far worse than your precious, egotistical writers.

As for your Sunday Cable dilemma, remember, both HBO and Showtime are 1) on Demand immediate the next day and 2) repeated multiple times a week.

But I am continually dumfounded at how 1 sided this strike is to you. The writers' actions have made me downright sick at this point.

Anonymous said...

I believe this is Phillip's blog Zodin. Feel free to blog your own comments but this blog does not need you to agree with the writer.
I could care less about the studios or writers and this strike will be settled sooner or later. The broadcast networks are the losers long term by letting more and more of the audience depend on cable programming.
Relax Zodin it really doesn't matter.

Phillip Ramati said...

Thanks for the defense, Anon, but anyone is free to post what they like here, so long as it remains PG rated and libel-free.

That being said, if anyone cares back to scroll through any of the posts I've done on the strike, I noted when it first began that these were not clear-cut issues, and that the studios have a right to look out for their interests as movies become more expensive to make and revenue sources continue to dry up.

If you check again, you'll note that I've also said it's a bad time for everyone involved - producers, writers and all of the below-the-line talent that isn't working right now.

But it took me a while to stop laughing at Zod's notion that the writers are these "single, slacker 20-something types who will continue to live in tiny 1 bedroom apartments w/ NO mortgage."

The fact remains that more of the WGA membership are on the wrong side of 30 and have families of their own to support, which is why the residuals issue is so important.

I'll state this one more time: Below-the-line talent is constantly at work in Hollywood (barring strikes, of course). If you are a technician, you go one from job to the next, so employment is pretty consistent.

Writers, on the other hand, are mostly unemployed. When they sell a movie script, they get paid one lump sum for it, plus a little bit during production. TV show writers are only employed while their shows are in production, so if you are on a show like Viva Laughlin, which is cancelled after two episodes, it's too late to line up another job and you're pretty much out of work for the rest of the year.

That's why residuals and percentages of DVD sales are so important, because writers need them to supplement their incomes.

I've acknowledged the below-the-line talent's problems many times, and I'll even go a step more and point out all the ancillary businesses in Hollywood - costume companies, restaurants and so forth - that are also getting hurt because of the strike.

That's why it's so important for the studios to get back to the negotiating table, which they walked away from a week ago.