Sunday, June 28, 2015

My Latest Blog

I just started a new blog called That’s What I Think About That. Don’t bother going there yet; there’s nothing there yet. It’s a work in progress that hasn’t progressed very much. What I wanted was a place where I can vent my spleen over things that don’t exactly fit into a blog focussed on TV. Like the US Supreme Court ruling on Same Sex Marriage and the reactions of some people to that decision. Or NHL expansion to Las Vegas and other places. Or the wrong-headedness of fixed election dates in Canada.

 

Posting at the new blog will be sporadic – which I know is a big joke give the way this blog has gone of late. Still this is a way for me to put my opinions out there with the illusion that someone might read it. But it’s mostly just for me.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Problem Resolved

Title says it all. It was related to two factor authentication from Google and the need for a Google generated password to access Google websites with third-party, non-browser tools. Complicated and I tend to like things that are simple.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Troubles


I am officially having problems posting to this blog.

In the past I’ve used Microsoft Live Writer to post new entries to my blog, and before that Microsoft Word. However during my recent almost year long hiatus from blogging, something has apparently changed and I can’t use these tools. When I try I get the following error message when using Live Writer (my ancient version of Word – 2007 – gives me even less explanation):

Windows Live Writer was not able to log in to the remote server using the username and password.
Please check that the information is correct and try again.

Needless to say, the information is correct but no amount of trying again will give me the desired result. Apparently this might have something to do with two-factor identification but for the life of me I can’t figure out how to make this right. As it stands right now I can mostly post by cutting and pasting – which is what I’m doing with this post – but that gets old fast.

Any help anyone can offer me would be greatly appreciated

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

NBC Upfronts 2015-16

It’s that time of year again when the US broadcast TV networks cancel the shows they decided didn’t work last season and unveil the new shows that they believe will sweep up audiences in droves… most of which will be cancelled this time next year.And I’m going to try to write about them at least until I’m overwhelmed by despair about the new season and retreat into watching what I always watch.

As always NBC led off the upfront season although unlike in previous years they chose to introduce their new line-up on a Sunday rather than the traditional Monday. By turns the new offerings are vaguely intriguing, yawn worthy, and disappointing. First the cancellations (some of which were in the “blink and you’ve missed it” category of midseason replacements).

Cancelled
Constantine, State of Affairs, Marry Me, About A Boy, One Big Happy, A to Z, Allegiance, Bad Judge, Parenthood, Park & Recreation, Working The Engels

Renewed (not counting summer series)
Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, Grimm, Hollywood Game Night, Law & Order SVU, Biggest Loser, The Blacklist, Celebrity Apprentice, The Mysteries of Laura, Undateable

New Shows
Before Christmas: Blindspot, Heartbreaker, The Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris, Heroes Reborn, The Player, People Are Talking
Midseason: Coach, Hot And Bothered, Chicago Med, Crowded, Emerald City, Game of Silence, Little Big Shots, Shades of Blue, Superstore, You And Me And The End Of The World

Fall Schedule by day


Monday
8-10 p.m. The Voice
10-11 p.m. BLINDSPOT


Tuesday
8-9 p.m. The Voice
9-10 p.m. HEARTBREAKER
10-11 p.m. THE BEST TIME EVER WITH NEIL PATRICK HARRIS (until November)
Chicago Fire (starting in November)

Wednesday
8-9 p.m. The Mysteries of Laura
9-10 p.m. Law & Order SVU
10-11 p.m. Chicago PD

Thursday
8-9 p.m. HEROES REBORN
9-10 p.m. The Blacklist
10-11 p.m. THE PLAYER


Friday
8-8:30 p.m. Undateable
8:30-9 p.m. PEOPLE ARE TALKING
9-10 p.m. Grimm
10-11 p.m. Dateline


Summaries

I’ve managed to see the trailers for most of these despite YouTube region blocking so I shall try to summarize largely without Network press releases (except for actor names).

Blindspot begins with a bag left in the middle of Time Square with a tag that says “Call FBI.” Inside is a naked woman (Jamie Alexander) covered with tattoos, all of which are new. “Jane Doe” has been stripped of her memories and has no idea who she is or why her body is covered in tattoos. One tattoo says to call FBI Agent Kurt Weller (Sullivan Stapleton) who has no idea why he’s being called in on this case or why his name is written in large letters on Jane Doe’s back, or for that matter the meaning of the tattoos. Over time several things become apparent: the tattoos on Jane’s back represent clues to crimes that they are to solve, and that Jane has considerable skills that she hasn’t forgotten that will help them solve those crimes.

Heartbreaker stars Melissa George as Dr. Alex Pantierre, one of a handful of female heart transplant surgeons in the world. She is also the head of new technologies at her hospital. As usual in medical dramas she is someone who breaks the rules if it can possibly help her patients and is more than willing to try innovative procedures when necessary. Also as usual in medical dramas (particularly medical dramas with female leads) she struggles to balance her professional life with her personal life.

NBC didn’t do a trailer for The Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris, so I’ll have to go to the network press release: “Complete with stunts, skits, pranks, audience interaction, musical numbers, giveaways and unlimited surprises, this show proves that anything can happen, and it can happen to you. Based on the wildly popular British hit Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway.”

There also isn’t a trailer for Heroes Reborn beyond a few teasers from the Super Bowl in February which basically announced that the show would be coming back – as a 13 episode miniseries. As I understand it, some but not all of the original cast (including Jack Coleman and Masi Oka) will be returning for the mini-series while new people with powers will be emerging, most notably Zach Levi from Chuck.

The Player starts with an interesting concept. Philip Winchester plays Alex Kane, Las Vegas’s top – and most flamboyant – security expert. Following the murder of his wife, Alex is drawn into a complex game. In a city where people will bet on anything, the ultimate game is betting on whether Alex can stop a crime from taking place, or even survive the tasks put before him. In this “game” the house consists of three people: Alex – the Player, Cassandra King (Charity Wakefield) – the Dealer, and the mysterious Mr. Johnson (Wesley Snipes) – the Pit Boss. If Alex is able to accomplish the tasks put before him, he might just be able to get revenge for the death of his wife.


Comments

One thing I’ve noticed in going over the NBC shows that have been cancelled and renewed is just how few NBC shows I watched in the past season. I watched State Of Affairs and mostly didn’t find it as laughable as I had expected given that it was Katherine Heigl as a CIA agent who advised the President on national security threats. And yet I don’t find myself mourning its passing. I watched Chicago Fire and Chicago PD for quite a while but in the past year or so I’ve basically given up on those as well. Basically the only thing I watch on NBC is The Blacklist.

The biggest thing to note is the near absence of situation comedy in the fall line-up. Not counting the Neil Patrick Harris series, which sounds like it might turn into something of a mess, the only comedies in the line-up are the returning Undateable and the new People Are Talking. It is something of a sign that the only two comedies at the start of the season are both scheduled for Friday night before Grimm. Setting aside the fact that this is the “Friday night death slot” (because after all CBS at least seems to thrive on Fridays) People are Talking at least definitely doesn’t fall into the NBC comedy tradition as exemplified by Seinfeld, Fraser, The Office, Community, and Parks And Recreation. Then again the latter two series didn’t exactly set the ratings world on fire. Moreover last season, when NBC made a major push to do sit coms, the results were pretty disastrous with most of the shows dying a quick and for the most part well-deserved death. Based on the trailer that I saw, People Are Talking seems to be playing things very safe which is far different from the edgy sort of comedy that we generally expect from NBC.

Blindspot and The Player both seem interesting although they also seem to be trying to replicate the success of NBC’s one big drama success that isn’t produced by Dick Wolf, namely The Blacklist. Blindspot is probably closest to what The Blacklist in that there’s quite obviously a massive conspiracy behind the scenes that “Jane Doe” and Agent Weller will have to unravel. The question is whether audiences will have the patience to stick with the show if it is an unrelenting in pursuing the show’s mytharc, particularly when the show is opposite the “simpler” NCIS: Los Angeles and Castle. Initially at least The Player seems likely to be more episodic and therefore easier to access for viewers. Plus it has The Blacklist as a lead in, although the ratings for that show have been slipping, probably because it is going against Scandal and CBS comedies on Thursday night.

I’m not sure what to say about Heartbreaker. The whole thing of the female lead being forced to balance her personal and professional lives is such a cliché. Take that away and I’m not sure there’s enough there for the show to engage its audience. I wonder if this is meant as a placeholder to be replaced, when it inevitably crashes and burns, with Dick Wolf’s latest opus, Chicago Medical.

Finally something needs to be said about the revival of Heroes as Heroes Reborn. I don’t know why it’s happening given how quickly and totally the show collapsed in it’s first run. The cynic in me says that executives at NBC looked at the success of the Marvel movie/TV franchises (including Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), not to mention Arrow and The Flash and even iZombie on The CW and said: “We need a superhero show. Okay so we blew it with Constantine but superheroes are still hot. Let’s take another run at doing Heroes. We’ll do it as a limited series, and if it works out maybe we’ll bring it back in 2016 as a full series.” And since I can’t think of a better reason why they revived this, I think the cynical view wins.

Final assessment of what NBC is giving us: there’s very little here that I actually find engaging. There are a couple of shows that I’ll try but I honestly don’t think much of their chances for survival. Nothing here strikes me as a genuine sustainable hit.

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.

ABC
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.

CBS

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.

FOX

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.

NBC

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
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.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

First Comedy Cancelled No Surprise

We are menIt’s We Are Men.

And I’m not kidding that it wasn’t a surprise. There are so many reasons why this show was going to fail that would be apparent to anyone who isn’t a network TV executive that it really is a shock to me that any network would pick it up. Let’s go through them shall we.

1. The central plot device – guys coming together and bonding.
Without resorting to notes I can tell you of two previous series where this central plot device: CBS’s Welcome To The Commodore and ABC’s Carpoolers. The former featured a young man moving into a historic hotel and being taken under the collective wings of the people living there, including the supposedly wiser older man (played in that case by Jeffrey Tambor; in this show it was Tony Shaloub). For the latter I’m going to have to hit IMDb and Wikipedia because memories for failed TV shows isn’t encyclopaedic and this one was gone and forgotten so fast that it would make your head spin. Oh wait, it wasn’t; it lasted 13 episodes. It was just forgotten so fast that it would make your head spin. It was about four guys who carpool together, each with different problems at home. Even reading the descriptions in the Wikipedia article makes me want to turn off my monitor. Suffice it to say that this sort of group of men getting together comedy doesn’t fly very well in the ratings.

2. The other part of the central plot device – Guys trying to regain their masculinity:
If I’m not mistaken we went through a recent spate of comedies that looked at how men were trying to regain their lost masculinity. It was back in the 2011-2012 season, and only one of those shows is still in the line-up. That was the season of such gems as How To Be A Gentleman (the first comedy cancelled that season), Man Up! (which, from looking at the description, is also one of the shows with the first problem – I forgot that this one even existed, lucky me), and the too horrible for words Work It! The only show to survive that trend was Last Man Standing which is still on and is Tim Allen reviving his old Home Improvement series with daughters instead of sons and apparently a lot other similarities that showed up after I gave up on watching this show…about three weeks after it debuted.

3. Show killer Jerry O’Connell: That’s right, I’m labelling Jerry O’Connell a show killer. Take a look at the record. Since Sliders, O’Connell has been a regular on Crossing Jordan, Carpoolers, Do Not Disturb, and The Defenders. Of those series, only Crossing Jordan lasted more than 18 episodes, and that is largely due to the fact that O’Connell’s part wasn’t the lead or even the co-lead. Crossing Jordan was very much Jill Hennessy’s show while O’Connell was the detective who usually worked with her and occasionally expressed romantic feelings towards her. Of the other three series, Carpoolers lasted 13 episodes with O’Connell as one of the four title characters, Do Not Disturb aired 3 episodes (two or three others were made but mercifully never aired), and The Defenders (where he was equally billed with Jim Belushi and was in a semi-dramatic role for the first time since Crossing Jordan), last 18 episodes.

4. A guy in a Speedo: In this case it was Jerry O’Connell, which makes it worse, but really pretty much any guy who isn’t an Olympic swimmer wearing a Speedo is going to make a show a failure. I’m fine with nudity and near nudity on TV – I actually applauded the producers of NYPD Blue for having Dennis Franz bare his butt – but there are some boundaries that just shouldn’t be crossed and a guy in a Speedo - aka a Banana Hammock – is one of them.

We Are Men will be replaced at 8:30 p.m. (Eastern) by 2 Broke Girls which had been at 9 p.m. Reruns of The Big Bang Theory will air in the 9 p.m. time slot for the next three weeks. Mike and Molly will return to that time slot on November 4.