Thursday, January 3, 2008

January 3, 2008 - Late Night Returns, WB/UPN Book Thoughts

Happy new year everyone!! 2008 is here and I hope all of you are having a great one so far!!

On to the latest in the writers strike. I mentioned that Letterman and his company were trying to work a separate deal with the WGA going around the negotiations and they got it done. Very late last week, it was announced that Letterman would get his writers back along with the writers for Craig Ferguson as they obviously fall under the same umbrella. The WGA released this statement on the agreement with World Wide Pants: "This is a comprehensive agreement that addresses the issues important to writers, particularly new media. Worldwide Pants has accepted the very same proposals that the Guild was prepared to present to the [AMPTP] when they walked out of negotiations on Dec. 7. Today's agreement dramatically illustrates that the Writers Guild wants to put people back to work, and that when a company comes to the table prepared to negotiate seriously a fair and reasonable deal can be reached quickly." Letterman had these comments: "We're happy to be going back to work, and particularly pleased to be doing it with our writers. This is not a solution to the strike, which unfortunately continues to disrupt the lives of thousands. But I hope it will be seen as a step in the right direction." It should be pointed out that the other shows don't have the advantage that Letterman does as any separate negotiations would have to be from the network. The WGA did comment on that as well saying: "It's time for NBC Universal to step up to the plate and negotiate a company-wide deal that will put Jay Leno, who has supported our cause from the beginning, back on the air with his writers." When I heard these negotiations were taking place, I wondered how it would effect things if Letterman did work a separate deal to get the writers back. We'll have to wait and see if anyone else tries the same tactics. The Golden Globes has continued to try and stop a picket line from happening outside of the awards show. Well, the WGA does appear to be planning on picketing outside of the Golden Globe Awards. Bad news to finish this up as there are still no talks planned to negotiate a new deal. I am curious to see what happens when the directors guild starts their negotiations on their new contract and how it might effect the WGA talks.

Late night returned to the air with new shows last night. I recorded several of them to see how they would do. I am a frequent watcher of Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien so I knew what I was used to with those shows. I rarely watch Letterman so I don't really know what to compare it to. One thing was really clear was that the hosts all took the sides of the writers and really spoke out in support of them. Two of the late night hosts had grown beards in support of the writers which were Letterman and Conan. I didn't see it but I heard that Jimmy Kimmel wasn't happy with the WGA for picketing outside of The Tonight Show saying that Leno shouldn't have that happen to him considering he was paying his writers out of his pocket. So, I'll get into my thoughts as I watched Leno, Conan, and Letterman. I really liked The Tonight Show. I thought Jay's monologue was strong and I laughed out loud several times during it. The Q&A segment was all right and it was nice to see Leno just run with it. Leno had Mike Huckabee as his main guest. Overall, Tonight Show gets a big thumbs up from me. Conan was a fun show. He spoke out in support of his writers and had Bob Saget as his main guest. Conan was clearly working on filling time but made it fun. He did a segment talking about what he was doing since the strike has been going on. Look for that later in the Wrap Up in case you missed it. He then decided to do something on the air that they usually do behind the scenes and that is seeing how long he can get his wedding ring to spin on a table. The record was 41 seconds. He did his first attempt at 36 seconds if I remember right. He tried it again later in the show doing worse at 28 seconds. I don't know why but I found this oddly entertaining. LOL. Conan did a good job with the show but you could really see his frustration in this strike still carrying on. Letterman opened with a video of Hilary Clinton talking about Letterman returning to the air saying "all good things must come to an end". Letterman made sure to point out that this was the only show on the air with "jokes written by union writers". Robin Williams, who was his main guest, came out and looked at Letterman with his beard making references to how we will now begin the Civil War reenactment and to give it up for "General Lee". Williams also made more references to the beard including "happy new year grandpa". Williams is normally an easy guest as you can usually just let him go and he'll be entertaining. Letterman did a top 10 list on the demands of the writers that were read by writers from various shows. He took questions from the audience as well about what was going on with the strike. Entertaining show as well. So, late night had a good return overall.

Ratings were strong for the first night back for late night. Leno averaged 7.2 million viewers which saw a 43% rise from the average of viewers before the strike. Letterman had 5.5 million viewers which was up 45%. Conan had 2.8 million viewers which was up 37%. Craig Ferguson had 2.2 million viewers which was up 28%.

Movie box office numbers for last weekend.
1. National Treasure - $35.6 million. 2. Alvin and The Chipmunks - $30 million. 3. I Am Legend - $27.5 million. 4. Charlie Wilson's War - $11.8 million. 5. Juno - $10.3 million. 6. Aliens vs. Predator - $10.1 million. 7. The Water Horse - $9.2 million. 8. P.S. I Love You - $9.1 million. 9. Sweeney Todd - $7.8 million. 10. Enchanted - $6.5 million.

I finished reading the book entitled Season Finale: The Unexpected Rise and Fall Of The WB and UPN. This was a really interesting book that followed the inner workings of both networks from beginning to end. I was a huge WB fan and looking back on it, I'm just about positive that most of my TV viewing over the last ten years belonged to the WB. What I always liked about the WB was that they were so great in promoting themselves as a network instead of just a network with shows. They would do the amazing network promos with all of their stars in it. I guess my introduction to the WB was Dawson's Creek. I saw the promos airing for the series premiere of the show and thought that I definitely ought to watch the first episode. After the first episode, I was hooked on that show (and completely in love with Katie Holmes, LOL!!) and the story of the show was a lot of fun.. That was the first of many WB shows that I would get hooked on over the years. Several more would follow later that year. I definitely spent a lot of time watching shows on that network and seeing it go was just really bizarre. With UPN, I honestly just never got into too many shows on that network. I could probably count the number on one hand with the shows that I watched on UPN with Veronica Mars leading the pack. When I heard about this book, I figured it would be a lot of fun to read and to learn about the inner workings of both networks and also could get an idea of just what in the world happened as to why these networks are no longer around especially the very successful WB? The book is written by Suzanne Daniels, who was formerly the president of entertainment at the WB, and Cynthia Littleton, who is the deputy editor of news development over at Variety. The WB and UPN launched at basically the same time and were bitter rivals through their existence. Both had very different results for the most part. The WB had a better journey than UPN for sure. Two all time favorite shows of mine are Buffy and Dawson's Creek which are covered big time and given all kinds of credit for launching the WB to that next level. The book talks about how both shows were gotten together and how several within the network fought to get the shows. The WB found the target audience to go after when seeing successes of those sorts of shows. It was fun to read how some of the shows got going including Buffy, Dawson's Creek, Felicity, Charmed, Smallville, Gilmore Girls, 7th Heaven, and more. I thought I'd share some stuff about the WB shows instead of more of the UPN stuff cause, well, I'm biased. LOL. Funny story about Amy Sherman-Palladino, who is the creator of Gilmore Girls. The book talks about how she came into the network pitching ideas for half hour comedies. She mentioned that she had thrown the idea around of doing a different spin on a mother/daughter relationship. Daniels talked about how they loved that idea and pushed Palladino to do it. Palladino left the meeting knowing that she now had to work on this story of what would become Gilmore Girls. The idea came together pretty quickly but the network didn't expect it to be a big hit especially in its timeslot on Thursday nights in the first season. It surprisingly held its own against Friends and Survivor. It was moved in its second season opposite of Buffy on UPN and defeated Buffy in the ratings. You know it had to be discussed and the hair cutting before season two of Felicity star, Keri Russell, is touched upon in the book. Did the hair cut end up cutting the ratings? Well, that topic will be debated for a long time to come but Daniels does point out that she thought the hair cut made the character of Felicity look too much older and that the appeal of Felicity was a young fresh faced girl starting her life out. For me, I loved Felicity in the first season. I watched some of the second season but started to get away from the show. I am not sure why I did but it just happened. The first season was great stuff though. The book talks of how Smallville might not have happened if they hadn't had such trouble getting the rights to produce a Batman series instead. The pitch for the pilot of Smallville went over big with the network. Fox made a bid for it but the WB matched it and was not about to let it get away. The power struggle of Buffy going to UPN was really put over as the start of the downfall for the WB. It appears that no one wanted Buffy to leave the WB including people on both sides whether it was the network or the show. It was something that had to happen as the studio was wanting more money for the show. They do mention about what was talked about at the time with that if the WB decided to cancel Angel during the two year contract with Buffy and UPN that UPN would be obligated to bring Angel over to UPN as well. UPN was plagued with battles between partners and too many people trying to make decisions. UPN also had the problem of seemingly trying to figure out what audience to target. It's amazing at how many shows that UPN turned down that they could have had. One of them was Survivor. I had heard rumblings about that over the years but had forgotten that as I was reading the book. To be fair though, the reason that Survivor wasn't brought on to UPN had more to do with battles within the network partners than it did as a programming decision. UPN wanted Survivor but they couldn't get the money or commitment to Mark Burnett that he was wanting and it caused a lot of frustration within UPN especially when it became a huge hit on CBS. WWE is given a ton of credit for helping UPN and giving them an identity on the target audience that they wanted to go for. UPN built a lot of their programming around the young male audience following wrestling. The addition of Smackdown to UPN was known to be a strong move especially with how strong wrestling was in 1999. The move of wrestling to UPN was highly underrated by Jamie Kellner of The WB of what WWE could do for UPN. I found that ironic considering that Kellner was the one that canceled World Championship Wrestling on TBS which killed the sale of WCW to the Fusient Group who decided not to buy the company with there being no TV. It was odd that toward the end, UPN started to climb and become a force while the WB was free falling and having troubles that UPN suffered through most of its time. Too many people trying to make too many decisions and it became the downfall of the WB. The book goes into the failures of the WB with several shows that they thought would be hits including Birds Of Prey, Jack and Bobby, Related, and many more. Birds Of Prey got some discussion with how that show was a failure really before it began. The audience was big for the premiere but the ratings dipped following that. Among opinion at the time, there was definite excitement about the show but many viewers didn't like what they saw and never came back. In fact, I have a couple of friends that checked out the premiere and hated it vowing to never watch it again. I didn't seem to hate it as much as everyone else did but I also hadn't followed it in the comics either. The WB was looking so much to change their image that they did away with their frog mascot which was the personality of the network. Yeah, looking back on it, the decisions of the WB near the end really made no sense and that was probably why there were fewer shows that I was watching on the network at the end as I had been years earlier. It was really ironic that the WB ended up being the one to close its doors after they were winning the battle for so long. One thing that I really enjoyed at the ending of the book was the coverage of the final gathering of the WB crew, that built the network, getting together on the final night of the WB to see the network off. If you don't remember, the WB signed off with showing some of their best shows including Buffy, Angel, Dawson's Creek, and Felicity. They didn't want to pick any shows that were moving on to the CW or ones that had just ended. It was really a special night to watch as a viewer reflecting back on good times of watching the network and reading about their gathering to see what it was like from their point of view was special as well. There were some things left out of the book that I would have liked to have seen covered. As I said, they spent a lot of time on the Buffy move over to UPN but nowhere was there a mention of Roswell also moving from WB to UPN at the same time after the WB canceled it. In fact, Roswell is not mentioned at all in the whole book which was disappointing as I would have liked to know what the WB reaction was to the fan campaigns that saved the show after its first season. Then, the fan campaigns that saved the show as UPN picked up. Another show isn't discussed much and that is Angel although they spend a lot of time on Buffy. I was hoping to learn more about what the thinking was in canceling Angel but it isn't touched upon. From what I gather in the book and what I gathered then, the WB was really getting desperate in developing new hits that they started cleaning house on old shows. That was basically the excuse given at the time that infuriated Angel fans including myself especially coming off such a strong season. Buffy was clearly coming to an end in season seven but Angel clearly had more stories to tell. The book also didn't cover what I thought was big moves by the WB at the time and that was the addition of bringing over ABC's Sabrina The Teenage Witch and then getting a up and coming star, especially with the teen viewers, in Amanda Bynes on a sitcom with What I Like About You. So, why did the WB close up shop? How did UPN end up making a comeback and end up basically being the control in the merge to form the CW? What went wrong? Well, there are a lot of factors that go into answering those broad questions. This book does a good job of telling the story and answering those questions. It is also a fun book to read to think back on all of these great shows and learn how the shows got started. If you were a fan of the WB or UPN or are actually just a fan of the industry in general that likes to hear about the inner workings in television, I highly recommend the book. With this book, I went back and found the sign off videos of the WB from their final night on the air. Give it a look as it will bring back a lot of great TV memories if you were a WB fan. It really is incredible how many stars got their start on this network. These are the various tributes through the night and then the big sign off at the end.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5uiNkPK9pM

The numbers are out for the album sales in America for 2007 and the sales were once again down from the previous year as it fell 9.5%. Albums sold as CD's and other similar formats were down 15% from 2006. Digital sales were up. Digital tracks were up 45% from 2006 with 844.2 million sold as compared to 588.2 million.

The Laugh Factory has a marathon battle going on. Dane Cook told jokes on stage Tuesday night and continued until 7am on Wednesday night for a total of seven hours. He broke the record that was set at six hours and twelve minutes by Dave Chappelle last month.

The cast has been announced for the new season of Survivor. Survivor Micronesia will be Fans vs. Favorites. Entertainment Weekly has the following announced for the cast.
The Superfans:
Joel Anderson, 32, firefighter from Avondale, Ariz.
Natalie Bolton, 32, personal trainer/bartender from West Hollywood, Calif.
Michael Bortone, 34, writer/actor from Los Angeles
Tracy Hughes-Wolf, 43, commercial builder from Fredericksburg, Va.
Alexis Jones, 24, motivational speaker from Beverly Hills, Calif.
Erik Reichenbach, 22, ice cream scooper from Ypsilanti, Mich.
Mary Sartain, 29, real estate entrepreneur from Emeryville, Calif.
Jason Siska, 22, student teacher from Fox River Grove, Ill.
Kathleen Sleckman, 45, golf course vendor from Glen Ellyn, Ill.
Chet Welch, 48, beauty pageant coach from Ford City, Pa.
The Favorites:
Yau-Man Chan from Survivor Fiji
James Cement from Survivor China
Ami Cusack from Survivor Vanuatu
Jonny Fairplay from Survivor Pearl Islands
Cirie Fields from Survivor Panama
Amanda Kimmel from Survivor China
Ozzy Lusth from Survivor Cook Islands
Eliza Orlins from Survivor Vanuatu
Jonathan Penner from Survivor Cook Islands
Parvati Shallow from Survivor Cook Islands
This should be fun to watch. I seem satisfied with who they picked. Yau-Man was a favorite from Survivor Fiji and was right there at the end. I'm glad to see Eliza coming back as she was a favorite of mine from Survivor Vanuatu. She stirred things up and had a fun personality on there. We've got three from Survivor Cook Islands with Ozzy (almost didn't recognize him in the new photo with his hair different), Jonathan, and Parvati. Ozzy was really strong on that season and I have no doubt it will be more of the same here. Amanda and James will get a second chance after just coming off of Survivor China. Can you imagine if James found a hidden immunity idol again? Can you imagine his thoughts of "I'm using it this time!!"? When Jeff Probst was asked about Jonny Fairplay's involvement, he replied: ''You can't do the season and not invite your most notorious person. And Fairplay delivered, I will say that. This guy is no threat to win this game — zero.'' I like who they have picked out as the superfans. They are excited to be picked and it will be interesting to see what they do game wise knowing these players that are returning. Will they pick off the ones that they know could stir things up and cause trouble or will they team up with them? It does appear that Exile Island will not be returning which is fine with me. The concept was fun at first but it just never really paid off to be something big. I'm really excited for this new season. To see more about the cast and the article from Entertainment Weekly, check out these two links:
http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20168991,00.html
http://www.ew.com/ew/gallery/0,,20168950,00.html

Moving on to this week's Amazing Race. The episode saw a very fun battle between Kynt & Vyxsin and Nathan & Jennifer as they battled to the finish to see who would be eliminated. Nathan and Jennifer ended up finishing 4th and avoided elimination. Kynt & Vyxsin put up an amazing fight to try and stay in the race including them having to do the speed bump task as well. First place went to TK & Rachel who I really like. It is interesting to watch them on this race as they stay cool headed toward each other even when they are very frustrated. I really like to see that and I think it has helped them a ton.

I ended up watching the Buffy The Vampire Slayer musical episode again last week. I really never get tired of that episode. It has been a while since I've seen it though so it was fun to watch it again.

One Tree Hill returns with its new season on Tuesday night on The CW. The show will flash forward into the future by four years from where it left off with its season finale last year.

I never watch hockey but I was fascinated watching the Buffalo and Pittsburgh game on New Year's Day. The game took place outside in a football field which was the home of the Buffalo Bills. 70,000 fans packed in the stadium to watch this unique NHL game. What made it even more unique was the snow. It snowed throughout the game and gave the game itself a challenge with the snow on top of the ice. The 3rd period saw the winds arrive along with the snow. It was an amazing scene to watch of this amazing crowd, an outdoor hockey game, and all the weather. The overall broadcast was a lot of fun seeing all the broadcasters having fun in this amazing setting as well. The game went to overtime and to a shootout where Pittsburgh won 2-1. This game is going to be something that everyone involved will talk about for a long time to come.

The celebrity edition of The Apprentice premiered tonight. Yep, this season is all made up of celebrities with them competing for their charities. On the show are: Gene Simmons (From KISS), Carol Alt (model and actress), Jennie Finch (softball gold medalist pitcher), Lennox Lewis (boxer), Marilu Henner (actress), Nadia Comeneci (gymnast), Nely Galan (producer), Piers Morgan (probably best known here in the US as judge on America's Got Talent), Stephen Baldwin (actor), Tiffany Fallon (playmate), Tito Ortiz (UFC superstar), Trace Adkins (country singer), Vinnie Pastore (actor from The Sopranos), and Omarosa (season one of The Apprentice). Some mixed thoughts after watching the premiere. One big plus is that the show is back in New York City. NYC is a big part of that show and when they moved last season to LA, the show lost some of its personality. Another plus is that the tents are gone. Thank goodness. I thought that was one lame twist last season. One concern that I have after watching tonight's premiere is wondering if winning tasks this season is going to be based off of who has what connections to get big checks donated. Tonight's tasks saw the teams split into men vs. women and they each had to try and make the most money off of selling hot dogs on the streets of New York City. Baldwin was project manager for the men while Omarosa was the project manager for the women. A decision made early on basically decided who would win the task. The women mentioned using their celebrity to try and sell hot dogs which Omarosa shot down wanting to instead focus on the business part of selling hot dogs. The men on the other hand went straight for celebrity with Simmons making all sorts of phone calls to his contacts seeing if they'd buy an expensive hot dog for charity. The men did great especially when the big checks showed up. What was up with Piers though rejecting people for trying to buy hot dogs for 4 or 5 dollars? I know that they were after the big money but just tossing away the smaller amounts that would go to charity was just insulting. Marilu finally went on her own and made phone calls to some of her contacts getting some big money donations brought in. She saved it from being much embarrassing than it would have been. Jennie also helped out as well getting a contact to arrive for some big money. The men won easily and it was not even close. It was revealed that the project manager for each task will have the winning money for the task go to their charity and also the winning team gets to watch the losing team in the board room on their TV from their room. So, the women go in the board room. A definite change in Omarosa's excuse for what the game plan was. She said that in season one that they were criticized for selling their looks for trying to win tasks which was true. Then, she got on to Tiffany for not using her celebrity in the same way. Carol took some heat for picking out the location. One thing that I will say about Omarosa is that she knows how to handle that board room and it showed tonight. She brought Tiffany and Carol back into the board room with her. Basically, Trump fired Tiffany for not calling Hugh and getting a big check signed for charity to help win the task. Again, is this season going to turn into who can get their resources to cut the biggest checks?

TV on DVD releases for Tuesday, January 8th.
All New Super Friends Hour (Season One - Volume One), Gunsmoke (Season Two - Volume One), Happy Tree Friends (Season One), Lovejoy (Season Two), The Riches (Season One), Rob & Big (Seasons One & Two), Two And A Half Men (Season Two), The Waltons (Season Six), What's New Scooby Doo? (Season Three).

TV Line Of The Week:
From The Amazing Race as Nathan and Jennifer had trouble sewing in their task.
Nathan: "That is terrible. I don't understand how you can't do this Jen, you're a girl."
Jennifer: "I didn't understand how you couldn't row a boat. You're a guy."

You Tube Video Of The Week:
What has Conan been up to since the strike?


Have a great weekend!! Take care and God bless!!

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