Anyone who picks up Bill Carter’s new book about last January’s late night TV debacle—The War for Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy—looking for a villain is destined to be disappointed. This is not for lack of effort. The book is impressively comprehensive about NBC’s decision to move Jay Leno from The Tonight Show to primetime and back again and the disaster that followed. Carter gives detailed histories of and various perspectives on all the major players involved—Leno, Conan, Jeff Zucker, David Letterman, Jeff Gaspin, etc.—but in the end nobody comes off as an evil monster responsible for the train wreck. Instead, we get a fascinating example of how a bunch of people all acting with the best intentions can lead to the worst possible outcome.
“If they’d come in and shot everybody—I mean, it would have been people murdered. But at least it would have been a two-day story. I mean, yes, NBC could not have handled it worse, from 2004 onward.” —Jay Leno Continue reading »
So, I know I said that the Spelling Bee never disappoints, but I may have to correct myself. Last night’s spelling bee finals were kind of disappointing, and not just because my pick, Laura Newcombe, was eliminated on a word Dr. Bailey couldn’t even pronounce right. No, there were three things that kept the Bee from being as great as it usually is: Continue reading »
It’s been over a year since I last sang the praises of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, but Spelling Bee Day 2010 has finally arrived. This afternoon’s semifinal rounds did not disappoint. It had controversy, surprises, and a dramatic Round 6 that eliminated nine of 13 contestants before being cut short for time (and, presumably, because the Bee wanted to save some contestants for tonight’s Finals on ABC).
The semifinals were particularly brutal for those who finished well in last year’s Bee—the presumptive favorites for 2010. Tim Ruiter, who finished tied for second last year, lost on his first word of the day: fustanella. Also losing in the semis were Esther Park (who finished tied for 17th last year), Bradon Whitehead (37th), Anjithaa Radakrishnan (12th), Nicolas Rushlow (17th), Connor Aberle (17th), Sukanya Roy (12th), and Neetu Chandak (8th), who was actually eliminated twice, after being reinstated after the first one. Continue reading »
There are very few episodes of Lost that I’ve seen twice. This is not because I dislike the show, obviously, but merely because re-watching Lost often seems pointless. Unlike other, denser shows on television, like The Wire or The Sopranos or Breaking Bad, Lost does not seem like a show that would reward repeat viewings. It’s not layered with the same subtlety and depth as those shows, and a lot of the suspense of certain episodes is drained when you know, for example, that Jin has not been captured by “the Others” but by the survivors from the tail of the plane. Continue reading »
What we read while worrying about the fate of Last Call with Carson Daly….
In case you haven’t heard by now, NBC has decided to screw one of the best comedians of the last decade. Conan O’Brien, less than a year into his run as the host of The Tonight Show, is being bumped from 11:35 p.m. to 12 a.m., to make room for The Jay Leno Show. NBC’s experiment of moving Leno to primetime has not worked out for the network, not so much because of its lackluster ratings (which NBC always expected and planned to offset with lower costs) as its effect on 11 p.m. local news broadcasts. Advertisers, who NBC had evidently warned to expect lower ratings, were not unhappy, but local NBC affiliates generate a lot of revenue from ads during the local news. With Leno providing these broadcasts with an especially weak lead-in, affiliates complained, and some allegedly threatened to drop Leno.
From NBC’s perspective, this move does make sense: They can undo the Jay Leno mistake at 10, and hopefully revive their 11:30 slot. Conan has been losing to David Letterman in the ratings—a battle Leno always won—since June, even occasionally to Letterman repeats. Surely, NBC hopes that Leno can retake his lead in his old timeslot. Conan, meanwhile, will supposedly get bumped back to 12. Continue reading »
JOHN S: FlashForward premiered on ABC last night (with an encore for those who missed it tonight at 8), and Tim and John S watched–we weren’t lying when we said FlashForward was the #9 reason to be excited for the Fall TV Season. So Tim, what did you think?
TIM: First off, you said it was #9. I would have had it at like #3, behind the return of Survivor and Degrassi’s Nina Dobrev in The Vampire Diaries. Those are really the only two things that could excite me more than a show in which the presentation of a friendship bracelet is accompanied by pulse-poundingly dramatic music.
JOHN S: Yeah, there was a TON of pulse-pounding dramatic music in this show. It was like 80% of the episode.
TIM: Right, and that’s one of the things I kind of expected. It reminded me a lot of the premieres of 24 and, predictably, Lost, in its explosive and perhaps overly dramatic tone. At the same time, I think that’s what shows have to do these days to survive: You rarely build an audience when you’re building characters. One of the smarter things FlashForward did was to avoid breaking for a commercial for 15 minutes. By that point, we had already seen the en medias res opening, the flash back four hours, the blackout, and the realization that it was global. It lays most of its cards on the table in those 15 minutes (two big ones left to be played later in the episode) and tries to hook you in as quickly as possible (like 24 does with its four hours in two nights with limited commercial interruptions).
Was it too dramatic? Ehh, a show that’s so conceptually driven is almost required to get it all out there in its first episode. If FlashForward were to save some of its expository twists (something like the fact that the blackout was indeed global or that everyone not only blacked out, but also saw a vision of their future) for later episodes, it probably wouldn’t create the same kind of buzz leading in. It’s not like you’re going to draw in viewers with your “…AND THEY SEE THE FUTURE!” trailers and then save that information for later.
Am I making any sense? Continue reading »