Oct 01, 2010

Post TV columnist Lisa de Moraes takes your questions about the drama, comedy and heartbreak of the world of television -- both onscreen and behind-the-scenes.

Take this week's poll (scroll down):
Is Anderson Cooper the Next Oprah Winfrey?

From Lisa:
In case you've been napping, the important TV stories this week -- in our heads anyway -- include:

• "Lone Star" officially the first cancellation of the new TV season though, on the bright side, Fox let it air one more episode than it should, based on its ratings:



• The much angsted over kiss happened Wednesday on "Modern Family" and, you may have noticed, the Republic is still standing:



• Much back-and-forth in re was Sarah Palin booed on "Dancing With the Stars":

While I love Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin on "30 Rock," is the show ever going to move away from the "Jack and Liz" show? Most of the other characters are getting ignored. They need to mix it up more.

I could not disagree more -- respectfully, of course. The other characters all bore me to tears...This show has morphed, as you say, into the "Jack and Liz" show because that is what they think was working on the show.  Let me hasten to acknowledge that this week, for instance, "30 Rock" only attracted about 5.7 million viewers while CBS's new comedy in the same half hour, "$#*! My Dad Says" clocked 10.4 million and "S#*!" outperformed "30 Rock" among 18-49 year olds, so NBC suits clearly have not got their finger on the pulse of what America wants to watch, comedy-wise, in that timeslot.  And what America really wants to watch in that timeslot is William Shatner talking $#*!....sigh.

I love shows about ugly, dirty dudes.

I wish there was something I could do to help, but alas, I think it's too late. You have my sympathy...

I might be wrong but it seems to me that the Suits at ABC might be afraid of Mama Grizzly Palin. Just sayin'.

Really? I didn't not get that impression. I thought they were embracing her with open arms. What other family member of a "Dancing with the Stars" competitor has gotten so much air time on the show? None I can think of.

Maybe it wouldn't have been cancelled if they cast someone other than Arli$$ as the dad.

OMG -- that was the LEAST of the show's problems. How about "Maybe it would have been canceled if it wasn't a chick drama -- on FOX!"  Or "Maybe it wouldn't have been  canceled if the cute guy in the lead who we were led to believe we were supposed to feel bad for and root for hadn't gone and, you know, committed bigamy in the first episode." I could go on and on and on..

My husband and I can't be the only ones who caught Kurt swearing, right? We rewound it and everything. We are certain he dropped the f-word, but no one else seems to have caught it.

I certainly missed it because that's something I would have remembered. At what point in this week's All Things BritBrit episode did this alleged nauty-language-ifying occur? In what context?

Lisa - how is Undercovers doing? Do they have the budget for 2-3 location shoots every week (even if they blue-screen most of it)? And will we continue to see sexy spies in their underwear every week? I think Gerald McRaney makes a great curmudgeonly handler, but the sidekick/hero-worshipper is wearing a little thin. Thoughts?

Well, I'd say that based on the ratings you will soon be put out of your misery on this show -- it's down to about 7 million viewers already -- but since it's a JJ show and he's considered a hot commodity in Hollywood, and since it has two accomplished African American actors in the starring roles and NBC -- historically the No Black Characters network -- has been touting the diversity of its lineup as it tries to get its merger deal with Comcast to pass the Washington Smell Test, I think this show will be around for a while. And I'm all for it sticking around...

Why didn't "The Office" ever explore the reason for Michael's hatred for Toby?

I'm sorry, I nodded off at "ever explore"....Does this show actually "explore"? That's like asking why there isn't more character development on "Cougar Town." It's not what they do. ...

So I actually watched an episode of "The Defenders" this week expecting something horribly bad, what with Jerry O'Connell and Jim Belushi. I mean, are there any actors who have starred in more bad TV or movies than those two. Yet, I found it not terrible--I mean, it was better than Jimmy Smits' "Outlaw".

While I feel compelled to say you are setting the bar about as low as it can go without it being underground -- Jimmy Smits' new show "Outlaw" has to be the worst show since forever -- oh wait, except ABC's new "Better Together" which is actually worse -- I am pleased to have confirmed by you -- an astute judge of TV, I can tell -- my feelings about "The Defenders."... "It's not terrible" is my review of the show and it's the most concise review I have read on it to date..

Hated this week's Glee. Brittany Spears' music sucks, and the story line around it was so badly contrived . . . I felt sorry for John Stamos. There's lots of great music out there. Let's hope Ryan Murphy doesn't make this mistake again.

He's going to make it over, and over, and over, and over... because the BritBrit episode attracted 13.5 million people which is its second biggest audience ever. And Murphy appears to have run out of storylines on the show, and so appears to be turning it into a sort of "Fame: The Music Videos" series ....

Hi Lisa, Caught the last half hour of My Generation waiting for Grey's last night. It was awful! Who watches it, and how soon will they cancel it?

"My Generation" last night: 3.938 million viewers according to early stats which I think is even worse than "Lone Star" did in its second -- and final -- episode. Kiss this one goodbye....

What do you think of Running Wilde? I find it mildly amusing, but I can't imagine that it'll last.

I wish the two stars -- Kerri Russell and Will Arnett -- could get together and be in the same show. They seem to be acting in two different series. It's down to 4.5 million viewers -- and just 30 minutes earlier (before "Raising Hope") on the Fox lineup, "Glee" attracted 13.5 million people. It's like "Arrested Development" all over again... only not as good...

So the oral sex episode finally aired. I have to say I was underwhelmed.

It was underwhelming if you were expecting them to show oral sex which is what I assume you mean. Are you suggesting that CBS showed the unedited, not-yet-seen-by-CBS-Decency-Police  clip of that scene to The Reporters Who Cover Television at a news conference in which Julianna Margulies got all knicker knotted over questions about it, and it was just one big fat TEASE when CBS had no intention of showing the footage? I'm shocked -- shocked -- to discover a broadcast network has manipulated the press to try to gin up ratings for one of its shows....

Didn't you write a post earlier about the ratings for Nikita are better then it's lead-in, The Vampire Diaries? Is that still the case? I thought VD was the surprise success of last season? Maybe it benefited from such low expectations?

This week (as in, last night) "Nikita" averaged 2.7 million viewers and "Vampire Diaries" logged 3.2 million, according to early stats...I think what you wrote was the case the first week, but then CW had spent gobs on its marketing campaign for "Nikita"....

"Lone Star" we hardly knew you. That was a pretty fast axing, wasn't it? Two episodes hardly seems like much of an opportunity. Why the quick decision? Seinfeld would have been a goner in today's TV world.

"Lone Star's" debut was a classic case of what people in the TV industry like to call "epic fail." This country spoke loud and clear....

Is Broadwalk Empire trying to do for the early 1920s what Mad Men has done for the early 1960s?

When we think the 1960s, we think Vietnam, Woodstock, etc... but rarely the early 1960s which Mad Men glorifies and now everybody loves.

Ditto 1920s, when people think jazz, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Al Capone, etc... Basically the "Roaring Twenties" expect the Twenties didn't really get roaring until half way through.

But Broadwalk Empire starts off in the year 1920 just as the pilot for Mad Men was set in the year 1960.

Scorsese said he set the pilot at the time Prohibition went into effect...

The Undercovers couple -- oddly, neither are African American. The guy's Nigerian I think and the girl's a Brit. I always found this odd. NBC couldn't find any rising Morgan Freemans or Halle Berrys? Maybe they've got an eye on foreign licensing deals?

I think I may have mosspoken, in re calling them African American actors -- I don't think either is an American citizen.  The lead male is Boris Kodjoe who said at the press tour he is from Germany, and the actress, Gugu Mbatha-Raw is British... the rest of my point still stands....

So is "$#*! My Dad Says" actually any good or is it just 22 minutes of waiting for Shatner to make a vague reference to "Star Trek, "TJ Hooker" or Priceline?

No and no....

I'm really liking Raising Hope and see that it is the only show that held it's audience numbers for the second week, although still quite a bit lower than Glee. Does this portend good things for the show?

Given how much difficulty Fox has launching live-action comedies and given that "Running Wilde" is making "Raising Hope's" ratings look brilliant by comparison, I'd say it does portend good things for the show...

The oral sex episode of "The Good Wife" was so underwhelming that the main thing I recall about that scene was the opening musical theme to NPR's "All Things Considered" playing on the radio in the background; I distinctly heard Pittsburgh's own David Green ID himself!

I'm impressed that's what you took away from the scene. I on the other hand, was entirely focused on Chris Noth and could not have told you what was playing on the radio in the background if my life had depended on it... and, on a totally different subject, have I mentioned we have a poll question today about Anderson Cooper: is he the next Oprah Winfrey? Please do take the time to vote. We need to know and you get to decide

was great on SNL, but when does "Parks and Recreation" come back? The NBC website just says soon :(

It's coming back when:

Community, 30 Rock, The Office, or Outsourced dies -- or runs out of episodes. Those are the shows on NBC's fall Thursday lineup and also on its midseason Thursday lineup, at this moment.

How about a worst new show of the season poll? I vote for "Outlaw"

I'll take all suggestion. I'd say it's a toss-up between "Outlaw" and "Better with You" though "$#*! My Dad Says" is really giving both shows some serious competition...

What is this rumor about a Springsteen song filled "Glee" episode around the Super Bowl?

That, or Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson has my vote...

Did you think the whole bit with the Jewish kid being so horny was a little much? I was kinda surprised at what they were implying he was doing at the assembly, for something that's supposed to be more or less a family show.

Family Show? Hahahahaha -- oh wait, you're not kidding? This show ceased to be a family show after about the time it debuted...most of my friend with young kids don't let them anywhere near it. 

Hi Lisa.

I'm confused. They canceled the original "Law & Order" because the ratings were bad? And now, because its in Los Angeles, all the 18-49 year olds want to watch it? Do you think it makes a difference?

Yes.

But they've also changed the cast, which has something to do with it too...

Your reporting on DWTS has been wonderful. Because it's so cool, can we expect more negative columns on Bristol Palin?

I believe, Mr/Ms Smarty Pants, if you got back and read my coverage you will see that I said of her performance this week "she's adorable, particularly the 'is this happening' look on her face. Judges love her too and she dances off with 22 points"...

I watched Outsourced last night and for some reason, I have mixed feelings. Not whether if the show is good or not, but mainly becuase it seems wrong to have a comedy poking fun of Indians. Am I being too PC?

If you are, you're in good company. It' s making a lot of people uncomfortable and seems to be what most of the talk is about on this new NBC show...

I could have watched that interview for hours ... love me some Betty White! James Lipton still gives me the heebie-jeebies, but would have suffered through (with many cocktails!) for the fabulousness that is BW!

Yes, I know, she's old and adorable. But can we please get a teensy weensy break from Betty White?

Lisa, I'm curious. I've noticed that Parenthood's ratings are dropping week by week, but I also know it is on NBC, i.e. the network with low expectations. Is this show in danger of cancellation or still safe?

Yes, Parenthood (4.8million viewers this week) is getting pounded by its competition: CBS's "The Good Wife" (12.8 million) and "Detroit 1-8-7" (8.7 million). It's more competitive among the 18-49 year olds NBC sells to advertisers, though it still came in third this week in the hour.

Not sure there can be one. When she started a quarter century ago, the whole media mix was mighty different. With all the audience fragmentation, cable stations, local outlets, etc, building an empire will require conquering a whole lot more unruly fiefdoms. Who has the money or the stomach for that kind of battle? (Probably not AC.)

I agree. That said I love my poll question and options and hope you vote anyway...

I hate to say it, but I think the bell may be tolling for Glee, quality-wise. The season premiere was bad, but last week's episode was atrocious (minus the awesome blond dancer). I know they got crazy ratings, but is there any scornful buzz?

I think the show is scorn-immune now... Everyone has hopped on the bandwagon.

Hi Lisa,

 Just for sake of argument, how low does American Idol's ratings have to go before

1) a major makeover?

2) it goes buh-bye?

As long as it keeps above, say 8 million, will AI just chug on forever?

Well, we just had announced a major makeover so I'm guessing it has to go as low as it did this past season, in answer to your question. It will have to go a lot lower to be cancelled.

If we can label a series that only completed one season when more were obviously planned (ie: "FlashForward," "Kings," "Persons Unknown") as an "Unintentional Miniseris," what are we to call a show that never even makes it through the first season?

Are there any cute names... or should we just be blunt:  a failure?

I think "Lone Star" was a two-part miniseries...

I saw James Wolk in a made-for-TV movie about Brad Cohen, a real elementary school teacher with Tourette syndrome. I thought he was great in it. He has something that's extremely important on TV, likability. Lone Star wasn't great, but it was on par/better then a lot of what survives on primetime. Plus I was super happy that it wasn't a procedural or had that "case" to solve each week. Forgot TV shows could actually exist without cases to solve each week.

I know what you mean. I applaud them for trying something different but it was not going to make it. And yes, James Wolk will be snapped up for a new show very soon -- he's very likeable on-screen..

You sneaked a mention about My Boys cancelation into one of your columns this week, so I have to ask: is it gone forever? I recorded all the episodes this summer; am I going to need to watch them again if I need a My Boys fix? And does Jordana now have another show coming out?

My Boys was officially cancelled by the network. It's done.

What's the deal with certain franchises using HBO series as their talent pool?

First, it was the pipeline of all those actors from "Oz" showing up on the various "Law & Order"s (Meloni, the guy who played Shillinger, the chick who was Pvt. Pyle's partner on CI).

Now it seems like all the actors who played characters on "Deadwood" are showing up on "Sons of Anarchy."

I get that actors move on, etc., but when you see 3 or 4 from one old show ending up on a new show together, something's got to be up.

Can you explain the phenomenon?

It's about trying to get fans from one show to sample another the network thinks is like-minded. Clearly FX thinks viewers who enjoyed "Deadwood" will also like "Sons of Anarchy"...It's smart casting.

So, I watched like 4 minutes of it, and all I could think the entire time was, "man, those chicks really need tiny little hatchets." I blame you.

Didn't I tell you? All polygamy shows -- reality or otherwise -- would be vastly improved if all the chicks were given tiny hatchets...

I always just assumed that Michael, as the manager, hated Toby because of (what he views as) the uselessness of H.R. functions. Especially where the boss:

(1) is a walking nonstop H.R. violation (starting at the outset of the show with the sensitivity training episode)

(2) thinks he's a "cool" boss who bonds with his employees, he's going to think that Mr. H.R. Rules and Paperwork is both an unnecessary obstacle and an uncool nag.

Also, with his background in sales, dealing with customers, and bringing in revenue, I think he harbors some contempt for someone with education and training in "fuzzy" social work who isn't a profit center.

Plus, Toby (as perfectly played by the actor) is so beaten and wishywashy that I think Michael (also perfectly played with such a strong personality) would have to hate him.

Okay, you have now officially frightened me. You do realize these people are make believe, right? I challenge you to not watch "The Office" -- reruns or originals -- for one solid month and then report back to us... I'm saying this for your own good...

Now that Rahm Emanuel is running for Mayor of Chicago, can we expect his doppelganger Eli Gold (Alan Cumming) to do the same on "The Good Wife"?

Gosh, I hope so. I'm a huge Cummings fan and any storyline in which he has a major presence  is great with me...

I know you don't like it because of Keen Eddie, but I really do enjoy Human Target and was a bit dismayed to see it scheduled on Friday, the death day. Am I right to be dismayed?

Good news! Because of the death of "Lone Star" "Human Target" is being moved from Fridays to Wednesdays, starting Nov. 17....

Hi, Lisa. I'm a BIG fan of "Modern Family," but was still bitterly disappointed at how the show mishandled the whole Mitchell-Cam kiss plot line this week Is it REALLY too much to ask to see two guys kiss for more than a second?

Yes, I know, I know: straight guys don't want to see dudes making out, but then what's the point of having a gay couple as main characters if they're totally sexless? Or am I just being oversensitive? Thanks for letting me vent, Pookie!

You are welcome. But I actually liked the episode and thought they handled "the kiss" deftly. I took the point to be "it's no big deal," which I like to think is how it should be on TV, and in life...

Is it true that the guy who plays Sheldon and the gal who plays Penny on "Big Bang Theory" are dating in real life, or is that Hollywood fiction? They do seem to have a sort of chemistry (no pun intended, since the show is about physics professors) on the show.

It's a sad truth that actors on a show often wind up dating each other because, I think, they're geographically desirable -- as in, on the set. Jennifer Garner, before marrying Ben Affleck, made an art form out of dating men with whom she was doing a series/movie... I don't know if Sheldon and Penny are dating in real life and the less I know about the actors in shows I enjoy the better because the information always disappoints me..

"And Murphy appears to have run out of storylines on the show, and so appears to be turning it into a sort of "Fame: The Music Videos" series ...."

This is the problem with everything Ryan Murphy works on. He starts out on fire, then loses his way six months in.

He's like the new David Kelley, except Kelley always had two seasons of a series in him and ran out of gas at the start of the third...

So, I discovered "How I Met Your Mother" late and love its mix of sitcom with seriality; great show.

What do you think of the first two episodes this season, though: seems like once we concretize when/where/ how he meets the mother, it's coming to an end -- and w/ the casting of that chick from "House," as soon as we see her, isn't it likely over as far as the mystery goes? Do you think they'll sustain interest once that basic question is solved?

I confess I have it DVRd and have not caught up yet -- one of this weekend's projects. I do, however, love that you have brought the world a new word, "concretize"...I like this word a lot. Seriously.

Is she the female Dorian Gray? She's 54 and as pretty as she was 25 years ago.

BTW, last night's "30 Rock" was the funniest episode they ever had.

By "Dorian Gray" you mean " "patient of some terrific plastic surgeon" I assume. Yes, that goes on a lot in Hollywood. Shocking, I know.

I haven't found one new show that I like and look foward to, and I have no conflicts on my DVR. I am sort of liking Undercovers but now that is on the critical list as the next show to go. At least I have Netflix.

You mean you aren't eagerly awaiting the next Chuck Lorre fat-person gag on CBS's new "Mike & Molly" each week? But seriously, don't give up yet. We are looking forward to Matthew Perry's new ABC show "Mr. Sunshine" and Showtime's new Matt LeBlanc comedy "Episodes" -- both midseason shows and I swear I'm not obsessed with guys from "Friends" and this is pure coincidence...

Do you think a show has any chance of surviving when all the critics are predicting it will be the first show canceled ("Lone Star") or else warning us not to get too attached ("The Whole Truth")? Doesn't that unfairly influence people's viewing habits? I mean, I've stopped watching "The Whole Truth" all by myself (what was that guy's motive for murder last week?), but won't some people abandon it just because you're predicting it won't last?

Wait just a minute -- critics adored "Lone Star"... They were falling all over themselves to be the one who loved it the most....and yet, it never "opened" which would seem to suggest people do not make their viewing decisions based on what they read about a show... don't let that get out, of course....

How's "Bones" doing in the ratings thus far this season? Seems like I'm the only person I know who still watches it, so I worry it's not long for this world.

"Bones" is finishing No. 2 in its Thursday timeslot. It's not getting a lot of press because all the attention in the timeslot is about CBS bringing in comedies and crushing former Thursday comedy king NBC. Don't worry about "Bones."

 

We think about the early 1960's all the time. Hello, JFK, Camelot, Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis...

I know this is relevant to some earlier question but I have not had enough coffee to remember what... anyway, I know people in Washington think about the 60's a lot, anyway.

Maybe if each of James Wolk's wives had been given a tiny hatchet, the show would still be on.

See -- already it sounds more interesting!

Thanks, Lisa. I feel better!

You are welcome...

I left to pick up my kid - it was a tough decision - but you're still here!

Does this mean we've been chatting too long? I love chatting about the new season...

What do Rick Sanchez and your new iPhone 4 have in common? Neither will be working for much longer.

I like your joke -- and Paul: explain yourself. You can't just lob a grenade like that into the middle of the chat and not explain the context of the remark. Make it snappy!

I think it's funnier that Michael Scott hates Toby irrationally and for no real reason.

and less headache-inducing.....thankyou

It's a MacGuffin. The "who is the mother" is just a device so they can tell the story. I have never understood this show. I saw two mildly amusing episodes, and then, meh. What is the big deal here?

I just love the word "macguffin" and am grateful you used it...The big deal -- really the only deal -- about this show, is the chance to watch Neil Patrick Harris run circles around the rest of the cast....

I think what the OP was saying is that when a show performs poorly, all of the TV writers say so which further deflates viewership for the next week, like a vicious cycle. Perhaps the OP is suggesting that you fudge the numbers a bit and say how awesome the show performed, that way more people will watch the next week! Fortunately, that kind of practice by journalists is frowned upon in this country.

I wish you were right, but if I had a buck for every time I read someone who covers TV calling a show a "hit" that was not I could buy that new Mercedez that has the doors that open up which, I now know from watching they ads, they only did because raising your arms is the international language for "I'm a big success."

 

I'm late to pick up my kid and it's because you're still here.

Ironically, I have to leave, but not before reporting that nearly 60 percent of you do not think Anderson Cooper is the next Oprah, unless he gives you a car...bye!

In This Chat
Lisa de Moraes
Pulitzer Prize winner, Peabody recipient, Medal of Freedom honoree -- Lisa de Moraes is none of these, but she is an authority on the bad direction, over-acting, and muddled plot lines being played out in the TV industry's executive suites. de Moraes worked for a decade as the television editor at The Hollywood Reporter, the entertainment industry trade paper, where she was routinely on the receiving end of more shouting phone calls from TV suits than Paula Abdul's manager.

When she upgraded to The Washington Post in 1998, a well-known executive producer called to suggest she have someone else start her car, but her trenchant writing (and refusal to use words like "trenchant") earned her the following praise from the brilliant, handsome media observer at Slate: "She writes like a wicked bitch." Wikipedia has called her "a noted television columnist," but they're often unreliable. It's pronounced "deh more ICE."

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