Lisa de Moraes' TV Column Live

Dec 23, 2011

Post TV columnist Lisa de Moraes chatted about the about all the drama, comedy and heartbreak of the world of television. See below to see what questions readers brought up and what Lisa had to say about in response.

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I'm embarrassed that I thought X Factor was over weeks ago (oddly, I always knew when the Idol finals were, even though I watched it infrequently). So who has the ultimate decision on what they change (FIX) next season? Is there a board or committee of some kind, or is it just Simon alone?

There is a team of producers, and Fox will get at least one vote... But, before they whacking hosts and competition categories, they have to conduct focus groups and comb through the numbers...that said, I'm gonna miss Steve...Did anyone see him last night, as he kept trying, unsuccessfully, to get winner Melanie to give a comment? Brilliant TV -- that kind of spontaneity is worth millions...

What is a TV season? I always thought a season was about a year. When I heard "Survivor" was going on its 23rd season, that struck me as wrong. Wouldn't that make it just about the longest TV series ever? I see it began in 2000. So does "Survivor" do two seasons in a year? Who determines these things?

On these reality series, people often use "season" to mean "edition." So the fall "edition" of "Dancing with the Stars" and the spring "edition" of the same show would count as two seasons... it's odd -- but not so odd as Season #2-A and Season #2-B on some scripted cable series

Submitting early, as I'm not going to be able to chat live. Last week a chatter asked about a show featuring an independent member of Congress. The show was called Mr. Sterling and starred Josh Brolin as the son of a former Governor who was appointed Senator following a scandal of some sort. Looks like it aired 10 episodes on NBC in 2003. I remember liking the few episodes I saw of it.

Thanks! Now if I could only remember what question it goes with... It's like my own personal game of "Jeopardy!"....

It seemed like it suffered from the same syndrome as "Heroes" where it leads up all season to a big battle and then (usually because they spent all the the FX Budget) they don't deliver by having it either behind closed doors or having the main character go unconcious. If they can't do it themselves, could they at least hire an accountant? Also, though they delivered on the promised "A Dinosaur every night", they could have been distempered domkeys for all they contributed to the plot.

doyou mean "distempered donkeys"...I'd watch a show about distempered donkeys, so long as you promised it would have a happy ending...."Terra Nova" suffered from one thing -- not being very good... the studio is looking for new writers in hopes it can be salvaged, but I'm thinking they'd have a better chance of that with distempered donkeys...

Lisa: I've loved that phrase since you first coined it to describe sitcoms in which some schlub is married to a hot, or at least hottish, babe. (See According to Jim, King of Queens, etc.) But, hoo boy, I think Rob Schneider's new show, which I call Upside Down Exclamation Mark Rob Exclamation Mark, has broken the optimism meter. The ads show him and his supposed wife standing in the door of her parents' home and not only is she a gorgeous Latina, she appears to be about two feet taller than he is. Is Schneider's character a cosmetics or software billionaire? That's the only thing that would make this Beauty and the Midget Ogre pairing remotely plausible. Also, it's on CBS. What does the #1 network need with this? Thanks, and Merry Christmas to you and the pups.

I'm sorry to report the punctuation has been changed and now the show is called just "Rob" -- zzzzzzzzzzz...anyway, identifying Male Pattern Optimism television trend is maybe my crowning achievement here at WaPo TeamTV so thank you for mentioning. And yes,  this sitcom is a confluence of cringe-inducing decisions that could only have happened on CBS, home of David Spade's "Rules of Engagement" -- where it will no doubt be a hit.

So the "X Factor" host---Steve! that's his name---looked all the more bumbling last night, trying vainly to pierce the phalanx of Melanie's family and get her to say something...anything. Was this the final nail in his coffin?

I'm afraid so -- and yet it's the very reason I'd keep him... You know how you are still watching "American Idol" because you love watching the Idolette makeovers? -- okay I AM still watching "American Idol" because I love watching the Idolette makeovers...Anyway, next season could be all about Steve's metamorphosis from a bumbling host trying in vain to pierce the phalanx of Melanie's family, to a polished host who bats away members of the winner's family like gnats and demands the winner get up off her knees and answer his question, by gum!...a kind of Capra-esque "Mr. Jones Goes to Hollywood." The problem with Fox is its suits have no vision...

 

 

 

Any word on how it's doing? I've never seen and wouldn't care except I'm worried about the future of "General Hospital." I know that I should accept its inevitable decline, but I'm just not ready for that. Thanks, Lisa!

I've been kind of distracted, but I think I read somewhere it clocked its biggest audience yet the other day, or some such thing... The biggest thing it has going for it is that it costs a fraction of a primetime soap budget...

The show was Mister Sterling starring Josh Brolin as an appointed Senator. He bought a house in DC to fix up and had a Mr Smith filibuster scene. Full disclosure, I knew Brolin was in it, so thank you IMDB. Have a happy whatever you celebrate.

We were talking about this last week? Wish I'd been there....

What does this mean exactly? I interpret it as the studio committing that much money to making an album, promoting it, organizing a tour, etc. My guess is that Melanie won't make any cash at all until she actually sells some records. Am I being too cynical, Pookie?

Well -- no. Because at one point, when even more cynical reporters asked about this very thing, before the season started, the producers changed their pitch and started calling it a $5 million cash prize and a recording contract, but this week it was back to $5 million recording contract....Anyway, let's face it..this is a big break for Melanie Amaro...

It drives me crazy that "The X Factor" has the judges escort the contestants onstage for the results. It's Melanie's triumph, not Simon's. Besides, unlike "The Voice," we haven't seen any mentoring. Did Simon actually do anything other than wander into her rehearsals with a cup of tea in his hand? I would have loved to see how they choose songs, decide on a key, figure out the arrangement, rationalize adding a few thousand lights and twenty dancers, etc.

I think you've just described "mentoring" perfectly....

The preternaturally perky Rachel Crow was scary good in her "host" moment last night. Do you think we can look forward to a 14-year-old host for the next "X Factor"?

She is one scary little girl.. I expect to see her on a Disney Channel show soon. Especially after that brief gest-hosting gig last night...

We burned out from "It's a Wonderful Life" years ago, and we usually turn off "Elf" after the snowball fight, but we always have time for the animated "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" in early December and "A Christmas Story" on the day. If for nothing else, it taught all of us to never let our tongues get anywhere near a cold flagpole, even for a Triple Dog Dare!

I'm pretty over  "Christmas Story," having made the mistake of watching one of those marathons a few years back. Now I break out into a cold sweat when I see the promos... My fave is "Remember the Night" -- Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray -- perfectly described by my former work colleague Robert Osbourne as the best Christmas movie you never saw.

 

Thank heaven for DVRs and the fast forward. The only worthwhile parts of "The X Factor" finale was a) Stevie Wonder and b) the duet between Melanie and Josh. The spectacle that is "The X Factor" becomes meaningless noise after awhile. It all blends into itself as one continuous light show with lots of screaming.

You need to add "Josh's singing of "Please Come Home for Christmas," which was great...

Hi Lisa, Happy Holidays! I just read this morning that the next season of AHS will be a different story with different characters and that the finale Wednesday night is the end of the line for that storyline. Have you head this? Is that true? I will miss Jessica Lange chewing the scenery but won't miss Dylan McDermott's moping too much.

Yes it's true and I think it's terrific that Murphy has decided to do the series as an anthology....now if only he'd done that with "Glee" -- graduated everyone at the end of that "school year" and brought in a new cast, so it would not be so obvious when "Glee" recycles all its storylines -- oops, I meant its one storyline... Plus, it's a great way to keep show costs down -- no actor ever lasts long enough to start demanding huge salary.. That said, there's talk some actors on "AHS" might be brought back, but to play different characters -- kind of like Orson Welle's rep players... So Lang might very well be back to chew some more scenery next season.

I admit, I liked Happy Endings at the beginning. But now it's begun to grate on my nerves and I want Cougar Town back. Please, grant my Xmas wish and tell me that Cougar Town will be back soon.

I wish I could, but ABC is mum....guess new programming chief Paul Lee is not a fan... too bad...

Lisa, have you watched the show? Ben Bradley wore the same purple shirt (or what appeared to be) on every episode this week. Budget savings? Part of the set? Happy Holidays! I look forward to your chat every Friday. Thanks for being so much fun. You make us smile.

I assume you mean Ben Bailey -- Ben Bradley would never make that mistake....guess they shoot multiple episodes at once, or he's a purple shirt freak... I've heard of people like that, only they usually wear black...

I loved this show. I thought it was doing well for HBO and then it gets whacked. What happened?

Best guess: rising costs, sinking ratings, Ted Danson no longer available.....

I think you were the one who recommended Revenge as a fun new show. Thank you! It was the perfect thing to watch while addressing holiday cards, wrapping gifts, etc. So entertaining and soapy. Adding it to the DVR. Happy holidays!

You're welcome....

I'm dying for my fashion and Jon Hamm fix. Is there any clue when Mad Men will return? The people at AMC are morons.

AMC has not given an official date yet...

How will Kim Jong Il's death affect the upcoming season of "30 Rock"? Clearly, the geopolitical implications are secondary to Tina Fey.

I'm hoping it provides at least a couple episodes' worth of  storylines...it was a hilarious plot development...

I had always heard it was called "Fat Man-Hot Wife Syndrome".

Male Pattern Optimism is so much better, don't you think?

I thought X-factor was over too. Last night I saw a preview for the new Chelsea Handler show. Her acting leaves a lot to be desired. Have you seen the show?

I have seen enough to know that acting is not Handler's forte...

Hi Pookie and Merry Merry! Can you explain why the networks run their Christmas shows two or three weeks before the holiday? It makes the week before the holiday so boring due to the re-runs. I wouldn't even mind if they re-ran previous Christmas shows (like a whole night of "Office" Christmas) but they don't. Do network programmers just give up this time of year?

yes....and they run holiday shows -- Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer, etc. early so as to get them into November sweep because we love watching them! That's the good news... I like your idea of Christmas Episode Burnoff Theatre during Christmas week, but, honestly, viewing levels go so low that week, I think they just don't bother with the deals that would have to be brokered to make it happen... Heck, I'd like to see Yule Log on broadcast TV for a week.

Oh thank goodness for the chatter who asked about the definition of "season". I thought I was aging faster than I thought I was aging. Phew!

I'm glad we cleared that up for you...

I hate "Whitney" but find "2 Broke Girls" (which is also a Whitney Cummings show) tolerable. Don't get me wrong, the supporting cast is beyond annoying and borderline racist, but the chemistry between the two lead actresses is great. Is it okay to like something Whitney Cummings made?

Yes,if they lose the horse.. That horse stuck in that neighborhood just upsets me....

Is it allowable for a guy to like "Revenge"? Some of the characters are interesting while others are hilariously bad, which is awesome in its own way.

Absolutely. ABC needs more guys to watch -- it's such a chick network...

I forgot already.

She's got a nice voice and will have a fine career...but, she's no Scotty McCreery, for sure... kidding...

Yes, it related to a question about our present political climate because Democrats wanted to pay for some stuff using a millionaire's tax, but Republicans didn't budge. I know you're out in Hollyweird, but you gotta keep up with D.C. when you write for the Washington Post, pookie! Love ya!!!

No, I'm here in Washington...not returning to Dottywood on the Pacific until end of year, when Winter TV Press Tour 2012 begins....I just could not remember last week's political chat conversation... So much has happened since then -- see Emily's List, above....

Lisa, you look stunning today! I'd like to stop by to wish you and all the nuts are very Happy Festivus. Serenity now!

Yes, please do stop by the Post and spread Festivus cheer....

There are some shows I cannot stand to watch. I'd rather gouge out my eyes or lose my hearing. So I wonder, how do you make it through shows you don't like?

I can do it, because I am a serious student of television. Imagine an oncologist, keeping an eye on a particularly nasty bit of cancer.. It's kind of like that...

Glad another poster liked it. At our house when Emily gets another one of the persons who victimized her, we shake our fists and shout "Revenge!" Also when faux-Amanda steals Nick from her. You can't have both Emily!

How nice that "Revenge" has brought your family together.. except I sense a drinking game brewing...

I've never seen Chelsea Handler so have no idea what she looks like. However, I've seen the promo for the show, which shows two very different women, a blonde and a brunette, but the promo's so confusing that I can't tell which one's the star (i.e., Chelsea). Did someone at NBC mess up big-time?

The show is based on the autobiographical book by Chelsea Handler. But Handler's playing her born-again sister in the show and Laura Prepon is playing Chelsea.. Chelsea couldn't play Chelsea, I'm just guessing, because she's too old --that, and she can't act... not that Laura is doing much on that front...

Where will it be at? Someplace warm I hope! Will all of the stars from the Mid-Season shows be there?

Yes! Pasadena! And yes, it's all about interviewing network suits and cast and crew of upcoming programs...

What are you giving your puppies this holiday season? I'm sure they expect only the best!

I make an annual donation to an animal rescue organization on their behalf. As they are both rescues, they appreciate it very much -- if they also get chewbones on Christmas morning...

.....what kind of Cancer would Barbara Walters calling Simon Cowell a "Most Fascinating Person" be?

some kind that's not very aggressive --  but persistent...

My DVR caught this and it is pretty good. Is there a Second Season for it?

Yes, starting Jan. 8

Now my head's just hurting. Think I'll skip this series.

good decision....

Any sneak-peeks into this year's Kennedy Center Honors TV show? Do you know whose tribute is not-to-be-missed? My all-time fave was the University of Nebraska Marching Band coming down the aisles playing the school fight-song as a total surprise for honoree Johnny Carson -- one of TV's greatest moments!

I'm very sorry I had to miss this year's event. The list of honorees this year was terrific...

Are chatters not universally aware that in Real Life, we get four seasons every year?

we try not to discuss real life here if we can help it... but your point is very well taken. thank you..

I love this movie and just watched it again this morning while I pretended to work at home. I think it's not more widely known, though, because there's some old-fashioned race attitudes at beginning with regard to F. MacMurray's household helper, and generally old-fashioned attitudes about everything.

Yes, that's the downside of many old movies. Even worse is the Christmas flick "Holiday Inn"..it's barely watchable for that reason, though it is an interesting glimpse in to what was considered "okay" in those times.. pretty awful what was considered "okay" in those times...

Having that horse in the alley behind their apartment upsets me, too, Pookie! I stopped watching the show because, no matter how much chemistry the two leads have, they're animal abusers, bottom line.

where's PETA when you need them...

Is CBS setting itself up to put 2 more comedies in on Thursday Nights at 9pm? 'The Office' has pretty much died to me after Steven Carrell left.

Not this season; CBS is scheduled to stick with JJ's "Person of Interest" in the hour for the rest of the season, though it's no longer performing there as well as had "CSI" last season...

May I ask what idiot at NBC turned Chelsea Handler from a blonde into a brunette (or as my mother used to call it, getting a brain transplant)? In the previews she just keeps looking so...so...WRONG!

Yes, it looks like a Halloween costume. It's not so much the brunette quality of the wig, it's the Walmart-quality of wig... Couldn't Comcast afford better hair on this show?

I didn't watch more than a minute or so early on of this show. But reading TV blogs today it seems the person who won is 19 years old. So the big deal about the X-Factor being different from American Idol in that it was open to all age groups turned out to be meaning less since an AI aged person won anyway. Personally, I'm waiting for The Voice to come back.

The runner-up, Josh, is 30, and that's the difference. Melanie did have the best voice...

I've read that both "Jeopardy!" and "Wheel of Fortune" tape five episodes a day when they're doing shows, yet Alex, Pat and Vanna's staffs manage to dress them in a different outfit for each show, and even restyle Vanna's hair. And the returning champion on "Jeopardy!" wears something different each time. So how hard can it be for "Who's Still Standing?" (it's not as though it's "Wayne's World," or anything).

You are absolutely right and if he was wearing the same purple shirt NBC ought to be ashamed of themselves. Oh wait, it's NBC...

Thanks for the tip on another Stanwyck Christmas fave. What kind of career would she have if she arrived in Hollywood today? And do you like "Christmas in Connecticut" because her character resembles yours? Do you live near a lovable old Hungarian man who crunches Nielsen numbers for you?

That is THE NICEST thing anyone has ever said to me...I love the ELizabeth Lane character. And yes, I owe a great deal to the people who help me to better understand this industry by sharing stats.  They are my Cuddles Sakall...I think that's the perfect note on which to end! ...I will not be chatting next week but will be chatting from the press tour the first week of January. Enjoy whatever holiday you subscribe to, and see you in two weeks! ....

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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