On 'Idol', the Golden Globes, and Colbert: Lisa de Moraes' TV Column Live

Jan 20, 2012

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 just went to a movie theater to watch a forgettable movie--terrific cinematography, sappy plot (War Horse). What really frosted my derrierre though were the endless commercials we had to sit through before the movie started. Attendance at movies is dropping, and no wonder. One thing TV has going for it now is the ability to record programs and watch them virtually commercial free--please, Pookmeister, greatest seer on the web, tell me they aren't going to allow technology that will prevent that.

Isn't this why god gave us mobile devices, so you can secure a good seat early at the theater, and look at something other than the ads before the movie starts? In a pinch, of course, you can talk to the person with whom you went to the movie...and, they already have the technology that prevents you from blowing out the ads when you watch programming online which networks naturally hope becomes your viewing choice of preference if you're not going to just sit and watch it when they've scheduled it, live, like nature intended...

Dearest Pookie, Long-time lurker, first-time caller needing some JJ Abrams help. So I tried to watch Alcatraz. Really, I did for about 35 minutes... but found it unwatchable. Even with Hurley. I hate the female detective orphan. But reviews haven't been bad. Should I try it again or take it as a sign that I deserve better after staying until Lost's bitter end.

Sounds like we have a member of the Church of JJ who needs some re-programming. I'll contact authorities....

I could handle the down and out Ohio town with the professional quality lights in the auditorium, the stunning costumes that appear magically and all the other production values. They are necessary to the premise of the show. But a down and out Ohio town - one that the kids talk about never being able to escape like it is the town out of Footloose - with an Olympic sized pool and a co-ed varsity synchronized swimming team? I'm just starting to lose my ability to suspend my disbelief. I try to ignore the story. Really I do. But it is getting harder and harder...

Your problem, pookie, is that you're not properly medicated. You know, like when you went to see  "Fantasia" in a seedy second run movie house when you were in college which, I'm told, is now a requirement at some institutions of higher learning. I'm guessing you watched the episode stone cold sober. Why would you do that?

I had such high hopes for Ricky Gervais, but the broadcast was a dud. I assume he won't host again?

He was neutered before the broadcast, wasn't he? A couple days before the Globes Gervais came to press tour and told a couple hundred TV critics/bloggers/tweeters that he'd sent a note of apology to Johnny Depp for the drubbing he gave his movie "The Tourist" at last year's Globes because he wanted to get Depp to do a cameo on his new HBO show "Life's Too Short."  Which Depp did. Sadly, I think Gervais is just another in the long list of examples of how Hollywood co-opts and corrupts everyone....

(Submitting early because I have an appointment.) I have just gone from working 80 hour weeks to being unemployed, and I now have time to watch TV again after a few years of not watching. Is there any (non-reality) show that is good, that I can just jump into now, without knowing any backstory? I was going to try Alcatraz last week, but missed it - is it worth starting next week? Is there anything you would recommend?

Yes. Please try NBC's "Smash" -- I'm suggesting it because it hasn't debuted yet (Feb 6) so you haven't missed anything, because I like exec producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, partly because it's a musical ("Glee" adults, as people have called it) and when musical TV series succeed it seems to help make the case for continuing music programs in schools -- strange I know, but there you go -- and partly because NBC desperately needs your eyeballs. Also try HBO's "Luck" if only because it stars Dustin Hoffman who is always worth watching. If you liked "Paranormal Activity"  watch ABC's upcoming "The River" because it's produced and created by the guy who directed that flick. And don't miss FX's upcoming late night experiment with Russell Brand hosting -- they've only ordered six epsiodes -- because, turns out, he's hilarious when not confined to stupid movie roles or hosting trashy MTV trophy shows. Who knew? 

Any idea what Downton Abbey's ratings are like? I imagine it's doing very well, though I admit I have no idea what "very well" means for PBS in terms of numbers.

Nobody knows what "very well" means for PBS in terms of numbers. They're closely held secrets. It's good enough that the show is winning a boatload of trophies, beating HBO in many categories, and that the show is getting loads of buzz. PBS needs buzz...

I'm just not interested in Idol this season. It feels like too much, too soon! There are so many singing shows on now, I can't get into any of them. Is there a cure?

Your question has sent a chill down the spine of all Fox executives. This is exactly their fear -- that millions of people, like you, are suffering from Singing Show Fatigue. Last night, "Idol" only clocked about 17.7 million viewers, according to early stats -- and 5.7 percent of the country's 18-49 year olds. These are the smallest debut-week numbers for "Idol" ever during a TV season (which runs September through May). The only episodes of "Idol" that attracted a smaller crowd happened in its very first season, back in 2002, when Fox introduced this brand new franchise during the summer. Now, in fairness, Fox really did not have much choice with regard to Simon Cowell's "The X Factor" he was shopping it around and other networks were interested. Had Fox not bought it, another network would have, and "Idol" viewers would still be suffering the same singing-show only Fox would not have accumulated "The X Factor" ratings -- and ad revenue.

Have the decent competition shows (top chef, project runway...) jumped the shark (or nuked the fridge)? I know they're always plugging something for someone, but this week was just painfully awkward to watch. First, Charlize Theron on Top Chef (because she "loves food") telling them all about her new Snow White movie and forcing them to make food that's dark and dramatic. Huh? Then, and I swear this is true, the folks on Project Runway Allstars had to design an outfit for Miss Piggy. And they all had their little diary moments discussing what an inspiration she is, and how she's such a mega fashion icon. I'm sorry, but in what universe do these things make sense?

The universe in which Disney owns the Muppet franchise and also co-owns Lifetime, which airs "Project Runway." It's the universe of behemoth media conglomerates. Welcome to my world!

What do you think pookie? How many brain cells will this show cost my son?

Well, we already know he comes from a long line of very smart people, you having  joined us in our weekly chat in which everyone is brilliant and looks fabulous. So  he's probably got some to spare. Plus, "Alcatraz" probably won't hold his interest for too many seasons -- since it's really a procedural crime drama in disguise -- not a heavily serialized, waist-deep-in-mythological-goo show like "Lost." So, honestly I would not worry about it and let him have his fun.

Lisa - I can't find an RSS feed for just your column. It would be greatly appreciated it you or the producer can link to it so I don't have to do battle with the Washington Post when I want to read your column. Yes, I know there's a Lisa page but the way it is organized makes it a pain.

I don't think there is an RSS feed for just the column but I am inquiring further. You can, of course, subscribe to RSS of Lisa's blog feed here. There is an RSS feed for the TV section as well but that is not exclusively Lisa.

Here is your depressing answer, from my chat producer, Ryan.

I enjoyed it but now it seems to have disappeared. Did FOX cancel "Terra Nova?" Thank you.

"Terra Nova" had ended its first adventure and has now gone to the land of On the Bubble. Fox suits at Winter TV Press Tour 2012 refused to commit to a second season of the series. It was VERY expensive, and failed to clock gimongous ratings, despite the "ooh it's Spielberg -- AND the guys who did 'Star Trek' and '24' " -ness of it all. On the other hand, it sold well internationally. My guess is Fox will see how its new dramas: "Touch" with Kiefer Sutherland -- which I should have put on that earlier list of Shows for the Newly Unemployed to Check Out becaue nobody chews scenery like Sutherland --  and new ""Alcatraz" which, if it wasn't on the list should have been as well, because you need to see how they explain why prisoners from "Alcatraz" can come back from the dead after 50 years and not looking a day older. I don't know about you, but I want to buy some of whatever it is they're taking.  Geesh, I didn't do so well with that list, did I? 

When will a new episode of House run? Next Fall? Oh wait, has it been renewed yet? I read somewhere that they are considering renewing it despite the recent exodus of important characters.

Returning Jan. 23 -- and with House sporting a new hairstyle, if the ads running in "Idol" are to be believed...

Lisa: Did you see the season opener of 30 Rock and its parody of singing competition shows with John McEnroe as the "nice" judge? It's brilliance was summed up in the final scene of an adorable young girl doing a torchy, Mariah Carey-like version of "Camptown Races." (Jack Donaghey: "It's public domain week. No royalties!")

This show is brilliant and deserves a bigger audience. If only it aired on a network someone was watching. It's like that tree falling in a forest but no one's there -- did it really make a sound when it fell? (My middle school science  training finally comes in handy)

On behalf of all Pittsburgh-area folk, I apologize for that ridiculous Patty the Planker. No one had ever heard of her before. Thanks for nothing, Idol.

Are you kidding?! I LOVE Patty the Planker. We need a Planker movement. Enough with this flash mob nonsense! I want to see a series about obsessive plankers! Someone call TLC!

Pookie: When can we expect another well thought-out and detailed interview conducted by Ms. Clinton? It's been too long since we have seen her stunning presence. I just cannot wait.

I forgot -- have we come up with a Chelsea Clinton: Interviewer drinking game yet?

So Mark Cuban is creating another cable TV network. What got me wondering: how many networks in total are there?

Technically, he's not creating another network -- he's gutting HDnet and turning it into The Ryan Seacrest Network, aka AXS...

has had ads in the movie theater for decades. of course, they tell you when the actual movie going to start, too.

The U.S. of A. has had ads in movie theaters for decades as well. One of my most fond memories of my start covering TV for The Hollywood Reporter was when ABC announced it was going to advertise its fall lineup in movie theaters before the flicks started. It was unveiled at an affiliates meeting I attended in Los Angeles and my editor was so outraged by the news she splashed it across the front page and all hell broke loose in Hollywood that day.. good times!

Pookster, you (and your colleague Emily) have been quite busy this week with your posts on all things good (bad and ugly) in the TV world. Hopefully once the press tour is over, you can take some well-deserved R&R.

Too busy, what with the return of "Idol," the increasingly important broadcast "midseason" launches, the second half of cable's TV season, etc....Emily, however,  is a devoted observor of President Day and is taking a well-deserved five-day weekend -- and we support her in this.

My mom watched and liked it, but she's past 90. I don't think this is the demographic they're looking for. I saw the last half and thought it wasn't bad. I would watch again.

If she's past 90 -- bless her! -- that means Fox not only isn't looking for her, but they're probably not looking for you and possibly not looking for your children either. But watch it anyway -- mess with Fox, I say!

What is with Insurance company commercials? The one with the sqealing pig is on all the time on shows my wife likes. She actually noted that she wished that we had the company so we could cancel and then tell them we cancelled because of the commercial. But she does like the State Farm Rodgers commercials. The first two more than the third.

..and yet, I love the squealing pig, but I love pigs.. and no that's not a dating comment. Anyone else out there like the pig ad?

Why does E! let Ryan Seacrest build his empire on their land? I worked in a bakery and for goodness' sake had to sign a non-compete clause and promise I wouldn't start my own bakery for a certain number of years after leaving. How on earth can Ryan start a competing network?

Wait a minute -- are you telling me BAKERIES have non-compete clauses?! I can't explain the Seacrest deal except maybe E! was so anxious to get him they hadn't much leverage because, by then, he was already pretty much king of the reality-TV world, what with "Idol" being a big hit and his radio program a big hit in syndication, etc....

Quick Wikipedia search leads me to conclude that I probably saw Fantasia for the first time during the 1977 release, back when even suburban theaters had huge screens. And it might have even been worthy of a family trip to Boston (though I think that was for Watership Down). Anyway, I am positive I was escorted by my parents and was not yet in junior high. Only mind altering substance would have been the fake butter on the popcorn. And I just can't quite get my brain around alcohol for Glee watching. It is a work night, after all. But thanks for the suggestion. Maybe I can try watching it under the influence of cold medicine the next time I am sick.

You mean to tell me you did not go see "Fantasia" again as a college student at a seedy second-run theater while heavily medicated?  I thought that was a rite of passage. Is this because I went to college in Boulder?

You think that's bad? There's a website for a major national newspaper that makes you watch 30 second videos just to view a photo gallery. Talk about nerve.... I'm actually surprised we aren't being forced to watch ads during theses chats yet.

Ah -- the downside of this wonderful paperless world in which we live.. I'd like to personally thank you for watching the 30-second video before  viewing the photo gallery...seriously.  

I do get a kick out of Maxwell the pig; I like him much better than the Gecko. I also love Aaron Rogers' State Farm commercials and the two (local) GEICO commercials with Ryan Zimmerman & the Caveman. I can't stand Flo! I kind of like Allstate's Mayhem.

Wow -- you could write a book about insurance ads. Flo, for those of you who don't know, is the name of the hairbanded red-head that you really want to smack into next week on those Progressive ads. Love Mayhem Man, but I've  been told I've got a dark side...

Madonna! It was truly a "Masterpiece," how she wove a tale about how she was working so hard on her film, doing everything for her film, then she was asked - begged, really - to write a song. But she didn't have time - how could she, when she was writing and directing a film? She pulled herself together and wrote a song (mumble something about two other people being involved in the song). That song went on to be the number one song among the HFPA and was even better than anything Elton John had ever done. She was truly amazed by her own talent. Her film. The End.

AND  she did it all while doing the most incredible impersonation of a Modigliani painting...Did you also notice her eyes are no longer on the same plane?

Whee, whee, wheeeeee!!!!

He did get all the best lines, didn't he...

I grew up near the "fictional" down and out Ohio town in which Glee is set. The sham isn't the Olympic-sized pool (that's Lima Shawnee H.S.) The real sham is that Lima has a Gap store big enough to house a production number by the Warblers. Lima's Gap would only hold about three Warblers at a time.

It's the little details that always trip up the set designers...

On the final hour of the "Today" show, are Hoo-ha and Drunky Lee really as plastered as they always seem to be?

I hope so... anyway, I'm certainly not going to be the one to burst that bubble. It would be like telling Virginia there really is no Santa Claus....

Went to college in rural New Hampshire. No second run theaters. Only one first run theater unless you had a car and could get to the next town over. There was the Film Society, but if it didn't fit the theme of that semester, you didn't see it.

That's some kind of high falutin Film Society if they di dn't see fit to cough up the annual "Fantasia" screening...Not to get too nostalgic, but at my school, Roger Ebert would show up for a week to dissect one film over the week -- practically one frame at a time. It was a revelation and I loved it. "Citizen Kane," "Notorious," etc. So we weren't watching "Fantasia" every weekend.

ABC already tried one sitcom based on a GEICO commercial ("Cavemen"), but that was before "Once Upon a Time." So, why not a sitcom based on nursery rhymes?

aren't they recurring in "Once Upon a Time"?

Pookie, really? I thought she was a brunette. Am I misremembering something that important to the well being of the galaxy? How can we be informed voters when facts like these aren't clear?

I think they've toned down the red during the election cycle...

If the pig didn't have the awesome purple pinwheels, I'd hate him. But he does so it's awesome.

love the pinwheels. they should give the pinwheels their own ad.. i'd buy insurance based on pinwheels, wouldn't you. But I'd buy insurance based on cute pig characters.

I was so wishing someone would run on stage while Madonna was speaking and bash her with a huge bouquet of hydrangeas.

Too botanical -- I was longing to see her hit in the kisser with a good olf-fashioned shaving-cream pie -- the moment seemed to scream for it, don't you think? And it would have been such a nice homage to the Globe winner for best comedy/musical flick:  "The Artist"

I saw Fantasia at the Uptown Theatre right here in DC when I was an undergraduate in 1986. The two friends I saw it with had the same reaction: that would be great to see stoned. I think they were just trailblazers.

Clearly ahead of their time -- visionaries in fact... I'm guessing they went on to become new-media billionaires...

I love the Mayhem man too. That is all, except to say you look marvelous.

Why, thank you! On that happy note, I think we should wrap up this chat. Have a lovely weekend and see you next Friday. Thanks for joining me.

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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