Oprah's network, 'Idol,' and midseason shows: Lisa de Moraes' TV Column Live

Jan 27, 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 found it refreshing that Sajak admitted that he and Vanna used to knock back a few margaritas over dinner in between tapings of "Wheel of Fortune" in its early days. Why are people trying to turn 25-year-old news into a scandal? His irreverent (and presumably alcohol-fueled) loosey-goosey approach is part of what built the brand. Besides, he says he no longer gets behind the "Wheel" after drinking.

Slow news week for The Reporters Who Cover Celebrity Gossip? Dovetails nicely with Demi Moore whip-it seizures/hospitalization? Tim Gunn's "no sex for 30 years" headline didn't generate hoped-for Web traffic? I give up, why?

It seems like just a goofy story  from an old game-show guy in the biz, so far as I can tell. And of course, it's a nice simple concept:

1)Beloved show host

2)Wildly popular syndicated game show


I'm wondering why anyone's shocked by the story.  I always assumed the dinner-break drinking rate among people who make their living helping people spin a big game-show wheel, or walking across a stage to turn over letters on a board, is very high. Surely someone's done a study.... 


I thought Whip-It was that thing that Will Smith's daughter does/did with her hair. How old a fart am I???

Not at all. If you were really old, you'd think "whip it"  is what you do to egg whites when making an angelfood cake...

So why do an all-stars without their all-stars (Heidi and Tim Gunn)? And why is it only 60 minutes, instead of the now-normal 90 on Lifetime? I'm really not sure how I feel about this season and am bummed to have to wait nearly a year for Tim. Thanks.

Has Lifetime done ANYTHING good with this franchise since it took it over from Bravo? This is just more of same...

Are there any players that stand out for you this year? I saw a brief promo and they had little piggie cheerleaders! I just can't wait.

My money's always on the scruffiest terrier -- in much the same way my grandmother, a horserace enthusiast, always advised me to bet on the grey mare....So, this year I'm guessing the star will be Leroy Brown, the chihuahua/terrier mix....Emily, on the other hand, is going with terrier Delilah, because she's "so cute." Emily clearly is an amateur.

It took me by surprise when I realized I was watching ABC News' west coast feed on Tuesday rather than the expected State of the Union address. Thankfully, PBS came to the rescue. What's with the networks on keeping the west coast on unreal time? The worst is when they delay West Coast events like the Academy and Emmy Awards.

Are you saying your ABC station tape-delayed SOTU on West Coast? The address started at 6 p.m. West Coast time and ABC network said they were airing it at 6 on the West Coast and ABC is listed by Nielsen as having aired it on the West Coast at that time. What the heck market are you in? Oh, and many trophy shows telecasts are no longer delayed for West Coast. That started a few years back with the Golden Globes, I think it was. Anyway, what you do often see is that, on the West Coast, a network will air the trophy show live and then immediately rerun it in its old timeslot,  so as to grab those viewers who don't know the play pattern has changed. ABC's upcoming broadcast of the Academy Awards, for instance, is set to air live in all time zones...   

Hi Lisa, I've been trying to get into Alcatraz and the main mystery is compelling, however the actual shows week to week are not great. What is the general feedback on this show? Is it doing well?

This week's episode clocked 9 million viewers, building on "House's" 8.7 million.. It's good -- not a monster hit or anything, but good....The biggest story coming out of this show's debut is that the parks department that runs Alcatraz now and puts on tours, has had to post signs on site telling JJ Abrams cult members that the show is fictitious and there is no control room underneath, because nutjobs -- I mean "fans" -- are breaking away from the guided tours to go find the secret control room that's in the show....If I'm an advertiser, I'm doing a happy dance to learn that fans of the show are so crazy they'll eat anything, so to speak....

I found this show compelling even though I didn't understand anything about it. Where does the kid get these numbers from? Why was that father standing underneath a Jumbotron in Tokyo at the exact instant the pictures of his daughter were displayed? Why did the Lottery winner feel that winning a gazillion dollars exonerated him from allowing Jack Bauer's wife (er, I mean the wife of whoever Kiefer's playing this time) to die in the North Tower? Will every episode feature a series of coincidences on a global scale based on some number the kid writes down? And why did I enjoy this?

Pookie, you're trying to have a rational discussion about a Tim Kring series. It simply can't be done....The kid gets the numbers from The Magic Script -- it comes each week from the giant underground control room under Alcatraz.....

After Tony K brought it up on his show, we started watching Homeland and are just now catching up on the first season. Definitely riveting, tapping into a fear that most Americans have of another 9/11 event. I wonder if Claire Danes is typecasting herself--after Temple Grandin and then this show I almost believe she's a wide-eyed, brilliant lunatic. Mandy Patinkin too gives the plot depth and credibility--like he did with Criminal Minds. You do have to suspend belief with respect to how the CIA and FBI would actually handle such a situation; it's the show's only weakness. But--will Patinkin stay? Is this show getting the recognition it deserves?

When, in real life, Mandy Patinkin wide-eyed, brilliant, and a lunatic...and while he has a reputation of bailing on shows after the second-ish season -- and has done it twice to CBS (which operates  Showtime) I think chances are better he'll stick with this show, because it's on Showtime and so does not have the same rigid production schedule as a broadcast drama series -- and they don't make as many episodes. And, he's not the lead.. So, if ever there was (were?) a series on which Patinkin might stick around, this one's it...I think. Maybe.

Regarding Downton Abbey: Here in the United States, I didn't watch Season One when it first aired on PBS. Then I heard about the series, and got the DVDs for Season One from my local public library. Recently, I watched Season One on PBS and saw that it was heavily edited--the results are very choppy. Then I watched the first episode of Season Two--also very choppy. I'm thinking of PBS's heavily edited showings as a preview for the DVDs which will be available later. Happy viewing!

This is when it pays to be  Reporter Who Covers Television. I get the DVDs and I watch the DVD's.. I will now watch the actual televised version, based on your comments, and report back. If this is the case, it's a shame...

Last week, someone wrote in about Alcatraz replacing Terra Nova. Do they have a meth lab in FOX's executive boardroom? Whose decision was it to make this change? Alcatraz is horrible. Bring back Terra Nova and let us escape from Alcatraz...

Terra Nova is on the fence because it was not a ratings blockbuster and it's an expensive show. On the other hand, it sold well internationally, blah, blah, blah. Fox suits said at Press Tour they would make the decision about whether to return the show in a few weeks, which, loosely translated, means "we want to see how our midseason dramas do."  "Alcatraz" is one of those shows...Notice how, even though it's a JJ Abrams drama,  it's not heavily serialized. Fox wants to see if they can do a better business with a CBS like series (close-ended episodes, etc)  with a JJ sensibilty and one of the actors from the JJ Repertory Theater to try to bring in all those rabid "Lost" fans... It's pretty cynical programming, frankly. And,  ironically, it's EXACTLY CBS is doing over on their schedule: "Person of Interest" -- close-ended episodes, JJ sensibility, and lead actor from the JJ Repertory Theater (Michael Emerson of "Lost").

Pookie, I love it when Jorge Garcia is on, but I lose interest with the blonde girl. Are the ratings any good?

Everyone on this chat seems to be of the same mind -- badly miscast blonde.....

Was that song by Devo.

that too!

Why, oh why did Lifetime do this? The best thing they did to the original concept was to lengthen episodes to 90min so we saw more sewing room action. I never thought I'd say this - I miss Heidi!

Seal? Is that you?

...do you have any reaction to the retirement of 10 year old Jack Russell terrier Uggie, just as he gets the best notices of his career for The Artist?

This reference is to the Jack Russell who stole the otherwise disappointing Golden Globe Awards the other night. At age 10, he deserves the right to retire and chase squirrels the rest of his hopefully long life...

She is a border collie mixed with I say pit bull terrier. So she is smart like a border collie and has the terrier to win it. Plus she looks like my dog.

Border collies are tenacious...but don't they tend to get disqualified by the referees a lot because they mistake the chihuahua puppies for footballs?

No kittens? I might not watch without kitten and I'm surely not watching that other game being played. Football, I think they call it.

I don't think the Piggy Pep Squad precludes a Kitten half-time show, does it? That would be wrong...

Is she now the breadwinner for the family?

Apparently not, if she needed Fox to purchase her a ticket to Hollywood where, um, Daddy lives.....

If I recall, Peter Marshall said the Thursday and Friday shoots of Hollywood Squares was noticeably looser after the dining and drinking lunch breaks following the Monday-Wednesday tapings. Again, Wheel of Fortune is now a knicker-knotted story? Where's Paul Lynde when you need him?

I believe you are right... This getting knicker knotted over the Sajak "revelation" is pretty Ladies of River City-ish.....and, how I wish Paul Lynde had been around to host "The X Factor"....

There will never be anything cuter than a few years ago when Bruin the Alaskan malamute was part of the puppy line-up. He looked like CGI next to the other pups, and was so gentle with them, having absolutely no idea how big he was.

I remember him...that was cute....

It's probably wore out its welcome, but I for one will miss "Chuck" not for Zack Levi himself, but for all the funny side-characters it had. Especially Adam Baldwin. Is he going to another series?

My Very Last "Chuck" Question -- hooray! The series is ending tonight and, so far as I know, Adam Baldwin is not signed for any other greenlit series. Not that I follow his career that closely...

Is it still dead?

Really most sincerely dead. Thank you for asking.

They showed the Golden Globes twice...real time and the later West Coast pretending they are on East Coast time. I find it annoying because they could still air my regular shows if they just showed the Globes real time.

Give it a couple more seasons. I think this is just the compromise until America gets the hang of it that they can watch a trophy show when it's actually happening -- not three hours later, on the West Coast....baby steps...

Am I the only one who kept thinking "This is a lot like Person of Interest, but the kid is the machine"?

You noticed too?

Any rumors yet as to who the celebs might be on this spring's DWTS?

The pressure on the casting people must be huge this time around, because "Idol" is down in the ratings a lot and, with the right cast, "Dancing" could beat it....I'm talking Bristol Palin-right -- someone people can't stop watching and talking about....So far, none of the names that have been tossed around are remotely interesting. Ryan O'Neal was rumored, since he had to drop out last time (due to "injury").  Also there was a report about the Kardashion's mom Cruella de Vil...BTW, the cast will be announced on Feb. 28 and this year ABC is NOT announcing the cast on "The Bachelor" but will instead announce on "Good Morning America"...that's because "GMA" is now, season to date, in its closest competitive position in 16 years to NBC's "Today" show.

I hope the TV gods forgive me for missing Craig's shows from Paris when they originally aired. I am thoroughly enjoying the repeats this week, but it makes me wonder -- how much of his zany fun will be neutered by CBS when he replaces Dave at 11:30 p.m.?

Assuming Craig does take over when Dave decides to retire, it will hopefully not be to the same degree NBC neutered Conan O'Brien when he took over "Tonight Show" -- although it's unclear how much was NBC neutering Conan and how much was Conan neutering himself because he was so in awe of the franchise and Johnny Carson, etc.. It helps that Letterman's Worldwide Pants owns and produces CBS's "Late Show" unlike "Tonight" which is owned by NBC.



So what's the second "Eddie" from "Frasier" doing nowadays?

I dont' know. Signing autographs for squirrels, I hope....

Everywhere I go, I see a headline about the precipitous drop in "Idol" viewership. Then the attached article will explain that the show has dropped to 20 million viewers or so. Seriously? Is anyone at Fox actually getting their knickers knotted over this?

Fox is watching this very closely. Yes, it's still a big show, but it's down significantly and you'll see the network look for ways to bolster its ratings this season -- like airing a "special" episode right after the NFC championship game, etc... Fox will do whatever it takes to not lose Ryan Seacrest, whose contract is up at the end of this season. It's just like those Nat Geo wildlife specials --  "Idol" is the ageing lion who's still head of his pride, but now has to keep an eye out for the younger males because he's not the stud he once was... 

so - I love this show. Tess and her dad are just great - charming and funny. I don't hear anything about it - am I the only one watching?

No, it's doing well and ABC is pleased... But, as we all know from watching the ratings trajectory on "Modern Family," "The Middle," etc.. it's all about the sophomore season these days...

I never worshipped at the altar of Oprah, and find I have no interest in watching anything on OWN. How long can this network hang on?

Well, that is a very good question. Oprah says she's only now focusing her full attention on the network -- hence the exit of several suits in recent weeks -- and I'm guessing investors are buying that.  Didn't someone at Discovery -- Harpo's partner in the network --  say the other day that it takes a few years for a new network to gain ratings traction. Or, maybe it was Oprah who said that. Anyone, someone said that...Of course, none of those other new networks had Oprah.

At last year's press tour in Pasadena, wasn't this show expected to be probably the first cancellation of the season? What went wrong / right?

Yes indeedie (indeedy?)! Many TV critics had this show at the top of their First To Be Canceled lists ...but that dates back to the press conference at which ABC programming chief Paul Lee unveiled the show to TV critics and reporters last May, hours before he unveiled it to advertisers in New York.... I wrote about it then -- and some execs at ABC are still mad about that.  

Bless you, Pookie, bless you.

you are welcome.

There's no mention of Kitty Halftime on Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl website. I'm not watching without kitties! And I'm not watching that other game - or its commercials - either. Is there counter-counter-programming somewhere?

I'm sorry they've retired the Kitty Halftime show since I think all the animals used in their Super Bowl counterprograming were rescues...Other networks mostly roll over and play dead during the game... All I can suggest is you amuse yourself with I Can Has Cheezburger cats during the Puppy Bowl's halftime.

Do you think CBS is going to try to make a 9-10pm Thurday Comedy Block next season. NBC has definitely left a vacuum.

You betcha! And I hope it's wildly successful. NBC needs to get its act together and get back into the game...

How do you like Once Upon a time? I loooove this show. I hope everyone is watching it because I never want it to end. Ginnefer Goodwin is amazing in it as Snow White.

Lisa: Welcome to our humble chat, Prince Charming! I'm glad you find Snow White amazing. Some say she's an angel.

Grumpy: Angel, ha! She's a female! And all females is poison! They're full of wicked wiles!

Bashful: What are wicked wiles?

Grumpy: I don't know, but I'm agin' 'em.

I may be a bit late to the party, just started watching Spartacus Blood and Sand on DVD and let me tell you there is a lot of sand and blood and sex. What is the audience here? Teen-age boys? Gay men? Yikes. And didn't I read somewhere that the lead actor died of cancer? Very sad - he is very good in the role.

Guys, guys and guys are the target audience, but you knew that. Yes, the original Sparticus actor died of cancer and the guy who took over and some other cast were at the Press Tour and when someone asked them about his death, the new Sparticus answered, putting on his sad face to say that when the death was announced on the set it was so hard to take, but then they all decided the best thing they could do in his honor was the best darned show ever - and then they all took off their sad faces and continued to talk up the new season . It was a very Hollywood moment.

Pookie, you are in awesome, rare form today. Amazingness!

I wish I could take credit, but it's  a line from the original animated flick...I'm a walking compendium of lines from old flicks...kind of like Peter Sellers' Chance character in "Being There" with his TV shows....

The only reason to watch -- Austin Scarlett's hats...and even those are getting old. Lifetime seems determined to make this franchise as irrelevant as possible to...what? Show more episodes of "Dance Moms"? I don't get it.

I don't think Lifetime is deliberatly killing it in stages. I think they just don't know better...

I'm so hoping that Miss Piggy is head cheerleader at the Puppy Bowl, wearing the dress they made for her over on Project Runway. And of course they'll still have kitty half-time! Or they'll have my two cats to answer to.

Apparently it's not in the plans this year....

Leaving aside the fact that I can't remember the last thing Ben Stiller did that made me laugh, haven't the networks figured out that DC shows don't ever seem to work? Other than West Wing and Bones, I can't think of another success in recent memory. Is NCIS supposed to be here (I can't deal with Mark Harmon stomping around all over the place so I've never watched more than a few minutes of that show). DC Housewives, Real World DC, that Zach Morris show about interns...I can think of lots of failures.

HBO can't seem to get enough of shows set in Washington. they've got "Veep" coming up, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as POTUS, and the TV movie "Game Change" starring Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin....and yes, "NCIS" and "Bones" are both set in Washington, though you don't see much of Washington in either...and both are very successful...but your point is a good one -- so good, I wrote about it this week...

I read somewhere that the show was edited so Laura Linney can introduce the show and show previews at the end of the episode. Boo!

Boo indeed -- she adds nothing. And, most certainly she doesn't add 30 minutes which someone has noted here, is the difference between each episode on Netflix and each episode on PBS....did I post that question? If not, I'll find it and post...

It's true! The version on Netflix is 90 minutes compared to PBS' 60. Why cut out so much, PBS???

Here it is.....

I heard CBS is greenlght one about the Las Vegas Sherriff in the 1960's. Didn't they learn their lesson with "The Playboy Club"? Only "Mad Men" can do period drama!

No, because "Playboy Club" was on NBC...and it's far more likely that a cop drama -- which, let's face it, this would be -- would work on CBS. CBS viewers love crime dramas. And, millions of CBS viewers were in  their prime in the 60s.. sounds like a slam dunk to me...

Why when I look at scheduled recording for the next few weeks is it so sparse? Are all the shows hoarding new episodes for sweeps and when does that start?

Yes and the February sweep starts on Feb. 2...rev up your DVR....

So, when does the Big Bang Theory spin-off show, "Fun with Flags" start?

When Sheldon runs CBS....not any time soon, alas....

It may be me but I think that most standard TV dramas have more commerical breaks than they used to. I noticed this with House and with Harry's Law, the latter of which goes to commercial when ever they focus on Harry's bemused face. Are the shows getting sorter or are the extra breask due to forcing us to watch the commercials?

The number of ads in primetime has been climbing for ages. As a rule of thumb: when a show starts, it has fewer ads, unless it's some sure-thing hit and even then the network exercises some caution... When a show becomes a hit -- look out, here come the ads... Sometimes a hit show is even "supersized" to get an additional ad break in which might be a good trade off -- more programming in return for watching another ad break -- except usually what's added, programming-wise, is material that would have been (and should have been) left on the editing room floor...."House" has been a hit, though its ratings have tumbled... "Harry's Law" is one of the few programs on NBC that's getting broadcast tonnage in terms of actual people watching. That said I think it's also NBC's oldest skewing entertainment series...

Pookie: Were you as surprised as me that Male Pattern Optimism has made a glorious return in the form of "!Rob!", or should I say "?Rob?" (sorry, can't find the upside-down "!" and "?" on my keyboard) I just don't see how one of the weakest SNL cast members since Melanie Hutsell (go ahead, Wiki it, I'll wait....) could ever land a wife that hot. (And speaking of which, have we figured out which network executive actually thought that a TV sitcom version of that Matthew Perry-Selma Hayek movie "Fools Rush In" would be a good idea?) Anyway,just wanted to point out that, apparently, male patern optimism isn't just for overweight blue collar schlubs anymore. I think, somewhere, Kevin James is crying.

Male Pattern Optimism never went away on CBS...

Is a good question to if she's alive and seen her show, as it's horrid...makes "Whitney" look good. And I'm a fan of Laura Prepon from her time on "That 70's Show"....

Then you'll be happy to know it did not do particularly well in its opening...

There is only one reality show I watch: The Amazing Race. When is it coming back and why is it not on the air year-round?

Feb. 19...

Pookie - in regards to the ongoing OWN kerfluffles... Am I right in thinking that Oprah essentially thought just putting her name on a network would get her the same ratings (and money) that her talk show did, without much in the way of R&D or work? It seems we're destined to see an endless stream of people going through the revolving OWN door, because it can't be Oprah's fault, right? RIGHT???

2011 was  Teachable Year for Winfrey and Harpo Productions. They seem to be still figuring out the many ways in which producing a talk show, TV movies, etc.  uses a different skill set than running and programming a network. But Winfrey's a bright woman and is clearly very focused now. Let's see where the network is at the end of '12...I'm out of time. Thanks for joining me --  have a great weekend.

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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