Feb 18, 2011

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

This busy week in TV left us with so many questions we should talk about:

*Does anyone really think, after hearing Charlie Sheen on Dan Patrick’s radio show, that he’s seen the light and intends to stay off the stuff? If he doesn’t, what’s CBS and Warner Bros. TV’s next move?

*Watson stole the show on “Jeopardy!” this week, during the February sweep,  and gave the game show some of its best ratings in years. Who else might Watson be used to replace on a TV series as a sweep stunt – other than the obvious, David Caruso?

*Dave Letterman’s camp got duped into thinking Lindsay Lohan was going to read one of his Top-10 lists this week but Lindsay contacted Letterman’s peeps to tell them it was not gonna happen before they announced what she would Top-10. What should that list have been?

*Oprah lands Michael Vick interview, winning bet with Piers Morgan, only then Vick bails. Oprah’s said her team had been working on it for months, indicating displeasure. Is Michael Vick nuts, making Oprah unhappy?

* “Glee’s” big sloppy kiss to Justin Bieber turns into a ratings cold sore. Are we already sick and tired of “Glee” tributes to Fill in the Blank? If not, who do you want to see “Glee” celebrate – and don’t bother saying ‘ Justin Timberlake’ cause he’s already turned them down. 

* Did CBS properly handle the situation in the aftermath of Lara Logan’s sexual assault while covering Egypt president Hosni Mubarak’s exit, or did the network, as some have suggested, try to squelch a news story? 

*Roseanne Barr is going to raise macademia nuts for Lifetime. Nothing comes to mind. 

*“American Idol” so far this season – how’s it going? Do we like what JLo’s wearing?

...and, for those of you who have  asked recently, here is Winkie, and he is doing just fine and thank you for asking.

Is "Glee" having problems figuring out what to do with Jane Lynch's character?

"Glee" appears to be having problems figuring out what to do with everyone's character... I'm getting whiplash watching the show.  First Will Schuester is a nice guy and a mentor, then he's a hottie, then he's a jerk, then he's disappeared, then he's just around to announce the "theme" of the week....and Quinn: first she's a villain, then she's a victim, then she's a nice girl befriending Rachel,  then she's a manipulator...it's exhausting. Jane Lynch is terrific and she had a lot of momentum when she won a bunch of trophies for her work on the show, but then she too virtually disappeared from show for a while. Now I see Ryan Murphy has been hired to do another show for FX and I wonder what will happen to "Glee" next season.

I don't like "Glee" or "American Idol." But I really like you and your snark. Yet your columns/blog seem to focus a lot on those shows. Any chance you can bring your snarkiness and blog about other shows like "How I Met Your Mother" or "Community"?

If only there were two of me, I'd blog more shows.. but, alas, a gal's got to sleep some time....

What other Criminal Minds titles did CBS entertain:

  • Criminal Minds - Minds of Criminals
  • Criminal Minds - What were they thinking?
  • Criminal Minds - Numb3rs Without The Math

Your first one is my favorite. For those of you who haven't noticed, CBS debuted the spinoff of virtually it's only procedural crime drama it had not spun off yet. "Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior" debuted this week and blew away the timeslot competition. And yes, it is the worst spinoff name -- ever. I was going to suggest "Criminal Minds: Usual Suspects" just because it's easier for me to remember, and it's all about me. But I like "Criminal Minds: Minds of Criminals" a lot!

What do you think NBC is going to do with this 3-hour comedy block? Ratings for that 10 o'clock hour don't look good (even for NBC), so affiliates can't be too happy. Cancel "Perfect Couples" and "Outsourced" and bring back a 10 pm drama (or more likely some cheap reality show)?

I have the perfect solution: a 10 o'clock talk show, hosted by Jimmy Fallon....wonder why NBC hasn't thought of it yet...

Did you watch last night's episode of "Community"? Best use of LeVar Burton since "Star Trek: The Next Generation"!!!

um, that depends on what have been the other uses of LeVar Burton since "Star Trek: The Next Generation." I confess, I'm not a LeVar Burton obsessive. Please fill us in -- we should know this stuff...

Okay, what does "Glee" think an anthem song is? Because Bieber and and all the rest of those songs certainly were not anthems.

I don't think the writers of "Glee" gave it much thought, do you? What do "anthems" have to do with Justin Bieber in the first place? It was a very strange episode -- and that's saying a lot, given that it's "Glee"...

Lisa, I am impressed with the quality of shows like Lights Out and Justified, as well as other basic cable series present and past. Is there a chance for a change to the network sitcom or drama business model to reduce the episodes and present well-cast, well-written stories?

Absolutely.... "Lone Star" ---0h wait. That was cancelled.   "Keen Eddie." Oops, cancelled too.  How about "Dollhouse" -- just kidding! The reason these shows you like so much can survive on cable is because an audience of, say 4 million viewers causes cable programmers to break out the champagne and celebrate. It's not just about the number of episodes that have to be produced, it's about the whole structure of the two businesses. Broadcast networks, like CBS, are in the business of attracting huge quantities of people. Like 20 million if they're lucky. "Justified" would not attract 20 million even if it was on broadcast... It's a well-done niche show..It's a different business.

We just finished catching up on the Big C--a fascinating series, especially the older you get (66 here). The series appeared to wind up, is there any chance it will be renewed?

Yes. It's got buzz -- and Laura Linney. Showtime has a new guy in charge of programming, and he's not going to mess with a show that's bringing those players to the table...

Is The Event no more?

Returning March 7.....

I tried to like this show but had to give up after three episodes. I SHOULD be in the demographic they are trying to appeal to. They seem to have decided that Heroes' problem was that it wasn't cheesy enough. Is this show dying the horrible death I envision or am I missing the point somehow? I feel like I might be losing my guy creds.

It's not doing well -- not nearly as well as, say, the debut of  "Criminal Minds: Mind of Criminals" which clocked an impressive 13 million people this week.

I can't believe I'd ever say this, but I miss Larry King! Piers Morgan is obnoxious. How's he doing in the ratings?

Not great. Did you see Larry commented on Piers' show while attending the debut of the Anna Nicole opera in London? Larry said CNN overhyped Piers and that's why he's not ripping up the turf, ratings-wise.  Who knew Larry liked opera -- or Anna Nicole!

Is the name an homage to "Best in Show"? Which, btw, has ruined the Westminster Dog show forever, since it is just tooooo close to reality. He is a cutie, but I am partial to terrier mixes.

Absolutely not! He's obviously named Winkie because he looks like something that came out from under a rock in Winkie Forest, where the Wicked Witch of the West sent the Winged Monkeys to capture Dorothy and Toto. I'm surprised you can't see that in the photo...

Back when Robert Downey Jr. was having similar troubles, there was a lot of talk about whether films could get production insurance if he were cast in them. Is this not an issue with a weekly TV series? And on a personal note, I am coming up on 25 years of sobriety (knock wood) this month, and I will tell you that if I had tried rehabbing at home, a la the Sheen model, I would have been dead about 24 years ago. He obviously does not think he has a real problem--which is not surprising, as I imagine everyone in his life, save for his brother and his father, spends every waking minute telling him he's just a wonderful rogue.

...and his ex-wife, according to her recent guest appearance on The View...speaking of Downey Jr., he wound up doing a multiple episode guest gig on Ally McBeal because, I was told, he couldn't get movie jobs for insurance reasons you just named... Doing that show really helped revive his career. Of course, he was not the star of the show, which would have given Fox pause, but for a guest gig he was okay. And yes, it is an issue when someone is the star of a TV series -- a HIT series which makes it an even tougher call for a network and studio...

Is there a single show in the last week that hasn't yet featured an appearance by Hickory, the Scottish Elkhound? Did Micheal Vick cancel his appearance on "Oprah", lest they cross paths in the Green Room?

What a great idea. Oprah, instead of swapping Vick for David Arquette -- gak -- should have swapped Vick out for Hickory the Scottish Elkhound, who won Westminster...that is genius...

Personally, I'd rather see Fox spinoff the The Warblers into a series of their own. Glee has so many changing characters and ridiculous plotlines that it has become a modern-day Hee Haw.

Why do you think the writers on this show would do any better job with the characters and plotlines on a show about The Warblers? I do like your "Hee Haw" comparison, though....

A moment of silence for the late, great Uncle Leo. HELLO, Jerry!


I must admit I actually liked Roseanne in her Oprah interview. She seems to have her medications balanced or something. And the scenes from the nut farm (in Hawaii) were fun. Its a new likeable Roseanne. Maybe there is something there.

Yes, she has finally found her genre -- "playing" herself on a reality series. None of the constraints of a sitcom or a talk show. It's perfect. Really, I'm being serious...

Pookie, how were the ratings for "Jeopardy!" on the Watson vs. the humans showdown? Am I being overly optimistic in hoping it augurs favorably for a renewed interest in education and respect for intelligence, as occurred during our nation's '60s space-race -- and the start of a tilt away from the Snooki-ization of America?

"Jeopardy!" even without Watson does well in the ratings compared to "Jersey Shore"... it just does not get the publicity because nobody's falling down drunk on the show or punching someone in the face...

How many hours of TV in a week would you consider to be too many? I just ran a quick count in my head, and I'm up to 14 hours, including commercials.

You're doing pretty well but still well behind the national average. Nielsen's stats on that always striking on this subject -- I think the average American is up to nearly 30 hours a week. 

I think Watson only won big because of the buzzer. If it had been handicapped slightly to allow for that, I think the guys would made a better showing, and a human might have one. Without paying full attention to the game, I was answering a lot of the questions before the computer buzzed in. The one time I tried out for Jeopardy, I failed the test miserably, so I know both those humans would crush me if I actually tried to play them.

I got an email today from someone who suggested that Ken and Brad should have hit the buzzer first, and then decided if they could actually answer the question. Watson just had a faster trigger "finger" than they did. I'm guessing both men decided, since their TV livelihoods hinge on being seen as brainiacs, it would be better to get out-buzzed by Watson, than to be seen incorrectly answering lots of questions... hence Watson's win... anyway, it made for fun TV viewing for three days.

Chuck Lorre put it best in his Vanity Card (which really are the best parts of all Chuck Lorre TV shows): "If Charlie Sheen outlives me, I'm gonna be really pissed."

I hope they are all investing wisely the money they're making off  this show....

"it just does not get the publicity because nobody's falling down drunk on the show or punching someone in the face..." I can't wait to see Alex Trebek go on a bender

okay, you're missing my point. I forgot what my point actually was, but Trebek is a role model for kids who want to be TV game show host all over America and it would not do for him to go on a Sweeps Bender...I cannot condone this...

I want to see Alex Trebeck fall down drunk and get punched in the face. Ratings gold, if not indeed platinum.

How about a "Jeopardy!" three-episode arc in the May sweep in which the competitors are all from "Jersey Shore." That would be riveting television.

Any whispers yet as to who will be on the spring season? I'd love to see Pittsburgh Steeler "mountain-man" Brett Keisel, who's known for busting a few moves during pre-game warmups on the field.

I read somewhere that Wendy Williams is going to compete.... I know they're trying to cast another someone from a political family...

"Hey Jude" "We are the champions" "I will survive" "Peace train" "We are the world"

Hey Jude? Really?

I was thinking more "Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn's early light"-ish material, but your list is a good one. Except 'Hey Jude,' which stopped me. ...


Sorry to be a stickler, but it's like calling Charlie Sheen Martin Sheen or something,...except in the case of the dogs, - Norwegian Elkhound, Scottish Deerhound - both are noble examples of dogdom.

our bad... anyway, he's very handsome...

I absolutely loved the first episode of "Traffic Light" and recommended it to several family members only to be completely humiliated because the second episode was completely juvenile. Which episode is an example of what this show will be, because I am hugely disappointed?

..always No. 2 -- never No. 1. Here's how TV series get made. A producer/writer spends boatloads of time and wagons of money making the pilot in hopes the network suits like it and order it to series. Then they start cranking out episodes. The second epsiode is more reflective of the timeframe, and the budget on which the series will be produced going forward... It's like the difference between your high school photo and your drivers license photo....

So, it looks like a lot of the moppets are getting through to Top 24. But in the light of Archuleta being dropped, Iraheta being dropped, and Sparks tanking on her last record and having to go to Broadway to get folks to remember her name before she records again...how likely is it that UMG is going to have a better track record with teen finalists than Sony did?

I have two words: Jimmy Iovine... He's the head of the record label that now has the contract on the "Idol" winners and he is going to be the in-house "Mentor" on the show. He's a very smart guy and he's going to make sure no more non-commercial singers win this thing...

They did do this. A few times, you could tell Ken was talking slower and still trying to figure out his answer.

I suspected it was going on a couple times, but they did not do it wholesale...and it was the right call I think.

Who is Wendy Williams?

she has a talk show... I'll see if I can find a photo....

How can you read them so fast? It's up for 3 seconds and I can only get half a phrase before it's gone!

DVR, pookie! Pause button......

I would SO watch that! (also, I just sprayed soda all over my keyboard. Need to call the tech support guy now...)

I would too. and so would everyone in America. It would be epic...

Watson was NOT faster on the buzzer. One of the things that the IBM folks said was that Watson doesn't ring in until it gets a signal that Alex has stopped talking. Brad and Ken can time Alex's words, which Watson cannot do, so the bags of flesh -- er, humans actually have an advantage.

I hate it when conspiracies start to unravel.....

I am wondering: where is the transcript to your live Q and As from last week? They deleted your discussion from the weekly listings. What happened?

Nothing - it's still here.

They should do another Celebrity Jeopardy! tournaments then...

Yes. With the cast of Jersey Shore...Who else would you like to see? I'd like to see the cast of "Glee" -- they could u donate their winnings to high school music programs... Of course I'd also like to see the cast of "Two and a Half Men" do the show, when "Men"  is on hiatus and Sheen is at his liveliest...

SPLOOT, all over the computer keyboard!

I know...

But the buzzers are locked until after Alex reads the question to keep people from buzzing in before they see the questions...

you're breaking my heart, guys.... is Watson smarter than Ken Jennings or is he not?

"Criminally Slow Minds". Jersey Shore casts competes in "Jeopardy". They lose to unplugged computers and to Scottish Deerhounds.

Leslie Moonves? Is that you? I've always thought you were a programming genius, but this is your best CBS show idea -- ever!

No, he puts them on his website. Just google Chuck Lorre and vanity cards. He has them all the way back to "Grace Under Fire" and "Cybil"

Yes, he also puts them on the website, but where's the fun in that? Too easy. Me, I like watching the show and toward the end, my remote in hand, I'm ready with my trigger finger to hit the pause button and enjoy the Vanity Card. It's like my version of  "Jeopardy"...

Does Emily Yahr get to watch the whole episodes of shows in advance and write them up? Or does the show send a little synopsis and she writes it from there?

This feels like a trick question...

So if they're bringing it back in reruns, do you think it's possible they'll start making new episodes? Please? Pretty please with a cherry on top?

You think Whedon and the cast  are going to go back to work for Discovery-like  salaries ? No number of cherries is going to make that happen...

Only a performer of monumental presence can withstand the theatrical typhoon that is Mandy Patinkin. So hats off to the frail-looking, child-size marionette who walks away with "Compulsion," the straight-line bio-drama by Rinne Groff, starring Mr. Patinkin at gale force.

So how fast will you get to NY to see Mr. patinkin?

asap....anybody here seen it yet?

Her write ups crack me up! I was just wondering if she gets to watch the whole show in advance, and if that's weird for her (not watching when everyone else finds out some big ending or something). All of a sudden I just felt like I was writing this question to Watson...

I see! Luckily, a) We do get lots of episodes in advance, and b) The amount of television I watch -- which may or may not be way above Nielsen's average amount-- helps a lot when writing the column.

And it's definitely strange when I know a big reveal/twist in advance thanks to a screener...and then have to remember to be outraged/indignant/surprised when it actually airs!

Is Charlie Sheen now the half-man in the equation?

Nope. He's still the star. Only now you may notice him leaning against furniture and walls on the set more often which, he told America on that radio show the other day, is the way a seasoned professional compensates for having a hangover at work. A rookie actor, he explained, would try to hit his mark in the middle of the room and keel over. This reminds me of  the time I was taken to see Peter O'Toole in Pygmalion on Broadway. O'Toole appeared to be fractured. It was the most riveting night of theater I have ever attended. During intermission, the lobby was electric with theater-goers speculating as to whether O'Toole would actually make it to the end of the play. In some scenes he actually seemed to sway in the breeze, as though a gale wind were sweeping through Henry Higgins' drawing room. I came away from the experience with a lifelong love of live theater...

When is My Boys returning?

The  same week they do the Jersey Shore episode of "Jeopardy!"....

On Ken's chat earlier this week, he said he often buzzed in before knowing the answer- you just had to take the odds against other players- and especially against Watson.

I really should have attended that chat. Then I would not be making so many stupid excuses for his having lost so ignominiously to Watson...

I know they're just actors, but three of the guys from "The Big Bang Theory" and then just have a bunch of science, math, and then comic books and science fiction categories!

CBS would never allow that to happen because then their lack of geekdom would be exposed and the show would be ruined...

I was wondering if Watson identified Toronto as a U.S. City because it knows something that the rest of us don't, like that English-speaking Canada's about to be annexed as the 51st state?

I was left wondering how the people who created Watson missed inputting a list of U.S. cities...but I have to stop discussin this like I know what I"m talking about... because now someone's going to have a really brainiac explanation of how this was not a stupid oversight at all but something perfectly reasonable to anyone who ever attended Caltech....or drove by Caltech...

I read once that there's a producer that specializes in doing pilots. They're great. Then the rest of the shows are produced by someone not so great.

It's true. There are also directors who specialize in directing pilots only. They're very expensive. They've worked their way up the ranks and are considered among  the best and the directors you want to hire because they will make your pilot look so beautiful, network suits won't be able to resist buying them...

Why replace the great 'Cougar Town' with the ridiculous 'Mr Sunshine'? Courtenay must be ticked off! On a related note - have you see the commentary on the title that they add in small font above the Cougar Town title? We pause the DVR every week to see hate it says!

"to see hate it says"? I know of some of them, like when they wrote:

badly titled

over the name "Cougar Town" , and when they wrote

titles are hard

over the "Cougar Town" but I wonder how long they can sustain it and also shouldn't they focus that time they're spending on those commentaries on maybe writing better gags for the show?

Anna Nicole Opera????!!!!!!!!!!!! Are you serious or is this another of my Benadryl-induced nightmares?

Nope. It's not an over-the-counter-meds-induced nightmare. There really is an Anna Nicole opera. Why does this surprise you? London was the birth place of the Jerry Springer opera and it's just a hop skip and a jump from Jerry Springer to Anna Nicole.. I'm out of time. See you next week....

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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