The TV Column Live with Lisa de Moraes

Mar 11, 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!

Happy Friday. Another busy week, thanks to:

Charlie Sheen sues Warner Bros. Duh. Winning?

"American Idol" sends Ashthon packing

Ellen Barkin cast in NBC drama with Don Johnson -- fasten your seatbelts!

Kathy Griffin vs Sarah Palin

Jullianne Moore to play Sarah Palin for HBO

Salmon Rushdie writing for Showtime


I liked the show "Chase". But it hasn't been on in a month. Is it not coming back? That would make me sad...

NBC pulled "Chase"  from its schedule, having decided it was a better idea to run repeats and original episodes of "Minute to Win It." Ouch!  That is not a good sign. I hope you were not too attached... Remember, NBC has a new owner and a new programming chief and that means change. Repeat after me: Change is good. Change is good...

How does NBC get out of its current doldrums? I mean, assuming Jack Donaghy isn't successful in making it 1997 again.

Well, they could start by cancelling "Chase" oh wait.....NBC has a new owner -- Kabletown - and a new programming chief. It's Bob Greenblatt, who has been in charge of programming at Showtime for several years. If you like "The Tudors," if you like "Shameless," if you like "Episodes," if you like "the Big C," if you like "Weeds" -- you're gonna love the new NBC.... (okay, in fairrness, Bob has been around a long time and is an accomplished programming exec, having also worked in development at Fox and been an independent producer. He knows the difference between a pay cable network and a broadcast network....)

When did reality tv and vh1 get standards? "You aren't messed up enough, Mrs. Salahi, to be on our show!" But, please tell me you heard gossip that would let us know what addiction she was faking!!! Oxy? Booze? Crack?

I heard nothing. Seriously. And it's not about "standards" -- it's about "brand", and reality TV and VH1 have always cared passionately about "brand." My understanding of the  "Celebrity Rehab" brand is that it is a show in which Dr. Drew is seen interacting with people who have substance abuse issues. Mrs. Salahi's husband is quoted somewhere as having said she was fond of chocolate.  It's unclear to me how that casting happened.

What's going on with No Ordinary Family. I love this show, but I read something about Michael Chiklis signed on to do a pilot of another series. Should I keep watching or will I be disappointed when it just disappears with no ending?

No official word,but you are right... if CBS is willing to cast Chiklis in one of its new comedy pilot -- knowing he has to be in the so-called "second position" on the pilot, which means he could only do the series ( if the pilot gets greenlit to series)  if "Ordinary Family" is cancelled  -- that probably means CBS suits at any rate think "No Ordinary Family" is probably a goner... It's called Readaing the Tea Leaves.....

While I have been critical of many shows, I do want to add when I think someone is doing something right. I believe sometimes adding new characters detracts from our familiar characters and often takes away from the experience. Yet, the new female characters on "The Big Bang Theory" seem to be appropriate and are giving all the characters new character growth and new areas to be comedic about. I am finding the show is improving. I dont know what others think, but that is my opinion.

..and CBS is hoping there are millions more like you out there because "Big Bang Theory" stands a good chance of becoming the tentpole of the network's comedy slate next season, what with Sheen out on "Two and a Half Men." Though, as some TV critics have noted, Jon Cryer is no slouch on the show, trying to re-cast one of the leads is far from a sure thing so even if "Men" comes back next season -- and I think it will -- it may take a ratings hit. "Big Bang" -- which, like "Men" is exec produced by Chuck Lorre -- has done a particularly good job of adding new characters to the show.

Pookie, as last night's IDOL was starting, I was thinking to myself that I was more looking forward to the first Top 10 night so we'd have the return of the infamous Ford commercial. So imagine my unbridled delight when 13 Idolettes extolled the virtues of Ford to me last night. That said, I was not at all surprised to see Ashton sent home. She absolutely looked the part, but couldn't sing. I don't remember her auditions, but this weeks performance makes me wonder which one of the Top 24 was more deserving of her (wasted) wild card spot.

Judges did not do well with their wild card picks. Yes, she was all about the "package" and not about the "singing." Anyway, she was the worst of the pack, so America Got It Right! Hooray!

No question Pookie, just sending you some love for all your work! I can't miss anyone of your columns and blog posts, and this is from someone who doesn't really watch tv (why should I, when you can do it for me)?

Thanks! I like to think of my work here at The Washington Post as a public service. Anyway, that's my story and I'm sticking with it.

I know this is more TV Column Associate Emily Yahr's department than yours. But really, rather than "descending into porn" as some commenters on her last "Glee" column lamented, recent episodes have felt more like really awkward product placement deals, where the product is PSAs against drug use or irresponsible sex rather than SoyJoy or Coke. It totally seemed like the marketing departments at Partnership for a Drug Free America and teen sexuality groups decided that "Glee" would be a good message vehicle. "Don't do drugs!' and "Abstinence is a valid choice!" unsubtly pressed on viewers, punctuated by song. But then also "Gay is OK!" because, after all, it's "Glee."

It's been a rough week -- my head hurts reading this, but I think I get your point. I think that point is that the show is preachy. I agree. I do not enjoy being preached at, even when I agree with the message. Or, to clarify, I do not enjoy KNOWING I'm being preached to.  I prefer the sermon to creep up on my -- not bang me on the head..  sounds like you feel that way too...

Do you think the show will continue without Sheen, be wrapped up, or just be canceled entirely. Personally, I'd like to see it wrapped up with some sort of St. Elsewhere/Dallas-esque episode that features Emilio Estevez.

Well, here are SOME of the things CBS and Warner Bros are considering:

CBS is looking forward to renegotiating for next season's episodes at a lower license fee because the show is now Sheen-less. Happy, happy CBS!

Warner Bros is looking forward to casting someone else who won't cost them $2 million per episode next season and Sheen's threatened $3 million after that. Maybe someone who will work for, oh, say a quarter of a million dollars a week?

Warner Bros. already has plenty of episodes in the "Men" library to make it a very lucrative syndication product in its library. Maybe more episodes does not make sense.

But Warner Bros. has a contract with station-group owners who are expecting reruns of original episodes that go through next season. Warner Bros does not want to reimburse those companies if possible.

Those station group owners are looking forward to re-negotiating, downward, their deals with Warner Bros because the 24-ish episodes they were going to get for next season will now be Sheen-less...

I could go on and on and on... it's like pulling a thread in a sweater.


And are the ratings for that overwrought cop-show-as-greek-tragedy bad enought to kill it soon?

Bad and yes. And you have just written the very best review of "Lie to Me" that I have ever read. thank you for that...

What happens to the writing on some shows as the years go on. I know you are not a big fan, but Big Love was so much fun to watch. The last few episodes (and last season) of the show are just painful, if it was a book people would turn to the last couple of pages to be done. Same thing with last season's Entourage. Do the writers try to appeal to biiger audiences? What happens to the quality of the writing of these series after a couple of seasons? Why don't their well know producers complain or get involved?

you've already answered your question. It's the Run Out of Gas story all over again. If American TV networks would only realize that TV series for the most part are not going to live long happy lives -- just short happy lives  -- this world would be a far better place... 

Has this series been declared dead? If so, I'm sorry for all the great cast members. What's next for Mark Valley?

Not declared dead, but having the season finale in February  cannot be a good  sign. And I look forward to Mark Valley's next series -- he's a star and deserves a hit.

I don't know if you read the internet TV fanboy message boards (they're not pleasant places), but there's been some furor over a certain Summer Glau. It seems like whatever series she's in fails (Firefly, Terminator:SCC, Dollhouse, The Cape)... Since you're an insider, perhaps you could shed some light on this? Is it her fault, or she repeatedly in the wrong place/wrong time?

OMG -- do we have a new Paula Marshall? Can we crown Summer Glau the new Show Killer? Ms. Marshall lost the crown when she was on "Gary Unmarried" which lasted on CBS for two whole seasons! We need someone to assume the throne.. I think we have found our new Miss Show Killer...

BTW, I have been a huge fan of your Idol column since before there were blogs. Was soooo delighted to discover the blog and would not miss it--you rock! Don't know if I'm entitled to address you as Pookie since I've never posted before, but I've been reading forever. You absolutely make my day!

Thank you, and I'm delighted to have you address me as pookie. Especially when you consider some of the other things people have called me....

If you think that's a downmarket move for a novelist who earned himself a fatwa for The Satanic Verses, he published a RECIPE in Parade magazine about two weeks ago. For a second I thought The Onion was now being included with the Sunday Post, but it was real.

Was there a cash prize for the best recipe? I'm dying to know: what was it a recipe for? Was it a good recipe? Please -- we need details! Does Rushdie aspire to be published in literally every place possible, even Parade -- kind of like how Charlie Sheen said -- on his Web cooking show -- that he aspires to appear on every single television network?

I don't think he is a fish

My bad -- typing as fast as I can..

Lisa, please answer me - Is Steven wearing a wig, I swear I saw something funny which made me he is wearing a wig a few weeks ago and now I am obsessed with finding out if he really is, please help me out here.... thanks!

Surely that's his real hair -- would anyone buy a wig that was that lacking in luster and sheen? I will ask one of the fangirl bloggers who attend the tapings  to give it a tug next week and will report back...

I know that I have enjoyed Big Love more than you, but this season has been so overwrought and melodramatic and illogical. Now, I'm a member of team Tiny Little Hatchets, and I won't miss the show when it is gone.

Go Team Tiny Little Hatchets! We need T-shirts! We need a newsletter!

Don Johnson has turned into a puffy blob with bad hair, while Ellen Barkin's face appears to be completely immobile. Is NBC trying to reach the same audience as Jerry Lewis's telethon?

Pookie, NBC will take any viewers these days. Time was they would never have cast Don Johnson or Ellen Barkin because they were, you know, old people... I do not believe in discrimination of any kind, including based on age. I applaud the new NBC for this bit of casting... Okay, I'm mostly thrilled because they both have reputations for going kinda nuts sometimes -- maybe not Charlie Sheen nuts, but still plenty nuts -- and I look forward to covering whatever show it is they've been cast in. I think it's called "A Mann's World." Johnson will play a handsome, sexy  Beverly Hills hairdresser struggling to stay relevant. I am in love with the show already...

50% of the shows that Ms. Glau has killed off are Joss Whedon productions. Just sayin....

Well, more's the pity, right?

How likely is Charlie Sheen's $100 million lawsuit to be simply dismissed in the courts? Could he be countersued for bringing a nuisance lawsuit (I hope, I hope, I hope!)?

It will be our generation's "Bleak House" ...

Does this mean the same fate is awaiting "Off the Map"? At least two of its actors have been cast in pilots, even though the show is not officially canceled (yet).

Bingo! We, here at WaPo TeamTV like to call it backdoor cancellation... these casting people and network series development suits have the inside track in re what's going on, If they're casting people in "second positions"  -- particularly if it's to be the star of a new show -- that means the old show that is their "first position" is in critical condition...

Is there any reason to watch the show without Sheen? (Not that there was ever much reason to watch that show, but you know what I mean).

Jon Cryer

Angus T. Jones

Holland Taylor (really, I'd like to see more of her on the show)

Conchita Ferrell

Really, it's a superb ensemble cast...

Lisa, after last week's tirade by another poster and you, I think I deserve equal time to defend Better With You, which is a show I really enjoy. I miss it a lot now that they've replaced it with The Middle reruns. I enjoy the two lead actresses, Joanna Cassidy & Jennifer Finnigan, very much; I've liked Jennifer since she did Close to Home, another show I enjoyed that got rather short shrift. I like the way they reflect various situations with the young, new couple, the older, longer-term couple, and the long-married parents. I don't care for The Middle at all, as they are way too blue collar for my taste, the kids are unattractive, Axl is dumb, Sue is clueless, and Brick is weird. But I look forward to Better With You and Modern Family every Wednesday night. However, Survivor is Better Without You when it comes to Russell, the Evil Troll!

here is your moment in the spotlight...

I loved, loved, loved this episode. I'm not a Gywenth Paltrow fan, but I'm enjoying her as Holly Holiday. Who knew? And Naya Rivera was heart-wrenching and brilliant during "Landslide." Emmy material right there.

why? cause she can cry on cue? ..but I digress. Paltrow brought a much needed note of  "Lighten up, guys!" to the show and I wish she was a regular character.

they're filming a pilot across the street from me next week. i'm kind of annoyed, they're going to be closing my street. i mean, i know the homeowner got a bunch of money. but the city permit (i have a copy) is only $500!!!! that doesn't seem like enough. seriously? shouldn't it be like 10,000? I'm so annoyed. (btw, I'm in Atlanta)

Sounds like Atlanta is trying to encourage shows to be shot there. Consider it your contribution to the local economy...

I, too, like the new female characters, but the show has lost some of the geek humor that made it so special---like the time Sheldon was paralyzed on a climbing wall and said he was "like an inverse tangent approaching the asymptote." "You mean you're stuck?" said his companion, and Sheldon cried, "What part of 'inverse tangent approaching the asymptote' do you not understand?" It's been a long time since we heard something like that.

preaching to the choir... I miss the super-geeky stuff, but they're clearly trying to broaden the show out...

Deviled eggs, of course.

No, actually it is for Lamb Korma, whatever the heck that is. My brilliant colleague looked it up.

Chopped onions

Clarified butter

Cardamom pods


Garlic cloves


Ground coriander

Red chili powder


Plain yogurt



I'm a bit tired with the SNL reform for young Hollywood scandals. I remember Lindsay Lohan going that a few years ago mocking press coverage of her all-night clubbing and one-night stands. Even before that Charlie Sheen mocked his past of drugs and hookers. Then last Saturday the didn't shut up about Miley Cyrus and her TMZ bong picture (which I didn't know about at the time). What bugs me is that the press isn't making this up. The celebs actually did these things. And what's worst, it isn't funny!

..and yet, it boosts SNL ratings and keeps people writing about the show. So I guess it's working on some level. I take your point.

The promos for the "Sister Wives" shows are all over. I just can't stand the look of that smug guy. He reminds me of a rooster with his hens. I don't think I am a prude, but there is just something about the idea of one man with several wives that creeps me out. I think we are edging every closer to that day when every individual will have their own television channel with 24/7 programming of their lives.

We do, it's called YouTube..

Nah, no reason to work that hard. She had the good sense to be born to a producer with hundreds of millions of's that upbringing that gives her the gravitas to advise "other working mothers."

I know! It's not fair, because there is no other industry in the world in which children of successful execs get the edge over others getting work in that industry...In her defense, she has done good work. I liked her, granted it was years ago, in "Emma"... and how about "A Perfect Murder" -- she was great in that, wasn't she?

Hey, Pookie: Last Monday's "House" was no ordinary episode ~ instead, quite the roller coaster of emotions, and filled with some very interesting dream and fantasy sequences. After all, who doesn't enjoy seeing Hugh Laurie sing and play piano? But, do you consider it all good creative storytelling or have the writers run out of ideas?

I'm going to pick B. Do I win? I too enjoy Hugh Laurie singing and playing the piano, but it was just a little too Mandy Patinkin-esque for comfort...

I say bring back the celebrity mentors. The "producers" are boring and by the time we keep seeing the main guy week after week, we'll be sick of him. Of well, at least there is some good talent this year.

I agree completely. The professional producers mangled this week's performances. I mean, what they did to  "Smile"  bordered on criminal. And turnning Stevie Wonder's "Lately"  into a disco dance tune? Gak!

I just like saying his name because it sounds like a cowboy had a baby with a steak. Anyway, is there any better in-person "don't do drugs" PSA than Charlie Sheen? I mean, of all child actors, surely this kid is the one who will never, ever do drugs, right? If only because it robbed him of potential residuals?

I'm sorry, I'm laughing so hard at "cowboy had a baby with a steak" that I can't tell if you have an actual question in here. ...oh, you want to know if Angus T Jones will do drugs after losing money owing to Charlie Sheen? If it worked that way in Hollywood,  Liza Minnelli, for instance, would definitely not have had substance does not work that way in Hollywood.

So the other poster was saying that Glee is going all Star Trek with the moral of the episode (racism in "Let This Be Your Last Battlefield, aka the black and white aliens ep, interracial relations in "Who Mourns for Adonis" where alien god-line creature makes Kirk and Uhura kiss, drugs bad in "The Way to Eden aka Star Trek space hippies, etc). So Glee is now introducing the moral/theme of the week.

See, it didn't bother me in Star Trek -- maybe because it was better written, or maybe because it featured Tribbles and gadgets. I clearly need distracting cute aliens and technology --like that spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down

No, because she got ME to cry with her. That's good acting. I disagree about Paltrow being a regular character--I think that might be too much. Better to use her judiciously on an as-needed basis. That way we won't get sick of her. And they need to dump the Warblers pronto.

What's up with the Warblers? Such a distraction. And those blazers!

What is your gut feeling on Off the Map? Will it be around next season? As silly as it is that they can't seem to decide what country to set it in, the character development and has been really great and I"m finding myself enjoying it quite a bit. I will miss it if it bites the dust.

I think it will depend on whether the epsiodes they got covered the cost of those "Lost" sets they used on the show... yes, I'm cynical about that...

And that's a bad thing because...?

Well, you know I love Mr. Patinkin, but there's no denying he's nuts and strange and feels the need to break out in song at the strangest and sometimes most inappropriate moments. It's kind of like that time he dropped his trousers on stage at Carnegie Hall when CBS was unveiling its new primetime schedule and he was on one of the shows... No, it was not scripted that way. He just felt the need to do it. then and there...

Honey, all of the kids on Glee are distracting cute aliens!

maybe so, but they're no Tribbles...

I liked her in an inventive little movie called Sliding Doors, where a woman's life took two different paths, depending on whether or not she caught the subway.

I loved that movie, but I'm afraid it's just because I was young and impressionable at that time... know his name isn't actually "Salmon," right?

yes, we have established that. I mistook him for a fish... it happens to me a lot on Fridays...

post the link!

When I first saw Don Johnson on "Miami Vice" he literally took my breath away. I was on break from college and didn't see much television and the show was on in a bar I happened to stop in and he was absolutely gorgeous. Remember he had a pet alligator? He was a fine piece of beefcake back in the day.

Yes, he was quite the hottie 20-30 years ago --  the pet alligator gave him a certain flair... I'm out of time. Thanks for all the great questions. 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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