The 'Mythbuster' cannonball, 'X Factor' elimination, and Seacrest: Lisa de Moraes' TV Column Live

Dec 09, 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 guessing there is absolutely no chance Simon will ever let her come back for another season. Good.

If there's a god in heaven....

From what I'm reading, the Mythbusters have been very professional and put the family up ina hotel and are negotiating to get everything fixed and the minivan replaced. Some other companies could take a lesson from them.

I'm sure you noticed that the home owner was quoted in press reports saying he was mulling whether to sue for physical and "other" damages.  I mean, the show accidentally fired a cannonball through a bedroom in which the guy's wife and child were napping. That's pretty up there on the list of Bad Things TV Can Do To Us.

Since we know how two of the X-Factor Judges are going to vote in any week, why don't we do away with the "save me" performances in favor of 10-15 minutes of conversation between Lady Gaga and Ryan Seabiscuit. Only Paula and Simon seem to be actually doing any judging.

Yes, but aren't you really saying that because you think Simon's mentorees are better than LA's. Let's face it -- both men always cast their votes in favor of their own mentorees, whether they gave the best "Save" performance or not.  Paula can be "objective" because she has no mentorees left. The really irksome thing about LA's vote this week was that he started nattering about how he was voting to send home Rachel because  he's "a man of principle." Pure horseradish. And, in conclusion: yes,  do away with the "Save Me" song in favor of 10-15 minutes of conversation between Lady Gaga and Ryan Seabiscuit --  which can then be recycled the next morning on "Today" show when Ryan absorbs that anchor-dom into his vast empire.  Everybody wins!

The eliminations on this show have been unexpectedly compelling: Astro's hissy fit, Drew's tears, and now Rachel's wailing breakdown. Is there an option for viewers to vote off one of the judges? LA's "principles" led him to vote off the better performer, and Nicole's lack of principles led her to try and vote off the worse performer by voting off the better one. (Yes, Nicole, I'm sure you understand your own logic there.) Oh, well, as we watchers of singing competitions are so fond of saying, it's probably better for Rachel to get out now than be locked into a contract with these people.

You're preaching to the choir, pookster. I'm casting my vote to eliminate Nicole Scherzinger. Anyone else with me on this?

If you send a comment through the website to a network regarding one of their shows does anyone ever read it other than an intern? Thanks!

Yes. Generally comments head to the media relations department and, if they raise a red flag, they get sent to the appropriate department -- Standards and Practices, scheduling, programming, news, etc... So you are not commenting into a total void, though there is a certain amount of getting past the guard at the outer wall of Emerald City going on...

"Community" was freaking epic last night in just ripping constantly on "Glee"! Also, I want to meet, date, and marry Alison Brie. Any help you could provide, pookie, would be greatly appreciated!

Yeah -- get in line. Not much I can do to help, in re meeting, dating and marrying Alison. But I'm now very anxious to watch the episode -- any epidoes poking fun at "Glee" is on my Must See TV list these days...

When do the tabloids start following the dating and marital status of the new stars of the new TV series? Are there any interesting reports out there, other than Zoe Deschanel's impending divorce?

This one's easy! Answer: when they think the coverage will goose circulation of their newspaper/magazine/Web site....Deschanel's show is a hit...hence coverage

Dearest Pookie why is CBS making it so hard to catch up with POI? Not on demand, not on hulu, limited full episodes on, and no viewing on iPads. I DVR what I can, but I have competing shows on Thursdays. I am trying to stick with this show, but they are not making it easy to stay loyal.

CBS CEO Leslie Moonves addressed this the other day at a conference with investors. In round numbers, he said  they have found that not putting current episodes of their new shows has resulted in, you know, more people watching them on CBS. Which may explain why CBS continues to be the most watched network in the country.

Any chance that you will be able to see X Factor or American Idol in person? I would love to hear your take on the audience view from one of these shows.

Too late for X Factor but I'm working on "Idol" when it returns in mid January.

Pookie - Is Mythbusters going to air the cannonball episode? Please say yes.

Well, here's what I have learned. The stars were quoted, when they went to do their apology-cum-publicity-stunt at the home of the cannonballed house, as vowing never to air the Errant Cannonball footage. But, I'm told from an informed source that no decision has bee named. In fact, I'm also told there might not be any footage of the whole cannonball incident because, um, they was no footage shot and it was a test run...which would make the vow made to the homeowner during that apology-cum-publicity-stunt by the star kinda lame and even more publicity stunt-ish...

hi Pookie, This week's Modern Family was actually laugh out loud funny. There seem to be few shows that can still do that. The actress that plays Haley was surprisingly brilliant. Please tell me that this show is still rating well. Also, what is going on with Community?

"Modern Family" continues to do well in the ratings. And, in re question about what's going on with Community, I assume you're asking if it's canceled. It's not. Just like "30 Rock" was not on in the fourth quarter, so "Community" will not be on in the first quarter. Don't get me wrong, "Community" is no barn burner ratings-wise, but what is at NBC these days, except football and maybe "The Voice"? The biggest comfort I can give you is to assure you I have seen the latest new NBC comedy contender, "Are You There, Chelsea?"  -- and it's no "Community" , which I guess means "Community's chances of returning next season are that much better...

I love Modern Family. Love it. The Christmas episode was a classic. But could someone PLEASE give Julie Bowden a sandwich? She gets more painful to look at every episode. Really, it's all I can look at when she's on screen, and not in a good way. In a "I'm not listening to the dialogue because I'm counting the ribs in your chest and am trying to decide if I call 911 in Washington if they'll come help you in LA."

I once had a conversation with someone who, at the time was head of programming at one of the broadcast networks, and that exec explained to me that there seems to be this phenomenon in broadcast TV that female stars of shows, in the second or third season, start starving themselves -- kind of like Nicole Richie appeared to be doing mid-course on "The Simple Life" and Calista Flockhart appeared to be doing on "Ally Mcbeal" etc...apparently it's well known in the biz.... I'm now obsessed with this trend story...

I'm glad this chat was easy to find today; thanks to whomever finally fixed that problem. Please don't let them spirit you back behind the curtain again!

Good news!

I love Jessica Lange's scenery chewing in American Horror Story. She makes the show, IMO. No matter how crazy the plot lines get, she still makes her character believable. I hope she is going to stay around for the next season.

What else is she going to do?

Is it just me or do we find ourselves surrounded by funny and quality Network sitcoms like we haven't seen for years? Parks&Rec, Modern Family, Community, Happy Endings, New Girl, The Middle, Couger Town, and ManUp! (okay, kidding about that last one)... And one last thank you to Arrested Development for ushering in the era of the laughtrack-less sitcom. I am sure the Nets (especially NBC) will find a way to screw it all up, but for once I just wanted to compliment the quality writing out there...agree or disagree, Pookie?

"Arrested Development" did not invent single-cam laugh-track-less comedy. Before there was "AD" there was "Arli$$," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "The Larry Sanders Show" -- and that's just running my mind over HBO shows. There's lots more where that came from, including some on broadcast networks. Anyway, yes, the networks have finally figured out that comedy is a good business model. CBS, on the other hand, never forgot, and for that CBS deserves a lot of credit... Oh,and ABC has removed "Man Up" from its lineup. And, BTW,  "New Girl" is WaPo TV Critic Hank Stuever's pick for Worst TV Show of the Year. I disagree with Hank on this -- though I think he's a gentleman and a scholar for having paid homage to my  TV Column-created "crunchy-gravel" genre in his list.


Here's the list:  Hank's Top 10 Shows (and 1 Worst Show) for 2011.

The adorable French Bulldog on Modern Family has an amazingly expressive face, especially when she's in a scene with Ed O'Neill. They need to use her more often!

I agree -- more screentime for the bulldog! Perfect foil for Ed O'Neill.

Both Drew and Rachel have been victims of Simon's incredibly inept handling. He tried to cast Drew as the soulful singer and Rachel as the bubble-gum pop tween queen, when the two might have had half a chance if he had reversed the roles. Rachel is an amazing R&B singer, yet Simon kept putting her up there with flashing lights and dancers (and someone was coaching her to be so darn perky!). And Simon keeps criticizing the other judges for overproduced performances! What a sad mess of a show.

He was uniformly off the mark with Rachel but that's not what did her in. Nicole did her in when she refused to suck it up and do some actual judging... Rachel was far and away the better sing-for-survival-er last night. This show's whole set up is a convoluted mess, what with the judges having a total conflict of interest from the start which is only made worse when you have children involved in the competition. Gak.

Ryan Seacrest to Today? So has the Today show just surrendered all thought of being a news show and going straight with entertainment? Or did that already happen and I am just behind the times and didn't notice?

Two words: Kathie Lee....I rest my case....

I read somewhere that the show's creator was all set to have the incredibly aged-yet-sprightly Sammy bite the dust (happily, of course, having seen his true owner again at last), but then his own 14-year-old dog died and he couldn't pull the trigger on its fictional counterpart. Sort of made me forgive him for having a 20-something dog on the show.

I had not heard that but it's a great story so I don't really care if it's true. Kind of like that Lana Turner and the soda fountain story. I was crushed when I learned it was fiction -- it was such an adorable tale...

So how many changes do you think Simon will make to "The X Factor" to try and make it a viable show? Will he have the sense to recognize that, as currently formatted, it's a train wreck? (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) Do you think Fox regrets having already given the show a second season?

No, because it has greatly improved the network's ratings fortunes in the fourth quarter. That said, there will be changes made. Here are my guesses/wish list:

1) Dump Nicole and don't replace her. Three judges are plenty. Or, for camp purposes, bring back Cheryl Cole, who never should've been dumped in the first place, and make a very big deal out of it.

2) Dump "groups" category.

3) Save show host Steve even though he's too tall, because I have come to love his elegant deer caught in headlights performance.

Hasn't Ryan Seacrest already conquered the world? Does he *really* need The Today Show too?

No, he doesn't. But "Today" needs him and his fan base of 20 million. "Today's" ratings lead over "GMA" is at its teensiest in four years... You'll see Ryan at 9 on "Today" but not necessarily replacing Matt Lauer, which was the additional step taken by some news reports -- as though Ryan simply joining "Today" wasn't news enough...

House doesn't seem as interesting this season as in the past. The actress playing Cutty leaving hurt the show more than expected. There is no good antagonist for House. And where did they find the actress that looks like Moe?

"House" isn't as interesting, not because the actress who played Cutty left, but because the show has simply run out of steam. That's how it always goes. Unfortunately, some people do not know when to fold 'em, and let their show go on too long. It's a shame...

My favorite part of "The X Factor" is Melanie's here-again, gone-again accent! And when she remembers to use it, she varies how heavy it is at any given moment. There must be some kind of drinking game that can be made from this.

I confess, I was surprised when the accent vanished as she was talking to Too Tall Steve about how nervous she was waiting to find out if she'd made it to next week in the competition.

I'm trying to figure it out from the previews. So is Laura Prepon from the 70's Show with a bad hair coloring and Chelsea Handler with a bad wig walking around sin self-delusion? Is that what its aboout?

It's pretty much a crime and a sin. And NBC has apparently slashed its wig budget.... But my favorite part of this debacle is the name change from the book's "You are there, Vodka? It's me, Chelsea" to "Are You There Chelsea?" because, yes, the network that is talking to  Howard Stern about becoming the new judge on its family talent show is afraid of the word "Vodka."  Is it any wonder why I so love covering television?

So Violet is dead. I guess that'll be the reason why her parents don't just sell the house and leave. Is it doing well in the ratings?

Ryahn Murphy ripped off a Bruce Willis flick? I'm shocked. And who came up with the "ghosts can't leave the house" rule. I'm asking because I need to know if the ghosts of my beloved departed dogs are going to be able to come with me if I move to a new neighborhood.


On the top of spaghetti - All covered with cheese - I lost my poor cannonball - when somebody sneezed!

This needs to be animated... seriously....

The inescapable flaw of this show is that the judges are inherently biased toward their own performers. "The Voice" had it right, by requiring each judge to eliminate a member of his own team each week, until each judge had his single best performer in the finale. But with "The X Factor," it's clear that some votes are made out of spite (The women choosing Marcus Canty over Drew? Really?) and some out of misplaced loyalty (LA's "principled" stand for Marcus over Rachel). The show becomes all about the judges rather than the talent. And frankly, the judges aren't all that interesting.

Exactly! What he (she?) said! Thank you for summing up the show's problems so clearly.

Maybe there is something to be said about not letting children compete in these types of competitions. While I would hardly describe many of the contestants on AI/X-Fact "emotionally mature" the really sad meltdown of a tween was just too much to watch.

It was very uncomfortable TV. Which I'm guessing Fox suits consider a plus. I'm told they weren't all that happy that Too Tall Steve, in his genuine effort to comfort a sobbing Drew -- who is only 14 and just one year older than Rachel -- last week, when Drew was cut, accidentally put himself between sobbing Drew and the camera, so viewers couldn't see the kiddie train wreck in all it glory as it was happening.

When I first saw "Community", I could hardly believe she was the same actor who plays Vincent Kartheiser's put upon wife on Mad Men. (Or as we call her in my house, "Mrs. Pete.") She really is extraordinarily versatile.

uh huh... Sorry, you still have to get in line...

We were trying to figure out who would play Sandusky in the inevitable made-for-tv movie. I went with William Macy. Who would you think?

Great casting... can't wait until the inevitable TV movie is announced. What do you thnk -- is this HBO or Lifetime?

I think they're sneaking in references to "Lost" here and there. How soon before Josh Hollaway shows up as the "Bad Boy" Prince Sawyer?

I wouldn't describe it as "sneaking." I was going to go with "ham handed"...

Suffering from the "Too Much, Too Soon" Syndrome or is it more because Ryan has completely forgotten about what he previously wrote for his characters?

Flamed too bright, too's not the first show and won't be the last..

Is it completely dead, or could there be some burn-off episodes to haunt us?

Sure, the other episodes will be seen during  Summer Burn Off Theatre

That cannonball was mighty impressive! Pookie, wouldn't we all be better off if we went back to using cannons instead of bombs?

So I'm not the only one who was super-impressed that the cannonball tore through a house  careened over a six-lane road, bounced off a roof and still had the energy to attack that late lamented minivan...

I think this "Mythbusters" episode should be spun off as a weekly reality series, where they fire heavy artillery at some celebrity's house. I'd stay home to watch "Kannon the Kardasians".

Ryan, is that you? Welcome to our little chat!

I'm a reailty and awards show fan (an ex-boyfriend actually once told me that I'd happily watch the Cheese Awards and find a reason to cheer for gouda!). So how is it that I think that the X Factor is one of the worst reality shows ever made? Nicole Scherzinger, the fake "competition" between the judges, the overproduced "acts," you name it......the show is entirely unwatchable. I sped through the perofrmance and result shows on the DVR in about 45 minutes last night and almost went crazy. I need the Betty Ford clinic equivalent for reality tv (the Kate Gosselin clinic?). I've hit rock bottom.

What's right with this show is that it has made us all appreciate the intimacy that is "American Idol." I'm forecasting a great season for "Idol" coming up..

The survey said Liberals watch "The Colbert Report" and conservatives watch "Mythbusters". I watch both! Should I just keep watching both of them until another survey tells me what I should do with myself?

Well, to be perfectly accurate, the study said Colbert's show "overindexed" with liberal Democrats while "Mythbusters" overindexed with conservative Republicans. That does not mean  conservative Republicans cannot, or do not, watch and enjoy Colbert, or that liberal Dems cannot or do not watch and enjoy "Mythbusters." I'm a big fan of "American Pickers" myself...

Will American Airlines stop showing "30 Rock" on its in-flight entertainment, as a result of the squabble?

Heck no! This has all been great publicity for American Airlines... I'm hoping they get smart and come up with some ad campaign that features retired Cathloic school 1950's gym teachers....

They had a bit of a fun twist on "How I Met Your Mother" when they had an episode where Robin talked with her kids instead. However, it was on the news that she could never have children, and they turned out to be imaginary. What? She couldn't adopt?

You know what they call comedies that start doing Very Special Episodes about date rape, or the heartbreak of infertility? Jumped the Shark.

I think the precedent was set weeks ago that you don't vote off your own mentee, so I think it was unrealistic to think he would. And he may be the most important modern music producers, though after watching x factor, it's clear that not many people know who he was. He was a household name for me and my friends growing up. As for Nicole, did anyone actually buy her fake crying act? The fake stammering? What a bad actress. Paula looks so *normal* next to her, which is the only reason they may keep Nicole.

I never expected him to do otherwise. I won't, however, have "I'm doing it because I'm a man of principle" shoved down my throat... Okay, that sounded way madder than I really am...

doesn't give me much reason for hope. In this country? Look at all the terrible shows that are still on the air, and all of the great shows that get canceled because no one watches them.

Let's look on the bright side. Look at all the great shows that no one watches that are still on the air. Thank you, NBC!

HAHAHA! Thank you so much for making me laugh today! Do you have any other things on the list?

Remember Balloon Boy and how the Denver airport got shut down and the air force came out to help or something like that? That's still No. 1 on my list....

I have come to love Steve's habit of reading the pre-sendoff notes ("Paula said that you really made her feel it, but Simon thought it was karaoke) and then tossing the card to floor and saying, "But that's not important! What did YOU think, America?" I just love that toss-away. I get the feeling the guy could be pretty funny if he loosened up a bit.

I think maybe if he didn't feel the Simon Cowell noose around his neck he WOULD loosen up....Really, the guy's a diamond in the rough.

I just assumed NBC opted for the shorter title because it was, uh, shorter. I think they'd keep "vodka" if they thought The Reporters Who Cover Television would tell people it was "edgy."

I'm guessing ad sales said "ixnay on the odkavay" because broadcast network aren't "allowed" to sell hard liquor ads in primetime....

Can't understand why she's not on the show already. Young male viewership would skyrocket.

Yes, but I think they thought Nicole filled that ticket just as well. Unfortunately, no one explained to Nicole how the rules of the show work... Anyway, I'm out of time. 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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