The Latest in TV with Lisa de Moraes

Jan 11, 2013

Post TV columnist Lisa de Moraes discussed all the latest in TV news - on and off the screen.

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ABC chief talks up Seth MacFarlane at Oscar host


Jimmy Kimmel trails Leno and Letterman on Night 2


Britney Spears out on ‘X Factor’


Ricky Gervais flying back for ‘Muppets,’ won’t attend Golden Globes


Golden Globes: Will Tina Fey and Amy Poehler follow in the footsteps of Ricky Gervais?


Chris Rock weighs in on gun laws


FX president: TV industry should study whether there’s a link between onscreen and real-life violence


Dick Wolf producing real-life cold-case series for TNT


Jimmy Kimmel’s new timeslot ratings: More than Letterman, less than Leno


Nicki Minaj, Mariah Carey make half-hearted attempt to get along during ‘American Idol’ panel


President Obama to host ‘1600 Penn’ screening at the White House


Oprah lands interview with Lance Armstrong


Fox exec defends serial killer drama ‘The Following’ after questions of TV violence


TV critics balk when NBC exec calls ‘Smash’ an ‘unqualified success’


Gun control debate all over TV this week


Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte gets a reality series


Naomi Campbell at Winter TV Press Tour means its Security Clampdown Day


Nearly 8 million people watch ‘Downton Abbey’ third season debut


Academy Awards producers taking no chances with Oscar nominations leaks


Barbara Walters and Mariah Carey help each other to promote ‘Idol,' ‘Nightline’


NBC chief discusses TV violence, network ratings, Leno v. Fallon


Cameos from real politicians would ‘destroy’ NBC’s ‘1600 Penn’ universe


David Letterman addresses relationship problems during ‘Oprah’ interview


Rahm Emanuel toughest White House chief of staff to interview, producers say


BBC America buys mystery starring David Tennant


James Caan talks about joining Starz’s ‘Magic City’


Benedict Cumberbatch in Tom Stoppard miniseries for HBO


Oprah tackles Wednesday with Tyler Perry, in May


Ryan Murphy to direct Julia Roberts, Mark Ruffalo in HBO’s ‘Normal Heart’


Michael Douglas, Matt Damon talk Liberace and ‘Behind the Candelabra’


‘Cougar Town’ producers promise no changes as show moves from ABC to TBS — except, more nudity


NatGeo’s ‘Killing Lincoln’ producer says John Wilkes Booth ‘could be the poster child for the Tea Party’

Hi chatters! Here's this week's reading material, coming to you from Winter TV Press Tour 2013 in sunny Pasadena, CA.. Let's get started...

By airing new episodes two times a week, ABC is just burning off episodes of Happy Endings before cancelling it, isn't it?

Just the opposite -- sort of -- insisted ABC programming chief Paul Lee, just yesterday at Winter TV Press Tour 2013... A critic asked if the double pump "shows dedication on the network's part to keeping those shows alive despite not so great ratings and how long do you think that patience will last?"

He responded: "Absolutely it shows that! We love those two shows. They are incredibly distinctive... blah, blah, blah... We didn't have much place to put them because we can't put them at 8...blah, blah...So we really thought this is a really nice way, slightly a cable play if you think about it, to use these slots to raise sampling on those show and get people to see them."

Translation: Not an absolute burnoff, but these shows need to get their ratings up.

With Ben & Kate, New Girl, and The Mindy Project, is Fox trying to imitate NBC? Low-rated, critically liked sitcoms that fail to attract viewers outside the 18-34 demographic.

After Fox Entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly bought "Mindy Project" he wanted The Reporters Who Cover Television know that he was running programming at NBC when Mindy got her big break, landing on "The Office."  NBC's Thursday comedies don't get "tonnage" but they get good demos, and there is a business there. Ironically, NBC's new owner Comcast, has decided it wants NBC to be in the broadcast business, not the niche business, on Thursday nights as well as Sunday, Monday and Tuesday -- thank you football and The Voice -- and NBC's Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt has said that's the next big priority for the network. Last summer, TV critics got their undies in a bunch when he said the network needed to "broaden out" its Thursday comedy lineup, because critics love the lineup as is. This press tour, he noted they'd hated his use of "broaden out" and asked them -- jokingly, but not really -- if they were okay with him saying the Thursday lineup needed to be "more inclusive" I think was the phrase he used...

After saving Cougar Town, will TBS be coming to the rescue of any other sitcoms that might get cancelled such as Happy Endings or Don't Trust the B in Apartment 23, etc.?

At the tour, the guy in charge of TBS said he liked buying "Cougar Town" because it was a pre-sold commodity with a slavish (if small by broadcast standards, though not by cable standards) following. My guess is the network got a good price because ABC Studios, which is still producing it, was motivated to place it somewhere, anywhere, to keep making episodes so the show would be more viable in syndication -- which is the end game these days... Now, "B----in A----23" ...If that's the case, then "Happy Endings" would stand a better chance than "B---- in Apt. 23" since it's been on the air longer. On the other hand, it also depends on what broadcast comedy show best fits  the cable network's profile....

What midseason replacements should we invest time in and which are just filling holes in the schedule?

Tops on the list:  Fox is extremely devoted to its serial killer drama "The Following" so that's worth investing time in for sure.

I'd also say NBC is very keen to make "Do No Harm" work and very much so with "1600 Penn."

Less so with ABC's "Red Widow." I think the network is keen on "The Hour" but critics seem to think this conspiracy show has holes in the plot you could drive an 18-wheeler through....

Hope that helps!

Why does it seem like this is all one big con? Apparently the Netflix episodes won't even feature the entire cast, but instead focus on individual cast members. Are fans about to be disappointed?

Show creator Mitch Hurwitz came to the press tour yesterday, or was it the day before --it's all become a blur of questions and cocktails -- and said this set up " is a very different form that emerged really organically." In other words the "family  grew apart and everybody else kind of grew up and got on other shows and had contracts elsewhere. And the only way we could get everybody together for what we’ll call loosely an anthology or a series was to kind of dedicate each episode to a different character’s point of view and that became a really fun, interesting, engaging, creative challenge, because we started finding out that the stories would intersect."

Translation: cast members have moved on. Current contracts would only allow them to shoot one episode.

If you're NBC and you've got Will Arnett on "Up All Night" which you are going to great lengths to salvage -- now it's going to be a multi-cam sitcom with a laugh track -- you're not wild about him doing 14 episodes of "Arrested Development" for Netflix because, yes, Netflix is a competitor...My guess is Arnett is saying that a guest-starring gig on another outlet''s show is maybe more palatable.

Pookie, what do you think of the current incarnation of Doctor Who? Matt Smith seems like a great Doctor to me -- so whimsical and madcap, and of course, the British accent.

I love every iteration of Doctor Who -- I just like the whole Who-ian thing....

It is as bad as you sad. Even having Crystal the monkey do a cameo wouldn't help.

I'm told it's much better by episode four..  Can you wait that long? Meanwhile, the cast and writers killed at the press tour and after it was over a number of critics wondered why the show wasn't as good as the Q&A...Josh Gad was hilarious during the Q&A -- on the other hand, he was sitting in a chair and not chewing scenery....

Thanks for the chats - look forward to it every Friday!! Help, please. Guys with kids is the worst show I have ever seen. And yet I can't stop watching. Vanessa Huxtable can't act to save her life, the guy who plays her husband (liked him in Law & Order) is just as bad and super annoying; the guy who plays the divorced dad is also annoying. Why am I still watching? Do I need to seek medical attention???

You don't need medical attention -- you just need to fall in love with something else airing in the timeslot. Like ABC's "The Neighbors" of which I am a fan, though I seem to be in the minority here at the press tour.  Critics tend to sniff when I tell them I like the show -- and some folks  at the network too. I usually stop them cold with my searing comeback line: "It's very British." Amazing how Los Angelinos are impressed when you tell them something is very British...And, if you don't like that, other timeslot offerings are: CW's "Arrow" -- don't miss the workout scenes, Fox's "American Idol" -- oh, BTW, at the press tour Nicki Minaj came across as the mature, professional adult, while Mariah Carey played the role of petulant, disheveled diva...

I'm sure I am not the first person to ask this, but why is every show on cable a "war" of some sort. Last night I saw some new show on Discover called Property Wars. Of course there is already Storage Wars and all of its spin offs over on A&E. And there's "Baggage Battles" either there or on Travel Channel. Pretty sure there are some other Wars as well. Is it just lazy producers can't think of a creative title? Or is this supposed to be some sort of franchise?

They're trying to make their reality competition shows sound zippy and apparently have limited vocabularies... Let's help them out: Storage Kerfuffles? Baggage Fracas? Any ideas?

I'd be curious to hear your own thoughts on possible links between violence on TV and violent/criminal behavior in adults or children. Worth studying? So obvious that we should just acknowledge the link and immediately work to reduce TV violence? Reeks too much of government censorship in violation of the First Amendment? Thanks.

We welcome a conversation about the role of TV in the .....oh, sorry, I've heard that so many times this week from so many TV suits I'm now saying it in my sleep....I thought FX chief John Langraf's observation that we're watching the same TV shows as they are in the UK and the same movies and playing the same video games, but have 90 times the rate of gun homicides...don't quote me I'm citing off the top of my head but anyway, that was his drift....On the other hand, he said he was disturbed by video games in which the goal is simply to kill as many people as possible -- though he hastened to say that "third party" narratives, in which you watch a TV show in which someone else kills as many people as possible (See Fox's new "The Following" etc) don't disturb him...Anyway, it seems inevitable we're going to have the conversation about possible links.. and I would not be surprised at all to see a temporary stepping back -- if only a teensy step --  by the huge media congloms that run the entertainment industry , if only to make nice in Washington...

When I took Asian Studies 1, one of our take home essay questions asked us to write a story covering a number of years of a family of Southeast Asian peasants. Well, we all knew that this was supposed to be a tragedy, not a comedy, so that is what I wrote. They got a mean new landlord, lost their farm after a bad harvest, moved to the city, lived in a slum, somebody died of an easily treatable communicable disease, a grandmother starved herself to death by giving her food to a hungry grandson, a daughter probably became a prostitute to keep the whole family from starvation, etc. Death, pestilence and troubles. I'm kind of seeing a similarity to the Downton Abbey story lines. I thought the essay was really dull, and I think I'm finding the DA story line dull as well. It is a very decorative journey, but getting (always was?) predictable. I'm not alone, am I?

Your Asian Studies class sounds interesting -- I took an English lit class once in which we were given the option of reading "Moby Dick" or writing our own collective novel; we went with the latter and gave to the world the  madcap adventures of an adorable bouncing ball which, somehow, never got published. But I digress. Sounds like you and Hank, the Washington Post's TV critic are of like mind on the third season.  So you're in good company.

Count me as a vote against full frontal nudity on mainstream TV. Anybody got a petition I can sign. Cover it up, please. Thank-you.

Wow -- sounds like I've really missed something while I've been holed up at this orgy of questions and cocktails known as Winter TV Press Tour 2013. Please, tell me more...which "mainstream TV" show featured full frontal nudity? And how do you define "mainstream"? Broadcast, or broadcast and basic cable, or is all TV "mainstream" these days?

Thanks for passing this on. Now that I know it will convince other Angelenos that something is cool I am going to start using it to get my way.

I find it very useful in all things.... kind of like how I found it useful to be  tall and loud when I lived in Tokyo.

Seems like it's all over the place this year...Is this what happens when a show like this is a hit, and they need story lines to keep the show going???

Good writers have more than one season mapped out... just sayin'....

We decided not to watch the premiere of 1600 Penn last night, mainly because as far as we could tell, NBC aired episode 2 an hour before the pilot. Were we hallucinating or did they really screw it up? Should we watch? Hank's review was sort of iffy.

NBC aired the pilot at 8:30 and episode 2 at 9:30... I vote for watching to see if it gets better, as promised, around episode 4...Besides, if we don't support one of this season's new NBC comedies, they're gonna keep making episodes of  "Whitney" and nobody wants to see that happen, right?

My only three shows right now are Bones (guilty pleasure), Downton Abbey and The Mindy Project. Are there any that I should add to this line up? I'm so glad you're still doing this chat. I miss some of the chats that are gone.

Thanks! Don't miss "Modern Family" -- we got shown some scenes from an upcoming episode and I'm telling you Ed O'Neill deserves an Emmy, a Peabody and the Novel Peace Prize... I also like "The Neighbors" -- but it's very British... I'm also a fan of "The Middle" on ABC. And you'll want to check out NBC's re-boot of single-cam comedy  "Up All Night" as a multi-cam, laugh-tracked sitcom,  if you're a serious student of TV, to see what is known in the industry as a Hail Mary Pass....

Ever since you mentioned it, I can't help noticing the crunchy gravel in the crunchy gravel dramas. Question: Do they mic the crunch gravel as they film, or do they add the crunchy gravel sound effect post production, like they added the "squealing tire" sound effect in the Dukes of Hazzard when the General Lee peeled out on dirt?

Little of both I'm told. I hear they used to add in the tippity tapping on musical comedy flicks until Fred Astaire -- or something like that. My next career I'll be the Crunchy Gravel Imitator for BBC....

Oh sure, Brit Brit gets the boot, but Robot Kardashian stays? Yeah, there's a smart programming move.

Maybe they're not done with the exodus.. but really, I'd miss KK-O if she left the show. I so adored watching her reading the cue cards like she was taking the eye test at the DMV every week and bellowing into the micrphone: "How Does it FEEL to [Fill in the Blank]?" You have to admit, she was spectacularly, epically bad and there's value in that! And, while we're on the subject, isn't it wonderful how badly Simon Cowell is ageing, after giving grief to all those Idolettes whose looks he didn't like?

So that pretty much sucked. Will there ever be another good political-themed TV show after the The West Wing (I don't count Homeland)?

"Newsroom." There. I said it. I like it. Very British.

Why can't more network shows approximate the quality of HBO etc. shows? If cable can (and does) find writers and showrunners to create compelling shows - why can't network do so more often?

Among the many reasons: HBO shows get to debut whenever and make far fewer episodes -- I think Larry David's HBO show once took a couple years off. Broadcast TV can't survive on that model.. really, it's a wonder broadcast shows are as good as they are, given all the strikes they have against them from the get go.. oh, and it would help if they would spend their considerable summer breaks actually outlining the next season. If I have to listen to another hot-shot TV writer bragging about how they wing it on the show....!

I see "Girls" Season 2 starts soon, any word on when "Veep" will air its second season? I thought the two shows were paired up for their initial run.

HBO has not said when veep will start its second season.

There is much chatter about violent video games & movies. I don't hear much about TV shows and their possible contribution to a shoot-em-up tone. Are TV shows blameless here?

TV suits don't seem to think they'll get a pass on this, based on the number of questions on that very subject they've been giving well-rehearsed answers to at the press tour...they know it's coming.

They better not cancel Happy Endings, or else I'm gonna have to stick somebody. That would not be such a happy ending.

I do know that Paul Lee, head of ABC Entertainment, is a fan of the show. So I take him at his word he's trying to grow it a larger audienc with this double pump. On the other hand, he thinks the show needs a double pump, so it's current numbers are not good enough, apparently.

How is The New Normal doing? It wears its morality on its sleeve and I figure that can't play too well in some markets.

NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt spoke of it as one of the network's successes this season -- that an "Go On," in the comedy category...

Will the entire new season be aging has-beens desperate for exposure? The real people are more fun.

I could not agree more. .It's as wrongheaded as ABC's decision to have an all-stars edition of "Dancing with the Stars" which ABC suits now say (at press tour) was a huge mistake because, duh, viewers like to watch celebs who don't know their right foot from their left -- not celebs who won or did very well in previous competitions coming back to dance really really well...

Speaking of crunchy gravel shows, have you seen Parade's End yet? Any good? I'll see anything with Benedict Cumberthingie.

It's very good. He's very good and watch it...

Describing something as British is a good thing? I would think the opposite - underwhelming, much like their food.

British humor and American humor are often poles apart... I'm out of time -- have to drive to Jimmy Kimmel's studio to kiss the ring -- apparently he's too big to be driven to the press tour, so the critics and reporters have to drive to him for his Q&A session this morning. I think the new timeslot may be going to his head. Thanks,  and I hope you'll join me next time!

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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