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TV flotsam

  • I have nothing but amused scorn for the Golden Globes, until they give Hugh Laurie an award. Two consecutive awards, in fact. They’re geniuses.
  • David Shore and Bill Lawrence duke it out over the Scrubs “homage” to House. No, not exactly, but that would make for a better story.
  • CBC’s Little Mosque on the Prairie just played a rerun of the pilot. Again. In the timeslot that is supposed to be a new episode, according to CBC’s site, and my site, which got its information from their site. I’m confused. They change the timeslot after its spectacular debut and then either mix up the publicity for the second, or air the wrong episode? Based on the official show site, it looks like maybe the Wednesday timeslot might be the new episode, and the Monday one the repeat. That’s not what previous press releases have said, though. Interesting strategy for CBC to try to hold on to the viewers who tuned in en masse for the pilot last week. Twice.

At least Donald Faison can sing

January 4, Scrubs “pays homage” to House (which I’m guessing means “skewers, but good naturedly”). Hmm, I wonder who Dr. Cox will be playing? But January 18 is the long-anticipated musical episode, and NBC is putting some previews on YouTube. The first explains JD and Turk’s unusually close relationship.

Guy Love

My Charlie Brown Christmas and Illeanarama

Awwww, the cast of Scrubs meets classic Peanuts. Word is it was done for a cast Christmas party a few years ago. JD is Charlie Brown, Turk is Schroeder, Carla is Lucy, Elliot is Sally, Cox is Linus, Ted is Pigpen, and, um, Rowdy is Snoopy.

I’m feeling kind of Charlie Brownish (or is that JDish?) myself.

I had a sad-sack cat named Charlie once, named after the sad-sack Christmas tree.

Yes, House review tomorrow night. Saw it, still want to throttle House.

And hey, another “TV show” on the web, Illeanarama with Illeana Douglas and Justine Bateman. Sounds like more episodes are coming.

How random can I get?

Don’t look for the through-line in these links. Just think of it as interesting stuff I read today. Actually, if you can come up with a through-line, you should win a prize or something. Not that I’m going to give you one.

Why We Worry About the Wrong Things – I kept meaning to write something about our tendency to focus on the least likely risks, but couldn’t find my way in without writing about stuff I didn’t really want to talk about. But this is way more interesting and factual than I would have written it.

Blame it on Borat – I don’t care that Pamela Anderson’s marriage is ending. I don’t care if Borat had anything to do with it. But this is a very strange article that quotes the chairperson of English and film studies at the University of Alberta – the department and university I graduated from, though too long ago for him to have been there at the time – who comments way too seriously on a topic I’d tried to say something about … that some people seem to be laughing at the wrong parts of Borat:

Epp says it’s a serious misinterpretation of Borat if anyone is assuming that it’s now acceptable to hurl racial and sexist epithets as a form of humour.

“The people who use that kind of humour and make those kinds of comments are the butt of the jokes in the film, and it would be particularly sad, and actually truly pathetic, if anyone came out of that film not understanding that.”

Humor returns to roost on Thursday. Yay, Scrubs and the Thursday comedy block are back. This is a hilarious interview with producers of all four shows.

Q: What’s coming up on your shows?

Greg Garcia, My Name is Earl: We have my favorite episode of the season tonight. (Pause.) I don’t even know which one is on.

Q: Scrubs isn’t the only sitcom dealing with babies. Earl‘s Jaime Pressly recently announced her pregnancy. And 30 Rock was put off for a year when Fey had her daughter. Is there something in the bottled water?

Bill Lawrence, Scrubs: Very funny people are very fertile. It’s a medical fact.

Tina Fey, 30 Rock: And everybody wants to get it on with them.

Garcia: You can’t keep people away from us.

Fey: And we don’t understand birth control.

Brain Drain: 3 lbs goes to early grave. I can’t say I’m surprised this show didn’t catch on, but it did worse than Smith did, even. Oh well, I still have my brain squeezy toy and they can’t cancel that.

Cover Their Tracks: Don’t ask why a lumber publication was on my reading list, but it’s a funny take on business owners being tempted to keep track of their staff with new technology, described more seriously here: Nike+iPod could be used to track user: study.

Predicting the Emmys through ignorance and randomness

Turns out I didn’t really get less fangirly for Blogcritics. It’s pretty frivolous, and I do what I said I’d never do: try to predict the winners. But really, it’s just an excuse to vent about the nominees. I stole much of the first bit from my previous post, but it gets different after the first few paragraphs.

Well, the Emmy nominations are certainly different from last year. I’m not sure many people will be claiming victory for the new voting system, though.

Amid a tiresome sampling of the usual suspects, it turns out the undiscovered gems the new system revealed were not nominations from shows on smaller networks, like Battlestar Galactica, Gilmore Girls, or Veronica Mars. The “blue-ribbon panel” that participated in the final round of voting apparently have a higher tolerance than the average Emmy voter for Two and a Half Men, which they chose over My Name is Earl or Entourage, and Kevin James in King of Queens, who made the list of nominees over Jason Bateman of Arrested Development or Zach Braff of Scrubs.

Some other surprises: Lost and Desperate Housewives were shut out of the major categories. That’s right, last year’s winner for best drama series is not in the running this year, and none of the women of Wisteria Lane are up for best actress.

I normally don’t make Emmy predictions, because I haven’t seen most of the nominated shows. But given the Academy’s picks, I thought—hey, the Emmy panel obviously voted blind, too (or maybe blind drunk), so what does it matter? I probably have as much chance of guessing right as those who have seen every show on the list. I’ll break it down depending on what I want to win, what I think will win, and just for fun, throw in a random number generator, because I suspect that’s how the Emmy nominations were really decided.

Outstanding Drama Series

  1. Grey’s Anatomy
  2. House
  3. The Sopranos
  4. 24
  5. The West Wing

Heart: House. But I didn’t even expect it to be nominated, and I still think the accusations that it relies too much on formula and its outstanding lead actor will hurt it in the final tally (but then where the hell is Hugh Laurie’s nomination?).
Head: This is a tough one—it could go any way, but I’m going to say Grey’s Anatomy, because it would be my second choice of these options.
Random number generator: 4, so that means 24. Sure, whatever.

Outstanding Comedy Series

  1. Arrested Development
  2. Curb Your Enthusiasm
  3. The Office
  4. Scrubs
  5. Two And A Half Men

Heart: Definitely Scrubs, and I’m completely unbiased by the fact that Bill Lawrence was a great interviewee.
Head: The Office has a piece of my heart, too, and I think it has a reasonable shot at winning.
Random number generator: 1, Arrested Development. One of the three shows I’d be more than happy to see win.

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series

  1. Christopher Meloni, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
  2. Denis Leary, Rescue Me
  3. Peter Krause, Six Feet Under
  4. Kiefer Sutherland, 24
  5. Martin Sheen, The West Wing

Heart and head: Hugh Laurie, House. Leave me alone. I choose to ignore a reality that makes no sense.
Random number generator: Hugh Laurie. OK, it actually said 2, Denis Leary. I haven’t seen the show, and probably won’t, but I like Leary. So I hope random generator is wrong, because I will hate whoever wins this category, just on principle.

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series

  1. Lisa Kudrow, The Comeback
  2. Jane Kaczmarek, Malcolm In The Middle
  3. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, The New Adventures Of Old Christine
  4. Stockard Channing, Out Of Practice
  5. Debra Messing, Will & Grace

Heart: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, just because it was the only one of these shows I caught this year, and it was fine, and she’s pretty funny.
Head: I hope I’m wrong, but I’ll say Debra Messing because the Emmys love to say goodbye. I care about this category about as much as the best sound editing one, though.
Random number generator: 1, Lisa Kudrow. Aww, I like random number generator. I think Kudrow is more talented than she sometimes gets credit for.

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series

  1. Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer
  2. Geena Davis, Commander In Chief
  3. Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
  4. Frances Conroy, Six Feet Under
  5. Allison Janney, The West Wing

Heart: I heart Allison Janney, so I’ll go with her even though I stopped watching The West Wing a couple of seasons ago partly because her character became unrecognizable to me.
Head: Frances Conroy, because she deserves it for putting up with that TV family of hers.
Random number generator: 3, Mariska Hargitay. I’m not a fan of the passel of Law & Order shows, so I haven’t seen her in this, but I’ll still be unreasonably upset if she wins.

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series

  1. Will Arnett, Arrested Development
  2. Jeremy Piven, Entourage
  3. Bryan Cranston, Malcolm In The Middle
  4. Jon Cryer, Two And A Half Men
  5. Sean Hayes, Will & Grace

Heart and head: Jeremy Piven, because I love him. What? You think Emmy voters don’t make their decisions like that, too?
Random number generator: 1, Will Arnett. My second choice.

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series

  1. William Shatner, Boston Legal
  2. Oliver Platt, Huff
  3. Michael Imperioli, The Sopranos
  4. Gregory Itzin, 24
  5. Alan Alda, The West Wing

Heart: Ooh, tricky. I haven’t seen more than a few minutes of any of these performances, if that. Alan Alda was my first ever TV crush as Hawkeye Pierce, and I used to love The West Wing (yes, even more than House), so I’ll go with him.
Head: My head’s not really talking to me on this one. Let’s say Gregory Itzin, because I like the idea of an evil president.
Random number generator: 4. The computer agrees.

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series

  1. Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm
  2. Kevin James, The King Of Queens
  3. Tony Shalhoub, Monk
  4. Steve Carell, The Office
  5. Charlie Sheen, Two And A Half Men

Heart and head: No contest—Steve Carell. Both body parts will actually implode if Kevin James or Charlie Sheen pick this one up.
Random number generator: 2, Kevin James. Stupid computer.

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series

  1. Cheryl Hines, Curb Your Enthusiasm
  2. Alfre Woodard, Desperate Housewives
  3. Jaime Pressly, My Name Is Earl
  4. Elizabeth Perkins, Weeds
  5. Megan Mullally, Will & Grace

Heart: Jaime Pressly, who is completely transformed as the awful, hilarious Joy in My Name is Earl.
Head: I’ll say the academy will try to compensate Alfre Woodard for getting stuck in a role that didn’t do justice to her talents. And I don’t think they can’t go cold turkey with Desperate Housewives.
Random number generator: 4, Elizabeth Perkins. The computer redeems itself. I’ve only caught a couple of episodes of this show because I cannot figure out when and where it’s on here in Canada, but she and Mary-Louise Parker crack me up.

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series

  1. Candice Bergen, Boston Legal
  2. Sandra Oh, Grey’s Anatomy
  3. Chandra Wilson, Grey’s Anatomy
  4. Blythe Danner, Huff
  5. Jean Smart, 24

Heart and head: Sandra Oh. I have a total girl crush on her and I’m not ashamed to admit it.
Random number generator: 2. Unanimous!

Outstanding Writing For A Comedy Series

  1. Arrested Development, “Development Arrested,” Teleplay by Chuck Tatham and Jim Vallely; Story by Richard Day and Mitchell Hurwitz
  2. Entourage, “Exodus,” Written by Doug Ellin
  3. Extras, “Kate Winslet” Written by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant
  4. My Name Is Earl, Pilot, Written by Greg Garcia
  5. The Office, “Christmas Party,” Written by Michael Schur

Heart and head: My heart is torn, and my head hurts on this one – they’d all be good. I’ll go with My Name is Earl, because it deserved a best series nomination too.
Random number generator: 1, Arrested Development. That works, too.

Outstanding Writing For A Drama Series

  1. Grey’s Anatomy, “It’s the End Of The World, As We Know It (Part 1 & 2),” Written by Shonda Rhimes
  2. Grey’s Anatomy, “Into You Like A Train,” Written by Krista Vernoff
  3. Lost, “The 23rd Psalm,” Written by Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof
  4. Six Feet Under, “Everyone’s Waiting,” Written by Alan Ball
  5. The Sopranos, “Members Only,” Written by Terence Winter

Heart: House, “Autopsy,” Written by Lawrence Kaplow. Don’t keep scanning the nominees to see if you’ve missed something—I’m invoking the Ignore Unpleasant Reality Rule here again. This is the episode that won the Writers Guild award this year, and that was House‘s submission for best drama series, earning them a spot in the top five of that category. What makes the show worthy of best series status, if not the writing and acting?
Head: House, “No Reason” … OK, OK, I can only be so irrational. I have a feeling the Emmy voters will go with the Grey’s post-Superbowl episodes, “It’s The End of the World/As We Know It,” even though I think the second part is one of the weaker hours of a usually strong show, and I prefer the other Grey’s nominee here.
Random number generator: 4, Six Feet Under, “Everybody’s Waiting.” The series finale, and I could easily live with that. That is, if I didn’t know “Autopsy” will win.

The Emmy awards are broadcast on NBC on Sunday, August 27. I’ll be keeping score, and stewing in my bitterness.

Savvy Networks Engage TV Fans Online

Savvy Networks Engage TV Fans Online

If community websites like Television Without Pity (TWoP) were a cross-section of the average TV audience, UPN’s Veronica Mars would be a top-rated show and CBS’s CSI would be languishing in the Nielsen ratings. Instead, Veronica Mars brings in fewer than 3 million viewers a week, and was renewed by the skin of its teeth on the new CW network. Still, higher-rated shows such as Everwood didn’t make the transition.

If the availability of interactive online extras were a sign of popularity, NBC’s struggling Scrubs would be a mammoth hit and FOX’s surging House would be suffering at the hands of its network. Still, Scrubs is heading into its sixth season thanks to what they loving call their Internet “nerds.”

“Luckily our fans are so loyal, that same core group has followed us from timeslot to timeslot and from evening to evening and really helped to keep the show going,” said creator Bill Lawrence, who believes that’s the recipe for survival for shows that aren’t lucky enough to capture a giant audience at the outset.

There are other forces at work, including economics, scheduling, critical acclaim, and demographics. But Internet-organized fans are the vocal cult in “cult hit,” who resurrected Family Guy and kept buzz-worthy Arrested Development on the air for longer than the ratings would suggest.

It’s a basic tenet of marketing that you don’t try to snare everyone in your publicity — you study the people who area already using your product and target more of the same. If your clients are, on average, one-eyed men with college educations, you look for ways to advertise to other one-eyed men, other men with college educations. Using principles of customer engagement to create a passionate fanbase, if your audience congregates on the Internet, you join them there.

So what do smart insiders like Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas do? He posts occasionally on TWoP, making that the place the cool kids hang out, the show the cool kids watch. Scrubs’ Lawrence and his cast and crew come up with innovative Internet strategies to please their online fans. And at the recent upfront presentations, where advertisers get their first look at networks’ fall schedules, NBC’s TV chief Jeff Zucker has mandated that all his network’s shows must have an interactive component.

With television losing viewers to the web and gaming worlds, networks are scrambling to put their content online, on iPods, on cell phones. NBC and their competitors have already begun to embrace the multi-platform world they’ve found themselves in. NBC’s The Office, among other shows, saw its ratings rise after its availability on iTunes, and will take advantage of that fact by airing online-only “webisodes” this summer. CBS recently launched a broadband channel that will replay network shows and offer original content. ABC implemented blogs and streaming of some of its programs this past season, and its show Lost has employed perhaps the most aggressive strategy, creating an off-network world that treats dedicated viewers to clue-rich websites and, next year, even a video game.

But Zucker’s announcement, which also mentioned the creation of several broadband channels, is part of an articulated strategy called Television 360, designed to engage viewers and create more opportunities to sell space to companies who have seen audience fragmentation and TiVo and other technologies reduce the effectiveness of their on-air ads.

From USA Today:

“No broadcaster wants to leave on the table their share of the extra revenue — $270 million this year as estimated by the trade magazine Television Week — that will come from ads on non-traditional platforms packaged into upfront deals.”

Another marketing truism is that it is far less expensive to retain current customers than to recruit new ones. The goal of online tie-ins, then, is not just to hook more fans, but to keep the fans you already have hooked. No amount of podcasts, chat rooms, videos, and quizzes is going to create a robust online community for a show that has no Internet buzz to begin with. But smart networks and smart shows have begun to feed nascent or existing communities hungry for that content, and in doing so, to create online ambassadors to spread the word, online and off.

Emotional engagement can keep TV shows riding high even when quality dips. Desperate Housewives’ ratings remained strong this year despite slipping in critical and audience buzz. Audiences who are invested in the characters and story can be fiercely reluctant to give up on a show they’ve already engaged with. Networks are beginning to wake up to the fact that they can create even more investment, apart from that on-air hour a week, by tying it into their audience’s online lives and making the computer, the cell phone, the iPod an extension of the TV network.