Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Broadcast networks may cut back on programming

NBC has been struggling ratings-wise and they may make fewer hours of prime time available to their affiliates.

Jeff Zucker, president/CEO of NBC Universal, speaking at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference, said it was a possibility that NBC might consider trimming prime-time hours--or even a whole night of programming.

"Can we continue to broadcast 22 hours in prime time? Three of our competitors don't," he said during Monday's keynote. "Can we continue to broadcast seven days a week? One of our competitors doesn't."

The competitors he is referring to are My Network, the CW and Fox. My Network does not broadcast on Sundays and all 3 of the aforementioned networks have 2 hours of prime instead of 3. On Sundays, the big 3 networks have 4 hours of primetime. I wonder if we may see a merger of networks in the future. Maybe NBC would merge with CBS, or ABC would merge with Fox? In these tough economic times, merging companies seems to be all the rage. Many cities that used to have 2 newspapers have merged so they have one. The UPN network and WB network merged to form the CW.

NBC has only one soap opera, and that genre has been losing viewers steadily. According to TV Guide, in the past 10 years, daytime soap ratings have fallen as much as 50% for some shows. The top rated soap is CBS' The Young and the Restless and in the past 10 years its ratings have fallen from 7.9 million viewers to 4.9 million. NBC's Days of Our Lives took a steep fall, going from 5.4 million to 2.6 million. Guiding Light on CBS has fallen from 4.5 million to 2.1 million viewers. Longtime soap stars like Susan Lucci and Anthony Geary have had to take pay cuts. NBC fired its most popular soap stars, Deidre Hall and Drake Hogestyn, and the remaining cast has to take a pay cut of 40%.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Leno will stay at NBC

People have been wondering what will happen next year when Jay Leno leaves The Tonight Show. Conan O'Brien will move to 11:35 pm to follow in the footsteps of Jay Leno, Johnny Carson, Jack Paar and Steve Allen. Former SNL star Jimmy Fallon will take over the 12:35 am slot on NBC, which was previously occupied by Conan O'Brien, who replaced David Letterman in 1993. The associated press, The New York Times and are reporting that Leno will stay with NBC to host a show which will air at 10 pm weeknights. There were rumors about Leno pursuing a late night deal with ABC, or Fox, or a syndicated show. This will be a cost saving measure for the peacock network since talk shows are cheaper to produce than the dramas that often air in the 10 pm time slot. Leno will be able to reach a larger audience at 10 pm as opposed to 11:35 pm. NBC has been struggling compared to the other broadcast networks in terms of ratings. CBS is number one, largely due to their popular crime dramas such as their 3 versions of CSI, Without a Trace, Cold Case, NCIS, Criminal Minds, and the like. Fox has American Idol to bring in the big numbers, and ABC has Dancing with the Stars. The last episode of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno will be May 29, and Conan's first episode will be June 1. I am looking forward to it, and I think that Conan will have more success than Leno since he is funnier and better at interviews. Also, Conan is not someone who "plays it safe" as Leno does. I have never been impressed with Leno's watered down style of comedy, and I'd like to see someone with more of an edge at the helm of that show.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Southern Rock: It's More Than Just Skynyrd

Around the mid-1990s, I became interested in country music. The first artists I enjoyed were Alan Jackson, Sammy Kershaw and Garth Brooks. Then I heard something a bit different in the music of Travis Tritt. It was country, but with more of a rock/blues style. Travis always starts his shows with the song "Put Some Drive in Your Country". In the song he talks of his influences, ranging from country classics like Roy Acuff and George Jones, to artists like Hank Williams Jr. and Waylon Jennings. My favorite line of the song says..."Well I made myself a promise, when I was just a kid, I'd mix southern rock and country, and that's just what I did". Another line says "Man I miss Duane Allman, I wish he was still around". (Sometimes in concert he substitutes the names Stevie Ray Vaughan or Waylon Jennings). So it got me thinking, who is Duane Allman and what is southern rock all about? I idolized Travis so much that I figured if he likes it, it must be some good stuff. I had heard of Lynyrd Skynyrd but did not know much about them or their genre of music. Much of southern rock originated in Florida and the most prominent bands peaked in the 1970s. So, here are some of my favorite southern rock bands with some of their best known songs listed.

Lynyrd Skynyrd---Freebird, Sweet Home Alabama, Gimmee Three Steps
Allman Brothers Band---Ramblin' Man, Melissa, Statesboro Blues
Marshall Tucker Band---Can't You See, Heard it in a Love Song
Molly Hatchett---Flirtin' with Disaster
Charlie Daniels Band---Devil Went Down to Georgia, The South's Gonna do it Again
.38 Special---Hold on Loosely
Stevie Ray Vaughan---Pride and Joy, Taxman (Some may consider him a blues artist, but there are southern rock influences in his music).

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Prominent Bands in the Genre of Ska Music

During the mid to late 1990s, ska music had a resurgence, and I have been hooked ever since. The genre originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s. It is distinctive music, which is made up of a mixture of calypso/reggae, jazz, and rhythm and blues. I like the fact that ska bands have horns, usually consisting of a trumpet, trombone and saxophone player. There are three periods of ska music, starting with the Jamaican music, then the 2 tone period in England in the late 1970s, and the 3rd wave starting in the 1980s. The most well known band in the 2 tone period was Madness, which had an international hit in 1982 with Our House. The most visible ska band during the 3rd wave had to be No Doubt. Their 1995 Tragic Kingdom album was a smash hit and their success led to countless other bands springing up. Gwen Stefani has done well as a solo artist, and the band No Doubt has changed their sound from a decade ago. They are scheduled to release a new album in 2009. Like No Doubt, Mighty Mighty Bosstones formed in the mid 1980s but did not have wide commercial success until a decade later. In 1997 their release, Let's Face It, contained the single The Impression That I Get, which rose to number one on the Billboard charts. Since 2000 the Bosstones have not had as much commercial success and the members have moved on to other projects. Lead singer Dicky Barrett has worked in LA radio and as an announcer for the Jimmy Kimmel show. The band has not broken up and they still tour occassionally, primarily in New England, where they are more prominent than other parts of the country.

Other third wave ska band that I enjoy include;
The Aquabats
The Insyderz (Christian ska band)
Less Than Jake
Let's Go Bowling
The OC Supertones
Reel Big Fish (great band with a wacky sense of humor)
Save Ferris (they did a remake of Come On Eileen by Dexy's Midnight Runners)
The Toasters (check out their song 2 Tone Army)

*Some source information from

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Hollywood Shootout Gets the ShowBizWiz Seal of Approval

If you are interested in the movie business, check out the syndicated TV show Hollywood Shootout. It is a 30 minute show that airs on various stations depending on the television market, so check your local listings for time and channel. It is hosted by Peter Bart, editor-in-chief of Variety magazine, which is like the Bible for many in show business, and Peter Guber, Hollywood mogul/producer, who has worked on some legendary productions over the past several decades. This is not another thumbs up/thumbs down movie review show. It talks about the movie business from the inside out, covering topics like marketing of films, production techniques, they discuss the careers of various producers, directors and actors. These guys know how Hollywood works, and due to their clout and connections they are able to secure some impressive guests. They did a 2 part show with Steven Spielberg where the legendary director talked about how he chooses which films to direct, they talked about his early films like Jaws and Close Encounters and how they compare with later works like Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan. Spielberg talked about his collaboration with Jeffery Katzenberg and David Geffen and how they formed Dreamworks SKG. Other guests I have seen on the show include James Caan (Guber knew him from his days working for the studio that did The Godfather), Jon Favreau discussed his directing of Iron Man, and Diablo Cody talked about how writing the screenplay for Juno launched her career to the next level. Philip Seymour Hoffman was on the show discussing the craft of acting, and his role in Capote. The set for the show is designed to look like a coffee shop with movie posters on the walls and extras posing as patrons in the backround. The show is a winner since Guber and Bart are not a pair who are on the sidelines of the movie biz, they are insiders sharing their precious nuggets of information with the rest of us.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Curb Your Enthusiasm is Another Hit for Larry David

As the co-creator of Seinfeld, Larry David saw enormous success. After Seinfeld he created Curb Your Enthusiasm, another 30 minute comedy for HBO. Only this time, Larry is in front of the camera, not behind the scenes. A lot of the show is improvised, and co-stars include Richard Lewis and Ted Danson. Larry plays himself, a television mogul living in Los Angeles with his wife played by Cheryl Hines. Larry's manager in the show is Jeff Garlin, who is married to the foul mouthed Susie Essman. The main concept behind the show is that each week, Larry does something stupid and Cheryl gets mad. This was also the basic concept for Everybody Loves Raymond and The King of Queens. Being such a Seinfeld fan, I bought the first season of Curb on DVD having never seen the show. I do not have HBO, but I knew that if Larry David was involved, it would be good. The show sometimes will make you cringe when you see the uncomfortable situations Larry gets himself into, but it is worth checking out, especially for Seinfeld fans. Larry's character is a lot like George Costanza. He's a shlub who always seems to screw things up. Apparently Woody Allen is a fan since he has recruited Larry David to appear in his next film.

A Refreshing Change of Pace for the 2008 Grammy Awards

Last year at this time I wrote about how I felt old and out of touch after watching the Grammys. Well this year was the 50th anniversary of the awards show and they had more than just contemporary artists appearing. I knew that this year's show would be different when it opened with a Frank Sinatra/Alicia Keys duet. Morris Day and the Time performed Jungle Love after a 15 year abscence. I liked their music a lot in the 80s. Prince was a presenter and there was a Cirque du Soleil performance of a Beatles themed show. The never humble, always egotistical Kanye West accepted an award but was knocked down a few pegs by Vince Gill. Ringo Starr presented Gill with his award and Vince asked Kanye from the stage if he had ever been given an award by a Beatle. While many American Idol winners have faded away, Carrie Underwood still seems to be a strong force in the world of music and she performed on the telecast. Lifetime achievement Grammys were announced for the likes of bluegrass pioneer Earl Scruggs, virtuoso violinist Itzhak Perlman and jazz drummer Max Roach. Herbie Hancock had a big night and performed an excellent piano duet with another artist performing Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. Going back to the infancy of rock and roll, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard performed. In the past, the Grammys seemed to focus too much on contemporary R&B and rap artists, but this year there was something for everyone to enjoy.

Friday, January 25, 2008

My Favorite Films of 2007

I would recommend all of these and they would all receive a letter grade of A or A- in my opinion.

Music and Lyrics-funny flick with Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant about a washed up 1980s singer

Reign Over Me-Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle star in this drama/comedy about a guy who lost loved ones in 9-11

Ratatouille-another great Pixar film about a rat who is a chef in Paris

Waitress-Keri Russell is outstanding in this sweet, heartfelt comedy/drama

Hairspray-feel good, upbeat musical revival of John Waters' creation

Superbad-funny, risque comedy about high school life

No End in Sight-documentary about the mess in Iraq

Bella-a touching, romantic movie about adoption

Enchanted-a naive Disney princess tries to figure out life in Manhattan

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Late Night Shows Return-Some with Writers, Some Without

A bearded David Letterman returned to the air last night after a 2 month hiatus with a new show and a contract with his writers. Letterman's company, Worldwide Pants, reached a deal with the writers to work on his show and Craig Ferguson's Late Late Show. The writer's strike still continues though, and Leno and Conan were back sans writers. Harkening back to the writer's strike of the 1980s, Letterman brought back his director from NBC to do a segment called "Hal Gurnee's Network Timekillers". Letterman's top 10 list featured striking writers joking about their demands in the negotiations. Robin Williams was on Dave's show, as well as a taped cold open from Hillary Clinton. Williams said that Letterman resembled General Robert E. Lee. Conan also sported a beard last night. Letterman took the stage amid dancing girls holding picket signs. Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee crossed picket lines and appeared with Jay Leno. The screen actors guild is urging its members to not do shows with Leno, Jimmy Kimmel, or Conan since they are not employing writers. So, the CBS shows may get better guests.

Leno is averaging 4.4 million viewers this season. Letterman averages 3.6 million viewers. The numbers for Leno and Letterman are down 25 and 15% respectively compared to last season. With people losing interest in Leno, one has to wonder what he will do next year when Conan takes over. In the 12:35 am slot, Conan and Ferguson are in a virtual tie, with 1.8 and 1.7 million viewers respectively. Jimmy Kimmel's ABC show averages 1.8 million viewers and has Nightline as its lead in. Leno, Conan and Kimmel are not allowed to do many of their comedic bits such as traditional monologues due to strike restrictions. The main question is, how will this affect the ratings? This strike may be a big break for Letterman and an opportunity to win over Leno, which has not happened in a long time. Let's see how long the strike lasts, and how long it will be before Leno, Conan and Kimmel draw up their individual deals to get the writers back. The Daily Show and The Colbert Report return next week to Comedy Central with no writers, which should be an enormous challenge for Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

Here is a link to some clips and comments from the Today Show's Meredith Viera and Al Roker.

*Some information from